When the League of Nations ceased to exist in 1946, most of the mandate territories were reclassified as UN trust territories, henceforth administered through the UN Trusteeship Council. The object of trusteeship was to prepare the lands for eventual independence. The United Nations approved the Trusteeship Agreements for British Cameroons to be governed by Britain on 6 December 1946.
Southern Cameroons was divided in 1949 into two provinces: Bamenda (capital Bamenda, hence also thus named) and Southern (capital Buea). Yet the residential type of administration was continued with a single British Resident at Buea, but in 1949 Edward John Gibbons was appointed Special Resident, and on 1 October 1954, when political power shifted to the elected government, succeeded himself as first of only two Commissioners.
Following the Ibadan General Conference of 1950, a new constitution for Nigeria devolved more power to the regions. In the subsequent election, thirteen Southern Cameroonian representatives were elected to the Eastern Nigerian House of Assembly in Enugu. In 1953, however, the Southern Cameroons representatives, unhappy with the domineering attitude of Nigerian politicians and lack of unity among the ethnic groups in the Eastern Region, declared a “benevolent neutrality” and withdrew from the assembly.
At a conference in London from 30 July to 22 August 1953, the Southern Cameroons delegation asked for a separate region of its own. The British agreed, and Southern Cameroons became an autonomous region with its capital still at Buea. Elections were held in 1954 and the parliament met on 1 October 1954, with E.M.L. Endeley as Premier. As Cameroun and Nigeria prepared for Independence, South Cameroons nationalists debated whether their best interests lay with union with Cameroun, union with Nigeria or total independence. Endeley was defeated in elections on 1 February 1959 by John Ngu Foncha.
The United Nations organised a plebiscite in the Cameroons on 11 February 1961 which put two alternatives to the people: union with Nigeria or union with Cameroun. The third option, independence, was opposed by the UK representative to the UN Trusteeship Council, Sir Andrew Cohen, and as a result was not put. In the plebiscite, Northern Cameroons voted for union with Nigeria, and Southern Cameroons for union with (the formerly French) Cameroun.