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History of Enugu State | The South East Nigeria-The Land Of The Igbo’s

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History of Enugu State | The South East Nigeria-The Land Of The Igbo’s

History of Enugu State | The South East Nigeria-The Land

History of Enugu State | The South East Nigeria-The Land Of The Igbo's

Historical overview:

History of Enugu State | The South East Nigeria-The Land Of The Igbo’s –  Enugu State was created on August 27, 1991 with the city of Enugu as its capital. The state derives its name from the capital city which was established in 1912 as a small coal mining town, but later grew to become the capital of the former Eastern Region of Nigeria (Ministry of Information, 1992). In 1967, when the Gowon administration created twelve states in Nigeria, Enugu remained the capital of the East Central State of Nigeria, one of the three states carved out of the former Easthern Region.

Nine years later, two states, Anambra and Imo, were carved out of the East Central State and Enugu continued to serve as the capital of Anambra state. The administrative hinterland of the city became much smaller in 1991 when Anambra State was further split to form Enugu State and the new Anambra State.

In 1996, the Abakaliki area, one of the three political and administrative divisions of Enugu State, was carved out and added to a part of Abia State to make up Ebonyi State, which was cre ated in that year along with five others. Today, Enugu State covers a much reduced territory com pared to its size in 1991 when it was initially created.

The town of Enugu, where coal is found in commercial quantity, is euphemistically referred to as the “coal city.” The immediate fortunes of the state appear to be tied, among other things, with the rehabilitation of the coal industry, and citizens of the state take delight in being associated with the pseudonym of “the coal city state.”

Indeed, the shooting of Nigerian coal miners in Enugu in 1949, by military officers of the British colonial administra tion, contributed very much as a catalyst in changing the political history of the country towards the granting of Independence.

Early history

The first settlement in the Enugu area was the small Nike village of Ogui which was present since the era of the Atlantic Slave Trade. Nike in the Igbo language means “with strength or power. It was through slave raiding that the Nike people acquired most of their lands, which, however, were mostly unsettled. The Nike used slaves for a defence strategy where they would place slave camps at the edge of their territories so that it was harder for an enemy to access the free born.

The Nike people were allied to the Aro people who formed the Aro Confederacy (1690—1901) which was an Igbo organisation that controlled slave trading in the Enugu area. Along with the Aro people who came to trade from Arochukwu in the south were the Hausa people who came to trade from the north. The Hausa traders provided horses to the Nike which were used for rituals by the Igbo. Both the Aro and Hausa migrated back and forth to what is now the city of Enugu and were considered foreigners to the area.

Enugu (English pronunciation: /eɪˈnuːɡuː/ ay-NOO-goo, Igbo: Énugwú) is the capital of Enugu State in Nigeria. It is located in the southeastern area of Nigeria and is largely populated by members of the Igbo ethnic group. The city has a population of 722,664 according to the 2006 Nigerian census.The name Enugu is derived from the two Igbo words Enu Ugwu meaning “hill top” denoting the city’s hilly geography. The city was named after Enugwu Ngwo which coal was found under.

Since the 17th century the location of present day Enugu has been settled by the Nike (English: /niːˈkeɪ/ nee-KAY) subgroup of the Igbo people; one of Enugu’s neighbourhoods still retains the village’s old name Ogui. In 1900 the Southern Nigeria Protectorate was established by the colonial administration of the British Empire. The discovery of coal by the colonialists led to the building of the Eastern Line railway to carry coal from the inland city to the port of Port Harcourt, a city created for this purpose located 151 miles (243 km) south of what was called Enugu Coal Camp. Enugu was then renamed simply Enugu and developed among the few cities in West Africa that were created from European contact. By 1958 Enugu had over 8,000 coal miners. As of 2005 there are no significant coal mining activities left in the city.

Enugu became the capital of the Eastern Region after Nigeria’s independence in 1960; a succession of territory adjustments in 1967, 1976 and 1991 led to Enugu becoming the capital of what is now Enugu State. On 30 May 1967 Enugu was declared the capital of the short-lived Republic of Biafra; for this Enugu is known as the “capital of Igboland.” After Enugu was captured by Nigeria, the Biafran capital was moved to Umuahia.

Industries currently in the city include the urban market and bottling industries. Enugu has become a preferred filming location for directors of the Nigerian movie industry, dubbed as “Nollywood”. Enugu’s main airport is the Akanu Ibiam International Airport which is being upgraded to accommodate large aircraft. The main educational establishment in the city is the Enugu campus of the University of Nigeria based in Nsukka, a town north of Enugu and in the same state.


The Iva Valley coal mine

The British campaign to invade Arochukwu and open up the hinterland for British military and political rule was carried out in 1901. A war between the British and Aro officially started on 1 December 1901 until till 24 March 1902 when the Aro was defeated. The Confederacy Conference ended and the rest of Aro dominated areas was added to The Colony and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria, declared in 1900. Europeans first arrived in the Enugu area in 1903 when the British / Australian geologist Albert Ernest Kitson led an exploration of the Southern Nigeria Protectorate to search for especially valued minerals resources under the supervision of the Imperial Institute, London.

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By 1909 coal was found under the village of Enugwu Ngwo in Udi and Okoga areas and by 1913 the coal was confirmed to be in quantities that would be viable commercially. By 1914 the colonial government had already merged the Northern and Southern Nigeria Protectorate to form the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria.

In 1915 the British began talks with the indigenous people of the land that would become Enugu about its acquisition in order to lay the Eastern Line railway and to build a colliery. The first houses built in the area were in a temporary settlement consisting of Igbo traditional mud housing inhabited by W.J. Leck and some other Europeans on Milliken Hill. Another settlement known as Mount Alfred (Alfred’s Hill) or “Alfred’s Camp”, inhabited by Alfred Inoma (leader of indigenous labourers from Onitsha) and his labourers, was located on a hillside. After the land acquisition by the British, Frederick Lugard, the Governor-General of Nigeria at the time, named the colliery built at the bottom of the Udi Hills Enugu Coal Camp to distinguish it from Enugwu Ngwo [which overlooks the city from atop a scarp on Enugu’s west.The first coal mine in the Enugu area was the Udi mine opened in 1915 which was closed down two years later and replaced with the Iva Valley mine.

 Enugu became the major coal mining area and the only significant one in West Africa.The Eastern Line railway connecting Enugu with Port Harcourt was completed in 1916 in order to export the coal through its seaport of which the city was created for this purpose. Enugu became one of the few cities in West Africa created out of contact with Europeans. By 1916 parts of Enugu reserved for Europeans were set up by the colonial government. The area now known as the Government Reserved Area (GRA) became the European Quarters located north of the Ogbete River; alongside this was a section developed for African residents located south of the river. The built-up area of ​​Enugu included these two areas, and by 1917 the city officially gained cityship status. On the African side of the city a rapid influx of migrant workers sparked the development of squatter camps on the Udi Hills near the coal mines and the Iva Valley.

In 1938 Enugu became the capital capital of the Eastern Region. The number of coal miners employed in Enugu grew from 6,000 (mostly Udi men) in 1948 to 8,000 in 1958. Population Enugu’s population rose sharply with its industrialization; the population of the city reached 62,000 in 1952. Mining in Enugu was sometimes turbulent, as demonstrated by the events of 18 November 1949 when 21 striking miners were shot and killed and 51 wounded by police under British governance.

The massacre that came to be known as “The Iva Valley Shooting” was fuelled nationalist or “Zikist” feelings among most Nigerians, and particularly among Eastern Nigerians. “Zikisim” was a post World War II movement that was created out of admiration for Nnamdi Azikiwe who was a national nationalist of the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC). The shooting was right after a period of unrest when miners were angered by the belief that their full pay was holding back by the colliery management, a belief that was pushed by the nationalist press. Many of the Zikists tried to use the Iva Valley shooting to fuel their nationalistic agenda and push the British administration, whom they viewed as imperialists, out of Nigeria.

Independence, war, and after

Further information: Decolonization of Africa and Nigerian Civil War

Enugu became a municipality in 1956 and Umaru Altine became its first mayor.After four years passed, Nigeria gained its independence in 1960. On 27 May 1967 the Nigerian government divided the Western, Northern and Eastern Region into 12 states and Enugu was made the capital of the new East Central State.On 30 May 1967 Enugu was declared the capital of the short-lived Republic of Biafra which was created out of the East Central State, Cross River State and Rivers State of eastern Nigeria.Biafra was declared because of Eastern Nigerian sentiment to separate from Nigeria after their members were involved in a series of ethnic clashes with other ethnic groups in other parts of the country.

The main rivals of the most Igbo Eastern Nigerians were the Hausa / Fulani people of Northern Nigeria.As war broke out between Biafra and Nigeria (1967-1970), thousands of Igbo migrants in the north and western parts of Nigeria fled to their native east and Enugu became a destination for these returnees.

Radio Biafra, alternatively the Voice of Biafra (formerly the Eastern Nigerian Broadcasting Service), was based in Enugu; It was from here that the Biafran leader, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, broadcast speeches and propaganda to Biafrans and to the rest of Nigeria. Because of the war Enugu witnessed a decrease in the number of non-Igbo, especially non-eastern Nigerian residents. On 4 October 1967 the Nigerian military bombarded Enugu with artillery just outside its boundaries before capturing it a week later, shortly after this Umuahia became the new capital of the republic. Years after Biafra was dissolved and the war ended, Enugu was still considered the “Capital of Igboland.”

Enugu again became the capital of the East Central State after the war ended and Biafra was dissolved in 1970. On 3 February 1976 the East Central State broke into two new states, Imo and Anambra; there were then 19 states in Nigeria; Enugu was the capital of Anambra. On August 27, 1991 the military dictatorship of Ibrahim Babangida divided the old Anambra State into two new states, Enugu State and Anambra State. Enugu remained the capital of the newly created Enugu State, while Awka became the capital of the new Anambra State.

Satellite image of Enugu and other communities neighboring it. The Enugu Escarpment can be seen on the left where it has a lighter color; the Nyaba River can be seen on the bottom.

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Despite its name meaning hill top in the Igbo language, Enugu lies at the foot of an escarpment and not a hill. Enugu is located in the Cross River basin and the Benue trough and has the best developed coal in this area. Precambrian basement rock in this region is overlaid with sediments bearing coal from the Cretaceous and Tertiary age. Coal seams in the Enugu coal district measure between 1 and 2 meters (3.3 and 6.6 ft) in thickness and the reserves have been estimated to be more than 300 million tonnes. Enugu’s hills at the extreme may reach an elevation of 1,000 meters (3,300 ft).

Highlands surrounding Enugu for the most part are underlain by sandstone, while lowlands are underlain by shale. Much of the escarpment stretching from Enugu to Orlu has been ravaged by soil and gully erosion. Other geological features in Enugu include the Nike Lake near which the Nike Lake Hotel has been built. The Ekulu, Asata, Agent, Aria, Idaw and Nyaba rivers are the six largest rivers located in the city.The Ekulu River is the largest body of water in Enugu urban and its reservoir contributes to part of the city’s domestic water supply.


Enugu is located in a tropical rain forest area with a derived savannah.The city has a tropical savanna climate. Enugu’s climate is humid and this humidity is at its highest between March and November.For the whole of Enugu State the mean daily temperature is 26.7 ° C (80.1 ° F). As in the rest of West Africa, the rainy season and dry season are the only weather periods that recur in Enugu. The average annual rainfall in Enugu is about 2,000 millimeters (79 in), which arises intermittently and becomes very heavy during the rainy season.Other weather conditions affecting the city include Harmattan, a dusty trade wind lasting in few weeks of December and January.Like the rest of Nigeria, Enugu is hot all year round.

Cityscape and architecture

The tallest building in Enugu’s Central Business District (CBD) is the African Continental Bank (ACB) tower with six stories.The tower was built in the late 50s for the African Continental Bank Limited which was created by Nnamdi Azikiwe who became the first president of Nigeria after the country’s independence from the United Kingdom on October 1960. The opening of the building took place on 30 April 1959. Other tall buildings include the Hotel Presidential opened on August 1963. The seven story building contains 100 rooms and is located in the Independence Layout. Hotel Presidential cost $ 2.5 million to build and was commissioned by the government of what was then the Eastern Region to serve businessmen, officials and tourists. In the middle of Enugu is Michael Okpara Square, dedicated to the premier of former Eastern Region Michael Okpara. Beside the square is the Enugu State Government House, the Enugu State House of Assembly and the Enugu State Judiciary Complex.

History of Enugu State | The South East Nigeria-The Land Of The Igbo's

Enugu’s coal mines are dotted around on the outskirts of the city, a majority of which are closed. The Colliery Camp mines are located in the Iva Valley which is near the neighboring town of Ngwo and Hilltop of Enugu. The Iva Valley coal mine is accessed through the Iva Valley road linking Enugu with Ngwo. [Other coal mines are located in the Ogbete and Coal Camp layouts; these mines are located on the periphery of the city near the Iva Valley as well.

Architectural design in Enugu’s early years was in the hands of the British colonial administration; Enugu’s architecture was consequently very European. English cottage housing and Victorian homes were used for housing Europeans and Nigerian colonial civil servants in the early 20th century until Europeans began trying to adapt their architecture to the tropical climate.Some other examples of these European styles are visible in churches of the colonial era, such as the Holy Ghost Cathedral with its Greco-Roman stained glass windows depicting Europeans. Enugu’s roads were reflective of its British rule; most of the city’s narrow roads in the GRA have been preserved dating back to incorporation of the city itself.Low rent one bedroom flats in Enugu and other Nigerian cities are known as ‘Face-me-I-face-you’ for the way a group of flats face each other and form a square where a compound entrance is lead into. [60] [61]


For more details on this topic, see Politics of Nigeria.

Enugu city covers three local government areas: Enugu East, Enugu North and Enugu South.A Local Government Council exists for each of these seats that manages sectors including primary education and health; elected Chairman and a group of elected Councillors form the Local Government Council that heads each Local Government Area.Enugu South is split between its rural and urban parts when electing an Executive Chair. The Executive Chairmen includes Paul Ogbe for Enugu South Urban, Theresa Egbo for Enugu South Rural, Emeka Nnamani for Enugu North, and Christopher Ugwu for Enugu East; these chairmen represent their LGA’s in the Enugu State House of Assembly.

The Ministry of Lands, Survey and Town Planning (at the state level) and the Local Planning Authority are responsible for the administration of urban lands and town planning.Government House, Enugu is where the government of the state is based. On the federal level, the city of Enugu is split between two congressional areas; Enugu North / South represented by Chukwuegbo Ofor and Enugu East represented by Gilbert Nnaji; Both members are in the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) as Sullivan Chime, the governor of Enugu State.


See also: Demographics of Nigeria

Population growth of Enugu
Year Population
1921 3,170[46][66]
1931 12,959[66]
1953 62,764[46][66]
1963 138,457[46]
1982 349,873[46]
1983 367,567[46]
1984 385,735[46]
1987 446,535[46]
1991 407,756[67]
2002 595,000[38]
2006 722,664[6]

According to the 2006 Nigerian census, the Enugu metropolitan area has estimated population of 722,664. This estimation along with population estimates of other Nigerian cities has been disputed with accusations of population inflation and deflation in favor of the northern part of the country.

The population of Enugu is predominately Christian, as is the rest of southeastern Nigeria. Like the rest of Nigeria most people in Enugu speak Nigerian English alongside the dominant language in the region.In this case the dominant language is Igbo. Nigerian English, or pidgin (a mix of English and indigenous words) is often used because of ethnic diversity and sometimes because of the diversity of dialects in the Igbo language. In cultural and linguistic terms Enugu is within the Northern cluster of the Igbo region which includes other cities and cities like Awka and Nsukka.

The indigenous people of Enugu include the Nike Hotel who lives in areas around Hotel Presidential, Obiagu, Ama-Igbo, Hotel and On-Assad. Other groups include the Awkunanaw people, who live mainly in the Achara Layout and Uwani areas. The Enugwu Ngwo people live in Hilltop on the west of the city with their farm lands sprawling all over the valley.

Other Nike people live around Abakpa, Nike, and Emene areas of the city. Most of the non-indigenous people of Enugu are migrants from other parts of the Igbo culture area. After the majority Igbo, the Yoruba people are another significant ethnic group found present in Enugu; other groups include the Hausa and Fulani people.


Enugu’s crime rate rose in 2009 as kidnapping and armed robbery rates increased in southeastern Nigeria specifically between September and December. The Enugu State government sought to check the high kidnapping rates by passing a bill on February 2009 that made kidnapping by the use of a weapon in capital offensive; the bill was passed by the Enugu House of Assembly unanimously.1.08 8 arrests were made in the city between September and December 2009; 270 of these were in September, 303 were in October, 295 in November and 220 were in December. 477 of these detainees were charged with committing capital offenses which included kidnapping.

The motives of kidnappers in Enugu were primarily financial and some ransoms went into the millions of Naira. The Chief Press Secretary to the Governor of Enugu State, Dan Nwomeh, had his ransom set as high as â,|00 million (3.3 million US Dollars As of 26 June 2010), dropping to â,|200 million and then â,| 50 million before it was released without a ransom being paid because of the refusal of the government to negotiate with the kidnappers.

Much of the crime in Enugu and the rest of Nigeria has been attributed to unemployment.


As Northern Northern city, Enugu shares cultural traits with its neighboring towns. Two important Igbo traditional festivals take place in Enugu annually; the Mmanwu festival and the New yam festival. The Manila festival takes place in November and features various types of masquerades that each has a name.

This festival is held at Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium as a parade of carnival-like masquerades that are accompanied by music and is supported by the Enugu Council of Arts and Culture.The second important festival festival, the New yam festival known as’ iwa ji ‘, is held between August and October marking the harvesting and feasting of the new yam. The yam is a root vegetable that is the staple crop and a cultural symbol for the Igbo people. [83] [84] Recently created festivals include the Enugu Festival of Arts which is managed by the Enugu Council of Arts and Culture.

The festival highlights African culture and traditions and it is here that the Enugu Council of Arts and Culture includes the Mmanwu Parade as part of the events. The Enugu Festival of Arts was started in 1986; it has modernised the Mmanwu festival by transferring it from its traditional village surroundings to the urban setting of Enugu. [85] Diana, Princess of Wales was a notable spectator of Enugu’s cultural shows when she visited the city in 1990.

The tourism industry in Enugu, managed by the Enugu State Tourism Board (ESTB), is small; however, the state government recognizes a variety of historic and recreational sites. These sites include places like Udi Hills, from which the majority of Enugu city can be viewed.

The Polo amusement park is funfair that is among the first generation of public parks in the city; other parks in the city include Murtala Muhammed Park. Enugu’s former coal mines, Onyeama and Okpara, are open to public visits. Some other spots include: The Institute of Management and Technology (IMT) Sculptural Garden and Art Gallery, the Eastern Region Parliamentary Building, the Old Government Lodge, and Enugu Golf Course. Enugu Zoo is another attraction in the city. It is divided into the botanical garden and the zoological section.

The National Museum is located near Enugu at its north, though it receives few visitors. It is managed by National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM). Other galleries include the Bona Gallery.

People of Enugu

The proportion of concentration of population in Enugu is about twice as much as the standard national. The foremost communities of the city of Enugu are the southeastern Nigerians who speak the Igbo language. They are recognized for their tender and cordial nature. The people of Enugu are innovative, diligent and ingenious in nature. The people of Enugu are mostly reliant on pastoral and agricultural economics. The bulk of the human resource in Enugu is engaged either in agriculture or in some agriculture related work.

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