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Rt. Hon. Chima Obieze cutting the rope of the exhibition centre

WHAT ENUGU STATE IS KNOWN FOR is a paper presentation by the Member Representing Ezeagu constituency in Enugu State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Chima Obieze at the “IFE EJI MALỤ ENUGU” exhibition organised by the Centre for Memories in partnership with the Public Enlightenment Unit of the Office of the Governor of Enugu State “IFE EJI MALỤ ENUGU


I will begin by commending the organizers of this programme, the Office of the Governor, Public Enlightenment Unit, Government House, Enugu, and the Centre for Memories, for the honour given me as Keynote Speaker on this auspicious occasion.

I commend them for their well packaged programme aimed at showcasing the uniqueness of Enugu (Ife Ejili Malu Enugu), as the former capital of Southern Nigeria (1929 to 1939); former capital of Eastern Region (1939 to 1967); former capital of Republic of Biafra (1967 to 1970); former capital of East Central State (1967 to 1976); former capital of Anambra State (1976 to 1991); capital of old Enugu State (1991 to 1995); and now, capital of the new Enugu State(1995 till date).

Indeed, Enugu deserves every attention because of the significant roles it played, and is still playing towards the political, economic and social development of Nigeria. For almost five decades, Enugu bore the economic burden of the country through the black gold found inside its bowel, which the government had vigorously exploited in pursuit of its developmental agenda.

It was also in Enugu that the fire of the struggle for Nigerian independence was lighted, following the gruesome murder of twenty-one coalminers by the British colonial police at the Iva Valley Coalmine in 1949.

Enugu And Its Journey To Greatness

The belief generally held that it was a British-Australian geologist, named Albert Earnest Kitson that discovered coal in Enugu in 1909, and that it was at that time that Enugu started, is not entirely true. This is because before Kitson and his team came, some people were already inhabiting this area, and also using the place as their farmland. The indigenous population also knew about ukwaka, which the White man later called coal, since their blacksmiths have been using this ukwaka to fire their kilns. What Albert Kitson did, however, was to ‘discover’ coal for the British colonial government in 1909.

Kitson and his team were on their way to Abakaliki in search of silver when they stumbled on bituminous coal at Udi escarpment. The discovery aroused much interest and attention, and between 1910 and 1911, the area of hard coal was mapped out.

Mining of coal in Enugu began after the British colonial government and a number of chiefs from former Udi Division led by Chief Onyeama of Eke signed an agreement for the exploitation of the mineral.

From inception, Enugu Colliery was a government monopoly, which refused to admit private entrepreneurs, due to the importance of coal to the economy of Nigeria. Before the Nigeria-Biafra war in 1967, the Nigerian Coal Corporation, a company charged with responsibility for the exploitation and management of Nigerian coal industry, had operated four mines in Enugu, with a total labour force of 4,423, while the total coal production in these four mines up till the year 2002, was 6,409,771 tons.

The mining of coal in Enugu had three proximate effects. It led to the founding of the city of Port Harcourt in 1912. Formerly called Igwe Ocha, the port was to serve as outlet for the shipment of coal from Enugu to overseas.

The first colonial Governor of Nigeria, Frederick Lugard, had written the British Secretary of State for the Colonies, Lewis Viscount Harcourt, requesting that “… in the absence of any convenient local name, I would respectfully ask your permission to call this Port Harcourt, ” to which the Secretary of State replied, “it gives me pleasure to acceede to your suggestion that my name should be associated with the new port”. That was how Port Harcourt got its name.

Another was the building of the Eastern Railway line, which was initially designed to run from Port Harcourt to the North across the Benue River, to join the Lagos-Kano main line at Kaduna. It quickly made detour to Enugu to link up with the coalfield. On November 6, 1916, the first railway train from Port Harcourt arrived Enugu.

The third effect was the creation of vast employment opportunities for the teaming population of the rural and emerging urban areas.

Soon after the opening of the coalmine in 2015, the Colliery Management embarked on massive recruitment of labourers to work the coalfield. By the first year of operation in 1916, Enugu Colliery had in its register about 800 daily paid labourers, apart from the better established technical cadre like clerks, technicians, mechanics, foremen, etc.

By 1920, over 3,000 men were working in the colliery establishment, while the eastern wing of the railway lines which passed from Port Harcourt through Enugu to Kaduna had over 5,000 labourers, majority of whom had made their residences in Enugu. Besides those who were involved in the Colliery and Railway Industries, sundry professionals like traders, carpenters, masons, etc., also found their ways to Enugu.

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These immigrant settlers who came in with their families, relations, and friends constituted a big strain on the young town. Few permanent structures existed to accommodate the influx. This development posed a challenge not only to the Colliery Management, but also to the European colonial administrative officers posted to Enugu. As an interim measure, they ordered the erection of “Colliery Villages” to give shelters to these immigrants. That was how such places like Coal Camp, Iva Valley, Artisan Quarters, etc., came into existence.

The first immigrant settlers in Enugu were an exploration team of coalminers under a British mining engineer named William John Leck. The team was accompanied by a gang of labourers led by one Alfred Inoma from Onitsha. They came in 1915, and were later joined by prisoners who were brought down from Udi to the coalmine.

While William Leck and the British men who came with him settled at a place now known as Hill Top, Alfred Inoma and his group settled further down the hill at a camp named after him, called Ugwu Alfred.

Worthy to be mentioned, however, was the horrific incident that happened in Enugu on November 18, 1949, when the British colonial police opened fire on protesting coal miners at the Iva Valley Coalmine, gunned down 21 of them, and wounded 47 others. This sent shockwaves across the country and led to violent protests both in Nigeria and overseas. It later snowballed to serious agitation for Nigerian independence.

Government Administration

Enugu was declared Second Class Township by the Colonial Order in Council No. 19 of 1917. The Township was laid out into four zones. These were the European Reserved Area, the Neutral Zone, the Residential and Business Area, and the Native Locations. The colonial heritage of Enugu is evidenced in the Georgian types of some of its original buildings and the meandering narrow roads within the residential area originally reserved for the colonialists, the area which we now call Government Reservation Area (GRA). Unfortunately, these landmark features have greatly been defaced in recent past through indiscriminate land allocations, called “carve-outs.”

Following the declaration of Enugu as Second Class Township, a Township Advisory Board (TAB) was set up to take care of political administration of the area. Members of the board on inception were:

1. Mr. J.G Lawson, Acting District Officer, who was designated Station Magistrate.

2. Mr. J.S Hayes, Colliery Manager

3. Mr. A.B Milliken, Assistant Engineer. It was Mr. Milliken who led the team that constructed the Milliken Hill road in 1926.

4. Mr. E.C Braithwaite, Medical Officer

5. Mr. W. Reeder, Senior Superintend of Prisons.

In 1920, the colonial government moved down the administrative headquarters of Udi Division to Enugu Township and renamed it Enugu Ngwo Division. This was followed by the relocation of the administrative headquarters of Southern Provinces from Lagos to Enugu in 1929.

The Southern Provinces then had comprised Onitsha, Ogoja, Owerri, Calabar, Ijebu, Oyo, Abeokuta, Ondo, Benin, Warri, as well as the Mandated Territory of the Cameroun. Enugu remained capital till 1939 when the Southern Provinces was split into two – the Eastern and the Western Provinces, with Enugu and Ibadan respectively as capitals.

Now away from Enugu, which is our key point of discussion today, I feel there’s a need to remind us our history with Cameroun. Cameroun was a German colony, but following the defeat of Germany during the second world war, it was partitioned between the French and the United Kingdom. While the French speaking Cameroun was given to France, the English speaking Cameroun which was given to the UK 🇬🇧 became part of Nigeria. It was then called Northern and Southern Cameroun. Northern Cameroun belonged to the former Northern Region of Nigeria, while Southern Cameroun belonged to the former Eastern Region. The present Adamawa and Taraba States were Northern Cameroun territories. They were called the Sarduana Province.
In 1961, the United Nations conducted a referendum in the two areas. The result was that while the Northern Cameroun voted to remain in Nigeria, the South voted to go back to Cameroun. That was when they seized to be part of Nigeria’s Eastern Region. Before then they were represented in the Eastern Region House of Assembly by one Mr. Enderly.

Following the declaration of Republic of Biafra in 1967, Enugu was named its capital, and when the federal government created East Central State in the same 1967, Enugu was still named the capital.

In 1976, another state creation exercise took place when East Central State was split into Anambra and Imo States, with Enugu as capital of Anambra State. And when Enugu became a separate state in 1991 with a larger part of what is today Ebonyi State still part of Enugu, up to 1995 when Ebonyi State was carved out, Enugu City remained the capital.

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Enugu Municipality

At the moment, Enugu Municipal Area comprises – Ogui Township, Ogui New Layout, Achara Layout, Uwani, Trans Ekulu, GRA, Coal Camp, Asata, Iva Valley, Artisan, Independence Layout, Idaw River, Abakpa, Emene, New Haven, City Layout, Golf Estate, Zoo Estate, Maryland, Ugwu Aaron, Awkunanaw, Akwuke, Ugwuaji, some parts of Ngwo, etc.

There are three local government areas in Enugu Municipality, namely Enugu North, Enugu East and Enugu South local governments. But on the whole, Enugu State has 17 local Governments each with their distinct and unique cultural heritage & values.

Each of the Local areas also have foods they are known for. While the people of Greater Awgu(comprise Awgu, Aninri and Oji River), enjoys their special delicacy called “ncha”, the Agbaja people(comprising of Udi/Ezeagu & the ngwo clan in Enugu North) are the best in “jigbu” “okoto” “mbacha” or what you may know as “abacha”, enjoyed better with ice fish, Bush meat with fresh palm wine popularly called “aneke achime”.

The Nsukka people(comprise of Nsukka LG, Udenu, Igbo-etiti, Uzo-Uwani, Igboeze-North & South, and part of Isi-Uzo) are known for their local delicacy called “Anyaranya” and the famous “okpa Nsukka”.

The Nkanu people(Comprise of Nkanu West & East, part of Isi-Uzo, and Enugu North, South and East) enjoy their “ofe ewa”.

Among the major streets or roads in Enugu Township are Okpara Avenue, Zik Avenue, Ogui Road, Chime Avenue, Agbani Road, Obiagu Road, Rangers Avenue, Bisalla Road, Presidential Road, Edinburgh Road, Kenyetta Road, etc.

Geographical Location/Climate

Enugu lies within the semi-tropical rainforest belt of the South and spreads towards the north with its physical features changing gradually from tropical rainforest to open woodland and then to the Savannah. Apart from a chain of hills running from the east through Abakaliki in Ebonyi State, to Nsukka in the northwest, and then southwards through Udi and Awgu, the rest of the area is made up of lowlands.

The mean temperature of the town is 36.2oC or (96.16oF) in the hottest months of February and March, and a minimum temperature of 20.3oC or (68.58oF) towards the months of December and January. The lowest rainfall of about 016 cm3 is recorded in February while the highest of about 35.7 cm3 is recorded in July. It has a fair doze of Harmattan from November through December to January.

Enugu People

Enugu people are residents of the town – indigenes and the so-called non-indigenes. Enugu people are lively, friendly and accommodating. They welcome strangers and live peacefully with them. That is why there is influx of people into the town. Enugu is a rainbow coalition of nations, a city where people of all tribe and all creed live in peace and harmony.

In its over 100 years of existence, Enugu has produced men and women of proven integrity who made marks in their different fields of endeavour. They included renowned jurists, flamboyant politicians, astute businessmen and industrialists, academicians, celebrated writers, football legends, musicians, etc.

Among these people were Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, first President of Nigeria; Professor Eyo Ita, first leader of Government Business in Enugu; Dr. Michael Okpara, Premier of former Eastern Region; Dr. Akanu Ibiam, first Governor of Eastern Region; General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, Head of State of Biafra; Dr. Alex Ekwueme, former Vice President of Nigeria; Ken Nnamani, former Senate President; Ike Ekweremadu, three-term Deputy Senate President. Governors Jim Ifeanyichukwu Nwobodo, Chief CC Onoh, Okwesirieze Nwodo, Chimaroke Nnamani, Sullivan Chime and our amiable present Governor, His Excellency, Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi. Former ministers like Hon. Osita Chidoka, Frank Nweke Jnr. Prof. Chinedu Nebo, Amb. Fidelia Njeze. A one time Miss Africa, Amb. Bianca Ojukwu. Chief John Nnia Nwodo Etc.

Others were Dr. Simeon Onwu, first Igbo Medical Doctor; Justice Dadi Onyeama, first Nigerian Judge at the International Court of Justice at The Hague; former Supreme Court Justices Anthony Aniagolu, Augustine Nnamani, Phillip Nnaemeka Agu, Christopher Chukwuma Eneh, Dennis Edozie as well as serving Centus Chuma Nweze.

Pioneer African literally icons, Chinua Achebe and Cyprian Ekwensi, political activists, Mokwugo Okoye, MCK Ajuluchukwu, Bob Ogbuagu, Osita Agwuna; music legends, Celestine Ukwu, Gentle man, Mike Ejeagha, and even our scintillating Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie etc., were Enugu brought ups.

Enugu also produced star sportsmen and women like Chairman Christian Chukwu, Emma Okala, Dominic Nwobodo, Patrick Ejeji, Austin Jay Jay Okocha, Beatrice Utondu, Innocent Egbunike, Music icons Flavour, Phyno, Zoro, Nigga Raw, Jmoney and even Tuface Idibia among many others, started off in Enugu. Veteran actors, Pete Edochie, Chinwetalu Agu, Nkem Owoh, Mr Ibu John Okafor, Patience Ozokwo, Aneke twins, to mention but a few, all born and bread in Enugu.

Commerce and Industry

The first and biggest market in Enugu is the Ogbete Market. Ogbete is a corruption of the word “Obwetti”, which was named after a South African mining engineer who worked in Enugu Colliery. The market started from the coalmine where the local population were bringing in their farm produce to sell to the miners. The market now has thousands of traders and deals with all sorts of goods.

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Other markets in Enugu are New Market, Kenyetta Market, Afor Awkunanaw, Abakpa Market, Mayor Market, Olie Emene, Eke Obinagu and several others.

There are also other markets that deal on specialized products like vehicle Spare parts, at Coal Camp, building materials, at Kenyetta, etc. Shoprite, SPAR, and several other malls abound in the Coal City, while almost every building facing a street is surrounded with several shops.

A virtually free-crime city, coupled with a serene atmosphere, Enugu has a very good climate for both public and private investments, which is accentuated by the friendly disposition of the people of the area and liberal policy of the State government in allocating land for both private and commercial uses.


Many educational institutions abound in Enugu. The first post primary school in Enugu is the Holy Rosary College (HRC), which was established by the Christian missionaries in 1935. It was followed by the College of Immaculate Conception (CIC), established in 1942. Government Technical College (GTC), was established in 1945, while Women Training College (WTC) was established in 1951.

Enugu was home to the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology, established by the Federal Government on the recommendation of the Ashby Commission on Higher Education, with branches in Ibadan and Zaria. The College opened in the 1955/56 academic session with a student population of 240 people. By 1960, the institution transformed into the University of Nigeria, with campus at Nsukka and Enugu.

Other higher institutions in Enugu are Enugu State University of Science and Technology; the Institute of Management and Technology; Godfrey Okoye University, Caritas University, Coal City University, OSISATECH, Bigard Memorial Seminary, etc.

There are also some specialized institutions like the Project Development Institute (PRODA), Science Equipment Development Institute (SEDI), etc.

Hotels and Tourism

The first hotel in Enugu is Day Spring Hotel, located along Ogui Road, which was established in 1951. Other hotels are Hotel Presidential, Nike Lake Hotel, Golden Royale Hotel, Blue Island, Oakland, Zodiac, etc.

Among the tourist destination centres are Enugu Coal Mines, Udi Hills and the meandering Milliken Hill and the National Museum.

More will be the Mmanwu Cultural festival introduced by Emeka Omeruo, former military regime in 1986 which drew tourists from far and near. This program may need to be revived. Another tourism maverick will be the Ezeagu tourism complex, Heneke Lake, a fresh water lake that covers about five square kilometers and surrounded by bamboo trees and other flora species. There are Ihu-ogba cave, which hosts the famous Ogba Deity, the Ogba-agada Water fall as well as the Agada Warm and Cold Spring Water.

Lastly, I can’t fail to mention how the popular ogene music is part of the lifestyle of every average Enugu son/daughter. While it is said to be originally of the Nkanu people, there is no gainsaying that it has become an identity for every Igbo man but with roots from Enugu where every resident or one brought up in Enugu goes gaga at the sound of the beats.

One ugly incident which was never part of the Enugu people is the occasional killing of each other in the name of cultism. A trend that first started in 1997 when a student of Enugu State University was gunned down by rival cult group. Since then, blinded by exuberance and quest for dominance & control(which yields no special advantage or benefits)we would see our young ones slaughter each other in the name of cultism. I hope that our youth will begin to see the futility of this act and put their energy into things that endure. There is also a need for Government at all level to create jobs, industry and an enabling environment for private investments to thrive in order to keep our youths busy and out of crime. Cultism can never be “Ife Ejili malu Enugu”.

Enugu still remains one of the safest cities to reside in Nigeria. A city well planned. A city well organised. A city with almost zero potholes and above average on good access roads(except for the Federal Roads which are but death traps). Enugu is clean. Good with nightlife and fun.

All of these are the things that make Enugu unique, distinct & special in its over one hundred years existence.

It is my hope that together, we must never allow this waawa house to fall.

Thank you for your attention, and God bless you.

Rt. Hon. Barr. Chima Obieze


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