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Enugu State
Old Governor's lodge

What You Probably Never Knew About Enugu (the coal city)

Enugu state is located in southeastern Nigeria. Enugu town, the state capital, lies at the foot of the Udi hills, surrounded by attractive stretched hills and lies at an altitude of 240 metres above sea level. Conformably, was coined out of the 2 words ‘Enu’ (top) and ‘Ugwu’ (hill) resulting to ‘top of the hill’.

Enugu was founded in 1909, when Mr. Kikson, a British Mining Engineer, stumbled on large coal reserves in the Udi ridge while looking for silver. Lord Frederick Lugard, the then British Governor General, took keen interest in the unexpected discovery, and by 1914 the first shipment of coal was made.

Since the 17th century the location of present-day Enugu has been inhabited by the Nike 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 and Enugu became a part of it.

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.

Port Harcourt still owes its existence to these mining shipments. Attracted by the increasing mining activities, Iva Valley, Coal Camp and Asata were established by foreign entrepreneurs and the indigenous labourers.

Enugu acquired township status in 1917 and was called Enugwu-Ngwo, but because of the rapid expansion towards areas owned by other indigenous communities, the city was renamed in 1928 to Enugu and developed as one of the few cities in West Africa created from European contact.

By 1958 Enugu had over 8,000 coal miners, however, as of 2005, there are no significant coal mining activities left in the city.

The British became more aware of the strategic interests of this area, and other foreign businesses began to move into Enugu.

In 1939, Enugu became the capital of the Eastern Provinces of Nigeria, during which period most of the colonial style buildings were constructed. The colonial charm is still witnessed in the old government buildings and mansions in the Government Reserved Area (GRA), a civil servant’s housing district exclusively reserved for administrative staff. It became the administrative city of the eastern region when the country was divided in three areas in 1951.

Enugu became more diversified in the 1960’s with the creation of the industrial estate of Emene.

By 1963, with the creation of 12 states in Nigeria, it became the capital of the East Central State, and the city had grown from the original village population of 100 to 138,000 inhabitants. Helped by the high literacy rate in this area, most of them were civil servants and business entrepreneurs.

On 30, May 1967, Enugu was declared capital of the short-lived secessionist Republic of Biafra; for this Enugu is known as the “capital of Igboland.” After Enugu was captured by the Nigerian armed forces, the Biafran capital was moved to Umuahia.

Enugu is also one of the filming locations for directors of the Nigerian movie industry, dubbed “Nollywood”. Enugu’s main airport is the Akanu Ibiam International Airport. 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.

Enugu resumed in 1970 as the capital of the East Central State after the republic was dissolved. On 3 February 1976, the East Central State was made into two new states, Imo and Anambra; there were then 19 states in Nigeria; Enugu was the capital of Anambra.

On 27 August 1991 the military dictatorship of Ibrahim Babangida divided the old Anambra State into two new states, Enugu State and Anambra State. Enugu remained as the capital of the newly created Enugu State, while Awka became the capital of the new Anambra State.

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 founded by Nnamdi Azikiwe who became the first president of Nigeria after the country’s independence from the United Kingdom on October 1960.

University of Nigeria, Nsukka

In the middle of Enugu is the Michael Okpara Square, dedicated to the premier of the former Eastern Region Michael Okpara.

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 houses were used for housing Europeans and Nigerian colonial civil servants in the early 20th century until Europeans started trying to adapt their architecture to the tropical climate.

Old Governor’s Lodge

Enugu’s roads were reflective of its British rule; much of the city’s narrow roads in the GRA have been preserved dating back to the incorporation of the city itself.

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

Some of Nigeria’s well-known writers were born and have lived in the city of Enugu. Notable amongst them is the late Chinua Achebe writer of Things Fall Apart who lived in Enugu in 1958, the year the book was published.

Also, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, writer of Half of a Yellow Sun, a winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2007, was born in Enugu in 1977 and grew up in Nsukka.

The Enugu Rangers, a first-division Nigerian Premier League football team, is Enugu’s home team. Former Rangers players include ex-Super Eagles captain Jay-Jay Okocha and Taribo West.

Enugu’s main sports centre is the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, named after Nnamdi Azikiwe. Enugu was a host for the 2009 FIFA U-17 World Cup games alongside Calabar and five other Nigerian cities with matches taking place at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium.

The cost of living in Enugu is cheap and affordable compared to other parts of the country.

Despite its name meaning hill top in the Igbo language, Enugu lies at the foot of an escarpment and not a hill.

Till date, Enugu is still referred to as the coal-city.

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