History of Enugu State

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History of Enugu State

History of Enugu State: Enugu State is one of the states that were established in the early 6,000 BC, and the historic evidence can be seen Okigwe-Nsukka axis. The present-day Enugu State is an attraction of what the earliest inhabitants who sojourned in the state building. One such instance is the historic objects based on early pottery work.

Another pottery work from the creation of the state is being excavated by a team led by Thurstan Shaw in 1978 from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, who uncovered a rock quarry which was a mine for tools and pottery making for a ‘stone civilization’ at nearby Ibagwa in the present day Igbo-Eze South Local Government of Enugu State.

According to research, Enugu State has its origin from the early Igboland dwellers with not many centralized chiefdoms or kingdoms, especially in the Wawa area of Igboland. At the time, the people were mainly organized into clans, lineages, and village affiliations. Thus, the greater part of the Enugu people has heterogeneous relationships.

Enugu State, which in the Igbo language is called Ora Enugu, is a state in Nigeria’s South-East geopolitical zone that is bordered to the north by the states of Benue and Kogi, to the east and southeast by the state of Ebonyi, to the south by the state of Abia, and to the west by the state of Anambra. Thus, research reveals that the largest city and state capital, Enugu, serves as the source of the state’s name.

Furthermore, Enugu State is the  29th largest in the area and the 22nd most populous, with an estimated population of over 4.4 million as of 2016. However, the Igbos (Ibos) constitute the majority of the state’s population.

In this piece, Naijabiography narrates the history and culture of the Enugu people, including their economy and territory.


Enugu state’s name comes from Enugu, which is where it is headquartered. Enugu, which derives from Enu Ugwu, is defined as “the top of the hill.” History has it that in 1909Albert Kitson, a British mining engineer, brought the first group of European settlers to the region. He found coal in the Udi Ridge while searching for silver, which is why the state is known as a coal city state.

Frederick Lugard’s interest in the discovery of coal as the Colonial Governor of Nigeria rose, and by 1914 the first shipment of coal to Britain had been made. Thus, a permanent, multicultural town supported by a railway system evolved as mining activity in the region increased.

In 1917, Enugu was given municipal status and developed as a key location for British interests. Therefore, foreign companies started to establish themselves in Enugu, with John Holt, Kingsway Stores, the British Bank of West Africa, and the United Africa Company among the most famous.

Meanwhile, the modern-day numerous ethnic groups have lived in Enugu State for a long time, the majority of which are Igbo, with a minority of Idoma and Igala in Etteh Uno. However, prior to the Aro Confederacy’s defeat by British forces in the early 1900s during the Anglo-Aro War, what is now Enugu State was a part of both the medieval Kingdom of Nri and the Arochukwu-based Aro Confederacy during the pre-colonial era.

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Therefore, with the war, the British added the region to the Southern Nigeria Protectorate, which was then amalgamated into British Nigeria in 1914. Following the merger, Enugu rose to prominence as a symbol of anti-colonial resistance following the 1949 killing of striking coal miners in the Iva Valley.

However, the territory that is presently Enugu was a part of the Eastern Region after Nigeria gained independence in 1960 until May 1967, when the region was divided, at which point the area became a member of the East Central State. Less than two months later, during the three-year Nigerian Civil War, the former Eastern Region sought to secede along with what is now Enugu State, which was a member of the secessionist state of Biafra.

The Biafran capital was Enugu until federal forces conquered it in October 1967. The rest of the state was fiercely contested, but much of it surrendered by June 1968. Following the end of the war and the reunification of Nigeria, the East Central State was reconstructed up until 1976, when the Murtala Muhammed dictatorship created Anambra State, which included what is now Enugu.

Meanwhile, Anambra State was separated fifteen years later, with the eastern portion being removed to create the new Enugu State. In 1996, a portion of the eastern portion of Enugu State was evacuated to create a portion of the new Ebonyi State.

Thus, on August 27, 1991, a military order established Enugu State, popularly known as the Coal-City State or Wawa State. It is noteworthy to state that years of agitation and complaints of unfairness and marginalization by the leaders and people of Wawa led to the establishment of the State by General Ibrahim Babangida, the then military Head of State.

Summarily, the British government was able to exert influence throughout the Southern Province of Nigeria from Enugu. Thus, the Georgian architectural styles and winding, narrow lanes seen in Enugu’s residential section, now known as the Government Reserved Area, which has over the years served as reminders of the city’s colonial heritage.


One of the states in Nigeria’s eastern region, Enugu State is situated at the base of the Udi Plateau. The state is bordered to the south by Abia and the Imo States, to the east by Ebonyi State, to the northeast by Benue State, to the northwest by Kogi State, and to the west by Anambra State. 

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However, the state capital of Enugu, Enugu, is located 150 miles south-southwest of Port Harcourt on the railroad and at the junction of routes from AbaOnitsha, and Abakaliki. The distance from Port Harcourt, where coal shipments left Nigeria, is about 4 hours by car.

People and Culture

Enugu, one of the 36 states, is the 22nd most populous and the 29th largest in terms of area, with approximately 4.4 million people living there as of 2016. Several ethnic groups, notably the Igbo people with minorities of the Idoma and Igala peoples in Etteh Uno, have lived in what is now Enugu State for many years.

The traditional religion of the Enugu people is predicated on the idea that there is a single creator, often known as Chineke or Chukwu. The god of thunder is the most famous example of how other gods and spirits that take the appearance of natural objects might communicate with the creator (Amadioha).

However, there is also the notion that ancestors oversee rain, harvest, health, and children while guarding their present offspring. Tableaux of painted soil can be found inside the shrines, known as Mbari, which are built in honour of the earth’s spirit.

The new Yam festivals and masquerades are two of the various celebrations and cultural events held in Igboland, especially in Enugu State. In accordance with the native calendars of the community, masquerades (Mmanwu) are held at festivals, annual celebrations, funeral rites, and other social occasions. The masquerades are dressed in vibrant gowns and cloth or wood masks. While the majority of masks occur at several or all festivals, some only appear at one.

Enugu State hosts an annual masquerade event in November that features masquerade ensembles from all over the state. Furthermore, the new Yam called Iri Ji festival, which marks the start of the new yam harvest seasons, is the other major event celebrated by the majority of communities in Igboland. Therefore, the celebration typically occurs between August and October, though the exact dates vary from community to community.

Other festivals of the Enugu people include chieftaincy coronation, Ozo title taking, marriage and burial ceremonies, etc.


Also, while most Igbo people eat conventional delicacies like pounded yam, eba (steamed garri), semovita or jollof rice, etc., some people still prefer their local or traditional foods and soups. Some of these local foods (soups) include bitter leaf soup, ora and ogri soup, egusi soup, okro soup, ogbono soup, etc.


According to research, the buoyancy of the state’s economy relies solely on agriculture. Enugu State invests primarily in cash crops such as yams, rice, cocoyam, oil palm, and cassava.

The state’s capital, Enugu, is a significant coal mining hub. Additionally, deposits of limestone, fine clay, marble, and silica sand are handled, as well as iron ore.

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Moreover, the manufacturing of textiles, food processing, lumber, soft drink bottling, brewing, and furniture are examples of industries in Enugu State.

As a result of these trades and services, Enugu State is tagged as the state with the tenth highest Human Development Index in the country, which makes it the heart of Igboland. However, Enugu is endowed with some natural resources such as coal, lead, zinc, and limestone.

Political Structure

The current governor of Enugu State is  Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi. He was elected in April 2015 and was sworn into office on May 29, 2015. Enugu State has only two tiers of government; state and local government, and the governor is the supreme head of these two tiers.

Also, the governor serves as the executive leader, who has some commissioners and other appointees that work for him to form the executive arm of the state. In addition, the members of the house of assembly are representatives of each local government to form the legislative arm of the state. The house of assembly however is based in the capital city, Enugu.

Furthermore, Enugu has 17 local government areas which include Aninri, Awgu, Enugu East, Enugu North, Enugu South, Ezeagu, Igbo Etiti, Igbo Eze North, Igbo Eze South, Isi Uzo, Nkanu East, Nkanu West, and Nsukka, among others.

Modern-Day Enugu State

In Enugu, the state government funds and manages at least one primary/elementary school and one secondary school in each village. Also, there are a lot of private kindergartens, elementary schools, and secondary schools.

Furthermore, Nigeria’s first university called the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, is located in Enugu State. Aside from this, the state also has some higher institutions such as Enugu State University of Science & Technology (ESUT), Institute of Management and Technology (IMT), Federal Cooperative College, Oji River (FCCO), and  Enugu State College of Education Technical, Enugu, among others.

In the same vein, Enugu has some prominent personalities in the society who had their background or were born in Enugu State. Some of them include Prof. Barth Nnaji (Former Minister of Power), Lolo Cecelia  Ezeilo (The first female Deputy Governor of Enugu State), Senator Chimaroke Nnamani (Ex-Governor Enugu State), Frank Edward (Singer), and John Okafor (Aka Mr Ibu), among others.

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