Enugu State: Founded in 1909 by a team of geological explorers led by Sir Albert Kitson, Enugu was just like one of those “evil forests”, or at best, a farmland used by surrounding villages. It was the discovery of coal on top of Udi escarpment that attracted residents to the area.
Enugu or Enu-ugwu, which consists of two Igbo words – Enu (Top) and Ugwu (Hill), meaning ” Top of the Hill” or “Hill Top”, derived its name from a little village east of Ngwo Town, situated at the top of Udi Hills, where coal was discovered in 1909. It was then called ” Enu–ugwu Ngwo“. However, much of the European “Enugu”, which we all know today, lies at the foot of Udi-Awgu-Nsukka hills, surrounded by a stretched low hills, and sits at an altitude of 240 miles above sea level.
The main indigenous people of Enugu are Ogui Nike, who live in areas around Hotel Presidential, Obiagu, Ama-Igbo, Ihewuzi and Onu-Asata areas. Other groups include Awkunanaw people, who live mainly in Achara Layout and Uwani areas as well as the Enugwu Ngwo people who live on the hilltop, with their farmlands sprawling all over the valley. The discovery of coal deposit in their land gave rise to settlements around the foot of the hills, and as the population grew, the city expanded into the areas of other indigenous inhabitants. It was then called Enugwu-Ngwo, before it was changed to just Enugu.
The first immigrant settlers in Enugu was an exploitation team of coalminers under a British mining engineer named William John Leck. The team was accompanied by a gang of labourers led by Alfred Inoma from Onitsha. They all came in 1915. They were later joined by prisoners who were brought down from Udi to the coalmine. The prisoners built their own prison yard and set out to work in the mine.
While William Leck and the White men who came with him settled at Hill Top, Alfred Inoma and his group settled at a place known after him, called Ugwu Alfred. Alfred Inoma died very early, but William Leck lived in Enugu until his retirement in 1942.
It was the discovery of coal in Enugu in 1909 that led to the founding of the city of Port Harcourt in 1912, which was to serve as an outlet for the shipment of coal overseas. The town was named after a one-time British Secretary of State for the Colonies, Mr. Lewis Viscount Harcourt.
Soon after the opening of the coalmine in 1915, the Colliery Management embarked on massive recruitment of labourers to work the coalfields. It was also the same year that the first shipment of coal from Enugu to the United Kingdom was made.
The influx of workers in Enugu to work the coalfields led to the establishment of “Colliery Villages” to give shelter to these immigrants. That was how places like Coal Camp and Iva Valley came into existence.
In 1917, Enugu was declared a Second Class Township under the Colonial Order in Council No. 19 of 1917, along with Udi, which was declared a Third Class Township. Accordingly, a Township Advisory Board (TAB), consisting of Mr. J G Lawson, acting District Officer; Mr. J S Hayes, Colliery Manager; Mr. A B Milliken, Assistant Engineer; Mr. E C Braithwaite, Medical Officer; and Mr. W Reeder, Senior Superintendent of Prisons, was set up to take care of the political administration of the town.
In 1929, the Colonial Government gave approval that the administrative headquarters of Southern Provinces of Nigeria which then comprised of Onitsha, Ogoja, Owerri, Calabar, Ijebu, Oyo, Abeokuta, Ondo, Benin, Warri, as well as the Mandated of the Cameroon, be moved from Lagos to Enugu.
Enugu remained the Capital of Southern Provinces until 1939, when the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Mr. W G A Ormsby-Gore, in a memo dated September 17, 1937, approved the splitting of Southern Provinces into Eastern and Western Provinces with capitals at Enugu and Ibadan respectively.
Enugu was also capital of Eastern Region, capital of the sovereign Republic of Biafra, capital of East Central State, capital of Anambra State, and now, capital of Enugu State.
Among those who held forte in Enugu and from there presided over the affairs of the people entrusted into their care were Professor Eyo Ita, Leader of Government Business (1952 to 1954); Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Premier (1954 to 1959); Dr. Michael Okpara and Dr. Francis Akanu Ibiam, Premier and Governor respectively, (1959 to 1966); Colonel/General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, Military Governor, Eastern Region/Republic of Biafra (1966 to 1970).
Others were Mr. Mr. Anthony Ukpabi Asika, Administrator, (1967 to 1975); Colonel Anthony Aboki Ochefu, Military Governor, (July 1975 to October 1975); Colonel John Atom Kpera, Military Governor, (1975 to 1978); Colonel Datti Sadiq Abubakar, Military Governor, (1978 to 1979); Chief Jim Nwobodo, Governor, 1979 to 1983); and Chief Christian Onoh, Governor, (October 1983 to December 1983).
There were also Navy Captain Allison Madueke, Military Governor, (1984 to 1985); Group Captain Emeka Omeruah, (1985 to 1987); Colonel Robert Akonobi, Military Governor, (1987 to 1990); Colonel Herbert Obi Eze, Military Governor, (1990 to 1992); Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, Governor, (1992 to 1993); Navy Captain Temison Ejoor, Military Governor, (1993 to 1994); Colonel Lucky Mike Torey, Military Governor, (1994 to 1996); Colonel Sule Ahman, Military Governor, (1996 to 1998); and Navy Captain Benson Agbaje (1998 to 1999).
The rest were Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani, Governor, (1999 to 2007); Barrister Sullivan Chime, Governor, (2007 to 2015): and Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, Governor, (2015 to date). Each and everyone of them had contributed one way or the other in changing the face of Enugu.
Addendum:::It is pertinent to add “that a British Army Engineer called Captain Iva, took part in the excavation of the open cast coal mine at the foot of what we today call the Milliken hill. The valley beside it called Iva valley was named after him. Captain Demont O’Connor was the Colonial resident in charge of Onitsha Province where Enugu was initially located. He decided many disputes that arose around Enugu at that time. The O’Connor round about was named after him.”