Enugu meaning Énugwú in the Igbo language is the capital of Enugu State, located in south-eastern Nigeria.
The name Enugu is derived from the two Igbo words Énú Ụ́gwụ́ meaning “hilltop” denoting the city’s hilly geography. The city was named after Enugwu Ngwo in what is now Udi LGA, under which coal was found.
Since the 17th century, the location of present-day Enugu has been inhabited by the Nike subgroup of the Igbo people and one of Enugu’s neighborhoods still retains the village’s old name Ogui. The name Enugu began around Nike village called Ogui. The name Nike in Igbo land means ‘with strength or power’.
During the transatlantic slave trade Nike people gained most of their lands and they used slaves for defence by placing slave camps at the edge of their territories so that it will be harder for the enemies to invade them. In 1690-1901 they formed an alliance which is known as Aro confederacy which was known as Igbo organization that controlled slave trading in the southern Area of Nigeria. The alliance was formed between Aro people in what is now Abia state and Nike people in what is now Enugu state.
A 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 lasting till 24 March 1902 when the Aro were defeated. The Aro Confederacy ended and the rest of Aro dominated areas was added to The Colony and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria, declared in 1903.
Europeans first arrived in the Enugu area in 1900 when the British / Australian geologist Albert Ernest Kitson led an exploration of the Southern Nigeria Protectorate to search for especially valued mineral resources under the supervision of the Imperial Institute, London. By 1909 coal was found under the village of Enugwu Ngwo in Udi area 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.
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 shut down two years later and replaced with the Iva Valley mine.
Enugu became a major coal mining area and the only significant one in West Africa. 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 Coal Miners
Enugu was then renamed simply 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.
In 1939 Enugu became the capital of the Eastern Provinces of Nigeria, during that time 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 (G.R.A), a civil servants housing district exclusively reserved for administrative staff.
It became the administrative city of the eastern region when the country was divided into three regions in 1951. Enugu became a municipality in 1956 with Umaru Altine 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, the latter created out of the eastern Nigerian states of East Central, Cross River, and Rivers.
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 Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970) lead, Igbo from northern and western Nigeria to return to their “native” areas in eastern Nigeria and Enugu became a destination. 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 Nigeria.
Because of the war, Enugu witnessed a decrease in the number of non-Igbo, specifically non-eastern Nigerian residents. On 4 October 1967, the Nigerian military bombarded Enugu with artillery outside its boundaries before capturing it a week later, shortly after Umuahia became the new capital of the republic.
Years after the Republic of Biafra reverted to Nigeria, Enugu is still regarded as the “Capital of Igboland.”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 and Enugu was the capital of Anambra.
On 27 August 1991, the Military Governor of Ibrahim Babangida divided the old Anambra State into two new states, Enugu and Anambra States. Enugu remained as the capital of the newly created Enugu State, while Awka became the capital of the new Anambra State.
A beautiful state located in a tropical rain forest zone with humid climate with an average daily temperature of 26.7 °C (80.1 °F). As in other West African countries, the rainy season and dry season are the only weather periods that recurs in the State.
The State is predominately occupied by the Igbo ethnic group with some pockets of Igala speaking communities of Ette in Igbo-Eze-North LGA, Ogurugu and Ojjor in Uzo-Uwani LGA respectively. It shares a boundary with Imo State and Abia State to the South, Ebonyi State to the East, Benue State to the North East, Kogi State to the North West and Anambra state to the West. An Enugu man is known for hospitality, humility and enterprising.
Enugu State presently has 17 Local Government Areas – Aninri, Agwu, Enugu East, Enugu North, Enugu South, Ezeagu, Igbo Etiti, Igbo-Eze North, Igboeze South, Isi-Uzo, Nkanu East, Nkanu West, Nsukka, Oji-River, Udenu, Udi, Uzo-Uwani.