Onitsha: Wikis


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Onitsha is located in Nigeria
Location in Nigeria
Coordinates: 6°10′N 6°47′E / 6.167°N 6.783°E / 6.167; 6.783
Country Flag of Nigeria.svg Nigeria
State Anambra State
Population (2005)
 - Total 1,561,106 (disputed)

Onitsha is a city, commercial centre and river port on the eastern bank of the Niger river in Anambra State, southeast Nigeria. As of 2005 Onitsha had an estimated population of 561,106.[1] The indigenous people of Onitsha are primarily of Igbo ethnicity, although there are other ethnicities, such as the Hausa and Yoruba, who have migrated to Onitsha.



Immigrants from Anioma (Western Igboland) closest to the Kingdom of Benin are believed to have settled in Onitsha in the 16th century, which was originally called Ado N'Idu.[2] It soon became capital of an Igbo Kingdom. In 1857 British traders in palm oil established a permanent station in the city, and Christian missionaries soon followed headed by Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther (a Yoruba) and Reverend John Taylor (an Igbo).[3] In 1884 Onitsha became part of a British protectorate.[4] The British colonial government and Christian missionaries penetrated most of Igboland to set up their administration, schools and churches through the river port at Onitsha.

The Onitsha bridge into Onitsha.

Historically, the former Eastern Nigeria did not experience a prolonged period of indigenous urbanization like Ibadan in the southwest or Kano and Zaria in the north. Onitsha became an important trading port for the Royal Niger company in the mid 1850's. Following the abolition of slavery, trade in palm kernels and other cash crops boomed around this river port. Immigrants from the hinterland were drawn to the emerging boom town as did the British traders who settled there and coordinated the palm oil and cash crops trade. In 1965, a bridge was built across the Niger River to replace the ferry crossing,[5] and plans are in place to add a second bridge as well. [6]

Trade soared between the east and west of Nigeria. This made Onitsha the strategic gateway for trade between the former eastern and western regions. The Biafran war years brought widespread devastation to Onitsha. The subsequent oil boom years brought a huge influx of immigrants into the city. The war-damaged facilities, still under repair, could not cope with the pace of the rural-urban exodus into the city. Slums consequently began to emerge from the hasty haphazard building construction to accommodate the huge influx. It lies at a major east-west crossing point of the Niger River, and occupies the northernmost point of the river regularly navigable by large vessels. These factors have historically made Onitsha a major centre for trade between the coastal regions and the north, as well as between eastern and western Nigeria. Onitsha possesses one of the very few road bridge crossings of the mile-wide Niger river.

Today, Onitsha is a textbook example of the perils of urbanization without planning or public services.

The history of Onitsha began with the migration of its people from the Benin Empire towards the end of early part of the Sixteenth Century AD. The migration was as a result of a wave of unrest, war and displacement unleashed by the Islamic movement from North Africa.

It was during their passage through the outskirts of Ile-Ife that they acquired the name Onitsha - a corruption of the Yoruba word Orisha and Udo, the famous shrine worshipped by the people. As time went on, the combination of the two words, Onitsha for Orisha and Ado for Udo culminated in the present name , Onitsha Ado.

The people of Onitsha left the out skirts of Ile-Ife and resettled in the Benin Kingdom and soon established themselves as one of the clans in the Benin Kingdom exercising all the rights and privileges attached thereon.

As a result of a long process of acculturation in Benin, the Onitsha people jealously guarded their acquired rights particularly with regard to their revered Shrine Udo.

It was suggested that the reason why the Onitsha people quarreled with Oba Esigie, (1404-1550), of Benin was because of the slight, the Oba gave their shrine-Udo. It was customary for newly installed Oba to pay homage to all important Shrines in the Benin Kingdom by slaughtering a cow in the shrines enclave. Oba Esigie failed to do this at the Onitsha people's Udo-Shrine, hence the quarrel.

It took the Onitsha people several years before they got to Obior and Ilah and finally crossed the River Niger and established Onitsha Ado. They stopped at several places in the then Mid-West now called Delta State, places like Agbor, Issele-Uku, etc. This explains the affinity with the inhabitants of Delta State like Ilah, Issele-Uku, Obbaamkpa, Onitsha-Olona, Onitsha Ugbo, Agbo, Obior, Onitsha Ukwu and so on.

Religion and politics

The Cathedral Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Onitsha. The Anglican church also has a cathedral in the city. It is the residence of the traditional ruler of Onitsha, the Obi of Onitsha. There is also a teacher training college for women and a famous leper colony. Despite being one of the biggest commercial cities of west Africa, Onitsha remains congested from the over-concentration of all her huge markets within the old city center and minimal expansion of the colonial roads infrastructure.

In February 2006, armed militants killed at least 24 ethnic Hausa Fulani (Muslims) and burned a few Muslim sites including two mosques.[7] [8] [9] The riots were in response to riots by Muslims in the city of Maiduguri days earlier, where at least 18 Christians were killed, sparked by the cartoon controversy in Denmark.

See also


  1. ^ ""Full World"". http://www.fullworld.eu/biggest-cities-nigeria. Retrieved 2008-10-02.  
  2. ^ Azikiwe, Nnamdi (October 1930). "Fragments of Onitsha History". The Journal of Negro History 15 (4): 474. doi:10.2307/2714208. http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0022-2992(193010)15%3A4%3C474%3AFOOH%3E2.0.CO%3B2-1. Retrieved 2007-12-24.  
  3. ^ Hefling, Charles C. (2006). The Oxford Guide to the Book of Common Prayer: A Worldwide Survey. Oxford University Press US. p. 298. ISBN 0-195-29756-3. http://books.google.com/books?id=Vf7h6fJaG2MC&pg=PA298. Retrieved 2008-12-19.  
  4. ^ Chigere, Nkem Hyginus M. V. (2001). Foreign Missionary Background and Indigenous Evangelization in Igboland. LIT Verlag Berlin-Hamburg-Münster. p. 133. ISBN 3-825-84964-3. http://books.google.com/books?id=sAY8aQz4ztEC&pg=PA133. Retrieved 2008-12-19.  
  5. ^ ""Britannica"". http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/429251/Onitsha. Retrieved 2008-10-02.  
  6. ^ ""The second Niger Bridge"", "The Daily Sun", 2007-02-20, http://www.sunnewsonline.com/webpages/opinion/editorial/2007/feb/20/editorial-20-02-2007-001.htm, retrieved 2007-04-06  
  7. ^ "Scores killed in Nigeria riots", "Al Jazeera", 2006-02-23  
  8. ^ "Toll rises in Nigeria sectarian riots", "Al Jazeera", 2006-02-24  
  9. ^ Timberg, Craig (2006-02-24), ""Nigerian Christians Burn Corpses"", "The Washington Post": A10, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/02/23/AR2006022300647.html, retrieved 2007-04-06  

Coordinates: 6°10′N 6°47′E / 6.167°N 6.783°E / 6.167; 6.783



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