The Eastern region was one of the four constitutionally recognized regions in Nigeria during the colonial and immediately after the colonial period.
After the amalgamation of Nigeria in 1914, the country was divided into three administrative divisions, the Colony of Nigeria and the Northern and Southern provinces. Further on April 1, 1939, Southern Nigeria was divided into two provinces: the Western and Eastern province. In 1947, the Richards constitution introduced regional Houses for the Western, Eastern and Northern Provinces. A new constitution which began operation on October 1, 1954 established Nigeria to consist of the Western Region of Nigeria, the Northern Region of Nigeria and the Eastern Region of Nigeria.
Demographics and geography
Prior to the creation of the Mid-West region in 1963, the East was the country's second smallest province with a land area of about 29,484 square miles; the region was also densely populated with pressure exerted on the land, this situation partly led to the migration of many Easterners to other regions.
Geographically, the Eastern lands towards the southernmost tip merges with the ocean and from the ocean up north, along a 10-40 mile area are the mangrove swamps, lagoons and tidal waterways, then the next 100 miles north of the swamps like majority of its counterpart in the West is dominated by the tropical rain forest, however, the tropical forest later began to yield way to a growing population of palm trees. Towards the Northern most part of the region lies a merger with the grassland. Eastwards, lies a range of hills that runs from the North section of Nsukka to the foothills of the Cameroons mountains. At Obudu, Cross River, near the border with Cameroon there lies an elevation of about 5,000 feet.
The Igbo's are the predominant group in the region and live in the cities of Enugu, the capital of the Eastern region, in Owerri, Onitsha: a political vibrant center, Aba, some portion of the Port Harcourt Province and Umuahia. Among other inhabitants are the Ibibios, Efik, Ijaws, etc. The regional political framework in the country is sometimes criticized as leading to the dominance of the majority ethnic groups, the Hausa/Fulani in the North, the Yoruba in the West and the Igbos in the East.
Politics and crisis
Led by Nnamdi Azikiwe, the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons held sway in the East for most of the region's existence right before the end of the Nigerian first republic in 1966. In 1960, Michael Okpara took over from Azikiwe as the region's premier, prior to Azikiwe, Eyo Ita had served as the premier. In 1954, the NPC which held sway in the North went into alliance with the NCNC, the same situation was repeated in 1960. However, detachment over some matters such as the conduct of the 1963 census led to a break up of the NPC alliance, the party later teamed up with remnants of the Action Group. However, a military coup ended the democratic dispensation in 1966.
Later in 1966, bloodshed and violence against Igbos in the North and reprisals attacks against Hausas in the East tarnished the national building process. The violence seems to stem from allegations of ethnic bias and fears of Igbo domination that emerged after a bloody coup in January 1966. In May, 1966, scores of Igbos were killed in riots in Northern Nigeria and later in August, 1966, troops all over the country where asked to proceed to their region of origin after a successful bloody mutiny by Northern officers led to the slaughter of many Eastern officers. The success of a Northern led coup also prompted many skilled Easterners resident in the North to migrate back to the East. The events of May and the July coup led to the feeling among many Igbos in the East for a reason to declare itself independent from Nigeria, the sentiment did not abate as more violence against Igbos were recorded in the North especially towards the end of September and early October, 1966.
The Eastern region ranked as the nation's leading palm oil producer. Late in the nineteenth century, the southern portion of the region was part of the brief Oil Rivers Protectorate, a province named after palm produce. In the early 1960s, palm oil contributed close to 90% of the region's export earnings at a time the country supplied a third of the world palm produce. To the south, towards the lagoons and the creeks fishery is a source of living.
The region in the 1960s possessed the leading commercial coal reserve in West Africa, however, competition from alternative sources of energy such as natural gas and diesel led to a rosy future for the industry. An important gas powered plant was erected at Afam and associated gas was piped to supply energy to the Trans Amadi Industrial Estate in Port Harcourt. Increasing production from oil further led to the industrial development of the Port Harcourt area towards the end of the Nigerian first republic.
The three regional governments earn revenue through direct and indirect taxes and remittances of agricultural export duties from the federal government.
- Alan Sokolski. The Establishment of Manufacturing in Nigeria. p 11