Onitsha (Igbo: Ọ̀nị̀chà Mmílí[4] or just Ọ̀nị̀chà) is a city located on the eastern bank of the Niger River, in Anambra State, Nigeria. A metropolitan city, Onitsha is known for its river port and as an economic hub for commerce, industry, and education. It hosts the Onitsha Main Market, the largest market in Africa in terms of geographical size and volume of goods.

Onitsha
Ọ̀nị̀chà Mmílí
Port City
Metropolis
Onitsha aerial view
Onitsha aerial view
Official seal of Onitsha
Nickname(s): 
Port City, Onitsha(Osha)
Motto(s): 
Economic Hub For Commerce, Industry, And Education
Anthem: "With all our hearts, We Pray and ask"
Onitsha is located in Nigeria
Onitsha
Onitsha
Onitsha in Nigeria
Coordinates: 6°10′N 6°47′E / 6.167°N 6.783°E / 6.167; 6.783
Country Nigeria
StateAnambra State
LGAOnitsha North, Onitsha South
Founded1550
Settled15th century
Incorporated city19th century
Government
 • TypeConstitutional Monarchy, Executive Chairman Local Government Council
 • Constitutional MonarchyObi of Onitsha Igwe Nnaemeka Alfred Achebe, "Agbogidi"
 • Executive ChairmanPatrick Agha-Mba Onitsha North
Emeka Asoanya Onitsha South
 • Anambra North Senatorial District, OnitshaStella Oduah-Ogiemwonyi
Area
 • Metropolis52 km2 (20 sq mi)
 • Land36.12 km2 (13.95 sq mi)
 • Water0.067 km2 (0.026 sq mi)
 • Urban
1,965 km2 (759 sq mi)
 • Metro
1,965 km2 (759 sq mi)
Population
 (2016)[2]
 • Metropolis1,080,000
 • Demonym
Onye Onicha (singular)
Ndi Onicha (plural) (Igbo)
Time zoneUTC+1 (WAT)
Postcode
430...[3]
Area code(s)046
ClimateAw
Websitehttps://anambrastate.gov.ng

As of 2016, Onitsha had an estimated city proper population of 1,080,000 people.[2] As of early 2022, Onitsha has a rising estimated population at 1,553,000.[5] The indigenous people of Onitsha are Igbo and speak the Igbo language. The Onitsha people are referred to as Ndi Onicha.[4]

Founding and settlementEdit

 
Obi of Onitsha, Alfred Achebe

Onitsha Mmili was originally known as Onitsha Ado na Idu.[6] This Igbo town has lived there for years and eventually emigrated across the Niger River to establish the Onitsha community.

After their arrival on the east bank (Onicha-mmili, "Onitsha-on-water", see above), the community gradually became a unitary kingdom, evolving from a loosely organized group of "royal" villages to encompass "non-royal" villages.

Modern historyEdit

 
The famous Niger River and Niger Bridge defines Onitsha as the gateway to the Igbo heartland.

Onitsha slowly grew to become an important trading port for the Royal Niger Company in the mid-1850s following the abolition of slavery and with the development of the steam engine when Europeans were able to move into the hinterland.

Trade in palm kernels, palm oil, and other cash crops on the coast of the Bight of Biafra increased around this river port in the 19th century.

In 1857 British palm oil traders established a permanent station in the city with Christian missionaries joining them, headed by the liberated African bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther (a Yoruba recaptive) and Reverend John Taylor (an Igbo Recaptive).[7]

In 1900 Onitsha became part of a British protectorate.[8] 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.

In 1965, the Niger River Bridge was built across the Niger River to replace the ferry crossing. This has helped to grow trade routes with western Nigeria and created significant economic linkages between Onitsha and Benin City and Lagos particularly.[9][10]

The Nigerian-Biafran war brought devastation to Onitsha as the city was a major theatre of war for forces entering Biafra from the western front. The subsequent oil boom years of the 1970s and early 1980s witnessed a huge influx of immigrants into the city. The result has been hastily constructed and haphazard building which has created a huge number of slums.[11]

People and cultureEdit

 
The Ofala Festival held once a year is a celebration of Onitsha tradition and culture.

Onitsha traditionally consists of nine villages, otherwise known as Ebo Itenani. These are descendants of the progenitor Umuezechima comprising Isiokwe, Olosi, Umuezearoli, Okebunabo, Obikporo and Ogbeotu, Awada (Ogbeozoma), Obamkpa comprising Umuasele, Iyiawu and Odoje Ndugbe and Odumegwu Gbuagu, Ubulu na Ikem, Ulutu, Ubene, Ogboli Eke, Obior and Ogbeotu. Within these groupings, there are six administrative wards namely Okebunabo, Umuezearoli, Ogbeolu, Isiokwe na Ogboli Olosi, Obamkpa and Eke na Ubene.

Umuaroli Ogbendida Ogbeozoma Isiokwe
Ogboli-Eke Ogboli-Olosi Umudei Ogbembubu/Ogbeabu
Ogbeodogwu Obikporo Ogbeotu Umuasele
Odoje Umuikem Mgbelekeke Iyiawu
Obior

Onitsha operates a traditional government headed by the Obi, the titular head of the town who is assisted by Ndi Ichie, titled red cap elders or chiefs. Among these are Ndi Ichie Ume, who are the First Class Chiefs. The Ndi Ichie are classified into six, namely: Onowu Iyasele, Ajie Ukadiugwu, Odu Osodi, Onya Ozoma, Ogene Onira and Owelle Osowa, with Onowu Iyasele as the traditional Prime Minister. There are also other Ndi Ichie, who are ranked second class, known as Ndi Okwa and third class, known as Ndi Ichie Okwareze. The Ndi Ichie serve as Council of Advisers to the Obi who solicits their advice in major decisions he makes in the Kingdom.[12]

When the ruling Obi joins his ancestors, the Onowu Iyasele takes charge until a new Obi is enthroned.[citation needed]

Once a year in October the kingdom of Onitsha holds the Ofala Festival which coincides with the traditional New Yam festival held in many parts of Igboland. It is a way for the people of Onitsha to keep their culture alive and it has become a major event that draws visitors from far and wide to the city.[citation needed]

GeographyEdit

Onitsha 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 center 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[13][14] and plans are in place to add a second bridge near it.

Rapid urbanization in recent years negatively affects natural vegetation and local landscape.[15]

UrbanizationEdit

In the early 1960s, before the Nigerian Civil War (see also Biafra), the population was officially recorded as 76,000, and the town was distinctive in a number of dimensions;[16] the great Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe (born and raised in the contiguous town of Ogidi) characterized it as harboring an "esoteric region from which creativity sallies forth at will to manifest itself," "a zone of occult instability" (see "Onitsha Matters").

 
GRA Onitsha
 
the residential neighborhood of Onitsha GRA

Indeed, Onitsha has played a creative role in the transformation to urban life in Eastern Nigeria famous as the setting for Onitsha Market Literature and as one of the hubs for the financing and distribution of Nollywood films.[17]

However, infrastructure has not kept pace with urbanization and haphazard building practices without zoning regulations has left in its wake a chaotic and congested city rife with lawlessness. The World Health Organization Global Urban Ambient Air Pollution database's 2016 update indicates that Onitsha is the most polluted city in Africa.[18][19]

In recent times with its expansion into neighboring communities, the Onitsha people have been involved in disputes over land ownership in the surrounding area with the people of Obosi and Nkwelle Ezunaka.[20][21] Fegge, Woliwo, Odoakpu, Awada, and 3-3 are Onitsha metropolitan areas being disputed by the communities of Obosi and Nkwelle Ezunaka, respectively.

 
Onitsha Skyline

EconomyEdit

 
Harbor Industrial Layout of Onitsha

In 2012 the state government, through a joint venture, attracted SAB Miller to invest in Onitsha Brewery, which started production in August. It was the first large-scale investment in Onitsha since Premier Breweries, makers of the Premier Beer established production in Onitsha in the early part of the 1980s. In January it was announced that upgrades to the value of $110 million would triple the output of beer and malt drinks.[22]

International Airport ConnectionsEdit

Onitsha is not only accessible by rivers and land, but also by air. The city has an international cargo and passenger airport located at Umueri.

Religion and politicsEdit

Onitsha is a predominantly Christian city. Islam is also practiced in the city by people from Northern and Western Nigeria. In February 2006, armed militants killed at least 24 ethnic Hausa Fulani (Muslims) and burned a few Muslim sites, including two mosques.[23][24][25] 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.

Environmental IssuesEdit

Waste ManagementEdit

There is improper disposal of solid waste in the metropolis resulting in poor sanitary conditions. The amount of waste generation is attributed to the city's high population being a commercial area that draws in people from within and outside Nigeria for business purposes. They generate mostly food waste, polythene bags, paper and its related wastes and metal. Others are pieces of clothes, plastic, tins, bottles and glass materials.[26] Households dispose solid waste in unauthorized places such as the road, water and its channels, dump stands and near dumpsites. This waste disposal attitude is due to inadequate provision of solid waste management facilities, poor accessibility to dumpsite, social, moral and economic factors.[27] Awka, the capital of Anambra state generates more than 400 tons of solid waste daily, with only 30 percent collected. The volume varies for other commercial cities in the state such as Onitsha on a daily basis.[28][29]

Air PollutionEdit

In 2016, PM10 levels exceeded the WHO's standard by 30 times.[30][31]

Noise PollutionEdit

The city's noise levels exceeds the federal ministry of environment stipulated limits of 90dB (A) and that of NESREA's 70dB (A) for an 8-hour working period, varying in dry season and wet seasons.[32] High noise levels are experienced mainly around major junctions and market places such as Onitsha main market and new spare parts market. The market noise emanates from the use of grinding machines, public address systems, generators, bell ringing and shouting by traders. Whereas, that of the major junctions result from transportation activities and vehicular traffic around Iweka flyover, Belewa junction, old and new market road junction, old Nkisi road and Nkpor junction.[32]

Water PollutionEdit

The city's vast surface water, shallow subsurface water, and permeable soils put it at high risk of water pollution. This is compounded by the industry density in the area ranging from food/beverage, chemical, pharmaceutical, textile, wood, leather to automobile/miscellaneous assembly industries that generates different waste forms. The city's surface and sub-surface water is polluted by heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury, zinc, copper, and iron. This pollution originates mainly from effluent discharge from industries, refuse dump sites, fuel/diesel from filling stations and vehicle exhaust fumes and hospitals. The distribution of industries close to the location of River Niger and nwangene stream contributes to the pollution of these waterbodies.[citation needed]

Twin townsEdit

Onitsha is twinned with:

Notable peopleEdit

The Onitsha people were among the first Igbo to embrace western education,[35] producing notable people like Bishop Alphonsus Chukwuma Onyeabo, Order of the British Empire, 1879–1954, and the main contributor of the English to Igbo bible,[36] Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Owele of Onicha, Zik of Africa, and the first president of the post-independent Nigeria.

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

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Further readingEdit

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