The Establishment and Early Growth of a Colonial Town - 1917

Author: smith on 20-09-2013, 23:00, views: 13 436


NOTE: The boundaries shown on this map are not necessarily accurate.NOTE: The boundaries shown on this map are not necessarily accurate.At the turn of the 19th century, Ikot Abasi, then known as Egwanga, was a small village: a trading post of the Ibekwe clan frequented by Opobo (Umani) traders, and a landing place for the trade at markets up the Imo River and in the Ibibio and Anaang hinterland. It was certainly, less important than Essene situated a little distance away. Essene had been a large, populous entrepot since the days of the slave trade, and, not surprisingly, Britain established a Native Council Court at Essene Market in 1902 to serve the entire Ibibio and Anaang areas. Further evidence of the comparative insignificance of Ikot Abasi comes from the British Consul, Roger Casement, who traversed the back country up to Ikot Osong on the Qua Iboe River in May 1894. Whereas Casement took only passing note of Ikot Abasi in describing the journey, he detailed his experiences at prominent villages like Essene, Minya, Ibekwe Akpan Nya, Efa, and Mbioto II (Casement, 1894).


Within a decade of Casement's excursion, however, a fortuitous and dramatic change occurred in the fortunes of Ikot Abasi. This, as already indicated in chapter four, was the transfer in 1902 of the British Consulate - the seat of British colonial power and imperial expansion in this region - from Norah Beach to Ikot Abasi considered a much better (location) from the health and land point of view (Cheesman, 1932 A).

According to one narrative:

A Mess with four quarters was erected. An Assistant District Commissioner, Medical Officer, Assistant Commissioner of Police and Treasurer formed the station. Essene still continued to be the one Court. The Customs remained at Norah Beach. Government bought the land from the Ikot Abasi Chiefs (Ikpa Clan) (Cheesman, 1932 A).


Thus, Ikot Abasi became the headquarters of what, for the next half century, was known as Opobo District (or Division); while the town itself was variously called Egwanga, Egwanga - Opobo or Opobo Township, to distinguish it from Opobo Town (or Opobo Island) of the Umani people.


Category: Urbanisation of Ikot Abasi


The Town Population

Author: smith on 20-09-2013, 22:00, views: 15 137


The brick Judge's Bungalow on Consulate Road, Ikot AbasiThe brick Judge's Bungalow on Consulate Road, Ikot AbasiA much more fundamental impact was the agglomeration of population at Ikot Abasi, heterogeneous in nationality and ethnicity, and varied in culture, skills and standards of living. Coopers brought from Accra in the Gold Coast (now Ghana), engineers recruited from Sierra Leone, and Kru boys from Liberia recruited as stevedores and deck hands, met and mingled at Ikot Abasi or its environs, although these migrants tended to live in clusters by nationality. One of the most notable migrants was J. E. Tekeyi-Mensah, a company's shopkeeper from the Gold Coast (Epelle, 1970), who settled close by the European Reservation at the rear of G. L. Gaiser and Company's Factory. A village of other aliens and residents, eventually known as Mensah Town, soon formed round him. Significantly, Tekeyi-Mensah himself applied to the Township Advisory Board in October 1912 for land in the Reservation, but, as would be expected, the Board resolved:

... that this application be not granted, since by granting land to one Native there would then be a case of precedent for others. The ground (would) no longer be a European Reservation (Minutes, 1906-1929)


In the end, in October 1920, Tekeyi-Mensah, now a prominent trader, leased a plot of land at Mensah Town from the chiefs of Ikot Abasi on behalf of A. Mensah Brother and Co. Traders of Mensah Town (Leases, Opobo Division).


To the so-called non-native foreigners like Tekeyi-Mensah, were added native foreigners - the Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba who visited, or settled at Ikot Abasi for trade, or were engaged as artisans or contractors (Cheesman, 1932 A). They too tended to settle in ethnic clusters, close by the Township where, through their elected headmen and ethnic associations, they could better cater for the well-being of their members.

Another important element of the town's population comprised Native Africans from the Division and neighbouring regions. They included the Ibibio, Anaang, Obolo (Andoni), Ogoni and Umani (Opobo Town). They visited for trade at the main Public Market, or at the European beaches, or they came to attend the Government Native Hospital - the only hospital for Africans in the Division up to 1960.


Category: Urbanisation of Ikot Abasi


Ikot Abasi: From Second Class to Third Class Township, 1917-1950

Author: smith on 20-09-2013, 21:00, views: 12 993


PWD buildings along Consulate RoadPWD buildings along Consulate RoadThe Township Ordinance of 1917 made more explicit the instruments of township administration. It classified Nigerian towns into First, Second, and Third Class. Lagos was the only First Class Township with an autonomous town council; eight towns were Second, and 42 were Third class (Nwaka, 1976 A: 37; Lugard, 1970: 407). Ikot Abasi, as already indicated, was Second Class, to be administered by a Local Authority (the District or Assistant District Officer), and an appointed Township Advisory Board. This comprised, as in the previous Reservation Board, official members, who were colonial officials, and unofficial members, who were representatives of the European firms (Nwaka, 1976 A: 37), Thus, the new Advisory Board which met on January 28, 1918, comprised R. B. Brooks (District Officer) as Local Authority; E. H. Tipper, the Senior Medical Officer; J. W. Park, Agent of Miller Brothers Ltd; J. B. Bryson, Agent of Mclver Ltd; and T. E. Gooch, Agent of the African Association Ltd (Minutes, 1906-1929). All the members, excepting Brooks, had previously served on the Reservation Board. The Township Ordinance also explicitly stated the various sources of revenue of Second Class Townships. These sources were to be reflected in the town's Annual Budget, drawn up by the Advisory Board. They were vehicle, dog, slaughter house and drumming licences; conservancy charges; market dues; pound fees; and government grant-in-aid (Township, Opobo Division).


European firms, accustomed to contribute to European Reservation Funds under previous Ordinances, were to be called upon to contribute under the new Ordinance. Construction and maintenance of roads were taken over by the colonial government's Public Works Department (PWD); while conservancy and sanitary works were to be provided for in the Government Estimates (Minutes, 1906 to 1929).


According to the township rules, everybody had to carry a lighted lamp when moving beyond the precincts of his own tenement between 8.00 p.m. and 530 a.m. Letters were read complaining that a certain dog, the property of Mr. Jumbo, is in the habit of attacking Motor Cyclists. The owner has been informed that if this dog is found on the main road, it will be destroyed.(Minutes of the Opobo Township Advisory Board meeting, 19th November, 1920)


Category: Urbanisation of Ikot Abasi


The Decline of Ikot Abasi Township, 1950-1990

Author: smith on 20-09-2013, 20:00, views: 15 082


Pentacle Nigeria Limited, the only purified vegetable oil plant in the State. Source: Obong 0. D. EtukafiaPentacle Nigeria Limited, the only purified vegetable oil plant in the State. Source: Obong 0. D. Etukafia[quote]A further jolt to Ikot Abasi Township occurred about January 1953, when the greater part of the installations of UAC, the dominant firm, were devastated in a single rainstorm, which also caused great destruction throughout the Division. The ruin was not salvaged and the company dwindled on, till it folded up in the early 1960's (Udoessien, 1987: 9). As UAC did the major business at Ikot Abasi, employed many workers and had links with other companies, its collapse was a major calamity to the Township (ibid.).


The serious decline of Ikot Abasi continued through the 1950's and early 1960's, fuelled by various factors. These included the appalling state of the roads leading to the town, particularly the Ikot Abasi-Aba road, which was often closed to lorries at the Ikot Abasi end during the rainy season, due to muddiness; the easy adulteration of produce at Aba, which played a big part in diverting trade from its normal economic channels to Aba, and thence to Port Harcourt; and the lack of development of inland waterways leading to Ikot Abasi -all of which served to reduce Ikot Abasi's share in the produce trade almost to extinction by 1955 (Resident, 1955).


Other factors were the adverse rivalry with Port Harcourt and the political machinations of the ruling NCNC party. Massive development of port facilities at Port Harcourt contrasted markedly with the neglect of Ikot Abasi. Neither the continued entreaties by the public and the Ibibio State Union, nor the representations of the District Officer for Opobo Division, I. C. Jackson, in 1955 and the intervention of the Resident for Calabar Province could force the government to dredge or re-open the port, the silting process of which, it was noticed, was being reversed and there was as much water on the bar as previously

(Jackson, 1955). Jackson's plea, true in 1955, when it was made, as it is in 1996, saw the resuscitation of Ikot Abasi Township as a joint venture between Government, private companies and non-governmental organisations, and deserves notice:


Category: Urbanisation of Ikot Abasi