Regions since 1914 were carved with Lagos Federal District formed in 1954. The regions gained self-rule on 1 Oct 1954. Military governors were installed after the coup of 15 Jan 1966. During the abolition of federalism 24 May – 31 Aug 1966, the regions were re-designated “groups of provinces,” and the governors continued in office under the new designations. In 27 May 1967 the regions were dissolved and 12 states created instead.

Upon independence Nigeria was divided into three regions Northern, Eastern, Western and the federal district Lagos. These regions had own flags and own coats of arms. The flags were used until 1967 when the region was officially divided into three new states, namelyEast-Central State, Rivers State and South-Eastern State. The region was part of Biafra, which was in rebellion between 1967 and 1970. The coat of arms of the Eastern Region was also the state coat of arms of the Republic of Biafra.

The state flag was based on the Nigerian national flag, but with the state arms in the centre of the white stripe.

The Eastern Region was an administrative region in Nigeria, dating back originally from the division of the colony Southern Nigeria in 1954. Its first capital was Calabar. The capital was later moved to Enugu and the second capital was Umuahia. The region was officially divided in 1967 into three new states, the East-Central State, Rivers State and South-Eastern State. East-Central State had its capital at Enugu, which is now part of Enugu State.

The region had the first-, fourth- and fifth-largest indigenous ethnic groups including Igbo, Ibibio, and Ijaw. It was what later became Biafra, which was in rebellion from 1967 to 1970.
The following cities were in the Eastern Region at the time:

* Aba

* Abakaliki

* Abonnema

* Ahoada

* Awka

* Bori City

* Buguma

* Calabar

* Eket

* Enugu

* Igwuruta

* Ikot-Abasi

* Ikot Ekpene

* Nnewi

* Nsukka

* Omoku

* Onitsha

* Opobo

* Orlu

* Owerri

* Port Harcourt

* Umuahia

* Uyo

* Yenagoa

Trade in palm produce was a dominant feature in the economy of Eastern Nigeria. The palm tree provided fronds for roofing of houses in the villages, palm wine for drinking and palm kernels as source of foreign exchange income. After World War II, prices sought for palm produce skyrocked and by 1954, Palm produce generated an income of 54 million pounds. However, the prices stabilized by the middle of the 1950s. Employment in farming and agriculture was a significant source of income for many residents engaged in yam farming and fishery. In the 1960s, the government promoted rubber, cocoa and palm grove schemes to increase the output of cash crops. The government also established farm settlements at Ohaji, Igbariam, Boki, Ulonna, Erei, Uzo-Uwani and Egbema to encourage agriculture.

Trading of goods was also a major part of the regional economy. In 1954, imports to the region was about 25 million pounds a year which were brought into the country by a few European firms but distributed by thousands of traders within the region. The trade in imported goods such as dried fish, motor parts, textiles goes on along with the trade in local foodstuff.

In industry, the coal mines of Enugu managed by the Nigerian Coal Corporation and Nigersteel’s rolling mill which used steel scraps to produce mild steel bars were one of the few coal mines and steel plants in operation in West Africa in 1963.
During the NCNC led government, a cement factory was established at Nkalagu, Nigerian Breweries chose a stout factory at Aba, a Tobacco and glass making plant was located at Port Harcourt. Oil mining in the region started by Shell D’ Archy in 1937 did not yield commercial quantities until 1957. But by 1965, oil was a promising source of income.

The task of managing the trade and income earned in palm oil kernels was given to the Eastern Nigeria Marketing Board and the Eastern Nigeria Finance Corporation. The Eastern Nigeria Marketing Board came into effect in 1954 and was given the responsibility to manage the region’s cash or export crops. The board assigned grade to palm produce according to free fatty acid content and then assigns producer prices to each grade.

The board conducts the purchase of palm oil and kernels that are to be exported through the use of licensed buying agents and engages in the evacuation of the produce to the ports for export. Most of the profits from the sales of export produce is transferred to the Eastern Nigeria Development Corporation. The development corporation was involved in producing quality palm oil kernels for the export markets through erection of pioneer oil mills and the development of other export crops such as cocoa, cashew nuts, rubber and coconut. Rice cultivation was also encouraged in Abakaliki and Ogoja.

Community development was one of the initiatives of the NCNC led Eastern regional government in the 1950s and the phrase was also popular among community residents of villages and towns. Part of the initiative of the community development ministry was the clearing of land for passable laterite and earthroads. In 1955 about 8,000 miles of roads were cleared but less than 10% were tarred. Most travelers used lorries to move between cities. In the southern parts of the region where tidal waterways and swamps dominate the vegetation, barges and river craft were used for transportation.

The Nigerian railway line in the region ran through Enugu, Umuahia, Aba and Port Harcourt. Construction of the railway began in 1913 and completed in 1919. The line was extended to Kaduna in 1926.

The Port of Port Harcourt was the second largest port in Nigeria in the 1950s. In 1954, it cleared about $54 million worth of imports and exports, while the shipping facilities at Calabar cleared $11 million worth of goods.

The region like Nigeria during the first republic operated a parliamentary system of government with a premier leading the executive branch and a bicameral legislature. The figurehead position of governor existed but it was subordinate to the premier. Apart from the regional government, Eastern Nigeria also had a local government modeled after the English system. There were three tiers of governance levels within the system, the county and urban districts, the municipalities and the local councils.

The Eastern Regional Assembly with the powers to debate but not enact laws was established in 1948. It had fifteen nominated African members and fourteen nominated European officials. In 1951, the regional assembly was given more legislative and financial powers following the enactment of the McPherson Constitution. In addition, the assembly number of members in the assembly was enlarged to eighty elected African members, three special members and five officials. Though the NCNC dominated the 1951 election, party organization was not particularly strong because the party’s headquarters was in Lagos and its leader did not contest election in the region. Many members elected into the House were previously independent candidates and only declared for the NCNC after their election to get political backing. After a crisis in 1953, party organization was strengthened and in a new election conducted in 1953 and in which Azikiwe, the NCNC leader contested, the party had a decisive victory.

The history of local government representation in the region were in three phases. The first phase was through warrant chiefs many of whom were created by the colonial government. But after the Aba riot of 1929, the system gradually gave way to the Native Authority administration led by older men within the communities. This system was not particularly strong as it was in Northern Nigeria. In the 1950s, a local government system following the English model of boroughs county and district councils was introduced.

To be continiued.


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