Uyo is often seen in Nigeria as that other city of the wider Ibibio ethnic group after Calabar, which is associated with its Efik branch. Founded as a regional administrative capital of the Uyo province in 1959, it later became a divisional headquarters before becoming the capital of Akwa Ibom State, created by military rulers in 1987.
Since then a new city has emerged and Uyo has come on its own. A key propelling factor was the state’s status an oil producer, which has provided funds to build new infrastructure, including an airport that is one of the busiest in Nigeria and an expansion of its roads network. Uyo is now a popular destination able to rival Calabar for leadership.
Uyo history is closely tied to that of the Ibibio people, one of the oldest ethnic groups in Nigeria. Part of the Benue-Congo group of Bantu-speakers, the Ibibio often trace their origin to a place known as Usak Edet in present-day Cameroon. Part of their antiquity is also located in the Benue valley, consistent with places where traces of their past have been found. Like others in the area, they hold strongly to the Ekpo masquerade and Ekpe traditions and various unique dances, such as the “Asian Uboikpa” for girls approaching puberty and the “Akpara” dance for women who have come of age.
Topography and Climate
Uyo, like much of Akwa Ibom State, is part of a southeastern coastal plains, with high points only available in the northern sections of the state. Its equatorial, tropical climate leaves it two major seasons, the wet and the dry. The rains start in March and continue until November, leaving a shorter dry spell when compared with other parts of Nigeria further removed from the coast. Uyo had an average temperature of between 24 degrees celsius to about 34 degrees celsius at the peak of the hot season in February-March.
With a population of more than 400, 000 in the 2006 census, now estimated at over 700,000, Uyo has experienced rapid economic growth in the last decade. Much of the traditional economy of Uyo was centred on agriculture, particularly the palm oil trade starting from the pre-colonial times. It became a major trading hub for the palm oil and palm kernels produced in the surrounding area, drawing middlemen buyers who shipped to other regions or abroad.
Its emergence as a state capital expanded the city’s role as it became a major administrative centre, pulling a significant population of bureaucrats to the city. The addition of an airport, international-standard hotels and a major stadium, has helped open up Uyo as a choice tourist destination hosting conferences and international soccer events, and added boost to its economy.
Uyo lies at a crossroads that provides easy access to several other towns and cities such as Abak, Calabar, Ikot Ekpene and Eket, the location of ExxonMobil’s Qua Iboe oil export terminal.