Abakaliki is the name of a northeastern Igbo city that is also the capital of Ebonyi state. Local lore has it that the name is derived from Aba Nkaleke, the name of an older habitat of the Izzi clan of the Igbo. Though with a history that goes back to the slave trade era in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, when Arochukwu traders raided the area, it’s launch into the modern era began with its designation under British colonial rule as the headquarters of the Ogoja Province, comprising parts of present-day Ebonyi and Cross River states.
It became the capital of Ebonyi state in 1996, and since then has grown as an administrative centre, attracting civil servants in large numbers that ended up making the city their home. The establishment of the Ebonyi State University and the Federal Univerity Ikwo about a decade ago added a sizable student community to the population of the town.
Topography and Climate
Abakaliki, like most of Ebonyi state, is located in the plains formed by the Ebonyi and Cross rivers. The sediments created by the geological formations of the area gave rise to sediments of sandstones, limestones, siltstones and shales. Like much of southeastern Nigeria, it’s in the tropical rainforest zone, witnessing heavy rains from April to November, when the dry season takes over until March.
Its main soil types are the silty clay and the sandy, loamy clay, both of which are very suitable for agriculture, the major occupation of the area whose farmers are major producers of rice and yam among other products. Evidence have also been found of salt and copper mining going to very ancient times, with the copper that went into the making of the famous Igbo Ukwu bronzes found to have the same compositions as the copper mined in the Ishiagu district of Abakaliki.
With a population estimated at over 300,000 people, Abakaliki is a gateway city, providing access that leads eastwards to Ogoja and the Cameroon border as well as northwards into Benue state. It remains a major food-growing area, producing especially rice as well as wide range of food crops. It is a region littered with rice mills which take advantage of the abundant rice harvests of the region to process the grain that is in high demand across the country and beyond.
There is fertilizer-blending plant in the city as well as quarrying and limestone mining activities in and around the city.
Festivals and hospitality
As in most Igbo areas, the major festivals are tied around the New Yam celebrations and features activities to mark the end of the harvest season and the start of the planting season. In the Abakaliki area among the most prominent of these celebrations is the Oke Aku Festival held in Onueke, regarded as the ancestral home of the original inhabitants.
Onueke (which roughly translates as “the edge of Eke” or “the mouth of Eke” derives from its location near the Eke market that held every four days, according to the Igbo traditional week made up of Eke, Orie (Oye), Afor (Ahwo) and Nkwor. The market town has grown over time to be the primary place of exchange of the regions agricultural products with middlemen buyers from far-flung places.
With its expansion as a state capital, Abakaliki now has a sports stadium that is the major venue for most events in the state. The city also has a golf course and many hostels of the two-star and three-star varieties have sprouted there to meet an ever-growing demand for hospitality services.