Imo, nicknamed “The Eastern Heartland” of Nigeria, emerged with Nigeria’s second batch of states created by the military in 1976, following the initial set in 1967. It came with the splitting into two of the old East Central State (which corresponded to the core Igbo-speaking areas) to create Anambra and Imo states.
That original Imo State underwent further attrition, giving up territory in subsequent years to the creation of Abia and Ebonyi states, leaving the present state corresponding roughly to the Owerri, Orlu and Okigwe provinces of the colonial era. Apart from Owerri, its major cities include Orlu, Oguta and Okigwe. It shares borders with Anambra to the north, Delta to the west, Abia to the east and Rivers to the south.
Topography and Weather
Imo State is tucked in between the lower Niger River and sections of the Imo River. With a population of about four million in 2006 and density more that 700 per square kilometer, it is among the heavily populated areas of the country, formed in an area that was originally tropical rain forest.
It is a state of many rivers, drawing its name from the biggest, the Imo River, which drains into the Atlantic Ocean. Other significant water bodies are the Orashi, Njaba, Utu, Otanmiri, Nworie, Efuru and Oguta Lake.
With two main seasons, the wet and the dry, the rains begin in earnest in April and end in November, to be succeeded by the dry season. Temperatures range from a low of about 18 degrees Celsius at the peak of the rains to a high of about 35 degrees Celsius in the dry season months of February and March.
Agriculture and commerce are the primary economic activities in Imo State. However, a high population and centuries of use have seen the loss of most of the state’s tropical vegetative cover and the degradation of its soil, leading to decreased yields. The oil palm grows widely in the state and palm produce, such the oil and the kernel, as well as cassava, yam, cocoyam, cashew, pears and mangoes are among the produce of the state.
Nonetheless, trading and commercial activities thrive all over the state. The state is also a major recipient of incomes earned by its indigenes in other parts of the country and the diaspora, returning either as remittances or as new investments. Imo State has one of the biggest concentration of hotels and investments in the hospitality industry of all Nigerian states.
Imo is also endowed with hydrocarbons, lead and zinc, and has some of Nigeria’s oldest oil wells in its Ohaji, Egbema and Oguta districts. Shell, Addax, Chevron and Agip are among international oil companies active in Imo.
Imo is endowed with many natural and cultural wonders that are of great attraction to tourists and visitors. Easily the best known is the Oguta Lake, the biggest freshwater lake in Nigeria, which now has a hotel and a holiday resort built on it, with an 18-hole golf course. It is easily accessible from the state capital, Owerri and most other parts of the state.
Equally interesting is the Palm Beach Holiday resort nearby in Awo-Omamma as well as river beaches on the Njaba River.
Not too far away from Owerri, on the road to Umuahia in the Obowo district, is the Abadaba Lake Resort. It gets a large number of visitors especially during the holiday season of December and January.
Another interesting natural site is the Ngwu Spring or Iyi Umugara, that is located near Nkwerre town, which produces pure spring water that pours down in cascades. Ironically, this spring produces more water during the dry season.
There are also the wonderful view presented by the rolling hills of Okigwe.The best view of this escarpment is presented from the town of Ihube and provides a great site for camping and hiking.
In Dikenafai town in the Idea to district of the state can be viewed the spring from which the Urashi River draws its source. Similar springs are found at Iyi Ogidi in Amaifeke and Iyi Okwu at Ihioma, both in the Orlu area.
Owerri falls in the ancient Mbari cultural area, which featured a public and at same time sacred art form that entailed building an art house and filling it with various forms of artistic objects including sculpture and painting. There is an Mbari Cultural and Art Centre in the Ikenegbu area of Owerri that serves as a museum dedicated to the Mbari art form.
Imo State also has many traditional festivals that are a great source of entertainment for indigenes and visitors alike. Perhaps the best known of these is the Ikeji Festival of Arondizuogu, which holds every April and features a great variety of masquerade displays.