History of Nnewi City
Welcome to the Nnewi the Industrial City
In Nnewi oral history and mythology, the ‘ewi’ (Igbo: bush rat) played a great role in saving the founders of Nnewi during wars. Throughout its history, Nnewi has used its military might to maintain its borders and because of this, the killing or eating of ewi in Nnewi is forbidden to the present day. Nnewi existed as an independent kingdom from the 15th century to 1904, when British colonial administration occupied the kingdom.
Nnewi kingdom was founded on four quarters (large villages), namely Otolo, Uruagu, Umudim, and Nnewichi. Each village was divided into family units called ‘umunna’. Each umunna had a first family known as the ‘obi’.
These four quarters were these original names of the Sons of Edo: Otolo being the eldest and Nnewichi being the youngest of the sons Obi of Nnewi
Originally when the Igbos settled in the present day Eastern Nigeria, they arrived with three leaders, two were spiritual leaders and the youngest of the three a hereditary King known as Obi a King by birthright. The first was the Eze Nri of Awka a Priest King, the second the Eze Aro of Arochukwu a King and the third the Obi of Nnewi a political and war ruler. The Onitsha people are visitors and later settlers in Igbo land. The Aros know this history (Nnewi being a relation and a leader among the Igbos) and this is part of the reason why there are no Aro settlements in Nnewi. The Obi of Nnewi Obi Okoli in1780s lost his throne when inside palace politics that hinged on tradition edged him out. Traditional royal law had it that the Crown Prince must perform the funeral rights of the late Obi before he can be crowned, Obi Okoli was absent and arrived home only after the late Obi Okoli 1st was buried. His Uncle (The late Obi Okoli the 1st younger brother) performed the funeral rights in his stead and took over as Igwe Nnewi he could not be enthroned as an Obi (which means the first son). The Obi Okoli royal lineage was forced into exile, they got refuge at Umune-Alam in Umudim, Nnewi where they still are to this day. The Obi Okoli family still bears the Ofor Nnewi till this day.
Edo is the supreme deity of all the Alusi (Igbo: deity) in the Anaedo country. The central shrine of this unifying Alusi is at Nkwo Nnewi, the central Market. There are four other deities in Nnewi: Ana, Ezemewi, Eze and Ele. Christianity was introduced by the Europeans in 1885 and many Nnewi people now practice Christianity.
Nnewi, Ichi and Oraifite made up the Anaedo state. Anaedo communities have common ancestries, beliefs and traditional value systems. Nnewi is a major trading and manufacturing center in Nigeria. Due to its high commercial activities, the city has attracted millions of migrants from other states and countries.
The Ofala Nnewi is a cultural festival held every year to celebrate the coronation of the Igwe of Nnewi. Afiaolu (New yam festival) and Ikwuaru are also among traditional festivals held annually in Nnewi. Nnewi Kingdom is also known as Anaedo meaning the Land of Gold (The supreme deity and goddess of Nnewi).
The traditional monarch of Nnewi is called the Igwe. The Igweship in Nnewi kingdom predates the arrival of Europeans, making it a unique monarchy in Igbo land. The Igbos are known for not having kings, hence the popular Igbo saying Igbo é nwě Eze, meaning ‘the Igbos have no king’. In other Igbo clans, the British colonial administrators created warrant chiefs who then assumed the office and title of Igwe and are elected to this day. In Nnewi, the Igwe is the isi obi (head of the Obis) and hence the Igwe, which literally translates as the heavenly one or highness as he is the holder of the Ofo, the religious and political symbol. He is born and not made or elected, and the institution of inheritance is the traditional right and privilege. The position is neither transferable nor negotiable. He is also an Obi. Obi is the title held by ruling chiefs; it is the equivalent of a duke in the nobility.
The present reigning monarch is His Royal Highness Igwe Kenneth Onyeneke Orizu III; he is the longest serving monarch in Nigeria and he is currently the 20th monarch in the Nnofo Royal lineage. Igwe Kenneth Orizu III is the first class chief in Anambra state from Nnewi as well as the vice Chairman of the Anambra State House of Chiefs.
There are Obis in the four clans that make up Nnewi. The highest and the most senior obi is the Obi of Otolo, who is also the Igwe of Nnewi. Chief Afamefuna Obi, Obi Bennett Okafor and Obi George Onyekaba are the current obis of Uruagu, Umudim, and Nnewichi, respectively. These three obis with Igwe Orizu, III as chairman constitute the Igwe-in-Council and they deliberate on the spiritual, traditional, and communal matters, in Nnewi.
There is also an active town union called the Nzuko-Ora Nnewi. It is a forum through which adult Nnewi indigenes (18 years or older) can contribute to the development of Nnewi. This union was set up to encourage and promote the establishment of structures and facilities that will promote and improve the quality of life of the residents of Nnewi.
The ancient legal system of Nnewi was not based upon a written law. It was purely a natural law, involving custom, tradition, and civil and criminal cases. The legal process in Nnewi passed through the labyrinth of extended family system. A report against an offender or a criminal in the first instance, had to be made to the head of his family at his ancestral home known as obi. The head of the family would invite elders and minor obis from his extended family unit to sit in judgment, while the complainant would also invite the elders and minor obis from his extended family side, if both of them were not from the same family. This obi would serve as the court of the first instance, depending, of course, on the nature of the offense or crime allegedly committed. The trial might end here, if both the complainant and the accused were satisfied with the judgment given, or they might take the case to the next senior obi of the same extended’ family, in ascending order, until, probably, the matter got to the highest obi in the lineage. If the complainant was not satisfied at this point, he would appeal to the obi of the quarter and the leaders of his family could be summoned to defend their judgment.
Through this legal procedure, guilt or innocence could easily be established, as the decision was based purely on natural justice. Punishments for offenses and criminal acts were given in relation to their gravity. A man who was found guilty of a serious crime might have no option than to be sold into slavery or expelled from the community for life. He would not be killed because the killing of human beings was against the injunction of Edo Goddess. The judicial system in Nnewi seems to have recognized three classes of cases, the minor offenses, the true criminal case, and the civil suits of debt, bride price and land. The breaking of by-laws was really an offence against some particular juju and as such was to be expiated by a sacrifice. It was, for example, forbidden to kill an “eke” snake, a type of python, or to eat “ewi,” rodent of rabbit family. It is probable these laws were never broken willingly and if broken by accident, the offender would automatically perform a sacrifice without any form of judicial trial being held. The criminal code, with regard to serious crimes, appears to have been more developed in Nnewi than elsewhere in Igboland. There were seven main classes of offences, which were known as “ori-obi,” offenses against the obi, as their investigation was always carried out in the obi of the quarter.
Nnewi is the second largest commercial and industrial city after Onitsha in Anambra State in southeastern Nigeria. Nnewi as a metropolis has one local government area, which is Nnewi North. Nnewi North comprises four quarters: Otolo, Uruagu, Umudim, and Nnewichi.The first indigenous car manufacturing plant in Nigeria is located in the city while the first wholly made-in-Nigeria motorcycle, the ‘NASENI M1’ was manufactured in Nnewi.
As of 2006, Nnewi has an estimated population of 391,227 according to the Nigerian census.The 2019 population estimate shows that Nnewi has a population of over 900,000. The city spans over 200 square miles (520 km2) in Anambra State. Nnewi Metropolitan Area and its satellite towns is home to nearly 2.5 million residents As of 2005. Dimensionally, Nnewi has an edge over all other units, being recognized by the 1953 census figures as the largest inland town of all others in the Eastern states of Nigeria
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