IVA VALLEY MASSACRE: The true story of Enugu mines revolt

Updated Feb 06 2019 08:02 am


That statue in New market depicts "THE IVA VALLEY MASSACRE/COAL MINES REVOLT". 

ENUGU people have a history .  And some of them was written in blood. We are proud of who we are today but our fore father's paid a high price for our present peace , and development.

The story..  Read and enjoy  #checkoutenugu

" Iva Valley is a locality located in the Nigerian city of Enugu in Enugu State. The Iva Valley is named after a valley in the area which bears the same name. The locality is the site of the Iva Valley Coal Mine. The Iva Valley is famed in Enugu for the events of November 18, 1949 when 21 miners were shot dead by policemen while striking.[1] The Iva Valley Coal Mine was opened in 1917 by the British colonial government of Nigeria after the Udi Mine in 1915, making it the second ever coal mine established in the city.[2]

It was when armed British colonial policemen opened fire on defenceless coal miners in the Iva Valley mine in Enugu. In those moments of collective colonial insanity, the colonialists within minutes murdered 21 Nigerian workers and injured 51.

The workers' crime was that they dared to go on a strike which the colonial authorities interpreted as a political strike designed to pressurise them to quit the country and let Nigeria join other nations free from colonial misrule and exploitation.

The political scientist, Richard L Sklar wrote on the significance of their sacrifice. Historians may conclude that the slaying of the coal miners by police at Enugu first proved the subjective reality of a Nigerian nation. No previous event ever evoked a manifestation of national consciousness comparable to the indignation generated by this tragedy.

The coal mine managers were British racists who had a sense of superiority over Nigerians. There were cases of physical abuse. In one case, a Briton T. Yates on September 2, 1945 slapped a worker, Okwudili Ojiyi who had the courage to bring up an assault case and Mr Yates was prosecuted and fined.

On November 1, 1949 matters between the workers and management reached a head when the latter rejected demands for the payment of rostering, the upgrading of the mine hewers to artisans and the payment of housing and travelling allowances. The workers then began a slow strike.

The managements reaction was to sack over 50 of them. Fearing that the strike was part of the growing nationalist agitations for self- rule, the management also decided to move out explosives from the mines on November 18, 1949.

Those of the Obwetti mines were easily removed, but that of Iva Valley was not because the workers refused to assist the management to do so.

The Fitzgerald Commission which the colonialists were forced to set up to investigate the massacre, found that the reason why the miners objected to the removal of the explosives was because they feared that once the explosives were removed, nothing stood in the way of the management closing the mine and thus effecting a lock.

Senior Superintendent of Police, F.S.Philip came to the mine to assist in the removal. He had two other officers and 75 armed policemen. At a point there was a struggle between three of the policemen and the workers, and Philip without any hesitation ordered his men to shoot.

There were mass protests in places like Port Harcourt, Aba and Onitsha and 18 prominent Nigerians set up the National Emergency Committee (NEC) to coordinate a national response to this crime against humanity. It was chaired by Dr Akinola Maja with Mbonu Ojike as secretary.

The colonial government issued a statement that the workers were armed, had tried to disarm the policemen and had attempted to seize the explosives. The Commission found all these to be lies. The Commission which partly blamed the union and said Superintendent Philip committed an error of judgement, found that: Not one policeman was injured, not one missile was thrown at them (and that) if the crowd was bent on using force against the police nothing could have saved these policemen from grave injury, whereas in fact they were not injured at all”. Such are the bloody legacy of British colonial rule and repression and the peoples struggle for emancipation.

may the courage, patriotism and selflessness of the martyred Iva Valley miners and those of the true nationalists continue to inspire us in these neo-colonial times. Enugu is blessed but we must know our story.  Thanx for Reading

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