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Nigeria’s Amalgamation House abandoned 104 years after

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Amalgamation House. Photo/ASIRI

The house that hosted the amalgamation of Nigeria – that is, the coming together of Northern and Southern Nigeria in 1914 as one entity, stands abandoned 104 years after that historic moment.

Besides, other historical monuments like the colonial cemetery, the first overhead water tank, 1929 Women Riot status, ‘Bridge of No Return’ and others, all in Cross River State, remain abandoned.
 
But most notably abandoned is the Amalgamation House, which has its zinc roof gone rusty and broken, with its windows and doors fallen apart and weeds taking over the once lush lawns.

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The entire structure is a no-go for fear of dangerous reptiles.

In fact, it was a shame that in 2014 Nigeria celebrated its centenary yet the building that hosted that historic marriage or amalgamation 1914 is in such a dilapidated and shambolic state.
 
An indigene of Ikot Abasi, Mr. Timothy Bassey, expressed his disgust thus, “The way Nigeria has neglected Ikot Abasi is the same way the building has been neglected and abandoned.

It is very shameful that for 104 years the structure remains the way it is. If the building has money for Nigeria to share, the Federal Government would have taken it over and put it under first charge.

“The multinational oil companies would have been here scrambling and falling over themselves to buy it. But the reverse is the case because the building is just a historical monument that does not mean anything to the government of Nigeria.

Ikot Abasi played a significant role in the emergence of Nigeria and its democracy.

Remember the famous 1929 Women Riot, it was fought here in Ikot Abasi, formerly known as Opobo, yet it has nothing to show except for Women War Memorial built by Senator Helen Esuene, when she was in the Senate. The world, led by Lord Luggard, had gathered here to unite Nigeria, yet there is nothing for us.”

While commenting on the Amalgamation House and other abandoned monuments, Chairman of Ikot Abasi Local Government Area, Mr. Mr. David Eshiet, said, “Ikot Abasi, as you know, is one of the oldest local governments in Nigeria. We have one of the oldest water tanks in Nigeria built by the colonial masters. We have the Amalgamation House, even though the state and Federal Governments have allowed it to deteriorate.

The federal government occupied that place. That was where the treaty was signed. We also have the slave dungeon; that is, the ‘Bridge of No Return’ where the slaves were shipped out. When they get there they cannot come out. We have monument or head stones where white men were buried with their inscriptions.”

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On effort to harness these monuments as tourist attractions, Eshiet said, “I am compiling a compendium on them and working on launching a website with the tourism sites. We will put the houses together for tourists to come and see. Here was the first port in Southern Nigeria, but because of politics then there was frustration and it was taken away built in Port Harcourt.

From Port Harcourt’s port to the Atlantic Ocean is far, but from here the Atlantic Ocean is just by the corner.

We are begging the Federal Government to come and dredge the Imo River. The white men were trading here. King Jaja was here.

As part of efforts to maintain the historical monuments, Senator Esuene built the Women War Memorial that now stands out to tell the story of how women were killed in the 1929 Women Riot.

There is a distortion of history each time there is talk of Aba Women Riot in history books, as the war actually started in Ikot Abasi.

It was where the women were humiliated and killed by the colonial masters and their Nigerian minions because Ikot Abasi women stood for the truth and their right to be heard.

Incidentally, Ikot Abasi is the home of the current Minister for Budget Planning, Mr. Udo Udo Udoma, whose grand mother was the leader of the famous 1929 Women Riot who fought for freedom, yet the place is neglected and abandoned.

During the commissioning of the memorial, Senator Esuene, had said the project was in honour of the heroines of the 1929 protest against poll tax.

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The women protested against the taxation of their yams, goats, cooking utensils in the then Opobo Administrative Division that comprised Abak, Utu, Etim Ekpo and Aba then.

She said though the poll tax was not meant exclusively for female gender, “It was the women who rose up in protest against the considered injustice. It stands to their credit that the proposed taxation was discontinued.

“On December 16, 1929, about a stone throw from here (a spot near the memorial), women from Ibekwe, Opobo, Andoni, Obolo and the hinterland were gathered by their leader Madam Mary Edem (late Sir Egbert Udo Udoma’s mother) to meet with the Senior Divisional Officer. They were hopeful that the obnoxious poll tax would be discontinued, but to their chagrin, over 500 innocent women were gunned down in cold blood by the forces of the then colonial masters under the command of Lt. J.N. Hill.”
 
Also in Ikot Abasi, it is not just the monuments to the historic past that are abandoned. A huge economic asset, Aluminum Smelter Company of Nigeria (ALSCON), also stands abandoned, as testimony to a country that wastes its potential for greatness.

A tour operator, travel journalist boss of Wakabout magazine, Mr. Pelu Awofeso, puts the economic loss as a result of these abandonments to a staggering N1.2 billion per year. He said with the strength of these monuments in Ikot Abasi, at least 50 thousand visitors a week would be attracted to the place, who would pay N500 per head as standard charges to see the monuments.

These visitors, he said, would also be accommodated and fed, which would attract a further economic earning to the local community.

“It’s millions we’re losing,” Awofeso lamented. “Anybody would appreciate the enormous value of these monuments except Nigerians. So, over N1 billion is being lost a year to our neglect. Ghana is raking in millions yearly for maintaining their slave castles whereas Nigeria is not making any kobo from its vast historic monuments. It’s a sad part of lives!”


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