Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Nigeria's police: The lingering effects of a colonial massacre

Godwin Aniagbo

 Complaints about brutal policing in Nigeria today echo the reaction to the shooting dead by colonial policemen of striking coalminers in 1949 and, as the BBC's Nduka Orjinmo reports, there are some who believe there is a direct connection.


When the ikoro sounded on the afternoon of 18 November 1949, schoolboy Godwin Aniagbo knew something was wrong.

In traditional Igbo society, the ikoro, a huge hollowed wooden drum mostly carved out of the tough and dense iroko tree, sat permanently in the town square and only sounded in times of grave crisis or to summon people to an important meeting.

Hours before, on his way back from school with some friends, Mr Aniagbo had run into members of the colonial police looking like they were expecting trouble.

There had been days of tension following protests at a local coal mine.

"I saw the Europeans, [about six of them] sitting on the railway line... with their rifles in the centre of the railway.

"They called us to come to them but we were afraid and ran away," he told the BBC, casting his mind back to his early teenage years.

Not long after he got to his home in Iva Valley, in the city of Enugu, he heard gunshots and then the ikoro sounded.

The colonial police, made up of Nigerians and Europeans, had shot striking workers demanding better working conditions at the Iva Valley coal mine in south-eastern Nigeria, killing at least 21 miners and injuring many others.

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