When Was Owerri Founded?

When Was Owerri Founded?

Nigeria is a country rich in history, culture, and vibrant cities. Owerri, the capital of Imo State, is one such city with a fascinating history. If you’ve ever wondered about the origins of this bustling urban center, you’re in the right place. In this article, we’ll explore when Owerri was founded and the key events that have shaped its history.

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When Was Owerri Founded

Owerri’s Ancient Roots

Owerri’s history can be traced back to ancient times, long before the arrival of European colonizers. The region that is now Owerri was inhabited by various indigenous communities, each with its own unique culture and traditions. Here are some key points about Owerri’s ancient roots:

  • Pre-Colonial Settlements: The Owerri area was home to several pre-colonial settlements, including the Igbo communities of Naze, Avu, and Obinze.
  • Trade and Agriculture: These communities engaged in agriculture, trading activities, and craftsmanship, creating a vibrant local economy.

Colonial Era and Founding of Modern Owerri

The arrival of British colonialists in Nigeria marked a significant turning point in Owerri’s history. Here’s how the city evolved during the colonial era:

  • Early 20th Century: Owerri became a British administrative center in the early 20th century.
  • Urban Development: The British colonial administration contributed to the city’s urban development, establishing infrastructure and institutions.
  • 1950s: Owerri was officially recognized as the capital of the newly created Imo State in the 1950s.

Independence and Modern Owerri

After gaining independence from British colonial rule in 1960, Nigeria entered a new phase of nation-building. Here’s what happened to Owerri during this period:

  • Statehood: Imo State was created in 1976, with Owerri continuing as its capital.
  • Rapid Growth: Owerri experienced rapid growth and development in the post-independence era, becoming a hub for education, commerce, and culture.

Who Founded Owerri?

Owerri, the capital of Imo State in Nigeria, has a rich history that dates back to the 14th century. It was founded by a man named Ekwem Oha, whose mother’s name was Arugo.

Ekwem Oha fled from Umuori Village in Uratta, which is located in Owerri North Local Government Area of Imo State. His life was in danger due to a dispute with his younger brother, Ndum, over the sharing of a Funeral Cow that was slaughtered when their father, Oha, who was an aristocrat and symbol of royalty, passed away.

According to custom, the first son, known as Opara in Igbo culture, Ekwem, was responsible for providing the funeral cow. However, he lacked the means to do so, so he asked his younger brother Ndum, also known as Ndumoha, to buy the cow on his behalf.

Ndum agreed but requested the head, heart, and other parts of the cow that traditionally belonged to the first son because he had purchased the cow. Ekwem refused this request, leading to a quarrel between the two brothers.

To resolve the dispute, the elders of Oha Uratta were called upon. They ruled in favor of tradition, stating that Ekwem was entitled to the mentioned parts of the cow as the first son. Ndum was not pleased with this decision and plotted to kill Ekwem to get his way. However, this plot was discovered, and Ekwem and his family fled during the night to Egbu, a neighboring town.

His sister, who was married in Egbu, advised him to continue his journey to an unknown and uninhabited land for safety. They arrived at a hilltop known as Ugwu Ekwema and settled there, relieved to have escaped the threat to their lives. Ekwem sounded a drum, as instructed by his sister, to signal his location, and she found him the following morning. She then returned to Egbu.

The family’s first meal in their new home was roast old yam, and they gave thanks to Almighty God for their safety. The area was known for its thick forest, which was home to dangerous animals such as lions, tigers, pythons, vipers, and cobras.

The name “Owerri” is derived from this history. When the British arrived, they anglicized the name to “Owerri,” but it continued to be pronounced as though it were spelt “Owere.” Owerri is known for its clean and friendly people. It is located between the Nwaorie and Otamiri rivers, which have had a significant influence on the culture of the Owerri people.

In more recent history, Owerri became a state capital in 1976 when Imo State was created. Unfortunately, the construction of culverts during this time has had a negative impact on the Nwaorie and Otamiri rivers, which were once spanned by beautiful bridges. These rivers are now almost stagnant and require significant financial investment to be properly dredged. Despite these challenges, Owerri remains a place with a rich cultural heritage and historical significance.

When Was Owerri Founded

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When Was Owerri Municipal Created?

When Was Owerri Municipal Created

Owerri Municipal is a local government area in Nigeria, specifically in Imo State. It was created on October 1, 1996, during a period of local government reforms in the country. These reforms aimed to decentralize administration and improve governance at the grassroots level by creating additional local government areas.

When Was Owerri Founded

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Which Tribe Is Owerri?

Owerri is not the name of a tribe but rather the capital city of Imo State in southeastern Nigeria. Nigeria is a diverse country with numerous ethnic groups and tribes, and Owerri is a city that is home to people from various ethnic backgrounds, including the Igbo ethnic group, which is one of the largest and most prominent ethnic groups in the region.

The Igbo people have a rich cultural heritage and are known for their traditions, language, and history. So, if you are referring to the people of Owerri, you would be talking about a mix of different ethnic groups, with the Igbo being one of the predominant ones in the region.

What Language Is Spoken In Owerri?

When it comes to exploring the cultural tapestry of a city like Owerri, Nigeria, one of the most intriguing aspects is its diverse linguistic landscape. Owerri, the capital city of Imo State, is home to various ethnic groups, each with its own unique language and dialects. In this article, we’ll delve into the languages spoken in Owerri and the rich linguistic heritage that defines this vibrant Nigerian city.

When Was Owerri Founded

The Predominant Language: Igbo

  • Igbo: The most widely spoken language in Owerri is Igbo. The Igbo people, who primarily inhabit the southeastern part of Nigeria, have a deep-rooted cultural identity and a rich linguistic tradition. Igbo is not only the dominant language in Owerri but also one of the major languages spoken across Nigeria.
    • Dialects: Within the Igbo language, there are numerous dialects, and Owerri is no exception. The Owerri dialect of Igbo, often referred to as “Owere,” has its own unique nuances and expressions.
    • Use in Daily Life: Igbo is used in various aspects of daily life in Owerri, including communication, commerce, education, and cultural ceremonies.

Other Languages in Owerri

Aside from Igbo, Owerri is a melting pot of diverse ethnic groups, each with its own languages. Some of the other languages you may encounter in Owerri include:

  • English: As the official language of Nigeria, English is widely spoken and understood. It serves as the language of instruction in schools, government, and is used for inter-ethnic communication.
  • Hausa and Yoruba: While these languages are more commonly spoken in northern and southwestern Nigeria, respectively, you can still find speakers of these languages in Owerri due to Nigeria’s cultural diversity.

Language as a Reflection of Culture

The languages spoken in Owerri reflect the city’s rich cultural heritage. Language is not merely a means of communication but also a window into the traditions, history, and values of the people who call Owerri home. Whether you’re exploring the bustling markets, attending a traditional ceremony, or simply conversing with locals, the languages of Owerri offer a fascinating glimpse into the heart of this vibrant Nigerian city.


In conclusion, Owerri, the capital city of Imo State, is a linguistic mosaic where the Igbo language takes center stage. However, the city’s linguistic diversity extends beyond Igbo, with English, Hausa, Yoruba, and various other languages enriching its cultural tapestry. Understanding the languages spoken in Owerri is not only essential for communication but also for appreciating the city’s rich cultural heritage.

So, as you explore the streets of Owerri, don’t be surprised to hear a multitude of languages that beautifully reflect the diversity and vibrancy of this unique Nigerian city.