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Enugu Coal Miners Massacre (69 years on)

November 18th, 1949 will forever remain a dark day in history for the people of Enugu. A day when 21 coal miners were killed and 51 injured by the police under the brutish British colonial masters. What was their crime?

It's a thread...
Iva Valley miners had dared protest against the colonial authorities. This was wrongly interpreted as a political strike to force them to quit Nigeria and allow them to join other independent nations of the free world.
Their sacrifice would be one of many that paved the way for a nationalist or ‘Zikist’ (named after Dr. Nnamdi Benjamin Azikiwe) movement towards an independent Nigeria. As at that time Zikist movement headquarters was at Enugu.
Richard L Sklar, a political scientist, 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 Iva valley coal mine, which took its name from the Iva valley in which it is stationed, is situated near Enugu metropolis of Enugu state, South-Eastern Nigeria, which was opened in 1917 to replace the Udi coal mine which had been shut down.
Created at the height of industrialization in eastern Nigeria, the demand for coal was high due to the Nigerian railway corporation being the highest consumer of coal in the country at that time.
There were cases of racism and physical assault meted out to Nigerians by the British managers. An example of such was when Mister T. Yates, a British national on September 2, 1945 assaulted a worker, Mr Okwudili Ojiyi.
The victim, Mr. Okwudili Ojiyi took courage and brought up an assault case and Mr T. Yates was prosecuted and penalized.
Everything boiled over when on 1st November 1949, the management rejected the demands for the payment of rostering, the upgrading of the mine hewers to artisans and the payment of housing and travelling allowances. Having no other alternative, the workers began their strike.
The reaction of the British managers was to sack the coal miners, over Fifty of them. They feared that the strike was part of the ever growing agitation for independence, so on 18th November 1949, they decided to remove the explosives that were within the mines.
The explosives of the sister Obwetti mine were easily removed but those of Iva valley were not because the workers refused to assist the management to do so.
The Fitzgerald Commission, a directive that the colonialists were forced to set up to investigate the massacre, found that the motive behind why the miners objected to the removal of the explosives was because they were afraid that once the explosives were removed...
...nothing stood in the way of the management closing the mine and putting them out of much needed work.
The senior superintendent of police at that time, Mr F.S Philip came to the mine, together with two other officers and seventy-five armed policemen to remove the explosives, but a struggle ensued between three of the policemen and the workers.
At this point Philip, without second thoughts and hesitation, ordered his men to open fire on the defenceless coal miners.
This tragedy sparked a butterfly effect in places like Onitsha, Aba, and Port Harcourt resulting in mass protests and eighteen prominent Nigerians created the national emergency committee (NEC) to coordinate a national response to this atrocity against humankind.
It was presided over by Dr Akinola Maja with Mbonu Ojike as the secretary. The colonial government of course lied that the coal miners had been armed, had tried to disarm and also attempted to seize the explosives for themselves.The commission of course saw through this falsehood
The Commission observed & stated 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”
Today at New Market round-about, an everlasting monument can still be seen, as a mark of respect for the brave men who were brave enough to stand against British tyranny and to show that their spirits live on in the hearts of all of us. We have not forgotten!
Culled from…

By Chimaobi Ahuekwe @I_am_Moby
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