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Researcher makes fresh findings on Aba Women’s riot


Three-part research report revisits historic saga

By Nsikan Ikpe


A Nigerian researcher and librarian, Mr. Raphael James has published the first of a three-part research series on the historic Aba Women’s Riot of 1929 that sheds fresh light on, if not disputes some of the widely held notions about that historic saga.

The protest event which is usually referred to as part of the history of resistance to British colonial rule took place in parts of the former Eastern Region of the country.

Expousing the output of a recent research trip he unertook to the affected areas, James has come out with 14 ‘findings that are contrary to existing information on the riot.’

1. The Colonial master never attempted to tax the women, if they did there is no record of it anywhere.

2. Chief Okeugo never asked the women to pay tax, like it is speculated in most write-ups and that was why he was later discharged and acquitted and even paid 800 pounds as compensation.

3. Mark Emeruwa the court Clerk that went to Nwanyiriuwa’s house never asked her to pay tax for her goats and chickens, rather he demanded to see her husband.

4. Aba woman riot never started in Opobo (Ikot-Abasi), rather it ended there because of the number (53) people killed there.

5. Margaret Ekpo never took part in the 1929 Women uprising. She was born in 1914 and was only 15 years as at 1929, when she was also a standard 4 student of Girls Institute, Creek Town, Calabar (during the riot).

6. Nwanyiriuwa, one of the ‘star actors’ in the episode was not an old widow as at 1929, as her husband, Mr. Ojim was still alive.

7. The riots actually started in Umungboro, Oloko in what is today Abia State, Nigeria.

8. The rumour that women and domestic animals were to be taxed was the making of warrant chiefs who wanted to cheat their subjects. It was speculated to have been first announced officially by Chief Ananamba of Umuala Oloko.

9. The attack on commercial and colonial buildings and the looting that took place in Aba is what gave the uprising the ascription, “Aba Women Riots.”

10. The women in Oloko did not cause major damage to either Okeugo’s compound or the native court. In other areas, protesting women wrecked havoc on warrant chiefs’ compounds, tearing the grass mats off their roofs to roast confiscated yams and pulling down storage sheds. Buildings linked to the colonial administration or European trading interests, especially the native courts, also became common targets.

11. The women looted European stores but left local stores untouched. They also targeted roads and railways erected by the colonial masters, giving the impression that the uprising was obviously an action to harass the warrant chiefs, court clerks, and British officials.

12. Chief Okeugo was forced into exile at Aba, where he was taken care of by Chief Obasi. The then Resident Commissioner at Owerri set up a panel of inquiry on the women’s riot and the result of investigation showed Chief Okeugo acted within the limits of the warrant given to him. Chief Okeugo was thereafter discharged and acquitted and was paid the sum of 800 pounds as compensation for damages and assault in 1932.

13. Before the 1929 riot, there was an earlier Calabar Market women demonstration in April of 1925, when Ibibio and Efik women protested the introduction of market tolls at the Watt and Marina Beach markets. This riot has no direct connection to the tax riot of 1929.

14. Three ascriptions have been associated with the demonstrations based on the effect of the protests on the areas in which the incidents took place. They are ‘Oloko Women Uprising’ Aba Women’s Riot’ and ‘Opobo Women Killings.’ However, there is also a fourth: ‘Ogu Umuwanyi’ or ‘Women’s War.’

 A media practitioner, researcher and Librarian, James had served as librarian at the defunct Newswatch magazine Library and currently runs the CRIMMD Free Public Library in Idimu, Lagos.

The report is published on: https://www.drraphaeljames.com/2018/07/the-aba-women-riot-of-1929-part-one.html?showComment=1532727628270#c5220084056642706214


Mr Raphael James

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