This region is found east of the Niger delta and south of River Benue. It is bordered on the east by the Cross River Plains as shown in Fig. 43.2.
Major relief features of this region are the Udi plateau, the Awka uplands, the plateau slopes and the flood plains of River Niger. The Udi plateau slopes gently westwards and steeply eastwards terminating in a massive east-facing scarp. The scarp face is highly dissected by the headwaters of Rivers Imo and Anambra, the two major rivers that drain the Scarplands. Due to its steepness, the scarp face is intensely eroded leaving behind deep gullies throughout the Scarplands.
This region has a sub-equatorial climate. Over 1800mm of rainfall is received annually in this region. This supports tropical rain forest vegetation but due to the intensive human activity experienced in this region, the forest vegetation has been greatly modified and has given way to derived and guinea savannas.
People and Population
This region is entirely occupied by the Igbo, who are very enterprising and dynamic. This region is the most densely populated region in Nigeria, with areas around places like Nsukka, Orlu, Awka and Okigwe recording an average of over 300 persons per sq km. The settlement pattern is dispersed but the population density is so high that everywhere there is a continuous stretch of compounds from one settlement to another along the major routes. Enugu, Awka, Aba, Umuahia, Owerri, Onitsha and Nsukka are the major towns in this region.
Resources and Economic Activities
The main economic activity in this region is farming. This is carried out at a subsistence level, as land holdings are usually small due to the high population density. The intensive cultivation of land has led to accelerated soil erosion, which is a very common feature in this region. Major crops grown in this area are cassava, yam, and maize. In recent decades, cashew has been introduced into the area as a cash crop and an erosion control crop.
Apart from farming, the area is endowed with mineral resources, such as, coal in Enugu, lignite in Onitsha and limestone in Nkalagu. In the 1960s, the coal mining industry in Enugu was a major employer of labour and one of the main economic activities in the region. Coal was then used for power generation at Oji River. The scale of mining has considerably dropped since the Nigerian civil war but as indicated earlier, government is working to reactivate it.
The limestone deposits at Nkalagu support the Nkalagu cement factory, an important industrial concern in this region.
Local craft is a prominent economic activity in various parts of this region. The people of Awka, for example, are known for their blacksmith culture. The enterprising culture of the Igbo people, who dominate this region, has given rise to the establishment of small and medium scale industries in the major cities in this region. Aba, for example, is the home to many industries involved in the manufacture of a variety of products. For the latter reason, Aba is fondly referred to as the ‘Japan of Nigeria‘.
Manufacturing industries are also found in Enugu, Onitsha, Umuahia, Owerri and Awka. Prominent among these industries is the Anambra Motor Manufacturing Company (ANAMMCO), located at Enugu, manufacturers of the Mercedes Benz brand of trucks and buses.
Transport and Trade
This region is linked to other regions of the country by road, rail and air. It is well served by a network of modern urban and rural roads. One of these is the Onitsha-Enugu expressway. The eastern railway line network also passes through this region. There are airports at Enugu, Onitsha and Aba; and most recently, Owerri airport was built by the enterprising people of Imo State.
Trading in both local and imported goods is carried out in this region on a very large scale by the Igbo, known for their trading ingenuity. This region’s large population provides a ready market for goods and services. Onitsha and Aba are prominent market centres patronized by people from all parts of Nigeria and from neighbouring countries. It is the base of many Igbo traders found in most other parts of Nigeria, in other African countries and overseas in Europe, the Americas, and Southeast Asia.
Problems of Development
- The devastating nature of soil erosion in this region is a big problem to social and economic development. Farmlands, settlements and road networks have been destroyed by gully erosion. The worst cases of soil erosion and the development of bad land topography in Nigeria are found in this region.
- Agricultural production is low due to the negative impact of soil erosion and the poor loose sandy soils found in most parts of this region.
- The high population density of the area puts a lot of pressure on available resources, limiting the available social and economic opportunities in this region; hence the Igbo migrate to other parts of the country in search of social and economic opportunities.
- Farm holdings are highly fragmented, due to the intense pressure on land. This hinders large scale farming and agricultural mechanization.