World’s Oldest Iron Smelting Site Found at Lejja

* Enugu govt. moves to protect, exploit site; to recruit 1000 youths *

For the past 40 years, white people and black people have been visiting “Otobo Ugwu”, Dunoka, Lejja, Nsukka LGA of Enugu State, Nigeria, to mine stones or other minerals the villagers didn’t consider useful. Years later, the story of important finds in the hilly town started circulating. Newspapers like The Nation trailed a son of the soil who was also in the department of History and Archaeology, UNN, Dr Chukwuma Opata, to Lejja and interviewed elders of the town.

Many of the frequent visitors to Lejja – apart from the parents and students of the Federal Government Girls’ College – have come from the department of Archaeology, University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN). Some members of the academic staff had been working silently on the project. That was until  recently when Dr Pamela Eze-Uzomaka of the department made a presentation to the Enugu State government. A plan for a tourism site is now afoot.

The commissioner for culture and tourism, Hon. Rita Mbah, told newsmen the Enugu State government was interested in protecting and exploiting the iron smelting site at Lejja. She described the smelting site as “one of the oldest in the world, which dates back to about 2000 BC”.

Hon. Mbah stated the Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi administration is passionate, committed and delighted at the revelation made by Dr. Eze-Uzomaka, who she said has been carrying out research on the site.

The culture and tourism commissioner announced that the council has, in a quick response to the presentation, set up a three-man committee that would visit the site and devise the best means of protecting it “as a world heritage centre”.

She added that the state government intends to construct the road leading to the site to be able to exploit its natural contents as “a tourism site and money-spinning venture”, stressing that a lot of other benefits are accruable from it.

Also speaking, Dr Eze-Uzomaka, an associate professor, told newsmen that she was at the EXCO meeting with her team to brief the state government on the outcome of their findings, saying that they “were able to get over 40 nationals from about 18 countries of the world to come and help us excavate Lejja site”.

Dr Eze-Uzomaka disclosed that one of their findings was “radio carbonates”, which, according to her, places Lejja as one of the oldest iron smelting sites in the world.

“This discovery means that Enugu State has one of the oldest iron-smelting sites in the world and this site is being visited by so many countries of the world. I have travelled to some parts of the world, giving lectures about these sites and yet our people do not know about what they have.

“So we have come here to tell the government of Enugu State that we have something here in Enugu State worth protecting, because people are coming from all over the world to visit this site.”

While appreciating the commitment of Gov. Ugwuanyi’s administration towards the project, she also called for the collaboration of the state government with the National Commission for Museum and Monuments and the Tourism Board for the protection of the area as a world-recognized tourism site.

Enugu environment

Also on the occasion, the commissioner for environment, Mr Fidel Ayogu, told newsmen that the council approved the rehabilitation of the popular Murtala Muhammed Park – a triangular piece of land at New Market, Enugu, to beautify, preserve and make it a standard recreational venture that will be a centre of attraction for those entering into the city of Enugu through Milliken Hill or New Market road.

The commissioner for information, Mr Ogbuagu Anikwe, stated that the council was updated by the coordinator of Enugu Clean Team Project in respect of the ongoing engagement exercise of 1000 youths to clean up the state, disclosing that before long “Enugu will become one of the cleanest, if not the cleanest state, in Nigeria”.

Mr Anikwe added that the council approved funds for the upgrade of the Enugu State Emergency Call Centre for greater service to the people especially in time of emergency.

He equally told newsmen that the council approved funds for the renovation of the dilapidated building where the Enugu State Archives was relocated for effective service delivery.

— Reported by Louis Amoke

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