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Posted by Chukwudi Nwokike on Tuesday February 28, 2012 14:23:24:

A law to establish a University in the Eastern Region of Nigeria was passed in 1955. While that date marks the formal beginning of the history of the University of Nigeria, the enactment of this legislation was in fact the culmination of many years of thought and discussion by several Nigerian leaders, and inspired particularly by the then Premier of the Eastern Region, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe.

One of the first steps taken by the Eastern Nigeria Government towards the implementation of its commitment was an invitation to both the United States of America and the United Kingdom to send advisers to help in the planning of physical and educational aspects of the proposed university.

Under the joint auspices of the Inter-University Council for Higher Education and Overseas and the International Co-operation Administration (now the United States Agency for International Development), Mr. J.W. Cook, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Exeter, Dr John A. Hannah, President of Michigan State University and Dr. Glen L. Taggart, Dean of International Programmes at the same University, came to Nigeria in 1958. The team surveyed the present site at Nsukka, and extensively investigated a great variety of factors pertinent to the establishment of a new university.

The results of their efforts were contained in a White Paper issued by the Eastern Nigeria Government on 30th November 1958. They had recommended, "that the development of the University of Nigeria based upon the concept of service to problems and needs of Nigeria, is a desirable project and one that should receive support from any source which could help to make it a sound endeavour".

They further recommended that a provisional council be established to "draw upon the technical and consultative resources available throughout the world for help in planning the institution". This provisional council, authorised by the Eastern Nigeria Legislature, was appointed by the Governor in Council in April 1959, and given necessary financial and administrative powers to build a sound university.

The provisional council reflected the spirit of international cooperation, which has given birth to the institution. It consisted of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chairman, Dr T. Olawale Elias and Dr. Okechukwu Ikejiani from the Federation of Nigeria, Mr. J.S. Fulton from the United Kingdom, Dr. Marguerite Cartwright and Dr. Eldon Lee Johnson from the United States of America.

The University was formally opened on 7th October 1960, as the climax to the Nigerian independence celebrations in the Eastern Region. Her Royal Highness, the Princess Alexandra of Kent, representing Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at the Nigeria independence celebrations, performed the opening ceremonies and laid the foundation stone of one of the University's early buildings.

Classes began on 17th October 1960 with an enrolment of 220 students and 13 members of the academic staff. The opening convocation addresses were delivered by the Chairman of the Provisional Council, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, the first President of the Federation of Nigeria, and by Dr. John A. Hannah, President of Michigan State University, USA.

Thus was this university born.


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