The Catholic Diocese of Nsukka, 1990-2011





          What today developed by the working of the Holy Spirit to become the Catholic Diocese of Nsukka, was the most populous and promising zone out of the four zones that comprised the Catholic Diocese of Enugu from where Nsukka Diocese was excised.1 The area called Nsukka Diocese today derived its name from an ancestral and homogeneous town – Nsukka Asadu where the British pioneer colonial masters finally settled and adopted as their residential and administrative headquarters, after their several attempts to settle at Nkpologu, Okpoga and Obollo-Afor had failed.2 The Catholic encyclopedia has made us to understand that on October 19th, 1922, these areas were declared abandoned and all the infrastructures and offices were transferred from Obollo-Afor to Nsukka town, with Mr. Warrington as the Colonial District Officer in charge of  Nsukka  Division.  From that year onward, Nsukka town took the rare privilege of being the capital of the church and the State administration. Hence, the derivation of that name, Nsukka Diocese.3

          Thus, the background against which the Catholic Diocese of Nsukka came to be was rather a gentle and gradual processes. Away back in 1910, two energetic young and determined missionaries came to Nsukka. Rev.Fr. Vincent Davey, the parish priest of Eke, visited Eha-Alumona. The visit was successful for, in 1910, Father Davey erected a mud hut which served as church and classroom block and that made the emergence of school at Eha-Alumona possible. 4

          In 1910 again, the Parish priest of Aguleri, Rev. Fr. Aloysius Muller came to Uvuru. A few weeks after his visit, the chief gave out a piece of land where he made a mud wall with a thatched roof and there, primary education of children began. The church spread with amazing rapidity to Nkpologu, Obimo, Ugbele-Ajima, Adani and other parts of Igbodo clan. While Fr. Davey and his group administered Eha-Alumona from Ekeh, Fr. Muller was administering Uvuru from Aguleri. They were said to have covered their journey on horseback, bicycles and by trekking.5

          Nsukka Catholic Diocese comprises Igbo-Etiti, Igbo-Eze South, Igbo-Eze North, Uzo-Uwani, Udenu, Nsukka and Isi-uzo local government areas. All these local government areas made up the Old Nsukka Senatorial Zone. The Diocese stretched from Ukehe in the South to Ette in the North and from Eha-Alumona in the East to Ogrugu in the west. 6 However, the piece of land in which was erected the Catholic mission in Nsukka, which in later years became the Catholic Diocese of Nsukka, was as the result of effort made by Rev.Fr. James Millet in 1932. His effort yielded positive result because the people offered the piece of land which served the Catholic Church in Nsukka the desired purpose.7


          Nsukka area never lived in isolation before it became a Diocese and after it did. But unfortunately, due to scanty literature, documented materials with which to reconstruct the history of the Diocese since its creation on Monday 26th November, 1990, became a problem.

An evaluation of the various changes in the Diocese was necessary in order to understand the giant strides the Diocese has made so far since its establishment in 1990. For instance, it is worthy to note that the impact of this missionary drive was not limited to the spiritual sphere alone; it has also made some incredible in-roads into the health apostolate. This has been so because the Catholic Diocese of Nsukka believed strongly in the restoration of the health not only of sick souls, but also of sick bodies. 8 It is equally worthy to note that there has not been adequate attention paid to the changes brought about by the creation of Nsukka Diocese in this  regard. There is no doubt that this study would equip us with the much needed knowledge in the growth and development or lack of progress of this Diocese. Even as historians appeared to have begun to exhume from ‘decay’ the history of the so-called local Churches, the present area of research or study has not received similar attention.

        Therefore, the work is hoped to provide the much needed information on the history of the Catholic diocese of Nsukka which is expected contribute to the understanding how much the presence of church has impacted on the overall growth and development of Church history. It will help to fill the lacuna existing in Church history. 


          The present study attempts to explore the history of the Catholic Diocese of Nsukka from the date of its establishment in 1990 to 2011.  Reverend Fr. Ikenga Ozigboh has maintained that light has begun to emerge from the dark tunnel of  church history. The focus of this work is on the factors, institutions and processes which have contributed and also impacted on the growth and development of the Diocese for more than two decades now. This research work is not interested in praise-singing , but in explaining, elucidating and assessing critically but objectively, issues of interest to the Igbo Catholics in particular, and to Nigerians, in general. In other words, the work seeks to supply ample information and history of a viable social institution (church) thereby adding to current knowledge of church history as paramount and veritable instrument of economic and socio-political development.9


          The statement of focus of any research work is important in the choice of theory to be employed. Theory serves as a ‘Guardian Angel’ to the researcher so that he will not derail from the path of his mission or focus. The Bonsai theory of Church growth and development is a philosophical hypothesis postulating that “the presence of Church in an area engineers social, political and economic development”. This is so because, the advent of colonialism in Africa, and particularly, in Nigeria, with its attendant flurry of activities, constituted a veritable instrument of societal development. The Church brought a considerable measure of development and change in human activities. The Catholic Church’s presence in Nsukka area has buttressed this assertion by Bonsai theory of Church, growth and development. So, it is pertinent to analyze the Catholic Church’s presence in Nsukka Diocese using this theory in order to discover the impact of Catholicism in Nsukka Diocese. The current researcher is, therefore, guided by this theory.


          This work is quite significant because Nsukka Diocese has existed for more than two decades and as such, should require attention in order to understand the giant strides the Diocese has made since its establishment in 1990.  This exercise will be necessary and useful because it will help to fill the lacuna existing in our store of church history.

          This work would enrich the literature on the Catholic Church in Nsukka. This would, no doubt, be of significance and interest to historians, political scientists, sociologists, anthropologists and, indeed, to other social scholars who may wish to undertake a similar study.

          The current researcher wishes to examine Bishop Francis Okobo’s leadership since he assumed office in 1990. It could be understood clearly that autonomy could usher in new challenges. Therefore, it behooves this researcher to discuss some of these challenges which the Bishop has experienced in the course of administering the Diocese. Quite significant in this work is the issue of church and State relationship in the control of schools in the Diocese. This work, therefore, examines the reasons for the State take- over of the mission school in 1970. Also, the efforts made by the church in 1999 and in 2009 when State handed back the mission controlled schools to the church are examined in this work.


          The time-frame of this research work is from 1990 to 2011. The dates were carefully chosen because of the social and political impact on the entire people of the area. The impact of the work on the Catholic church in Nsukka Diocese, where Catholics  constituted 75% of the entire population does not end in the numbers alone, but more in the quality of their products in all spheres of human endeavour. 11 The Nsukka Catholic Diocese came into being in 1990 and seemed to have achieved a great height in the year 2011 when the diocese celebrated its centenary—hundred years of Catholicism in Nsukka.

          The territorial limits of the study encompassed seven local government areas that make up the Old Nsukka Senatorial Zone viz Igbo-Etiti, Igbo-Eze North, Igbo-Eze South, Uzo-Uwani, Udenu, Nsukka and Isi-Uzo local governments. In all, Nsukka Diocese was administered in eight (8) deaneries and they are Nsukka, Adani, Enugu-Ezike, Ibagwa-Aka, Ibagwa-Ani, Obollo-Afor, Ikem and Aku deaneries.12


          In reviewing the various related works that are relevant for this study, the current researcher discovered without much surprise that not much work has been done on the Catholic Diocese of Nsukka from the day of its inception in 1990 to 2011. As a result of paucity of literature and materials on this subject, the current researcher, therefore, made use of oral tradition extensively in order to complement the available literature on this topic. This was achieved with one-on-one interviews with the researcher’s respondents who included the priests, principals of schools, Catechists and lay faithful who possessed ample knowledge and experience on the topic. Various books that were related to this research work were examined and reviewed by examining their strengths and weaknesses in the area researched.

          The book, The Episcopal Installation of Most Rev. Dr. Francis Emmanuel Ogbonna Okobo, the first Catholic Bishop of Nsukka Diocese, by Rev. Msgr. P. Idigo Meze, was a biography of the Bishop of Nsukka Diocese. The book offered historical insights into the coming of the Catholic Church to Nsukka area, but had not addressed other important matters and processes that contributed to the growth and development of the Diocese which this research work endeavored to achieve.13 However, some useful historic information on coming of Catholic Church to Nsukka was extracted from the piece. Another book, The Lineamenta’, for the first Nsukka Diocesan Synod, One Lord, One Faith and  One Baptism in a Multi -Religious Society, published by the Nsukka Diocesan Communication Commission, was quite relevant to the research. Some factors, institutions and processes covered by the present research are in tandem with this book. It discussed and mentioned the issue of church and State in the control of schools in the Diocese. But its discussion on this was only in passing.14

          The Advent and Growth of the Catholic Church in Enugu Diocese edited by M.O. Eneasato, was more of an anthology than a history. Actually, mention was made of Catholic church in Nsukka area in this book. But the book would not even qualify to be a chronicle.15 The two famous books by late Rev. Fr. Ikenga Ozigboh titled Roman Catholicism in South Eastern Nigeria 1885 – 1931 and  Igbo Catholicism and the Onitsha Connection,  1954-1967 both commented on the Catholic church in Nsukka area.  Roman Catholicism in South Eastern Nigeria 1885 – 1931, touched extensively on the issue of Church and State in the control of schools in Nigeria.  Igbo Catholicism and the Onitsha Connection 1954 – 1967 failed to do so. The latter was interested in mentioning the penetration of the Catholic church and the missionary activities in Nsukka area.16 A well commended book that was highly relevant to this study was Elochukwu Amucheazi’s book, Church and Politics in Eastern Nigeria, 1945 to 1966; A Study in Pressure Group Politics. Not only that the book mentioned the entrance and penetration of Catholicism into Nsukka area, it also adequately discussed the conflict that ensued between the church and State in the control of education in the State which this is part of our focus. Though the book did not directly relate to the current researcher’s area of study, it still offered useful insights into the area and issues examined in the present study. But the book did not discuss other important aspects contained in this work.17 The book written by Obi C.A. titled, ‘A Hundred Years of Catholic Church in Eastern Nigeria 1885 – 1980’, only mentioned the Catholic church in Nsukka in passing. Apart from mentioning briefly Catholicism in Nsukka which the researcher appreciated, the book has a different focus from this work . 18 The ‘Mothers’ Voice’, Nsukka  Diocese celebrates 100 years of Catholicism, by the Christian Women Organization (CWO), St. Peter’s Chaplaincy, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, examined the impact of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, on the spread of Catholicism and religious faith in Nsukka Diocese. Certain vital aspects of this work were missed out in the paper. 19 Rev. Fr. Dr.Greg Nnamani’s work, ‘The History of the Catholic Church in Eha-Alumona’, dwelt more on Eha-Alumona parish which is an integral part of the Diocese. The book was quite historical and made extensive use of oral tradition in order to reconstruct the history of Eha-Alumona in Catholic mission embrace. 20 Some Diploma, B.A. and M.A. works were consulted. The ‘Advent and Impact of Roman Catholic Church in Enugu-Ezike’ by Emeka Eya only mentioned Catholicism in Nsukka area briefly. Of course, the book presented a conflict in tone from what my work tried to achieve. 21The ‘History of St. Peter’s Chaplaincy, University of Nigeria, Nsukka’, by Onukwe N.C., only concentrated on the chaplaincy. Even though an insight into Catholicism in Nsukka area was offered by the piece, it failed in scope and dimension in discussing the crux of the  Nsukka Diocese which is  embedded in this research work.

          The ‘Catholic Church in Onitsha People, Places and Events’ by Rev. Fr. V.A. Nwosu was quite minimal in its relevance or contribution to this research. The book simply made a sort of casual references here and there about the Catholic Church in Nsukka which was found under the Onitsha.22

The book, Faith, Culture, and Individual Freedom, by Professor Damian Oputa, is very rich in explication of the cultural practices in Nsukka Diocese. The  book discuses inculturation debate, funeral ceremony, traditional marriage ceremony etc. which is in tandem with part of this research work. But the book fails to mention other aspects of my research work as it mainly borders on “Lejja town as a result of ill-advised and preposterous decision taken by a parish priest as regards funeral ceremony. 23

  From the above review of the materials consulted, I can say that the present study by the researcher will achieve an integration of ideas and this will form the basis of my analysis and discourse to make a coherent whole of the present study.                              



          The current researcher has made use of qualitative methodology. The research work did not look at the size and dimension of the area of study, but was poised to examine and understand how relevant and good the area of study was to the overall development of local history as an important aspect of Nigeria’s church history. Therefore, the research work was purely qualitative and analytical in its approach in discussing and treating the research topic.

       Attempts at reconstructing the history of a Diocese of just two decades was not an easy one, not that it was not researchable, but because of the fact that there were few written and documented works on the topic. More than two decades now, the published literary scene on Nsukka Diocese was a little better than a desert. The literature on history of the Catholic Church in Nsukka has happily started growing because of the Roman Catholic Church celebration of centenary of Catholic faith, that is, hundred years of Catholicism, 1910 to 2011 in Nsukka.

          The research work made use of both primary and secondary sources. The primary sources were oral interviews conducted in the Diocese. Material from National Archives, Enugu, equally constituted the primary source. Materials from Bigard Memorial Seminary, Enugu, the Shepherd Newspaper, Nsukka, the StarliteNewspaper, Nsukka, magazines, government publications, journals and works of students of Department of Religion, and History and International Studies, all contributed immensely in enriching the sources of the researcher’s materials. Analysis, interpretations and re-interpretations of the information distilled from the above sources have been attempted in the study.


          On the organization and chapterization, the work was organized into five chapters, with the first chapter serving as introduction. Chapter Two examines historical evolution and development of Catholicism in Nsukka Diocese. In Chapter Three, the Bishop’s leadership and governing of the Diocese was examined, while Chapter Four discussed the impact of the creation of Nsukka Diocese on the growth and development of Catholicism. Then, the final Chapter Five summarized and concluded the work.

The Catholic Diocese of Nsukka, 1990-2011