Port Harcourt (Pidgin: Po-ta-kot, Igweocha) is the capital and largest city of Rivers State, Nigeria. It is the fifth-largest city in Nigeria after Lagos, Kano, Ibadan and Benin City. It lies along the Bonny River and is located in the Niger Delta. As of 2016, the Port Harcourt urban area has an estimated population of 1,865,000 inhabitants, up from 1,382,592 as of 2006.
The area that became Port Harcourt in 1912 was before that part of Fishing settlements (fishing ports) also called Borikiri in the Okrika language and the farmlands of the Diobu village group of the Ikwerre ethnicity. The colonial administration of Nigeria created the port to export coal from the collieries of Enugu located 243 kilometres (151 mi) north of Port Harcourt, to which it was linked by a railway called the Eastern Line, also built by the British.
In 1956 crude oil was discovered in commercial quantities at Oloibiri, an Ijaw settlement, and Port Harcourt’s economy turned to petroleum when the first shipment of Nigerian crude oil was exported through the city in 1958. Through the benefits of the Nigerian petroleum industry, Port Harcourt was further developed, with aspects of modernization such as overpasses, city blocks, and taller and more substantial buildings. Oil firms that currently have offices in the city include Royal Dutch Shell and Chevron.
There are a number of institutions of tertiary education in Port Harcourt, mostly government-owned. These institutions include Rivers State University, University of Port Harcourt, Kenule Besor Wiwa Polytechnic, Captain Elechi Amadi Polytechnic, Ignatius Ajuru University, and Rivers State College of Health Science and Technology. Port Harcourt has a domestic Airport and of course Port Harcourt International Airport, located on the outskirts of the city; the NAF base is the location of the only other airport and is used by commercial airlines Aero Contractors and Air Nigeria for domestic flights.
The port was built in, but not given a name until August 1913, when the then Governor of Nigeria, Sir Frederick Lugard, named it “Port Harcourt” in honor of Lewis Vernon Harcourt, then the Secretary of State for the Colonies. The Okrika word for the city is Hakoti Kiri or Parakot. The native Obulom name for the city is Obomotu, which means “Big House”
Port Harcourt was founded in 1912 by Frederick Lugard, governor of both the Northern Nigeria Protectorate and the Southern Nigeria Protectorate. Its purpose was to export the coal that geologist Albert Ernest Kitson had discovered in Enugu in 1909. The colonial government caused the people of Diobu to cede their land, and in 1912 the building of a port-town was started. Other villages that were later absorbed into the city included Oroworukwo, Nkpogu, and Rumuomasi; In the creeks to the south of the original port were the fishing camps and grounds of the Okrika-Ijaw group.
During the First World War, Port Harcourt was used as a point for military operations against the Central Powers in German Kamerun. After the discovery of crude oil in Oloibiri in 1956, Port Harcourt exported the first shipload from Nigeria in 1958. Port Harcourt became the center of the Nigerian oil economy and it subsequently reaped benefits of its associations with the petroleum industry by undergoing modernization and urbanization. Port Harcourt’s growth is further due to its position as the commercial center and foremost industrial city of the former Eastern Region; its position in the Niger Delta; and its importance as the center of social and economic life in Rivers State. After the Republic of Biafra seceded from Nigeria in 1967 Port Harcourt fell to Nigerian forces on 19 May 1968. From an area of 15.54 km2 (6.00 sq mi) in 1914, Port Harcourt grew uncontrolled to an area of 360 km2 (140 sq mi) in the 1980s.
Port Harcourt is a major industrial centre as it has a large number of multinational firms as well as other industrial concerns, particularly business related to the petroleum industry. It is the chief oil-refining city in Nigeria and has two main oil refineries located at Eleme. Both refineries process around 210,000 barrels of crude oil a day, both operated by the Port Harcourt Refining Company. Rivers State is one of the wealthiest states in Nigeria in terms of gross domestic product and foreign exchange revenue from the oil industry, crude oil being its principal export earner. Microapartment architecture is quite common in certain parts of Port Harcourt. The Point Block of Rivers State Secretariat is an icon of the city. An 18-story building, it is the tallest building in the South East and South South geopolitical zones combined.
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