OCTOBER 7, 1960
On this day, Princess Alexandra of Kent, as one of the key programmes of the Nigeria Independence, laid the foundation stone of University of Nigeria, Nsukka, 45 miles east of Enugu.
Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, the Premier of Eastern Region founded the Federal University commonly known as UNN, on May 18, 1955, after a law to establish a University in the region was passed with an enactment of the legislation by several Nigerian leaders.
One of the first steps taken by the Eastern Nigeria Government towards the implementation of its commitment on the proposed university, 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), 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 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 30 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 endeavor”.
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”.
The provisional council, authorized 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. It reflected the spirit of international co-operation 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, J.S. Fulton from the United Kingdom, Dr. Marguerite Cartwright and Dr. Eldon Lee Johnson from the United States of America.
As the climax to the Nigerian independence celebrations in the Eastern Region, Her Royal Highness, Princess Alexandra of Kent, who represented Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, at the Nigerian independence celebrations, laid the £4 million foundation stone of the University on October 7, 1960. With its establishment, the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), thus, became the first full-fledged indigenous and first autonomous university in Nigeria.