Diocese On the Niger is the mother diocese (oldest diocese) of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion). It is one of 10 Anglican dioceses in the Province of Niger within the Church of Nigeria. The diocese was created in 1864 as the Diocese of Western Equatorial Africa. In 1920 the Diocese of Equatorial West Africa was divided into two: an eastern part (the continuing Diocese, now named the Diocese on the Niger) and a western part (a new Diocese, named the Diocese of Lagos). A part of the Diocese on the Niger was subsequently carved out in 1946 to create the Niger Delta Diocese.
Originally part of Province Two of the Church of Nigeria when the church was divided into three provinces in 1997, Diocese on the Niger became a diocese in the Province of Niger when the Church was reorganised in 2002.
The cathedral church of the diocese is the Cathedral Church of All Saints, Ozala, Onitsha. Started in 1949, the completed cathedral was dedicated for worship on 1 November 1992.
The Bishop on the Niger is the Ordinary of the Diocese. The current (2017) bishop is the Rt. Revd Owen Chidozie Nwokolo.
The history of the Diocese on the Niger dates back to the Niger expeditions of 1830 – 1857. After the 1841 expedition, the white missionaries realised that Africa was best evangelised by Africans. This realisation led to Samuel Ajayi Crowther being given the privilege of playing a prominent role in the mission team to West Africa especially, the Igbo mission. The mission train under the leadership Dr. William Baikie arrived Onitsha on Sunday, 26 July 1857. On 27 July 1857 the King of Onitsha, Obi Akazua and his elders-in-council gave the party a warm official welcome. Hence, 27 July came to be regarded as the beginning of the Church Missionary Society (CMS) mission in Igbo land. It is important to note that J.C Taylor of Igbo origin played a vital role in the early mission activities in Igbo land. Rev J. C. Taylor laid the foundation of the first Church in Igbo land in 1867, which was dedicated on 16 November 1870.
Samuel Crowther was ordained for the Niger mission on Trinity Sunday in 1844, and consecrated as the first ever black Anglican bishop on the Feast of St Peter, 29 June 1864, by Charles Longley, the Archbishop of Canterbury at the Canterbury Cathedral. By this consecration, he became the bishop of the Diocese of Equatorial West Africa, with its headquarters in Onitsha. The Diocese of Equatorial West Africa is the forerunner of the Diocese on the Niger.
List of Bishops
Samuel Ajayi Crowther the first African Anglican Bishop in Africa; consecrated as Bishop of Western Equatorial Africa (Bishop in charge of the Niger mission)
1893–1894 Joseph Sidney Hill
1900–1917 James “Holy” Johnson, assistant bishop for the Niger Delta and Benin
1919–1921 Herbert Tugwell
1922–1945 Bertram Lasbrey
1945–1969 Cecil Patterson
1947–1957 Denis Hall, Assistant Bishop
1949–1950 Ebenezer Dimieari, Assistant Bishop (became Bishop of the Niger Delta)
1955-1961 Samuel Nkemena, Assistant Bishop
1969–1975 Lucius Madubuko Uzodike
1975–2000 Jonathan Onyemelukwe (also Archbishop of Province Two and later Dean of the Church of Nigeria)