Umuahia, now the capital of Abia state was once popular for its cattle market, serving most parts of the enclaves that made up the old Imo state. But before that, the town had played a much more important role as the military headquarter of the defunct Biafran Republic. Perhaps in recognition of this role as former military headquarter, the country town of Umuahia is given the honour to host the National War Museum. But that particular site was chosen because that was where the bunker housing the famous Voice of Biafra was located. The War Museum is an open-air complex where relics of the 30-month Nigerian civil war are on display.
The National War Museum Umuahia is one of the major tourist attractions in Nigeria. The War Museum has three major galleries: the traditional warfare gallery, the Armed Forces gallery, and the civil war gallery in the traditional warfare section.
The War Museum is symbolic in many respects. To all Nigerians and foreigners alike, it is a grim reminder of the evils of war. But more important, the National War Museum stands as evidence to the technological possibilities in Nigerians in the face of necessity and absence of alternatives.
Although the Biafrans were blockaded economically, had neither fund no enough international friends to supply them arms, they were able to resist the national troops for a whole 30 months. How was that possible?
Well, the Biafrans set up a research and development department made up of local engineers, welders and railway workers who had no experience whatsoever of arms building. These ingenious people assembled iron plates and tractor chassis which they contrived into mini-tanks. The Biafran Baby, a converted two-seater propeller sports plane armed with rockets which so much terrorized the Nigerian side, bombing Nigerian fighter planes on the tarmac of Port Harcourt airport.
Other arms and ammunitions locally made by these informal army of engineers were the popular Ogbunigwe, Ojukwu bucket, rocket launchers, and other armoured vehicles called Red Devils, most of which will be found displayed at the National War Museum alongside their Nigerian counterparts built in proper armed factories in Europe and American.
Leading to the bunker where the shortwave Radio Biafra was located are galleries lined with wartime artifacts and comprising of archives both for serious researchers and arts and crafts for shoppers. There are also Cold War era military hardware either donated, sold, or lent by different countries of Europe.
Visitors could actually stay in the NNS Bonny, a British-built Nigerian navy patrol vessel now kept on top of a hill and serves as some kind of a restaurant.
The complex opens from 10 am to 6 pm daily. Admission is only N50 including a free. It is very easy to get to the museum as every Okada rider of Taxi driver can easily lead you to the site.