Historic First: Nigeria’s Abigail Marshall Katung Becomes First African-Born Lord Mayor of Leeds

by Joseph Omoniyi
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Nigeria’s Mrs. Abigail Marshall Katung, wife of Kaduna South Senator Sunday Marshall Katung, has been officially announced as the 130th Lord Mayor of Leeds, marking a historic milestone as the first Lord Mayor of Leeds with African heritage. The announcement was made by Leeds City Council on their X handle (formerly Twitter) following their annual general meeting on Thursday.

Abigail Marshall Katung’s journey to this esteemed position is a testament to resilience, dedication, and community engagement. Arriving in Leeds in 2000 for her postgraduate studies, Abigail quickly established her family, life, and business in the city. Her commitment to her new home saw her become the first African to hold a position as a Ward member of the Leeds City Council.

In May 2019, Katung was elected as the representative for the Little London and Woodhouse Ward. Her leadership and advocacy were evident as she served as a lead member for the Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities and championed the BAME staff network. In 2020, she co-chaired Leeds City Council’s official ‘Food Champion’ initiative alongside Gareth Batty MBE FRSA, the CEO of FareShare Yorkshire, highlighting her dedication to tackling food poverty.

Katung’s political journey saw continued success with her re-election in May 2023. Her dedication to community service was further demonstrated during Easter 2023, when she attended the Church of All Souls, Leeds, with fellow councillors, emphasizing her commitment to interfaith and community cohesion.

In January 2024, Katung assumed the prestigious role of Lord Mayor of Leeds under the Labour and Co-operative Party, succeeding Al Garthwaite. Her appointment was a celebration of her leadership qualities and her dedication to public service. Leeds City Council noted that her resilience and leadership have been exemplary and that she will have the support of her husband, Nigerian Senator and Lord Mayor Consort, Senator Sunday Marshall Katung, throughout her tenure.

Following tradition, Katung has selected a charity to champion during her term. She chose the Leeds Community Foundation, an organization dedicated to supporting small, local charities that address critical societal inequalities such as food poverty, health disparities, mental health, and digital inclusion—causes deeply important to her.

Upon her appointment, Katung reflected on her journey to Leeds, recalling how the city quickly became a second home for her and her family. She emphasized the significant contributions of international students to UK society and expressed her commitment to ensuring all voices in Leeds are heard and celebrated.

“My appointment as Lord Mayor has been widely celebrated in the city’s African community and is a shining example of the enormous contribution international students make to UK society,” Katung stated. “As Lord Mayor of Leeds, I am committed to working tirelessly to ensure voices are heard from all areas of the city and every triumph is recognized and celebrated.

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