The Population of Ikot Abasi

Author: nick on 13-09-2013, 23:00, views: 12 974


Ikot Abasi Political MapIkot Abasi Political MapDuring colonial rule, Opobo Division included at various times, the Andoni, southern Anaang, south-west Ibibio (Kwa), the Ogoni, and Opobo groups (Ann. Rep.

1937, 1939), on a territory of about 903 square miles, i. е., 1440 square kilometres (Ann. Rep. 1942). The Ibibio (Kwa) group formed only about 27.5 % of the population in the Division in 1939 (Ann. Rep. 1939). Successive administrative reorganisations streamlined the population groupings into separate territorial units, i. е., Ogoni, Andoni, Anaang, etc. The Ibibio groups currently form the major part of the present local government area population supplemented by the Eastern Obolo.


The present people of Ikot Abasi are of two major ethnic groups, namely: Ibibio and Andoni. The Ibibio form over 90 % of the population and occupy the upland part of the area; while the Andoni, who are mainly fishermen settled along the coastal areas. Apart from a number of litigations on the ownership of the land along the coastal zones, and a few minor skirmishes (especially during the Nigerian Civil War period), the two groups of people have, over the years, lived peacefully with mutual benefits to each other. The Andoni provide the fish and other sea foods, while the Ibibio supply them with food crops.


The people are grouped into six clans with the Ibibio having five of the clans, namely: Ukpum Ete, Ukpum Okon, Ikpa Ibekwe, Ikpa Nnung Assang and Ikpa Edemeya. The Andoni make up the Eastern Obolo clan. There is also a large settlement of Opobo (Umani) people in a section of Ikot Abasi urban. These Igbo-speaking people had acquired the land and settled there during the time and reign of Jaja of Opobo. They came from Opobo Town (Island), which is now in the Rivers State.


Category: Tradition and Culture


Social Structure

Author: nick on 13-09-2013, 22:00, views: 11 599


Administrative Map of Ibibio and Andoni Areas, 1932Administrative Map of Ibibio and Andoni Areas, 1932Ikot Abasi society was hierarchically structured. At the bottom of the hierarchy was idip ete (family). This was fairly homogenous. It comprised the husband or father, his wife or wives and children (Udo, 1983: 117), and sometimes one or two unmarried brothers and very close relatives (Johnson, 1932: 17). The family head was the political boss, administrator and judge. His word was law and this was often promptly obeyed by members of the family (Ibid.).


As the family head's sons grew up and got married, they raised their own families. The related families made up ufok (household). The ufok head was known as the Ibuod ufok. He was often the oldest man in the household. He presided over the esop ufok (household council) and directed its affairs (Oworen,

1989: 38-39).


A number of households formed an extended family known as ekpuk or owok. The ekpuk coincided with a geographical quarter of the village. Each ekpuk had its square where ekpuk meetings were held, and its area of farm land. The ekpuk head, known as Oboong ekpuk, was elected by all the people of the ekpuk with the council of elders. The members of the council were not necessarily the very old men, but men who were looked up to for wisdom, wealth and personality (Cheesman, 1932: 18). The council carried out the administration of the ekpuk and settled disputes involving members of the unit (Johnson, 1932: 18).

Category: Tradition and Culture


Traditional Government

Author: nick on 13-09-2013, 21:00, views: 16 777


Installation of Ukpum Group Head, Chief Umoren of Ikot Ekop in late 1920's.Installation of Ukpum Group Head, Chief Umoren of Ikot Ekop in late 1920's.Political and Social Organisation


Traditional government in Ikot Abasi was carried out in the different social structures described above, viz., ufok, ekpuk, idung or obio and clan (ikpa isong). Settled in their respective segmentary societies, the people of Ikot Abasi developed the indigenous social, political and judicial systems. The main unit of administration was the village. The government of each village was democratic. It was carried out through the family, lineage and village councils and cultural societies such as Ekong, Ekpo Nyoho, Atat, Ekpe and Idiong, and Ebre, a purely women's cultural organisation (Akpan, 1985: 11-20).


Ekpuk or Owok (Village) Meetings


The basic unit of the indigenous organisation is the ufok, which is a household of extended family (ekpuk). A number of households form ekpuk (extended family), or Owok (a village ward which may contain several ekpuk). Each ekpuk has a central square or hall, where meetings are held, representing a general assembly of all the heads of ufok and other prominent men who meet to discuss matters affecting the extended family or ekpuk. The Chairman of such meetings is the chief or head of the ekpuk, Oboong Ekpuk.


Category: Tradition and Culture


Land Tenure

Author: nick on 13-09-2013, 20:00, views: 9 571


In the Ibibio area, where farming is the main occupation and there is relatively much land for farming activities, a farming cycle prevails in which the same piece of land is cultivated every fifth to seventh year, depending on the available land owned by the village. This system of farming, generally referred to as rotational bush fallow, is still being practised today, but the fallow period has been greatly reduced, because of the pressure on the land. The area of land farmed every year is divided into sections, each ekpuk (extended family) having its own section. The head of the family subdivides the family land to each male member at the beginning of each farming season.


The size of farmland for the various families differs and is indicated by permanent boundary mounds. Attempts to alter it have led to serious quarrels between families, or between individuals in the same family. By tradition, no family land can be sold outright to anybody outside or even within the family, but a member of the family can pledge his piece of land to some other person, inside or outside the family. In recent times, however, quite a number of people have defied this tradition and have sold their land or the whole family land to rich individuals for reasonable sums of money, transferring their, or the family, title over the land to the purchaser.


Apart from the family land, there are also other land holdings, belonging to the community or used as sacred groves, which cannot be tampered with by an individual. The following categories of land tenure are recognised in Ikot Abasi area:


Category: Tradition and Culture


Traditional Institutions

Author: nick on 13-09-2013, 19:00, views: 9 048


Societies played an important role in the traditional government of Ikot Abasi. Every free born citizen of Ikot Abasi belonged to a society and depended on that membership for the right to harvest palm fruits from a particular palm grove allocated to the society. The well-known societies included, Ekpo, Ekong, Atat, Ekpe and Idiong.

Category: Tradition and Culture


Traditional Institutions For Men

Author: nick on 13-09-2013, 18:00, views: 14 305


Last remains of Akai Ekpo grove at EsseneLast remains of Akai Ekpo grove at EsseneEkpo Institution


The Ekpo society is probably the most popular traditional society in Ibibio and Anaang communities of Akwa Ibom State. There appears, however, more awe attached to the Ekpo masquerade and the entire practice of the society in Ikot Abasi than what obtains in other places. Firstly, the membership of the society is restricted to mature and older men of proven integrity and valour. Secondly, one has to spend greatly to get fully initiated into the society. Thirdly, the Ekpo society was regarded as the highest law-and-order enforcement agency in the area before the advent of colonial rule. No woman was supposed to set her eyes on an Ekpo masquerade, and doing this without the masquerade knowing about it might result in the woman giving birth to a monster that would look like the masquerade. The Ikot Abasi Ekpo masquerade carries a very sharp machete, which can be readily used in dealing deadly blows on women coming his way, or, at times, on men non-initiates of the society. Because of the fear, reverence and awe, attached to the society and the barring of women from seeing Ekpo, the masquerades were restricted to certain areas of the town or village, and completely banned from wandering into the major trunk roads (usung ukwak) or market area. This is very much unlike what happens in some other LGA's of the state where Ekpo masquerades wander about everywhere, terrorising people.


Ekpo Nyoho ceremonies are performed at certain times of the year and during the death of any of the members. The monument, called the Eka Ekpo, is erected every seventh year, and during this period, which extends up to one month, the whole town is under the siege of the Ekpo masquerade. Many sacrifices in appeasement of the gods are carried out during the ceremonies.


Category: Tradition and Culture


Traditional Institutions For Women

Author: nick on 13-09-2013, 17:00, views: 9 816


Ibibio women had their autonomous organisation, parallel to that of the men (Noah, 1985; Akpan & Ekpo, 1988: Ekpo). In the Ibibio section of the local government, there are some traditional institutions which are mainly for women. Such institutions include Ebre, Ibaan Isong, Nkerebe, Asian Uba Ikpa.


Ebre Society


The word ebre means water yam. This food crop is cultivated by the women, in contrast with the other kinds of yam, which are planted and owned by men in the family. Why the traditional play ebre was so called, is not clearly understood. Some authors have suggested that the name given to the most important women cultural society, was chosen to check the stealing of this particular women's crop. The society was restricted to married women of proven integrity. It had the mandate to maintain and regulate the conduct of the members, ensuring proper discipline and good behaviour of the members.


Ibaan Isong Society


Ibaan Isong (the women of the land) was the most potent women organisation, used for winning political, economic and social privileges for women. The organisation could move and attack a man, who maltreated his wife. The sit in on a man by the Ibaan Isong, as reported by Noah (1985), amounted to declaration of war with the man. All the women in the village would gather together and lay siege at the man's compound. Crops found in the compound would be harvested and consumed for as long as the matter remained unresolved. The man would be abused with every kind of offensive language and the women would tell all kinds of rumour against him, whether true or false, just to provoke him. Such rumours included the man's lack of virility, inability to cater for his family or his being a known thief. The women could go in large numbers and almost completely naked, to register their protest against any wrong doing visited on them, or on any of them.


Category: Tradition and Culture


Judicial Instruments

Author: nick on 13-09-2013, 16:00, views: 11 595


In the pre-colonial Ikot Abasi society, there was no distinction between criminal and civil matters. Most actions which caused damage to individual could be condoned, provided that the injured parties were sufficiently compensated.


The major or criminal offences were those ones which, it was thought, would bring disaster on the community as a whole by insulting the gods, particularly the fertility god, or which endangered the community. They included murder, witchcraft, sexual intercourse with a woman in the bush, with a twin mother, or with a woman in mourning, theft, wilful destruction of property (Ibid: 34-35). In most cases, convicted criminals were killed or sold into slavery, depending on the gravity of the offence.


Civil offences were those which did not adversely affect the society. They included land disputes, ordinary adultery, debt, marriage disputes and false accusations or defamation of character (Ibid.).


Cases were judged in ekpuk, village, village group or clan meetings, depending on their seriousness. Petty matters, such as minor stealing for the first time, marriage matters, plain adultery, debt or land disputes concerning people of the same ekpuk were judged in the ekpuk meeting. The sale of a man into slavery was a matter for the village meeting and all the serious matters were settled there first. If the village meeting decided it was a case which deserved death, it had to be taken to the group meeting place, where the decision of the village was ratified. There was no difference between the administrative and judiciary, and the same people settled each with similar procedure.


Category: Tradition and Culture


Marriage Customs

Author: nick on 13-09-2013, 15:00, views: 12 328


Mboppo girl in seclusion. Note the body painting designs. (Courtesy: Theresa I. Iwok)Mboppo girl in seclusion. Note the body painting designs. (Courtesy: Theresa I. Iwok)Preparing Girls for Womanhood


The young, growing-up girls were well cared for in the traditional way before they reached womanhood and got married to raise children. This was done by fattening them in stages, in confinement, while placing them on special sumptuous diet during the period. Ability to feed well and put on excessive weight testified to her parents' wealth and her healthy disposition. The girls were completely naked during the period and were supposed to be virgins before and during the period of confinement. Their bodies were rubbed with palm oil and they slept on bare bamboo beds. Specially trained women would come every morning and evening to massage their bodies with oil, ensuring that there is fat at the right places of the body. The following categories of traditional stages of seclusion and training were practised in the local government area:




This was the first stage the young girl underwent at about twelve years of age. In this case, the seclusion period lasted for about a period of one to two weeks.


Category: Tradition and Culture


Traditional Religion

Author: nick on 13-09-2013, 14:00, views: 8 566


Iko Ute Shrine of Owok ute village, EsseneIko Ute Shrine of Owok ute village, EsseneIbibio Prayer to Abasi Isua
(the god of the year):


Our father's god, boundaries. Let no crop make our farms clean, purify people's farms. Drive evil things outside our of ours fail to harvest. Let no leopard harm our animals. (Talbot, 1923: 267)


The people's belief in life after death and in a power greater than man (Akpabio, 1991: 13-20) lies in the basis of traditional religion in Ikot Abasi. This was expressed in the worship of the Heavenly God (Abasi Ibom), the deities (mme ndem, abasi isong, abasi isua, abasi inwang, etc.), and the ancestors (mbukpo ikaan). For the Obolo, the supreme God is Yok Obolo, which possesses attributes similar to Abasi Ibom. As with Africans elsewhere, religion pervaded the lives of the peoples of Opobo Division. As far as the traditional religion was concerned, the principal features, as Professor Bolaji Idowu has indicated, are belief in God, belief in the divinities, belief in spirits, belief in the ancestors, and the practice of magic and medicine, each with its own consequent, attendant cult (Idowu, 1973: 139).


The Ibibio supreme God is Abasi Ibom, identified also with Abasi Enyong (God of the firmament or universe), creator and ruler of the universe, omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent. The Ibibio lesser divinities, which are reflections of Abasi Ibom, include abasi isong (goddess of the earth), responsible for the fertility of crops, abasi ekong (god of war), ebe abasi (a deified husband).


Category: Tradition and Culture