Ibibio people

Ibibio people

infobox ethnic group

image_caption=Nsibidi symbols which where created by the Ibibio, Efik and Annang people by members of the Ekpe society
pop=Over 5 million
popplace = NGR 4,482,000 [http://www.joshuaproject.net/peopctry.php?rop3=103938&rog3=NI]
region1 = GHA
pop1 =46,000
ref1 = [http://www.joshuaproject.net/peopctry.php?rop3=103938&rog3=GH]
region2 =CMR
pop2 =39,000
ref2 = [http://www.joshuaproject.net/peopctry.php?rop3=103938&rog3=CM]
region3 =EQG
pop3 =2,700
ref3 = [http://www.joshuaproject.net/peopctry.php?rop3=103938&rog3=EK]
rels= Christianity, traditional, Islam
langs= Ibibio, English
related-c= Efik, Ejagham, Annang, Igbo, Ijaw

The Ibibio (also known as Moco or Moko during slavery) people are an ethnic group in southeastern Nigeria. They are closely related to the Annang and the Efik peoples. "Ibibio" may also refer to those who speak the Ibibio language. Ibibio was an ancient state in the old Calabar Kingdom. During colonial period in Nigeria, the Ibibio Union was formed asking for recognition by the British as a sovereign state (Noah, 1988)


The Ibibio people are found predominately in Akwa Ibom state and is made up of the related Annang community, the Ibibio community and the Eket and Oron Communities, although other groups usually understand the ibibio language. Because of the larger population of the Ibibio people, they hold political control over Akwa-Ibom State, but government is shared with the Annangs, Eket and Oron. The political system follows the traditional method of consensus. Even though elections are held, practically, the political leaders are pre-discussed in a manner that is benefiting to all.



The Ibibio have lived in the Cross River area of modern day Nigeria for several hundred years, and while written information about them only exists in colonial records from the late 1800s on, oral traditions have them in the region much earlier than this. With common ancestors, the Ibibio also include the Annang and the Efik, Oron and Eket with combined population of over ten million. History has it that their ancestors were Egyptian Jews that resulted from the marriage of Israelites to Egyptian who migrated from Egypt through Ethiopia and Sudan into their present land via Ghana and Cameroon (see African Jews).

"Ibio-ibio" means short or brief and doesn't have anything to do with height of the Ibibios. There are many areas in Ibibio land that have their dialectical differences. In some places family is called "ekwere" and "ekpuk" in other areas. Goat is called "ibot" in eastern Ibibio ikono (present day ikono local government area) but called "ebot" in others. Head is pronounced "iwud" in some areas but called "ibuot" in others. Road is called "okpo-di-ghe" and "usung" in other places.

Colonial period

The Ibibio people were located in the Eastern Nigeria of Nigeria under British rule. The Eastern region was split into three states (Southeastern State was where the Ibibio were located, one of the original twelve states of Nigeria) after Nigerian independence. The Efik, Annang, Oron, Eket and their brothers and sisters of the Ogoja District, where also found in the Southeastern state. The state (Southeastern State) was later partitioned into two states (Akwa-Ibom state and Cross River State).

The Ibibios are republican in nature. The issue of kingship in Ibibio is a modern day creation. First is the family head who oversees the family. After this is the village head; Ibibio is made up of villages though now there are towns like Uyo, Eket (a subgroup), Itu, Ibiaku, Ntok, Okpo etc.


The main economic staple in the region is the palm tree, the oil of which is extracted and sold to external markets. Among the Ibibio, those of the highest rank in the Ekpo society, Amama, often control the majority of the community wealth. The Amama often appropriate hundreds of acres of palm tree for their own use and ensure with the profits they earn that their sons achieve comparable rank, effectively limiting access to economic gain for most members of the community. The Ekpo society requires that its initiates sponsor feasts for the town, which fosters the appearance of the redistribution of wealth by providing the poor with food and drink. In effect, this allows the disparity in wealth to be perpetuated in Ibibio society.

Political System

Individual villages are ruled by a group of village elders (Ekpo Ndem Isong) and the heads of extended families. Their decisions are enforced by members of the Ekpo society who act as messengers of the ancestors (ikan). Ekpo members are always masked when performing their policing duties, and although their identities are almost always known, fear of retribution from the ancestors prevents most people from accusing those members who overstep their social boundaries, effectively committing police brutality. Membership is open to all Ibibio males, but one must have access to wealth to move into the politically influential grades.


Pre-Colonial Era

Ibibio religion is based on paying tribute to the village ancestors. Failing to appease these ancestors will result in the wrath of the Ekpe society. The most important ancestors are those who achieved high rank while living, usually the house heads. They may control the fortunes of the descendants and are free to afflict those who fail to make the proper offering or those who fail to observe kinship norms. Ala is the earth deity and is appeased through Ogbom ceremony, which is believed to make children plentiful and to increase the harvest. It is performed in the middle of the year, every eighth day for eight weeks by each section of the village in turn.

Colonial and Post-Colonial Era

The Ibibios were introduced to Christianity through the work of early missionaries in the 19th Century. Reverend Samuel Bill started his work at Ibeno. He established the qua iboe church which later spread places in the middle belt of Nigeria. The methodist church, the Roman Catholic church, and Presbyterian church rode into the ibibio hinterland. Later, day churches where also introduced, for e.g. The Apostolic church, Independent churches, like Deeper Life Bible Church, came into the area in the second part of the 20th Century. Today Ibibio people are predominately Christian area.

The Ibibio practiced the killing of twins before it was abolished during the colonial era, with help of missionary Mary Slessor. Twins born were taken to their communities local evil forest and left to die as it was a taboo for twins to be born. In places such as Ikot Antem, Ediene Usung Itu, Ikono local government area, such practices were common. This belief corresponds with the same taboo that has been previously found with the Igbo people.


The masks and accouterments of the Ekpe society make up the greatest works of art in Ibibio society. Drumming and music are also important elements in Ekpe ceremonies. The wooden sculpture from this area is also very detailed, and artists are just as likely to capture beauty as they are the hideous forms of evil spirits.


*Monday Efiong Noah, Proceedings of the Ibibio Union 1928-1937. Modern Business Press Ltd, Uyo.

Also, See

*Ibibio language
*Calabar Kingdom
*Aro Confederacy
*States in Ancient Calabar Kingdom
*African Jews


External links

* [http://www.zyama.com/ibibio/pics..htm Ibibio people]

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