Top 10 Facts About The Ibibio Tribe

The Ibibio are a people of southeastern Nigeria. They are related to the Anaang, the Efik and Igbo peoples. During colonial period in Nigeria, the Ibibio Union asked for recognition by the British as a sovereign nation (Noah, 1988). The Annang, Efik, Ekid, Oron and Ibeno share personal names, culture, and traditions with the Ibibio, and speak closely related varieties of Ibibio-Efik…

#1 Position in Nigeria

They are regarded as the most ancient of all tribes in Nigeria. Robert McKeon believes that the Ibibio are the indigenous native tribe from which other small tribes like Qua Ibom and Calabar descended from. After Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo they are considered as the 4th largest tribe in Nigeria.

#2 The Fattening Room

This is an ancient practice in Calabar and among the Ibibio people even though it is gradually becoming extinct. It is a place where young women are prepared for womanhood. It used to be regarded as a sign of prosperity, fertility and beauty. It is seen as a demonstration of value, sexual purity and proved virginity. It is the ability of a young lady to gain weight in the fattening room that proves she possesses these qualities. Once in the room they are taken away from family members and elderly women come to pass lessons on marital etiquette and acceptable social norms and behavior. They are given heavy food, secluded for about a month or more after which they are circumcised by their mothers to ensure that they maintain their purity, reduce sexual activity and also be faithful in marriage. At the end of it all she is presented to the public as a woman so suitors can start coming for hand in marriage.

#3 Marriage Rites

Efik traditional dressing

In the past a young girl could get betrothed for marriage at the age of 14. The bride price is paid to the would-be bride’s kin with the father taking the largest share and all marriage rites are expected to be over before the marriage is consummated. This can be complemented with the groom’s service to the bride’s father. Ndidiong Ufok is the knowing of the girl’s house by the potential groom after the girl accepts his proposal while Ndidiong Udok is coming to ask for the girl’s hand in marriage. While they are asking for her hand in marriage they are also given a list of items need for the marriage rites after which the proper traditional wedding is performed. The traditional wedding looks more like that of the Igbo tribe.

#4 Their Language

Ibibio is a Congo-Benue language that is spoken in the states of Akwa Ibom and Cross Rivers by about 1.5 million people. It is also closely related to Efik and in fact many consider them as one. The language has also been used on television and radio since the 1970s, it is used for business in Akwa Ibom and is also taught in the primary, secondary schools and the university.

#5 Their Origin

ibibio origin

Evidence has proved that their original homeland is from the Usak Edet (Isangele) in Cameroon. The Ibibio settlement in Cameroon now forms part of a small tribe in the Kumba Division in Cameroon. At about 8000 BC they arrived Nigeria on an overland route and settled at Ibom (Arochuku) where they erected the popular shrine of Long Juju of Arochuku. From Ibom they spread to other places like Abak, Uyo, Ikot Ekpene which is now occupied by Cross River State. Other Ibibios that came by sea include; Uruan, Oron, Eket, and Ibeno people.

#6 Case of a Dead Girlfriend

It is in the culture of the Ibibio people for a man to marry a corpse. This happens normally when a man lives with a girl that he has not married or performed any marriage rites on and the lady dies while they are living together. If it is found that she died of natural causes, the guy is expected to perform her marriage rites and marry her then the girl’s parents can give a go ahead for her to be buried. While she is lying in state the man will have to lie with her all through the night after then can she be buried. But in a situation where the girl died due to the man’s own doing her family are allowed to take further measures like going to court.

#7 Occupation

They are predominantly farmers, fishermen and traders. The farmers work on the overlands while the fishermen work in the fishing ports commonly known as INE. Trading is done by middlemen who act as brokers between the producers and consumers.


#8 Social System

The society is made up of villages each of which belongs to bigger unit known as CLAN. The clans were named after the founders of the first villages and they are all equal in status. Each village is made up of families comprising of father, mother, children and grandparents. They are polygamous in nature too. Nowadays the families are becoming smaller due to excessive mortality rate and a shrink in economic situations.

#9 Stereotypes

The undoing of Nigeria as a country is that we have so many stereotypes about ourselves; you hear things like Igbos are dubious, Yorubas are dirty and Hausas are violent and this is not lacking in other tribes, Ibibio inclusive. It is believed that their ladies and women are promiscuous or have high sexual drives or attractive physically and so long for sexual intercourse. These like many stereotypes are not entirely true but many will tell you that these stereotypes exist because some of those habits are more pronounced in them. They are also known to be good cooks and also do domestic works as house boys and girls. This they share with their neighbouring state in Cross River.

#10 Festivals

ibibio festival

The Ibibios do have a lot of festivals and they are actually categorized. They include; General, Vocational, Agrarian and Ancestral Festivals. The general ones are, Nsit Ubium biannual aquatic festival known as Mbre Mmong (involves rituals to a shrine), Usoro Mboppo (celebration of women’s completion of the fattening room, and Usoro Ekoon (festival of masquerades). The vocational include; Usoro Ita (hunting festival), Usoro Idiong (traditional medicine festival), and Usoro Isong Enyang (water regatta festival). Agrarian festivals include; Usoro Usuuk Udia (new yam), Usoro Ikong (melon), Usoro Idio (clearing farmlands), and Ekoon Ndaara Akpakpa (corn festival). The ancestral festivals are; Usoro Ekong (celebration of heroes), Ndap Ekpo/Ukappa Ison Ekpo (celebration of spirits), Atara Ukwa (for deities), Usoro Eduwad/Obodom Enyong (celebration of spears), Usoro Abasi (feast of the Gods), Ikot Eyo (rites of passage, initiations and coronations).

Got any thoughts on the Ibibio people? Share in the comments section!

One thought on “Top 10 Facts About The Ibibio Tribe

  • October 7, 2018 at 1:58 pm

    These may very well be the African ancestors of the Garifuna


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