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The Efik are an ethnic group located primarily in southeastern Nigeria. 'Efik' is also the name of their language which is a variation of the Ibibio language. The Efik migrated down the Cross River from Cameroon in the 16th century and founded numerous settlements in the Calabar area in present-day Cross River State. This area along with present-day Akwa Ibom State are usually referred to as Calabar, and Calabar people accordingly, after the European name Calabar Kingdom given to their state of Akwa Akpa. Calabar is not to be confused with the Kalabari Kingdom in Rivers State which is an Ijaw state to its west. Cross River State and Akwa Ibom State were formerly one of the original twelve states of Nigeria known as the Southeastern State.
The Efik people as well as their Annang and Ibibio brothers and sisters also occupy Southwestern Cameroon including Bakassi. While in the then Eastern Region of Nigeria prior to the civil war, the region allowed Southwestern Cameroon to be partitioned out of Nigeria into Cameroon through the 1961 plebiscite which divided them (Efik, Ibibio and Annang) into Nigeria and Cameroon.
Although their economy was originally based on fishing, the area quickly developed into a major trading centre and remained so well into the early 1900s. Incoming European goods were traded for slaves, palm oil and other palm products. The Efik kings collected a trading tax called comey from docking ships until the British replaced it with 'comey subsidies'.
The Efik were the middle men between the white traders on the coast and the inland tribes of the Cross River and Calabar district. Christian missions were at work among the Efiks beginning in the middle of the 19th century. Even by 1900, many of the native peoples were well educated in European ideologies and culture, professed Christianity and dressed in European fashion.
The Efik are related to the Annang, Ibibio, Oron, Biase, Akampkpa, Uruan, and Eket people by common ancestors. They all speak the same language with different dialects. Most importantly, regardless of the dialects, they share common names with same spelling.
A powerful bond of union among the Efik, and one that gives them considerable influence over other tribes, is the secret society known as the Ekpe, the inventor of the Nsibidi, an ancient African Writing.
The Efik and indeed the people of the Old Calabar kingdom were the first to embrace western education in present day Nigeria, with the establishment of Hope Waddel Training Institute, Calabar in 1895 and the Methodist Boys High School, Oron in 1905.
In 1884 the Efik kings and the chiefs of the Efik placed themselves under British protection. These treaties and attendant territorial economic rights, are documented in CAP 23 of Laws of Eastern Nigeria, captioned 'Comey subsidies law'. The Efik king, also known as the Obong of Calabar, still (as of 2006) is a political power among the Efik.
- Fubara, Dagogo M.J. (5 March 2006) "Legendary legacies of Dappa-Biriye" The Tide Rivers State Newspaper Corp., Port Harcourt, Nigeria;
- Nwagbara, Friday (2 June 2006) "Efik monarch withholds blessing for South-South" The Tide Rivers State Newspaper Corp., Port Harcourt, Nigeria;
- Waddell (1846) Efik or Old Calabar Waddell, Old Calabar;
- This article incorporates text from the Calabar article in the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.
 See also
- Efik mythology
- Southeastern Nigeria
- Niger Delta