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Nri is an ancient Igbo city-state in Anambra State Nigeria. The Kingdom of Nri was a center of learning, religion, and commerce in pre-colonial West Africa. Historians have compared the significance of Nri, at its peak, to the religious cities of Rome or Mecca: it was the seat of a powerful and imperial state that influenced much of the territories inhabited by the Igbo of Awka and Onitsha to the east; the Efik, the Ibibio, and the Ijaw to the South; Nsukka and southern Igala to the north; and Asaba, and the Anioma to the west. The rulers of Nri did not use military conquest, but used religious authority and control of commercial routes as tactics in the spread of their city-state. Politically, Nri is known to be the most ancient origins of the Eze kingship in Igbo societies. But Nri and its rulers were also known for their reverred traditional religious institutions that instilled both awe and fear in those who made pilgrimages to the shrines. The religious practices believed in the existence of one God, 'Chukwu Okike'; but the Eze Nri was seen as a potent who had powers to undo evil and cleanse the land from abominations and taboos.
Commercially, Nri was against slave holding. "Osu" was the name of outcasts of other communities who migrated and were accepted in Nri. Some Osu became eunuchs. During the colonial period, Nri and the regions under its political, religious, or commercial control became international markets for palm oil. In the heart of Nri influence was the Igbo Ukwu bronze castings.
The origin of Nri people is still a subject of much speculation. The Nri clan existed from as far back as the 9th century. Nri (the founder of Nri clan) was the son of Eri (founder of Aguleri) and had migrated to the present day Nri from the Anambra (Ama-Mbala) river valley in Northern Igboland. Nri was said to have inherited spiritual powers from his father. The Nri people belong to the Umueri clans who trace their origins to Eri. Northern and Central Igboland is the homeland of Igbo people.
Speculation starts when one starts to trace the origin of Eri. In the Nri mythology, Eri descended from the sky, sent by God to make peace (settle disputes and cleanse abominations) and provide Igbo people food (yam and cocoyam) (10). Some historians speculate that Eri may have migrated to the Anambra area out of the Igala dynasty of central Nigeria. But there is convincing evidence that Onoja Oboli, the founder of the Igala dynasty was actually another son of Eri.
- Elizabeth Isichei, African before 1800 (London: Longman, 1984).
- Elizabeth Isichei, A History of the Igbo People (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 1976).
- Chikodi Anunobi, Nri Warriors of Peace (Zenith Publishers, January 2006)