Atyap people

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"Kataf" redirects here. For the village in Iran, see Kataf, Iran.
Total population
130,000 (1990)
Regions with significant populations
Kaduna State, Nigeria 130,000
Tyap language

The Atyap people, also known as the Kataf by the Hausa people, are an ethnic group that occupy part of the Zangon-Kataf Local Government Area of Kaduna State, Nigeria. They speak the Tyap language, one of the West Plateau languages.[1]


The Atyap occupy part of the area of the Nok culture, famous for its terra-cotta figurines. Whether they are related to the people that made these figurines cannot be determined.[2]

The Atyap consider that all members of a clan have a common descent through one ancestor, and therefore encouraged inter-clan and inter-state marriage. Traditionally, the states and clans had complementary functions. the Shokwa were in charge of rainmaking and flood control rites. The Agba’ad clan had primacy in both cavalry and archery warfare, and led the army. The Aku clans were the custodians of the paraphernalia of the Abwoi religion, and performed initiation rites for all new initiates.[3]

The Abwoi religion included elaborate initiation ceremonies, and belief in the continued presence of deceased ancestors. It was secretive, with incentives for spies who reported saboteurs and death penalties for revelation of secrets. For six months of the year, women were restricted in their dress and travel. After this, there was a celebration and loosening of restrictions.[3]

For some time, the Atyap had been increasingly speaking Hausa, the primary language of the region. However, after the violent clashes in 1992 there has been a strong trend back to use of Tyap.[4]


The Atyap people are ruled by agwatyap(King of atyap),Dr Harrison Bunggwon


There are no written records, but there is evidence that the Atyap were early settlers in the Zangon-Kataf region, as were the Hausa. Both groups were in the area since at least the 1750s, possibly much longer, and both groups claim to have been the first settlers.[5] Atyap nationalism grew in the 19th century as Fulani jihadists tried to extend their control in this and other parts of central Nigeria. When the British conquered the north of Nigeria in 1903, they followed a system of indirect rule. The British gave the emir of Zaria increased powers over the Atyab through the village heads that he appointed, and causing increasing resentment.[6]

Christian missionaries found fertile ground with the Atyap, who had rejected the Moslem religion. This served to increase tensions between the Atyap and the Hausa.

However, one has to be very careful when referring to religious conflicts in Nigeria, as it is not all Atyap people that are Christians, similarly, not all Hausa people are Muslims. Oftentimes, historians make more emphasis on religious factor other than other basic factors like land for example.

The Atyap also resented loss of land, considering that they had originally owned all of the Zangon-Kataf territory and had been illegally dispossessed by Hausa intruders. After independence in 1960, General Yakubu Gowon (1966–1975) introduced reforms, letting the Atyap appoint their own village district heads, but the appointees were subject to approval by the emir, and were therefore often seen as puppets.[6]

In 1922 the emir acquired a stretch of land in Zango town, the capital, with no compensation. In 1966 the emir gave the land, now used as a market, to the Hausa community. The Atyap complained that the Hausa traders treated them as slaves in this market.[7] Tensions steadily increased, flaring up in February 1992 over a proposal to move the market to a new site, away from land that had been transferred to the Hausas. The proposal by the first Atyap head of the LGA was favored by the Atyap who could trade beer and pork on the neutral site and opposed by the Hausa, who feared loss of trading privileges. Over 60 people were killed in the February clashes. Further violence broke out in Zango on May 15/16, with 400 people killed and most buildings destroyed. When the news reached Kaduna, rampaging Hausa youths killed many Christians of all ethnic groups in retaliation.[8]

In the aftermath, many Hausa fled the area, although some returned later, having no other home.[5] A tribunal set up by the Babangida military government sentenced 17 people to death for alleged complicity in the killings, including a former military governor of Rivers State, Major-General Zamani Lekwot, an Atyap. The sentences were eventually reduced to gaol terms.[9] It was said that Lekwot's arrest was due to his feud with Ibrahim Babangida, then Head of State. No Hausa were charged.[10] Continued tension and outbreaks of violence were reported as late as 2006.[5]

An Atyap chiefdom was created in 1996 following the recommendation of a committee headed by Air Vice Marshal Usman Mu'azu that investigated the cause of the uprising. The chiefdom was upgraded to first class in 2007. In 2010 the president of Atyap Community Development Association said that since the chiefdom was established there had been only a few occasions when it was necessary to intervene to resolve misunderstandings.[11][12]


  1. ^ "The Atyap Nationality". Atyap Community Online. Retrieved 2010-03-06. 
  2. ^ John Edward Philips (2005). Writing African history. Boydell & Brewer. p. 15ff. ISBN 1-58046-164-6. 
  3. ^ a b "The Culture and Religion". Atyap Community Online. Retrieved 2010-03-06. 
  4. ^ Roger Blench (July 29, 1997). "The Status of the Languages of Central Nigeria" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-03-26. Retrieved 2010-03-06. 
  5. ^ a b c "They Do Not Own This Place" (PDF). Human Rights Watch. April 2006. Archived (PDF) from the original on 16 March 2010. Retrieved 2010-03-06. 
  6. ^ a b Tom Young (2003). Readings in African politics. Indiana University Press. p. 75.76. ISBN 0-253-21646-X. 
  7. ^ Toyin Falola (2001). Violence in Nigeria: The Crisis of Religious Politics and Secular Ideologies. University Rochester Press. p. 216. ISBN 1-58046-052-6. 
  8. ^ Ernest E. Uwazie, Isaac Olawale Albert, G. N. Uzoigwe (1999). Inter-ethnic and religious conflict resolution in Nigeria. Lexington Books. p. 106. ISBN 0-7391-0033-5. 
  9. ^ Agaju Madugba (2001-09-09). "Zangon-Kataf: For Peace to Endure". ThisDay. Retrieved 2010-03-06. 
  10. ^ Yusuf Yariyok (February 4, 2003). "FIGHTING MUHAMMAD'S WAR: REVISITING SANI YERIMA'S FATWA". NigeriaWorld. Retrieved 2010-03-06. 
  11. ^ IBRAHEEM MUSA (7 March 2010). "Peace has returned to Zangon Kataf -Community leader". Sunday Trust. Archived from the original on 13 March 2010. Retrieved 2010-03-07. 
  12. ^ Ephraim Shehu. "Yakowa at 60: Any legacy?". People's Daily. Retrieved 2010-03-08.