Berom people

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Total population
1 million[1] (2010)
Regions with significant populations
Plateau State (Nigeria)
Related ethnic groups
Iguta, Aten, Afizere, Irigwe, Atyap, Bajju, Ham, Jukun and other Platoid peoples of the Middle Belt, Tiv, Igbo, Yoruba, Edo, Efik and other Benue-Congo peoples of southern Nigeria

The Berom (sometimes also spelt as Birom; exonyms: Tyap: A̱kuut) is one of the largest autochthonous ethnic group in Plateau State, central Nigeria.[2] Covering about four local government areas, which include Riyom, Jos North, Jos South and Barkin Ladi (Gwol). Berom people are also found in some southern Kaduna State local government areas like Fadan Karshe with Berom settlers tracing their origins to Za'ang a Berom district on the Jos Plateau. They emigrated during the British Colonial Government of Nigeria. A large number of this tribe, if not all, are Christians (about 99% of the populace of the Berom people are estimated to be practising Christianity). Statistics also have it that a large number of the population of Plateau State is made up of Berom people.

The Berom speak the Berom language, which belongs to the Plateau branch of Benue–Congo, a subfamily of the large Niger–Congo language family. It is not related to the Hausa language (which belongs to the Afro-Asiatic family) or other Afroasiatic languages of Plateau State, which are Chadic languages.


The Berom people have a rich cultural heritage. They celebrate the Nzem Berom festival annually in March or April. Other festivals include Nzem Tou Chun (worongchun) and Wusal Berom. Its one of the major aborigine groups in Nigeria (Plateau State) that believes in the Judeo-Christian-Islamic God (Dagwi). [3]


Some Berom festivals include:[4]

  • Mandyɛng, in March/April - harvest festival
  • Tyǐ, in August - red ochre collection festival
  • Badù, in March/April - harvest festival
  • Nshok, in March/April - harvest festival
  • Worong cun, in April/May - planting festival, celebrated after good rains
  • Búná/Vwana, in August - fonio harvest festival
  • Mado, in October/November - hunting festival celebrated for prosperity. Che people also take part.
  • Behwol, in February/March - hunting festival celebrated for prosperity. Che, Boze, Anaguta, inand Izere peoples also take part.
  • Nzem Berom, in March/April - one-week Berom festival celebrating Berom cultural identity that was first celebrated in 1981
  • Wusal Berom, in November - Christian festival that was first celebrated in 1992

Festivals in Berom culture are primarily related to agriculture and hunting, which have been the main events revolving around Berom livelihood and cosmology. Agriculture-related festivals are typically cycled around different villages.

Nzem Berom[edit]

The influx of Christianity and western Education paved way for many socio-cultural changes in Berom culture. In order to avoid the danger of losing the socio-cultural practice of the ancestor, and the overall precolonial activities such as the Mandyeng, Nshok, Worom Chun, Vwana, ceremonies were brought into a single umbrella festival called Nzem Berom. Nzem Berom is held within the first week of April, to coincide with the period when Mandyeng, Nshok and Badu Festival was held. The Nzem is a period when different cultural displays are exhibited from different parts of Berom land, especially in music, dance, arts and culture. [5]


Mandyeng is a major festival celebrated in Berom land to usher in the rainy season. The festivals normally take place in March/ April. In the past the Berom regard Mandyeng/Nshok (they are very similar) the most vital festivals which ensured a good farming and hunting period and harvest. Not all the Berom communities celebrate Mandyeng and Nshok. Those that perform 'Mandyeng' claim their roots from Riyom, they include; Vwang, Kuru, Zawan, Gyel, Rim, Bachit, Bangai, Lwa, Sop, Jol, Wereng Kwi, Gwo, Kakuruk, Kuzeng, Kurak, Kuchin, Rahos and Tahoss. Nshok: Nshok slightly varies from Mandiyeng due to the fact that it also associates hunting with the rainy season farming. It is also held once a year around the months of April and May, to usher in the new season just as the Mandyeng.[citation needed]


In the pre-colonial era the Berom regarded hunting as both an occupation and a sport. Although economically it was not as important as farming, hunting was regarded as a show of skill and bravery.[6] So much so, that most Berom names are derived from game animals, most importantly duiker[citation needed], due to their perceived beauty. Names such as Gyang, Pam, Dung, Davou, Chuwang, Badung etc. for boys are most common, while girls answer to Kaneng, Lyop, Chundung, Nvou, Kangyang. These are names for different species of duiker.[citation needed] Others, such as Bot (frog) Tok (fish), Tsok (toad) etc. are names for other animals that are non-domesticated, but not game.[7] These names clearly typify how important game was in pre-colonial Berom society.

Nshok was not the only hunting festival in Berom land. Festivals such as Mado and Behwol existed[8] but are not as important as Nshok. [9]


Some of the musical instruments among the Berom include:

  • Yom Nshi: a two-string banjo made with calabash and skin as resonators
  • Yom: a straw string instrument
  • Kwag or Gwashak: a scraper made from dry cactus played with a stick slid across the sawed body of the dry cactus to produce a scraping sound
  • Kundung: a xylophone made of cattle horns and cobwebs (image).

Berom musical instruments listed in Blench (2021):[10]

  • Idiophones
  • Membranophones
    • Barrel-drum (biŋ)
    • Gourd-drum, bing shi
    • Conical drum (rwey biŋ or bing gwom) reserved for royalty
    • Hourglass drum (kalangu)
  • Chordophones
  • Aerophones
    • Flutes
      • Ju, single-note whistle ensemble
      • Ju shelo, fingerhole notch-flute
      • Unknown flute
    • Horns and trumpets
      • Transverse horn, bwo nyama
      • End-blown horn
      • End-blown trumpet

Berom dance equipment listed in Blench (2021):

  • Shang, fibre buttock ornament
  • Gadus or gawat, fly-whisk
  • Bong, dance hat
  • dance skirts


The ancient Beroms primary food staple was chun (fonio) which even to this day remains a primary part of Berom diet. Tuk chun is served with any soup of choice; katai chun (rich soup of mostly wild vegetables) and bwirik chun (gruel). Maize grits are sometimes used as a substitute for chun in katai. As time went, the Beroms adopted pwana and ngai (millet) for gruel.

Clothing and Attire[edit]

Land and natural features[edit]

Berom ancestral lands are all located on high ground on the Jos plateau; beautiful scenery and undulating terrains. One prominent plant found in all Berom localities is ryep or cactus


The Berom have a paramount ruler called the Gbong Gwom Jos.[11] The traditional stool was created in 1935 by the British colonial administration of Northern Nigeria.[12] Northern Nigeria was composed of completely different linguistic and cultural features between the ethnicities on the Plateau and the other groups. This ignorance of ethnic differences had initially encouraged the formation of vassal Hausa heads to oversee the created Jos Native Authority, which proved tumultuous with the Berom due to conflicting views and interests.[13]

Through a circular; No. 24p/1916[JOS PROF NAK 473/1916], dated 15 August 1917, the Resident at Bauchi Province was instructed to send potentials from various native authorities including district and village heads to be elevated as chieftains by the Governor General. In response to the circular, the Resident wrote back to the secretary Northern Province Kaduna via a memo No. 24/1916 [JOSPROF NAK 473/1916] dated 27 October 1917, recommended a paramount ruler to superintend the native areas.[citation needed]

In the pre-colonial period, the Berom were divided into autonomous political groups based on regions, but the colonial authority merged them under the Gbong Gwom in 1952 to help coordinate the activities of the natives.[14]


The first chief Dachung Gyang of Riyom assumed leadership from 1935 to 1941.[15] Under Dachung Gyang, the traditional institution was designated as the Berom Tribal Council[16] composing of local chiefs within the Jos Native Authority. Its authority then only included mainly the Berom and excluded the chiefs of Buji, Naraguta, Jos and Bukuru. However, the government, in a Gazette of 7 February 1918, modified the list to include the Buji, Naraguta, Jos and Bukuru .[citation needed]

The emergence of Da Rwang Pam (1947 to his death on 14 July 1969[17]) saw the elevation of the head of the Tribal Council to the stool of the Gbong Gwom Jos.[18][19]

Since 1969, the stool has been held by the following:

  • Da. Dr. Fom Bot, 19 August 1969[17] to his death on 1 December 2002[20]
  • Da Victor Dung Pam, 17 April 2004[21] to 7 March 2009[22]
  • Da Jacob Gyang Buba, 1 April 2009[23] to the present

The former governors of Plateau State Michael Botmang and Jonah David Jang, are of Berom origin.


The Berom people are Christians in soul and tradition as several aspects of Berom life and culture has been absorbed by Christian norms and ethics most demonstrably through their tremendous hospitality. Over 95% of Beroms are members of either COCIN or Roman Catholic and 2 of the institutions listed below i.e BLTB and BOM are Christian institutions. There are also a record number of Berom Christian songs that trend on the Plateau.

motto: Gasi ha yi bwei

Notable people[edit]


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  2. ^ Idrees, Aliyu Alhaji; Ochefu, Yakubu A. (2002). Studies in the History of Central Nigeria Area. CSS Limited. p. 663. ISBN 9789782951588.
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  4. ^ Blench, Roger. 2021. Talking eggs and were-frogs: Berom religion past and present. Cambridge: Kay Williamson Educational Foundation.
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  13. ^ Dudley, B. J. (5 November 2013). Parties and Politics in Northern Nigeria. Routledge. p. 92. ISBN 9781136961823.
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  • Nyam, S. D. (ed.). 2004. The Berom Digest. Jos: Berom Historical Publications

External links[edit]