Ikwerre people

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Total population
Over 1 million[citation needed]
Regions with significant populations
Rivers State, Nigeria
Ikwerre and Igbo
Christianity, Omenuali
Related ethnic groups
Ogba people, Ekpeye, Etche, Abua, Kalabari, Ngwa

The Ikwerre (natively known as Iwhuruọha[1][2]) is widely regarded as one of the Igbo groups in Rivers State.[3][4][5] They are considered as a part of the larger Igbo ethnic group. They speak Ikwerre, an Igbo dialect, which is sometimes considered a separate language[6] in the Igboid family, as a result of the quest for Ikwerre's recognition as a separate ethnic nationality.

Geography and cultural grouping[edit]

Ikwerre land lies roughly within the coordinates of 4°:50N 5°:15N, 6°:30E 7°:15E. The geology and geomorphology of the area are intimately associated with that of the Niger Delta which was created in the Holocene by the process of erosion and sedimentation.[citation needed] The Ikwerre inhabit the upland part of Rivers State. and are predominantly settled in the Ikwerre, Obio-Akpor, Port Harcourt and Emohua local government areas of Rivers State.

The Ikwerre cultural area is bordered by the Ohaji/Egbema of Imo State to the northeast, the Ogba to the northwest, the Ekpeye and Abua to the west, the Ijoid groups of Degema, the Kalabari and Okrika to the south, the Eleme and Oyigbo to the southeast and the Etche to the east.[7]

The Ikwerre tribe is made up of four main groups, namely the Elele group (Ishimbam), the Igwuruta-Aluu (Ishiali) group, the Rumuji-Emohua-Ogbakiri (REO) or Risimini group, and the OPA group (Obio/Port Harcourt/Akpor).[citation needed]

The Ishimbam or Elele clan cluster is located at the northern part of Ikwerre land, in Ikwerre and Emohua Local Government Areas. Most of these communities believe in one ancestor called "Ochichi" whose descendants founded most of the clans. Elele is believed to have been founded by "Ele", Ochichi's first son. This is why Elele is called Okaniali among the Ishimbam clans. The Ishimbam clans include: Elele, Akpabu, Elele-Alimini, Egbeda, Omerelu, Apani, Ubimini and Omudioga.[8] The Ishiali or Esila group inhabit the remaining parts of Ikwerre Local Government Area. Clans here include: Isiokpo, Ipo, Igwuruta-Ali, Aluu, Omuanwa, Omademe, Omagwa, Ozuoha and Ubima.[8]

The REO (Rumuji/Emohua/Ogbakiri) cluster, or (R)Ishimini (as classified by Ogbakor Ikwerre), inhabit the southern part of Emohua Local Government Area. They are located in a riverine area. This cluster comprises:

The OPA (Obio-Port Harcourt-Akpor) is a broad cluster that occupies the entire Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt Local Government Areas. It is subdivided into the Obio and the Akpor groups.

The Ikwerre exist in well-delineated clans, with each clan having its own paramount king. The Ikwerre do not have an overall paramount ruler or king, but designated kings, rulers or leaders mostly approved by their constituents. However, all paramount rulers in Ikwerre are united in what is known as Ogbakor Ikwerre, which was formed in 1963 as an umbrella socio-cultural organization of the Ikwerre people.[6]

Ikwerre land and industrial activities[edit]

A total of 92 oil wells, producing an estimated 100,000 barrels of crude daily, are located in Ikwerreland. The Ikwerre, therefore, play host to several multinational oil-producing and servicing companies, in addition to many other industries and establishments.[citation needed] Despite these, the Ikwerre, like nearly all other minorities of the Niger Delta, frequently complain of marginalisation by the oil operatives.

"The Ikwerre community faced problems of marginalization, extreme poverty and environmental degradation of its land and rivers in the Niger delta through the exploitation of oil and gas resources. Calls were made for the full participation of the Ikwerre people in the control of resources and decision-making on development; the urgent provision of electricity; improved health care and education services; and youth employment opportunities."[9][10]

Establishments in Ikwerre land[edit]

"The acquisition of Ikwerre land began in 1913 by the British colonial government when it acquired a parcel land from the Rebisi clan of Diobu because the then colonial government wanted to develop a harbor in the area. Once the sea port was established, the place became busy with commerce and trade and with a beehive of activities.[citation needed]

In recent times, as the tempo of oil and gas exploration increased in Rivers State, it invariably put more pressure on Ikwerre land and its resources. As land was needed for development purposes within Port Harcourt and its environs, it was natural to turn to Ikwerre people who inhabit Port Harcourt and the surrounding territories.[citation needed]

The University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State University (formerly Rivers State University of Science and Technology), the campuses of the Ignatius Ajuru University of Education, as well as the Rivers State College of Arts and Science (later changed to Port Harcourt Polytechnic and thereafter Elechi Amadi Polytechnic,), The Rivers State College of Health Sciences, College of Education are educational institutions sited on Ikwerreland.[citation needed]


The Ikwerre are generally considered by a great majority of scholars as a subgroup of the Igbo people of southeastern Nigeria.[3][4][5]

Several theories exist over their origin.[11] One is favoured by the Igbo people and another is widely accepted by the Ikwerre people themselves.

According to a theory of Ikwerre origin claims by some Igbo scholars, they would be descendants from an Igbo migration from Awka and Orlu areas towards the south. Igbo scholars take the Ikwerre as part of the Southern Igbo. Amadi, an Ikwerre scholar, says that the Igbo origin theory has support even among the Ikwerre themselves, with Ikwerre as descendants of a migration of Arochukwu Igbo, and Okpo Nwagidi being the leader of the Ikwerre tribe. Before the civil war, there had been dissident voices that claimed that Ikwerre could have migrated from Owerri, Ohaji, Ngwa, and Etche areas of Igboland.[11] But when Port Harcourt was conquered by Nigeria during the Biafran War and the Igbo people from other parts of Igboland fled the territory, a UN report says that the Ikwerre decided to claim that the Ikwerre were non-Igbo for convenience.[12] The Ikwerre are recognized officially as a separate group in the 1979 Nigerian Constitution.[11]

Theories of origin[edit]

Some Ikwerre people migrated from Ika a subgroup of Igbos in Delta State and Edo state while some migrated from Ngwa, Arochukwu and Ohaji/Egbema.

The Benin theory

Recently, the Benin theory of origin has become more widely accepted among the Ikwerre.

The Benin theory has so many versions. The first suggests that Ikwerre was the third son of Akalaka, the father of Ogba and Ekpeye who migrated from an area in the multiethnic Benin empire in the 15th century. It is said that Iwhuruohna, the progenitor of the Ikwerre, had seven sons which became the Ikwerre asa.[13]

Another version holds that Akalaka migrated with Ochichi who settled at Elele and was the father of Elele, Isiokpo, Egbeda and Omerelu.

The Benin theory is rejected by many Ikwerre who are of the opinion that the Ikwerre did not migrate from Benin or descend from one progenitor. The Ikwerre are far larger than the Ogba and Ekpeye groups. The Akalaka legend originally mentioned the Ogba and Ekpeye as the only descendants of Akalaka but the inclusion of Ikwerre has gained ground as of recent time. Ikwerre people do not share any linguistic or cultural grounds with Benin people.[citation needed]

The Benin origin narrative of Ikwerre could also be traced to the wars and raids of the Aboh kingdom on Ogba land, with the help of the Benin officers which triggered a migration of Ogba and Ekpeye people into what is today's Ikwerre land. These people met existing communities there. Rumuekpe, Ibaa, Ndele and the Odegu clan are communities that could have possibly be founded by this migration. A section of Obio clan is said to have migrated from the Aboh (Ukwuani) area of Delta state [14] which was under the influence of the Benin Empire in the 16th century.

The Aro first came into the Ikwerre area through Ozuzu-Etche, settling at Isiokpo, Igwuruta, Omagwa, etc.[15] As expected of pre-literate African societies, the history of the people is wrapped in myth and mystery. This presupposes that historians may have to resort to oral tradition for the justifiable/credible reconstruction of the people's history. From the post-colonial dispensation to the present, professional historians and other personals have attempted to reconstruct the history of the people. For instance, the works of Elechi Amadi, especially The Concubine, The Great Ponds, The Slave (novels) and Isiburu (a verse play) are a literary attempt at reconstructing a semblance of the Ikwerre society in the pre-colonial era.

In the absence of valid historical records, historians accept oral tradition as a primary source of writing African history, the defects associated with this method notwithstanding. The history of the origin of the people is traceable to the waves of migrations from the lower Niger and delta regions.


Ikwerre people are found in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. They are within the rainforest belt which receives high annual rainfall. Some parts are blessed with creeks that crisscross Rivers State. There is also abundant raffia forest. These features, coupled with adequate sunshine, have made the soil in Ikwerre adequate for the cultivation of palm produce, cassava, yams, vegetables, etc. and the distillation of palm wine into gin (kai kai, ogogoro, akamere, manya beknu).

The Riverine Ikwerre villagers engage in fishing in addition to the general occupations of farming and trading.

Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Amadi, Prof. Eric (20 June 2018). "History of Ikwerre people in Nigeria". Edo World.
  2. ^ CHIMENUM, AKANINWOR ISAAC (11 July 2018). "History of Iwhnurọhna (The Ikwerre People)". Ikwerre TV.
  3. ^ a b Chigere, Nkem Hyginus M. V. (2001). Foreign Missionary Background and Indigenous Evangelization in Igboland. LIT Verlag Berlin-Hamburg-Münster. p. 17. ISBN 3-8258-4964-3. Retrieved 2008-11-24.
  4. ^ a b Udeani, Chibueze (2007). Inculturation as Dialogue: Igbo Culture and the Message of Christ. Rodopi. p. 12. ISBN 978-90-420-2229-4.
  5. ^ a b Yakan, Muḥammad Zuhdī (1999). Almanac of African peoples & nations. Transaction Publishers. p. 371. ISBN 1-56000-433-9.
  6. ^ a b Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada (1998). "The Ikwerre ethnic group: location of residence, language, political or cultural organizations, militant activities, arrests in 1996 and 1997, and relations with the Nigerian government and military". Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Nigeria.
  7. ^ Ikunga, Solomon (2018). "The Interrogating Role of Iwhuruohna in Rivers State during the Nigerian Civil War 1967 - 1970: A Historical Imperative" (PDF). ARCN International Journal of Social Sciences and Humanities. 12 (2).
  8. ^ a b c d Ikunga, Solomon (2018). "7". In Bassey Anam (ed.). "The Development of Indigenous Technology in Iwhuruohna 1500-2000: A Historical Imperative". Arts, Technology & Development Patterns. Nigeria: Advanced Publishers. pp. 87–114. ISBN 978-051-062-1.
  9. ^ Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada (1998). "The Ikwerre ethnic group: location of residence, language, political or cultural organizations, militant activities, arrests in 1996 and 1997, and relations with the Nigerian government and military". Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Nigeria.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  10. ^ "Report of the Working Group on Minorities on its tenth session (Geneva, 1-5 March 2004)" (PDF).
  11. ^ a b c Kelechukwu U. Ihemere (2007). A Tri-Generational Study of Language Choice & Shift in Port Harcourt. Universal-Publishers. pp. 26–35. ISBN 9781581129588.
  12. ^ Okwudiba Nnoli (1995). Ethnicity and development in Nigeria. Research in ethnic relations series. Avebury Series in Philosophy. United Nations Research Institute for Social Development. ISBN 9781859721155. The Igbo indigenous who remained found it advantageous to deny their Igbo origin and claimed, instead, a non-Igbo Ikwerre identity
  13. ^ Ogunkah, Njikah (2016). "The Iwhnuruọhna (Ikwerre) Dynasty: Sifting Fiction from Facts". International Journal of Law, Psychology and Human Life (IJLPHL). 1: 1–7. ISSN 2319-8494.
  14. ^ Ikunga, Solomon (2018). "The Interrogating Role of Iwhuruohna in Rivers State during the Nigerian Civil War 1967 - 1970: A Historical Imperative" (PDF). ARCN International Journal of Social Sciences and Humanities.
  15. ^ Chinda, C. Izeoma (5 June 2017). "Ikwerre Intergroup Relations and its Impact on Their Culture". African Research Review. 11 (2): 83. doi:10.4314/afrrev.v11i2.7.

Ogunkah, Njikah (2016). "The Iwhnuruọhna (Ikwerre) Dynasty: Sifting Fiction from Facts". International Journal of Law, Psychology and Human Life (IJLPHL). 1: 1–7. ISSN 2319-8494.