Kele people (Nigeria)

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The Ukelle people make up roughly half of the population of the Yala Local Government Area in Cross River State, Nigeria. Ukelle people also live in Nigeria's states of Ebonyi (Effiom, Ntezi and Okpoto - who are also called Effiom or Uffiom) and the state of Benue (Utonkon - who are called Uffia people). The language of the Ukelle people is Kukelle.

The major groups among the Ukelle are: Wanihem (including Wanibolor), Wanikade (including Uzenyi), Wanokom (including Otikili) and Uzekwe (including Okom), all in North Ukelle, and Uzilagar (Ijiraga), Uzikatom, Uzokom (Ujokom) and Otiligom (Ntrigom) in South Ukelle. For those in Cross River State of Nigeria as well as Effiom (Uffiom) and Uffia in Ebonyi and Benue States of Nigeria.[clarification needed][1]


Kukelle, the language of Ukelle people is grouped by some authorities as belonging to the Benue–Congo sub group of African Languages.[2] However, E. Alagoa in Groundwork of Nigerian History further defined Ukelle people as those who speak one of the Cross River languages.

The Lutheran Church of Nigeria, through its Literature Centre in Wanikade, translated the New Testament of the Bible into Kukelle in 1979.


The history of Ukelle is still sketchy. Some argue that their ancestors moved downwards from Benue state, others contend that the ancestors may have moved from the Igbo country. Ukelle people share sociocultural similarities with the neighbouring Igede people of Benue state and Yala people of Cross River state.[3] Major ceremonies such as marriage, burials and dances bear striking resemblances. Ukelle people refer to Yala people as Ollah, Igede people as Ollah-ewoh and the Idoma people of Benue state as Ollah-akpoto.


The Ukelle region is bounded in the north by the Igede people of Benue state, in the south by the Izzi people of Ebonyi State and in the east by the Yala and Yatche people of Cross River State. Much of Ukelle land in Cross River State is agrarian. However, development and urbanisation are coming into Ukelle. The provision of electricity in north Ukelle and the construction of bridges into the hinterlands of Ukelle are signs of urbanisation. Yam (various species), cassava, rice and domesticated animals are the primary agricultural products of the Ukelle people.

Government and culture[edit]

In the Ukelle region, the day-to-day Government authority at the local level resides in the village assembly (called ojilla). The village assembly is made up of the king or one or more chiefs, the elders and the youths. In earlier times, a typical Ukelle community had a village square, with the ojilla at its center. Until any settlement of Ukelle people makes an ojilla, they are considered an appendage of the nearest Cross River Statet community with an ojilla. In fact, the term ojilla is used interchangeably to refer to the village, its square or the village assembly.

The burial of an[clarification needed] Ukelle man or woman is the responsibility of the deceased family and of the village.

A group of villages make up a clan (called an essam). For example in Wanikade, there are three essam: Ogumogum, Otuka and Opuolom respectively. Disputes within each village are adjudicated by the assembly, while disputes between villages within a clan are settled by the assembly of the clan. Disputes between villages in more than one essam as well as matters such as capital punishment, economic use of trees, the forest, rivers etc. are resolved at the general assembly called

lutse. The king or chief wields ceremonial power rather than political power.


  1. ^ P. Amauray Talbot, The Peoples of southern Nigeria; Volume 2 Enthnology. Frank Cass and Co, 1969
  2. ^ Greenberg, Joseph (1966). The Languages of Africa. Indiana University. 
  3. ^ E. J. Alagoa, Groundwork of Nigerian History; Obaro Ikime (ed) Heinemann Books, 1980.