The Ejagham people in Nigeria are part of the larger Ejagham community which extends to the Southwest Province of Cameroon. Now split by an international border, the Ejagham in Nigeria are sometimes referred to as Western Ejagham (WE) and found across several Local Government Areas in the South-Eastern extremity of Nigeria, they form the larger part of the Ejagham community. Irrespective of the international border between them, Ejagham people still consider themselves as one indivisible community. This sense of cohesion can be seen in their culture and tradition across the border which bears much similarity. Testament to the sense of unity amongst them, a constituent community of the Ofutop group is known as Ekpokpa, a word which translates as “a united people”. This community holds that the word Ekpokpa is a descriptive and alternate of the word, Ejagham. To them, the name Ejagham comes from Ezza agham, that is ‘ezza is more able [than me]’ which is a reference to, and reverence for ezza, a war god popular revered and amongst the Ejagham. Another view, but one which is a bit of overstretch for meaning is that the word Ejagham is an amalgam of three words – ekup, ejag, and haam. These words roughly translate to a parcel that has been split and that is going (that is, moving) infinitely. Other such notions exist about the etymology and interpretation of the word Ejagham and the peoples’ origin. However, a common theme they point to the view that the word Ejagham is a reference to Lake Ejagham (or Ijagham, as seen in older records). This also demonstrates how accounts of origin of Ejagham in Nigeria vary, relying mostly on oral traditions which having been passed down from generations. Although some traditions of origins like those of the Ofutop and Bakor groups may plausibly point to autochthony, they also to varying degrees, show a connection with Lake Ejagham in Manyu Division in Cameroon. This indicates the lake’s centrality in the early development of Ejagham people. Thus, they are said to have originated from this area from where some groups migrated to what became Nigeria. These migrations were generally due in part to the search for salt mines and vacant lands, the contentions for which resulted to wars and further splintering and migration of groups. One of such splinter groups was led by the king Akam Nku, who established a community that further splintered into groups that are now Bakor, Ofutop among others. The Bakor group has been known to memorialize such kings through stone carvings which can be found in their villages today. The Ejagham head crests are popular in their culture. These are skin-layered masks worn during events such as festivals and funerals. This invention is widely cited in Ejagham historical literature and are praised for their intricate nature. Due to colonialism, some of these masks are found in museums around the world especially those of United Kingdom, France, and Germany.
In Nigeria, Ejagham community is found in the South-East extremity bordering Cameroon. Their communities here are located in Cross River State. Their highest concentration is in Akamkpa, Etung, and Ikom Local Government Areas with a population also at Ogoja local Government Area.
As an important part of their historical and cultural development, the Ejagham in Nigeria constantly aim for a peaceful social environment. This can be seen in the social activities that have been passed down from the ancient times. Festivals like the new yam festival are popular amongst them. The new yam festival features rituals conducted to honour their deities and ancestors for the harvests. It has been said that even though the festival is called ‘new yam’, it is a celebration of the generality of harvests and any fortunes or successes people may have had in the year. Therefore, for the Ejagham communit, yam is both iconic and indicative of success thus, men are distinguished by their yam title known as nti’maetahn. Individuals with this title, and families whose member(s) hold the title form the upper class of the Ejagham society. Marriage is conducted through a practice called Nkim. It doubles as marking the coming of age and a marriage ceremony for the maiden who at this point earns the title mmuoninkim. During nkim the lady stays indoors for an extended period and is cared for by her family. Groups of maidens would usually have their nkim at the same time hence, it involves careful planning by the organising families to ensure it is a group event. This adds to the excitement. When nkim begins, on set days, the maidens come out to dance in the community playground (effa) and be celebrated. These initial outings serve as warmups to oduu’nkim – the grand finale when they are expected to put up their best performance. Immediately after their performance in the playground, the abuonokim (plural for mmuoninkim) are expected to join their husbands in matrimony. This is signified by her husband with his friends and/or age grade in much jubilation coming to lift her up from the playground to her new home. On the day of the grand finale, abuonokim are adorned with beautiful traditional ornaments and makeup before their outing. Thus, much display of financial capacity on the part of the family and creativity on the part of the craftsmen may be involved. Some of the craftsmanship involved like the design of agurr (anklets) are closely guarded secrets held within families. Important nkim items are preserved by families through generations for the use by other maidens down the family line. Until the enactment of laws in Nigeria against female genital mutilation, this was a major feature in Nkim as it was traditionally considered a circumcision. This was another reason for the extended period of seclusion to allow the individual to heal. Subtle competitions are involved during Nkim as the spectators often make comparison over which of the abuonokim is better adorned, which was more fattened or looked healthier, which was a better dancer, and which family and/or husband-to-be family could afford to keep their mmuoninkim in seclusion for longer. This adds up to the overall build up to the oduu’nkim – the final outing ceremony – and for some Ejagham groups like the Ofutop, nkim is so serious that for the rest of the woman’s life, her mates and any elder in the community may choose to call her mmouninkim as a mark of respect. Ejagham society is organised in age grades which serve various functions. Specific age grades may be assigned to tasks or financial levies which contribute to the development and overall welfare of the community. These tasks may include anything from clearing overgrown bushes by roadsides to cleaning of drainages. Also, there are several gender-specific societies like Otaba which is male-only and ekpa, a female-only society among others. Elders are held at high esteem and in their different capacities they contribute to administrative policy of the community. All this have their place and relevance in the overall sociological developments that distinguish Ejagham in the history, anthropology, ethnology, and cosmology of the peoples of Africa.
Ejagham people in Nigeria speak the Ejagham language with various subdialects. However, English remains the official language. Pidgin English is also very popular in informal settings. There have been efforts with varying degrees of success to fully revive nsibi as a regular autography and means of communication.
The Ejgham in Nigeria belief in a sky god and the earth god. The sky god, whom they consider the Almighty God is called osowo osusó, a name which sometimes vary with the given Ejagham dialect. Osowo osusó could for some people be only a title since different communities and individuals may have different deities which they consider the Almighty God. This supreme god is approached through intermediaries like ezza (the war god) mforgha, mfam, among others. Collectively, these intermediaries may in their own right constitute a lesser godhead called osowo atuor (also with dialectical variations). In their capacity as intermediaries between the people and the Almighty God, each deity in this godhead is believed to play specific roles. These include among others granting victory in war, protection from evil forces, and fertility of the land and of the womb. Ancestors play a major role in the religious system of the Ejagham. They constitute another level of intermediaries and in that sense, they are the lesser intermediaries. This is because even though ancestors have become spirits, they were human and logically, are not expected to operate at the same level as the deities. This indicates a strong believe in the life after death in Ejagham culture. That belief is demonstrated by tales of ghost sightings and the practice of consulting the dead through mediums. It is also common to hear the lamenting cry in the event of someone’s death in which the bereaved calls on the ancestors to send the dead person back to the world.
Prayer for the salvation of souls. Prayer for economic development for the community. Prayer for volunteers for the mission field in this area. Prayer for the safety of missionaries already in this area. Prayer for the deepening of the sense of unity among the communities. Prayer against outbreak diseases like cholera.
Scripture Prayers for the Ejagham, Ekoi in Nigeria.
Talbot P. Amoury, The Peoples of Southern Nigeria. Frank Cass: London, 1969 Vol. II Ethnology. Talbot P. Amoury: The Peoples of Southern Nigeria: A Sketch of Their History, Ethnology and Language with an Abstract of the 1921 Census. Frank Cass: London, 1969 Vol. IV. Language and Statistics Enor, Frank: The Nta and Their Neighbours: Inter-group Relations in the Central Cross River Region, Calabar: Jochrisam Publishers, 2007. Peter Geschiere: Journal of Social Anthropology. Vol. 14; Issue 01, February 2006. Pp 119-122 Röschenthaler M. Ute: Ejagham (Cameroon, Nigeria): The Rosen Publishing Group Partridge Charles: The Cross River Natives: London, Kraus Reprint, 1973. A. J. H. Latham: Old Calabar 1600-1891: The Impact of the International Economy Upon a Traditional Society, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1973. S. O. Jaja, E. O. Erim, B. W. Andah (eds), History and Culture of the Upper Cross River, Enugu, Harris Publishers Ltd, 1990. Allison Philip, Cross River Monoliths, Department of Antiquities, Federal Republic of Nigeria 1968. Okon, B. A. (2023) Language, Culture, and Communication: The Societal Triumvirate. 115th Inaugural Lecture Presented at the University of Calabar. Calabar: University of Calabar Press. Bonchuk M. O. International Boundaries and Divided Peoples: Focus on the Boki and Ejagham Communities In The Cross River Borderlands, 1884-1990’s. Retrieved on 1st June 2023 from https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5a44f918f9a61e04cdd5d717/t/5e9796583a19747c4dc10bde/1586992745109/Bonchuk.pdf Ojong F. E. , Funeral Rites of the Ejagham People in Cross River State: An Appraisal of Akamkpa Local Government Journal of Social Sciences Vol 7. No. 2. pp 79-84. Awan A. A. (2014) Efik/Ejagham Relations 1900-1960. A research project presented to the Department of History and International Studies, University of Calabar.
|Profile Source: Anonymous|
|People Name General||Ejagham|
|People Name in Country||Ejagham, Ekoi|
|Alternate Names||Ekin; Ekoi; Keaka; Qua|
|Population this Country||127,000|
|Population all Countries||228,000|
|Progress Scale||5 ●|
|Frontier People Group||No|
|GSEC||4 (per PeopleGroups.org)|
|Pioneer Workers Needed|
|Region||Africa, West and Central|
|National Bible Society||Website|
|Persecution Rank||6 (Open Doors top 50 rank, 1 = highest persecution ranking)|
|Location in Country||Cross River state: Akampka, Idom, Odukpani, and Calabar LGAs. Source: Ethnologue 2016|
|Primary Language||Ejagham (127,000 speakers)|
|Language Code||etu Ethnologue Listing|
|Dialect Code||9522 Global Recordings Listing|
|Language Written||Yes ScriptSource Listing|
Primary Language: Ejagham
|Bible Translation ▲||Status (Years)|
|Bible-New Testament||Yes (1996)|
|FCBH NT (www.bible.is)||Online|
|YouVersion NT (www.bible.com)||Online|
|Possible Print Bibles|
|Forum Bible Agencies|
|National Bible Societies|
|World Bible Finder|
|Resource Type ▲||Resource Name||Source|
|Audio Recordings||Audio Bible teaching||Global Recordings Network|
|Audio Recordings||Story of Jesus audio||Jesus Film Project|
|Film / Video||Jesus Film: view in Ejagham||Jesus Film Project|
|Film / Video||LUMO film of Gospels||Bible Media Group/LUMO|
|Film / Video||World Christian Videos||World Christian Videos|
|General||Faith Comes By Hearing - Bible in text or audio or video||Faith Comes by Hearing|
|General||Gospel resources links||Scripture Earth|
|General||YouVersion Bible versions in text and/or audio||YouVersion Bibles|
|Mobile App||Android Bible app: Ejagham||YouVersion Bibles|
|Mobile App||Download audio Bible app as APK file||Faith Comes by Hearing|
|Mobile App||iOS Bible app: Ejagham||YouVersion Bibles|