The History of Abiriba Ancient Kingdom

The History of Abiriba Ancient Kingdom

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The people who occupy the territory known as Abiriba descended from the Igbo and Efik people of Calabar.

They migrated from the upper Cross River area centuries ago led by a Nnachi Oken, from whom the title “Enachioken” (“The Monarch”) originates. Initially, they occupied a smaller territory that expanded when the Abiriba people routed the surrounding Nkporo people and took over their lands. The Abiriba people were war-like and quickly established themselves in the area.

The History of Abiriba Ancient Kingdom

The origin of the Abiriba people is not as speculative as the origin of other Igbos of southeastern Nigeria.

Historical evidence supports the fact that the Abiriba people have a common ancestor with the Yakor tribe of Ekoi of the cross river basin and the people of Arochukwu. At Ekoi, constant disputes between the seven families under Ukpaghiri prompted the clan to move to Ena and finally to Akpa.  The settlement at Akpa was difficult for many years due to hostilities with neighbours.

After the death of Ukpaghiri, Mbiriba and his group moved to Usukpam and stayed there for many years but were never at peace with the neighbours. Mbiriba decided to move to Udara-ebuo whereas Otusi led the other branch of the family downstream and eventually founded Arochukwu.

The term Nwadim is often used between Abiriba and Aros because of our common lineage. Mbiriba who had advanced in age moved his group once more and settled at Udara-ebuo.

Nature was inhospitable to the inhabitants at Udara-ebuo. There was no water and the place was overrun by monkeys. Oral history has it that monkeys used to visit homes to look for food, and the people became sick living on monkey meat only.

Mbiriba died at Udara-ebuo and left his son Ifa Mbiriba in charge. Ifa Mbiriba finally moved to Uruanta and Agboha and settled there. The new settlement was very fertile and had a natural fortress.

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Thus Abiriba was derived from the name Mbiriba or nickname “Ebiri-Aba”. Oko Ogo opened Ndi Okogo which is currently where the Chief’s palace is situated. Nwagu Ifa founded Okagwe and later Agboji. Ngwu founded Ihungwu. Chukwu Oke founded Amogudu. The name Amaeke was derived from the market day Eke.

The History of Abiriba Ancient Kingdom

The Capital of Abiriba is Ameke and the paramount Chief for the whole Abiriba uses the title Enachi-oken. Incessant conflicts and border skirmishes between the Item and Amogudu led to the creation of a standing army in form of the age-grade system. Historical artefacts exist to support the consensus that the age-grade system started at Amogudu. Nwagu Ifa, Ngwu, Oko Ogo and Chukwu Oke used the age-grade as a standing army to protect the Abiriba from hostile neighbours.


The Abiriba people are known to be industrious both in crafts and trading; their arid lands make it tough for agriculture to flourish. These made them popular amongst the Igbo people of Nigeria. As a matter of fact, in the history of the Igbos of Nigeria, Abiriba is reckoned for her pre-historical blacksmithing and sculpture artefacts.

These ancient occupations of the Abiriba people later on metamorphosed into what is today the trademark of the people – Trading (or better merchandise) popularly known among Abiriba People.  Since the people were predominantly merchants, they were widely travelled both within and outside the boundaries of Nigeria, and they are correspondingly cosmopolitan.

Being so exposed and prosperous, the people have enough information about vogue and money that made them transform their locality from the normal village setting, as is common with the surrounding villages, to a model sub-urban but purely residential setting with some of the most exotic building in the Igbo land, even in Nigeria as a whole.

The Abiriba people take great pride in the serenity and aesthetic value of their landscape, consequently shunning attempts by the government or individuals to set up factories in the town and seeing same as attempts to “pollute” their land. In 1959, the late President of Nigeria, The Rt Honourable Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe was so taken in by the beauty of Abiriba that he called it “Small London” – a name in use today.

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Abiriba is known for some of its unique dishes. Among other foods such as rice, yam, beans, and garri (cassava), “Asusu” is a very common dish among the Abiriba people.

It is made of corn starch, ground with salt and pepper, wrapped with a local leave call akwukwo-asusu and steamed with water covering all the raps. Asusu is eaten with a popular vegetable soup called Ugboghor. “Oto” (ground water-yam porridge) is also very popular among the Abiriba people.


Abiriba is made up of three main villages: Ameke, Amogudu, Agboji.

Abiriba is governed using a monarchical system. The “Eze” (The King or Monarch) is called Enachioken. The people of Abiriba have experienced the little direct impact of the government in their development and governance except in very recent times.

In the instances when the government has actively involved itself in the life of the town, there is a consensus that the effects have been rather detrimental. Abiriba has a well-developed and active age-grade system, in fact, one of the most effective in Igbo land.

Some Age-Grades include Akahaba, Erinma I, II, Ekpankuma I&II, Onyiba,Egwuena, Ojighiri, Isimini, Okezie etc. which maintain offices in all countries of the world where Abiriba people reside. These age grades have been the main agents of development in the town, especially those in the diaspora.

They also play the traditional role of policing the community and punishing offenders, regardless of age and status. It is often witnessed where a notable and wealthy member of the age grade was whipped publicly due to an offence.

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The present Enachioken of Abiriba is an enterprising gentleman called HRM Eze Kalu Kalu Ogbu who ascended the throne of his forefathers after the death of the last occupant Late Eze U.U.Ukiwe. The Ezeship is hereditary and rotates within four royal families that have the birthrights of producing the Enachioken. These are

(1) Ndi Okoko, where the palace of the Enachioken is situated;

(2) Ndi Ihuezi Ihungwu,

(3) Amaelunta-Umueso Ndiagbo and

(4) Ndi Agbo-Oha, all in Amaeke. Amogudu and Agboji have their own traditional functions distinct from producing the Enachioken.

Naming traditions

Common Abiriba names include: Kalu, Eleanya, Ndukwo, Nnenna, Akuma, Oyediya, Nwojo, Nwanne, Agwu, Eke, Eme, Ogbonnaya, Agbai, Aluba, Enyindiya, Nnanna, Onwuka, Otisi, Mang, Ukegbu, Ukiwo, Nduka, Igwo, Inyiri, Dike etc.

It is a common Abiriba naming tradition for parents to name their first son after the father’s father and the first daughter after the father’s mother. Naming traditions are paternal-oriented, Abiriba is a matrilineal society: descent and inheritance are traced through the mother’s family.

Achi Tree 

At the heart of Abiriba—the very centre of the town—is a large, ancient tree “Okpu Achi” (Achi tree). The tree is both symbolic and spiritual in nature; and many believe that in the event of its fall, water from Okpu Achi would engulf the entire Abiriba land.

Legend also has it that the Ishimokoto River is so mystical that when foreigners tried to leave town with a bottle of water from the river—the bottle broke apart and the water flew miles back to the river.

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