Connect with us
atyap dancers

Discover Nigeria

Tribes in Nigeria: The Atyap Tribe of Kaduna State

Kaduna state like most Nigerian states, is multi-ethnic. One of the popular tribes in Kaduna state is the tribe called, ‘Atyap’. Regarded as an industrious and courageous group of people, The Atyap tribe is mainly found in Zangon-Kataf Local Government Area, with a significant population found in some parts of Kaura and Kauru Local Government Areas of Kaduna State.

Overview of the Atyap Tribe

The term Atyap actually refers to ‘the tyap speaking people’, or ‘the people who speak tyap’. This implies that tyap is the language spoken by the Atyap tribe. Another popular term that had been used previously was ‘Kataf’- though regarded as an adulteration of the language by the neighbouring Hausa settlers, who referred to the Atyaps as ‘Kataf’ (or ‘katab’), because of the large amount of Camwood (or Katambari in Hausa), which was a major trading commodity for the Atyaps in times past. In other words, some sources claim that the name Katab stemmed out from Katambari.

Based on oral tradition, the history of the Atyap people is told, with regards to their being farmers, fishermen and hunters. These people migrated from the East, transited southwards in search of greener pastures and more habitable and protective areas. Their long migration southward resulted in their displacement of the Atsam and Attachirak and first settled around Mabatado (present day Zangon-Kataf town). Oral tradition, dating back to 1767, recounts how one Mele, an itinerant Hausa trader from Niger Republic, was given a portion of land in the heart of Mabatado to settle after many years of trade relations with the Atyap. Mele was soon joined by his Hausa kinsmen. Hence, the Hausa inclined nomenclature, Zango-Kataf (which means transit camp in Kataf Land).[1]

Dialect of the Atyap Tribe

The Tyap dialect forms one of the most prominent parts of the West Plateau language group recently known as the Nerzit (or Nenzit), meaning ‘our people’, a group of languages or dialects who understand one another. Among this group are the following tribes: the Atyap, who speak the Tyap language; the Oegworok, who speak the Gworok language; the Asholio, who speak the Sholio language; the Atakad, who speak the Takad language; the Fantsuam, who speak the Fantsuam language; the Bajju, who speak the Jju language; and the Ham, who speak the Hyam. Others are the Gwong, the Nikyob, the Adara, the Akurmi and all other tribes in Southern Kaduna. 

It is as a result of these similarities and close relationships in language and culture that a similarity in ancestral lineage and geographical descent is attributed to the Atyap, their immediate neighbours and those as far as the Jos Plateau axis.

Traditional Structure of the Atyap Tribe

The Atyap people are a well-organized and structured tribe. This is shown in the way responsibilities are shared amongst the clans (four major clans; Agba’ad, Aminyam, Aswon, Ashokwa); each of which has sub-clans and sub-responsibilities. The Agba’ad clan has 3 sub-clans: Akpaisa, Akwak and Nje. The Aminyam clan has 2 sub-clans: Aswon and Fakan. However, the Aku clan and Ashokwa have no known sub-clans.

Traditionally, the clans were expected to complement each other in their functions. For example, The Ashokwa clan were in charge of rainmaking and flood control rites. The Agba’ad clan had primacy in both cavalry and archery warfare, and led the army. The Aku clans were the custodians of the paraphernalia of the Abwoi cult, and performed initiation rites for all new initiates.[2]

The Paramount Ruler of the Atyap people is referred to as the Agwatyap! The Traditional Stool is situated at Atak Njei in Zangon Kataf Local Government Area of Kaduna State, Nigeria.


Marriage Rites

An aspect of every tribe that is interesting is usually the marriage rites and processes. The Atyap people believe that God instituted marriage and therefore, see marriage more as a religious injunction than just a customary and traditional activity. For the Atyap, there are basically two ways that marriage is contracted traditionally, these two ways were:

  1. Nyeang Alala(Marriage by Necklace): Here, the marriage is contracted at the birth of the girl child. Once she is born and the neighbourhood is aware, the interested parents of a young boy who is yet to be booked down a wife would come and put a necklace or a ring on the infant girl with the consent of her parents, signifying that she has been betrothed (engaged) to their son, and the dowry is paid immediately. At the turn of adolescence, the girl is then taken to her husband’s house to complete the marriage process, and this is normally accompanied by a feast.
  2. Khap Ndi(Farming Dowry): Here, the marriage is contracted between young people who do not necessarily come from the same neighbourhood and marriage is not contracted at birth. Here, a girl is betrothed to a young man or a boy when she is around the age of 7 and is usually marked with a feast. The dowry is paid during the engagement visit. As the years roll by and on annual basis, the young man comes with his friends to farm for his azwam (in-laws) until the girl reaches maturity. She is then taken to the boy’s home to complete the marriage cycle amidst celebration.

Equally worthy of note is the Atyap traditional religion known as the Abwoi. The Abwoi cult includes elaborate initiation ceremonies, and belief in the continued presence of deceased ancestors. It was, and is still, secretive in some places, with incentives for spies who reported saboteurs and death penalties for revealing secrets. For six months of the year, women were restricted in their dress and travel. After this, there is a celebration and loosening of restrictions. The Abwoi cult was and is still common among other Nenzit tribes. However, this belief has been hugely eroded by the presence of Christianity in the Atyap tribe. There is a strong belief in the Christian God because of the influence of Missionaries.


References accessed 08/01/2019 accessed 08/01/2019

[1]  accessed 08/01/2019

[2] accessed 08/01/2019


Featured image source:

Continue Reading
Jeremiah Aluwong

Jeremiah is a scholar and a poet. He has a keen eye for studying the world and is passionate about people. He tweets at @jeremiahaluwong.



  1. Avatar

    John Adamu Sako

    18th January 2019 at 9:37 pm

    This is a beautiful write-up. However there are some errors which need to be corrected.

  2. Jeremiah Aluwong

    Jeremiah Aluwong

    18th January 2019 at 9:42 pm

    O Adamu John. Thank you so much for reading and comment. I would most gladly like to hear your corrections and observations. You could email me directly so we could interact from there.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Did You Know?


Discover Nigeria



To Top