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Ethnic Groups in Nigeria: The Ika People

An ethnic group that is often confused with Igbo people because of the language similarities, the Ika people are however a distinct people that are found in the Delta and Edo states.

Geographically, the Ika speaking people are found in the north west of Delta State. They are the major occupants of the Ika South and Ika North Local government areas of Delta. It is however quite challenging to distinguish the Ika people from other ethnic groups in Delta region. This is because they do not have their own distinct physical characteristics or features that set them apart.

They also share borders linguistically in the west with the Edo speakers, in the north with the Ishan speakers, in the East with the Aniocha language speakers and in the south with the Ukwuani speakers. Though the Ika tribe shares a lot of similarities with the Igbo or Benin people, they, however, are a different ethnic group. Some of the manifest similarities with the Igbos can be found in the very language they speak, as well as some of the name they bear. Kay Williamson in his 1968 research reaffirms this by stating that, the dialect of Ika people is of the Igboid group; meaning it has largely been influenced or is a derivative of the Igbo and Bini. This similarity has led to speculations that they are largely connected to the Igbo stock.

The Ika people also exhibit a lot of similarities in terms of their culture and lifestyle with the Benin people. This is not regarded as strange however because oral tradition has stated that the Ika communities were discovered by the Benin Princes and Chiefs. Ika communities can also be found in parts of Edo state such as Igbanke, Inyelen, Owanikeke, Ute Obagie, Owa-Riuzo Idu, Igbogili. Iru and Ekpon. In Delta, they can be found in Agbor, Owa, Umunede, Owerre Olubor, Ekuoma, Emuhu, Mbiri, Abavo, Orogodo, Otolokpo, Igbodo, Ute-Okpu, Ute-Ogbeje, Idumuesah and Akumazi.

The heterogeneous characteristics of the Ika people, especially with regards to the various clans, has amplified the stance that their ancestry cannot be traced to a common origin. Moreso, while the language has similarities with the Igbo language, the name of the ethnic group is suggestive of Bini origin. Ika historians have however argued that changes in language can occur due to large migrations or trade or due to other factors.

Cultural Preservation

Ika people speak the Ika language. In order to preserve the language from phasing out, the Ika people have opted to provide News reporting in their indigenous Ika language on Delta radio. The influence of Christian missionaries has also contributed to this preservation. The Ika now have the Four Gospels of the Bible; Mathew, Mark, Luke and John published in their indigenous language. There are also books written in the Ika language as well.

Ika Economy

The Ika people boast of being the home to the sweetest African Palmwine; however without solid empirical evidence to that. The people of Ika tribe are majorly Farmers and the wealthiest engage in Palm kernel business with red oil extraction or other forms such as palm wine tapping.

Religious Beliefs

The Ika people are predominantly Christians although traditional worship is still much in progress. Historically, the Ika people resisted Europeans greatly. Ika people refer to God as Oselobue and Chukwu.


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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.

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