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Ethnic Groups in Nigeria: The Yakurr People

A People that were formally known as Umor, Ekoli, Ilomi, Nkoibolokom and Yakurr be Ibe, The Yakurr (also Yakö and Yakạạ) live in five compact towns in Cross River State, Nigeria. They are found in the present-day Yakurr Local Government Area and constitute the largest ethnic group in the state. They share their northern and eastern boundaries with the Assiga, Nyima and Agoi Clans of the Yakurr Local Government Area, the southern boundary with the Biase Local Government Area and their western boundary with the Abi Local Government Area.

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The Language of the Yakurr People

The language spoken by the Yakurr is Lokạạ, an Upper Cross River language. It is described by Iwara (1988) as one of the major languages of Cross River State, comparable, in terms of the number of speakers, with Efik, which enjoys the special status of a lingua franca in the state.

The Yakurr exhibits a very high degree of social heterogeneity, but linguistic, political, religious and cultural homogeneity. In the absence of written records, linguistic, political, religious and cultural homogeneous patterns are the most dependable evidence of establishing descent and biological connections.

The Migratory History and Origin of the Yakurr People

The migratory history of the Yakurr people, as given by Ubi (1986 and 1978) is that, between 1617 and 1677, the Yakurr migrated from that ancestral homeland to look for a new homeland following a military defeat at Akpa. About A.D. 1660, some Yakurr migrants founded new homelands in their present locations. These locations are Idomi and Ugep. Between 1677 and 1707, some other Yakurr migrants founded the towns of Ekori and Nko. Between 1707 and 1737 yet another wave of Yakurr migrants founded Mkpani settlement.

The reasons for the relocation of populations in new settlements by the Yakurr is mainly due to competing demands for land resources, as a result of growing populations in one hand and unresolved conflicts in the other. This development is aided by the patrilocality of marriages and strong patriarchy in the family system. It was thus easy for patriclans to relocate to new settlements. This has produced slight parallelism in names of patriclans and strong parallelism in names of matriclans in all the Yakurr settlements.

Based on oral tradition, the Yakurr people share a common tradition of overland migration and ancestry. The ancestral homeland of the Yakurr people is “Akpa”, said to be a shortened form of “Lẹkanakpakpa”. This area is believed to correspond with the Cameroon–Obudu range as it stands today. The Yakurr cites the Okuni, Nsofan and Ojo people as their neighbours at Lẹkanakpakpa. The traditions of Okuni, Nsofan and Ojo corroborate the Yakurr claim of having lived together at Lẹkanakpakpa, which is referred to as “Onugi” by the Okuni and Nsofan people and Lẹkpamkpa by the Ojo people.

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The migration of Yakurr from their ancestral homeland started at about AD 1617, when a misunderstanding between the Yakurr and their neighbours, arising from the violation of a burial custom forced their neighbours to wage a war against them, leading to them being driven from their homeland.

Yakurr comprises nine clans, these clans are Agoi Ekpo, Agoi  Ibami, Assiga, Ekori, IdomiInyima, Mkpani, Nko and Ugep.



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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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