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Ethnic Groups in Nigeria: The Yala People

The Yala people can be found in Yala Local Government Area in Cross River State, Nigeria. They are bounded in the north by Benue state, east by Ogaja Local Government and in the west by Ebonyi state. The Yala people are also considered as the second most populated LGA in Cross River State, coming after Akpabuyo.

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The Composition of the Yala

The dominant ethnic group in the area are the Yala. Major settlements in Yala LGA include Okpoma, Okuku, Yahe, Ugaga, Ijegu, Oloko, Imaje, Oke, Echumoga, Woda, Ebo, Igede Edii Nation, Itekpa, Maa, Wonye, Uchu, Osina, Mbuor, Aliforkpa, Echumofana, Wanihem, Wanikade, Wanokom, Ijiraga, Ntrigom etc. Yala is also a language spoken by some inhabitants of Yalaland.

The Yala people speak Igede, Ukile and Yache language respectively. Other major ethnic groups in Yala Local Government Area are, Igede-Edii (Anyadaha, Anyugbe, Eminyi, Ibilla, Igbakobor and Opiriku), Itekpa, Gabu, Ukele and Yache. They speak Igede, Kukelle and Yache language respectively.

The Economy of the Yala People

The Yala people are predominantly farmers, civil servants, and law enforcement officers. A significant number of the youths work as traders, craftsmen and commercial motorcyclists. In Yala, the most celebrated agricultural produce is the yam. An entire day is declared as a public holiday to celebrate the yam every new harvest time which is usually on the 30th of August annually. This sees Yala people from all around the world return home to enjoy a cultural heritage festival and Holiday.

The LGA has abundant salt deposit which can sustain any small to medium scale salt industry. There are many salt ponds in Okpoma which are of great history to the people and are mined locally. The LGA also offers a wide range of investment opportunities in agro-based industries as well as solid mineral industries.

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Marriage Rites of the Yala People

Marriage amongst the Yala people is quite an interesting journey; a journey that begins with the ‘search’. This ‘search’ is characterized by the intending groom’s visit to the girl’s parent in company of his family members and friends. Making his intention known to his in-laws, with them is a token of gift – drinks (alcohol and non-alcohol); a date will be fixed for the second coming, so also to enable the girl’s parent informed their people about the issue.

Prior the second coming, a list of item to be bought will be given to the groom. This item will be used on the main day to finalize the marriage rite.

At the second coming, the bride’s family is in charge of providing food for everyone and there will be music and dance. All the drinks that will be taken at the whole events will be provided by the groom and his people. After the merriment, prayers are offered for the unification of the two families and an elder from the girl’s family will lead the prayers. Alcoholic spirit (seaman Aromatic schnapps) must be used during the prayers; this is also provided by the groom’s people. A token is given to the bride’s parent in a ratio of 2:1.

After all, rights are fulfilled, the bride’s parent will give his in-laws a carton of beer as a take home. This drink must not be taken from the abundant the groom and his people brought along with them – it has to be purchased by d bride’s parent.

The Yala people say they do not pay the bride price, but there are items the groom needs to provide for the community and for the bride’s parent. Sometimes the groom may provide the clothes to be worn on the traditional marriage ceremonies for the bride’s parent.




Featured Image Source: Juju Films

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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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