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Ethnic Groups in Nigeria: The Ngizim People


Ngizim is one of five Chadic languages indigenous to Yobe State, the others being Bade, Bole, Karekare, and Ngamo. Ngizim is a member of the West Branch of Chadic and is hence related to Hausa, the dominant language throughout northern Nigeria. Ngizim’s closest linguistic relatives are Bade, spoken north of Potiskum in Bade (Bedde) Emirate, and Duwai, spoken east of Gashua. The Ngizim people (Ngizmawa, Ngezzim) live in Yobe State, northeastern Nigeria. The ethnic groups lives primarily in Potiskum, the largest city in Yobe State and originally a Ngizim town, as well as the areas to the east and south of the city. Ngizim populations once inhabited parts of Borno and Jigawa states, but have since lost their cultural identity after being assimilated into other ethnic groups. The Ngizim speak a Chadic language also called Ngizim.

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History and Location

Before the Fulani Jihad of 1804, the history of the Ngizim people was closely linked with that of the Bornu Empire. By 1472, when the capital of the Bornu Empire, Birni Ngazargamu, was established, the Ngizim had gained a reputation as formidable warriors. As they consolidated their influence over parts of modern-day Yobe State, their cultural capital Potiskum became a regional center. During the early part of the 20th century, the Ngizim rebelled against the Fika Emirate, which had been given political control over them by the colonial authorities. The local British district officer lead forces against the Ngizim; Mai Agudum, the rebel leader, was later executed. The Ngizim emirate was not restored until 1993 when Mai Muhammadu Atiyaye was appointed by the state governor. The current Ngizim leader, Mai Umaru Bubaram Ibn Wuriwa Bauya was recently upgraded to the status of a first-class Emir by former Governor Bukar Abba Ibrahim.

They are mostly located in Yobe state, Nigeria. The Ngizim live in many towns and villages including: Potiskum (the traditional headquaters), Lailai, Muguram, Chikuriwa, Bubaram, Danchuwa, Damazai, Ngojin, Majewa Nahuta, Lampade, Badejo, Buramau, Damagum, Fune, Jumma’a, Kurmi, Maje, Mamudo, Maizarma, Dawura, Dakasku, Madhimba, Bula, Gaba, Gadaka, Babut Bilam Fusam, Nasarawan Helma, Alaraba and Jaji.

Early Kanem-Bornu history

There are various references to Ngizim people in Kanem-Bornu history as early as the days of the Kanem civil wars in 1396. It can be said that the Ngizim people have played a considerable role in moving the capital of the empire from Njimi to N’gazargamu.  From another source, we find a reference to the Ngizim being one of the earliest groups to migrate from Kanem:

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“According to Bornu traditions, the Bade and the related Ngizim of Potiskum – who today comprise of the emirate of Bedde – were the first people to migrate from Kanem round the north side of Lake Chad and reach the Komadugu Yobe, at the time when the So were still the dominant power in Bornu”.

Traditional Stool and Socio-economy

The traditional ruler of the Ngizim people is the Mai Potiskum, whose stool is located in Potiskum. Like most traditional rulers in northern Nigeria, Mai Potiskum is also the foremost Islamic leader among his people. Therefore, He is the the paramount ruler and spiritual head of the Ngizim.

It is important to note also that, the Ngizim are the founders of Pataskum (or Potiskum).

Socio-economically, they are mainly farmers. They are very humble people and welcome settlers among them. They are huge and dark. Some wear tribal marks on their faces and stomachs. The men are polygamous.


Abubakar M.D. (2013). Ngizim people and their culture. Unpublished manuscript at Pataskum Emirate Museum, Potiskum, Yobe State.


Featured Image Source: Omniglot

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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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