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NKARI AND HER NEIGHBOURS (1900-2000)

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CHAPTER ONE

 INTRODUCTION

1.1       Background of the Study

Nkari is a clan in Ini local Government area of Akwa Ibom State in the South – South Geo-political Zone of Nigeria. It is one of the clans that make up the Ibibio ethnic group of Akwa Ibom State. It is also one of the communities that make up Ini Local Government Area and one of the 10 administrative wards in the present Ini Local Government Area. The total population of Ini Local Government Area is 99,196, male 52,644 while female are 46,552 according to 2006 population census of Nigeria. According to 2006 population census, the population of Nkari clan is 9,900. The people are predominantly Christians. Colonial report on the area shows that the clan lies in the North western corner of the defunct Ikot Ekpene Division, almost forty square miles and a population of approximately three thousand two hundred people and a density of eighty per square mile.                       During the colonial period, Nkari clan formerly Nkalu was administered under the Native Authority system from Bende Division in Owerri province. The clan was also attached to Bende Native Court during the period. The Nkari people found out that the Bende Native Court was not useful to them due to language barrier. The court was dominated by Igbo speaking communities, while Nkari people were of Ibibio origin. Therefore, they protested through series of letters. Their demands were given due attention by the colonial authorities and they were reassigned to Ikot Ekpene Division where they rightly belong(NAC:1982).Nkari clan and other clans in Ikono, an Ibibio speaking area were administered under Ikot Ekpene Division which was dominated by the Annang speaking communities. In the 1960s after independence, Nkari clan and other clans in Ikono Local Government Area were reassigned to Annang province following the splitting of the Ibibio territory into two: the Ibibio province and the Annang Province. Later, the Ikono people which included Nkari clan at that time protested over their inclusion in the Annang Province and therefore defected to Itu District and became part of Uyo province(Ina:2017:200).

            The community has a bodyof water that separate the area from her Igbo speaking neighbours (see page 97). The body of water known as Nkari River (Inyang Nkari) in Nkari and River Ntalakwu in Ntalakwu runs through the region to Ikpe clan and finally through Itu where it enters the Itu river. The river is very far from Nkari settlement but very close to Ntalakwu community. The river is situated in a position that gives more land to Nkari people but less to Ntalakwu and Ibere clan of Abia State. Therefore the river is of commercial value to the people of Ntalakwu and Ibere clan since the people do fishing in the river at all times of the year. However the river separates Nkari clan from Obohia, Ihiala, Itu Nta villages and others of Ibere Autonomous Community in Ikwuano Local Government Area of Abia State in the North, and in the East by Ntalakwu group of villages in Itumbauzo Autonomous Community in Bende Local Government Area of Abia State. In the West, Nkari clan is bounded by Ariam/Usaka autonomous community in Ikwuano Local Government Area of Abia State. The Nkari Clan is bounded in the South by Odoro Ikono (Mbiabong) and Ikpe clan in the same Ini Local Government Area. These are the only Ibibio communities that shares common boundary with Nkari clan (see map on page 4). The clan shares a greater part of her boundary with her Igbo neighbours and has interacted with them peacefully up to late 1940s (Memorandum of truth:1999:2).

            Nkari clan is one of the inter-state boundary zones of Akwa Ibom State. This boundary divides Akwa Ibom State from her Abia State counterpart. Ini Local Government Area is an offshoot of Ikono Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State created in 1991 by the Federal Government of Nigeria. The physical relief of the area is flat although some villages are located in areas where the topography of the land is undulating. Also, there are valleys, creeks, swamps and some areas are quite hilly(Utin:2005:6).

Nkari clan is made up of 10 villages which include:Mbente, Obbrong, Anwafia, Ikot Offrong, Ikot Akpan, Ubienkene, Ikot Uko, Ifa, Ibono Usuk and Ibono Okporo (see colonial map of Nkalu (Nkari) clan on page 5). Each village of the clan is made up of lineages. In each village of the clan there are up to 7 lineages and at least 15 families. Colonial report on the area stated that the ancient administrative organization of the people was similar to the general Ibibio organization. The report stated that the administration of the villages was in the hands of the Elders(NAE:1934). Therefore, each lineage consisted of families (ubon) and Sub-families (ekwere). There were lineage heads and family heads responsible for the administration of their domain. Both lineage heads and family heads were members of the village council and therefore were responsible for the making of all village legislations. Colonial report stated that the village was the largest judicial unit while the family and the extended family had restricted jurisdiction over domestic concerns. The village organization was built upon the basis of the family and the extended family and each village acted independently of its neighbours. Direct democracy was practiced by the people since all male adult participated in deliberations of matters at the village square, the final decision rested on the Elders presided by the village head(Obong Isong). Enforcement of judicial decision was carried out by secret societies (NAE:1934).

Source:  Cartography Studio, Department of Geography and Natural Resources                 Management, University of Uyo, Uyo.

As already noted, the Nkari clan is bounded mostly by the Igbo communities of Abia State. The boundary is shared with Ariam/Usaka community of Ikwuano Local Government Area of Abia State in the West and in the East it is bounded by Ntalakwu group of villages in Itu Mbauzo clan in Bende Local Government Area of Abia State and in the North by Ibere clan still in Ikwuano Local Government Area of Abia State (see map on Appendix 3). In the early 1900, there was a smooth and cordial relationship between Nkari clan and her Igbo neighbours. Inter-group relations between the two areas was fostered by trade, inter-ethnic marriages, social institutions and cultural festivals and joint related agricultural practices.  There was cordial relationship between the two communities for many decades. Kalu Ndukwe in a personal communication stated that this was fostered by exchange of agricultural produce through the market system that existed in both communities. Okon Abuaya(2018) of Ibono Usuk village in Nkari clan also confirmed that there was no conflict between his village and the people of Ariam and Usaka clan for many decades.

            Inter-group relation between the two areas was fostered by trade in the markets of both communities. There were the famous Ariam market, Ndo-Oro market, the Ntalakwu market and the Okopedi marketwhile there was the Edet Inyang market at Mbente, Ibono Okporo and Ifa markets, all in Nkari clan. The two areas traded in these markets without any restriction.

            Similarly, there was exchange of labour between the two areas. Nkari people in the early 1900 up to the early 1940s were known for the cultivation of yam. Yam was the main food crop of the people both for consumption and commercial purposes. The cultivation of yam needed a great deal of human labour in the absence of machines. The neighbouring Igbo people of Usaka and Ntalakwu provided the needed labour. The workers from the Igbo neighbours were usually referred to as “Nde Okoh” in the local parlance of Nkari people meaning people with skilled labour. Similarly, Nkari people provided labour for the Ntalakwu people who were known for cocoa cultivation and production. The cordial relationship between Nkari and her Igbo neighbours lasted up to the early 1940s(Inuaeyen:2018)

            Conflict arose between Nkari and her Igbo neighbours in the late 1940s as a result of the boundary demarcation between three Nkari villages of Mbente, Obbrong and Anwafia and their Igbo neighbours of Ntalakwu. It was also at this time that the native administration of the colonial government reassigned Nkari clan to Ikot Ekpene division and also ordered the tax agent not cross the Nkari river from Ntalakwu clan into Nkari clan for tax collection (Ndukwe:2018).Similarly, boundary conflict erupted between Nkari villages of Ibono Okporo and Ibono Usuk with their Igbo neighbours of Azunachayi and Awumukwo, Ekpiri Alala, Usaka and Ariam, all in Usaka/Ariam autonomous community in Ikwuano Local Government Area of Abia State during the period of the Nigerian civil war. Although there is a body of water which demarcates the land of the two communities, there is still conflict over boundary and ownership of farmland. This resulted in hostilitieswhich led to loss of lives and looting of agricultural produce on both sides. In the western border between Nkari clan and Ariam/ Usaka clan peaceful relationship was truncated by conflict over boundary and land ownership. This also led to hostilities and loss of lives. There have been several attempts at mediation but all to no avail as the border crisis remains a terrible nightmare to both communities. The border crisis reached its crescendo during the Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970). The two areas used the then civil war to launch attack on each other which resulted in heavy casualties(Edon :2018).                                                                                                                                    There have been relative peace in the Northern border between Nkari village of Ikot Uko and Ibere clan in the same Ikwuano L.G.A. This is because the two villages, Ikot Uko in Nkari clan and Itu Nta in Ibere clan duly recognize the Nkari River which also traverses the area as the boundary between them. There is no history of conflict between the two areas. There is peaceful relationship between the people of the two areas resulting in inter-marriage, trade and shared religious activities till today(Obobo2019).

This thesis is a study of inter-group relations, struggle for the ownership of farmland and boundary conflict between Nkari clan in Ini Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State and her Igbo neigbours which include Ntalakwu in Bende local government Area and Azunachayivillages of Aria Usaka clan in Ikwuano Local Government Areas of Abia State in Nigeria. The central thesis of this study is to bring to limelight the peaceful relations and the age long border conflict between the two areas.

1.2       Statement of the Research Problem

Inter-group relation between communities is inevitable because no community can claim to be self sufficient. Communities are naturally endowed with different and unique resources and culture. Exchange of these resources and culture are enhanced by inter-group relations. Nkari clan shares almost all her boundaries with the Igbo people of Ikwuano and Bende Local Government Areas of Abia State. Over the years the people interacted peacefully through shared farmland, trade and market, exchange of culture, inter-ethnic marriages and also exchange of gift and visits.But intermittently they resorted to war over boundary and land ownership.The inability of the Nkari people and her Igbo neighbours to resolve their differences amicably without going to war despite shared relationship is the concern of this study.Also, studies have been carried out on inter-group relations between border communities of Akwa Ibom State and Abia State.Such studies include Ariam and Obot Akara, Ika Annang and Ndoki, Ikot Umoessien and Ngwa and also the ceding of three communities of Itu Mbonuso clan of Ini LGA of Akwa Ibom State toAbia State. But no attempt has been made to study the border relations between Nkari clan and the Igbo neighbours despite the fact that the community shares almost 90 percent of her boundary with the Igbo neighbours of Abia State and also the fact that the border conflict in the area are both past and recurrent. This present study will fill the gap by dealing extensively on the gap left by scholars in this field.

             This thesis sets out to answer the following questions:

(a)       what is the typical socio political, economic and cultural set up of the Nkari people?

(b)        What factors fostered inter-group relations between Nkari and her Igbo neighbours before 1940s?

(c)        What led to the breakdown of that cordial relationship?

(d)       How has this breakdown affected inter-group relations among the people?            

 (e)  What has been the response of the government Akwa Ibom and Abia States to the     border conflicts

1.3       Objectives of the Study

This study seeks to critically examine Nkari relations with her Igbo neighbours. Specifically, the following are the objectives of the study:

(a)        To look into the socio political, economic and cultural history of Nkari people.

(b)        To examine the nature of the relationship between the people.

(c)        Where the relationship is cordial, what sustains it?

(d)       Where there are conflicts, what are the causes?                                 

(e)        Highlight the conflict between the two areas.                       

(f)        Examine the problems militating against the resolution of such conflicts.

(h)        Identify the impacts on the communities and proffer possible solution to the conflicts.   

1.4       Significance of the Study

The proliferation of boundary conflict has been on the increase in Nigeria in recent times. The breakdown of inter-group relations and the emergence of conflict between Nkari and her Igbo neighbours started in the early 1940s during the colonial era. Before the eruption and escalation of this boundary conflict, there was cordial relationship between the two areas. Robust and vibrant trade relations between the two areas culminated into shared farmland, inter-ethnic marriages, agricultural practices, culture and exchange of social festivals and institutions.

Therefore, this thesis is very significant owing to several reasons. One, it will be significant to scholars in conflict studies and resolution.  Two, it will also be helpful to the government and people of Nigeria in the quest for State and local government creation. Finally, it is hoped that it will contribute to the resolution of the ongoing conflict in the area of study.

1.5       Scope and Limitation

            This study is an analysis of inter-group relations and boundary conflict between Nkari and her Igbo neighbours. The study spanned for one hundred years from 1900 to 2000. 1900 marks a watershed in the history of colonial administration in Nigeria. In that year the charter of the Royal Niger Company was revoked and the British Government took over direct administration of the area later named Nigeria.Prior to this period there was contact between the people of the area in the area of trade, marriage and cultural borrowings. It was during this period that Nkari clan of Ibibio extraction was administered under Bende division. The study terminates in the year 2000 when the boundary conflict escalated into hostilities in the Eastern border between Nkari clan and Ariam/Usaka clan in Ikwuano local government area of Abia State.

            This study encountered certain limitations in that most of the people who witnessed the event and the actors during the early times of the conflict are not alive. Some who are  alive are too old and speak slowly with disjointed words. However this limitation was overcome by the interview of many people of the area who had a fair knowledge of the history of the conflict. The oral evidences were complimented with data from the archives and secondary sources which enhanced a detailed analysis of the study. Since there is no claim to perfection, this study should be seen as an attempt to examine inter-group relations between Nkari clan and her Igbo neighbours

1.6       Definition of Key Concepts

This attempts to define some of the key words used in the course of this work. Terms such as inter-group relations, market and commerce, conflict, boundary and boundary conflict are clearly defined.

Inter-group Relations

             Sheriff(1962:5)defines inter-group relations as relations between two or more groups and their respective members. It has also been conceptualized by Dawood Egbefo(2015:66-68) as a state of friendship or hospitality, cooperation or competition, dominance, alliance or enmity, dominance or subordination, peace or war between two or more groups and their respective members. Afigbo(1987:18) conceptualized inter-group relations as contact and interaction between groups each of which has an identity and to make some input into the relationship. Similarly, Lohorrefers to inter-group relation as the interaction which takes place between members of different groups and societies who come into contact with one another.

Conflict

Conflict is an imminent part of any settled group of people. Shedrack Best (2006:20) defines conflict as the pursuit of incompatible interest and goals by different groups. Lewis Coser in Akpan(2006:20)sees conflict as a struggle over values and claims to scarce status, power and resources in which the aims of the opponent are to neutralize, injure or eliminate their rivals. The availability of scarce resources in any community usually generates conflict during the distribution of the resources. There are different types of conflicts depending on the area where it generates. There is inter-personal conflict which arises between two or more people, community conflict exists among communities while international conflict refers to conflicts among countries.

Boundary

A boundary is defined as separation, natural or artificial which marks the confines or line of division of two contiguous properties. Boundaries are used to establish private and public ownership by determining the exact location of the point at which one piece of land is distinguishable from another. They are also used to mark the functional and jurisdictional limits of political subdivisions. Boundaries may be natural such as rocks, trees and rivers. They can be artificial such as iron pins, monument or fences (Imobighe in Bakindo:1993:13).

Boundary Dispute

Boundary dispute arises when neighbouring communities, villages, state or country refuses to accept either a natural boundary e.g. river, mountain or artificial boundary e.g iron pins, monument and fences. Boundary dispute can also arise if there are natural resources available within the boundary between the two neighbouring states or communities. Such natural resources could be crude oil or any other mineral resources. For example the dispute between Nigeria and Cameroon arose and escalated because of huge crude oil deposit in the oil rich Bakassi Peninsula.

Community

According to Albert (2001:1) community is defined as the aggregate of individuals living within a geographical area. A community could refer to both the geographical environment (a village, town and clan) as well as the peculiar people living in it. It is pertinent to note that members of a community share the same culture such as language, food, dressing and traditional institutions.

Community Conflict

Community conflict refers to armed conflict and violence that take place within a geographic environment which include village, town or clan. Albert (2001:3)sees community conflict as host and stranger face off. The import of this is that in any community where both indigenes and non indigenes or migrant live together conflict normally arises when the migrants refused to abide by the ethics and probably term of agreement reached with the host.

Trade and Market

            Trade simply means the transfer of goods and services from one person or group to another often in exchange for money. Market is a system that allows trade to be conducted. The original form of trade especially in Africa was the barter system also known as counter trade. Barter system involves trading items or goods without the use of money. Later, money was adopted to gain practical acceptance and importance. Modern traders generally negotiate through the use of money as medium of exchange. Trading takes place due to specialization and division of labour.

1.7  Ethical Issue

Ethics are moral principles that guide, control and influence a research work. In the course of the research work on Nkari and her Igbo neighbours, ethics of historical writing were strictly adhered to. The study relied heavily on historical methodology. Therefore evidence for the study were collected from both the primary and the secondary sources. The primary sources were collected from oral evidence and the archives. During the visits to both Calabar and Enugu archivesthe researcher followed the usual procedure and paid the necessary fees before being allowed to search for information in the archives.During the field work, the people interviewed were accorded due respect.Efforts were made to avoid posing an embarrassing questions and undue penetration into restricted areas unknown to the researcher. Evidences collectedwere properly interrogated in order to produced a historical fact.                                                                                                                         Also the researcher was very objective in presenting the issues from the field. The reconstruction of the history was devoid of any prejudice, colouration, sympathy or bias. This is seen in the objective interrogation of all the issues raised in the study. The researcher respected the privacy of those interviewed. Some were accorded right to anonymity base on their request.

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