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NKARI AND HER NEIGHBOURS (1900-2000)
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).