Who are the Efiks? 
One of the earliest tribes in modern-day Nigeria and part of Western Cameroon is the Efik tribe. Today, they are predominantly located in Cross River and Akwa Ibom States and part of Western Cameroon.

The Efik people are endowed with a great history, one of the most prominent in sub-Saharan Africa. In the pre-colonial period, they featured prominently in trading activities with the Portuguese. The Efik people were a major factor in the export of slaves to the United States and West Indies. They had very powerful chiefs and kings who could negotiate and extract major concessions from the European traders.

Efik people were among the first coastal people in pre-colonial Nigeria to embrace Christianity and receive Christian missionaries. From the various Efik settlements, Christianity spread into the hinterland. The Holy Bible and Hym books were translated into the Efik language, thus making it the first Nigerian language to enjoy such a prestigious status.

Efiks of Old Calabar (Creek Town, Duke Town, Cobham Town, Old Town, Henshaw Town, Adiabo, and Mbiabo – comprising Mbiabo Edere, Mbiabo Ikot Offiong, and Mbiabo Ikoneto) had many learned sons and daughters, who had acquired Western education and could read and write the English language. Many of them served as interpreters and clerks in government establishments. This greatly enhanced commerce evangelism and other forms of intercourse with foreigners.  The Europeans, especially traders, missionaries, explorers, and scholars also embarked on extensive research into the history and tradition of the Efik ethnic group.   

Efik History – The Hart Report Revisited (1)

Diverse versions and theories of Efik history and migrations abound in numerous contemporary literatures.  Much of the history is based on oral tradition and lacks scientific or empirical data. The accounts are embedded in myths and folklore and revolve primarily around links to Igbo, Ibibio, and Palestine origin. A particular version of the history may depend on who is narrating it and why. The multiplicity, contradictions, and mix-up in the accounts of Efik history and migrations manifested at the Hart Commission of Enquiry into the Dispute over the Obongship of Calabar.

At the Enquiry, different accounts of migrations were postulated by several groups. The Efiks were said to have had a long history of migrations from olden times. In the course of their itinerary, they settled at different locations for some time and then moved on until they arrived at the current settlement on the mouth or inlet of Cross River.

The Account of Adak Uko Group
The Adak Uko Group was represented at the Enquiry by Etubom Ekpenyong Efiok Asama Ekpenyong Efiok Eyo Honesty VIII. According to the Commissioner:

65. I received oral and written evidence from this group. I shall attempt a precis of the written evidence as follows:-

The Efik people were a nomadic tribe in the Sudan. In their wanderings they took a southerly course and hit the coast of West Africa at the town of Sekondi on the former Gold Coast. They stayed on the Gold Coast for many years. Evidence for this is the similarity of the names of persons and things. Proper names like Tete, Ansa and Ata are found both in present day Ghana and in Efik land. The same is true of common names like Ubok (hand) Ukot (leg), etc. ‘There is also the striking resemblance of natural features between the people of Ghana and the Efiks.

The Efiks left the Gold Coast and arrived on the District of the Niger Delta. Their place of call was Burutu where they acquired the sobriquet “Eburutu” a name which is commonly used by the Efiks in war time or on ceremonial occasions by the trumpets and the talking drums. Leaving Burutu the Efik migrants took an easterly direction and arrived at Abonnema in the Kalabari clan where some of them settled. Others went up to Itu-Mbauzo from whence, leaving a few of their folks behind, they passed to Ibom, an Arochuku Village. Up to this day the people of Ibom and Efiks share common natural features. There is also a similarity of culture.

After many years stay in Ibom, the Efiks again migrated, this time in different waves and in different directions. Some settled at Ito and Ukwu in the Aro District where they are still living to this day, the majority went down the Enyong and Cross Rivers and reached Mbiabo Edere, where a group settled, whilst others pursued their course down river and landed at Oku Iboku near Ikoroffiong. Later, this settlement at Oku Iboku broke up and moved to Esuk Odu in Ibibio land (or Egbo-sherry, as it was then called). There, a great misunderstanding arose between the Ibibios and the Eburutus as a result of which the Ibibios nicknamed them “Efik” or “oppressors”. The Efiks then migrated to Ikpa Ene, an island on the Cross River, where they left relics that are still extant.

Whilst the Efiks were at Ikpa Ene, a section of the Mbiabos now settled at Mbiabo Edere migrated to Ikpa Ene and joined their kinsmen there. Ikpa Ene is still known as Akani Edik Obio Efik or old Efik Creek Town.

Another section of the Mbiabos left Mbiabo Edere and settled at Ikoroffiong. Later on, Mbiabo Usuk or Ikoneto left Efik Eburutu and settled at the present Ikoneto Town. Immediately after these waves of Efik migration, a new wave swept the rest of the Efiks to Ndodoghi, from whence the Ibokus-comprising Creek Town, Duke Town, Old Town and Henshaw Town went to the present Creek Town and a section headed by Otu Meseme now known as Adiabo went up the Calabar River to find the following places-

 lkot Ukpa Usuk or Ikot Otu Ibuot, Usukhore, Okut Ikang, Ikot Ukpa Edere. The following Ibokus remained at Creek Town-

Ekoroetonko or Iboku Esit Edik (Creek Town), Ikobu Utan (Duke Town) Old Town or Obutong and Henshaw Town or Nsidung. At Creek Town the Ibokus met the Efuts.

After some time Okoho Efiom, daughter of Efiom Ekpo Ibanga who was the sister of Ekpenyong Nsa and Eyo Nsa gave birth to Offiong Okoho and Efiom Okoho.

Later, these two brothers founded Atakpa or Duke Town (commonly called Calabar).

Their eldest brother Nsa Efiom later founded Nsidung (now known as Henshaw Town).

Etubom Ekpenyong Efiok Asama Ekpenyong Efiok Eyo Honesty VIII offered more clarity on the migrations when he was cross-examined by counsel for Etubom Edem Ekpenyong Oku of Mbarakom (Ambo) in Creek Town. As to how many groups of the Efiks migrated to Creek Town Etubom Ekpenyong Efiok Asama Ekpenyong Efiok Eyo Honesty VIII said one large group migrated to Creek Town. Before they left for Creek Town, the last place they inhabited was called Ndodoghi, about a mile from Creek Town. 

The question as to whether the small group that came later (the Ambos from Ikoneto) eventually united with the large, Etubom Ekpenyong Efiok Asama Ekpenyong Efiok Eyo Honesty VIII said “The small group that came later did not meet the Efiks at Ndodoghi; they got into Creek Town after the other Efiks had settled there. And it was when the people of Obutong had left Creek Town to Esuk Utang that the Ambos came and settled in the land left by the Obutongs. The Ambos came in as strangers but afterwards there was integration.”

The preceding testimony that the Ambos came later to Creek Town than the other Efiks was corroborated by Eyo Nsa Ekpo Ekpenyong. In his deposition, he said that:

When the Efiks left Ikpa Ene and dwelt at Ndodoghi, a creek near the present Creek Town, the group of Efiks who now form Ikoneto was not with the group at Ndodoghi. They had already settled at Ikoneto. When the Efiks were at Ndodoghi, hunters found out the present site of Creek Town. Then Eyo Ema, the then juju priest, was sent to sacrifice on the newly discovered land of Creek Town. He went there and sacrificed, and then others at Ndodoghi came over to Creek Town and met the Efuts who gave them land on which the emigrants built the present Creek Town. In that group was the Eyo family, Ibitam family and Obutong, which is the present Old Town. The Ambos and Ikonetos left the other Efiks at Ikpa Ene and migrated to Ikoneto where they eventually settled. The Ambos were there at Ikoneto when Eyo Nsa grew to be a mighty man of that day and a warrior. Then at Ikoneto one Esien Ekpe Oku gave his daughter Inyang Esien Ekpe Oku to Eyo Nsa to marry. It was Inyang Esien who gave birth to Eyo Eyo Nsa alias Eyo II.”

EteteOnline Team

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