Young Efik tribe girl in traditional attire dancing at a Festival in Calabar,Nigeria.

Young Efik tribe girl in traditional attire dancing at a Festival in Calabar,Nigeria.

The Efik are an ethnic group located in southeastern Nigeria.‘Efik’ is also the name of their language.

The actual origin of the Efik people is unknown and a subject of debate. There are claims that the Efik people migrated from the hinterlands and settled in the Ibibio, Ibo and Cameroon territories. The European missionaries and traders that arrived in the Calabar territory in the early 1400s concluded that the burial practice of the indigenous people was quite similar to that of the ancient Jews of Semitic origin. A ritualistic sacrifice of animals for the purpose of purification, especially during times of sickness, was performed by the predominant male(s) of each village or group of villages.

There is also a claim that suggests that the Efik are of Bantu origin. Due to civil conflicts and war, the Efik people migrated down the Cross River to seek new homes for themselves in the 1600s. They first attempted to relocate to a place which has since been called Old Efik. It rests on the upper end of one of the adjacent islands in the Cross River. Various differences and wars created more separation and migration up the river to Mbiabo. Some of the Efik people chose to settle in what are now known as Creek Town, Duke town and Henshaw Town.
The afore-mentioned locales are what comprise present day Calabar. The Efik also created settlements such as: Efut Abua, Efut Ekondo, Qua settlements of Akim qua and big Qua towns. Some of the Efik ascended the other branch of the river and formed Adiabo. This area is within the boundaries of the current Cross River State, Nigeria. The Efik settlement over time expanded into the territories of the modern day Ibibio of Akaw Ibom state, Ibo and Qua. The Efik also migrated across the river onto a land that is now called Cameroon.

According to the 2006 Nigerian census, the Efik make up 2% of the nation’s population. The language is predominantly spoken in the Calabar municipality, Calabar south, Odukpani, Akpabuyo and Bakassi local government areas. It is the second predominant language to the surrounding neighboring areas. Statistics shows that 360,000 people in the afore-mentioned municipalities (as well as in parts of Cameroon) speak Efik as a first language and that 3.5 million people speak Efik as a second language. It is believed however that, in recent years, the use of the Efik language is decline in western Cameroon.
BY: Kweku Darko Ankrah

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