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                        UMUNEDE KINGDOM
  "The History and Culture of our land"


UMUNEDE KINGDON is situated on a plateau about 15 kilometers from Agbor in the West and 56 kilometers from Asaba on the East. Her immediate neighbors include Akumazi Umuocha and Ekwuoma on the East, Emuhu on the West, Mbiri on the North and Otolokpo and Owa in the South. The kingdom has a network of roads that link almost all the major towns in Delta and Western states and also occupies a gateway to Eastern, Middle-belt and North-Eastern States of Nigeria.  Umunede is not only centrally located in Ika, she is also so suitably located that it serves both as a major commercial/business center of Ika people as the vital corridor through which all the neighboring towns and villages evacuate their farm produce to all parts of Nigeria.  Given this enviable location, Umunede was conveniently the headquarters of Second Division, Nigerian Army, during the unfortunate Civil War, 1967-70.                                        



Umunede Kingdom was founded by a Benin Prince, called EDE and his wife, IYE who migrated from Benin and settled in the present location, later known as Umunede.  The exact date of migration of Ede and his wife from Benin was not recorded but generally, historians put the approximate period as the Thirteenth Century A.D., during the reign of Oba Ewedo  The Great (1250-1280 A.D.)  Thus, the Kingdom is over seven hundred years old and many historians believed that Umunede Kingdom is one of the oldest kingdoms east of the Benin Empire.

Historians had contended that during Oba Ewedos reign, the Oba had two battles to fight:  a diplomatic battle against the great nobility led by the Ediommehan and military battles against Ogiamien III in order to destroy once and for all this anti-royalist movement.  As a result of these events, many princes and noble men fled with their families to different safe locations.

The second wave of migration to Umunede probably took place under Oba Ewuare The Great (1440-1485).  During his reign, an attempt to eliminate members of the nobility who were threatening the monarchy gathered momentum and brought about another wave of migration out of the Benin Empire.

Historians also believe that there were other settlers before and after Ede and Iye arrived at the present location but no one was sure when those earlier settlers arrived at this same location.  However, later migrations to Umunede were well documented.  For example, there were other immigrants from Ishan, Benin-speaking areas and Yoruba areas of the west between the 16th and 19th centuries and their quarters are well known in Umunede.  Also, there have been large number of immigrants from the Eastern Igbo-speaking area since the last quarter of the 19th century and, since the civil war;  Umunede has also been witnessing a large number of immigrants from neighbouring towns and villages.

All historical accounts showed that Ede and his followers did meet a collection of people in the present location, later called Umunede.  Those who were already in that location were probably not as strong and organized as Ede and his followers.  Therefore, Ede was able to impose his rule and leadership upon the earlier settlers.  In fact, it has never been contested that Ede brought to Umunede the type of administrative and social structures, which were already in place in the Benin Empire.  Firstly, the monarchical administration, which Ede and his followers brought from Benin, was established in Umunede and hence up to today, Umunede still has traditional and hereditary kingship.  Secondly, the mode and type of worship and traditional festivals correspond to the practices in the Benin kingdom.  Thirdly, the mode of building houses in ancient Umunede was also that of Benin tradition.

Every available document showed that Ede and Iye had four sons in the following order of seniority:  Ilege, Edware, Oba and Ile.  Those four sons and their descendants constituted the original four main villages of Umunede.  Available information also showed that it took some time before the kingship, as we know it today was fully established.  When it was fully established, it took and Igbo title, Obi instead of Ovie or Onogie, which are the titles kings that descended directly from Benin. But, why Obi?  Probably, the main reason was that in the course of centuries of living together and inter-ethnic marriages, each of the various groups living in that location started to lose its original ethnic identity, thus giving way to develop on Unumede language and culture- the language being very close to those of Ibos West of the Niger, while Unumede culture was predominantly that of Binis until the first assume that language of the dominant tribe in Umunede.  History did not record and alternative title to Obi.

Although the Obiship is based on hereditary lineage (i.e., on succession by first son), this was not the case in Umunede at the beginning of its kingship institution.  Contrary to Benin tradition, it was the descendants of Egware, the second son, which established hereditary Obiship in Umunede.  This was because, during the life-time of Ede, it was believed that his first son, Ilege, traveled frequently out of Umunede, at times on hunting expedition, and would not return to Umunede until after several weeks or months.  Ede feared that Ileje might not understand how to perform traditional rites and rituals required for the survival of the Kingdom.  He therefore, before his death, handed over his Staff of office to Egware.  Since then, kingship has resided in Obi Village and, since kingship is hereditary, the descendants of Egware have been the Obis of Umunede since living memory!

The title, OGELE was conferred on the oldest son, Ilege, and since that time the oldest man in Ilege Village assumes that title.  As compensation for losing the Obiship, the Ogele was given the sole authority to crown all the future Obis of Umunede.  His Royal Highness, Ezeagwu Ezenwali I, the present Obi and the Agadagidi of Umunede is the 12th in the line of succession of the present dynasty.  During the present dynasty, there was a brief interregnum, between the death of Obi

Gbenoba 11, in 1952, during which Prince Martin Onyeagwu the Crown Prince’s uncle was appointed the REGENT of Umunede.

Originally, the Staff of Office received from the Obas of Benin by the Obis or the Onogies was only Ebeni.  It is, however on record that the Obis of Umunede were among the earliest kings to acquire Adas (very superior Staff of Office reserved for first class Obis) and Ebenis together among the Obis East of the Benin Kingdom. 



According to the 1991 National Population Census, the population of the Umunede Kingdom was 21,611.  The estimated mid-1998 population is 30,000.  Thus, Umunede is by far the largest town (or clan) outside Boji Boji Agbor and Owa in the whole of Ika-speaking area.  People who are familiar with the growth of the population of the kingdom particularly in the last three decades will readily admit that there have been and unprecedented migration to Umunede from the neighboring villages as well as from the Eastern states.  Other factors, which accounted for her rapid growth include her strategic location which facilities mobility to any part of the country, and the friendly disposition of Umunede people generally to non-indigenes.




Political Structure

There are at present FIVE major communities that make up Umunede Kingdom, and these are:

(1)    Obi, consisting of the following quarters: Idumu Obi, Oro Egweachime and Ikweme (Isokwe).

(2)    ILEGE, consisting of Uhiere, Idumu Afor, Umuojobia, Iba, Ogbeisere and Ogbe Ohun

(3)    OBA, consisting of Isiukwa,  Ogbeakun and Idumu Ugbo;

(4)    ILE, consisting of Ayomuroko, Esegbena and Ozoba; and

(5)    NEW ROAD SETTLEMENT made up of recent immigrants to Umunede and younger generations from other villages, of Umunede and to some extent, people from other village of Umunede.

1.2   Administrative Structure

At the general/town level, Umunede is governed by THE OBI-IN-COUNCIL.

The Council is made up of:

(1)   The Obi of Umunede who is the Chairman at all meetings and deliberations brought before the Royal Palace.  He also presides at all disputes brought to the Palace for members of the Royal Family to settle.

(2)   Royal Family:  Members of the Royal Family in the Council include adult princes and princesses.  The senior members are also supposed to act as advisers to the Obi on matters relating to custome and tradition.

(3)   The Ndiches:  By tradition, the Ndiches are the oldest men who hold the Staff of Office (called Okpukpu) in their respective recognized communities in Umunede.  When they meet in the Royal Palace, they sit according to the seniority of the office which they hold and not by the age of its individuals in Umunede.  The Ogele is the leader of the Ndiches.  He is also the king-maker.  Idumu Oro in Obi village has the highest Okpukpu in Umunede.  At the death of an Obi it is the Oro Community that arranges and performs all rites pertaining to his burial.  There are about 14 Okpukpus in Umunede.

(1)   The Olotus:  There are FOUR Olotus in Umunede- The Iyase of Obi, The Odogwu of Ileje, The Okita of Oba, and The Arum of Ile.  Their tenure in office is terminated by death, as the post is not hereditary.  At the death of the holder, the post is passed on to another community in that village.  The Olotus work closely with the Obi in all festivals when they too perform some traditional rites and rituals for the progress of the town.  The Olotus are the first people to be invited to the Obis Palace in any emergency.  They also serve as the mouthpiece of their respective village.  The Iyase of Obi village is their leader.

(2)   The Omus:  Each of the original four villages has her own Omu.  The Omus are important traditional women leaders in Umunede.  They are selected on the basis of their maturity and on their assumed ability to perform traditional rites as Olotus and also perform rituals and make sacrifices as Ndi Dibie and Ndi Uzu in order to protect the Obi and his people against evil forces.  The position is not hereditary.  The Omus and their advisers are generally called the Odozi Obodos.

(3)   The Titled Chiefs (Traditional/Social)

Chieftaincy in generally conferred on deserving citizens of Umunede and other worthy non-citizens who meet the Obis requirements.  In Umunede this class of Chiefs do not perform specific traditional rites as the Olotus.  Some of the titles, especially those of Benin origin, are hereditary.  Until the reign of the present Obi, the Eson was the only female titled Chief in Umunede;  the title automatically going to the Obis first wife.  The functions of the chiefs include, among others, promotion of peace, unity and development of Umunede.  The chiefs may also represent the Obi on political/social matters.

(4)   Ndi dibie and Ndi Uzu:  Ndi dibie group is led by Eze Dibie.  Dibie is

conferred on any male (old and young) who can afford to take the title and during the conferment he undergoes the formalities laid down by the Ndi dibie.  Every qualified dibie is greeted Ogbuebulu and to practice as a qualified native doctor, and is supposed to be a dibie.  The Ogbuebulus are supposed to detect and counter the evil forces of witches.  On the other hand, the Ojogwu is conferred on any deserving male who wishes to worship the god of iron.  Any person who has completed the formalities laid down by the Ndi Uzu is greeted Ojogwu.  In Umunede, IDIGU represents the god of iron.

(5)   Umunede Progressive Union (UPU)

Members of UPU consist of adult Umunede persons of either sex residing in and outside Umunede and any female married to an Umunede person.  The UPU initiates and proposes most of the economic and social policies of the Obi in Council.  Although the Union is not a political entity, it has an overwhelming influence in any policy decisions affecting Umunede.  It has Executive and Development Committees which monitor the implementation of major decisions of the Obi-in-Council.


Customs relate to beliefs and usual practices  of  people dating to the living

memory while culture relates to general way of life of  people.  Since the two topics somehow overlap, they are discussed together below.

5.1    Language

Umunede language continues to develop after centuries of existence of the Kingdom.  Originally, there were two languages in Umunede-Bini and Igbo; later, with inter-ethnic marriages and social interactions a mixture of Bini and Igbo languages emerged and produced the Umunede dialect.  However, in the past five decades  Bini has almost  completely disappeared from Umunede dialect. Again, because of the Kingdoms nearness to predominantly Igbo-speaking areas, Ibos dominate other groups in her famous market and hence Umunedians are fast evolving a language, in recent times, that is getting closer to Igbo language.

5.2    Worships and Beliefs

Umunede people have always believed in monotheism, that is, in One Supreme Being, OSELOBUE.  Before the coming of Christianity, they prayed to their ancestors to intercede for them before Oselobue.  Thus, the worship on One Supreme Being which are the principal tenets of Christianity are implied in their beliefs and worships.  Admittedly, their method of reaching God might  be different from that of Christians, nonetheless, they believed firmly in one God.  However, Christianity has spread so rapidly in Umunede during the past thirty years that most Umunedians are now Christians.

The following traditional festivals are observed in Umunede:

(1)    Irua Nmor:  During the period of Irua Nmor, the Obi, the Ndiches, the

Omus and the Olotus try to appease our ancestors so that they may intercede for us before God to protect Umunedians from danger and evil forces.

(2)    Irua Fajeoku:  It takes place on the eve of the new yam festival, i.e., on

Nkwo day.  On that day, the heads of families/communities bless all the

Instruments used for farming in that year and also thank God, on behalf of the

Community, for good harvest.

(3)    Iwaji:  It is a formal celebration of the arrival of the new yams; no ritual or

fetishness is attached to it.  It is an annual festival as other festivals.

(4)    Igwe:  It is also an annual festival.  Originally, custom dictated that the

Iwge festival should be celebrated after clearing the bush and all the trees are felled in the new farm.  It was an abomination for anyone to set fire on his farm before the Igwe festival was celebrated.  During the Igwe festival Umunedians thank God for their success in clearing the bush and felling the trees in their farms without any mishap.  They also pray to God for good harvest in the new farming season.

5.1    Mode of Living

(1)    Housing:  Until the last four decades the mode of building our houses and

The type of buildings which we had in Umunede were inherited mainly from the Benin Kingdom.  The houses in ancient Umunede were mud houses built in three stages, by communal efforts, before roofing with thatches.  These much thatch houses have almost disappeared for modern houses in Umunede.

(2) Diet:  Originally, yams were the major food consumed by Umunede people

while garri was regarded as inferior and was shunned by umunedians.  However, the short spell of famine in 1946 brought into focus the importance of cassava (which was elegantly described as (oismebele me nni) and since the garri has become an important food item.  Standard diet consists of pounded yam taken with egusi/vegetable or okro soup adorned with bushmeat, mushroom, beef or chicken.

5.2    Occupation:  Farming, trading and the modern professions such as banking, Teaching, architecture etc.


It is not  possible to give full exposition of the above topic given the space allowed for this publication.  However, a summary, through uncomfortable, is presented below.

6.1 Development in Agriculture

Agriculture is a major occupation of Umunede people.  The mode of farming                    remains essentially by shifting cultivation.  Due to rapid growth in population, Umunede farmers go beyond the kingdoms boundaries to buy or hold land on lease for farming in an effort to increase food production.  The farms have multiple crops, consisting of yams, cocoyams, maize, cassava, melons, okro, cotton, groundnuts, tomatoes, etc.  Each of the crops is planted according to its own season and harvested according to its own maturity pattern.  For example, maize can be planted twice and harvested twice in a year.  Also, Umunede produces palm oil and palm kernels in commercial quantities.  Although the town has not experienced general agrarian revolution, tomato farming has, in the recent years, been mechanized.  The recent method of tomato farming has made it possible to produce tomatoes in commercial quantities, at least, three times in a year.  Umunede area alone, presently, accounts for about 25% of fresh tomatoes in Delta State.

The decline of agriculture in Umunede has resulted from rapid expansion of education; the aging population of farmers; the social status attached to farming in the society and the rapid increase in population which reduced arable land for farming.  The population of male farmers in Umunede had declined from about 90% in 1940 to 40% in 1980 and 30% in 1998.

6.2    Industrial Development

Although the kingdom has abundant raw materials for industries, large resources of manpower and big commercial center enjoying excellent location, yet she has no modern factories or industrial establishment.  It is generally believed that the late entry of her people into party politics might have denied her the location of well-deserved  agro-allied projects such as oil mills and food processing plants by successive governments in power.  Small scale or cottage industries prevailed in Umunede over several generations.  For example, she was self sufficient in textiles, soap-making, cosmetics, etc., have gradually disappeared from her economic life style.  The decline of cottage industry is attributable to lack/inadequate finance to expand the cottage industries and the emergence and craze for superior imported goods.

6.3    Development In Commerce

The history of Umunede people as a dynamic people is most adequately reflected

In the field of trading and commerce.  The kingdom was a commercial center long before Nigeria came into being.  For example, in about 1890, the Royal Niger Company (RNC), the then Government/Administrator of the Southern Protectorate, established a trading post in Umunede and, with this significant event; the Kingdom was opened to the outside world.  She exported palm reduce through the Asaba port of the United Kingdom while she imported textiles, assorted drinks, tobacco, among other things. When the Charter of RNC was revoked on December 31, 1899, the British Government later replaced RNC by the United African Company Limited (U.A.C. Ltd.)

The new company was quickly followed by John Holt Brothers.  The presence of these two giant companies attracted traders from all over Nigeria to Umunede market which was held (is still held) once in every four days, i.e., on Nkwo (Ogbe) day.

Umunede soon became a big center for production and collection of palm produce.  Between 1945 and 1965 (the heydays of agricultural export commodities), it was estimated that 100 tons of palm kernels and 60 tons of palm oil were lifted weekly from Umunede to Asaba port for export.

Umunede market also became famous till this day because the town supplies abundant and cheap food-stuff all the year round.  Umunede and its environs remains a major producer of a variety of major important food-stuff such as yams, cassava, garri melon, palm oil and tomatoes.  Many people from all parts of Nigeria patronize this famous market because of easy access to Umunede.  The fame of Umunede market is further sustained by hard working and virile women population who have to comb all the neighboring and far-away markets for food-stuff in order to ensure their uninterrupted supply to customers at affordable prices in Umunede market all the year round.

64.  Social Development

(1) Education (Human Resources Development)

Human resources development in Umunede has undergone a radical

transformation in the last four decades and has become more dramatic in the last

twenty years.  Firstly, credit goes to the early Missionaries particularly the Roman   Catholic Mission which pioneered, established and sustained early education including the establishment of the first secondary grammar school without government assistance.  It is not surprising that pioneers of education and most elite of Umunede origin attended Catholic primary schools and in the recent years Catholic secondary schools in umunede.  It is also pertinent to acknowledge the role of the Anglican and Baptist Missions in education in Umunede.  Awolowo who introduced free and compulsory primary education in the them

Western Nigeria in 1954 without which rapid expansion of education would not have been possible.

By 1990, Umumede already had the largest enrolment in primary and secondary schools (outside Boji Boji Agbor and Owa) in the two Ika Local Government Areas.  She has a large number of private nursery and primary schools which have also helped to improve the quality of  education in Umunede.  There is scarcely and institution of higher learning in Nigeria today in which Umunede students are not in attendance.  Although Umunede produced her first graduates in the early sixties, she has however, by the last decade, lost count of the number of graduates in all fields of endeavor in Nigeria.

(2) Social In fracture and Interaction

The revolution in infrastructure which started after the civil war created the enabling environment which makes Umunede a pull center.  For example, as a result of improvement in transportation, Umunede market continues to sustain the supply and the distribution of abundant food-stuff at affordable prices to all parts of Nigeria.  The rapid increase in health-care delivery services, both public and private, has contributed immensely in lowering infant mortality and death rates generally in Umunede.  The NITEL and the GPO located in Umunede render important services to all the villages and towns around Umunede.  Other institutions located in Umunede include NEPA, a Divisional Police Station, magistrate and Customary Courts.

Umunede dialect is spoken by the Ibos, Yorubas, Hausas and other ethnic tribes living in Umunede.  Finally, the friendly disposition of Umunede people is also adequately reflected by the good gesture of allowing foreigners or non-indigenes to acquire land freely and build their own houses without hindrance.