The Annang or Anaang is a cultural and semi-Bantu speaking ethnic group that lives in the Coastal Southeast Nigeria (also known as Southeastern Nigeria or former Southeastern State of Nigeria).
The Annang people are the second largest ethnic group in Akwa Ibom State of Southeast Nigeria (Akwa Ibom State Local Government Areas), occupying eight out of the thirty one Local Government Areas in Akwa Ibom State of Nigeria viz: Ikot Ekpene, Obot Akara, Essien Udim, Abak, Etim Ekpo, Oruk Anam, Ika and Ukanafun. Persons of Annang ethnic group call themselves "Owo" or (agwo Annang). The Annangs are known for the efficacy of their traditional spiritual powers (charms), prowess in trading, and their renown art. This extends to mural paintings, raffia, masks, cement sculptures, markets, ceremonies and exceptional food.
They were formerly located in the former Abak and Ikot Ekpene Divisions of the Annang Province, in the former Eastern Region of Nigeria. They have a common boundary with the Sudanic Igbo. They had to fight many wars against the Ngwa Igbo in order to preserve their territorial integrity and their farmlands (Udo 1983). Being always confronted with inter-tribal wars, the Annang people then not having access to sophisticated weapons always resorted to the reliance on spiritual powers to conquer their enemies. Reliance on spiritual beings for aid has become a way of life among the people. In their worldview, humans must always resorts to ‘higher’ spiritual beings for assistance.
The Annang territory lies between latitude 4.25 and 7 north and longitude 7.15 and 9.30 east (Enang 1979). The landscape is generally flat and low-lying with no point rising to 300 feet above sea level. There are two main seasons: the wet and rainy season which starts from April to October and the dry season from November to March. The typical rainfall pattern is bi-modal with a two week spell or break in August commonly referred to as “August Break”.
The harsh harmattan wind occurs between December and January. The area is generally humid. Vegetationally, the area lies within the rich forest zone which aids the growth of palm-wines trees, palm trees and huge lofty tropical vegetation (Ekong 1983). The huge lofty tropical trees are believed to be a soothing and natural habitat for witches. Curiously bent trees and rivers are often seen as coven for witches and other spiritual beings.
The Annang people are located in the Coastal Southeastern Nigeria and Southwestern Cameroon which was a part of the present Akwa Ibom State and Cross River State. However, during the then Nigerian Regional era, the then Eastern Region of Nigeria allowed Southwestern Cameroon to be partitioned out of Nigeria into Cameroon through the 1961 plebiscite. In this action the Annang, Efik and Ibibio people were divided into Nigeria and Cameroon.
They speak Annang language which belongs to Niger-Congo ethnolinguistic group. It is spoken by over 1.3 million Nigerians. It has various dialects such as Abak, Ikot Ekpene, Ika, Ukanafun, Etim Ekpo, Obot Akara etc.
It is the Annang belief that the universe had its orgin from a divine supreme being who was self-begotten, Awasi-Ibom. He created Anyong (the sky) and Isong (the earth) and Inyang-Ibom (ocean). Both Anyong(sky) and Isong (earth) existed in the heavens while water was below. Tradition has it that Anyong (sky) and Isong (earth) were joined together.
Awasi-Ibom sent one of his creatures whose name is not mentioned to separate Anyong from Isong. This creature had a human form but as a giant: about seven times the size of a normal human being that we know of today. The giant came with a tool and separated Anyong from Isong. And since that time, Anyong (sky) and Isong (earth) have been at constant enmity. Whenever Anyong (sky) covers Isong (earth) we have day and whenever Isong (earth) covers Anyong (sky) we have night. Awasi-Ibom ordered Anyong and its children (the heavenly bodies: sun, moon, stars, etc) to move upward while earth was ordered to more downward. While moving downward, earth (Isong) fell into massive water, the ocean (Akpa Ibom, the Annang name for the Atlantic Ocean). A section of it was submerged in the water and the portion that floated became the dry land. The giant went to bathe in the water after he had completed his work. He got drowned and died in the water. The particles of the decayed body of the giant, tradition holds, gave birth to the living animals and plants in both land and water. His teeth which were washed ashore germinated into many plants, shrubs and grasses. His bones became the rocks; his breath became the air and the wind. The insects which stuck to the decaying head (after having been washed ashore) grew up to become the land animals.
A certain animal “Ukpong-ajen” (wall gecko), which literally means “ soul of the child”, was seen licking the dust of the remains ( head) of the dead giant. Awasi-Ibom instructed Awasi-Isong to make a pot from a mixture of sand and water and put Ukpon-ajen (wall gecko) in there for eight days. Awasi-Ibom then sent “akuwe” (chameleon) to spy and monitor if AwasiIsong had carried out the orders, without allowing anyone to see him. Akuwe (chameleon), unseen by Awasi-Isong, inspected the work of Awasi-Isong and reported to Awasi-Ibom that the job had been done. On the eight day, Awasi-Ibom came and spat into the pot, and in the company of Awasi-Isong, broke the pot open. Suddenly, two hitherto unknown beings (male and female) emerged from the pot. Awasi-Isong asked the male being with a thunderous voice “ade anyie?” (who are you?), to which he answered with a small voice “nde agwo” ( I am a human being). Awasi-Ibom thundered” Agwo, du uwem” (human being keep on living!).
Oral tradition: The Annangs have a rich oral tradition. It is believed that the group have their origins in Egypt and settled in Ghana before arriving in the present area. The name Annang in Twi in Ghana means fourth son. It is believed that Annangs started their migration from Egypt around 7500 BC. The Abiakpo came to the northern range of Annang from Eka Abiakpo. They were quickly followed by the Ukana clan, the Utu, Ekpu, Ebom and Nyama (The British would lumped these together and gave the name Otoro), and other Annang clans.
Oral tradition has it that the Annang and the entire people of akwa Ibom and Cross River States of Nigeria (Akwa Cross people) have occupied their land in the coastal Southeastern Nigeria thousands of years before the birth of Christ.
The same oral tradition has it that their ancestors were Israelites (Jews) of the Northern Kingdom who left Israel to Egypt before the Babylonian captivity and that the ancestors of the Annangs and other people of Akwa Ibom and Cross River States (the Efik, the Ibibio, etc.) of Nigeria were the products of marriages of the people of Israel and Egyptians who migrated from Egypt to their coastal southeastern land in Nigeria via Ethiopia and Sudan.
The group is related to the Efiks and the Ibibios. It is believed that they all originated in ancient Egypt and through various wars and conquests were pushed south into the Sahara Desert. They moved across the desert and some settled in the upper West African region about 7500 BC. Remnants of their language according to Waddell can be found among the Egyptians. (Waddell, 1893) Another evidence of their Egyptian origin is found in the burial customs and veneration of the dead. Migration brought the groups to live among the Twi of Ghana where the name Annang means fourth son. From Ghana, the group moved eastward into present day Cameroon. It was in the Cameroon highlands that the group broke off but later arrived at same territory in the Coastal Southeastern Nigeria . It is believed that upon their arrival at the virgin coastal southeastern Nigeria the groups took an oath of solidarity to be together and bonded to fight whatever was seen as a common enemy. Lineages were recognized and the groups organized themselves into clans based on old family origins known as Iman, a similar structure extends into the land of their northern neighbors, the Igbo. (Ette, 2008)
Written source: Very little was written in the European papers about the Annang people before the middle of the nineteenth century. Early European traders who arrived in the cross river territories referred to groups who lived outside of the coastal areas as residents of Egbo-Sharry Country.(Derived from the derogatory name of Ekpo Iseri used by the Efiks for those who were poor but proud. (Ette, 2007). Rumors of cannibalism and fear tactics were used as tools by the Efiks to keep the European traders away from trading directly with groups outside the coast. This tactic worked, for it prevented the traders from going outside of the Calabar middle men until the Christian missionaries arrived in the middle of the nineteenth century Ette, 2001). The first written mention of the Annangs is in Wilhelm Koelle's account of liberated slaves in Sierra Leone(Koelle, 1854). He mentioned a liberated slave named Ebengo who hailed from Nkwot in Abak. Ebengo was captured and sold to the Portuguese but was subsequently freed by a British warship and later settled in Waterloo, Sierra Leone. The British soldiers listed the languages spoken by the slaves in that captured ship as "Annang" (Koelle, 1854). The second mention is in the description of what is known as the Ikot Udo Obong Wars. The British described the killings of the Annangs by King Jaja of Opobo as a punishment for the Annangs defying his orders and trading in palm oil directly with the British merchants instead of going through him as a middle man. In the war that ensued, the British intervened and with the help of the Annangs, they captured (King Jaja) and exiled him to the West Indies. The British established a military post at Ikot Ekpene in 1904 and then in Abak.
Following British colonialism and with changes and ban in ancient hunting practices, the Annang witnessed attacks by wild animals. As the men went to fight in World War II these attacks intensified. The British authorities called the attacks murder and blamed it on "the barbarism of the Africans". The indigenes were accused of belonging to a secret society called Ekpeowo (The Human Leopards Society). It has been argued that killings borne out of insurgency against the British elsewhere in Africa led to the branding of leopard attacks as murders by the British authorities among the Annang. Between 1945 and 1948 about 196 people were killed in Ikot Okoro community in the present day Oruk Anam LGA. It is pertinent to note that the Ikot Okoro Police station was set up because of this reason. The British convicted 96 people and executed 77 innocent people (Pratten, 2007). The Annang religion called Idiong was banned and the priests arrested. Articles and worship materials were publicly burnt and those who did not join Christianity automatically became suspects (Ette, 2007).
The Annangs have a history and reputation for their fearlessness and the ability of villages and clans to bind together to fight a common enemy. This is perhaps why they were able to thrive living so close to the Aro Confederacy's center, Arochukwu with its famed Ibini Ukpabi oracle. A particular interesting war group was the famous Oko- warriors. This war group was highly functional in the 1950s. The American anthropologist (messenger 1951:41) called them the "warrior Cult". These warriors were considered invulnerable to penetration of knives, spears and arrows. In various instances sharp machetes were tested on the body parts of members.
The Annangs suffered genocide in the Nigerian Civil War. The war lasted for three years (1967–1970) and the Annang lost a significant number of its people. The effect of the war and the resulting neglect of the Annang is now a serious political issue and a source of unrest in the area. The Annangs have been overlooked in the current state structure in the Nigerian system through which the country's oil wealth is shared. Repeated demands for the creation of a state for the Annang area have been ignored by the Nigerian authorities, while other areas that do not produce oil have been made states and therefore set up as a unit to receive the oil money. Like other minority groups in the volatile Niger Delta in Nigeria, history and culture are taking a back seat to issues of politics and justice but the Annangs continue to fight for their rights.
Annang territory is not industrialized; the people are basically subsistence farmers, traders, craft men or civil servants. The economy is not strong enough to sustain the people. Sometimes young people are often given out to more comfortable people for menial works in the cities.
The farm activities are a prestigious pursuit for both men and women. After the farm plots have been cleared by men for women, planting and care of crops devolve exclusively upon the shoulders of women. The only exception here is yam-care, which is a privileged responsibility of men. While the Abak zone is notable for its oil palm products, raffia goods are a profitable source of income for a good number of people in the Ikot Ekpene zone, the Raffia city. Much of these goods are mostly exhibited at the Obo market, the most central market for the whole of Annang.
The traditional religion of the people is based on the belief in the existence of a Supreme Being called Abasi Ibom (Abasi Enyong) whom they believe lives beyond the clouds, and myriads of divinities and spiritual beings (Abasi Isong) that assist Abasi Ibom to deal with human problems of moral, social, economic, political and psychological nature (Udo E.A. 1983/Esen 1988). “Ibom” means the whole limitless universe. Here accordingly, he is the lord of the whole boundless universe and everything within it. Due to his boundlessness, there is no temple nor shrine for him, since that cannot accommodate him (Enang, 1979:5). Awasi-Ibom is ubiquitous, and, and because of this, no particular temple, place or shrine can accommodate him. He, therefore, needs no temple nor shrine since he can neither be localized nor spatialized. He transcends space and time continuum. The temple is, therefore, non-existent in the Annang religion. As the Awasi-Ibom is unlimited, so are his powers.However, Abasi Ibom is a withdrawn God, the so-called ‘deus-otiosus’ and hence assistance from other divinities and ancestral beings. Awasi Ibom or Abot is the creator, the creator of the divinities, humans, animals, plants and other existents in the world. Awasi Ibom comes first in the hierarchy of existence.
According to their order of importance, ‘Awasi Anyong’ (god of the sky) and ‘Awasi Isong’ (god of the earth) are nearer to Awasi Ibom than other deities. When libations are poured at public functions in Annang land, invocations are made to ‘Awasi Anyong’ and ‘Awasi Isong’. Awasi Anyong takes charge of the affairs of the ethereal region while Awasi Isong is concerned with the happenings on earth.
The exact number of these divinities is unknown. Messenger gives an estimated number of these divinities as being over thirty (Messenger 1959). Enang (1979) leaves the number at twenty three noting that their exact number cannot be know as individuals and villages or clans can and do easily welcome and accept any ‘new god’ from anywhere if the community believes the ‘god’ is powerful. This is to be expected in a polytheistic
religion of this nature. Of all the divinities, one most dreaded among the people- "Ekpo ka Owo"- whose duty is to check and punish infidelity in the marriage institution.
At the head of all the deities are “Eka Awasi (mother goddess) and “Eka nnem” (mother of the deities). These two are believed to exert control over lesser deities. Tabular arrangement to show the names of the deities, their abodes and functions.
The gods have different function put at their charge. Those with religious obligations are in charge of the religious activities of the clan, village, or home. Their ministers are the religious practitioners who make offerings on behalf of the people. They transmit the prayers and intentions of the people to the gods. Some of the gods fulfil social roles by fostering reproduction, health, long life and protection of the families. In the economic sphere, it is believed that the various ‘nnem’ help in successful growth of crops on the field and good harvest. Those with political portfolio help in the proper functioning of the village, clan or town. They aid the villages at war and support the chiefs in their political roles.
Although, people, for convenience in sacrifice, locate the divinities at special abodes, their homes are porous through and through, so that the divinities could be said to be everywhere. They are personal as well as non-personal. Therefore, despite their invisibility, they are most frequently approached in personal and social needs.
There is a strong belief in patrilineage ancestors (the living-dead) in life after death and in reincarnation. The dead are believed to continue in some kind of existence in the underworld invisible to the humans. The Ancestors (Mme Ette-Ette) acts as the spiritual custodians of the family and must be placated periodically to ensure their protection. The ancestors share both in the good and bad in the life of the social units (Ennang, 1979:26). Invisibly operating, too, is a force called “odudu”, which the Annangs believe to pervade nature. It is not identifiable, has no permanent abode and can, therefore, be conveyed in everything and sent to any place to do either good or harm. It is impersonal, non-physical, and is diffused as the melannesian force, called “mana” (Codrington, 1891:118). Workers of evil magic are believed to possess the ability to use “odudu” in bringing about the destruction or death of man, while good magic workers are believed to invoke “odudu” for the benefit of those who approach them. As soon as “odudu” finds itself invoked into application, it assumes the dimension of a personal force.
The belief in witchcraft is very prominent in the traditional religion of the Annang people. Witches and sorcerers have powers that come from their aberrant personalities; they perform antisocial magic. In their work, witches employ the assistance of animals or humanoids as servants or messengers. Although in most Annang communities, some witches are believed to be males, most are believed to be females. They meet around fires to promote their interests and eat the revived body of someone they have destroyed by supernatural powers. This phenomenon, which is of course by far not only found only in Annangland, can in the African context be related to the African life and worldview according to which the totality of reality consists of the interaction of forces and powers.
When there are crises in life or misfortune befall an Annang person, for instance, if a member of the family takes ill suddenly, or dies, if a woman suffers miscarriage, if an accident occurred, theft, the person immediately begins to wonder what might be responsible for the mishap. At once the person begins to think of the gods, the spirits, witches, enemies, dead ancestors who might have been responsible for the particular misfortune. The religious ‘expert’: priests, diviners, soothsayers, rainmakers, witch-doctors, mediums, sorcerers and medicine men and women are very important figures in the lives of the people because they are expected to give explanations in all areas of human life: spiritual, social, economic, political etc. The spirits are to be placated to ensure peace. Witches are believed to be everywhere and the religious leaders must be engaged to eradicate them. The spiritualists and religious experts are believed to have the antidote to ensure a hitch-free human existence.
The Annang people were first introduced into Christianity by the English Methodist Missionaries in 1919 (Enang 1979). Gradually many other Christian missions followed. Today there are very many varieties of Christian denominations in the area that taking a census of them will not only be difficulty but almost impossible as new forms of churches keep coming up everywhere. The area is often referred to as having the Churches as the main industry.
Taboos were associated with rituals and were thus held in absolute sacredness and sanctity. Contraventions brought undesirable material consequences to the offender and the community. Rituals were often performed to expiate and propitiate the evil committed. Some days were set aside and held to be sacred. For example, No woman was expected to fetch from the community stream on Ared market day (Usen Urua Ared). No one was expected to offend his grandchild or grandchildren (Ajejen or Nto Ajejen), his or her grandparents (Etebom and/or Ekam), his inlaws (Ukod). A woman is prohibited from having sexual intercourse with another man other than her husband. Contravention of this injunction attracts the dead of the husband, who is believed to be killed by the wife through the evil minstrels of eros called Ekpo Nka Agwo. This is not a general rule, as this rule operates contrariwise in some Annang communities. Be it as it may, this law appears to be an unjust law as the punishment for the offence does not devolve on the offender, but on another person. This contradicts the Annang belief in retribution and the belief that “the ashes follow its thrower” (Aduok ntong ke nton akene)
The following are some of Iman Annangs and their food taboos. Eka Abiakpo clans do not eat turtle. The Afaha people forbade its members from eating the (Nserise) squirrel. They identified with the quickness and intelligence of the animal. Other examples of clan groups and their food taboo are: Ukana python (Asabo); (Ibom); Ekpenyong (albino Python); Ikpe Uruk- Ikot (snake); Utu, Ebom, Midim (birds); Nto Osung (African black bird). Other Annang clans chose vegetables as their food taboo. Thus Ika has sweet yam (anem) as taboo, and Nto Edino has the river reed (Nyama). The food taboo was so important to the Annang that it was used as a distinguishing characteristic to locate the origin of an individual and to separate one Iman from another. Children learnt as part of the socialization process that a particular Iman are people living in a particular geographical area with a given food taboo. Ekanem (2002) reported that those from Midim preferred to starve rather than violate their food taboo during the Nigerian civil war that lasted from 1967 to 1970.
The Annang society is structured around a patrilineal (patriarchal) system of descent with significant matrifocal element. Individuals locate their place in the social world from the Idip, literally translated as, womb. Thus a brother/sister from the same Idip means that they can trace their origin to the same mother or father. The household consists of a man as the head of the family, his wife (wives) and children all owing allegiance to the household head. Since polygamy is practised in the society, all household that acknowledge a common unbroken agnate line of descent constitute a lineage known as Ekpuk (singular: Ufok), which (literally a house or compound). Groups of Ekpuk which can trace their origin to some extent to common ancestors form "Idung," a village. Villages are governed by village heads and council. Groups of villages form "Abie,"a clan (Essien 2010).
Leadership at the family, lineage, village, or clan level remains the prerogative of the men, and lineage ties extends to women even after marriage. There are many societies and associations (Urim) for men and women which are very important in traditional village life. Individuals are measured by both the number and types of memberships in Urim and by the achievements of one or more Urims. Governance is done by elderly males who act as the legislative arm called Afe Isong, directed by the Obong or Abong Ichong (Village Chief and Clan Chief) who is the head and the chief executive but without the authority beyond what the Afe Ichong gives. A chief can be appointed by the Afe or can be an inherited office. The strength of any individual, family (or group for that matter) is typically based upon a consensus of the village or clan through this complex social system. In all this, Annang women are not completely subordinate to men.
Instead Annang women are partners and leaders in many aspects of Annang tradition, including serving as female chief priests "Abia Idiong" in the Idiong cult or as healers in the healing cults. The first-born female known as Adiaha is important and commands respect in the family and lineage. Some traditions hold that a woman's first birth should take place in her mothers compound. Women organizations such as "abi-de" and "Nyaama", and "Isong Iban" play important roles in giving the women voice and status in society. There are no traditional or cultural barriers that prevent women from attaining high offices or positions. Indeed, traditionally Annang women have a great deal of economic independence from men. The society was semi-matriachal before colonialism. Children bore the names of their mothers and such common names as Essien, Essiet, Ukpong and Umo were female names and became androgenized when the missionaries saw matriacrchy as anti-Christian .(Ette,2009). Annangs value the ability to speak well and oratory ability using proverbs is highly desirable, especially among the leaders. The American anthropologist, Peter Farb, stated that the name "Annang" among this group means 'they who speak well' An individual who has the gift of eloquent speech is often complimented as Akwo Annang meaning the singer of Annang.
Socially, among the Annang people, the family, communal spirit and social ties are very strong. This communal attitude established among the Annang a typical sort of friendliness and trust to which this proverb refers: ‘The Annang even exchange drinking gourds in a dark room’. This trust is strengthened by the fear of the gods and the ancestral spirits who would not hesitate to punish those who seek the downfall of any of his or her fellow tribal woman or man. The family is the first natural society. Some families are polygamous and some are monogamous.
In Annang society ranks are not hereditary. This means that a person’s position is not determined by ascription. Upward and downward mobility exist due to the flexible social stratification that exists among the people. Social groups are not arranged in a fixed order of superiority and inferiority. Marriage is a very important institution for the people. In the traditional society, everyone is expected to marry and have children. But social services are not put in place to help the families cope with the social issues that arise daily.
The right of inheritance of property at the death of a man devolves on his sons. Among others, the eldest son (Akpan) benefits more than other sons. He inherits, by traditional belief, the father’s buildings or houses, and he is heir apparent to the throne if his father were a royal head. In terms of his portions of land, these are usually divided among the male children, beginning from the eldest to the youngest. Women or female children do not enjoy this right in the Annang society.
It involves the ways of doing things in the society. These were the customs and traditions obtainable in the land. They were believed to have originated from distant past and transmitted to the present through the ancestors. Due to their origin from the ancestors, they were observed with some sense of sacredness and were mostly followed with rituals. Eru-unam-mkpo guided performance of events in the society, such as birth and naming, death and burial, marriages, festivals, etc.
Laws were specific rules and regulations in the Annang society. They also entailed prohibitions, alongside rules and regulations. Some of these specific rules were: Land tenure, whereby lands were expected to be kept fallow for seven years before they were ripe for farming; Village pathways had to be swept weekly, etc. Moreover, the village council would place intermittent injunctions restraining villagers from harvesting the palm fruits. This rule (ugwuok ajop) was so made to permit the village council to harvest the palm fruits, sell
them and use the money for village projects. After the village council would have completed its duty, the villagers were permitted again to harvest their fruits. The day this injunction was lifted, called ugwuoko ajop, villagers were permitted to harvest from any palm oil tree, be it their own or not. After this day, title of ownership of the palm oil trees went back to their original owners.
There were duties to the community, duty to one’s family, children, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, wives, husband, father, mother, elders, strangers, friends and in-laws. Communal work, such as, sweeping of the village pathways, building of the village hall, etc, also fell within the purview of utom.
It entailed manners and etiquette which went beyond the self to how one comported himself or herself becomingly in public. A youth was always not expected to be first greeted by an elderly person, but rather, he or she was expected to greet the elder first. A youth was expected to extend two hands while having handshake with an elderly person. A youth was not expected to request handshake from an elderly person by being the first to extend his or her arms. A youth was not expected to give response to any advice given by an elderly person, for the Annang say “ese ekokop item, agwo isi iboroke” (meaning, “Advice is listened to, but not responded to”). Moreover, a youth was not expected to drink the drakes of palm wine in the presence if his elders. Litigants in disputes were expected to avoid unguarded remarks, as contraventions could incur special fines. Even though some unusual behaviours which contravened standards of good manners did not attract penalties, they were duly condemnable and frowned at. Examples are, whenever a recipient did not thank the donor; when a girl climbed the tree; when a child insolently responded to the parents’ rebuke, etc.
In traditional African societies there is a right to associate freely with one’s own kins within an extended family, a right to associate with people outside the extended family, a right also to inter-tribal association in marriage. This right is limited in certain communities in Igbo land. There is the practice of a caste system, the “Osu”caste system. The Osu are believed to attend to certain idols and thus were seen and treated as holy sect, and due to their closeness and consequent “sacredness”, they are not related with normally. These groups of people are treated as inferior to other human beings, and as such there is no deliberate intermarriage with them.
In traditional Annang society, only male initiates have the right to belong to the “Ekpo” masquerade cult. Those who have not been initiated, some males and all women are not altogether free to move about in the society during the “Ekpo” masquerade festival. At the climax of this festival, called “Ndok Ekpo”, women are not free at all to be seen outside their homes. This is usually the last week of the tenth month of the year, October. This restricts their freedom of movement.
Whenever, his or rights were infringed, or whenever he or she had a case, the Annang person most often sought justice by resorting to the lineage or village council depending on the where the other litigant came from. If the parties came from the same lineage, the lineage (lineage) council would be the court of jurisdiction; if the parties to the case came from different lineages, the village council would assume jurisdiction over the case. Furthermore, cases involving litigants from different villages were entertained by the clan court, which was empanelled with the village heads and ordained traditional priests called “Akuku” (the plural version of Akuku).
The court hierarchy rose from the lower to the higher. This started from the family council, to the lineage council, to the village, and to the clan council. Cases were always referred to the higher courts if they were not decided at the lower courts, or as appeals by the litigants if he or she was dissatisfied with the decision by the lower courts. When criminality was hard to determine, resorts were made to the traditional truth determinants, which were: Oath (Mmiam); Divination (Iyong); and Ordeal (Ukang).
Mmiam was the god of justice. Recourse to mmiam decided the case and settled the disputes, since there was strong sense of belief in its efficacy, and there was no appeal available. A period of time was always given for the effect of mmiam after it had been sworn to. The oath taker was expected to suffer some affliction, mostly death, during this period. If he or she died or suffered the required affliction, he or she was deemed to have been guilty, and his or her affliction would have to be expiated per rituals. If neither affliction nor death visited him or her, he or she would be publicly declared innocent before the entire community.
Iyong was the process and method of inquiring the will of the gods by the diviner (awia iyong). The awia iyong possessed expert powers to invoke the spirits or the gods. He would shake the rattle (ekpuud), make incantations, and cast some objects (mostly bones, pebbles, nuts, teeth or fangs of some powerful animals like cat, snake, dog, centipede, i.e., mbamba ) on the ground. Sometimes, he would gaze into some water in a bottle or in a white basin. It was believed that the gods or ancestral spirits communicated the truth through him.
The operative techniques and process of Iyong was closely associated and similar to nkukud (oracle) and use-mkpo (foretelling). While iyong as a means of justice dealt with the present, it, however, delved into distant past and also looked in to the future.
Ukang was primarily instituted to detect and punish offenders. It, however, operated within the realm of the magical and the mysterious. It was supernatural with physical and material effects. John Bosco Ekanem and Joseph Udondata (2011) outlined the different types of ukang in their work . These are:
1. Ukang Ujo Aran (Ordeal of the boiling oil);
2. Ukang Ntuen-Ibok (Ordeal of the Alligator Pepper);
3. Ukang Akook Ukod (Ordeal of the Bamboo);
4. Ukang Ikpa Unam (Ordeal of the Leather);
5. Ukang Akpe Ajop (Ordeal of Oil Palm-Fruit Fibre);
6. Ukang Ndaam (Ordeal of the Raffia)