The Abiribas are part of the Agunaguna sub-tribe of the main Ekoi group. They are part of the larger Yakurr group that can also be traced up to Ikom and other parts of the upper Cross River basin.
The present Yakor (Yakurr) Local Government Area of the Cross River State includes Ugep, Agunaguna, Nko, Usukpam (Urukpam), Ubaghara and others. In these areas are such other settlements as Ebiribara, Ebom-Ebiriba et cetera. As a matter of fact, the Ebom-Ebiribas in Yakor simply changed their name to Ebom because the present Abiriba (Ebiriba) was virtually eclipsing them such that even mail meant for them found their way into Abiriba of Abia State.
The Abiribas are said to have lived in that part of Enna clan where there were plenty of Uda trees (xylopia aethiopica) hence the name Ena-Uda. The shrine of the Abiriba royalty is still standing at Usukpam-Ena.
From events and available data, the Abiribas were said to have crossed the river at Usukpam, hence they are often referred to as Usukpam-Etete, a nostalgic name for that ancient home. Usukpam (Urukpam) as called by the natives there now is part of Akpaa-Erei clan of the larger Ena clan.
The Abiribas lived here for a long time when they left mainland Ena-Uda under the leadership of Nnachi-Oken, hence the nomenclature, Ebiriba Enachi-Oken. From here they travelled through Okon-Ohafia and settled at Udara-Ebuo, a stretch of land between Amekpu-Ohafia and Okagwe-Ohafia. This long sojourn in the present day Ohafia area explains the numerous relationships between this area of Ohafia and Abiriba.
Equally the Abiriba-Ena royalty have affinity with Akanu Ohafia. Nnachi Oken died at Udara Ebuo and Ntagha continued the journey to Uranta where much later he too died. After the demise of Ntagha, Igbokwu became the leader. From here, Udara-Ebuo, the Abiribas now led by Igbokwu passed by Nkwu-ebu (Nkwebi) Ohafia to Uranta near Oboro en-route OzuAbam.
Nkwu-ebu is the Palmyra palm, botanically/scientifically known as Borassus aethiopum which grew abundantly here. From here they moved right (north) and found their way into Ihe and Agboha about 17th century. These two communities are near the present Binyom village of Abiriba.
Agboha up till today is referred to as Agboha-Igbokwu, after the leader Igbokwu. This date of arrival is well estimated from later recorded events of early European visitors and estimating backwards from the number of Abiriba Kings remembered in our history. It is interesting to note the name Binyom which sounds Ekoi and has no Igbo meaning.
The Abiribas brought their gods from Ekoi, the main god being the Otisi, (Otusi, Otosi). The Otisi is the royal symbol of authority over the Abiriba people. Otisi, Otosi is Ekoi name and many other Igbo Cross Riverine communities equally have this name and as gods too. The name is common in Afikpo areas, Edda, Ohafia, Aro, Abam, Item and others. In these areas, the royal families are referred to as Ndi-Otisi, that is, the people of Otisi. It is so too in Item and some other places.
It is also equally noteworthy that one of the feared juju gods is Otisi Binyom of Abiriba. Apart from this god, we have Kalu, the god of war or thunder. One of these gods is at Ozua-elu (Kalu Ozua Elu) after Amamba village on the road that takes and brings back men who have made journeys, be it war or trade on that route.
The other is at Ndi Ebe, Kalu Ndi Ebe of Umu e’Chuku Amogudu. These Kalu gods are sacrificed to with cocks and rams.The Abiribas lived for long at ihe and Agboha from where they fanned out to establish modern day Abiriba villages and city. The Abiribas developed Agboha and built up a big market here. Because of their mercantilism, blacksmithing, weaving, crafts manship in ivory et cetera, Abiriba attracted marketers from neighbouring communities that stretched all the way to Ozuitem, Ozuakoli, Ahaba-Imenyi, Item and others.
When the current and new market (Afia-nkwo) was founded, people still referred to the portion on the western flank of Binyom, namely Agboha as Afiankwo-ochie; that is “the old market place”. After several years of sojourn at Agboha, the royal group moved to the part of Umueso village called Amelunta today. The compounds that make up Amelunta are Ndi Ekpe, the main royal compound, Ndi Ezema and Ndi e’Mbaeku. The kings that ruled Abiriba and from Ndi Ekpe, Amelunta, were Ekpe, Itu, Uduka Oko (Uduka uku) Egbara uku and others.
One of the sons of the royalty, Oko Uduka, alias Okonta Ogba-enwo (Oko the monkey shooter) in later years in his hunting expeditions located the valley after Isi-Olara and thought it was a natural fortress and also attracted by the water moved the royal compound there while retaining the majority of the royalty at Ndi-Ekpe.
This new compound is known as Ndi Oko-ogo, that is, the people of the home of Oko. The new royal compound not only accommodated the royalty but other sojourners that sought refuge in Abiriba for protection by the Abiriba King. From Ndi Okogo and Ndi Ekpe, the royalty developed Ameke Echichi and the other Ameke villages. The royalty installed the first Nkwa in Mgbala Ekpe at Ameke Echichi.
Nkwa is a wooden carving in a compound hall of the royalty or in the Ekpe cult hall of the royalty. Nkwa is an arm of the Otisi god. In the olden days a replica of this carving formed part of the equipment given to a princess as a wedding gift and placed in the small hall, Obu, of the compound where she is married to. There are among others recently two such compounds where replicas of the nkwa small effigies, child bearing goddesses, were given to daughters married at Ndi Okoronkwo and Umuaga compounds both of Udanta Amogudu. The whole idea of these human-looking replicas, large dolls, is that the daughter may by the grace of the goddesses produce children.
Umuaga compound at the end of the civil war sought permission from Ndi EkpeAmelunta to replace this wooden replica at their Obu compound, having been destroyed by the recently ended civil war. This was granted and the accompanying traditional ceremonies and rites accomplished.
The expansions of the Abiriba people from Agboha to Amelunta and the new king’s fortress compound, Ndi Oko-ogo as well as the other Ameke villages were not smooth ones. In their expansions into the current city, the Abiribas encountered other settlers, Umuhu, who were at Ihebu and Amamba, Nkporo At Kirii of Umueso and part of Item were near Ogbu, each group moving towards more fertile terrains.
The Abiribas expanded to found the villages of Ameke, Amogudu, particularly Umu -e’Chukwu, and Agboji under Ebiri. In later years when parts of Amelunta needed expansion, the then Enachioken, Oko Uduka -requested Egboji, now under Nwagu Efa to provide present day Amaukughukughu, (the place of the owls) for that purpose. Because of this gesture, the king rewarded Egboji with Nkwa-Otisi and that is why the Mgbala Ekpe of Ama-Ebia of Egboji has Nkwa. Ama-Ebia is the home of the Egboji village head.