Rivers state is a state filled with people of diverse
cultural and artistic heritage. It embodies a beautiful collision of cultural
practices. Many tribes in Rivers state are so different, and sometimes have
definite different language patterns. The state is bordered to the North, by
Imo, Abia and Anambra (with Imo been the nearest), to the East by Akwa Ibom
state and to the west by Bayelsa and Delta state. These different states have
major tribal similarities with the tribes situated close to them. Some are even
part of those tribes, but are divided into the different states by political preferences.
Rivers state is an oil rich region of Nigeria, and has been fondly referred to worldwide
as the oil state (formerly not due to crude oil but palm oil).
There are about 26 ethnic groups recognized worldwide, in
Rivers state and each has their own characteristic lifestyle, language and
cultural as well as artistic heritage. Largely due to these diverse ethnic
groups and also due to industrial boom, multilingualism is what is mostly seen
in Rivers state. Due to colonialism, English language is widely spoken around
Rivers state but the more obvious form of it is the Portuguese English (Pidgin
English). Another major language spoken in Rivers state is Igbo, this is
because, Rivers state was formerly part of the Eastern Region of Nigeria, which
is predominantly Igbo. Also, many tribes in Rivers state have similar language
forms to the Igbo language (Igboid language). My aim in this essay is to share
with you, a more in depth view of the tribes that make up this lovely state.

The Ogonis

The Ogoni kingdom is situated in the south eastern part of Rivers
state near Akwa Ibom state. The Ogonis are divided into six kingdoms: Gokana,
Tai, Eleme, Babbe, Nyo-khana and Ken-khana. The kingdoms cut across 4 LGAS namely:
Khana, Gokana, Eleme and Tai. The largest dialect is Khana. The Ogoni region is
quite big both geographically and by population mass of about a million people.
They are bordered by Akwa ibom to one side (Tai area) and Andoni kingdom to the
other. The Ogoni population s estimated to be about 2 million people. The
Ogonis are predominantly farmers until recently burdened with oil environmental
issues (oil spills) has caused farming to grow almost extinct in the land. The
region is rich in crude oil resources. Christianity is the most dominant
religion in the area. History has it that the Ogonis migrated from Ghana
through the Atlantic coat and that they are the oldest settlers in the Eastern
Nigeria Delta.

The Etche

The Etche people inhabit 2 LGAs namely: Omuma LGA and Etche
LGA. They are situated to the north of Rivers state. The Etche communities are
also quite as large as the Ogoni region with population of about 700,000 people.
The Etche people up till today are very much farmers and still stick to farming
as their heritage. Been in the uplands, they plant and harvest mainly tuber
crops with Yam, Cassava, plantain and banana being the most important. The
Etche people are peaceful people and are predominantly Christians (mostly of
the Anglican Church). They are quite known for their ability to remain close to
home, no matter how learned or educated they are. The Etche people speak and
Igbo like (igboid) language and are actually very close to imo state, with the
villages of Ngo-okpala and Mbaise been the most closest to them. The most
developed area in Etche is the Okehi town. There are also other communities
such as Igbodo, Afara, Mba, Umolie, Chokocho up to about 26 communities.


The Engenni tribe is situated to the west of Rivers state
very close to Bayelsa state. They primarily inhabit the Ahoada west LGA and
have a common cultural heritage with the Ijaws of Bayelsa. They even consider
themselves to be Ijaw and speak a language that is actually similar to the Edo
language. Historically, they are said to have migrated from the old Benin
Empire about 1000 years ago. Their presence is felt more in other Engenni
communities outside Rivers state in Bayelsa state. The Engenni people are made
up of 5 major clans which in turn is split into 31 towns and villages. They are
very friendly and hospitable people, despite the absence of urban and rural
development in the area. They are predominantly farmers and fishermen and are
bordered by the Oraishi or Engenni river to the west. Despite the advent of Christianity,
the people of these areas still hold on very much to their traditional religion,
but largely embraced western education. They are actually regarded as the most
educated people in Rivers state. The region is also rich in crude oil and
natural gas resources. Estimated population is about 47,000.

Bille Tribe

The Bille tribe is situated on an Island on central Rivers
state. The people of Bille largely occupy present day Degema LGA with Bille
town as its central tribal seat. They are usually classified as the Kalabari
tribe but are actually independent. The Bille people historically are said to
have migrated from ancient Benin Empire. The Bille area, despite been
surrounded by water, is also divided into two by a water channel, but parts of
the channels have been sand filled recently to allow for land transportation.
Fishing and trading are the main occupation of the Bille people. There is also
another set of the Bille tribe in Adamawa, which history has it that they
migrated from Bille to that area. The Bille cultural traditions are said to
have traces that lead to the practices of mermaids and water spirits. Today, Christianity
and still a bit of traditional practices are found in the area. Estimated
population is about 44,000.

 Ibani Tribe

The ibani tribe is said to be part of the greater Ijaw
community. They are situated to the southern part of rivers state and their
main town is Bonny Town. The language spoken by this people is the Ijaw language
the most dominant religion in the area is Christianity. The Bille tribe have
always been known for its strong Royal authority and used to be a major trading
centre in the 16th century. The cult of Iguana strongly depicts the
cultural heritage of the Ibani people.  Estimated population is 111,000.

Kula Tribe

The Kula tribe is also part of the ijaw community. They are
located in Akuku Toru LGA to the south west side of Rivers state. The Kula
language was originally a much different language from the Kalabari language
but due to mixing with the Kalabaris, the Kula language is now largely extinct.
The Kula region is actually a mangrove swamp located very close to the Atlantic
ocean and the area is rich in crude oil and natural gas resources. The Kula
community is not actually one community, but historically is said to be an
amalgam of 14 different communities that do not share the same forefathers. The
people are said to have migrated from different areas such as Delta, Nembe etc.
The Kula people are predominantly traditional people except recently (1910),
with the building of a church in the area. Despite this, the people are still
very much stick to their traditional practices. Estimated population is 2,649

The Ikwerre

The ikwerre community is the biggest region in Rivers state
and is made up of 4 LGAs namely: Ikwerre, Obio-Akpor, Emohua and Port Harcourt
LGAs. Despite arguments to the contrary by some people of the region, the
Ikwerres are actually a sub group of the much larger Igbo communities. Their
origins can be traced to Owerri (Imo state), Ohaji (Abia state), Etche and Ngwa
(Abia state) communities. The 4 LGAs have different variants of the Igbo
language, with the Obio- akpor own variant as the most central. The Ikwerres in
history were farmers, hunters and fishermen but more recently due to industrial
oil boom, most have converted their lands to residential areas. The LGAs of
Obio-Akpor, Port Harcourt and to a large extent Ikwerre are quite developed
with Port Harcourt as the capital of Rivers state. The Ikwerre communities are
very much a Christian community having diverse and different complex overflow
of churches. Estimated population is more than 2 million people.

Defaka Tribe

This tribe is very small settlement with a population of
about 1000 people and is situated in Bonny district in the eastern part of
Rivers state with part of them in the Nkoroo communities. They are bordered by
the Ogonis, Nkoroo and Twona. They speak a certain variation of the Ijaw
language. History has it that they migrated from Delta state.

The Obolo Tribe

The obolo community also regarded as the Andonis is found in
the Eastern part of Rivers state and occupies the Andoni LGA. They are also
related to the Ijaw community. They can also be found in Akwa Ibom state. They
speak the Obolo language which is actually an amazing complex mix of Efik,
Ibibio, Oron and Ijaw dialects. The Andoni community is situated largely on
water and is actually made up of several different islands. They are bordered
to one end by Akwa Ibom and to another by the ogonis. The region is rich in
wildlife and mineral resources. The Andoni people are quite carefree and
peaceful people, in ancient times (even up till now), this carefree nature of
both man and woman been able to bath in the same River and at the same time
without issues of sexual immorality being recorded. Estimated population is
about 291,000.

The Ekpeye Tribe

They are situated in the south western part of the state.
They occupy parts of Ahoada and Ogba-Egbema 
in Rivers state and Ohaji-Egbema in Imo state. There cultural heritage
and language embodies a mixture of original Ekpeye, ijaw and igbo. They are
said to have migrated from ancient Benin Empire. The population of Ekpeye
people is about 130,000.

Nkoro Tribe

This tribe is also a part of the ijaw community and cuts
across Nkoro, Ayama and Dema. It is actually a small settlement bordered by
Andoni, Ogoni and Ndoka. They are found in the Opobo/Nkoro LGA and is actually
an Island. The Nkoro language is a variant of the ijaw language with a section
(Afaka) of it having a different language. The culture of these people
resembles the Andoni tribe and can be mistaken as Andonis. The population of
the Nkoro people is about 291,000 people.

Nkoroo Tribe

This is another small ijaw community in Rivers state and has
a variant of the Ijaw language which is called the Nkoroo language. The
population of the Nkoroo people is estimated to about 4,700 people.


The Ogba tribe is situated to the west of Rivers state. They
are a variant of the Igbo community and speak the Ogba language which is a
dialect of the Igbo language. They are found in the Ogba/Egbema/Indoni LGA. The
Ogba people comprise of fourteen extended families divided into clans and
fondly regarded as the Egi communities.  The
estimated population of people in this area is about 280,000. Some of its towns
include Akabuka, Ogbogu, Omoku, Obite etc. with Omoku been the most developed
in the area. The Ogba region (Ali Ogba) is said to have also migrated from the
Benin Empire and the area is rich with natural gas and crude oil resources. The
Ogba people mostly engage in farming and fishing, producing a large number of
food crops such as cassava, yam, maize, cocoyam, plantain and banana. The Ogba
people are primarily Christians with a faint trace of traditional religion.


Okrika is a port town in Rivers State. It is
situated on a small Island to the southern part of the state, making it a neighborhood
of the larger city. The people are also of the Ijaw community and used to be a
fishing port before it became a centre for slave trading in the 117th
century. The populations of the Okrikas in the area are estimated to be about
222,026 people. The main occupation in time past of the Okrika people is
fishing and trading, which has declines due to oil and gas activities in the
area. Christianity is also now a dominant religion in this area.


This tribe is located in the Abua-Odual LGA in Rivers state,
about 10 miles from port Harcourt near the Ahaoda LGA. They are actually
regarded as a subgroup of the Ekpeye people. Estimated population of the Abua
people is 281, 988. Christianity is gaining grounds in the region, but traditional
practices are still quite dominant. The language spoken here is a variation of
the Ekpeye dialect.

Kalabari Tribe

This tribe is also of the Ijaw community and is situated in
the Kalabari LGA in Rivers state. Originally, they were called Awome before
given the name Elem Kalabari (New Calabar) which is comprising of about 35
settlements such as Abonnema, Buguma, Bakana etc. the Kalabaris are said to
have originated from the Bini tribe of the ijaw land through a lineage of a man
called Mein Owei. The region known as Kalabari is actually made up of several
individual islands. Estimated population is 472,000 people.

Ndoni Tribe

The Ndoni people are located in the Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni LGA of
rivers state. They speak the Ndoni dialect. They are said to be related to the
Aboh people of Delta state since they speak the same dialect. There dialect is
a variant of the Igbo language.

Opobo Tribe

The Opobo tribe is located in the Opobo/Nkoro LGAs. Opobo is
made up of several islands and communities such as Opobo town, Queenstown,
Oloma, Iwoma and also some communities exist in Akwa Ibom state in Ikot Abasi.
The people of Opobo and Bonny are of the same origin. The Opobo mainly speak
the community Ibani language and the others near Akwa ibom state speak Efik language.

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