Aro people

Aro people

ethnic group
group=Aro people

poptime=Upwards of 1 million
popplace=Nigeria, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, United Kingdom
rels=Christianity, Traditional
langs=Igbo, Ibibio, several Cross River languages
related= Igbo, Ibibio, Ijo, Ekoi, Igala, Idoma, Efik

The Aro people or Aros of West Africa, is a predominately Igbo subgroup who originated in Arochukwu. A mix of Igbo/Akpa and Ibibio people, they have a unique culture. They are mostly found in Nigeria and scattered throughout 300 settlements but can be found from the Niger Delta area to present-day Gabon. Most Aro settlements in Nigeria are in the Igboland and other areas in Southern Nigeria. The Aros today are mostly classified as Cross River Igbos due to their culture and the language they speak. Their god, Ibini Ukpabi, was a key factor in Aro migration and intermarriage during slave trade.

History and Origins

The history of the Aros goes back to the Igbo migration and foundings of the kingdom of Arochukwu. Before Igbos started arriving in the 17th century, Ibibios lived in many scattered communities between the Imo and Cross Rivers where they arrived through the Benue and plateau area. Population pressure caused Igbo migrations from the north into the Ibibio areas starting in the 15th century. Tensions escalated especially when the last and heaviest phases of migrations occurred in the 17th century. The Aro-Ibibio wars and the migration of the Akpa from east of the Cross River, formed the nation. This began during the turning point of the 17th century to the 18th century. The Igbo and Akpa alliance, defeated the original inhabitant Ibibios after several long years of warfare. By this time, the slave trade was popular in the hinterland. The mid-18th century saw the start of mass migrations of Aro businessmen and slave raiders. Priests of Ibini Ukpabi, spread the religion and the Aro Confederacy was in power. Aro culture and influence spread, until it went into a downfall during the last quarter of the 19th century. This was due to the abolition of slavery and the penetration of the Europeans, mainly British colonists. After tensions finally led to bloodshed, the Anglo-Aro war took place from 1901-1902. This resulted in Aro dominance being drastically decreased enough for British to occupy eastern Nigeria. Not only did the Aro suffer a defeat but a terrible loss of importance and influence throughout the settlements.


The Aros have a very rich tradition. One factor is the Ekpe society which is a sacred cult originally from east of the Cross River. The highly religious and judicial cult took a major part in Aro cultism. The use of the writing system, Nsidibi, was based on secret societies like Ekpe. Another is the Ibini Ukpabi shrine, who was a mediating god among the Aros. They influenced neighbours and allies before the British invasion. The shrine was used for selling slaves during the slave trade. The Ekeleke masquerade activity was important in Aro settlements rather than Ekpe. Brought from the Aros in the western Niger Delta, it eventually spread to the Oguta area. They also were known for wearing the popular "George" cloth. The Ikperikpe warrior dance was very famous among warriors in the old days and continues to be practiced. These parts of their culture were borrowed by or influenced their neighbours during the Confederacy era.

Largest settlements in Eastern Nigeria

*Aro Okporoenyi: Umuahia area of Abia State.
*Aro Ndizuogu: Ideato area of Imo State (The biggest of all the settlements).
*Aro Ndi Ikerionwu: In Anambra State.
*Aro Ajalli: In Anambra State.
*Aro Nzerem: In Ebonyi State.
*Aro Amokwe: In Udi area of Enugu State.
*Aro Isuochi: In Abia State.
*Aro Isiokpo/Igwurita Ikwerre area in Rivers State.
*Aro Abagana: In Anambra State.
*Aro Izombe: In Abia State.
*Aro Oru: In Imo State.
*Aro Ngwa: In Abia State.
*Aro Ezeagu: In Enugu State.
*Aro Achi: In Enugu State.
*Aro Oboro Ite
*Aro Kalabari: In Rivers State.
*Aro Opobo: In Rivers State.

ee also

*Aro Confederacy



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