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Last update 03-06-2020) 

The Ineme (Uneme or Uleme) inhabit a number of villages in the northern and south-eastern parts of the Kukuruku Division, widely scattered, and separated from each other by the territory of various Etsako and North-West Edo communities. They are undoubtedly an intrusive element in the population of this area and probably represent a more recent migration from the vicinity of Benin. The Ineme. are united by common traditions of origin, by their traditional craft as smiths, in their dialect, and in certain other social and cultural features. In a sense they represent an endogamous caste, for their non-Ineme neighbours refuse to intermarry with them. Other Ineme settlements are to be found in Ishan, parts of North Eastern Yoruba country and in the neighbouring parts of Northern Nigeria.

The name of these people seems to be derived from ileme, a rarely used and possibly archaic Benin word for “blacksrnith.” A short sample of vocabulary from Ineme-Ogbe suggests that the dialect there maybe closer to Edo proper than the dialects of neighbouring North-West communities. It is not known, however, how far Ineme dialects differ from village to village.

Southern  Ineme ..
Udochi North   
Udochi South  
Northern    Uneme

The Southern Ineme depends to a large extent upon fishing and trading in the Niger creeks. The people of Alagbeta, for example, do little farming and play a very small part in the palm-produce industry. At Alagbeta there is a U.A.C. trading factory and an important market.
The Northern Ineme, living away from the rivers, depends for subsistence upon farming and palm-oil production. A large proportion of the men are blacksmiths and they are to be found widely scattered among the towns of Kukuruku and Ishan and farther afield among the Igbira of Kabba Province, in Kabba town and in other parts of Yoruba country. Formerly they smelted their own ore, but they no longer do so.

The Northern Uneme women, like those of neighbouring communities, are expert weavers on upright looms of both locally-grown cotton and imported yarns.

The Ineme probably migrated to this area at a later date than neighbouring peoples. This is suggested both by their own traditions and by their anomalous position in respect of ‘land tenure. They are reported to be descended from a group of blacksmiths from Obadan in Benin Division who fled from the wrath of an Oba. They settled first at Inyele in what is now Asaba Division and later at Ugboha in ishan, where there are still some Ineme. Little is known of their subsequent history or of the manner or order in which the present settlements were formed. It is interesting to note that the names of certain egware’ (wards) within the northern villages are the same as the names of some of the southern villages. This suggests ether that the northern villages are composite settlements containing elements from different southern villages or that the latter are derived from particular egware in the northern villages. Traditions collected by government officers in 1911—15 suggest the latter since they indicate that all the Ineme formerly lived in the north. Mr. D. P,. Stanfield, who lives in Kukuruku Division, supports this view and suggests that the southern villages were probably founded after 1865 by Ineme who had crossed and recrossed the Niger. But much fragmentation and regrouping appears to have taken place during the latter half of the l9th century as a result of Nupe raids.

Each Ineme village is sub-divided into wards (egware), each of which appears to be associated with a particular descant-group; most names of egware have the prefix imi, “ children of.” The Ineme, like the Etsako, practice alternative forms of marriage and the likelihood is that these descent-groups are to some extent bilateral.
Egware iri different villages often bear the same name which suggests that they may be, in some sense, dispersed clans. Among the Southern and Northern Ineme respectively 15 and 25 egware have only 10 and 1 1 names between them, and Imiava, Udochi, and Uzanu, the names of southern villages, are also the names of northern egware. However, the egware of a single village often claim common, descent from the founder of the village.

Among the Southern Ineme new age-sets for males are formed every fourth year and attached to one of the companies obizua, obiode, and obiyan (ogubo). A man must have eight sets junior to him before he can become iduewoli. Among the Northern Ineme new sets are formed about every seven years.

Igeru is a rank among the Northern Ineme which qualifies a man for an individual title and political office. At Ineme-Ekpe its achievement involves passing through four grades by paying fees to existing members and providing feasts. Iduewoli is a similar rank among the Southern Ineme. In order to acquire it a man must have married an amoya wife and completed the funeral rites of his father. The latter involves feasting the whole village and making presents to important, individuals. At Alagbeta a payment of £20 to the existing iduewoli has been substituted.

Only a senior son has the right to “bury” his father though, if he should refuse, his junior brother might step in. If the senior son dies after becoming iduezeioli his next surviving brother may take the title by paying about £2. Udochi had 10 iduewoli in 1938, Alagbcta many more.

The authority structure is based on a combination of age, title-association membership, and individual titles.

Among the Southern Ineme the most important title is oliola. Its holder is the village headman in Alagbeta-where the title is said to descend by primogeniture in the male line, Udochi, where it is the prerogative of one egware (which has branches in North and South Udochi); and in Uzanu, where it alternates between the two egware. In all these villages the second most important title is onotu. At Alagbeta the onota is chosen from a specified egware by the elders and with the approval of the oliola and the candidate must pay fees to validate his position; he has charge of the ukpi drurn(cf. cerain Etsako tribes). At Udochi the title is confined to one egware and at Uzanu it goes to a mernber of the alternative egware to that of the current oliola.

Other titles are erame, whose holder is priest of agumi (ogü?) , the principal deity of Ineme.—a hereditary title at Alagbeta and confined to one egware at Udochi; otaru, and akewaze at Alagbeta only-__a priest who sacrifices on behalf of the erame and who is the oldest member of a segment of one egware.
Apart from these individual titles each village has edio, who are usually the oldest men of certain egware; they are generally four in number.

Village council consists of the village head, title-holders, edio, and iduewoli. The Onotu performs executive functions (cf. the same title among other sections of the Edo-speaking peoples, where it is frequently linked with age-grade leadership).
North and South Udochi form one political unit and Imiava is closely associated with Alagbeta; Uzanu is apparently independent.

Among the Northern Ineme the political organization is rather different. At Ineme-Ogbe and Ineme-Osu the village head is the oldest man of specified egware and at Egeni the oldest man in the village. Individual titles are held by the oldest men in each egware and there are other titles whose location is unknown; all were vacant in 1 938. In Northern Ineme iduewoli is a collective name for these titleholders.
The village council is composed of the village heads and iduewoli and, including, at Ineme Ogbe, a priest, otaru. Each village is an independent political unit.
At the present day Southern Ineme are a part of the Etsako Federation and Northern Ineme. of the Akoko-Igara Federation.

Formerly disputes were settled at the level of the smallest segment to which both parties belonged. The senior members of the village council gave decisions in cases brought before them at the house of the village head. Both parties paid fees in advance; the successful party had his refunded and the rest were divided by the iwegware (sharers) among the judges. The iduewoli were responsible for enforcing decisions by seizing livestock, poultry, etc., and they retained a portion of what they seized. Oaths and ordeals were used to establish the “facts “where other evidence was doubtful or conflicting.

The Ineme appear to have few undisputed claims to the ownership of either land or water. The fishing-ponds which the Southern Ineme use are disputed with the Uzia, Ekperi, and Ifeku people, and most of the Northern Ineme share their farming and palm-produce rights with neighbouring North-West Edo communities. “Ineme-Ekpe has little land to which it can claim absolute ownership though it has farming rights over about 10 sq. miles . . . Ineme-Ogbe has occupational rights over about 5 sq. miles of land but shares the land and palm products in common with the Akoko (Akuku?) People... Egeni has about 10 so - miles. Most of which is shared in common with the neighbouring village of Osi. . . . Ineme-Osu has about 30 sq. miles, but Dagbala lays claim to ownership of most of this situation does not appear to have caused much friction, but in recent years the increasing importance of palm-produce has resulted in a desire to establish boundaries which were formerly vague


The same forms of marriage are found as among the Etsako, viz., amoya, isumi, and onabo. The marriage-payment for daughters of isumi marriages is shared by the ‘families” of the father and mother, the latter receiving the greater portion
Onabo marriages were personably contracted between members of different lneme villages, for intermarriage with non-Ineme communities, at least among the Northern Ineme, is frowned upon by both sides. The North-West Edo try to prevent their women coming into contact with Ineme men. At Somorika, according to one informant, an Ineme man maybe invited to sit down in the house but when he has departed the place where he sat must be purified with fire before a woman has a chance to sit there. Nor should a Somorika woman bathe in a stream where an Ineme man might see her. Similar restrictions are placed upon their own women by the Ineme. They do, however, intermarry freely with Benin people.

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