Historical development of Koko community

Historical background

The people of Koko which is currently the headquarters of Warri North Local Government Area are among the Itsekiri people who are believed to be among the Itsekiri people who adopted a prince (Ginuwa) from the Kingdom of Benin as a monarch, and quickly coalesced into a kingdom under his rule in the 15th century. The modern history of Koko dates from the late fifteenth century when the Itsekiri people adopted a prince from Benin Kingdom as their monarch. Prior to this time, Koko people lived independently in different communities that included Irigbo, Ureju, Omadino and Ugborodo. With the arrival of the prince and adoption of the monarchy. These communities coalesced to become a Kingdom.

History reveal that in several waves of migration before the 15th Century, and some a little later, groups from Igala in Nupe country came in through the creeks; Yoruba from Ijebu-ode, Akure, and Owo found their way into parts of the kingdom and a group from Aboh also came in. Some along the coast came in through Gulani/Amatu.

Historically, Koko have a monarchy, over 500 years old, and which, as a rallying point in their society, remains its supreme government. From 1480 to now, there have reigned 19 Olu of Warri: five Olus of the Christian era; 1480-1597: eight Roman Catholic Olus from 1597-1735 and six Olus of the post-Roman Catholic Christian era.

According to Bini and Itsekiri histories, Ginuwa, a prince of Benin founded the Iwere (Warri) kingdom about 1480. In the 15th century, Warri was visited by Portuguese missionaries. At the beginning of the 17th century, a son of the reigning Olu was sent to Portugal and returned with a Portuguese wife. Their son, Antonio Domingo, was Olu of Warri in the 1640s. Olu Erejuwa, who reigned from about 1720 to 1800, expanded Warri politically and commercially, using the Portuguese to further Warri’s independence off Benin and to establish control over wider area.

Later Warri served as the base for Portuguese and Dutch slave traders. Warri became a more important port city during the late 19th century, when it became a centre for the palm oil trade and other major items such as rubber, palm products, cocoa, groundnuts, hides, and skins. Warri was established as a provincial headquarters by the British in the early 20th century. In May 1952 the government of Western Nigeria under Chief Obafemi Awolowo changed the title of the Itsekiri ruler from the Olu of Itsekiri to the Olu of Warri, at the request of the Itsekiri. The Ijaw, Urhobo and other people of the community objected to the change, since they felt the new title implied that the Olu was ruler of Warri, not just of the Itsekiri.

Location and demography

Koko is situated on longitude 6°E and latitude 6oN situated in Warri North Local Government Area. It is a cosmopolitan town and a sea port. Conspicuous in the town is the ancient house of Nana of Itsekiri, who was a major player in the slave trade business with the Europeans. Neigbouring communities include Eke – Kporo, Tsekelewu, Jakpa, Ureju and Ogbudugbudu. Koko has a network of roads that link almost all the major towns in Delta and also occupies a gateway to Edo State. It is suitably located that it serves both as a major commercial/business center of the Itsekiri, Ijaw and Urhobo people as the vital corridor through which all the neighboring towns and villages evacuate their farm produce to all parts of Nigeria.

Custom and culture


The people of Koko speak Itsekiri which is a complex mixture of the many different ethnicities and races that have settled in their area, however, the Itsekiri language is very closely related to the south-eastern and Ilaje Yoruba dialects and to the Igala. It has also been influenced significantly by the Bini, Portuguese and English languages due to centuries of interaction with people from those nations. However, it remains a key branch of the Yoruboid family of languages even retaining archaic or lost elements of the proto Yoruba language due to its relative isolation in the Niger-Delta where it developed away from the main cluster of Yoruba language dialects.

Worships and beliefs

Before the introduction of Christianity in the 16th century, like many other African groups, the Koko people largely followed a traditional form of religion known as Ebura-tsitse (based on ancestral worship) which has become embedded in modern day traditional Itsekiri culture. Once the dominant form of western Christianity in Itsekiriland for centuries, only a minority of the people of Koko are Roman Catholics today whilst the majority are Protestants notably Baptist and Anglican.


The Ikonpini Cultural Festival is the most celebrated festival in the history of Koko. Ikonpini Cultural Festival “attracts people from all walks of life throughout Delta State and beyond. It is accompanied with much fanfare, music, cooking and eating of delicious native food. It also includes exchange of gifts”. Also the New Year Eve Party celebration in Koko can also be regard as a very important festival as this is also characterized with much funfare.

Mode of life

  • Housing: The houses in ancient Koko were mud houses built in three stages, by communal efforts, before roofing with thatches. These thatch houses have almost disappeared for modern houses in Koko community giving way to brick houses with corrugated roof houses.
  • Food: The major food eaten by the people Koko is garri, rice and yam. Standard diet consist a bowl of Garri with melon soup.
  • Occupation: The major occupation of the people of Koko is farming, trading, fishing. As a result of rapid development, several white collar jobs such as teaching, banking, civil services jobs.

Health status of the community

Factors affecting health

  1. Early marriage: Early marriage is another serious problem in which some girls are given away for marriage very early in life after which they are expected to producing children. The principal reasons for this practice are the girls’ virginity and the bride-price. This condition raises the family status as well as the dowry to be paid by the husband. In some cases, virginity is verified by female relatives before the marriage. This practice exposes the girl child to various health challenges and complications during child birth.
  2. Food taboos: The community holds the several believe which hurt the health status of children, pregnant women and lactating mothers as a result of food taboos. Specifically, children are not expected to eat “big” meat and eggs because it is believed that this will indulge them and they may start to steal. Pregnant women and lactating mothers are forbidden from the consumption of snail for they believe that their children will salivate excessively.
  3. Malnutrition: This is mainly associated with children due to lack of awareness of their parents on what constitute a balanced weaning diet, lack of knowledge and skill about the best use of locally available foods, making frequent necessary and unnecessary journey and leaving the child behind or stopping breastfeeding before the child is at least year of age.
  4. Son preference: This form of discrimination and one which has far-reaching implications for women is the preference accorded to the boy child over the girl child. This practice denies the girl child good health, education, recreation, economic opportunity and the right to choose her partner, violating her rights.
  5. Violence against women: So many women suffer from domestic violence from their husbands and relatives, inflicting in them several injuries.

Resources in the community used to solve the problem

  • Industrial development: Koko is blessed with crude oil. It is one of the largest oil producing communities in Nigeria. It is also known for his production of cassava and fish.
  • Law enforcement agents: The community leaders help in the enforcement of laws and ensure that the rights of people are not violated and at the same time ensure that the people in the community enjoy good health.
  • Schools: Schools serve as a major means of educating the people in the community on issue bothered by lack of adequate knowledge, malnutrition and general awareness of this people and at the same time improves the health status of the people. There are numerous public and private schools in Koko which had lead to the general increase in knowledge of the people in the community.
  • Rich agricultural land: The present of good agricultural land make necessary food available in the community and helps in solving the problems of malnutrition.
  • Development in commerce: The history of Koko people as a dynamic people is most adequately reflected in the field of trading and commerce. The town its environs remains a major producer of a variety of major important food-stuff such as yams, cassava, garri and fish.
  • Social and infrastructural development: The rapid increase in health-care delivery services, both public and private, has contributed immensely in lowering infant mortality and death rates generally in Koko. Koko has a Cottage Hospital built and equipped by the Shell Petroleum Development Company and health centers.
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