Onitsha Customs

All children roughly between the ages of ten and twenty years were known as Umu-Ilo. They are divided into three age-groups, the senior being in partial executive control of the rest, with power to levy small fines on any member who failed to turn out for any of the duties which devolved upon them. These duties are confined to the up keep and cleanliness, as understood by the Ilo, of paths, compound and open spaces.

Age Grade Proper:

After leaving the Umo-Ilo stage, young men would join together to form social clubs corresponding to the successive age-grades. Each grade or club adopted a name. The Ndichie would periodically select one of these grades to act as police in enforcing their decisions. The grade so selected would perform these duties for as long as it was considered capable of doing, after which it would hand over it's duties to another selected grade. See Age Grade names.

Age Grades:

The age-grades still keep their separate identifies as social clubs, but Government with it's Police and Court Messengers has done away with the necessity for one of the age-grade to acts as they used to. A new body based on the age-grade system has, however, arisen to meet modern requirements. This body, know as the Ogbo Isato, is made up of the eight age -grades which have been formed from those who left the Umu Ilo stage after 1900.

It thus, comprises roughly all the young men in Onitsha between the ages of twenty and thirty-five years - i.e,. the young intelligentsia. The Ogbo Isato was founded with the objective of bringing non-partisan pressure to bear on the Ndichie in the settlement of the Obi succession and even if unsuccessful in this object it has come to be an unofficial power in the Town.

Family Council

The administrative head of each fmily was the senoir titled man. If there were Ndiche in the family, then he would be considered the senior, if only Ozo titled men, then the oldest one amongs them by age. In matters of any importance, however all the elders whether thay had taken title of not, would attend as well all the titled men. At such a meeting, anyone would be allowed to air his views but the titled men would consult to decide the matter.

Kindred Council

In each of the six kindreds the Ndichie Ume was the admistrative head; or failing an Ndichie Ume, the senior Ndichie Okwa. In the kindred Council as in the family, any one who could command a hearing might express his views but only the title men would withdraw to counsult.

Town Administration

In all matters concerning Onitsha as a whole, or in any family or kindred affair which required an authoritive order greater than that which the Ndichie concerned could give, the Obi was the final authority, though he was always first approached by, and considered the opinions of the Ndichie before giving his decision. Confined to his house most of the time as he was, the Obi would in practice take the advice of his Ndichie on most questions.

If they were divided opinon, he himself might try to obtain more detailed infomation from other private sources or alternatively send the Ndichie away to consult more thoroughly, and try to arrive at some single decision. But no measure adopted would be considered to be law until it had the Obi's consent and approval.

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