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Why Nnewi People Resort To Covenants When Trust Is No Longer Assured

By Anayo M. Nwosu

Following the tested unreliability and failure of humans in keeping to their commitments, our ancestors had toyed with many methods to make members of Nnewi community keep to agreements or commitments. Below are time tested covenant enforcement solutions:

  1. IGBA NDỤ- This is a type of covenant undertaken usually by two or more individuals not to break a promise, agreement or divulge their secret to a third party.

The process involves pinching of the left thump and pulling of their blood into a small container. Each member is made to repeat the agreement before drinking the mixed blood. A drop on the tongue is sufficient.

Each member shall decree that a prescribed calamity including an untimely death should befall him/her if he/she betrays the cause of the group before drinking the mixed blood.

This kind of covenant is very difficult to break because it involves blood. Many breakers of this type of covenant usually go mad.

Igba Ndụ made by members swearing by a native doctor’s prepared charms are easier to break should any member decides to opt out.

Applications of Ịgba Ndụ:

The following groups find use for Igba Ndu:

  1. A boy and a girl in love but so young to get married or are not yet ready to marry. They secretly do Igba Ndụ to assure each other that they will weather the storm together, wait for each other, break parental opposition and to ensure that they marry.
  2. A girl traveling abroad to further her education may demand Igba Ndụ from his Romeo; vice versa.
  3. Members of Secret Society or Occults: New members of secret societies are meant to pass through Igba Ndụ rituals to ensure their perpetual membership.

This is very important in that some lily-livered newly initiated members attempt to chicken out when asked to donate the head/lives of their beloved ones for the progress of the work of the societies.

Each member is always reminded of the irreversibility of membership.

  1. Robbery Gang: Members of robbery gangs perform the Igba Ndụ to ensure that none of them tips off on the gang or hatches any ambition of stealing their proceeds of crime. They take an oath to protect and defend one another and not to squeal or implicate others if caught by police.
  2. Vigilante Group: Members of vigilante groups usually insist on Igba Ndụ. This they believe, will make all members stick together in pursuit of criminals. It makes members resist the temptation of selling out the location or positions or itinerary of members to armed robbers which could result in heavy fatalities on the side of the security outfit.
  3. Local Hunters: Igba Ndụ helps to control the innate tendency of a greedy hunter to shoot a fellow hunter willfully while claiming that he mistook the colleague for a game or animal.
  4. IDO AGBATA- Ido Agbata is common covenant instituted amongst relatives of common ancestry or parentage. It becomes necessary when there is a palpable suspicion that some relatives plan and execute evils against others. It is done at Ụmụnna (a group of extended families) level or Imenne(a group of families within an Ụmụnna but who descended from the same mother).


Though the objective is still the same, the method of instituting Ido Agbata keeps changing as people’s religious beliefs change. The following are common:

  1. Licking Nnu na Mmanụ (Licking the Mixture of Salt and Red Palm Oil). Some people use cola nut and oil instead.

Here, each member of the family is required to dip one of his/her fingers into a mixture of salt and oil inside a container and place a pinch of the mixture on his/her tongue saying the following:

“Mana mana bina bina (never again if ever) shall I conspire, contemplate, and/or execute any evil against any member of the family. Old things have passed away and today is a new dawn. Should I engage in any of these proscribed acts, may I go to sleep earlier than chicken do”.

Any family member who refuses to take part in this Ido Agbata is seen as a dangerous person and is ostracized.

  1. Drinking of Holy Water, Anointed Olive Oil or Swearing the Holy Bible:

Even with avowed Christian beliefs, there are still suspicion that some family members perpetrate evil against each other. Given that many see the old ways as pagan, it is now a common practice to invite men of God to perform this function.

A man of God from the majority Christian group is invited to institute the Ido Agbata. The members would repeat the Agbata words and take a gulp of the holy water, oil or while holding the bible as a perfection of the covenant.

The startling thing is that members would always call for a new Ido Agbata after some years with the belief that the old one has expired.

  1. IGBA OLIKO: This is same as Ido Agbata but it is a bit wider. It derives its covenant powers from the general belief in Igbo land that when all present eat from the same pot or container of a covenant mixture, that whosoever that violates the proscribed acts is doomed.

Ịgba Oliko can be done in a community to proscribe prostitution or adultery by married woman.

  1. IBE NNE

Ibe Nne is a covenant forbidding family members from the same mother from planning or doing evil to themselves. The mother’s breasts suckled is believed to be a powerful covenant itself.

A killer of a relation is expected to die in a shameful and most tortuous way.

Ibe Nne is actually a familiar spirit that metes out punishment to the wicked relation who dares perpetuate any heinous evil against the descendants from same mother.


The ultimate price for breaking a covenant is death. To avoid dying, people are compelled to keep to the tenets of the covenant they entered into. But many people these days live longer and more prosperous even with clear breach of covenants. Why is it so?

In all Igbo villages, nobody drops his/her guards even after entering into a covenant with criminally minded relations, giving credence to a saying that “nkwụcha abụghị ụjọ” meaning that “alertness is not a sign of fear”. You pray to God but you lock your car!

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