First Published

The return of the corpses of married women of Idoma descent for burial in their father’s village instead of the husband’s is a long-standing tradition amongst Idoma people and is often a source of bewilderment to millennial Idoma generation and non-Idomas.

After fielding a few questions on this, I decided to dig deeper to see if I could come up with the reasoning behind this practice and it seems to date back to the 19th century when slavery was rampant in Idoma land. Aside from selling people into slavery, human sacrifice to the gods was rife and it was common for men to marry women under false pretences.

According to oral history, as narrated to me by an elderly man in Upu village, Otukpo, some Idoma and non-Idoma men would marry Idoma ladies and sell them off to slave traders or offer them as sacrifices to the gods. These men would then return to their wife’s family with news of her death and burial.
When cases of fake early deaths of wives became too much, Idoma elders decided, after consultations with Alekwu, that they needed to put a deterrent in place, hence the introduction of the customary law which states that “the corpses of a wife must be returned to her family for burial”.  This law is still adhered to till the present day and is usually reinforced at Idoma traditional marriage ceremonies through the Idoma saying which literally translates into “we only give out the waist and buttocks not the head”.

While some people are proud of this Idoma culture, there are others who cannot hide their disdain for it, but with ritual killings still very prevalent in Nigeria, I do not think Idoma elders will be in a rush to change this law anytime soon.
What is your take on this practice? Let me know through the comments section below.


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Peter - Wed, 20-Mar-24 - 21:21

If we agree and tell ourselves the truth, we all know that many parts of Idoma people are using the influence of returning of corpses (mothers') to punish people unnecessarily. Really, it is more sensible and advantageous to do away with that practice. Thank you all - the great Idomas.

Mike - Thu, 04-Jan-24 - 19:10

I want to know what happens if she's not returned.

I'm Igbo and I'm about to marry lady but I find this tradition really off putting so I want to know what will happen if the woman's body is not returned.

I love idoma i… - Wed, 24-Jan-24 - 06:19

In reply to by Mike

She must return if she's not return meaning that you are using her for sacrifice and the family will not accept that give words to belong to Caesar to Caesar give what to belong to God to God

Anonymous - Mon, 25-Apr-22 - 20:51

The above reasons given for enacting this laws shows our forefathers were wise and full of wisdom.

Do you know that what our forebears fear most in those days, is still in modern day practice in some great extent. Especially the modern day practice of slavery and the never ending practice of ritual killings of human beings.

I think what the elders of our generation should do just like some people here already suggested is to review the law, and find a way of innovating it kind of to strike a good balance of both the old laws and a new one so that our women can be buried in their husband's house with traditional examination of checking the corpse by elders for any fowl play or suspicion.

With the look of things today, it will take time to eradicate this law, but time shall tell.

Just my humble take or opinion.

Joachim Agbo - Sat, 05-Dec-20 - 12:50

Times have changed. There is need to review it. Inter-tribal marriage has come to stay with us. If we see the effect of societal sophistication and integration we will see that Idoma culture has been penetrated and we need to give room to such positive intrusion. It is high time we reviewed it.

Ejembi Alexander - Thu, 15-Oct-20 - 06:07

This tradition promotes love and unity among the wife family and her children's. We believe that every branch of a tree cut off go under the tree like wise human being,we marry in life not in death and now that Yahoo+ is order of the day, the tradition will hardly change

Ameh Pat GM - Mon, 12-Oct-20 - 18:13

My take on this is that it's completely archaic & primitive. Even though the reason you gave above seem genuine, other measures have been introduced to abuse that opportunity the law gives them. Hence, it calls for restructuring. However, you speak of days when virtually all Idomas were predominantly Idol worshipers and alekwu, being their oracle: now most Idomas are Christians & have a duty to live a Christian life in whole.

Sunday Peter - Thu, 04-Jan-24 - 15:58

In reply to by Ameh Pat GM

I am on your side because today we don't worship aleku but God in heaven. If I may say; please this culture should be review because as a Christian that I am I don't really believe in this.