The Real Story Behind The Term “Okrika”

It is well known in Nigeria that on the mention of Okrika what is referred to is a “fairly used” item. In the sustainable environment dictionary, it is known as a reusable item. It could be clothing or a tool. Although, it is usually used to identify a clothing or shoe that has been used by a person (most likely in overseas) to be sold again to another buyer here for continuous usage. How surprising will it be for you to find out that the term Okrika originated from the commercial hub of Okrika?

Okrika is a place in the Southeastern part of Nigeria. It is in fact an island south of Port Harcourt thus a suburb of the city. It’s to the north of Bonny, a town that is usually mentioned in the legal history of Nigerian judiciary and politics. With respect to the existence of Okrika from way back, it used to be mentioned alongside other towns such as Opobo (as in Jaja of Opobo) and Bonny where Bonny camps were situated. The town used to be a fishing village for the people of Ijaw in the 17th century and it was a landmark in the slave abolition movement. Following the abolition of slave trade, the town which was the capital of the Okrika kingdom became the port for palm oil exportation after all the commercial relations in the 1800s were mostly in relation to oil and with the Westerners.

The town was however since 1912, overshadowed by Port Harcourt until 1965 when it took its mainland and reigned as a commercial town due to the proximity of the Port Harcourt refinery to its land mass. This could be as a result of the gas plant facility that supplied power to the said refinery. As such, Okrika is known for its significant oil produce and fishing business. The latter is increasingly getting low due to the pollution of the water bodies by crude oil and other pollutants. Nonetheless, the land in the town is fertile for yam, cassava and plantain.

The town has been in existence before the advent of the colonial administration and as such after the colonial administration, some structures were replaced including the Okrika towns (which make up the kingdom) and the culture in place to an extent. Okrika has been elevated from being a mere town that could be covered by Port Harcourt to a Local Government Area duly recognized by law and commercially for its large deposit of oil and gas. No surprise that the petroleum field makes the most of the revenue generated from the area.

Back to the relationship between Okrika, the wear and Okrika, the town, this can be traced to the re-emergence of Okrika in the 1950s. At this period, the town was a commercial hub as has been stated earlier and an acknowledged port. For this reason and nature, there was contact with the Europeans despite Nigeria being on its way out of colonial rule. At that point, secondhand wear from European countries was delivered to the Okrika port thereby causing a one-stop for the pickup of such wear in Nigeria. Therefore, the name of the port became the name of the product over time.

Regardless, it should be known that Okrika still exists in every way possible.

Fathia Abolore Yusuf

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