The Ijo or Ijaw speaking people are one of the major ethnic groups in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. They are found in Brass, Nembe, Kalabari, Bonny and Warri, which are spread today in states like Bayelsa, Ondo, Edo, Ondo, Akwa Ibom and so on.
The Ijo people live in the Niger Delta region surrounded by water bodies. Their economic activities include fishing, salt mining, canoe building, farming and hunting. The Ijo exchanged their fish, salt and snail with agricultural products brought by other people in the neighbourhood or elsewhere.
The Ijo had trading contacts with the Europeans along the coastal areas. This increased their migration and economic activities. During the trans-Atlantic slave trade, the Ijo acted as the middle men between the Europeans at the coast and the hinterland areas.
The Ijo had an assembly of male adults as the major organ of government. The head of the lineage was the head of the assembly of male adults. The office of Amaokosowei was very significant wielding a lot of authority and influence.
The “House system” is another important institution of the Ijo people. The houses were recognized by their possession of canoe or canoes used in trade, gathering slaves and warfare. Membership of “Houses” was not rigid. Wealth formed the basis for establishing “Houses”, such that it was possible for hardworking and diligent slaves who can gather enough wealth to establish a “House” of his own. When a founding owner of a “House” dies, a new leader is appointed by vote of the male adults of the “House”.