A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE BEROM
Ethno-racial studies have revealed that the entire ethnic nationalities of the World belong to different racial groupings. Hence the Berom are said to belong to the Bantu race. According to Dudley Stamp in his (GEOGRAPHY OF AFRICA 1ST EDITION 1922). The Bantu race has a migratory pattem from South-West Africa, i.e. the present Namibia and extended to cover areas which include Namibia itself, the two Congos, South-Western Tanzania, Central African Republic, Gabon, Southern Cameroon, South Eastern Nigeria, Central Nigeria —covering Benue, part of Taraba, part of Nassarawa, Southern Kadtma, Southern Bauchi and Plateau States. This conforms with the fact that there are some common dialectal elements that mean the same things amongst the Berom, Jarawa, Tiv, Anang, Efﬁk, Ibibio, Kaje, Kataf, Taroh, Ron etc. Migration of the Bantu nationalities might have been prompted by over-population, the need for farmland, grazing ﬁeld as well as disagreement amongst the people. All of these were common migratory factors in those days.
The Bantu ethnic nationalities in Central Nigeria appear to have occupied nearly the same area as described in the Nok Civilization era of 900BC to 2O0AD. This extended from Kagara in Kaduna State to Katsina-Ala in Benue State, covering an area of 500 kilometers by 150 kilometers. It is interesting to note that Nok is a village in Southern Kaduna near Kafanchan which is close to Berom land. Bernard Fagg’s pictorial illustrations of his “Nok Terracottas” have earthen object images of human beings and animals which have similar artistic and technological ﬁnishing with the ﬁred earthen human-image-pot of the Berom known as “Roi Toh” a signiﬁcant representation of ritual leadership essence that is always preserved in the household of a ritual chief or “Gwom Kwit”.
It is strongly speculated that the Berom must have not only traversed the length and breath of Central Nigeria but must have gone beyond to places in the present Sokoto, some parts of Niger Republic and Burkina Fasso. Evidence of the acca crop in Burkina F asso and some part of Niger Republic proves that the Berom and other Bantu ethnic nationalities in Southern Bauchi, Southern Kaduna and Plateau State might have brought the acca crop form these parts of Sub-Saharan Africa. There is also information that the traditional architecture of the Berom resembles that of the inhabitants of the Zuru people in Kebbi State and that of some inhabitants in Burkina Fasso.
Mr. CG. Ames, in his compilation of the Gazette of Plateau Province under Jos Division Native Authority in 1933 recorded that the Berom admitted that they migrated from a forest country, South of the then Plateau Province. And that they ﬁrst settled at Shonong, a village in Bachi District of Riyom Local Government Area of Plateau State. And later moved to Riyom before their dispersal to the various Berom villages that virtually fonn B/Ladi, Riyom, Jos South and Jos North Local Govemment Areas.
The Berom also have it that before arriving on the Plateau, there was a small division in the migration party. And so the other faction moved through Sanga Local Govemment Area of Kaduna State and came through Bassa Local Government Area of Plateau State on their way to Kabong, a settlement which produced some of the inhabitants of Du District in Jos South Local Government Area. There are today eleven Berom speaking Districts namely: – Gashish, Ropp, Fan, Heipang, Foron, Du, Gyel, Kuru, Vwang, Bachi and Riyom – the cradle of Berom dispersal.
PRE-COLONIAL SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT
The Berom constitute the largest of the indigenous ethnic groups in the present Jos North, Jos South, Barkin Ladi and Riyom Local GovermnentAreas of Plateau State and are historically the largest ethnic group in the former Jos Division of Plateau Province which was created out of Bauchi Province in 1927. The Berom like many communities in Plateau State are an egalitarian people and amiable in nature. They have the spirit of independence. This led to the fact that the different villages in Berom land were completely independent from each other. People were ruled in each village by a council of elders, led by a traditional Chief Priest “Gwom Kwit”. The council of elders in each community adjudicated and prescribed sanctions or penalties on matters to do with land, inheritance, marriage, witchcraft, theft, murder etc. In settling marriage, or redress, bride price and ransoms were paid with animals or acca etc. but there was no tax collection for common administrative purposes.
In effect the Berom like many communities in Northern Nigeria iathe Pre-colonial era had no paramount chief or leader except that there was a kind of loose allegiance to the Chief Priest “Gwom Kwit” of Riyom, as he was regarded the leader occupying the most signiﬁcant dispersal point, Riyom in their history of migration to other parts of Berom land.