Chukuku: FCT community where frying ‘Akara’ is prohibited

Welcome to a community in the Federal Capital Tertitory where frying of bean cake is a taboo even though it is eaten there. DONALD IORCHIR reports.  

As it is with many traditions in African communities where myths and taboos are common phenomena, so is Chukuku, a traditional Gwari community located between Gwagwalada and Kiyi village of Kuje Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.

The rustic village can easily pass for a slum in FCT. Presently, It has some few forms of social amenities. Apart from electricity that the indigenes of the community described as ‘erratic’, Chukuku has nothing to show that it is one of the host communities of the nation’s capital city.

A glimpse of Chukuku

Chukuku community, which is about 10 minutes drive from the major town of Gwagwalada, has a fairly good road networks, portable water (borehole), a police out-station, senior and junior secondary schools among others and most of the indigenes live in clusters of mud houses roofed with old corrugated iron sheets, only now when other ethnic communities came and the village wears a new look with rapid development.

In fact, unlike before, if one rides a motorcycle  into the village, the first agony on arrival is a coat of red clay dust on the wheels. You need to also have a duster or an extra handkerchief to dust off the red coating on your clothes because the roads are in bad shape.

The community which is mostly inhabited by the traditional Gbagyi people, has a mixture of other tribes such as the Yorubas, Tivs, Idomas, Ibiras, Nupes, Igbos, Hausas, among others, who are highly industrious  with farming as their major occupation. 

The culture of traditional Gbagyi women carrying loads on their shoulders has also reduced to the barest minimum compared to the 80’s as Blueprint observed many of such women returning from their farms without woods loaded in gourds held firmly on their shoulders.

Interestingly, the men also take their time off after a day’s hard work to relax on kegs of palm wine under cool shade provided by trees planted in the village.

This reporter took the time to visit some of such joints where fresh palm wine and peppered kpomo (hides and skin) were sold with people drinking and eating with an aura of enjoyment around them. Both the young and old men gather to unwind and discuss the issues of the day at such a spot.

Why Chukuku stands out

However, a major source of attraction to the village is the myth that the community forbids frying of akara otherwise known as beans cake, a delicacy in most part of Nigeria. Many women are engaged in the business of frying and selling this commodity in other cities to eke out a living, but in Chukuku, it is a taboo.

Speaking with the community secretary, Muhammed D Sarki Tsugbaza, he said the myth is true, saying the instruction was handed down by the community’s forefathers. He, however, could not give reason for the ban.

He clarified that eating of akara was not forbidden in the village but a taboo for anyone to put a frying-pan on fire within the community to bake the cake. He said it was a delicacy eaten and sold in the community but no one was permitted to fry the akara there, he stated.

“Truly, we learnt from our forefathers who founded this village that people are not allowed to fry akara in this community and then we asked them, they said that their forefathers gave the instruction. They didn’t explain to them the reason for it. We also believe that since  our forefathers said that they did not know the reason and we cannot lie, truly we don’t know the reason.”

Some other sources, however said the ban was associated with esoteric belief that witches and wizards use the oil used for the frying of the cake to perpetrate evil. It was also gathered that witches and wizards used the smoke coming out from the frying of akara to move in to attack people at night.

The Blueprint had to speak with the community secretary after the two attempts to speak  directly with the village chief failed. 

When asked on the consequences of breaking this age-long tradition, the community scribe said it was not about ascribing any punishment, but that everybody grew up with the consciousness that the tradition could not be wilfully desecrated.

He added that there was no record of anyone found to have gone against the myth since the creation of the village. He reiterated  that eating of beans cake was not forbidden but baking it within the community is a taboo.

“If someone dares to do it, we are not the one to punish the person but whatever you see, you caused it for yourself.  We don’t have anything to do about it. In this community, I have never seen anybody who fries akara, but we eat it.  If you want to eat it,  you can go to Gwagwalada or anywhere and buy and bring it and even sell  just that we don’t fry. If you go to Gwagwalada, fry and bring it here to sell, we will buy, but we don’t know the reasons why our forefathers said they did not want people to fry it.”


A middle-aged woman seen selling tubers of yams when confronted with the question of the taboo since akara baking is more of their occupation, said she was not worried because there were other things to do to make money. “I’m selling yams. This is my business; if you want to buy, you buy. It’s our culture, I can’t talk on that,” she declared.

State of infrastructure 

On the poor state of the community, Tsugbaza decried the challenges faced by the villagers especially that of good road networks. According to him, the none availability of good roads is impacting negatively on farming activities as this hampers the transportation of farm produce to town.

“We don’t have good roads. You saw the type of road through which you came into the community and we don’t have roads to our farms to carry our farm crops to the market to sell. We are suffering here because if there is no good road, your farm produce will remain in the bush. We are basically into farming.

Legend has it that Chukuku community evolved from three great forefathers namely: Etsu Demo, Etsu Faji and Etsu Bayedaza who were hunters and had lived under a hill referred to as old Chukuku. It was gathered that Etsu Demo, who was the eldest of the three siblings moved to the present day Chukuku after surveying the land and discovered that it was fertile for farming activities.

The community secretary buttressed this oral history when he revealed that the indigenes of Chukuku were predominantly farmers of various crops such as yam, guinea corn, rice, soya beans and millet both for subsistence and in commercial quantities.

He also lamented that in spite of the proximity of the community to the FCT, it had no pipe-borne water or public borehole to alleviate the water challenges in the community. He further disclosed that most of the boreholes sunk in the community were privately owned.

The secretary said even though the community had a river, it is contaminated with all sorts of toxic wastes as people defecate and wash clothes in the flowing water.

“There is river here but it is not good. For instance, there are people that are up there, they have fowl poultry. If the fowls are dead, they throw them into the  river, but we cannot drink it. That is why we are suffering for water. It is like poison, that is why we cannot drink the water again. We are poor citizens. Those who have money to dig boreholes collect money from people, so we want government to assist us by digging public boreholes for us.”

He also called on the government to accelerate the building of a standard police station for the community.

“We are a peace-loving community. Only few years back, we witnessed several kindnapping in the community that’s why the police outstation was built with the help of stakeholders here on the land that was already allocated by the community to the government for the purpose.”

He said because of the security concerns, the community was able to make its own effort to raise fund for the construction of the station.

“We don’t have challenge of school her in Chukuku, we have a primary and secondary school in the community.”