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There are two types of domestic animals - the tamed one like fowls, goats and dogs which lived with man and were penned or tied up for the night in the compound or house, and the semi-wild ones like sheep, pigs and cows which roamed wild in the village street. Well looked - after ones in the later type came fairly regularly to the owner’s compound to be given garbage for food.
Each man had to put identifying marks or brands on animals for example, piercing or cutting of the ears in a distinct way known to himself, friends and members of his family, or he might tie something like a chain or bell round the necks of his animals.

Wealthier owners sometimes gave out an animal to a friend, a serviceable or respectful man to look after. In this case special laws and custom guarded ownership of both the animal called the head and the offspring, depending upon the type of animal. The idea in most cases was to enable a man to raise the type of animal in his family and hence only the female members were so given. The owner could remove the ‘head’ anytime he wished.

These being animals that could have several young ones at one litter while the mother always belonged to the owner, the young ones were shared EQUALLY between the owner and the caretaker of the animal right from the first time the animal had young ones. If there were three young ones, the owner took two, since he had to choose first while the keeper had one. When the time for sharing came, the keeper took a small present like a bundle of yams and a calabash of wine to the owner’s house.

(¡¡) COWS:
A cow was the most expensive possess ion of a man and it was found in the families of the Onojie, chiefs and the very wealthiest of the commoners. It was not an animal that could be seen at every village. This animal had this unique importance not because of its meat but because of the many vital ceremonies in which it was significant. A really big cow cost about Ebo ea which equals 55,999.9 cowries or nearly 56,000 cowries or about N235.
The formalities leading to a man giving another cow to look after was itself, expensive: one had to go to make the request with:

(a) Okho ehan (six lkhiokho) or 840 cowries

(b) A basket of 7 yams (Akhueman) and

(e) An intermediary to whom the owner would find difficult to say no to.
To report to the head owner that the cow had calved was another expense - an Akhueman

To a non-Esan enquirer the law of division would appear to be confused primarily because of many circumstances. By 1930 - 1940 cows had become so cheap that all values and formalities surrounding them were neglected and people just did what they liked. With the spread of Christianity, education and the Osenuwegbe cult, many of the hitherto essential customary ceremonies of manhood like, Iruen, Burial Ceremonies, Ogbe etc., where the cow was the prominent animal required, began to lose their meaning and importance: so did the cow. In fact cows disappeared from many villages. With scarcity, of course, the price began to rise again. With these ups and downs in the value and importance of cows in Esan it is not surprising that very few people today can say off-hand what the actual custom surrounding ‘division’ of cows was.
The general and basic law is that there is no question of sharing or the keeper getting an offspring until the FOURTH CALVING. The first, second and third calves belonged to the head owner. If the FOURTH was a bull the keeper could refuse it and wait till  the next time. In practice, since the keeper was anxious to have a cow of his own in his family, a cow that was getting male offspring was merely doing its owner good. The first female calf after the THIRD calving belonged to the keeper.

Having sent a basket of seven yams to report the arrival of the new calf, when this had grown up, the keeper prepared for the formalities of sharing if it was customarily his turn, that is, after the third calving. He had to get a calabash of palm oil and a basket of seven yams; others saved the owner’s wife the trouble of cooking by actually cooking ema (fou fou) with respectable soup, which he brought to the owner’s place. If the present was adjudged sufficient he was given this young cow which by then was about nine to twelve months old and the whole arrangement started all over again. He had no hope of getting any share again until the eighth calving, which meant that every fourth calf was his, as long as the owner allowed him to keep the cow.

When a man had given an animal to another to look after there was a definite relation between the owner and the keeper. It was an IN-LAW relationship and in the case of a cow this relationship was as close and as exerting on the part of the keeper as if he had been given an EBEE, a young child he had to look after till she grows up to become his wife. The caretaker had to render services like going to assist in the owner’s farm, bringing logs of wood for night fires, sending of a bundle of seven yams, a calabash of palm wine during the yearly festival thus giving the benefactor all the service of a good son-in-law. One had to do this all the time to remain in the owner’s good books, since he could rescind the arrangement as soon as the first sharing had been done if he found the keeper lot serviceable.

Although this was the system in most parts of Esan, there were certain variations in certain parts that must be mentioned. In Ebelle area all the keeper wanted being to have a cow in his family; he was only given a share ONCE AND ONCE ONLY. To some extent this was the system in Emu and Ohordua areas. After the owner had given the keeper the cow to look after, the latter had to pay certain things as quickly as possible, for until he had paid this due, he could not hope to get a share. Any time before this the cow calved, since the keeper had not yet fulfilled all the owner-keeper known agreements, the cow had only CAL VED IN HARNESS (O bie bhe Uri) and the owner appropriated the young ones. This is the custom as many times as the cow had been allowed to remain in this state; hence a wise keeper lost no time in paying these dues called EMIN OGA which consisted of:

(a) A goat

(b) Thirty-five yams made into seven bundies of five each

(c) A calabash of oil

(d) A head of tobacco

(e) A keg of palm wine, and

(f) Kola nuts and salt

The other name for Emin Oga was Emin Ekhun. All Emin Oga had to be sent to the owner through the intermediary, who like that in cases of Ebee, went by the name of OSUQNMAN. The Osuonman himself had to be given his share consisting of Elanmen ea or 2,800 Cowries.
Whichever system was adopted the owner was at liberty to take his cow back as soon as the keeper had got one calf, if he was found wanting in the services which custom demanded of him.

One custom which died out with the trimmings of the autocratic wings of the Enijie surrounded cows. If a cow no matter who the owner was, or how far the village was from Eguare, had two calves at the same time, BOTH THE COW AND THE CALVES AUTOMATICALLY BECAME THE PROPERTY OF THE ONOJIE OF THE LAND. Custom added .that the Onojie himself had to give the owner of this wonderful COW A PREGNANT WOMAN AND A CASTRATED HE-GOAT as a reward for his ‘good hand’. In those days the Onojie had several female slaves and so there were no difficulties in his fulfilling his own part of the custom.

An interesting case happened in 1927 when EDETANLEN of UWENLENAFUA, Ekpoma gave Esan Enijie the headache of their lives. His cow had twins. By this time the greed of the Enijie had been much curbed by the British Administration, and so Edetanlen, an influential man himself, thanked his luck and looked after his cow and calves. Soon, as usual, a cringing informant went to tell Akhimien I (1910 - 1946) of this rare happening in his domain. The Onojie at once sent instructions that Edetanlen should send him the cow with the two calves according to custom. Edetanlen would do no such thing; at least he knew the Whiteman was near to protect him and his lawful property. After repeated warning and threats, the Onojie realising how low the ebb of his authority had run since the advent of the Europeans, tried another face saving device: he reported this gross act of challenge to constituted authority to the then Enijie Council holding  at Ubiaja. The Enijie, to a man, were furious, so much so, that they shifted their sitting right to Ekpoma, a few hundred yards from the insubordinate subject that went by the name of Edetanlen, who they were. prepared to deal with in such a way that no one else throughout the length and breadth of Esan Iand would attempt to undermine their authority again. Recalcitrant Edetanlen was summoned to Eguare and in one voice packed with authority, he was first welcomed with a fine of five solid pounds (NiO) “FOR CALLING THE ONOJIE’S COWS HIS” and told to go home and fetch the cow and calves, lawful property of AKHIMIEN - ONOJIE OF EKPOMA! Edetanlen who was no fool, knew his own side of Esan Native Laws and Custom, and on his knees before the Enijie, he said he was quite prepared to bring the cows to the Enijie according to the ruling of our custom, on the condition that he, the Onojie gave him a pregnant woman and a castrated he-goat. Obligingly he added that since he and the Onojie were cousins he was quite willing to forego the castrated he-goat, BUT THE PREGNANT WOMAN, HE MUST HAVE  All eyes then turned to Akhimien who had lot even the castrated he-goat in his possession. More important still was the fact that the only women Akhimien had authority upon were his wives; at that particular time none of them was pregnant and even if they were, he could not exchange his wife and unborn child for cows! There was hot air in the council chamber  The Enijie went into a hasty consultation and came out with a novelty in Esan laws and custom: they knew if they allowed this man to get away with the challenge against a custom affecting an Onojie, soon they would come face to face with greater challenges. Chief Akhimien was asked to give the man £10 (N20) in exchange for the cows Edetanlen respectfully stuck to the letter of Esan laws and custom: it was a pregnant woman with a castrated he-goat or he kept his cows. Edetanlen won.

The system of giving animals to friends to look after could be extended to economic trees such as dicanut, kola nut trees, coconut tree etc. Sometimes a man left his part of the village to settle in another and leaving his trees behind at his old site. Realising that he was too fax to take proper care of the fruits he requested a friend nearby to look after them. In such cases they shared the fruits together.

If a man gave a kola nut to another man to plant without expressly giving him the nut, the plant belonged to the owner of the kola nut; In certain parts of Ekpoma where the system of REKO MONLEN (Plant this and look after it for me) was there was known, ownership between the man who gave the nut and the man who planted it.

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