eriacy confidence
Here is detailed history of the Yala fishing and cultural festival, as written by a son of the soil from Yala Local Government of Cross River state, Nigeria-Eriacy Confidence.

The Yala Fishing and Cultural Festival (YAFF) started officially in 1545 when the Oki Ogar family donated the bigger part of the Okum Lake (En'Okum) to the community as charity. The event which was held at the Okum lake a kilometer away from the acient Nkum Akpambe town, Yala-Obubra, was to mark the kind gesture.
According to history, the lake was discovered by the Oki Ogar family during one of their hunting expeditions and for many years was in their custody. The entire community used to harvest the lake and share the catches between the Oki Ogar's family and the fishermen. Today that tradition is only applied to the small Okum( Oy'okum).
The lake is believed to have been a hideout for aquatic wild animals such as Hippopotamus, crocodile etc.
In those days, fishing was the only feature of the festival. But today, it has grown to include several agricultural and cultural activities such as:
swimming competition
boat racing
cultural dance
yam pounding competition
fish roasting competition
agricultural shows
boat regatta
Fish catch competition: the fish catch competition is the highlight of the festival which is usually on the second day of the event. Fishermen with locally made fishing tools line up the coast of the Okum lake to compete for the biggest catch of the year.
In ancient times, the biggest catch used to go to Ogarbor, who is the custodian of En'okum
the winner was usually bestowed with a chieftaincy title, a plot of land and exempted from some contributions in the community. However, things have changed. In recent times, the biggest catch is now auction to the guests and the proceed given to the winner.
Apart from that, the winner goes home with a huge sum of money,gets free training on fish farming and other prizes. meanwhile, winners of ikpe'echi, ntefon, odoko and okpaa are given mouth watering prizes.
the Al' Atumambe are the spiritual care takers of the lake. They patrol lake on regular basis to ensure no one fishes there outside the official day of the event.meanwhile all the people that dared to visit the lake outside the official date had had one attack or the other, some even died before they arrived home. The lake is dangerous and deadly outside the event day. the Al' Atumambe perform certain traditional rites at the ogarbor's palace before the commencement of every fishing competition.
It is incumbent on the Ogarbor in consultation with the Al'Atumambe and the festival planning committee to fix the date of every festival, and that is done after the Al'atumambe has confirmed the lake is ripe for harvest. Once the day is fixed, one of the Atumambe member goes round with Wuje( Yala traditional gong)to inform the people before it circulates round the world.
At the lake, the Al'atumambe ensure all the clans are represented and the pond safe for harvest. After ensuring that everyone especially the Queen, Prince and all the clans is present, the Prince is then requested to begin the process by the Atumambe. As soon as he casts his tool, the competition begins.
( To the host community: Yala- Obubra)
- it will promote the cultural heritage of the people
- it will empower the people financially and otherwise
- it will create jobs for the people
- it will eradicate poverty and crime in the area through education and meaningful engagement of the people especially the youths.
- it will ensure regional and infrastructural development in the area
- it will give the host community a state wide, national and international recognition
- it will bring unity and social integration amongst the various ethnic group in the area.
- it will afford the local farmers the platform to learn new farming techniques.
- it will develop talents in the area.
- The festival will place Obubra and indeed cross river state on the global tourism map thereby attracting local and foreign investment to the LG, state and nation.
- it will help more in the diversification of the nations economy especially as participants are train in various capacity top in the list is the area of fishing.
- it will ensure national integration among the various ethnic groups.
- the festival will generate foreign exchange for the country thereby generating revenue for the nation.
-it will promote urbanization
2015 and 2016 FIGURES
over 10,000 tourists visited the event in 2015 and the figure increased to 15,000 in 2016.
the host community welcomes people from all races, tribes, nations, religions and occupation. the people are peaceful, hospitable, and culturally rich.The community is safe and accommodating.
The Okum lake is in Yala-obubra, an Idoma speaking town in Obubra Local Government Area of Cross river state, Nigeria. There are four major roads leading to the community: the Obubra- Ofumbongha- Yala Road( beginning from Ikom- Calabar highway by Obubra junction), the Ochon- Onyen Okpon- Yala road( beginning from Ikom- Calabar highway), the Alesi- Okosora- Yala road( beginning from Ikom- calabar highway) and the Edor- Ayughasa- Oyenghe-Eganga- Yala road(from Ikom- ogoja). there is also the riverine path through river cross from ikom.
1- The numerous lakes and ponds:
According to coneri media, Yala- Obubra has approximately 500 natural ponds, lakes, streams and rivers and over 5000 artificial ponds.Some of the ponds, streams, lakes and rivers are enormously large with the Okum lake alone capable of containing 70,000 people.
2- The Beautiful Sand beaches:The community is designed with beautiful sand beaches, the most famous being Ogana, Omindom, Ukpochi and Iy'aje.The omindom beach particularly has a wonderful history. This beach host the legendary Yala market. According to history, there was a time big markets were fallen by powerful spiritual forces and the only way the Yala market would survive it Olorokpa the priest told was for them to burry a royal virgin alive.After searching for a Royal virgin for 15 market days, they could not not find it.To save the market, Ogarbor the king decided to bury his only daughter.
3- the lech'okwiye( olikpilikpo): the Yala wonder stone, although very short tend to beat anyone that tend to measure his/her height with its length.
- The natural Vegetation: Yala- Obubra is a small town hidden in the hearts of beautiful vegetation with evergreen plants, thick forests, rich valleys and crisscrossing crystal free waters.
- the rich cultural heritage: The Yala as well as their Idoma kinsmen have a rich cultural heritage. they celebrate various festivals including the new yam festival September every year.
- Stone monoliths: Yala- Obubra preserves one of the world's most beautiful monoliths especially the oAfrica with omindom playground.
- The Ogarbor's palace: By tradition the Yala- Obubra Paramount ruler is not allowed outside his palace till death and any man that wants to see him must pull his shirt, shoes and beads. although, women are not subjected to this tradition. To Yala man, women are royal people meant to be treated with care, love and respect.
CROSS RIVER STATE( foreigners)
cross river state is in the south south geo political zone of Nigeria. It is a leading tourism destination in Africa with carnival calabar, Leboku, Obudu mountain race and other cultural festivals attracting tourists from within and outside the country.the state also play host to international sights such as Tinapa Calabar, Obudu Ranch Result, Agbokim waterfall, cross river national park, Ikom stones monoliths, kwa and more. There are several water bodies in the state. The availability of water bodies, rich soils and thick forests makes her citizens primarily fishermen, farmers and hunters.Besides, the people are culturally rich because of their diversities in language and other prominent characteristics.
It is in the light of the above that the Yala- Obubra people invite the world February every year to witness their rich cultural heritage through the Yala fishing festival.
For participation, sponsorship or general inquiries
Email: yalafishingfestival@gmail.com
Tel:+234( 0)8133031063