Umunna In Grassroots Administration In Igboland
UMUNNA is a strong grassroots administrative institution in Igbo land. In fact, it is a strong micro government in Igbo land. It is very powerful, strong and wields great influence amongst the people. They are involved in settling disputes among members of the community and inter communities.
In most cases, before disputes between members of the same Umunna go out of the jurisdiction of the Umunna for resolution, the particular Umunna must, first adjudicate over them, and if it is not resolved, the parties concerned may resort to another place of arbitration.
At times, the judgment of Umunna may be tendered as the matters proceed to higher authorities, even Courts of law. In marriages, traditionally, it is the Umunna that give out girls in marriage; the father and immediate family only play the role of witnesses.
Basically, Umunna is the strongest institution for dialogue in Igbo socio-cultural setting. The institution of Umunna remains the strongest institution to settle dispute among one another both in marriage, dispute of tribal war, childbirth, inter and intra tribal issues.
In a typical Igbo setting the institution of Umunna remains second to none on decision making. So in Igbo land, the institution of Umunna is so strong and respected that anyone neglects at his own peril.
“Umunna is family insurance; whenever you are in need, they convene to find a solution. That is why the Igbo have had that type of insurance; the western insurance where you pay for has its base from the Umunna system. It is a wider blood relationship, extended families that look after one another in various aspects of life.
“At the extended family, everybody supports and contributes to the progress of the other. Onye aghana Nwanneya, be your brother’s keeper. They have also gone beyond the development of their families. Umunna is all the family extension from the same root.
“If one dies, it is the young members of the Umunna that will come and dig the grave, there is no charge but if you don’t relate with them as a family member, you won’t see them.
On marriage, no man can legally hand over his daughter or get a wife for his son without the consent and involvement of the Umunna in Igbo land. It is the Umunna that gives out their daughters for marriage just as they are the people that accompany their sons to get wives. They are so important that once they are missing in marriage activities such marriage is seen not to have been conducted through due process. It is the Umunna conducts most of the traditional rituals in marriage; the parents only play the role of a witnesses.
Umunna or kindred is a strong institution in Igbo land, that no reasonable person should neglect; they are so organized that they have executive that spearhead the affairs of that kindred, and no matter how rich, eminent, educated, your social and religious position, you must subject your loyalty to them and whatever you are doing you must accord them that respect they deserve.
“When people have problems, the Umunna are the first stage of government to settle it, before it gets to the village and then to the town before it is taken to court; whatever judgment you get at the Umunna level, it is not supposed to be neglected because it turns out most of the times to be the best judgment because they are the people that look into the eyes of the parties involved to tell them the home truth without fear or favour.
“Umunna helps in various ways such as marriages, organization of funeral rites and settlement of disputes in Igboland. They support the male bachelors with wines during marriages and equally facilitate the burial of male members of the clan. It is the duty of Umunna to dig the grave if they lose anyone to death.
“Umunna also ensures strict adherence to law and order. In a situation where someone violates any laid down rules and regulations, Umunna usually visits the person with fines and other forms of punishment.
“If there is land dispute between members of a family, it is Umunna who settles it by intervening, demarcating the boundaries to avoid further encroachment from the parties involved in the dispute”, he explained.