Tiv Traditional Religion
​​Tiv taditional religious thought is hinged on three basic concepts. These are Aondo(God), Tsav(Supernatural) and Akombo(emblem of mystical force) — all of which work together for stability, harmony and communal well being (see Wegh 1998).  Though Aondo is the Tiv word for God, the Tiv do not have a personal relationship with Him. As explained earlier, Aondo used to live nearer the earth but was forced to retreat into the skies after he was struck by a woman pounding food. 

There is however a deep acknowledgement of the hand of God (Aondo) in the physical setting as in rain (Aondo ngu noon), thunder (Aondo ngu kumen) lightening (Aondo ngu nyiar) and sun light (Aondo ta yange).

According to Wegh (1998 p.42) though the relationship between the Tiv and Aondo may seem “remote” to outsiders, the Tiv acknowledge that most of the actions necessary for the existence and sustenance of life are carried out only by God (Aondo). This world view leaves the day to day regulations of relationships between individuals on the one hand and between individuals and the cosmos on the other hand to  Tsav  and Akombo. Tsav is a reference to “a  cosmic potency internalized in man as part of his personality” (see Rubingh 1969). Gundu (1980) has argued that it manifests in people in three different forms. The first and most potent form appears like the crown of a cock and covers the heart of the individual with “claws”. The second is a dwarf type with no “claws”. (Kpum utsa) while the third type is a small point projection from the heart which gives the possessor some awareness of the supernatural. This is called ‘ishima nomsoor’  (a man’s heart) by the Tiv. Those who possess tsav are called  Mbatsav (singular is  Ormbatsav) and their activities are theoretically  geared towards good governance (tar soron), personal comfort, security and communal well-being. Practically however, the extent to which any ormbatsav can be beneficial to society in the context of his activities is a factor of the type of tsav “growing” on his heart and particular  akombo being manipulated at the point in time. This is probably why Bohannan (1965) argues that tsav is morally neutral and can be deployed for either good or bad. If deployed for good, society is assured of a potent social control mechanism. On the other hand, if it is deployed for evil individuals can be bewitched  — leading to sickness and sometimes death. Other malevolent aspects include crop failure, bad dreams, ill luck, barrenness and the like.

The third basic concept in Tiv religion which is akombo can be defined as some unique mystical forces deployed to ensure a balanced and healthy tar (community) in which individuals are at peace with each other and the physical components of the environment are regulated and protected from “damage”. Each  kombo (singular of  akombo) is represented by an emblem, which could be any relic ranging from a potsherd to a carved piece of wood. Though an acceptable classification of the whole range of akombo is yet to be done here, the Tiv see  akombo in two major categories. Category one is  akombo a kiriki (lesser  akombo) while category two is  akombo atamen (greater  akombo).  Each ailment and socio-economic component in society has its kombo with full compliments of emblem and a structured process of “restoration” (sorun) when its foundation is undermined or violated by people who come into contact with it. Each kombo has its master whose specialty is in ensuring a viable role for the kombo in the community.  He does this by “restoring” (sorun) the  kombo’s  equilibrium if and when it is violated, thus, neutralising the damage that would otherwise have been visited on the violator or even the whole community as the case may be. 

Most Tiv have converted to Christianity, and a lesser number have adopted Islam; but their traditional religion, based on the manipulation of forces (akombo) entrusted to humans by a creator god, remains strong. 


In Early times, the two prominent churches were the  N.K.S.T Church (fondly referred to as "Ortese") and the Catholic Church (fondly referred to as Fada).  So if you were a Christian, then you were either Ortese or Fada. Later on came other churches such as the Anglican, Ecwa and then in recent times there has been an influx of many other  Pentacostal churches (fondly referred to as the "Halleluja") in Tivland.  

N.K.S.T stands for the "Nongu u Kristu u i Ser u sha Tar," translated "Universal Reformed Christian Church," a Christian Reformed church based in Nigeria.  The church has its headquarters at Mkar-Gboko in Benue state but has spread all over Nigeria. The members are predominantly the Tiv speaking tribe but other tribes in Nigeria belong to this church. It was first introduced in Sai on 17 April 1911 a village in Katsina Ala local government area of Benue state, Nigeria. The beginnings were slow — only 25 baptized Christians in 25 years. In 1960, due to the apartheid system, the South African missionaries were no longer tolerated in Nigeria and had to leave. In their place the SUM–Christian Reformed Reformed Church of North America, a branch related to NKST, gave it strong support until about 1985. In 1957 the church was formally organized as an autonomous, self-supporting, and self-propagating church with first four indigenous (Nigerian) pastors. A full translation of the Bible into Tiv was completed and dedicated on 4 November 1964. The church also has a synod that meets twice in a year. The Church has seven institutions of higher learning: 1. The Reformed Theological Seminary Mkar, 2. Reformed Bible College Harga, 3. School of Nursing Mkar, 4. College of Health Technology Mkar 5. School of Medical Laboratory Sciences Mkar, 6. School of Midwifery Mkar, 7. The University of Mkar.

The NKST church has a following of over a  Million  and over 137,115 baptised and professing members. It has a well organised Women Fellowship with 44,514 members. The women fellowship has built one of the most beautiful guest houses in Benue State at Mkar near the Church Secretariat. NKST church has 693 pastors since inception with 572 who are still alive, and about 121 have rested in the Lord. NKST has 4,143 churches all over Nigeria, with 360 well-established congregations. Some of the congregations conduct their services in English, e.g. NKST Anglo- Jos, Plateau State. The church also has 9 hospitals, and 352 primary health centers. It has 53 secondary schools and 500 primary schools.


The Roman Catholic Diocese of Makurdi was established as Apostolic Prefecture of Benue from the Apostolic Vicariate of Western Nigeria in July of 1934. The Catholic Diocese of Makurdi currently has over 100 parishes in the state and is still growing.  The church also own several schools and hospitals. 

A BRIEF HISTORY OF MAKURDI DIOCESE The ecclesiastical territory which is today called Makurdi Diocese was part of the newly formed Prefecture Apostolic of the lower Niger between 1889 and 1920. The Prefecture covered the entire land area within the east of the River Niger and to the South of River Benue. In 1920, its status within the Catholic Church was raised to that of Vicariate Apostolic of Southern Nigeria though maintaining its boundaries.

The missionary priests who first evangelized in this area were French Holy Ghost Fathers in 1880. They were joined by Holy Ghost Priests and brothers from Ireland, and it was the latter who from 1911 began to make contact with the Benue in the Northern part of the Vicariate.

The strategy to evangelize the lower Benue was hinged on the notion of the Tiv Mission. The idea was to launch an evangelizing drive from Ogoja in Cross River State. In February 1917 Propaganda Fide appointed Pere Dourvry Apostolic Administrator for the whole of Cameroon, a daunting task which he however carried out commendably well. Douvry was nevertheless always anxious to return to Nigeria to carry out a project that seems to have haunted him for many years, that was to bring the gospel to the Tiv people. He returned to Paris in August 1920 and resigned as Apostolic Administrator. Joseph Shanahan, the Vicar Apostolic, for the Tiv project visited Pope Benedict XV in September 1920 and presented Pere Douvry who the Holy Father gave special blessing for the Tiv Mission. Father Douvry was succeeded by Father Eugene Groetz. 
In 1929 Father Joseph Soul one of the General Councillors, came to the Vicariate for an official visitation. At the end of his visit he found time to spare, so he visited Obudu and from there moved into Tivland. Soul spent a short time among the Tiv, but impressions he had did not leave him when he returned to Paris. He kept thinking about the abandoned state of the Tiv and all other people of Northern Nigeria.

Father Soul's visit to Tivland was however providential. The accidental visit resulted in the Spiritans finally deciding to make some serious attempt to evangelize the people of the lower Benue, the Tiv, Idoma, Igala and other smaller groups. The task was taken up by German Spiritans, and by 1930 the first contingent of four priests and two brothers arrived, exactly 45 years after Joseph Lutz and his companies established themselves at Onitsha. Their Apostolic zeal and energy were such that by 1934 the areas of the civil territory of Benue province, Northern Nigeria was made into the Prefecture Apostolic of Benue with its centre first at Makurdi, and later at Otukpo. The German priests and brothers made tremendous efforts and covered the whole area from Idah on the River Niger to Wukari near the boundary of Benue and Adamawa provinces. A major setback though came following the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 as all the priests and brothers being German nationals were obliged by British authorities to leave Nigeria. By 1945 when the German fathers were replaced by those from the English province, Bishop Heery described the Benue as the most promising Mission in all of Nigeria after Onitsha-Owerri.

In 1959 Monsignor James Hagan, the Prefect Apostolic of Otukpo was made a Bishop and in 1960 he transferred his Cathedral seat to Makurdi, thus becoming the first Bishop of Makurdi. The Tiv Mission project had metamorphosed into the Catholic Diocese of Makurdi. Ill-health however, obliged him to resign in 1966. This led to the emergence in January, 1968 of Bishop Murray as the second Bishop of Makurdi.

For 21 years that Bishop Murray administered the Diocese the church experienced phenomenal growth in various aspects of ecclesial life. This is evident in the increase in the numbers of religious, diocesan priests, and seminarians. The hope of a truly indigenous Church became more realized when the then Father Athanasius Usuh was ordained the first co-adjutor Bishop of the Diocese. Since Bishop Usuh was installed on 21st October, 1989 as the Bishop of the Diocese after the retirement of Bishop Murray, the Church in the Diocese within his jurisdiction has continued to experience tremendous growth in terms of manpower and general development. This is evident in the creation of Otukpo Catholic Diocese in 1995 and Lafia Catholic Diocese in the year 2001. On November 28th, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Msgr. William Avenya as the Auxiliary Bishop of Makurdi Diocese. On December 29th, 2013 Pope Benedict XVI created Gboko and Katsina-Ala Dioceses out of Makurdi with Bishop William Avenya and Monsignor Peter Adoboh as local ordinaries. Yet there are six deaneries comprising eighteen (18) parishes, seventeen (17) Catholic Missions, and ten (10) Chaplaincies, most of them covering a vast area in the Diocese.

Today the Diocese has a total number of Fifty Three (53) indigenous priests and five (5) deacons and thirty-two (32) Seminarians. Most of these priests work within the Diocese, while others are pursuing further studies in Rome, USA, and Nigeria. Some are teaching at the major seminary in Makurdi, the Benue State University, and colleges, while some have been assigned to pastoral work in Abuja Archdiocese and Lafia Diocese. 

On July 8, 2014 Pope Francis appointed Father Wilfred Chikpa Anagbe cmf as the Coadjutor Bishop of Makurdi Diocese. He will be ordained on October 4, 2014 at IBB Square in Makurdi, the Benue State capital.
The Charles Lwanga Preparatory Seminary formerly at Aliade, has moved to its permanent site in Makurdi. The Diocese is also involved in Medical/Health ministry as well as Education and Communication apostolate. Education which is an indispensable instrument par excellence for effecting individual liberation and national development is equally given great attention as evident in the many schools owned by the Diocese. The publication of The Catholic Star Newspaper of the Diocese to satisfy the yearning for information dissemination in and outside the Diocese shows the importance the Church has attached to society building.

It is indeed a thing of joy to say with the great Apostle Paul "Thanks be to God who has done this.I planted, Apollo watered, but God gave the growth (I Cor.3:6).

First Mass in the Diocese - 1930
First Missionary - Revd Fr J. Kirstein
First Bishop - Rt Revd J. Hagan, CSSp
Second Bishop - Rt. Revd D. Murray, CSSp

Bishop Emeritus- Rt. Revd A. A. Usuh

Current Bishop Most Revd. Chikpa Wilfred Anagbe, CMF

Area - 23,150 sqm km
Population of Diocese - 978,188



The Tiv people attach great significance to the burial of their loved ones. The burial is steeped in their local customs.
The process starts with the sending of messages to Takuruku who is regarded as the ancestor of the Tiv people. This is usually done with the aid of musical instrument such as Idya or Ilyu. He is informed of the death of the person and told to await the arrival of the dead in the ancestral world.
On the day of the burial, the corpse is washed by elderly woman and wrapped in Anger, Tugudu or Gbagir attire to enable the person to get into the spirit world neatly and well dressed.  Normally, the corpse would not stay more than twenty-four hours.  In every traditional burial of the Tiv people there is always a discussion on the cause of death called Ku orun. The aim is to know the cause of death. This is normally done by the elders of a given community sometimes  comprising  both  the  Ityo (council  of  elders)  and  Igba (matrilineage) depending on the situation. It is a form of judgement on the nature of the deceased life. According to Tiv oral history, the life of every human being in the visible world has an end.  Ku (death) is the gateway to enter the invisible world of spirits and ancestors.  There is Ku dedoo (good death) and Ku ubo (bad death); however, the only people that get full funeral rites are the ones that experience Ku dedoo. In the case of Ku ubo, if the person was not killed by an identified person or group, he may have kill himself by using Tsav  (spiritual talent) wrongly. The elders in the above cases warn relations about the danger of following the same fate, and to keep the checks and balances in the community.
In some areas within Tivland, the corpse was buried with household utensils, clothing, and formerly, one’s servants so as to continue to use them in afterlife; or spirit world. Those who die through suicide or are drowned in the river, or have swollen stomach at death were not given the same or full burial rites (Pinga Abiam, an informant from Mbakor)