Functions of Age-Grades in Pre-Colonial Administration in Nigeria

age-grades played a important role in the governance and administration of communities, especially in the acephalous Igbo system.


In this post, we shall enumerate the functions of age-grades in precolonial Nigeria. At the end of this lesson, students should be able to identify these functions.

Age-Grades in Precolonial Nigeria

In pre-colonial Nigeria, age-grades played a important role in the governance and administration of communities, especially in the acephalous Igbo socio-political system.


Age-grades were social organizations comprising individuals of the same age set. They were responsible for various functions that contributed to the overall well-being and stability of their communities.

Image Credit: Sheyi Owolabi on Unsplash.

Functions of Age-Grades in Precolonial Nigeria

Below are the functions of age-grades in the pre-colonial administration:

  1. Defense and Security: Age-grades helped to defend their communities against both internal and external attacks. They formed a significant part of the community’s defense system, working together to protect their people and territory from potential threats.
  2. Civil and Communal Works: Age-grades carried out civil and communal works, such as the construction of roads, bridges, and markets and the rendering of help in farming.
  3. Police Duties: Age-grades performed police duties in maintaining law and order within the community. They ensured that community members adhered to established norms and settled disputes in a fair and just manner.
  4. Socializing Functions: Age-grades played a role in socializing young members of the community. They instilled cultural values, traditions, and norms.
  5. Check on Paramount Chiefs and Council of Elders: Age-grades acted as a check on the exercise of power by the paramount chiefs and council of elders. They provided a counterbalance to prevent abuse of authority and ensure decisions were in the best interest of the community.
  6. Ceremonial and Cultural Functions: During important occasions and festivals, age-grades performed ceremonial and cultural functions.
  7. Implementation of Policies and Decisions: Age-grades were involved in the execution of policies and decisions made in the community. They played a role in implementing community decisions and contributed to the effective administration of the society.
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