Ijaw and Izon are interchangeably used linguistically to refer to the language spoken by Ijaw people spread along the Western and Southern seaboards of Africa covering: Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroun, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.
Many are found as migrant fishermen in camps as far west as Sierra Leone and as far east as Gabon.
Population figures for the Ijaws vary greatly, though most range from 13 million to 15 million.
They have long lived in locations near many sea trade routes, and they were well connected to other areas by trade as early as the 15th century.
The Ijaw speak nine closely related Niger–Congo languages , all of which belong to the Ijoid branch of the Niger–Congo tree.
Thursday April 22nd 1993, a group of Ijawmen, under the able chairman Dr. Ambaiowei and meeting in Senator Amatari Zuofa’s abode, plotted the establishment of two Ijaw States: Bayelsa and Toru Ibe States. These ideas was fostered and financed by these men and the name Bayelsa sailed through the appropriate quarters with the efforts of the Chargourys to the glory of God, 1st of October, 1996 the then military head of government, the late Major General Sani Abacha conceded Bayelsa to the glory of Ijaw Nation.
The primary division between the Ijo languages is that between Eastern Ijo and Western Ijo, the most important of the former group of languages being Izon, which is spoken by about five million people.
There are two prominent groupings of the Izon language. The first, termed either Western or Central Izon (Ijaw) consists of Western Ijaw speakers:
Tuomo Clan, Egbema, Ekeremor, Sagbama (Mein), Bassan , Apoi, Arogbo, Boma (Bumo), Kabo (Kabuowei), Ogboin, Tarakiri, and Kolokuma-Opokuma. Nembe, Brass and Akassa (Akaha) dialects represent Southeast Ijo (Izon) Buseni and Okordia dialects are considered Inland Ijo.
The other major Ijaw linguistic group is Kalabari . Kalabari is considered an Eastern Ijaw language but the term “Eastern Ijaw” is not the normal nomenclature. Kalabari is the name of one of the Ijaw clans that reside on the eastern side of the Niger-Delta (Abonnema, Buguma, Bakana, Degema etc.) who form a major group in Rivers State, Other “Eastern” Ijaw clans are the Andoni, Okrika, Ibani (the natives of Bonny, Finima and Opobo) and Nkoroo.
They are neighbours to the Kalabari people in present-day Rivers State, Nigeria.
Other related Ijaw subgroups which have distinct languages but very close kinship, cultural and territorial ties with the rest of the Ijaw are the Epie-Atissa , Engenni (also known as Ẹgẹnẹ), and Degema (also called Udekama or Udekaama). The Ogbia clan, as well as residents of Bukuma and Abuloma (Obulom).