Benue State is a Nigerian state, located in the north central region of the country with 23 local government areas. Benue state was carved out of the former Benue-Plateau State in 3rd February, 1976. The capital of Benue State is Makurdi; was established in the early twenties and gained prominence in 1927 when it became the headquarters of the then Benue Province. Being a river port, it attracted the
establishment of trading depots by companies such as United Africa Company of Nigeria and John Holt Plc. Its commercial status was further enhanced when the Railway Bridge was completed and opened in 1932. In 1976, the town became the capital of Benue State and today, doubles as the headquarters of Makurdi Local Government Area. Benue State as it exists today is a surviving legacy of an administrative entity that was carved out of the protectorate of northern Nigeria at the beginning of the twentieth century. The territory was initially known as Munshi Province until 1918 when the name of its dominant geographical feature, the ‘Benue River’ was adopted. Benue State was formed from the former Benue Plateau State in 1976, along with Igala and some part of Kwara State. It was one of the seven states
created by the military administration headed by General Murtala Mohammed, which increased the number of states in the country from 13 to 19. In 1991, some areas of Benue state (mostly Igala area), along with areas in Kwara State, were carved out to become part of the new Kogi State. Of the 36 states, Benue is the 11th largest in area and 10th most populous with an estimated population of 4,253,641 as of 2006 census. Benue state is named after the River Benue which is the second largest
river in Nigeria, and nicknamed as “Food Basket of the Nation”.
The major ethnic groups living in Benue State are primarily the Tiv, Idoma, Igede and minorities are Etulo, Abakpa, Jukun, Hausa, Igbo, Akweye and Nyifon. Agriculture forms the backbone of the Benue State economy, engaging more than 70 per cent of the working population. Benue State is the nation’s acclaimed food basket because of its rich agricultural produce which include; Yam, Rice, Beans, Cassava,
Mango, Sweet-potato, Maize, Soybean, Sorghum, Millet, Seamen, Cocoyam etc. The state accounts for 70% of Nigeria’s Soybean Production. The Zaki Ibiam International Yam Market is the biggest market for a single product in Nigeria. Animal production include; Cattle, Pork, Poultry and Goat. Benue State has the eighteenth highest Human Development Index in the country.
Festivals and Traditions
Benue State is endowed with a rich cultural heritage culminating in the existence of a variety of traditional festivals which are celebrated as an annual community affair throughout the various local governments. The important festivals celebrated in the State include the following:
• KWAGH-HIR Benue Festival: Kwagh-Hir Puppet festival is very peculiar to the Tiv people of Benue State. It is most popular during the dry season from October to April, and in December. The Kwargh-Hir puppet festival is a dramatized folklore of the Tiv people with intense use of masquerades, puppets and marionettes. It is useful as a means of handing down information, opinions beliefs and customs through the oral, narrative and has offered visual metaphors for understanding and resolving social conflicts. Its themes are woven around economic and social conflicts, problems of the people, traditional and historical issues in Tiv land and contemporary work in general. The stories seek to enlighten and cleanse the society. A typical Kwagh–Hir performance comprises of a group of drummers, singers, dancers, and acrobats as well as various works of art.
• BIEM AND TOHO YILAN Benue Festival: Biem And Toho Yilam is a festival of hunting wild games among Tiv people of Benue State. The bush is allowed to stay for a period of five to ten years in burnt condition preparatory to the festival. Elders of the clan involved in organizing the hunting expedition and feasting. The hunters who usually use local hunting tools like: bows and arrows, cutlasses, sears, matches, Dane-guns all await patiently at the mapped out area. Biem and Toho Yilan is accompanied by all kinds of dances and takes place between December to April. • INDYER Benue Festival: Indyer as a festival it is a noble celebration carried out by any individual who sees himself as reputable enough to possess the ‘Indyer’. It is an instrument of dignity whose fashioning and preparation is shrouded in mystery. The personalities involved must have all the natural and human resources to put up this festival. Indyer festival takes place at any time of the year and it is celebrated throughout Tivland. It is accompanied by songs; music and dances composed according to the dictates of the ceremony.
• AMAR A MIRIN Benue Festival: Amar A Mirin Benue Festival is an intra-community dance festival that involves other festivals like: ‘Ivom’,‘Tembe Duen’ and ‘Nyinya’. It is undertaken by 36Destinations communities to display human and natural wealth any time that is convenient. Amar A Mirin is held in all Tiv local governments of Benue State namely: Gboko Local Government Area, Makurdi Local Government Area, Gwer Local Government Area, Guma Local Government Area, Gwer-West Local Government Area, Katsina-Ala Local Government Area, Konshisha Local Government Area and Ushongu Local Government Area. Some of the dances during the festival include: Takera, Swange, Ange, Ajo, Iyua, and Chough are involved.
• IKASE AKOMBO AND TYAV Benue Festival: Ikase Akombo and Tyav is a funeral Benue festivity that is associated with the death of a patriarch. The songs, music and dances composed depend on the caliber of the dead. During this period, different masquerades appear. At the height of the ceremony, a cow is sacrificed alive by Ipaa masquerade. Other masquerades are: Akune, Abum Kombo, Imbor, Igbe, and Ivughul Akombo. The festival comes up between October and April. It is celebrated throughout Tivland in Benue State.
• MZOUGH-U-TIV (TIV NATIONAL DAY): Mzough-U-Tiv is celebrated by the Tiv people in Gboko local government area of Benue State, the centre of Tiv land and holds the traditional seat. It is an annual event, a period when Tiv sons and daughters all over the globe (at home and in the Diaspora) are required to travel to Gboko for reunion, discussions on development, progress of the Tiv nation and other related issues. Tiv day is a week-long celebration which can rightly be termed a cultural week with a showcase of the rich and colorful display of traditional fabrics: Anger, Gbevwar, GodoAkpem, Agese Chado, Gadgir, Ivavtyo (Ityoapen), Tugudu, Anzapher, Agbende-A-Kurugh, Agbende-A-Adenden, Acika, Zaan Agergbila, Ishanda Zaan, Acubu,Ashira, Lishi (complete black) and Ankyegh Tsuaityo. • IMO ( 1 MINI ) Benue Festival: Imo Igberen (singing) like dancing is of great significance to the Tiv. Not the singing of love songs alone but reflections on philosophical themes, praise singing of social heavy weights and soliciting of financial help. Singers like: Number 1 Golozo, Kuje, Yom, Agugu Igba Kombu and Many others are well known. The Imo feast is a solemn occasion when a singer is called upon to sing at the host’s compound. Dignitaries among them businessmen, traditional rulers, individuals who have made their marks in different works of life, grace the occasion. The composer launches his new album amidst unmitigated hilarity, and merriment.
• KYEGH SHA ISHWA (Chicken with Sesame) Benue Cultural Festival: It is, however, a choice delicacy of the Tiv of Central Nigeria; a soup made of chicken and thick sesame (Benniseed) sauce. The Tiv people best savour this delicacy with pounded yam. It is indeed a very popular dish. Leveraging on the popularity of this and the near-worship sentimental attachment that the Tiv have with this dish, the Very Rev. Fr. Solomon Mfa Ukeyima conceived of it as a fine rallying point where Tiv sons and daughters would come together, reason together to grow together – a kind of reawakening of the great communal spirit that drives them, as beautifully couched in one of their proverbs, “ka ityem imôngo Mbagbera ve fe iywa ye”.
Tourists Attractions and Locations
- Ikyogen Hill: Ikyogen hill, which is also known as the Leiv Mountain is located in Mbabegh Ikyogen, Kwande local government area of Benue state. The lush green Leiv Mountain used to be a habitat for monkeys and a grazing ranch for cattle but overtime it has become deserted. During the unrest in Cameroon, the hill served as a temporary camp for the Cameroonian refugees but even long after the camp was relocated, this tourist site and attraction never regained its lost glory. Locals who live around however still find hiking on Leiv Mountain recreational. A perfect location for exploring and adventurous hiking for indigenes and tourists.
- Dajo Pottery, Makurdi: The Dajo Pottery is a privately-owned pottery which has made
thousands of unique potteries for local and international tourists who fancy owning a fascinating pottery.
- Anwase-Abande Ranges: The Anwase-Abande ranges extend into the Nigerian-Cameroon border via the Obudu-Cameroon range; it is located in Kwande local government area. There are natural forests, great hills, dykes, valleys, streams and other natural formations in this area. Tourists can use the ranges for picnicking and mountaineering or hiking.
• Ikwe Holiday Resort: Although the Ikwe holiday resort used to be a great travel spot for local and foreign tourists, the place is now a shadow of its former self. Tourists could enjoy privacy amidst the natural wonders of nature without being disturbed. The state government needs to
do more to improve the tourism potentials of this foremost holiday resort in the state.
- Enemabia Warm Spring: The Enemabia warm spring is more or less the only warm spring in Benue State. Tourists can swim in its waters and enjoy the warming of natural spring. It is open night and day to visitors and it is a place anyone must check out once they visit the state.
- Montane Games Reserve: This game reserve is one of the few in the state reserves where visitors and tourists can see wild and rare animals in their natural habitats.
- Tor Tiv Palace, Gboko: The Tor Tiv palace is located in Gboko, and is the official residence of the Tiv people. The palace is rich in historical artifacts and it tells the story and history of the Tiv people. You can also learn a lot about the past ways of the earlier settlers in the area and gain insight into the cultural and traditional way of the native folks, including past wars and kings of Tiv people.
- Ushongo Hills: The Ushongo hills is a mountainous belt that is both refreshing to the eyes and the body. The hilly mountains spread as far as the eye can see, and it can be used for hiking, climbing, local movies, picnics, and educational activities. The climate of this area makes it a delight among the local folks and a pride of the community. The Ushongo local government was named after Ushongo Hill.