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Brief History

Rivers State is a Nigerian state, located in the Niger Delta region of the country with 23 local government areas, the state was initially created with 15 local government areas in 1967 which was later extended to 23 local governments when Bayelsa State was carved out in 1996. Rivers state was carved out of the former Eastern Region State of Nigeria in 1967. The capital of Rivers State is Port Harcourt; a metropolis that is considered the commercial center of the Nigerian oil industry and the second biggest commercial, agriculture and busiest Airport & seaport in Nigeria. The area that makes up the modern state has been inhabited in one way or the other since the last year of the first millennium. The earliest known settled communities in what is now Rivers State include the Riverine Ijaw; Ogoni on the lower Imo River and coastal shores of the main-lands and Ikwerre people and other Igboid groups on the main-lands. Rivers state was part of the Oil Rivers Protectorate from 1885 till 1893 when it became part of the Niger Coast Protectorate. In 1900, the region was merged with the chartered territories of the Royal Niger Company to form the colony of Southern Nigeria. On 27 May 1967, under the administration of General Yakubu Gowon, Decree No. 14 was issued, allowing the creation of Rivers State. Of the 36 states of Nigeria, Rivers is the 26th largest in area and six most populous with an estimated population of 5,198,716 as of 2006 census. Rivers state is named after the many rivers that border its territory, and nicknamed as “Treasure Base of the Nation”.

The major ethnic groups living in Rivers State are the Abua, Andoni, Ekpeye, Eleme, Egbema, Ekpeye, Kalabari, Ndoki, Ndoni, Okrika, Ogoni, Engenni, Etche, Ibani, Ikwerre, Ogba, Odua etc. Rivers State is famous for its vast reserves of crude oil and natural gas, just because It was perhaps the richest and most important section of the African zone of the British Empire. Rivers State has two major oil refineries, two major seaports, airports, and various industrial estates spread across the land. More than 60% of the country’s output of crude oil is produced in the state. Other natural resources found within its boundaries are silica sand, glass sand and clay. Rivers State has maintained its importance as a leading supplier of wealth to the nation for centuries. In 2007, the state ranked 2nd nationwide with a gross domestic product (GDP) of $21.07 billion and a per capita income of $3,965.

Festivals and Traditions

Rivers 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. Almost every village celebrates traditional festivals that bring both indigenes and nonindigenes together. Most festivals take place between March and December every year and they offer occasions for re-uniting family, friends and well-wishers from far and near. The important festivals celebrated in the State include the following:
  • Carniriv Festival: This is an annual festival, held in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. The Carnival starts few weeks before Christmas and lasts for seven days. During this time several ceremonial events are held, most of which hold some cultural and sacred significance. The Government of Rivers State recognizes Carniriv as its biggest tourism export. With economic interests increasingly identifying tourism as a viable alternative to the fossil fuel economy especially in these parts the state government has exhibited its commitment to developing this carnival into a regionally unrivalled and globally reckoned tourist attraction.
  • Garden City Literary Festival: The Garden City Literary Festival also known as Port Harcourt Book Festival was founded by Governor Amaechi of Rivers State, it is a festival in Port Harcourt that happens in the month of September. This festival takes place to celebrate literature and arts in Port Harcourt. Many famous people in the field of literature and arts are invited to partake in this event. Some of them are asked to share their knowledge and expertise to the audience.
  • Okrika Boat Regatta Festival: This is a water festival where sailboats are decorated in top colours to engage in racing and other water activities. Many people operate these ships to the chanting of thousands of onlookers and it is a festival that draws people from all over Nigeria to witness the water events. Okrika is an island and a Local Government in Rivers State, Nigeria. The town is situated on an island south of Port Harcourt.
  • ION International Film Festival: The ION International Film Festival is a festival in Port Harcourt that happens every December. It is a caravan festival that aims to promote independent films, music videos, animation, documentaries and movie trailers. Annually, the ION International Film Festival tours around the world to uphold global awareness and unity through producing socially relevant movies that will have a good impact on the world. This festival runs for four days with series of events that take place. The events are formulated to give the directors, celebrities and producers a chance to learn from each other and build their network
  • Music Festival: The Music Festival promotes its local music performers and entertainers. This is a venue for them to discover new styles in music and learn from each other. Also, the Music Festival is the time for the music artists to discuss the topical concerns and events in the entertainment industry.
  • Nwaotam Festival: Nwaotam Festival is celebrated annually every 25th day of December in Port Harcourt. This festival is celebrated to welcome the New Year and to eliminate the bad spirits of the previous year. During this celebration, many tribal groups spend the night in the sea to offer prayers that will ward off the evil forces. On the next day, a procession is held at the seashore to signal the start of the celebration.
  • Oki Festival: The Oki Festival is a ceremonial and social dance festival that’s celebrated by the Kalabari people of Rivers state. The dancers who join in the festival represent a family of fish. The head of the family is the Oki, a sea creature that looks like a sword shark. During this event, the fish families show their fish-like dance to the Kalabari people.
  • Owu-Aru-Sun Festival: The Owu-Aru-Sun Festival of the Kalabari Kingdom the Owu-Aru-Sun Alali festival is celebrated by the Kalabari people of Rivers State. It is held in Buguma City in the AsariToru LGA and features masquerade and dance displays.
  • Bole Festival: The Bole food fiesta is currently the biggest in the South of Nigeria attracting thousands of food lovers from all over the country. With the sole purpose of celebrating the rich culinary heritage of the Niger Delta with emphasis on the various creative way people prepare Bole (roasted plantain) and roasted fish, which happens to be the most popular street food in the area. Bole, a street food made from plantain, is usually served in different ways depending on the part of country you find yourself. There are usually a variety of food exhibitors showcasing and selling diverse display of Bole (plantain) and fish. And the festival is usually
  • IRIA Festival: This festival holds in Okirika Local Government Area of Rivers State. It is a ceremony where virgins are kept in one special room for 1-3 months. During this time, they undergo some trainings on womanhood. Once they experience their first menstruation, they walk Unclad to the village square and a big ceremony is held for them. They are brought out to dance in public, money is sprayed on them, after which men can ask for their hands in marriage. The festival is dated back to 16th century and still holds.

Tourists Attractions and Locations

  • Statute of King Jaja of Opobo
  • Isaac Boro Garden Park
  • Rivers State Museum: The museum is in the secretariat complex of Rivers State Government.
  • Cultural Centre, Port Harcourt
  • Bonny Island
  • Pleasure Park Port Harcourt
  • Port Harcourt Polo Club
  • Ifoko Beach
  • Isaka Holiday Resort