Benue State as it exists today is a surviving legacy of an administrative entity which 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 ‘River Benue’ was adopted.
As an administrative unit, Benue State was first created on February 3, 1976. It was one of the seven states created by the military administration headed by the late General Murtala Mohammed, which increased the number of states in the country from 13 to 19. In 1991 its boundaries were adjusted with the creation of Kogi State. The new Benue State of today has twenty (23) local government areas, which are administered by local government councils.
Benue State lies within the lower river Benue trough in the middle belt region of Nigeria. Its geographic coordinates are longitude 7° 47’ and 10° 0’ East. Latitude 6° 25’ and 8° 8’ North; and shares boundaries with five other states namely: Nassarawa to the north, Taraba to the east, Cross-River to the south, Enugu to the south-west and Kogi to the west. The state also shares a common boundary with the Republic of Cameroun on the south-east. Benue has a population of 4,780,389 (2006 census) and occupies a landmass of 32,518 square kilometers.
Makurdi, the state capital 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 UAC and John Holt Limited. 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 presently serves also as the headquarters of Makurdi Local Government Area.
Based on Koppen’s Scheme of Classification, Benue State lies within the AW Climate and experiences two distinct seasons, the wet/rainy season and the dry/summer season. The rainy season lasts from April to October with annual rainfall in the range of 100-200mm. The dry season begins in November and ends in March. Temperatures fluctuate between 23 – 37 degrees Celsius in the year. The south-eastern part of the state adjoining the Obudu-Cameroun mountain range, however, has a cooler climate similar to that of the Jos Plateau.
The state comprised of several ethnic groups: Tiv, Idoma, Igede, Etulo, Abakpa, Jukun, Hausa, Akweya and Nyifon. The Tiv are the dominant ethnic group, occupying 14 local government areas, while the Idoma and Igede occupy the remaining nine local government areas.
Most of the people are farmers while the inhabitants of the riverine areas engage in fishing as their primary or important secondary occupation. The people of the state are famous for their cheerful and hospitable disposition as well as rich cultural heritage.
The Benue State Government accords high respect to traditional rulers in recognition of their role as custodians of culture and as agents of development. Also, their roles in enhancing peace and order at the grassroots level are also recognized. In order to enhance their contribution to the affairs of the state, government has established a three-tier traditional council system made up of Local Government Area Traditional Councils, Area Traditional Councils and the State Council of Chiefs with the Tor Tiv as Chairman.
Benue State is blessed with abundant mineral resources. These resources are distributed in the Local Government Areas of the state. Of these mineral resources, only limestone at Tse-Kucha near Gboko and Kaolin at Otukpo are being commercially exploited.
Benue State is the nations acclaimed food basket because of its rich agricultural produce which include yams, rice, beans, cassava, potatoes, maize, soya beans, sorghum, millet and cocoyam. The state also accounts for over 70% of Nigeria’s soya bean production.
Agriculture is the mainstay of the economy, engaging over 75% of the state farming population. The State also boasts of one of the longest stretches of river systems in the country with great potential for a viable fishing industry, dry season farming through irrigation and for an inland water highway.
The vegetation of the southern parts of the state is characterized by forests, which yield trees for timber and provide a suitable habitat for rare animals. The state thus possesses potential for the development of viable forest and wildlife reserves.
Benue State possesses a rich and diverse cultural heritage which finds expression in colourful cloths, exotic masquerades, supplicated music and dances. Traditional dances from Benue State have won acclaim at national and international cultural festivals. The most popular of these dances include Ingyough, Ange, Anchanakupa, Swange and Ogirinya among others.