Benue state was created on 3rd February, 1976. It was one of the seven states created by the military administration headed by the late General Murtala Muhammed, which increased the number of states in the federation from twelve to nineteen. The state derived its name from River Benue which is the second largest river in the country and the most outstanding geographic feature in the state. Benue state has twenty-three local governments, with the Tiv speaking area having fourteen while the Idoma-Igede area has nine local governments.
The state’s geographic location in the country is quite unique as it lies in the middle belt of the country and shares boundaries with six other states: Nassarawa to the North, Taraba to the East, Kogi and Enugu states to the West and Ebonyi and Cross-River states to the South. It also shares an international boundary with the Republic of Cameroun in the South-East. Benue state has a landmass of 33,955 square kilometres and lies between Latitudes 6.5° and 8.5° North, and Longitudes 7.47° N and 10 East.
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.
Climate and Vegetation
Based on Koppen’s Scheme of Classification, Benue State lies within the AW Climate (Tropical Savannah 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 during 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 vegetation of the State consists of rain forests which have tall trees, tall grasses and oil palm trees that occupy the state’s western and southern fringes while the Guinea savannah is found in the eastern and northern parts with mixed grasses and trees that are generally of average height. Benue’s topography is mainly undulating plains with occasional elevations of between 1,500m and 3,000m above sea level. The state’s main geological formations are sandy-loam shelf basement complex and alluvial plains. These together with its location in the transition belt between the north and south ecologies and a favourable rainfall pattern account for its support for a wide variety of crops.
The state comprises 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.
Traditional and Chieftaincy Institutions
The Benue state government accords high respect for the traditional rulers in recognition of their role as custodians of culture and as agents of development. In order to enhance their contribution to governance, the state government has established a three-tier traditional council system made up state council of chiefs (Paramount Rulers), area traditional councils (First Class Chiefs), and local government area traditional councils (Second Class Chiefs). The local government (area) traditional council is made up of district heads in a local government and is headed by a chairman who is a second-class chief. The two area councils are the Tiv Traditional council and the Idoma Traditional Council. The former is made up of all traditional rulers in the fourteen Tiv-speaking local government areas with the Tor-Tiv as the Chairman, while the latter is made up of nine Idoma/Igede-speaking local governments and has the Och’Idoma as the Chairman. The state council of Chiefs has the Tor-Tiv V, His Royal Majesty, Orchivirigh Professor James Iorzua Ayatse as the chairman with His Royal Majesty Och’Idoma V, Agaba-Idu, Elaigwu Odogbo Obagaji John and all second-class chiefs/chairmen of the local government traditional councils as members.
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 and several tributaries with great potential for a viable fishing industry, dry season farming through irrigation and, 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 Girinya among others.
SPECIFIC ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGES IN BENUE STATE
Benue State is within the Southern Guinea Savanna agro-ecological zone of Nigeria, which is characterized by distinct wet and dry season. The landform is moderately undulating. In the face of global warming, the effects are extreme as people of the State are principally engaged in agricultural activities. This activities account for a greater percentage of the degradation types which may be summed up to include:
Naturally, most parts of Benue State belong to a derived Savanna region. The constant felling of trees has generated lush regeneration of grasses over time. However, the encroachment on marginal lands due to loss of fertile and productive lands occasioned by the quest to increase productivity, and due to demand for fuel wood and timber, certain parts of Benue State are excessively deforested and are prone to desertification and its attendant effect.
(b)Flood and Drought:
There have been issues of droughts in Makurdi in years like 1988, 1993 and 2005, some say the drought years are increasing other argue that the wet days are increasing evident in the recent flood events of 2000, 2008 and 2012, some of these recent flooding have rendered residents of Makurdi homeless and properties including farm lands worth millions of naira destroyed, and people living around the river banks displaced.
Due to the clearing away of the surface cover/vegetation in order to produce food and cash crops, some surface areas are usually left bare and the rate of surface run-off increases leading to wearing away of land surface which leads to reduction in fertility of the soils. This is not healthy for crops and plantation since the top soils are the richer in soil nutrients and organic matter content. This could be noticed more in the resultant gullies at the southern parts of Benue State e.g. Otukpo, Otukpa and Ugbokolo. Siltation and accumulation of silt particles in streams and rivers in most part of Benue State are also common as a result of water erosion.
(d)Organic matter depletion: Constant bush burning activities coupled with rapid mineralization of organic matter is a common feature of low income agriculture especially in the tropics. This leads to rapid organic matter depletion. Organic matter is the storehouse of nutrients and a soil modification material. Its depletion causes impoverishment of soil nutrient status and consequently increases the vulnerability of the soil to crumbling and detachment and transport. It is evident that most croplands in the state are unproductive today due to this phenomenon.
(e)Compaction / Crusting: Benue valley consist of Alfisols, Entisols, and Ultisols and these soils are Shallow with underlying clay accumulations and poor internal drainage. These soils also may contain plinthite sub-surface layers and sometimes protrude to surfaces of soils as out-crops. Because of poor internal drainage of these major soils, infiltration is reduced and in periods of high temperature and evapo-transpiration, soil crusting can become an easy feature on some croplands in Benue State. Compaction on the other hand could be due to the overgrazing and overstocking.
CLEARED INTERVENTION SITES
Engagement of consultant for the design of Agro-Forestry Models in 6 LGAs (Oju, Otukpo, Makurdi, Vandeikya, Gboko and Gwer West) is at advance state.