There are six North Central States in Nigeria and they are Benue, Kogi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger, and Plateau States and there is also the Federal Capital Territory (Abuja) included in the zone. The region is one of the six geopolitical zones in Nigeria and they also include some of the middle belt states in the country.
The states in North Central were carved out between 1976 and 1996 and it contains the largest state in Nigeria- Niger. The geopolitical zone is also the second largest in land area in Nigeria, only behind the North East. Also, the people of the states in this zone make up 11% of the total population in Nigeria with over 20 million people.
The North Central have some of the linguistically diversified states in Nigeria. Unlike many other states in the northern part of the country, the people in the states in the zone do not have only Hausa as a central language. Instead, there are also Tiv and Yoruba-speaking people in some of the states. Meanwhile, most of the north-central states are populated by Muslims and Christians.
States in the North Central Geopolitical Zone of Nigeria
1. Benue State
- Capital: Makurdi
- Tribes: Abakpa, Jukun, Akweya, Etulo and Nyifon
- Languages: Tiv, Idoma and Igede
- Economic Activities: Farming, fishing, blacksmith, and mining
Benue State was created on 3 February 1976 by General Murtala Mohammed during the military era in Nigeria. It is popularly called the Food Basket of the Nation due to its rich agricultural exploits.
Benue produces yams, beans, cassava, rice, cassava, potatoes, maize, soya beans, sorghum, millet and coco-yam. Interestingly, Benue State is the highest producer of soybeans in Nigeria and among the North Central States of the country. It is also rich in fruits and is the largest producer of oranges in Nigeria.
These alone do not fully portray the extent of the economic activities of Benue State. Regarding fishing, Agatu LGA generates 80% of the fish produced in the state, along with Katsina-Ala LGAs as a close second.
Mineral resources found in Benue State are numerous. Some discovered deposits include Limestone, Gypsum, Iron-ore, Salt, Kaolin, Lead and Zinc, Barites, Clay, Coal, Calcite, Gemstone, and Magnetite.
The state comprises 23 Local Governments, with Makurdi as the capital and unarguably the most popular city. The ethnic groups in the Benue State are segmented into three majority tribes: Tiv, Idoma, and Igede. Six minority groups or tribes indigenous to Benue are Abakpa, Akweya, Etulo, Jukun, and Nyifon.
Of over seven tribes in Benue State, the predominant languages spoken are Tiv, Idoma, and Igede. Tiv is the fourth most prominent language in Nigeria, after Yoruba, Hausa, and Igbo.
2. Kogi State
- Capital: Lokoja
- Tribes: Kabba, Kakanda, Kupa, Ogori-Magongo, Osayen, Bassa Komu, Bassa Nge, and Kupa
- Languages: Igala, Nupe, Yoruba, and Ebira
- Economic Activities: Farming, Fishing, and Mining
Kogi State was created on 27 August 1991 by General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida and was portioned out from parts of FCT, Benue, Niger and Kwara States. The State is known mostly as the Confluence State where two great rivers, River Niger and River Benue converge. It is as a result of its being riverine that its name “Kogi” which means river in the Hausa language was derived.
Lokoja is the state capital of Kogi and one of the 21 local government areas. It is in this capital city that Niger and river Benue meet. The convergence of these rivers caused a Y-shaped separation that now divides Nigeria into three major ethnic zones.
Kogi State is a North Central state that prides itself on having many ethnic groups and several tribes. Among them are tribes such as Bassa Komu, Bassa Nge, Ebira, Hausa, Igala, Kabba, Kakanda, Kupa, Ogori-Magongo, Osayen, Nupe, and Yoruba.
Aside from the indigenous tribes of the state, the major languages spoken in Kogi State are Yoruba, Igala, and Ebira. Igala may be described as the most spoken language in Kogi State among other languages in the state.
Just as in many other states in North Central Nigeria, farming is the mainstay for the indigenous people of Kogi State. Due to its being a riverine area, fishing activities are common in the state. Other avenues for generating income in the state are the production of Cocoa, Yam, Oil palm, and Cotton. Farmers in the state cultivate Rice, Beans, Sorghum, Cassava, Cashew, Mango, Maize, groundnut and many other crops.
Kogi state also produces various mineral deposits such as Iron ore, tar, limestone, Marble, coal, dolomite, feldspar, bauxite, and gold. Kogi State is the first north-central (northern) oil-producing state that has received derivation allocation from the federal government.
3. Kwara State
- Capital: Ilorin
- Tribes: Yoruba, Nupe (or Tapa), Baruba (Baatonu), Fulani, Bokobaru (Busa), Ogori, Oworo, Hausa, and Ebira
- Economic Activities: Farming, Fishing, and Mining
Created on 27 May 1967 during the military regime of General Yakubu Gowon, Kwara State is known as the State of Harmony. It comprises sixteen Local Government Areas, of which 14 LGAs are predominantly Muslim.
The capital of Kwara State is Ilorin. The name “Ilorin” was derived by its founding fathers from a stone used to sharpen metal tools. One of the peculiarities of the Kwara State capital in the history of North Central Nigeria is that the first primary school was established in the capital city.
There are several tribes found in the North-central state of Kwara. The majority groups or tribes are Yoruba, Nupe (or Tapa), Baruba (Baatonu), and Fulani. Other minor tribes in Kwara state are Bokobaru (Busa), Ogori, Oworo, Hausa, and Ebira.
Languages spoken in Kwara State are mostly Yoruba and other languages like Nupe and Bariba.
As one of the most popular and prominent African languages, Yoruba is spoken in Southwestern Nigeria and in some North Central states like Kwara and Kogi.
Economic activities in Kwara State revolve around agricultural products, mineral resources, and industrial resources. The mineral resources found in Kwara State are tourmaline, tantalite, limestone, marble, feldspar, clay, kaolin, quartz, and granite rocks.
The agricultural produce in the state includes Cotton, bambara nuts, Cocoa, Coffee, Kolanut, Tobacco, Beniseed, and Palm produce. Among the North Central states in Nigeria, Kwara State is ranked as the largest producer of rice.
4. Nasarawa State
- Capital: Lafia
- Tribes: Afo, Agatu, Akye, Alago, Baribari, Bassa, Egbira, Eggon, Eloyi, Fulani, Gade, Gbagyi, Goemai, Gwandara, Hausa, Jukun, Kanuri, Koro, Mada, Ninzom, Arum, Rindei, Yeskwa and Tiv.
- Languages: There are 29 languages spoken in Nasarawa
- Economic Activities: Farming, Fishing, blacksmith, and Mining
Located in the North Central region of Nigeria, Nasarawa State was formed on 1 October 1996 from Plateau State by General Sani Abacha. The State comprises 13 Local Government Areas known as the Home of Solid Mineral.
Lafia is the capital and also the largest city of Nasarawa State. Tribes found in Nasarawa State are many due to its close relationship with other states in Northern Nigeria. These tribes are Afo, Agatu, Akye, Alago, Baribari, Bassa, Egbira, Eggon, Eloyi, Fulani, Gade, Gbagyi, Goemai, Gwandara, Hausa, Jukun, Kanuri, Koro, Mada, Ninzom, Arum, Rindei, Yeskwa and Tiv.
The most popular language spoken in Nasarawa is Eggon. Others are Aguta, Alago, Basa, Ebira, Gbagyi, Gwandara, Kanuri and Tiv. There are 29 languages spoken in Nasarawa.
Farming is the main occupation of the people of Nasarawa state. Crops produced there include sesame, ginger, cassava, yam, rice, maize, guinea corn, egusi, beans, soya beans, groundnut acha, and millet.
In addition to agriculture, Nasarawa State’s other economic activity is mining natural and solid minerals such as columbite, tin, coal, lead, Zinc, Lithium, and Barite.
Some famous people from Nasarawa State are Abdullahi Adamu, a politician and one of the wealthiest farmers in Nigeria, and the Federal Commissioner of the National Population Commission, Silas Ali Agara. Others are Another famous person is actress Aisha Tisha Mohammed.
5. Niger State
- Capital: Minna
- Tribes: Gbagyi, Kadara, Koro, Baraba, Kakanda, Gana-Gana, Dibo, Kambari, Kamuku, Pangu, Dukkawa, Gwada and Ingwai
- Languages: Nupe, Hausa, and Gwari
- Economic Activities: Farming, Fishing, and Mining
Niger State has the largest landmass among the North Central states and Nigeria. General Murtala Mohammed created the state on 3 February 1976, and currently, there are 25 Local Government Areas in the state. Niger State is called the Power State of the nation because it harbors three major hydroelectric power stations in Nigeria.
Minna is the capital city of Niger State. The capital houses the state’s international airport, its federal university, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University, and other notable educational institutions. Besides this, Minna showcases the state’s museum gallantly.
Some states in North Central Nigeria share some major tribes, and Niger State is one of such. These tribes are Nupe, Gbagyi, and Hausa. Kadara, Koro, Baraba, Kakanda, Gana-Gana, Dibo, Kambari, Kamuku, Pangu, Dukkawa, Gwada, and Ingwai are minor tribes in the state.
The most spoken language in Niger State is Hausa. Hausa is also the predominant language in North Central and Northern Nigeria.
Other languages central to the state are Gbagyi and Nupe. These languages are indigenous to some North Central states like Abuja, Nasarawa, Kwara, and Kogi.
The economy of a state is a crucial player in its survival. In Niger State, economic activities include fishing, farming, arts and craft, mining, and export trading.
Regarding agriculture, Niger State is among the top producers of rice and sugarcane in North Central Nigeria. Crops such as millet and sorghum, soya beans, maize, cotton, cassava, and groundnut are also produced in mass in the state.
Mineral resources found in Niger State include gold, lead, zinc, and tantalite. Some other mineral deposits there are Talc, Silica, Marble, Copper, Iron, Felsper, Kaolin, Columbite, Mica, Quartzite, and Limestone.
Unique only to North Central Nigeria is the presence of three hydroelectric power stations in the region. The hydroelectric dams are Shiroro Hydroelectric Dam, Kainji Hydroelectric Dam, and Jebba Hydroelectric Dam.
With these major hydroelectric power stations in Niger State, the state alone can produce nearly 2000MW of electricity in Nigeria. The dams are found in Kainji, Jebba and Shiroro of Niger State.
Some well-known people from Niger State are politicians Jerry Gana and Ramatu Yar’adua.
6. Plateau State
- Capital: Jos
- Tribes: Afizere, Amo, Anaguta, Aten, Bogghom, Buji, Challa, Chip, Fier, Gashish, Irigwe, Jarawa, Jukun, Kofyar (comprising Doemak, Kwalla, and Mernyang), Montol, Mushere, Mupun, Piapung, Pyem, Ron-Kulere, Bache, Talet, Youm and Kanuri in Wase
- Languages: Berom, Mwaghavul, Ngas, Goemai, and Taroh (Tarok),
- Economic Activities: Tourism, Farming and Mining.
The State is known as the Home of Peace and Tourism, and Jos is its most famous city.
Although Hausa is commonly spoken in the State, the most popular Indigenous languages are Berom, Ngas, and Taroh. Generally, Plateau State is one of Nigeria’s most culturally and ethnically diversified states as there are over 5o ethnic groups.
Other languages are Afizere (called Izere), Irigwe people (who speak Rigwe), Mwaghavul, Ron, and Geomai.
The State is known for its cool weather, abundant food and vegetables, and the hills, valleys, and rocky land. Due to favorable weather conditions, it is one of the few states in Nigeria where apples are grown and thrive well.
Many exotic fruits and vegetables are also grown in Plateau State, such as Pomegranate, celery, carrots, lettuce, berries, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, peas, etc. Crops like Acha (Hungary rice), sesame, rice, maize, millet, yams, Irish potatoes, cassava, cocoa yam, and sorghum are cultivated well in the State.
One of the chief economic activities carried out in the State is mining. Mineral deposits excavated from the State are cassiterite, clay, coal, granite, iron ore, kaolin, lead/zinc, tantalite/columbite, and tin.
Some famous people from Plateau State are Koinonia founder Apostle Joshua Selman; Nigeria’s former Head of State General Yakubu Gowon; late soldier B.S Dimka; politician Nentawe Yilwatda, musicians Ruby Gyang, Ice Prince, and Jeremiah Gyang; actress and model Suzan Pwajok, and filmmaker Kenneth Gyang.
7. Federal Capital Territory, Abuja
- Capital: Abuja (Capital City of Nigeria)
- Tribes: Ganagana, Gwandara, Afo, Bassa, Koro, Gbwari (Gbagyi), Gade, Nupe, Gwandara, Dibo, and Ebira
- Languages: Gwari (Gbagyi) and Hausa
- Economic Activities: Agriculture, mining, and tourism.
Located at the nation’s center, Abuja is home to Aso Villa (the presidential villa), the National Assembly, and the Supreme Court. It was created on 4 February 1976 and became the capital city of Nigeria after Lagos State on 12 December 1991. Abuja is made up of six LGAs and is considered one of the wealthiest states in Nigeria.
Peculiar to any other state, Abuja is the first planned state built in Nigeria for administrative purposes, as well as for its geographic location and landmass.
There are over nine tribes indigenous to Abuja.
Gbagyi (Gwari) is the most popular language in the state, followed by Koro aside Hausa.
Agricultural products grown are exported from the nation’s capital are yam, groundnut, cassava, corn (maize), sorghum, and beans.
Mining resources found in Abuja are clay, tin, feldspar, iron ore, lead, talc, cassiterite, dolomite, Marble, and Tantalite.