How The States In Nigeria Got Their Names



How The States In Nigeria Got Their Names

Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country and the most populous black nation on earth. Nigeria has evolved through various eras and centuries to where it is today. It has evolved from the pre-colonial, colonial, and now post-colonial eras, with 36 states. Nigeria has over 300 ethnic groups From Hausaland in the north to the Igbo peoples of the centre and southeast to the Yoruba kingdoms in the south and southwest, of Nigeria.

You might be wondering how we had 36 states. Nigeria first started with the Northern and Southern protectorates before it was divided into 3 regions, the northernwestern, and eastern regions. Nigeria started the creation of states after the abrupt end of the first republic in 1967. The first creation of states was presided over by Gen. Yakubu Gowon.

How The States In Nigeria Got Their Names

Below is the list of states in Nigeria and how they were created.

1. Abia State

Abia is an acronym for the four main groups of people in the state at the time it was formed in 1991; they are Aba, Bende, Isuikwuato, and Afikpo.

2. Adamawa

Another narrative says Akwa Ibom is referred to as something very big and mighty, and that’s why they point directly to God Almighty as the source of their existence. So you’ll hear people say Akwa Abasi Ibom State (God is the source of our existence and he’s our anchor).

3. Akwa-Ibom

Akwa Ibom is named after the Qua Iboe (or Kwa Iboe) River.

Another narrative says Akwa Ibom is referred to as something very big and mighty, and that’s why they point directly to God Almighty as the source of their existence. So you’ll hear people say Akwa Abasi Ibom State (God is the source of our existence and he’s our anchor).

4. Anambra

The state got its name from the corrupted version of Oma Mbala (in Ibo, the native name of the river is Ànyịm Ọma Mbala), a popular river in the area.

5. Bauchi

There are three versions of how Bauchi got its name:
“Bauchi’ is a Hausa word meaning the southern flanks of Hausaland. Tribes living in the southern parts of Hausaland were referred to as “kasashen bauchi” and the area they lived in later came to be known simply as Bauchi. The second version is that the state was named after Baushe, a famous hunter who settled there before the 19th century. The third states that “Bauchi” is Hausa’s word for slavery since it was a centre for slave traders.

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6. Bayelsa

Bayelsa is a combination of the acronyms of three local government areas which were pulled out of the old Rivers state—Brass LGA known as BALGA, Yenegoa LGA known as YELGA, and Sagbama LGA known as SALGA. The formation of their names is BA + YEL + SA = BAYELSA.

7. Benue

The state was named after the “Europeanised” corruption of ‘Binuwe”, the Batta word which means “Mother of Waters”.

8. Borno State

The alternative name of the Kanuris, the predominant ethnic group in the state, is “Borno”, which gave inspiration for the naming of the state.

Another version says Borno (bahar noor) in Arabic, is a river of light. The white men changed it to be borno because they couldn’t pronounce it well.

9. Cross River State

The state took its name from a river called Oyono, or Cross River.

10. Delta State

The state is named after the delta formed by the River Niger as it enters the Atlantic Ocean.

11. Ebonyi State

Ebonyi is the anglicized version of ‘Aboine’, a river that cuts through Abakaliki, the state capital.

Another narrative says Ebonyi is gotten from the Ebonyi river, which runs through the Abakaliki axis to Cross River, and the word Aboine has no meaning.

12. Edo State

The Bini people who dwell in the area always refer to themselves as Edo or Iduu. This inspired the name of the state.

13. Ekiti State

‘Okiti’ is a term that is said to denote a settlement of many hills. It later became “Ekiti.”

14. Enugu State

Due to the many hills and rocky terrain in the area, the people named it in Igbo “Enu Ugwu,” meaning “top of the hill.” The state is named after the anglicised version, Enugu.

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15. Gombe State

Gombe is a dialect of the Fulani language (Fulfulde) spoken in the area.

16. Imo State

Just like many of the Nigerian states, Imo took its name from the popular river, Imo Mmiri.

17. Jigawa State

Jigawa takes inspiration from its distinctively golden-coloured soil.

18. Kaduna State

In Hausa, ‘Kadunas’ is the plural form of the crocodile in Hausa. The state, therefore, got its name from the many crocodiles in the Kaduna River.

19. Kano State

Kano was the name of a blacksmith from the Gaya tribe who settled in the area while sourcing ironstone. The state was named after him.

20. Katsina

The state was named after the wife of a popular local ruler known as Janzama. Her name was Katsina.

21. Kebbi

It is said that Kebbi was named after the Ka’abba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

Another narrative says Kebbi is not ka’aba from Saudi Arabia, it’s a particular tribe called KABAWA that settled along the Sokoto-Rimaa River. The people and the settlers’ BAKABE call it Kabi. Kebbi has no link with Saudi Arabia in its name.

22. Kogi

Since the popular confluence in Nigeria is located in the state, Kogi is said to have been derived from ‘kogin’, the Hausa word for river.

23. Kwara

The River Niger used to be called the River Kwara by the Nupes at the northern border of the state. The state was named after this.

24. Lagos

In 1472, the first Europeans to set foot on Lagos were the Portuguese. Due to the many lagoons and rivers in the town, they named it Lagos, which is the Portuguese word for “lakes”.

25. Nasarawa

Nasarawa is a native word for “victorious”. The state was named by the founder of the Nasarawa kingdom, Makama Dogo.

26. Niger

The state was named after the River Niger.

27. Ogun

This state was also named after a river—the Ogun River.

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28. Ondo

Ondo is a word used for settlers. The state was named after the settlers of the old Ondo Kingdom.

29. Osun

This state was also named after a river—the River Osun.

30. Oyo

The state was named after the Old Oyo Empire.

31. Plateau

The state was named after the picturesque Jos plateau. Jos got its name from the mispronunciation of the town’s name, ‘Gwosh’.

32. Rivers

Rivers State was named after the many water bodies present in the area.

33. Sokoto

Sokoto is the anglicised version of the Arabic word “suk,” meaning “market” or “place of commerce.” The state itself was named after the defunct Sokoto Caliphate.

34. Taraba

Taraba State got its name from the Taraba River.

35. Yobe

The name of the state was inspired by Komadugu Yobe (Waube or Ouobe) or River Yobe (or River of Yo).

36. Zamfara

This state was named after Zamfarawa, one of the subdialects of the Eastern Hausa group.

37. Abuja

“Abuja”, in the early 20th century, was the name of the nearby town, now called Suleja. The indigenous inhabitants of Abuja are the Gbagyi (Gwari), with the Gbagyi language formerly the major of the region’s languages.

Another version says Abuja is a Hausa word that was developed from the name Abubakar –Ja. Abubakar-Ja is taken from the name of a person named Mallam Abubakar JA, and the name “Abubakar” is an Islamic name, while the word “Ja” in Hausa refers to a red colour, therefore Abubakar-Ja is literally “Abubakar-Ja.”

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