REGIONAL GEOGRAPHY

NIGER BENUE TROUGH

Physical Features

The Niger-Benue trough is a massive depression in the middle of the country, which is generally 300m below sea level.

The trough derives its name from the two major rivers in the area, that is, Rivers Niger and Benue; it is also characterized by extensive floodplains and alluvial swamps. The two major rivers join to form a major confluence near Lokoja. The Niger River is more turbulent in its flow than the Benue River, perhaps, because water falls and rapids are found along its course, particularly where the Niger River passes through the narrow neck of the basement complex rocks that connect the north-central and the southwestern highlands.

River Benue is relatively shallow and it usually floods at the height of the rainy season; however, during the dry season, the water volume drops considerably, causing braiding along the river channel. The area has a tropical continental climate, characterized by pronounced alternating rainy and dry seasons. Guinea savanna is the dominant vegetation type but tree clusters or gallery forests are found along the river valleys.

 

People and Population

The major ethnic groups in the area are the Nupe and the Tiv. Minor ethnic groups include: Gwari, Idoma, Igala, Bassa, Jukun and Kamberi among others. The area is sparsely populated, with the population density dropping as low as below 20 persons per sq km in some places. The settlement pattern is dispersed. Yelwa, New Bussa, Lafiagi, Jebba, Numan, Bida, Lokoja, Idah, Lafia, Makurdi, Otukpo, Gboko and Yola are the major towns in the region.

 

Resources and Economic Activities

Farming is a major primary economic activity in this region. The wet flood and alluvial swamps of the trough are ideal for sugar plantation and rice production. For example, the Bacita (Niger State) and the Numan (Adamawa) sugar plantations and the Bida-Lafiagi-Patigi rice farming projects are located on these floodplains. Fishing is carried out in all the rivers found in the area. Animal rearing takes place on the high grounds away from the river valleys which are tsetse fly infested. There is a large modern agricultural farm at Mokwa. The major food crops grown in the area include yam, maize and cassava. Soya beans are grown on a commercial scale in the Tiv speaking areas of the Niger-Benue Trough. There are no notable cash crops in the area except soya beans, but its export potential is yet to be fully exploited. There is a new federal government policy to encourage the export of cassava, which is also being exploited by farmers in this region.

Mineral resources found in the area include coal deposits in Okaba in Kogi State and Uwukpa in Benue State. The Okaba coal mine is exploited on a commercial scale, while the Uwukpa coal deposit is yet to be fully exploited. Limestone deposits exist in Gboko and Igumale in Benue State. The Gboko deposits led to the establishment of the Benue Cement Company (BCC) factory Gboko; however, plans are underway to build a cement factory also in Igumale. Iron ore has been discovered in Itakpe and Agbaja Plateau in Ajaokuta area near Lokoja.

The occurrence of iron in this area led to the establishment of the gigantic Ajaokuta Iron and Steel Company. Other than these, there are few industrial projects in the Niger-Benue trough; hence, it can be said to be under-industrialized.

 

Transport

The Niger-Benue Trough generally has a poor network of roads. The majority of the roads are laterite roads. However, most of the major urban centres in the region, such as, Makurdi, Lokoja, Yola and Otukpo are linked by modern highways to the north-south national road network. One major road, follows runs east-west in the alignment with the Niger-Benue trough: this is the Okene-Ajaokuta-Ankpa-Makurdi highway, which crosses the Niger on the newly built Ajaokuta Bridge at Itobe. There are also bridges at Jebba and Makurdi that cross the Niger and the Benue respectively. In order to facilitate easy movement of people across the Niger, ferry services are in operation at Idah and Shintaku to ferry passengers to Agenebode and Lokoja, respectively.

River transportation in the area remains a very important mode of transportation to the people, its risks notwithstanding. The western and eastern wings of the north-south railway network pass through places, such as, Lafia, Makurdi, Otukpo, Minna and Jebba. Makurdi has a military Air Force Base, a wing of which serves as a commercial airport.

There is also a commercial airport in Yola. In general, the prospects for the future of transport development in the Niger-Benue trough are bright because of the location of Abuja and the Federal Capital Territory there. Many transport development projects aimed at linking Abuja to other parts of the country will certainly benefit the region as a whole.

 

Problems of Development

  1. The low lying nature of the trough makes the area liable to flooding.
  2. Road transportation is a problem, particularly, the insufficient number of good west-east roads that would facilitate the movement of people, goods and services along the trough.
  3. The area is made up of ferralitic and lateritic soils, which are generally infertile and do not encourage agricultural development.
  4. Small market: The sparse population coupled with the relatively high level of poverty in the area does not attract industries and commercial enterprises.
  5. The few minerals in the area such as, coal and iron ore are yet to be fully exploited.
  6. The trough is tsetse fly infested and not conducive for both humans and livestock.
  7. The ecological conditions of the area are such that the land is too wet for cultivating northern cash crops, and too dry for producing the southern cash crops.