Nigeria as a country is blessed with diverse culture and traditions due to the number of tribes and ethnic groups. This ethnic groups and tribes have been divided into six geo-political zones that consist of 36 states. Each state has a story of how its name came about.
Here is what you need to know about the origin of the names of the 36 states:
1. Abia State
Abia is an acronym from the four main groups of people in the state at that time it was formed namely: Aba Bende Isuikwuato Afikpo.
Adamawa is a state in the northeast part of Nigeria. Adamawa was named after a warrior, Modibbo Adama Bin Ardo Hassan, that conquered the region at the beginning of the 19th century.
3. Akwa Ibom
Akwa Ibom is a state in the south-south region of Nigeria. Akwa Ibom is named after the Qua Iboe (or Kwa Iboe) River.
Anambra is a state in the southeast of Nigeria. The state got its name from the corrupted version of Oma Mbala (Ànyịm Ọma Mbala), a popular river in the area
Bauchi state is located in the northeast of Nigeria. There are three versions of how Bauchi got its name are:
- Bauchi’ is a Hausa word meaning the southern flanks of Hausaland. Tribes living in the southern parts of the Hausaland were referred to as “kasashen Bauchi” and the area they lived in later came to be known simply as Bauchi.
- The second version the state was named for Baushe, a famous hunter who settled there before the 19th century.
- The third states that ‘Bauchi’ is a Hausa word for slavery since it was a centre for slave raiders.
Bayelsa is a state in the southern part of Nigeria known as Niger Delta. Bayelsa is a combination of the acronyms of three local government areas which were pulled out of old Rivers state — Brass LGA is known as BALGA, Yenegoa LGA known as YELGA and Sagbama LGA known as SALGA. The mathematics involved in the formation of their names is BA + YEL + SA = BAYELSA
Benue State is one of the Northcentral states located in Nigeria. The state was named after the “Europeanised” corruption of ‘Binuwe’, the Batta word for ‘Mother of Waters’.
Borno State is a state located in the north-eastern part of Nigeria. The alternative name of the Kanuris, the predominant ethnic group in the state, is ‘Borno’ which gave inspiration for the naming of the state.
9. Cross River
Cross River is a state in Southern Nigeria. The state took its name from a River called Oyono or Cross River.
Delta State is situated in the region known as the South-South geo-political zone. The state is where the River Niger forms a delta as it enters the Atlantic Ocean. That is where the name originated from.
Ebonyi State is in southeastern Nigeria. Ebonyi is the anglicised version of ‘Aboine’, a river that cuts through Abakaliki, the state capital.
Edo State is in South-South geo-political zone. The Bini people who dwell in the area had always referred to themselves as Edo or Iduu. This inspired the name of the state
Ekiti State is located in the Southwest region of Nigeria. It was declared a state on 1 October 1996 by the then military government under head of state, General Sani Abacha.
‘Okiti’ is a term that is said to denote a settlement of many hills. It later became ‘Ekiti’.
It is located in southeastern Nigeria. 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.
It is located in the northeastern part of Nigeria. Gombe is the dialect of Fulani language (Fulfulde) spoken in the area.
Imo state is located in the south-east region of Nigeria. Imo got its name from the popular river, Imo Mmiri.
Jigawa is a state in northwestern Nigeria. Jigawa takes inspiration from its distinctively golden-coloured soil.
Kaduna is a state in Northwest Nigeria. Its capital is Kaduna. The name can be said to have originated from Kadunas’ which is the plural form of the crocodile in Hausa. The state, therefore, got its name from the many crocodiles in Kaduna River.
Kano State is a state located in Northern Nigeria. Kano was the name of a blacksmith from the Gaya tribe who settled in the area while sourcing for ironstone. The state was named after him.
The state was named after the wife of a popular local ruler known as Janzama. Her name was Katsina.
Kebbi is a state in north-western Nigeria. The state was created out of a part of Sokoto State in 1991. It is said that Kebbi was named after the Ka’abba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
Kogi is a state in the central region of Nigeria. It is popularly called the Confluence State because of the confluence of River Niger and River Benue. 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
Kwara is located within the North Central geopolitical zone, commonly referred to as the Middle Belt. River Niger used to be called River Kwara by the Nupes at the Northern border of the state. The state was named after this.
Lagos is a state in the southwestern geopolitical zone of Nigeria. The first set of Europeans to set foot in 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’.
Nasarawa is a state in north-central zone of Nigeria. Nassarawa is a native word for ‘victorious’. The state was named by the founder of Nasarawa kingdom, Makama Dogo.
Niger State is a state in North Central Nigeria known as Middle belt. This was named after the River Niger.
Ogun State is a state in southwestern Nigeria. This state was also named after a river named Ogun River.
Ondo State is a state in Nigeria created on 3 February 1976 from the former Western State. It originally included what is now Ekiti State, which was split off in 1996.
Ondo is a word used for settlers. The state was named after the settlers of the old Ondo Kingdom.
Osun state is located in the south-western part of Nigeria. This state was also named after a river called River Osun.
Oyo State is located in the south-western part of Nigeria. The state was named after the great Old Oyo empire.
The state was named after the picturesque Jos plateau. Jos got its name from the mispronunciation of the town ‘Gwosh’.
Rivers State is located in the south-south geopolitical zone. Rivers State was named after the many water bodies present in the area.
Sokoto is located in the extreme northwest of Nigeria. Sokoto is the anglicized version of the Arabic word ‘suk’ meaning ‘market’ or ‘place of commerce’. The state itself was named after the defunct Sokoto Caliphate.
Taraba is a state in North-Eastern Nigeria. Taraba state got its name from the Taraba River.
Yobe is a state located in Northeast Nigeria. Komadugu Yobe (Waube or Ouobe) or River Yobe (or River of Yo) inspired the name of the state.
Zamfara is a state in northwestern Nigeria. This state was named after Zamfarawa, one of the subdialects of the Eastern Hausa group.
As can be seen above, most states in Nigeria were created out of cultural context, many named after rivers and lakes, some named after languages and people. The Nigerian states names can therefore be said to be of cultural significance to its people.