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Origin Of All The 36 States In Nigeria & How They Got Their Names, Foundation, History

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Nigerian States Flag Map

Nigeria – curbed from the twin words “Niger” and “Area” by Floral Shaw, has virtually whole lots of untold stories and histories. However, with the aid of mouth-to-hear and see-to-know, so far, few histories has been birthed to.

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Here, we shall be looking into how states in Nigeria got their names.

1. Abia

Created on 27th August 1991 out of Imo State. Abia is an acronym from the four main groups of people in the state as at the time it was formed in 1991: Aba Bende Isuikwuato Afikpo.

2. Adamawa

Created on 27th August 1991 out of Gongola State. Adamawa was named after a warrior, Modibbo Adama Bin Ardo Hassan, that conquered the region in the beginning of the 19th century.

3. Akwa-Ibom

Created on 23rd September 1987 from Cross River State. Akwa Ibom is named after the Qua Iboe (or Kwa Iboe) River.

4. Anambra

Created on 27th August 1991 from Old Anambra State. The state got its name from the corrupted version of Oma Mbala (Ànyịm Ọma Mbala), a popular river in the area.

5. Bauchi

Created on 3rd February 1976 from North-Eastern State. ‘Bauchi’ is 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.

6. Bayelsa

Created on 1st October 1996 from Rivers State. Bayelsa is a combination of the acronyms of three local government areas which were pulled out of old Rivers state — Brass LGA known as BALGA, Yenegoa LGA known as YELGA and Sagbama LGA known as SALGA.  in the formation of their names is BA + YEL + SA.

7. Benue

Created on 3rd February 1976 from Benue-Plateau State. The state was named after the “europeanised” corruption of ‘Binuwe‘, the Batta word for ‘Mother of Waters’.

8. Borno

Created on 3rd February 1976 from North-Eastern 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.

9. Cross River

Created on 27th May 1967 from Eastern Region; known as South-Eastern State from 1967 to 1976. The state took its name from a River called Oyono or Cross River.

10. Delta

Created on 27th August 1991 from Bendel State. The state is where the River Niger forms a delta as it enters the Atlantic Ocean.

11. Ebonyi

Created on 1st October 1996 from Enugu State and Abia State. Ebonyi is the anglicised version of ‘Aboine‘, a river that cuts through Abakaliki, the state capital.

12. Edo

Created on 27th August 1991 from Bendel State. The Bini people who dwell in the area had always referred to themselves as Edo or Iduu. This inspired the name of the state.

13. Ekiti

Created on 1st October 1996 from Ondo State. ‘Okiti’ is a term that is said to denote a settlement of many hills. It later became ‘Ekiti‘.

14. Enugu

Created on 27th August 1991 from Old Anambra 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.

15. Gombe

Created on 1st October 1996 from Bauchi State. Gombe is the dialect of Fulani language (Fulfulde) spoken in the area.

16. Imo

Created on 3rd February 1976 from East Central State. Just like many of the Nigerian states, Imo took its name from the popular river, Imo Mmiri.

17. Jigawa

Created on 27th August 1991 from Kano State. Jigawa takes inspiration from its distinctively golden-coloured soil.

18. Kaduna

Created on 27th May 1967 from Northern Region; known as North-Central State from 1967 to 1976. ‘Kadunas’ is the plural form of crocodile in Hausa. The state therefore got its name from the many crocodiles in Kaduna River.

19. Kano

Created on 27th May 1967 from Northern Region. 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.

20. Katsina

Created on 23rd September 1987 from Kaduna State. The state was named after the wife of a popular local ruler known as Janzama. Her name was Katsina.

21. Kebbi

Created on 27th August 1991 from Sokoto State. It is said that Kebbi was named after the Ka’abba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

22. Kogi

Created on 27th August 1991 from Kwara State; Benue State. 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

Created on 27th May 1967 from Northern Region; known as West Central State from 1967 to 1976. River Niger used to be called River Kwara by the Nupes at the Northern border of the state. The state was named after this.

24. Lagos

Created on 27th May 1967 from Federal Territory of Lagos and Colony Province. In 1472, 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‘.

25. Nasarawa

Created on 1st October 1996 from Plateau State. Nasarawa is a native word for ‘victorious‘. The state was named by the founder of Nasarawa kingdom, Makama Dogo.

26. Niger

Created on 3rd February 1976 from North-Western State. This was named after the River Niger.

27. Ogun

Created on 3rd February 1976 from Western State. This state was also named after a river — Ogun River.

28. Ondo

Created on 3rd February 1976 from Western State. Ondo is a word used for settlers. The state was named after the settlers of the old Ondo Kingdom.

29. Osun

Created on 27th August 1991 from Oyo State. This state was also named after a river — the River Osun.

30. Oyo

Created on 3rd February 1976 from Western State. The state was named after the Old Oyo empire.

31. Plateau

Created on 3rd February 1976 from Benue-Plateau State. The state was named after the picturesque Jos plateau. Jos got its name from the mispronunciation of the town ‘Gwosh‘.

32. Rivers

Created on 27th May 1967 from Eastern Region. Rivers State was named after the many water bodies present in the area.

33. Sokoto

Created on 3rd February 1976 from North-Western State. 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.

34. Taraba

Created on 27th August 1991 from Gongola State. Taraba state got its name from the Taraba River.

35. Yobe

Created on 27th August 1991 from Borno State. Komadugu Yobe (Waube or Ouobe) or River Yobe (or River of Yo) inspired the name of the state.

36. Zamfara

Created on 1st October 1996 from Sokoto State. This state was named after Zamfarawa, one of the subdialects of the Eastern Hausa group.

FCT: Abuja

Created on 3rd February 1976 from Benue-Plateau, North-Central, and North-Western States. “Abuja” was in the earlier 20th century 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 language.

Source: ANE Wiki


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