Plateau State, with over forty ethnolinguistic groups, is the 12th largest state in Nigeria. Out of Nigeria’s six geopolitical zones, Plateau State lies in the North Central Zone. The state has an estimated three million residents and covers an area of 26,899 square kilometres.
Plateau state was established in 1976 in the northern part of the former Benue-Plateau state. It is bordered on the north by the states of Kaduna and Bauchi, on the east by Taraba, and on the south and west by Nassarawa. Additionally, Plateau State is divided into 17 Local Government Areas, each of which is home to an ethnic community with which it has close links or distant ancestry.
Unlike all other states, Plateau State is geographically distinct in Nigeria because of the steep hills that surround the Jos Plateau, the nation’s capital, and the entire plateau itself. It lies roughly in the centre of the country.
Plateau State’s slogan, “The Home of Peace and Tourism,” is how it bills itself, with more than ten tourist centres. Furthermore, the state has a population of about 3.5 million and gets its name from the Jos Plateau. It includes natural rock, hill, and waterfall formations.
In this piece, Naijabiography explores the history, culture, territory, and economy of the Plateau state.
The boundaries of Plateau State have frequently been modified. History has it that the colonial manipulators were motivated by a desire to safeguard the building of the railway and ensure the secure delivery of mined tin to the coast. Additionally, there was an early attempt to unify a province made up primarily of non-Muslims under one resident. Later, changes were a result of the strong local demand for self-government.
Nigeria came under colonial rule from the British at the beginning of the 20th century. However, Jos and Pankshin Divisions were formed to comprise Plateau Province in 1926, which was carved out of Bauchi. In the years that followed, the border was altered multiple times as the government worked to avoid dividing ethnic communities. Meanwhile, during those years, Benue and Plateau Provinces were combined in May 1967 to create the sizable Benue-Plateau State. History has it that Nigeria had twelve states at the time.
Furthermore, Benue-Plateau State was one of several sizable states that underwent further division after the civil war as a result of pressure on the federal government. In 1976, the nation was further divided into 19 states under the military rule of General Yakubu Gowon, Plateau State was formed from Benue-Plateau, encompassing the original Plateau Province’s area.
Plateau State was further partitioned in 1996 to form Nasarawa State, which Sani Abacha’s military administration created from Plateau State’s western half. During those years, the British started tin mining operations in 1902, and they are still in operation today.
Out of Nigeria’s six geopolitical zones, Plateau State lies in the North Central Zone. The state has an estimated three million residents and covers an area of 26,899 square kilometres. The Jos Plateau, a mountainous region with rock formations in the state’s north, is where the state got its name. The grasslands that blanket the plateau are strewn with bare rocks.
According to theory, the Jos Plateau is made up of newer granite that was forced through older granite rock that makes up the neighbouring states. It is estimated that these “younger” granites are 160 million years old. As a result, the Jos Plateau has a distinctive landscape.
Also, numerous hillocks with mild slopes and large rocks are spread over the landscape like mushrooms. In addition, 50 million years ago, volcanic activity produced a large number of volcanoes and extensive basaltic plateaus made of lava flows. Additionally, this results in areas with mostly deep, narrow valleys and pediments—surfaces that have been smoothed off by erosion—from the centre of rounded hills with sheer rock cliffs.
Plateau State is one of the most mineral-rich states in the nation thanks to the phases of volcanic activity that went into its development.
Agriculture is the major occupation of Plateau people, though mining has over the years been the state’s most notable industry. Thus, the main cash crops are acha, or “hungry rice,” and millet; the staple crops are yams, sorghum, corn (maize), potatoes, cowpeas, rice, fruits, and vegetables. On the tsetse-free plateau, Fulani ranchers graze their cattle and provide milk to Vom’s dairy. Skins and hides are some of the state’s main exports.
Plateau State is known for its mining business, which is referred to, according to research, as the major port for mining in Nigeria, which also exports a significant amount of columbite and tin. For export, the metals are transported by rail to Port Harcourt. On the plateau, other minerals are also mined, including tantalite, kaolin, tungsten (wolfram), zircon, and thorium compounds. Lead, zinc, and silver are mined on a limited scale around Wase, Zurak, and Kigom in the eastern portion of the state.
According to research, Plateau State has over 40 ethnic groups. This, however, is a result of its heterogeneity. Thus, some of the indigenous ethnic groups include Berom, Afizere, Amo, Anaguta, Aten, Bijim, Bogghom, Buji, Jipal, Mhiship, Irchip, Fier, Gashish, Goemai, Irigwe, Jarawa, Jukun, Kadung, Kofyar (comprising Doemak, Kwalla, and Mernyang), Mushere, Mupun, Ngas, Piapung, Pyem, Ron-Kulere, Bache, Talet, Tarok, and Youm, among others.
At the time of the creation of Plateau State, some people settled in the state, who are from different ethnic groups in Nigeria. These groups include Hausa, Tiv, Idoma, Igbo, Yoruba, Ibibio, Annang, Efik, Ijaw, and Bini.
Every ethnic group has its own distinctive language, but English is the official tongue in Plateau State as it is in the rest of the nation. Hausa is also a widely used language for communication and trade, as it is in the majority of the North and Middle Belt of Nigeria.
The present governor of Plateau State is Simon Bako Lalong, who was sworn in on May 29, 2015, under the party of the All Progressives Congress (APC). Also, the present Speaker of the Plateau House of Assembly is Rt. Hon. Yakubu Yakson Sanda, who was elected by the members of the 9th Assembly after the impeachment of the former speaker, Rt. Hon. Ayuba Abok.
The Governor (chief executive), the Deputy Governor, the Secretary to the State Government, the Commissioners (cabinet members), special advisers, permanent secretaries, board chairmen, and general managers are in charge of running the state government.
The chairman of the local government, who serves as chief executive, is supported by an elected councillor cabinet, which functions as the body’s legislative branch. Additionally, Plateau State is divided into 17 Local Government Areas, each of which is home to an ethnic community with which it has close links or distant ancestry.
Thus, the people of these local government regions elect their leaders from a field of contenders, some of whom may not be related to any former chiefdom rulers. As of right now, the governor, Simon Bako, Lalong’s appointments for the chairs of the management committees in each of the seventeen local government areas—Barkin Ladi, Jos North, Jos South, and Riyom—have all been replaced.
However, Plateau State had fourteen (14) Local Government Areas (LGAs) in 1976. In 1989, 1991, and 1996, new LGAs were created from the large ones, and as a result, the new Plateau State is now divided into seventeen (17) LGAs. These local governments include Barkin Ladi, Bassa, Bokkos, Jos East, Jos North, Jos South, Kanam, Kanke, Langtang North, etc.
Modern-Day Plateau State
Although there have been attacks and crises in Plateau, especially in Jos, as a result of the Bokoharam bombing and the clashes between minority Muslim Hausa-Fulani herders and predominantly Christian farmers, which have led to the loss of lives and properties, Plateau State, however, has remained one of the states with potential.
In Nigeria, Plateau State is referred to as the “Home of Peace and Tourism.” Due to the state government’s insufficient funding, the tourism industry is not flourishing, although its natural resources continue to draw tourists, largely from within Nigeria. These tourist centres include The Wildlife Safari Park, The National Museum, The Museum of Traditional Nigerian Architecture, Solomon Lar Amusement Park, Jos Zoo, and Assop Falls, among others.
Furthermore, Plateau state over the years has invested in education, and it has some tertiary institutions which include the College of Education, Gindiri, Federal College of Animal Health and Production Technology, Vom, Federal College of Education, Pankshin, Plateau State Polytechnic, Plateau State University, and University of Jos, among others.