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The features of the map of Nigeria are quite remarkable. One of these is the notable presence of two major water bodies, River Niger and River Benue; of which the former-River Niger-serves as the source of the name of the country, Nigeria. The Niger River: The Longest and Largest River in West Africa The Niger River spans at about 4,180 km (or 2600 miles) from its source, in the highlands of Guinea, in Southeastern Guinea.It courses in a crescent through Mali, Niger Republic, on the border with Benin Republic and then through Nigeria. The River Niger eventually empties itself into the Gulf of Guinea in the Atlantic Ocean after passing through a massive delta, known as the Niger Delta or the Oil Rivers.[1] Its drainage basin has an area of[2] 2,117,700 km2 (about 817,600 square metres).
River Niger
Other Interesting Things to Know about the River Niger:
  • The River Niger is the Third longest river in Africa, only after the Nile River and the Congo River (or the Zaire River).
  • The main tributary of the River Niger is the River Benue, while the minor tributaries includes Rivers Kaduna, Sokoto, Anambra in Nigeria, and Bani in Mali.
  • The River Niger also passes through cities such as Tembakounda in the Djallon Mountains of Guinea, Bamako and Timbuktu in Mali, Niamey in Niger, as well as Lokoja and Onitsha in Nigeria.[3]
  • Nigeria is not the only country that lays claim to have derived its name from the river, Niger Republic also derives its name from the river.
  • The River Niger is considered as one of the major rivers with one of the most unusual routes. This is because, though its source is just 240 km (150 miles) inland from the Atlantic Ocean, it however runs directly away from the sea into the Sahara Desert, then takes a sharp right turn near Timbuktu and then heads South-east to the Gulf of Guinea.[4]
  • In September 2009, the Nigerian Government started a thirty six (36) billion naira dredging of the Niger River, from Baro to Warri. The project was intended to see silt removed from several hundred kilometres.[5] The dredging is actually intended to make it easier for goods to be transported to isolated settlements located deep within from the Atlantic Ocean.
  • The Kainji Dam in Niger state, and the Jebba Dam in Kwara state, are hydroelectric power plants of the Niger River. Another project is the Shiroro dam, along the Kaduna tributary in Nigeria.
  • The Niger River is home to some fish species such as Catfish, carp and the Nile perch. Water animals such as Hippopotamus, crocodiles are also found. A rich collection of birds like Geese, Herons, Storks, Egrets, pelicans, and the striking crown bird are also found on and around the Niger.[6]
  Sources: Answers Africa, Wikipedia, BBC, Britannica Peter H. Gleick, The World’s Water. 2000-2001: The Biennial Report on Freshwater, (Island Press, 2000) 33. Tom L. McKnight and Darrel Hess. “16. The Fluvial Processes” in Physical Geography; A Landscape Appreciation. (8thed.) (Prentice Hall, 2005,) 462.

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This article was first published on 1st December 2018


Jeremiah is a scholar and a poet. He has a keen eye for studying the world and is passionate about people. He tweets at @jeremiahaluwong.

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