Makurdi, town, capital of Benue state, east-central Nigeria. It lies on the south bank of the Benue River. Founded about 1927 when the railroad from Port Harcourt (279 miles [449 km] south-southwest) was extended to Jos and Kaduna, Makurdi rapidly developed into a transportation and market centre. In 1976, following the division of Benue-Plateau state into two states, Makurdi was selected as the capital of Benue state.
The 0.5-mile- (0.8-km-) long combined rail and road bridge (1932) across the Benue River consolidated the town’s position as a major transit point; Makurdi is located on the main highway network and has an airport. It is now a major transshipment point for cattle from Nigeria’s northern states. From June to November, when the Niger River has high water, Makurdi serves as a port from which goods, including locally grown sesame seeds and cotton, are shipped to Lokoja (126 miles west at the Niger-Benue confluence) and to the Niger River delta ports.
The town is a local trade centre for the yams, sorghum, millet, rice, cassava, shea nuts, sesame oil, peanuts (groundnuts), soybeans, and cotton raised by the Tiv, Idoma, and Igede people of the surrounding area. It is also the site of a boatyard that builds medium-size rivercraft. In the late 1970s an oil pipeline was built from the refinery near Port Harcourt to Makurdi. There are extensive limestone and marble deposits in the area around Makurdi, and a cement plant has opened at Yandev, southeast of the town.
Makurdi has the Murtala Muhammed College of Arts, Science, and Technology (1976), the Federal University of Technology, an Assembly of God commercial institute, and a government craft school and is served by a hospital. The Benue state radio broadcasting service operates from the town. Makurdi is the headquarters of the Lower Benue River Basin Authority. Pop. (2006) local government area, 279,398.