Posted by on 2/5/2003 12:51:13 PM

Ethnic Composition, Languages, Culture and the Arts: Nassarawa State, in terms of ethnic composition, is Nigeria on a mini

Nassarawa State Secretariat, Lafia
Nassarawa State Secretariat, Lafia

scale. Not only are the ethnic groups numerous, they are also thor oughly intermingled and overlapping in their geo graphical locations, to the extent that the areas of dominance of each group cannot be easily separated.

The major ethnic groups include Eggon, Tiv, Alago, Hausa, Fulani, Mada, Rindre, Gwandara, Koro, Gbagyi, Ebira, Agatu, Bassa, Aho, Ake, Mama, Arum and Kanuri. While English and Hausa are widely spoken in the state, all the ethnic groups indicated above also have their own languages or Traditional religions are widespread.

However, the two leading religions (Christianity and Islam) have made a greater impact among the people. Although cultural artifacts are scattered among the ) cultural groups all over the state, no collection has yet been made as at now. A museum is yet to be built.

Among the many cultural activities are, for example, the Umaisha and OyooreKeana festivals in Toto and Keana local government areas respeclively. Others are observed within the course of the practice of the peoples' economic and social activities such as farming, fishing, as well as marriage, naming ceremonies and burial activities which reflect the varied cultural realities of the people.

These manifest also in the commercial and recreational spheres of their lives. Dyeing, weaving, carving and blacksmithery are among the traditional industries of the people. Thus items of art and crafts, such as baskets, carved wooden implements like ladles, pestles and mortars, besides iron implements like knives, cut lasses, hoes, etc are a common sight in the local markets.

Pottery and calabash carving also represent items of art and crafts, produced for either domestic purposes or as items used for carriage of goods, such as the Bassa and Gbagyi are often seen carrying on their shoulders. These could also the items of dfinnratinn

Population: Nassarawa State had a tot. t. population of 1,287,876 as at the 1991 head counts which was projected to 1,494,190 by 1996. 1999, the estimated population of the state is 1,501,387.

Rural Settlements: Rural settlement pattern of Nassarawa state is largely influenced by the prevailing economic activities and, to some extent, historical and physiographic factors, Historically, Nassarawa constitutes part of the Middle Belt zone of Nigeria which is known to have been depleted of its human population during the period of the slave trade, although the exact degree of the impact of this historical event is not known.

The majority of the rural people are engaged agriculture and are known to be sparsely settled ire the countryside. The current average populate nic density is about fiftyfour persons per sq. ki nly Individual farmsteads, particularly towards or southern parts of the state, are highly dispers30 with population densities ranging from fifteen of twentyfive persons per sq. km. More nuclear rural settlements are found towards the north, local government areas of the state where, countryside is much more hilly and not too productive for agriculture.

Hill top settlements were common in the northern parts of the state a now being relocated by the roadsides at the foot or the hills. It is common to find isolated compounds fence with corn stalks. In some cases, houses are built very closely and the spaces between them closed up so as to provide the needed security as well as protection from harsh weather conditions. Most rural dwellings are built of mud and are in the form of round huts with thatched grass roofs.

Urban Settlements: Urbanisation in this area started with the advent of colonial administration. The need to establish provincial and Native Authority headquarters in each of the Provinces and Divisions gave rise to the beginning of most of what we know today as urban centres in Nassarawa State. The 1976 Local Government Reforms further enhanced this situation and today we have Lafia, the State Capital, Keffi and Akwanga as the biggest settlements. Other nucleated settle ments include Wamba, Nassarawa, Nassarawa Eggon, Kaderko, Awe, Keana, Gudi and Karu.

In fact all local government headquarters are officially designated urban areas in line with the urban policy in the country. In addition, the state has also includ ed Gudi, Kaderko, Agyaragu and Assakyo as urban areas apart from local government headquarters. Urban settlements in the state can be cate gorised according to their size. First, we have those between 50,000 to 75,000 people. These include Lafia and Keffi, while the second category which includes Nassarawa, Akwanga, Nassarawa Eggon and Karu range between 25,000 to 40,000 people.

The rest of the designated urban centres fall under the 25,000 mark. Because of its status as the state capital Lafia is now growing quite fast. The same applies to Karu and Keffi which are close to Abuja (the Federal Capital) and Akwanga to some extent. Karu and Keffi play the role of 'new towns,' taking off some of the pressure on Abuja in terms of accommodation and shops for building materials.

Due to lack of finances, the development and plan ning of these centres is not coming up as expected and the result is the increase in the number of environmental problems that are commonly associated with urban growth in most Third World cities. These include the problems of refuse management, pollution, drainaqe and erosion control.

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