History of State Creation in Nigeria

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Before 1967, Nigeria was operating on its regional arrangement. We had the Northern, Western and Eastern regions which were a result of the promulgation of the Richard’s Constitution in 1949. Later, in 1963, the mid-Western region was introduced.

Between 1967 and 1996, Nigeria was split into thirty-six states. It is not untrue to say that one of the lasting legacies of military rule in Nigeria is the creation of states. This started in 1967 when Yakubu Gowon, the then military Head of State (1967-1975) created twelve states to replace the existing regional arrangement.

Following the first instance of a military regime creating states, nearly all subsequent military rulers have used this action as a reason to establish even more states, the last being that of General Sani Abacha.

Map of Nigeria from 1963 to 1966
Map of Nigeria (1963 – 1966) showing the original 3 regions.

1. YAKUBU GOWON IN 1967

    in July 1966, Gowon became the new military ruler of the country. He dissolved the four regions in the country and subsequently created twelve States on May 5, 1967. Six States were carved out from the former northern region, and two from the former western region. The former mid-western region became the Mid-Western state, while the former eastern region had three new States carved out from it.

    S/NStateDate of CreationState created from
    1North-Western27th May, 1967Northern Region
    2North-Eastern27th May, 1967Northern Region
    3North-Central27th May, 1967Northern Region
    4Benue-Plateau27th May, 1967Northern Region
    5Kano27th May, 1967Northern Region
    6Kwara27th May, 1967Northern Region
    7Western27th May, 1967Western Region
    8Lagos27th May, 1967Western Region
    9Mid-Western27th May, 1967Mid-Western Region
    10Southern-Eastern27th May, 1967Eastern Region
    11East Central27th May, 1967Eastern Region
    12Rivers27th May, 1967Eastern Region
    Twelve states created by Yakubu Gowon in 1967

    2. MURTALA MUHAMMED IN 1976

    On assumption of office, he (Murtala Mohammed) created another twelve states, bringing the total number of States to nineteen.

    S/NStateDate of CreationState created from
    1Anambra3rd February, 1976East Central
    2Bauchi3rd February, 1976North Eastern
    3Benue3rd February, 1976Benue-Plateau
    4Borno3rd February, 1976North-Eastern
    5Gongola3rd February, 1976
    6Imo3rd February, 1976East-Central
    7Niger3rd February, 1976North-Western
    8Ogun3rd February, 1976Western
    9Ondo3rd February, 1976Western
    10Oyo3rd February, 1976Western
    11Plateau3rd February, 1976Benue-Plateau
    12Sokoto3rd February, 1976North-Western
    Twelve states created by Murtala Muhammed
    DID YOU KNOW? 🤔🇳🇬

    GONGOLA STATE is a former administrative division of Nigeria, created in 1976. It existed until 1991, when it was divided into two states - Adamawa and Taraba. The city of Yola was the capital of Gongola State. As at 1980, it was the most peaceful state to live in north, with lowest crime rate.
    Map of Nigeria showing Gongola
    Map of Nigeria showing Gongola in red

    3. IBRAHIM BABANGIDA IN 1987 & 1991

    In 1987, Babangida created two States namely, Akwa Ibom and Katsina. He also created nine additional States in 1991. These were: Abia, Enugu, Delta, Jigawa, Kebbi, Osun, Kogi, Taraba and Yobe. We had altogether 30 states this time.

    S/NStateDate of CreationState created from
    1Akwa-Ibom23rd September, 1987Cross-River
    2Katsina23rd September, 1987Kaduna
    3Adamawa27th August, 1991Gongola
    4Taraba27th August, 1991Gongola
    5Edo27th August, 1991Bendel
    6Delta27th August, 1991Bendel
    7Yobe27th August, 1991Borno
    8Jigawa27th August, 1991Kano
    9Kebbi27th August, 1991Sokoto
    10Osun27th August, 1991Oyo
    11Kogi27th August, 1991Kwara & Benue
    Eleven states created by Ibrahim Babangida
    DID YOU KNOW? 🤔🇳🇬

    The Benin & Delta provinces make up THE BENDEL. This region is the same as the mid-Western region. The present-day Delta state was created from Bendel.

    4. SANI ABACHA IN 1996

    Sani Abacha became Nigeria’s next military Head of State in 1993 after ousting the Ernest Shonekan-led Interim National Government. On October 1, 1996, he created six additional States.

    S/NStateDate of CreationState created from
    1Bayelsa1st October, 1996Rivers
    2Ebonyi1st October, 1996Enugu & Abia
    3Ekiti1st October, 1996Ondo
    4Gombe1st October, 1996Bauchi
    5Nasarawa1st October, 1996Plateau
    6Zamfara1st October, 1996Sokoto
    Six states created by Sani Abacha
    Map of Nigeria showing all 36 states
    36 states of Nigeria on the map.

    Conclusion

    Nigeria’s journey from 3 regions to 36 states not only shaped our political landscape but also reflected the evolution of the military governments. We can see from the history that many states share a common origin. This raises questions about the division and diversity we have today.

    If you’d like to read elaborately about the history of state creation in Nigeria, you can check out this amazing resource here.

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