Rivers are very important to the economy of Nigeria. They serve as the main source of water for irrigation, domestic use and industrial use.
Where main rivers form a confluence, the speed and volume of water produced has enabled the development of Hydroelectric power stations. This energy serves Nigeria and other neighboring countries, therefore contributing to the economy.
The River Niger is the longest river passing through Nigeria, and also the longest river in West Africa. It is the third longest river on the African continent, after the Nile and Congo rivers. It extends through 2,597 miles surging through four other countries. Its main tributary is river Benue.
The source of the Niger is the Guinea highlands in southeastern Guinea and discharges to the Atlantic Ocean through the Niger delta. The Niger has one of the most unusual routes of any of the major rivers in the world. It follows a northeasterly course towards the Sahara Desert before turning southeast to discharge in the Atlantic Ocean.
The unusual geography is because it is two ancient rivers joined together to a single route. Niger river has thirty-six families of fresh water fish and around 250 species within them, of which 20 are unique to this environment. Other Niger fauna include the hippopotamus, three different types of crocodiles (including the Nile crocodile) and a variety of lizards.
The river is used for fresh water fishing (catfish, carp and Nile perch species), irrigation and producing Hydroelectric power through dams such as Kainji Dam.
Benue River is the longest tributary of the Niger, about 673 miles (1,083 km) in length. It rises in northern Cameroon as the Bénoué at about 4,400 feet (1,340 m) and, in its first 150 miles (240 km), descends more than 2,000 feet (600 m) over many falls and rapids, the rest of its course being largely uninterrupted.
During flood periods its waters are linked via the Mayo-Kebbi tributary with the Logone, which flows into Lake Chad. Below the Mayo-Kebbi the river is navigable all year by boats drawing less than 2.5 feet (0.75 m) and by larger boats for more restricted periods.
A considerable volume of imports (particularly petroleum) is transported by river, and cotton and peanuts (groundnuts) are exported in the same way from the Chad region. Between Yola and Makurdi the Benue is joined by the Gongola, and it then flows east and south for about 300 miles (480 km).
Kaduna River is the main tributary of the Niger River, in central Nigeria. It rises on the Jos Plateau 18 miles (29 km) southwest of Jos town near Vom and flows in a northwesterly direction to a bend 22 miles (35 km) northeast of Kaduna town. It then adopts a southwesterly and southerly course before completing its 340-mile (550-kilometre) flow to the Niger at Mureji (opposite Pategi).
Most of its course passes through open savanna woodland, but its lower section has cut several gorges (including the 2-mile [3-kilometre] granite ravine at Shiroro) above its entrance into the extensive Niger floodplains.
The Kaduna (meaning “crocodiles” in the Hausa language)is notable for the large amount of crocodiles found within it. It is also subject to great seasonal fluctuations and is navigable below Zungeru from July to October for light craft; it is used for fishing and for transport of local produce.
Gbari (Gwari) people have utilized the Kaduna’s upper floodplains for swamp rice cultivation, and in the southern plains, in Nupe tribal territory, rice and sugarcane production has become a major economic activity. Near Bida, the Edozhigi and Badeggi natural irrigation projects are major rice-growing ventures. There are rail bridges at Zungeru and at Kaduna, the largest towns on the river.
Gongola Riveris the principal tributary of the Benue River, northeastern Nigeria. It rises in several branches (including the Lere and Maijuju rivers) on the eastern slopes of the Jos Plateau and cascades (with several scenic waterfalls) onto the plains of the Gongola Basin, where it follows a northeasterly course.
It then flows past Nafada and takes an abrupt turn toward the south. Its lower course veers to the southeast, and, after receiving the Hawal (its chief tributary, which rises on the Biu Plateau), it continues in a southerly direction before joining the Benue, opposite the town of Numan, after a journey of 330 miles (531 km). During the dry season, however, the upper Gongola and many of the river’s tributaries practically disappear, and even the lower course becomes unnavigable.
Almost all of the Gongola Basin lies in a dry savanna area. The basin has been enlarged by the Gongola’s capture of several rivers that formerly flowed to Lake Chad; the sharp southerly bend east of Nafada is the result of the capture of the upper Gongola, and the Gungeru, another tributary from the Biu Plateau, is also a captured stream.
The Gongola’s floodplains are covered with a fertile black alluvial soil. Cotton, peanuts (groundnuts), and sorghum are grown for export to other parts of the country, and millet, beans, cassava (manioc), onions, corn (maize), and rice are also cultivated. The government built the Kiri Dam on the river near Numan to provide irrigation for a sugar plantation. The basin is also used as grazing ground for cattle, goats, sheep, horses, and donkeys.