NASSARAWA, a province of the British protectorate of northern Nigeria, lying approximately between 6 40' and 9 E. and between 7 40' and 9 40' N. It is situated on the northern bank of the river Benue, which in its windings forms the southern frontier of the province. Nassarawa is bounded E. by the province of Muri, N.E. by Bauchi, N. by Zaria and W. by Nupe and the trans-Nigerian portion of the province of Kabba. It has an area of 18,000 sq. m. and an estimated population of 1,500,000. The province, like that of Bauchi, is traversed by mountainous regions. It possesses valuable forests and many fertile river valleys. Native products include rubber, palm kernels and beni seed. Cotton is grown extensively.
Until the middle of the 18th century Nassarawa appears to have been peopled by many native tribes of a primitive type. About 1750 an important pagan tribe, the Igbira, came from the southwest across the Niger and established two rival kingdoms in the western portion of the province. Later the native inhabitants of Zaria, driven before the Fula, came from the north and occupied the central portion of Nassarawa. Later still (about 1840) certain Fula of Zaria themselves conquered portions of the province, founded Keffi, spread as far as the Benue in the south-west corner and occupied the town and district of Abuja in the west. Fula also made a settlement at the town of Nassarawa and at Darroro in the N.E. A colony from Bornu entered the province and founded the important town of Lafia Berebere in the eastern district. As a result of these movements the aboriginal tribes were driven into the hilly regions of the S.E. and N.E. The Munshi, a truculent and hardy people, hold a portion of the northern bank of the Benue, and the Kagoro and Attakar tribes hold the hilly country to the N.E., through which the road passes from Keffi and Lafia to the Bauchi highlands. Before the British occupation the state of Nassarawa had become a partially subdued Fula emirate, exercising doubtful sway over the native pagans and paying a scarcely less doubtful allegiance on its own part to the Fula ruler of Zaria. The riverain tribes of Nassarawa were among the first to break into open aggression against the British administration established at Lokoja. In January 1900 they attacked a telegraph construction party in the Munshi country on the banks of the Benue. The result was the occupation of Keffi by British troops and the gradual subjugation of the province. In 1902 the first British resident, Captain Moloney, was murdered at Keffi by an official of the emir's court. The emir repudiated all responsibility for the crime, and the murderer fled to Kano, where his reception on friendly terms was among the incidents which determined the Sokoto-Kano campaign of 1903. The British were now recognized as the rulers of Nigeria, and the emir of Nassarawa threw in his lot with the British government. Slave raiding was abolished and the slave trade made illegal. A British court of justice was established at the provincial headquarters and native courts in every district. Roads have been opened and trade is steadily increasing. In 1905 an expedition was required against the Kagoro people, who occupy a vast open plateau having an elevation of about 1800 ft. through which a short road to the Bauchi tin mines passes from the Benue. These people had been raiding the Fula for cattle and murdering traders upon the road. A splendid grazing country, healthy and also rich in rubber, was opened. The road to the tin mines was rendered safe and is now the Bauchi mail route. There is a cart road from Loko on the Benue to Keffi. (F. L. L.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)