•The confluence of Rivers Niger and Benue is one magical scene
everyone must see
By Cosmas Omegoh (who was in Lokoja)
The harmattan wind was sweeping through Lokoja, Kogi State, lashing at
everything in sight. The air all over was dry and grey. On that cold
morning, the haze spread over the city’s landscape like a sheet of
blanket, literally preventing the sun’s rays from piercing through the
clouds. The accompanying wind was howling mildly, scourging everything
in its way, whistling as it continued its drift towards the southern
That was the prevailing weather condition when Daily Sun set out on an
expedition of the majestic confluence of the rivers Niger and Benue in
And one of the right men to provide the lead was Mr. Joseph
Olowolaiyemo, General Manager, Kogi Hotels and Tourism Board, and
instantly he set the ball rolling, talking with the excitement of an
infant. “What you are going to see is a natural feature, the meeting
point of the river Niger and Benue. It is an amazing sight,” he
Indeed, one of the best vantage spots to see this spectacle is the
unmistakable Mount Patti, a range of wooded hills in the heart of the
city, towering a little above 458.3 metres above sea level.
Ascending Mount Patti is not a mean feat and does not come as easy as
breaking biscuit. It is an ordeal indeed. Only the physically and
mentally strong dare. Not every Tom, Dick and Harry contemplates an
expedition up Mount Patti.
Reaching its top, one is struck by the mount’s amazing flat surface.
On its top, a panoramic view of Lokoja and its environs can be fully
gained. It is one rare sight better seen than imagined. From there,
one sees the breathtaking beauty of rivers Niger and Benue and how
they gracefully co-join in an awesome manner.
In the years before 1900, Sir Lord Frederick Lugard, the British
astute administrator who amalgamated the then Nigeria’s Southern and
Northern protectorates in 1914, was enamoured by Mount Patti’s unique
features. And he had every reason to feel so. For one, the temperature
at such height is as cool as cucumber. From there, a fuller view of
the great rivers – Niger and Benue – and their confluence could be
seen in their dazzling beauty.
After Sir Lugard had observed the scenic splendour of the rivers from
the mountain peak, he reached an emphatic conclusion that it was a
place to be. That was how he embarked on building for himself, a
resting place on Mount Patti. And till date, he gets full marks for
developing the scene, which is unarguably one of the nation’s unsung
Sir Lugard had built his office on a lower part of the range about two
to three kilometres away from Mount Patti. That was many years ago
when Lokoja was the capital of the defunct Northern Protectorate. Many
decades after, that office was to be inherited by the Kogi State
government when the state was created in 1991. So far, the building
has undergone a series of renovations to reflect the taste of the
time. However, it retains the name Lugard House and serves as the
official residence and office of the state governor.
The story is told about how Sir Lugard had ingeniously constructed a
snaky, tough-to-navigate thoroughfare all the way up to the top of
Mount Patti. It was said that when the colonial master discovered the
uniqueness of Mount Patti, he instantly drove away the indigenous
settlers perching precariously on its top. The natives had fled to the
spot to escape the onslaught of rampaging slave raiders who then
snatched everyone in sight and sold them to European merchants in
exchange for gifts and cash.
And so, having built a relaxation spot for himself, Lugard at his
leisure time, always ascended up to Mount Patti to relax. And from
there, with the aid of his binoculars, he viewed with clarity, the
cocktail of activities going on across the great rivers. At that time,
both the Niger and Benue rivers were the hub of commerce and
transport. On Mount Patti also, Lugard watched other activities
elsewhere on the low lands.
The relaxation centre he built is a little two-room house, which
stands strong till this hour. But it had had to undergo a recent
facelift though, courtesy of the state government under Captain Idris
Indeed, Mount Patti is a very significant feature in the history of
Nigeria, according to Olowolaiyemo. “In fact any version of the
Nigerian history which does not make reference to Mount Patti as the
spot where the seed of the Nigerian project was initially planted is
incomplete.” That seed, he said, was planted in the heart of Flora
Shaw, a British lady journalist and fiancée to Sir Lugard whom he
later married. Shaw, who was writing for the Times of London at that
time, was said to have visited Lord Lugard and was relaxing with him
when she got absorbed into the engaging and dizzying landscape
unfolding in the distance. She was deeply astonished by the majestic
splendour of the rivers Niger and Benue.
According to Niyi Ejibunu, a guide up Mount Patti, “the two were
probably enjoying some good time together with a bottle of rum when
Shaw got fascinated by the great sight of the magnificent confluence
of the Niger and Benue rivers and the sprawling, greenish landscape in
the distance. And then she said to Sir Lugard: ‘This is Niger area;
why not name it Nigeria?’”
The idea was to stick as quickly as it was mooted by Shaw.
Olowolaiyemo noted: “When Shaw returned to London, she wrote to the
British parliament making a case that the area should be christened
“Till this hour, that edition of the London Times in which she made
the appeal is secured in one of the rooms in Lugard’s rest house.”
Even the giant statues of Sir Lugard and Shaw holding hands as husband
and wife still adorn the centre, which the former built.
On this occasion, the enthralling view of the confluence was largely
veiled by the hamarttan haze. However, its magnificent posture
remained too dominant to ignore, appearing like a giant “Y” in the
distance. Certainly, everyone who sees this rare sight from that
standpoint will admit that it is one place every tourism freak would
rather die to behold at least once in their life time.
Now, another vantage point to see the Lokoja great rivers’ confluence
is a spot right at the back of the Confluence Beach Hotel built by the
late Abubakar Audu. He built the hotel when he held sway as governor
of the state. Olowolaiyemo informed that “the hotel was primarily
built to serve as a place of relaxation for tourists coming to
undertake boat cruise to the confluence point. It was also meant for
those of them who would come to observe the great rivers, watch boat
regatta or even fish for fun.”
However, the hotel is now abandoned. In its hey days, it was eminently
the pride of Kogi State. But now, it lies not only fallow but forlorn.
Only the now run-down buildings within its premises are the things
left to remember its once glorious past.
As the reporter continued on the expedition of the compelling and
gargantuan rivers Niger-Benue confluence, he observed why the spot
seemingly casts its huge spell on visitors, binding them with awe and
occasionally leaving them some space to contemplate on its wonders.
Getting to the point where the ‘wedlock’ takes place, according
Olowolaiyemo, is a thrilling experience. Said he: “One feels one is in
another world. The confluence becomes real all the more and
awe-inspiring too. It increasingly assumes this uncommon personality
enrobed with breathtaking beauty. It inspires this unusual sense of
emotion that keeps running unceasingly wide.”
However, this nature’s eternal gift still remains and retains its
pristine nature. No giant and sustained effort appears to have been
made by the relevant Federal government or Kogi State agencies to
raise the stake.
This was alluded to by Olowolaiyemo, who said: “For now, in terms of
development of the tourism potential of this confluence, not much has
“We have to admit that we need to develop the confluence so as to
attract high-level patronage. This is not a project any government can
undertake alone; it requires a big amount of investment. That is why
each time we have the opportunity, we call on private investors to
come and assist provide funds to develop the place.
“For now, we package people to the confluence area with the
cooperation of the National Inland Waterways (NIWA). So what we have
done so far is more of promoting the site than developing it.”
Tourism analysts believe that in these days when the price of oil has
fallen precipitously in the international market and revenue from it
has descended abysmally to its all-time low, this alternative revenue
source might come handy.
Right at the bank of the River Niger, the confluence could be seen far
off. However, its entire beauty is best seen and appreciated
unreservedly from above. On this occasion, the harmattan haze was
still hanging in the air. This combined with this air of quietude
around the area that set up this enthralling mien of mystery about the
rivers Niger and Benue.
From this point, everyone sees the confluence in one full breath,
lying far off, up to three to four kilometres away. It is as far as
the eyes can see. However, it can only be reached via a speedboat.
Only the brave hearted and expert fishermen dare.
The confluence point is never sacrosanct; it shifts with the time, the
reporter learnt. “The position of the confluence depends on the volume
of water arriving at the spot from both rivers at any point in time,”
informs Solomon Ibejiagbe, Curator, National Museum and Monuments,
Lokoja. “And so, during the rainy season, the confluence point shits
northwards because the rivers receive a lot more water which they are
in a hurry to discharge.”
Indeed, the great rivers’ confluence is one distinguishing feature of
Lokoja that is as old as time itself. Every native of the city grew up
to see it, but cannot tell actually how it all began. When Daily Sun
visited Alhaji Audu Bello, the Seriki Yorubawa of Lokoja, he was not
forthcoming with gist about the confluence, preferring the Mai Gari,
Mohamadu Kabir, the Markarfi 111 of Lokoja, to speak instead. The
latter too was not forthcoming when Daily Sun visited his residence.
However, an elder of the town who spoke on condition of anonymity
said: “The confluence is the greatest landmark associated with Lokoja.
We all grew up to see it. But some people believe it is a place that
brings them luck and so they go there to offer sacrifices.”
For the tourist observing from Lokoja Township, the shielding of River
Benue by the Niger makes it hard to see the confluence in its
fullness. However, there is one distinguishing feature that is easily
prominent –their colours that can be easily seen. For instance,
whereas the water of the Niger appears muddy, that of the Benue appear
light blue in colour.
“The River Niger travels through the desert land. That is why its
waters are brownish and muddy,” asserts Ibejiagbe. “That is unlike the
Benue which rises from the Adamawa Highlands and travels through a non
sandy terrain before reaching Lokoja. Its water is light blue in
colour and cleaner too. This striking difference is clearer to see
when one is on the river.”
In the dry season, the water levels of both rivers characteristically
fall drastically. They no longer receive as much floodwaters from
their tributaries. During this period, strips of islands jut out here
and there. Some are as big as a football turf. These fields,
Olowolaiyemo believes, ought to and in actual sense would be developed
“At the heart of the confluence, from December, up to when the rains
begin, massive islands develop. They are fascinating places; one is up
to two to three football fields put together. When the rivers are full
with water, one will never contemplate anything of such exists.
“One of them can take up to 1,000 people. It is a big place for fun:
wedding receptions, parties and big occasions. People can access the
place with speedboats and have raw fun right there. We are going to
develop the place to the point that it can yield revenue. That is why
we are seeking for investors.”
However, this potential money-spinner faces physical challenges,
Olowolaiyemo revealed. “In recent times, we have been experiencing the
unexpected release of water from a dam in Cameroon. This is a
challenge to us. And we have the problem of silting too. The last time
the River Niger was dredged, some good job was not done. And what is
more; we occasionally see the presence of water hyacinth which makes
navigation on the river difficult.”
On some of the narrow strips of islands, some fishermen berth. They
erect make-shit, grass huts where they take their deserved rest. Some
even cultivate vegetables and other crops that they harvest early
enough before the return of the floodwaters. One of such persons is
Malam Musa Ibrahim. “Now, we cultivate vegetables and onions here,” he
said. “But we can only do this in the dry season; we quit as soon as
the flood starts coming.”
He also attested that the rivers and the confluence area are
potentially dangerous at the peak of the rainy season, recalling how
the rivers swallowed up everything within their basin during the 2013
For a tourist, a moment at the bank of the River Niger is not
different from a visit to the graveyard. The place is so quiet that
even the noise of the rushing water could be heard. Only a few
fishermen – one each in small wooden boats – operating far apart from
one another – are seen, spreading their nets as they carried out their
acts. Everywhere is quiet. The rivers are calm, with their waters
flowing with incredible speed. The experience easily sets one
meditating on the amazing wonders of nature.
For the records, the River Niger rises from Futa Jallon Highlands,
north of Guinea and travels over a distance of 4,160 km before
emptying into the Atlantic Ocean in Southern Nigeria in a series of
channels. Much longer before recorded history, its fame and fortune
reverberated in far away Europe, forcing many curious European
explorers to come searching for its course. Many set out – all at the
risk of their lives – to see this majestic Niger. Many of them who
embarked on that costly expedition paid dearly with their lives.
Today, a certain English explorer, Mungo Park, is acclaimed to be the
discoverer of the River Niger. However, furious Africanists insist he
was only the first European to see it, contending that before his
arrival, Africans had been putting the great river into much use.
Seeing the River Niger, Mr. Park reportedly broke down with immense
joy. Reporting his own experience he penned: “Looking forward, I saw
with infinite pleasure, the long sort majestic Niger flowing slowly
eastwards. I hastened to its banks, and having drunk of it waters, I
lifted my hand to God for having thus far, crowned my efforts with
From the source, Mr. Park and his party, according to history, sailed
all the way down the Niger, but ended tragically at New Bussa where
they plunged to their death. Only the Lander brothers – Richard and
John – successfully explored the river course to the point it empties
into the Atlantic.
From Guinea, the Niger flows northeast, tearing through the expansive
arid land before reaching Timbuktu in northern Mali. There, it makes a
dramatic turn to flow southeast through Niger Republic until it bursts
into Nigeria through the present day Kebbi State.
As it hastens to reach Lokoja, Benue, its ‘bride-to-be,’ is already
eagerly waiting. Cascading from the Cameroonian side of the rugged
Adamawa highlands, the Benue flows swiftly down, compelled like a
woman in love eager to meet her groom. Receiving larger volumes of
water from rivers Gongola and Katsina Ala, it travels west before
reaching Lokoja. There, both rivers come together to form a ‘Y,’
uniting their will and their waters, their flow and their forces,
forming one big geographic entity rich in splendour.
At Lokoja, like a bride fully married to her love, the River Benue
loses its maiden name, taking up the Niger. Not only that, it loses
its graceful, blue waters to River Niger’s mere mud. And together,
they flow as one great entity, the River Niger, through the
gentle-rolling plains, pressing for the big, restless ocean.