It is believed that rivers are to the land what the veins are to the human body. And just like the veins, the importance of rivers cannot be overemphasized.
Rivers are natures gift to man. And just like every other gift given by nature, the usefulness of rivers cannot be exaggerated.
Unarguably, it can be said that rivers are the cornerstones of every economy; they are indispensable to transportation, agriculture, tourism and sources of natural minerals.
However, the importance of rivers goes beyond economic value in Nigeria. For they're being revered by the indigenous people, credited with being the reason why they exist.
So many folklores talk about the lively relationship between the people and the rivers; from fishing to farming, and to the defence gulfs they became during wars, as well as the ever necessary interaction between communities which the rivers made possible.
A recent scientific research elaborated on the importance of rivers in these statements:
Rivers carry water and nutrients to areas all around the earth. They play a very crucial part in the water cycle, acting as drainage channels for surface water.
Many rare plants and trees, as well as certain species of fishes, mammals, reptiles, and insects, can only be found to thrive in or by rivers.
Numerous aquatic and amphibious organisms make their homes and extend there habitat to the river.
In addition, other animals use the river for food and drink. Birds such as kingfishers eat small fish from the river. In the African plains, mammals such as buffaloes, lions and giraffes go to rivers for water to drink and fish.
Rivers provide travel routes for exploration, commerce and recreation.
The river banks are often credited with having some of the richest soil for planting. And in cases where it is otherwise, farmers in dry regions have much to be thankful as they can irrigate their cropland using water carried by irrigation canals from nearby rivers.
From mechanical to electrical forms of energy, the rivers have largely become of inestimable value to man for hydro energy generation.
Here are five major rivers in Nigeria and what you probably didn't about them
1. River Niger
The River Niger is the principal river in West Africa. Covering a distance of 4,100 kilometres, it is believed to be the longest river in both West Africa and Nigeria.
It is also the third longest river in Africa behind the River Nile and River Congo. Its source is the Guinea Highlands in southeastern Guinea.
However, it is important to note that Nigeria and Niger got their names from River Niger.
2. River Benue
Approximately covering a distance of 1400 kilometres, River Benue is the second longest river in Nigeria and the major tributary of River Niger.
It takes its source from the Adamawa Plateau in northern Cameroon where it rises to a height of well over 1300 metres before its descent over a number of rapids and falls.
And being one of the most navigable rivers in Nigeria, it is an important transportation route in the regions through which it flows.
3. Anambra River (Igbo: Ọnwụbala ; Ọma Mbala)
The Anambra River, covering a distance of 210 kilometres, is the most important River Niger tributary below the confluence town of Lokoja.
The natural landmark from which Anambra State was created, was named by the white men as Anam Branch of the River Niger. This name later came to be shortened to Anam bra (Anambra), the name it officially bears to date.
4. Kaduna River
The Kaduna River originates from the Jos Plateau in Plateau State. It is named after crocodiles that lived in the river, as Kaduna literally means “Crocodiles” in the native Hausa language spoken in the region.
The river is a tributary of the Niger River and flows for 550 kilometers until it meets the Niger state.
5. Cross River
Known to originate from Cameroon, Cross River is the most prominent of the rivers in Southeastern Nigeria.
Its native name is Oyono (Nigeria) and Manyu (Cameroon) respectively.
Covering a distance of 489 kilometres, the Cross River flows through swampy rainforests into numerous creeks and forms an inland delta near its confluence with the Calabar River before it empties into the Atlantic ocean.