Image: nationalmirroronline.netDo you think River Niger belongs to Nigeria? Actually it gets its source from Guinea and crosses five African countries making it one of the Great rivers in Africa and, as a matter of fact, the principal longest river of Western Africa, extending about 4,180 km and third longest in the whole of Africa (after Nile and Congo).

Its drainage basin is 2,117,700 km² in area and its source is in the Guinea Highlands in South Eastern Guinea.

The countries of Niger and Nigeria get their names from the river. It flows 2,600 miles from South-Eastern Guinea to Nigeria and into the Atlantic Ocean’s Gulf of New Guinea.

The river is called by various names by the various Nigerian tribes.

The Niger is called Jeliba or Joliba “great river” in Manding; Orimiri or Orimili “great water” in Igbo; Egerew n-Igerewen “river of rivers” in Tuareg; Isa Ber “big river” in Songhay or simply Isa “the river” in Zarma; Kwara in Hausa; and Oya in Yoruba.

The earliest use of the name “Niger” for the river is by Leo Africanus in his Della descrittione dell’Africa et delle cose notabili che iui sono published in Italian in 1550.

The name may come from Berber phrase ger-n-ger meaning “river of rivers”. As Timbuktu was the southern end of the principal Trans-Saharan trade route to the western Mediterranean, it was the source of most European knowledge of the region.

The countries the river crosses are Nigeria, Mali, Niger, Benin, Guinea and the cities it could be found are Onitsha and Lokoja (Nigeria), Tembakounda (Guinea), Niamey (Niger), Bamako (Mali) and Timbuktu (Benin).

Its major tributary is the River Benue which itself is 1400km long. Other rivers that collide with it are the Milo River, Kaduna River, Sokoto River, Sirba River, Tinkisso River, Niandan River, Sankarani River, Bani River, Mekrou River,Forcados River and the Nun River.

It is worthy of note that the Kainji Dam of Nigeria is built across the River Niger in Niger State.

The river has thirty six families of freshwater fish and nearly 250 species, 20 of which are found nowhere else on Earth but the Niger.

The West African manatee, which faces extinction, lives in the river. These mammals can grow up to fifteen feet long and can weigh nearly eight hundred pounds.

The most dreaded African Lion is also found around the River.

Author: Taofeek Ayeyemi