Katsina Ala

Katsina Ala is a town in Benue State, Nigeria.

It’s Benue’s fourth most important administrative town after Makurdi, Gboko and Otukpo and Tiv’s third after Makurdi and Gboko.

How Katsina Ala started
The establishment of Katsina Ala was in 1905.

It was done by the British colonial administration primarily for administrative and residential purposes.

Katsina Ala LGA secretariat. The two blocks of buildings are some of the earliest government buildings in Benue state

Prior to the structures of colonial authorities, Katsina Ala was a small riverside center that the British Royal Niger Company opened for buying of cash crops for export.

Similar centers started by the company in the state include: Abuku (a suburb of Buruku town), Abinsi (a suburb of Makurdi) and Makurdi itself.

Map of Benue state showing Katsina Ala local government area

According to Akiga, an eyewitness, the trading British people came and established a store at Katsina Ala. People could buy beniseed, iron, beads, and gunpowder and the Tiv were happy. (Akiga Sai, in the book titled Akiga Sai, 2015: 245)

How Katsina Ala got it’s name
Although Katsina Ala is deep inside Tiv territory it has a Hausa name because the British colonial authorities that worked in Northern Nigeria first studied Hausa language, a widely spoken language in several parts of the North. They then employed as interpreters mostly Hausa traders who understood both Hausa language and an indigenous language like Tiv.

Some Hausa traders who spoke Hausa and Tiv languages were made important government officials as a result of their ability to do translation.

Two were appointed by the British to head Makurdi and Katsina Ala towns.

It’s from these interpreters turned town chiefs that those towns got their names.

Akiga recalls how the colonial authorities appointed the first Katsina Ala town chief:

When they left Takum, they arrived at my father’s compound at Sai, Mbaijir, of Shitire. […] Then the Whiteman asked Sai to lead the way since he understood the Hausa language and was familiar with them […]

They slept at Sai. The next morning, Sai took his white horse […] and led Chafa Godi and the white soldier to Ukum […] The Hausa that followed the Whiteman through Tivland from the beginning were Mamadu, Ali, and Malam Audu, who later became the chief of Katsina Ala. […]

The Hausa’s job was to go around with the Whiteman in Tivland and interpret from Hausa to Tiv for the people. They did not know how to speak the Tiv language very well. The person who knew the Tiv language and culture well was Audu, who is the chief in Makurdi today.

But the person who was constantly with Chafa Godi was Mamadu. He was not very versatile in the Tiv language, but whatever they said, the Tiv tried to make some sense out of it. (Akiga Sai Reference Akiga Sai, Bergsma and Akiga2015: 243)

Gate of NKST Church, Katsina Ala
Catholic Diocese of Katsina Ala’s facility in Katsina Ala
Roman Catholic cathedral in Katsina Ala
Roman Catholic cathedral in Katsina Ala

Akiga continues his story:
When Sai led the Whiteman to Ukum, Chafa Godi told Sai that they would like to build a town in Katsina Ala, just as they had built Ibi.

They wanted Katsina Ala to be a big city one day like Ibi. Sai said that the Hausa were used to staying in big cities, but the Tiv preferred to stay in their compounds, so how could Katsina Ala grow to become a big town?

He replied that once a settlement started, the Tiv could settle, and the Hausa would settle, and so it would eventually become a big town.

[…] They came to the banks of the river Katsina where there is a cut yiase tree [Latin: Azelia africana] near where the company store is located.

The Whiteman invited all the people who were around this area [who] met with the Whiteman and discussed the building of his house at Katsina Ala.①

That was how Katsina Ala town began.

The town continues to be not only an administrative town but also a commercial hub. Religious, educational and other institutions are prominent.

Akume Atongo Township Stadium, Katsina Ala
Ashi Waves Radio, Katsina Ala
Government College, !Katsina Ala
Government College, !Katsina Ala
Government College, !Katsina Ala
Government College, !Katsina Ala
King’s College, Katsina Ala
.LGEA primary school and UBE Junior secondary school

It has Benue state government owned College of Education, an expansive local government secretariat, a sports stadium (Akume Atongo Township Stadium), general hospital (General Hospital, Katsina Ala) radio station (Ashi Waves Radio) and several famous secondary schools like Divine Love Catholic Girls Secondary School and Government College, Katsina Ala.

Prominent features include River Katsina Ala and the bridge across the river.

There is a lake at the outskirts of the town called Akata.

Akata is an attraction especially during a periodic festival called Akata fishing festival.

The festival is recognised and sometimes empowered by the state government.

It involves an exhibition of fish caught, traditional dances, speeches and other activities.

① cambridge.org/core/journals/africa