History of Jos, the Capital of Plateau: A Comprehensive Overview

Jos, the capital of Plateau State in central Nigeria, is a city with a rich history and cultural heritage. It is situated on the Jos Plateau, which is embedded in the Guinea Savannah of North-Central Nigeria. The city has a population of about 900,000 residents based on the 2006 census and is often referred to as “J-Town.”

The history of Jos dates back to the pre-colonial era when it was a small village inhabited by the Birom people. The city’s transformation began in 1903 when the British colonial authorities discovered vast tin deposits in the area. This led to a rush of prospectors and miners, and the town of Jos developed rapidly. The British colonial authorities also established a railway line to transport the tin to the coast for export.

During the colonial era, Jos was a major mining center and the largest producer of tin in the world. The city’s prosperity attracted people from all over Nigeria, and it became a melting pot of cultures and languages. Today, Jos is a cosmopolitan city with a diverse population and a vibrant cultural scene.


Geographical Background


Jos is a town located on the Jos Plateau, which has an elevation of 4,250 feet (1,295 meters) in the central region of Nigeria. The plateau covers an area of 8,600 square kilometers and is bounded by 300-600 meter escarpments around much of its boundary. With an average altitude of 1,280 meters, it is the largest area over 1,000 meters in Nigeria, with a high point of 1,829 meters, in the Shere Hills. The town lies on the Delimi River and near the source of the Jamaari River, which is called the Bunga farther downstream.


Jos has a tropical savanna climate with a significant temperature variation between day and night. The town’s location on the Jos Plateau gives it a cooler climate than the surrounding lowlands. The rainy season begins in April and ends in October, with an average annual rainfall of 1,400 millimeters. The dry season lasts from November to March, with December and January being the coldest months. The average temperature during the day is around 27°C (81°F), while the night temperature can drop to as low as 11°C (52°F). The town’s climate is suitable for the cultivation of crops such as potatoes, maize, and tomatoes.

Jos’s topography and climate have made it a popular tourist destination in Nigeria. The town’s cooler climate and scenic landscapes attract visitors who want to escape the heat and humidity of the lowlands. Additionally, the plateau’s fertile soil has made it an important agricultural region, with crops such as potatoes, maize, and tomatoes being grown in large quantities.


Historical Development

Early Inhabitants

Jos, the capital of Plateau State, Nigeria, has a rich history that dates back to ancient times. The earliest known settlers of the land were the Nok people, skilled artisans from around the Jos area who mysteriously vanished in the late first millennium. The Birom people, who are the current indigenous inhabitants of the Jos Plateau, arrived in the area around the 17th century. They were followed by other ethnic groups such as the Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba.

Colonial Era

In the early 1900s, the British established Jos as a tin-mining metropolis. The mineral wealth of the area attracted many individuals from Southern and Northern Nigeria to Jos for work and business. By 1905, the town had become a melting pot of different ethnic groups, including Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba, and Europeans. The British colonial government established administrative and commercial centers in Jos, which further accelerated the town’s growth and development.

Post-Independence Era

After Nigeria gained independence in 1960, Jos continued to grow and develop. The town became the capital of Plateau State in 1975, and the government invested heavily in infrastructure development. The construction of the Jos-Bukuru dam in 1973 led to the establishment of the Jos Electricity Distribution Company, which provided electricity to the town and its environs. The Yakubu Gowon Airport was also built in Jos, which facilitated air transport and further boosted the town’s economic growth.

In recent years, Jos has faced several challenges, including ethnic and religious conflicts, which have affected its development. However, the town remains an important center of commerce, education, and culture in Nigeria.


Cultural Significance

Ethnic Diversity

Jos is known for its ethnic diversity, with over 50 ethnic groups residing in the city. The Berom people are the indigenous inhabitants of the Plateau region and make up a significant portion of the population. Other ethnic groups in Jos include the Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba, and Fulani people. The city’s diverse population has contributed to its unique culture, which is a blend of different traditions and customs.

Traditional Festivals

Jos is renowned for its traditional festivals that showcase the city’s rich cultural heritage. One of the most popular festivals is the Nzem Berom festival, which is celebrated annually by the Berom people to commemorate their ancestors. During the festival, the Berom people dress in their traditional attire and perform various cultural dances and rituals.

Another popular festival in Jos is the Jos Carnival, which is held annually in May. The carnival features colorful parades, cultural displays, and musical performances. The festival attracts tourists from all over the world and provides a platform for local artists to showcase their talents.

Overall, Jos’s cultural diversity has contributed to its unique identity and has made it a hub for cultural tourism in Nigeria.


Modern Jos

Economic Activities

Jos is a major commercial center in Plateau State, Nigeria. The city’s economy is based on a variety of industries, including mining, agriculture, and tourism. Tin mining has been a major economic activity in the city since the early 20th century. The city is also known for its production of agricultural products such as potatoes, maize, and vegetables. In recent years, the tourism industry has grown significantly, with the city’s natural beauty and cultural heritage attracting visitors from all over the world.

Educational Institutions

Jos has a number of educational institutions, including universities, colleges, and secondary schools. The city is home to the University of Jos, which was established in 1975 and is one of the top universities in Nigeria. Other notable educational institutions in the city include the Federal College of Education, the Plateau State Polytechnic, and the Plateau State College of Health Technology.

Urbanization and Growth

Jos has experienced significant urbanization and growth in recent years. The city’s population has grown rapidly, and the urban area has expanded to encompass surrounding towns and villages. This growth has led to the development of new residential areas, commercial districts, and infrastructure such as roads and public transportation. The city’s skyline has also changed significantly, with new high-rise buildings and modern architecture being built throughout the city.

Overall, Jos is a vibrant and growing city with a diverse economy, strong educational institutions, and a rich cultural heritage. Its continued growth and development make it an important center for commerce, education, and tourism in Nigeria.


Frequently Asked Questions

What are the origins and historical development of Jos as the capital of Plateau State?

Jos, the capital of Plateau State, is situated at the center of Nigeria and was founded in 1915. The city was named after the hill on which it was established. The area was initially inhabited by the Birom people, but the discovery of tin in the early 1900s brought in a diverse population of people from different parts of Nigeria and Europe. Jos became the administrative center of the British colonial government in 1926 and was designated the capital of Plateau State when the state was created in 1976.

How has Jos contributed to the cultural and political landscape of Plateau State?

Jos has played a significant role in the cultural and political landscape of Plateau State. The city is home to a diverse population of people from different ethnic groups, including the Berom, Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba. This diversity has contributed to the rich cultural heritage of the city, which is reflected in its music, dance, and cuisine. Politically, Jos has been an important center for the mobilization of different groups in Plateau State, and it has produced many prominent political leaders.

Can you provide an overview of the ethnic composition and tribes in Plateau State?

Plateau State is home to over 50 different ethnic groups, with the largest being the Berom, Hausa, and Fulani. Other significant groups include the Igbo, Yoruba, Tiv, and Gbagyi. The ethnic composition of Plateau State has contributed to its rich cultural diversity, which is reflected in its music, dance, and cuisine.

What significant events have shaped the history and growth of Jos in Nigeria?

Several significant events have shaped the history and growth of Jos in Nigeria. The discovery of tin in the early 1900s brought in a diverse population of people from different parts of Nigeria and Europe. The city became an important center for the British colonial government and was designated the capital of Plateau State when the state was created in 1976. However, the city has also experienced several periods of violence and unrest, particularly in the 2000s, which have had a significant impact on its growth and development.

What role has the Jos Plateau played in the region’s economy and ecology?

The Jos Plateau has played a significant role in the region’s economy and ecology. The area is rich in mineral resources, including tin, columbite, and iron ore, which have been mined for many years. The plateau is also home to several important ecological zones, including forests and grasslands, which are important for the region’s biodiversity.

How does the meaning and etymology of ‘Jos’ reflect its history in Plateau State?

The name ‘Jos’ is derived from the hill on which the city was established. The hill was known as ‘Gwosh’ by the Birom people who originally inhabited the area. The name was later anglicized to ‘Jos’ by the British colonial government. The etymology of the name reflects the history of the city, which was founded by the British colonial government in the early 1900s and has since become an important center for the region’s economy, politics, and culture.

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