Population Structure and Distribution:
The State has a total population of 2,780,398 (1991 census) which has been projected to 3,100,311 (1996), , with an average population density of 99 persons persq.km. This makes Benue the 14th most populous state in Nigeria. However, the distribution of the population according to LGAs shows marked duality.
There are areas of low population density . such as Guma, Gwer, Ohimini, KatsinaAla, Apa. ,' Logo and Agatu, each with less than seventy persons per sq. km. while Vandeikya, Okpokwu, Ogbadibo, Obi and Gboko have densities ranging . from 140 persons to 200 persons per sq. km. Makurdi LGAwith its restricted coverage around the ' town has over 380 person per sq. km. (Table 7.2). The state's population shows a slight imbalance in favour of the females. The males are 49.8 percent of the total population while females constitute50.2 per cent.
Settlement Pattern and Urbanization:
Benue State is one of the most underdeveloped parts of Nigeria. This region was depleted of its human population during the transSaharan and transAtlantic slave trade. Benue State is largely rural, with scattered settlements mainly in tiny compounds or homesteads, whose population range from 630 people, most of whom are farmers. In the ' Idomaspeaking part of the state, the settlements are larger (i.e. 50200 people).
Urbanization in Benue State did not predate the colonial era. The few towns established during colonial rule remained very small (less than 30,000 people) up to the creation of Benue State in 1976. Benue towns can be categorised into three. The first group consists of those with a population ( of 80,000 to 200,000 people.)
These include Makurdi, the State Capital (194,954), Gboko and Oturkpo the "headquarters" of the two dominant ethnic groups (125,944 and 88,958 people respeclively). The second group comprises towns with a population of between 15,000 and 30,000 people and includes KatsinaAla, ZakiBiam and Adikpo. These are all local government headquarters. The third category comprises towns with a population of 7000 to 14,000 people and includes vandeikya
Lessel, lhugh, Naka, Adoka, Aliade, Okpoga, lgumale, Oju, Utonkon, Ugbokolo, Wannune, Ugbokpo, Otukpa, Ugba and Korinya. Most of these towns are headquarters of recently created LGAs and/or district headquarters or major market centres. Some of the headquarters of the newly created LGAs have populations of less than 7,000 people. Such centres include TseAgberaba, Gbajimba, Buruku, Idekpa, Obagaji and Obarikeito. Apart from earth roads, schools, periodic markets, chemist and provision shops, the rural areas are largely neglected, relying on the urban centres for most of their needs.
Benue State has no problem of capital city primacy. Rather, three towns stand out very clearly as important urban centres which together account for more than 70 per cent of the amenities provided in the state and almost all the industrial establishments. These centres are Makurdi, Gboko and Oturkpo. They are amongst the oldest towns in the state and are growing at a much faster rate than the smaller younger towns.
Makurdi doubles as the capital of the state and the headquarters of Makurdi LGA, while Gboko and
Oturkpo double as local government and ethnic headquarters (i.e. for the Tiv and Idoma tribes respectively). All the roads in the state radiate from these three centres. Amenities such as electricity, telephone, pipebome water, hospitals, schools, colleges, sporting facilities, hotels, banks, insurance houses, night clubs, cinema halls, etc. are disproportionately concentrated in these three towns at the expense of the smaller younger towns and the rural areas. However, these three towns also carry their fair share of urban crime, unemployment, congestion, slums and refuse disposal problems.