World Heritage Sites in Nigeria

So yesterday (18th April) was the International Day for Monuments and Sites dedicated to the them “Cultural Heritage & Sustainable Tourism“. I kinda missed it and decided to write a post on the World Heritage Sites we have in Nigeria.

I have often wondered  what is it means to bethe importance of a site listed on the World Heritage List and the economic impact on the country itself.

Nomination Process

Basically before a country’s site makes the World Heritage List, it must first list its significant cultural and natural sites on the Tentative List. For sites on the Tentative List to move to the World Heritage List, they have to put in a Nomination File.

The Nomination File is evaluated by the International Council on Monuments and Sites and the World Conservation Union. These bodies then make their recommendations to the World Heritage Committee. The Committee meets once per year to determine whether or not to inscribe each nominated property on the World Heritage List and sometimes defers the decision to request more information from the country which nominated the site. There are ten selection criteria – a site must meet at least one of them to be included on the list.

N.B. A country may not nominate sites that have not been first included on the Tentative List. 

Conditions to be on the World Heritage List

Cultural Criteria

  • to represent a masterpiece of human creative genius;
  • to exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design;
  • to bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared;
  • to be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history;
  • to be an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change;
  • to be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance. (The Committee considers that this criterion should preferably be used in conjunction with other criteria);

Natural Criteria

  • to contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance;
  • to be outstanding examples representing major stages of earth’s history, including the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features;
  • to be outstanding examples representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals;
  • to contain the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.

Advantages of the WHS Status

  • Funding:  WHO provides funding for the restoration, preservation and conservation of the sites.
  • Protection: The sites are protected under the Geneva Convention (if signed) against destruction and misuse during war.
  • Partnership/Collaboration: WHO helps in facilitating partnerships between Government, the private sector and NGOs in achieving its conservation and preservation goals.
  • Access to resources: It provides access to global project management resources.
  • National Pride: It promotes national and local pride in the natural and man-made wonders of the country.

World Heritage Sites in Nigeria

Confirmed List

Sukur Cultural Landscape, Adamawa State


Sukur is located in Madagali local government area of Adamawa state of Nigeria along Nigeria/ Cameroon border, some 290 km from Yola, the Adamawa state capital of north eastern Nigeria.


It is a hilltop settlement which stood at an elevation of 1045 m. The total land area covered by the site is 1942.50 ha with core zone having 764.40 ha and the buffer zone 1178.10 ha respectively.



Sukur is an ancient settlement with a recorded history of iron smelting technology, flourishing trade, and strong political institution dating back to the 16th century.

Image Source: Naija Single Girl

Osun Osogbo Grove, Osun State

The Osun Sacred Grove is the largest and perhaps the only remaining example of a once widespread phenomenon that used to characterise every Yoruba settlement.


The town of Osogbo is believed to have been founded around 400 years ago. It is part of the wider Yoruba community, divided into 16 kingdoms, which legend says were ruled by the children of Oduduwa, the mythic founder, whose abode at Ile-Ife, south-east of Osogbo, is still regarded as the spiritual home of the Yoruba people.


In the 1840s Osogbo became a refugee town for people fleeing the Fulani Jihad, as it moved south from what is now northern Nigeria. The Yorubas retreated further south into the forests and Osogbo, right at the northern edge of the forest, became an important centre for northern Yorubaland.


Austrian born Suzanne Wenger moved to Osogbo and, with the encouragement of the Oba and the support from local people, formed the New Sacred Art movement to challenge land speculators, repel poachers, protect shrines and begin the long process of bringing the sacred place back to life through once again establishing it as the sacred heart of Osogbo.


The artists deliberately created large, heavy and fixed sculptures in iron, cement and mud, as opposed to the smaller traditional wooden ones, in order that their intimidatory architectural forms would help to protect the Grove and stop thefts. All the sculptures have been done in full respect for the spirit of the place, with inspiration from Yoruba mythology and in consultations with the gods in a traditional context.


Source: Titi’s Wanderlust

Tentative List

Alok Ikom Stone Monoliths, Cross River State  (08/10/2007)

The stone monoliths are known by different names, some call it Akwanshi or Atal or Alaptal. They are craved monoliths, of which the origin is unknown, and they occur in groups.

Fake Modern Monoliths

The Ikom Monoliths are basalt stone sculptures found in Cross River State, Nigeria. For the Ejagam People the Monoliths aren’t mere geological wonders, but are sacred stones referred to as Akwanshi – which literally means ‘dead person in the ground’. 


 The origin of Akwanshi remains a mystery, nevertheless to the locals its spiritual significance is apparent; the spirit of their departed ancestors return to live in the stones, providing guidance, protection, and even wisdom for the living – the tenets of Traditional African Religion. 


There are about 350 monoliths located in 35 sites within Cross River State.

Image Source: Waka Waka Chronicles & Funmilola Ajala

Ancient Kano City Walls, Kano State (08/10/2007)

The foundations for this wall which surrounds the old city of Kano were laid by Sakri Gijimasu from 1095 – 1134 and the wall was completed in the middle of 14th Century during the reign of Zamnagawa. In the 16th century, the walls were further extended to their present position.


The walls were built to prevent enemies  and armies of the empires that were in search of vassal states to expand and increase their royalties from penetrating Kano.


Sadly, today the walls are no longer outside Kano city as they were in those days. They are now located in the city and people now tamper with the walls. Also, many people have had to pull down portions of the walls to build their house. According to the Gidan Makama Museum (custodians of the walls and sites in Kano), about 25/30% of the wall is still standing while the rest has been destroyed.



Image Source: Kofarnaisa

Arochukwu Long Juju Slave Route (Cave Temple Complex), Abia State (08/10/2007)

Arochukwu is the third largest town in Abia State (after Aba and Umuahia) in southeastern Nigeria and is a famous tourist destination as the cave of the famous long juju oracle is a particular attraction. It is originally, a religious centre with a well-laid down administrative structure headed by a Chief Priest. The cave is believed to hold the long metal pipe through which the gods speak to the people, and was used to judge the perpetrators of crimes in the old time.

A dark kilometre-long series of tunnels, some deeply mysterious features of the shrine include the Throne of Judgement, where Chukwu would decide on the fate of a person, the Tunnel of Disappearance, and the Red River, which would turn coloured when a person was killed. What makes this shrine, also known as Ibinu Ukpabi, a spectacular historical site in the region is the role it played in the slave trade era and thus the impact it made in Nigeria’s history.

In the 15th Century, when the slave trade was introduced, West African middlemen used it to their advantage, as the condemned were no longer killed inside the shrine, but secretly sold on into slavery. The mystic Long-Juju shrine, the slave routes and other relics of the slave trade era have become important tourist attractions in the area as a result of what they represent in Nigeria’s history.

Source: Tori.Ng

Benin Iya/Sungbo’s Eredo, Ogun State (01/11/1995)


Sungbo’s Eredo is the largest known ancient man-made structure south of the Sahara. The Sungbo Eredo represents a system of walls and ditches dug in laterite, a typical African soil consisting of clay and iron oxides. These are essentially protective (some say defensive) barrier walls encircling major cities in ancient Ijebuland – from Epe through to Odogbolu, Ijebu Ode, Ijebu Mushin. These walls were built between 800-1000AD according to Prof. Patrick Darling, the British archeologist who ‘discovered’ the Eredo.


The total length of these fortifications is approximately 160 kilometers. The height difference between the bottom of the ditch and the upper rim of the bank on the inner side can reach 20 meters. The diameter of this enormous fortification in the north-south direction is approximately 40km, and in the east-west direction, 3 kilometers.


Local legend has it that the Eredo was commissioned by the Queen of Sheba, who was married to King Solomon. In the Bible, Queen Sheba was reputed to have sent a caravan of gold, ivory and other goods from her kingdom to King Solomon. In the Koran, she is an Ethiopian sun worshipped named Bilqis involved in the incense trade who converts to Islam.


To the Ijebus, she was a wealthy childless foreign born widow whom they knew as Bilikisu Sungbo, who settled amongst them on her return trip from King Solomon and died in Ijebuland. According to legend, she was indeed a Muslim woman who bankrolled the building of the Eredo as a personal monument of remembrance, ‘so her name would not be forgotten in history’ as she had no offspring. The Ijebu people of Eredo rever Bilikisu Sungbo as a goddess and believe that her spirit can reverse infertility and cure illness to this day! Her grave is located in the neighboring town of Oke Eiri in Ijebu, but paradoxically for such a female pioneer, present day women are forbidden from visiting her grave.


Source: Titi’s Wanderlust

Gashaki-Gumpti National Park, Taraba State (01/11/1995)

Gashaki-Gumpti National Park is said to be Nigeria’s biggest National Park covering nearly 7000 sq km.  It is located within the Chappal Wadi, Mountain, Chappal Hendu and the Mountain of Wind. Gashaki-Gumpti National Park derives its name from the wo of the region’s oldest and most historic settlements: Gashaka village in Taraba State, and Gumti village in Adamawa State.


This area is important not only as a major watershed but also as a haven for a rich and exotic assemblage of wildlife, given its strategic location at the interface between the moist Cameroonian highland and the dry sub-Saharan Guinea savannah.



The Northern Gumti sector is flat and home to large savannah animals such as elephant, hyena, wild dog, lion, roan antelope and the giant eland. The Southern Gashaka sector is a mosaic of woodland, lowland & gallery forest, grassland and montane forest – and includes Nigeria’s highest peaks at Chappal Waddi – the “Mountain of Death”.


The park is officially labeled one of the Africa’s “Important Bird Areas” it also contains some historic sites which is one of the pre 1918 German fort on top of Gashaka hill which is known as “watch tower” used by the German military expedition to the area. Some graves of German soldiers are still found dotted at the fort of the hill.

spaceout (3).jpgImage Source: Rosemary Lodge/Flickr & Lawal Sani Kona

Source: Take me to Naija & UCL

Oban Hills/Korup, Cross River State (01/11/1995)

Oban is an important watershed with hills rising above 500 m and one peak reaching approximately 1,000 m.  The Oban Hills once formed part of one of the lowland rainforest refugia during the last glacial period, today the area is a center of species richness and endemic particularly for primates, amphibians, butterflies, fish and small mammals.


The Oban Hills rainforest lies in the southern section of the Cross River National Park of South-Eastern Nigeria and adjoin the Korup National Park in Western Cameroon. The steep-side hills are covered in ancient Biafran type rainforest. A “neck” between village enclaves serves as a crucial link between two sections of the Oban Hills.

Cross River National Park (Oban Division).jpg

Oban is an internationally recognized biodiversity hotspot and contains a number of important species such as the Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee, the drill, Preuss’s red colobus monkey, leopard, forest elephant and the grey-necked Picathartes or rockfowl . Oban is one of the most ornithologically diverse sites in the country and the contiguous Oban-Korup forest may be the richest site in Africa for butterflies.

Source: WCS Nigeria

Ogbunike Caves, Anambra State (08/10/2007)


Ogbunike cave is said to have been discovered by an hunter named Ukwa. It is located in a valley with tropical rain forest behind the “Ogba Hills” in Ogbunike. During the civil wars, the Igbo’s hid inside the caves in order not to get caught by soldiers. It takes about 317 steps to get to the entrance of the caves. The cave has over 10 tunnels leading to different places.


The main cave consists of a massive structure with a big open chamber of about 5m high, 10m wide and 30m long at the entrance. There are ten tunnels at the main chamber leading to different directions. Within the tunnels are big chambers and other tunnels of varying lengths, some of which are inter connected. The caves are occupied by a large colony of bats of various sizes. There are streams and body of water at various places. The River Nkissa flows by the side of the caves into which the water that drains from the caves empties itself.


There is an annual festival called “Ime Ogbe” celebrated in commemoration of the discovery of the cave.


Image Source: Social Prefect & Tripzapp

Oke Idanre (Idanre Hills), Ondo State (08/10/2007)

Idanre Hills

Idanre Hills or Oke Idanre which means “On top of Idanre” is located in Idanre town, Ondo State. There are several legends surrounding the discovery of the town. One version tells the tale of a fleeing son of Ife who was left amazed by the sight of the hills once he arrived in the town. The name ‘Idanre’ was then coined from his words ‘idan ree’ which translates to ‘Amazing wonders’.There are 660+ steps to the top of the hill with 5 resting points.


P.S. Did you know Oke Idanre used to be a dwelling place for the people of Idanre. It has a school, shrine, police cell, king’s place etc. It is also home to the Arun River which is said to have healing powers and the “unreadable letters of the flood”.


Surame Cultural Landscape, Sokoto State (01/11/1995)

The ancient city of Surame is a Nigerian national monument located in the Sokoto State of northwestern Nigeria. It was created in the 16th Century by Muhammadu Kanta Sarkin Kebbi, who controlled an empire in the region. Surame town was abandoned in about 1700 when the capital moved to Birnin Kebbi

Because of the uniqueness of the stone arrangement at Surame city, Kanta was regarded as the Pharaoh of the Western-Sudan. P. K Darling, a British archaeologist in one of his works also described it as the “Largest ancient built stone walls in the whole of Africa.” It was believed that Surame and the associated site of Gungu, are the biggest stone cities with great potentials in archaeological value covering over 28 square kilometres between Binji and Silame local government areas.


There were 14 gates to Surame City. These gates were categorized as seven great gates and seven smaller gates. The great gates connected the city with the outside world, while the seven smaller gates connected different sections of the city. Six hundred years after it was destroyed some of the gates are still standing at the site. One of the standing gates is referred to as Dashe tree gate.

It was named after the Dashe tree that was standing there before the gate was created in the 15th century. The stone arrangement of the city gates, security posts, the narrow paths leading into the city through the gates, the two concentric stone walls, rectangular palace walls and the enclosures built to fortify it against external attacks, are some of the awesome features that still exist at the site till today.

Source: Daily Trust

Have you visited any of the attractions? What was your experience like?

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One Reply to “World Heritage Sites in Nigeria”

  1. ibrahim hassan says: Reply

    I saw this tourism app named “Eko Tourist” on Playstore designed by a Nigerian and it provides a complete tour guide to Lagos showing Places, People, Festivals, Events, Hotels, Hospitals, Brands, Beaches, Parks, Restaurants, Cinemas, Schools, and other things across Lagos City. It seems to be of great help, so I felt I should share. link

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