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Ilorin, a city in western Nigeria, serves as the traditional emirate and is the capital of Kwara state. Positioned along the Awun River, a minor tributary of the Niger, it was founded in the late 18th century by the Yoruba people. Originally part of the Oyo empire as a vassal state, Ilorin saw a rebellion in 1817 led by Kakanfo Afonja, Oyo’s commander, resulting in the dissolution of the empire’s unity.

Afonja, aided by Mallam Alimi, a Fulani from Sokoto, along with Fulani warriors, slaves, and Hausa slaves, became increasingly influenced by the Muslim Fulani. After Afonja’s assassination, Alimi’s son, Abd al-Salam, became the emir of Ilorin and pledged allegiance to the Sokoto caliphate around 1829. Under Abd al-Salam, Ilorin, now a Muslim emirate, expanded its influence, subjugating towns in Yorubaland and destroying the Oyo capital in 1837.

Throughout the 19th century, Ilorin played a pivotal role as a major trade centre between the northern Hausa and southern Yoruba regions. It resisted British rule until 1897 when the Royal Niger Company’s army, after conquering Bida, asserted British supremacy. In 1900, the Ilorin emirate became part of the Northern Nigeria Protectorate, later evolving into the Northern Province and then the Northern Region during the colonial period. Following the country’s administrative reorganization in 1967, Ilorin became part of West Central (later Kwara) state.

Today, modern Ilorin is predominantly inhabited by Muslim Yoruba people, despite its Yoruba-speaking Fulani emir. The city boasts an industrial, commercial, and educational landscape, surrounded by a historic central district featuring traditional mud houses, thatched roofs, mosques, and protective mud walls. Ilorin is a significant market for locally grown crops and livestock, and its growing industrial sector includes sugar refining, food processing, soft drink bottling, match and soap manufacturing, and ironworking. The city is home to the University of Ilorin, Kwara State Polytechnic, and other educational institutions, along with health services, including hospitals and a nursing home for the elderly. Ilorin is well-connected through railway and highway links, intersecting with the city, and has an international airport. As of the 2016 estimate, the urban agglomeration population is around 960,000.

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Ilorin is the capital city of Kwara State located in the Western region of Nigeria. As of the 2006 census, it had a population of 777,667, making it the 7th largest city by population in Nigeria.


Ilorin was founded by the Yoruba, one of the three largest ethnic groups in Nigeria, in 1450. It became a provincial military headquarters of the ancient Oyo Empire, and later became a Northern Nigeria protectorate when Shehu Alimi, an itinerant Islamic preacher and teacher, took control of the city through the spread of Islam. The capital was occupied by the Royal Niger Company in 1897 and its lands were incorporated into the British colony of Northern Nigeria in 1900, although the emirate continued to perform ceremonial functions. The city retains a strong Islamic influence, although Christianity is now widely practised in the cosmopolitan part of the city due to the significant immigration of people from other parts of Kwara State and the rest of Nigeria.

Ilorin, city, traditional emirate, and capital of Kwara state, western Nigeria. It is located on the Awun River, a minor tributary of the Niger. Founded in the late 18th century by Yoruba people, it became the capital of a kingdom that was a vassal state of the Oyo empire. Oyo’s commander at Ilorin, Kakanfo (Field Marshal) Afonja, led a rebellion in 1817 that destroyed the unity of the empire. He was aided by Mallam Alimi (a Fulani from Sokoto), by Fulani warriors and slaves, and by Hausa slaves. Afonja was increasingly dominated by the Muslim Fulani, and, upon his assassination, Alimi’s son, Abd al-Salam (Abdul Salami), became emir of Ilorin and pledged allegiance (c. 1829) to the Sokoto caliphate. As a Muslim emirate, Ilorin subjugated several towns in Yorubaland and destroyed the Oyo capital, Oyo Ile (Old Oyo, or Katunga), 40 miles (64 km) northwest, in 1837. Abd al-Salam conducted a jihad toward the sea and was only stopped by the Ibadan victory over his cavalrymen at Oshogbo in 1840.

Throughout the 19th century, Ilorin served as a major trade centre between the Hausa of the north and the Yoruba of the south. It strongly resisted British rule, and not until 1897, when the army of the Royal Niger Company arrived after conquering Bida (106 miles east-northeast), did Ilorin recognize British supremacy. In 1900 Ilorin emirate was the only part of Yorubaland to be included in the Northern Nigeria Protectorate, which, later in the colonial period, developed into the Northern Province and then the Northern Region. With the subdivision of the country’s administrative regions in 1967, Ilorin became part of West Central (later Kwara) state.


Modern Ilorin is mainly inhabited by the Yoruba people, although its traditional ruler has a fulani heritage.


Ilorin has an 18,000-capacity stadium and two professional football teams; Kwara United F.C. playing in the top-tier league of Nigeria Professional Football League (N.P.F.L) which is run by the League Management Company; and ABS FC in the second division which is Bet9ja Nigeria National league.

The city has the only standard baseball field in West Africa. It has also hosted several national handball competitions.


The political economy of Kwara State can be traced to 1967 when it was created. Since then the state has undergone various developmental efforts, mostly initiated by the federal government given the nature of the Nigerian state, a centralized federal system where development policies and programmes originate from the centre.

The state has a large area of rich agricultural land. The limestone and dolomite of Oreke, kaolin and clay at Idofian near Ilorin and other parts of the state, pure gold in Kaiama and the Patigi area, and the highly exportable rich tantalite deposit of Iporin make Kwara State rich in primary resources.

Initially, Kwara State had only a few major industrial companies, Global Soap (not more in operation), Detergent Industries Nigeria Limited and the International Tobacco Company. Successive administrations have attempted to attract industrialists to the state.

With such efforts, Ilorin has become the hub for cashew processing in Nigeria and Olam International has set up Africa's biggest cashew processing plant. The plant processes 100 MT of cashews every day and provides employment to over 2000 workers.

Recently established industries include Dangote Flour Mills, Tuyil Pharmaceutical company, KAMWIL, Golden Confectionate Food Industries, Chellaram Motor-Cycle Assembly plants, and Rajrab Pharmaceuticals.


Ilorin has a tropical savanna climate (Köppen climate classification Aw). It has an annual rainfall which can range between 990.3 and 1,318 millimetres (39 and 52 in). The city has maximum temperatures varying between 33 and 37 °C or 91.4 and 98.6 °F, with the third month of the year, March, being the hottest. The minimum and maximum temperature, and also the relative humidity have increased between 1978 and 2017. The wind that blows is typically from points between southeast and northeast.


Ilorin operates a relatively well-developed intra-city public transport system, and the major roads within the metropolis are well constructed.

There are three different modes of available transit from one place to another in the city – the most popular being the conventional taxis. Car-hire services are also available in major hotels. Furthermore, there are commercial motorbikes, commonly called "Okada". A more recent arrival on Ilorin's roads are commercial tricycles, popularly called "Keke NAPEP" or "Keke" or "Keke Maruwa", some of which are given on loan to beneficiaries of the National Poverty Eradication Programme. Ilorin taxis are painted yellow and green.

Ilorin's central location makes it easily accessible to all parts of the country by air, road and rail. The state has a good network of roads, rail and air transportation facilities linking it with Nigeria's other industrial and commercial centres. Transportation is quite affordable in Ilorin for movement from one place to another for as low as one hundred naira.

There are scheduled daily commercial flights to and from Ilorin International Airport by Arik Air and Overland Airways. The now defunct Capital Airlines also operated from Ilorin. Current destinations include all of the major cities in Nigeria. The airport has also been re-designed and equipped as an international cargo airport.

Ilorin offers reliable road transport services to Lagos, Ogun, Osun, Ondo, Oyo, Ekiti, Kogi, Niger, Kaduna and Plateau States. Similar services are available to and from Onitsha, Port Harcourt, Abuja, Aba and others.

A major expressway to Ibadan, numbered E1, is currently under construction by P.W. International. Ilorin is served by the railway and highway from Lagos (160 miles south-southwest), via Ibadan, which intersect in the city, and it has an international airport.



The city is a confluence of cultures, populated by the Yoruba, Fulani, Nupe, Bariba, Kanuri, Igbo and Hausa ethnicities across Nigeria, as well as foreign and nationals. There are large Christian and Islamic populations, and many ceremonial activities, mostly with religious aspects, take place in the city throughout the year.

Christianity in Ilorin

The city has a host of ancient and modern churches with moderate to large congregations, such as the Catholic Church, Cherubim and Seraphim churches, Anglican, Methodist, Celestial Church of Christ, Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA), Emmanuel Baptist Church, First Baptist Church, and Zion Baptist church. Notable Pentecostal churches include Redeemed Christian Church of God, The Gospel Faith Mission International (Gofamint), Deeper Life Church, and Living Faith Church. Seventh-day Adventists are also represented. Most Christian churches in the state started schools and introduced innovative ideas that were readily adopted by the Muslim schools.

There has been a Latter-day Saint congregation in Ilorin since 1992. In that year an LDS mission was organized in the city that year, but shortly later merged with the one in Enugu. Starting in 2016 additional LDS congregations were organized in Ilorin, which in 2018 was transferred to the new Nigerian Ibadan Mission, and had a district organized.

Ilorin Central Mosque


The first Ilorin central mosque was founded in 1820 in the Agbarere Area, popularly known as "Ile-Elewa", under the leadership of Sheik Imam Muhammad Munab'bau. This was followed in 1835 when another central mosque was built at Idi-Ape during the reign of the first Emir of Ilorin, Abdus-salam. However, more than a century later, this central mosque could no longer cope with the growth in the Muslim population of the city. For this reason, in 1974, the ninth Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji Zulkarnaini Gambari, invited Grand Mufti Alhaji Mohammed Kamal-u-deen and the then present Wazirin Ngeri of Ilorin, Abubakar Sola Saraki, to co-ordinate the fundraising and construction of a new central mosque.

The present Ilorin Central Mosque

On 30 April 1977, the foundation was laid for the new mosque by the Emir of Gwandu on behalf of the Sarki Musulmi, Sultan Abubakar III. The new Ilorin Central Mosque was completed and officially opened in 1981 by the former president Alhaji Shehu Shagari. The Mosque was renovated, rehabilitated and expanded in 2012 with a majestic view. The newly redecorated mosque was recommissioned on 14 December 2012.

The "New" Ilorin Central Mosque

Planning for the rehabilitation, refurbishment and redecoration of the Central Mosque started in 2007 when Alhaji Ibrahim Zulu Gambari, CFR, the eleventh Emir of Ilorin, with assistance from Abubakar Bukola Saraki, the Turaki of Ilorin, and the former Governor of Kwara State, set up a technical committee headed by Alhaji Shehu Abdul-gafar on the rehabilitation and enhancement of the central mosque. The committee has invited expertise from specialists in mosque construction from around the world, especially from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Nigeria.

In addition to the general restoration and enhancement of the mosque, it now has a total of 99 domes of different diameters, 75 feet above the floor. The large dome is made of gold finish while the four big domes around are coated in green with reflective illumination. The mosque form is enveloped within a pyramid shape with a square base and 45 inclinations for the faces. It has four accessible minarets, each standing at a height of 150 feet. Moreover, all the dilapidated domes and minarets with mosaic finishing were restored and finished with cut-to-size marble. The exterior and interior are covered by special marble while the expanded courtyard was constructed with heat-absorbing granite (marble) finish. The doors and windows were replaced with specially designed ones befitting the new mosque concept.

Arts and Tourism

The city also has a range of tourist attractions such as the Sobi Hill which is said to have offered protection to natives during intertribal wars in ancient times.

The Okuta Ilorin is located in Asaju's compound, Idi-Ape Quarters. It is the stone on which Ojo Isekuse, one of the founders of the city, used to sharpen his metal tools.

It was actually called "Okuta ilo irin" (meaning stone for sharpening metals). It is from this tool, the town Ilorin derived its name. The stone was a deified object of worship and sacrifice offerings in the past.

Pottery is a big business in Ilorin.

The city has the biggest traditional pottery workshops in Nigeria. They are located in the Dada area of Okelele, Eletu in Oju-Ekun, Okekura, Oloje, Abe Emi and Ita Merin.

The traditional textile industry also thrives in Ilorin. In various parts of the city, aso-oke, textiles hand-woven on simple looms, are made in large quantities.

Aso-oke is purchased by traders and fashion designers from Kwara State, other parts of Nigeria and abroad.

The cultural center houses the Kwara State Council for Arts and Culture, its performing troupe, and a gallery with artworks and antiquities. Souvenirs of cultural and historical values are also available.

Metropolitan Park, a recreational park, is located on Unity Road. The Kwara State Stadium Complex has an Olympic-sized swimming pool with facilities for diving.

A purpose-built baseball park is located in the Adewole area of the city.

The Esie Museum is of major importance to the Nigeria's many cultures.

2019 Flood Crisis

In Ilorin City, on September 18 2019, a flood caused by a heavy downpour ruined valuables worth millions of naira. According to information obtained by The Nigerian Tribune, inhabitants of the state capital experienced great difficulty and losses as a result of the deluge, which began at 5:00pm and lasted until about 9:00pm.

Additionally, it was learned that many residents of the impacted buildings along Obbo and Unity roads in Ilorin remained inside until September 19 2019 afternoon because they were unable to leave the water that had engulfed their structures.


Ilorin, a capital city in Kwara State is taken over by heaps of refuse in major streets. This is as a result of Kwara State Waste Management inability to evacuate garbage bins. The bins, stationed at designated points across the city, were full to the brim, thereby forcing residents to dump refuse by the roadside and walkways. The health implication as failure to evacuate the refuse could provoke an outbreak of diseases as a result of abandoned refuse containers by the roadside until they emitted stinking odour into the atmosphere, causing serious discomfort to the residents.


Ilorin is home to more than two universities, the University of Ilorin popularly known as Unilorin and Al-Hikmah University ilorin, it also has Kwara State University popularly known as Kwasu within its metropolitan area. The Federal Agricultural and Rural Management Training Institute, which operates a research farm, it is located near the city. Teacher-training colleges and a vocational trade school also serve Ilorin. Health services include a number of government, private, and religious hospitals and a nursing home for the elderly.

It is also home to the following educational institutions:

  • International Aviation College, Ilorin.
  • Emmanuel Baptist College
  • Kwara State College of Arabic and Islamic Legal Studies, Ilorin
  • Kwara State College of Education, Ilorin
  • Kwara State Polytechnic
  • Unilorin Secondary School
  • Agriculture and Rural Management Training Institute
  • Muhyideen College of Education
  • Ansarul Islam Secondary School, Ilorin
  • Army Day Secondary School, Sobi Barrack, Ilorin
  • Baboko Community Secondary School, Ilorin
  • Bishop Smith Memorial College
  • Cherubim and Seraphim College, Ilorin
  • Federal Government College, Ilorin
  • Federal Training Center, Ilorin
  • Government Day Secondary School, Karuma, Ilorin
  • Government Girls Day Secondary School, Ilorin
  • Government Secondary School, Adeta, Ilorin
  • Government Secondary School, Ilorin Founded in 1914
  • Ilorin Grammar School, Ilorin
  • IQRA College, Ilorin
  • Michael Imoudu Institute for Labour Studies
  • Mount Carmel College, Ilorin
  • National Centre for Agricultural Mechanization
  • Saint Anthony's Secondary School, Ilorin
  • School of Nursing and Midwifery, Ilorin
  • Socrates College, Ilorin
  • U.M.C.A High school, Ilorin
  • United Missionary Theological Seminary
  • Ilorin Comprehensive High School (ICOHS)
  • Islamic College Ilorin (ICI)

See also

  • Ilorin Emirate




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