The Department started as a sub-Department under the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures in 1974. In 1978, it produced its first set of graduates. In 1981, it gained its autonomy as a fully fledged Department. Dr. P.A. Nwachukwu (as he then was) was its pioneer Head of Department. The Department was until 2005 called and referred to as Department of Linguistics and Nigerian Languages. In 2005, the Senate approved a new name for it (as above entitled). The Department has since its inception graduated about 50 doctoral, hundreds of Masters and thousands of bachelor degree candidates who are well placed in the development of the nations.  

The Department has progressively designed and redesigned its programmes to meet the challenges of the society. The programme is now expanded to include other Nigerian languages such as Yoruba, Hausa and Ibibio. This means that the Department will have the capacity to produce graduates in these languages. These programmes are designed to suit candidates with School Certificates and General Certificates in Education and those with Certificates in Education and Diplomas in relevant areas as approved by the University Senate. Each of the programmes can therefore be run in three years or four years depending on the qualification of the applicant.