About Nigeria

The Federal Republic of Nigeria is a federal constitutional republic located in West Africa. It shares borders with Benin, Chad, Cameroon, and Niger. In the south, its coast is in the Gulf of Guinea. The Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba are the largest ethnic groups. In Nigeria, approximately half are Muslim and half Christian. A small minority practice indigenous religions.

There is evidence that human habitation dates to 9000 BC. The area near the Cross River and Benue is believed to be the Bantu homeland. The Bantu migrated across most of southern and central Africa between the 1st and 2nd millennium BC.

The country is Africa’s most populous and has the eighth-largest population in the world. It is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations and is one of the “Next Eleven” economies. Nigeria’s economy is one of the fastest growing in the world and projections show it will continue to do so into the future. It is the largest exporter of oil in Africa and the continent’s largest economy. As a regional power, Nigeria dominates West Africa.

The population of Nigerian is estimated at 199,441,213 million (2018).

History

The earliest terracotta sculptures were from the Nok people of central Nigeria. These suggested a social structure and religion similar to the ancient Egyptian style.

The Kano and Katsina had history in Nigeria’s north from 999. The Kanem-Bornu Empire and the Hausa kingdoms had trade posts from North and West Africa. The Fulani under Usman dan Fodio had an empire that continued from the 1800s until 1903 when the Europeans divided their lands. From one to two thirds of the Fulani people from 1750 to 1900 were slaves.

From 700 to 1400 the Yoruba kingdoms of Ife and Oyo were at their height in the country’s southwest. The Ife produced terra cotta and bronze figures. The Oyo at one point stretched from western Nigeria to Togo. In Yoruba mythology, the Ife-Ife were the human race’s source. In the southwest, the Kingdom of Benin lasted from the 15th to the 19th century and stretched as far as the city of Eko.

The oldest kingdom in Nigeria was the Kingdom of Nri of the Igbo people in southwestern Nigeria that dated from the 10th century until 1911. Eze Nri ruled the Nri Kingdom. Igbo culture is considered to be centered in the city of Nri.

Colonial Era

The first Europeans to trade in Nigeria were the Portuguese from the port they called Lagos and in Calabar. These traders dealt with coastal ethnicities and traded in slaves. Due to this trade, many citizens in former British slave nations descend from Nigerian ethnicities. In 1807, Britain abolished its slave trade. The West Africa Squadron was established after the Napoleonic Wars to attempt to halt international slave traffic.

In 1886, the Royal Niger Company was chartered under Sir George Taubman Goldie’s leadership after the international community recognized British regional claims. The company’s lands came under British governmental control in 1900. Nigeria became a British protectorate in 1901. Wars were fought by the states of what became Nigeria against the British in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Some of these were the 1897 conquest of Benin and the Anglo-Aro War from 1901-1902.

The Niger area became the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria in 1914. The modern economy developed more rapidly in the south than the north. The political consequences of this division still remain to this day. In 1936, northern Nigeria finally ended slavery.

After World War II, the British moved Nigeria toward self-government in response to growing nationalism and independence demands.

Post-Independence

Nigeria gained its independence on October 1, 1960. The new kingdom incorporated many peoples with their own aspirations for sovereignty. A coalition of parties were part of the government including, the Nigerian People’s Congress (NPC) and the National Council of Nigeria and Cameroons (NCMC). The NCMC was led by Nnamdi Azikiwe, who became the country’s first Governor-General in 1960. The Action Group (AG) was the main opposition and was dominated by the Yoruba and led by Obafemi Awolowo. There were sharp differences between the main ethnic groups in Nigeria which were the Hausa mostly from the north, the Igbo predominantly in the east, and the Yoruba in the west.

Southern Cameroon joined the Republic of Cameroon and northern Cameroon stayed part of Nigeria. At this point, northern Nigeria was far larger than the southern part. Nigeria left the British in 1963 when it became a Federal Republic with Azikiwe as the president. 1965 elections left the AG out of power in the western region in favor of the Nigerian National Democratic Party. This party was a group of conservatives from the Yoruba group and was backed by the Federal Government.

Nigerian-Biafran War

Perceived corruption led to back-to-back military coups in 1966. The first one was led by a group of young leftists and was partially successful. The plotters killed the Prime Minister, the Premier of the Northern Region, and the Premier of the Western Region. Due to logistical regions, the coup could not set up a central government. The acting president handed control over to the army under General JTU Aguyi-Ironsi.

Another coup occurred that northern military officers supported who were in favor of the NPC. This allowed Lt. Colonel Yakubu Gowonto lead the country. This led to an increase in violence and ethnic tensions. The coup resulted in violence against the Igbo.

This violence increased the Igbo’s desire for autonomy. The Eastern Region declared independence in 1967 as the Republic of Biafra under Lt. Colonel Emeka Ojukwu. This led to the Nigerian Civil War with the Nigerian side attacking the Biafra region that same year. The war lasted 30 months and cost one million lives.

The war ended but ethnic strife increased as southern Nigeria was now conquered territory. The head state changed twice after a bloodless coup brought Murtala Mohammed to power. Olusegun Obansanjo succeeded him after his assassination.

Military Era

Nigeria joined OPEC during the 1970s oil boom which brought billions of dollars to the state. Most of the earnings were lost to corruption and graft in the government. The northern military established benefitted from the boom to the people’s detriment. This led to the federal government becoming the center of political power. With the rise of oil production, the government became dependent on oil revenues, which destabilized the economy.

There was a brief return to democracy in 1979 when Obasanjo turned over power to Shehu Shagari’s civilian government. This new government was seen by the Nigerian people as corrupt and incompetent. Mohammadu Buhari led a military coup that overthrew the regime after fraudulent elections in 1984. The people view this in a positive light. While reforms were promised, Buhari’s government failed and was overthrown in another coup in 1985.

Ibrahim Babangida became the new leader and declared himself Commander in Chief and President. The ruling military council set 1990 as a deadline to return to democracy. Babangida instituted an IMF Structural Adjustment Program to aid in debt repayment. When he enrolled Nigeria in the Organization of the Islamic Conference, tensions in the south were inflamed.

The democracy deadline was moved to 1992 when Babangida survived a coup. In 1993, elections were finally held and Babangida voided results showing Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola as the winner. This caused massive protests which shut the country down for weeks. Babangida was forced to keep his promise to turn over power to a civilian government. His regime was considered the height of corruption in Nigeria.

In late 1993, General Sani Abacha took over in another coup and proved to be the country’s most brutal ruler. He used violence to suppress civilian unrest. He bribed military officials to avoid a coup and hundreds of millions of dollars were traced to him in 1999. In 1998, he died under suspicious circumstances and the regime ended.

Recent History

In 1999, democracy returned when Olusegun Obasanjo became the new elected president. This ended almost thirty three years of rule by the military.

Despite opinion that the 1999 and 2003 election were unfair, there has been improvement in reducing government corruption and increasing development.

In 2007, elections brought Umaru Yar’Aduaof the People’s Democratic Party to power in elections deemed by the international community to be largely flawed.

The oil producing region in the Niger Delta has caused ethnic violence. Inadequate infrastructure is also a major problem.

After Yar’Adua died in 2010, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan became the president. At that time Jonathan expressed that his focus would be on reducing corruption and electoral reform.

In 2010, the National Assembly approved Namadi Sambo as Vice President of Nigeria.

Government and Politics

Nigeria models its federal republic on the United States. The president exercises executive power. There is a bicameral legislature with upper and lower houses. Muhammadu Buhari is the current president. The president heads the state and national executive and is elected to four year terms no more than two times.

The Senate and House of Representatives check the president’s power. There are 109 members of the Senate with three members for each state and one from the capital region. They are elected to four year terms. There are 360 seats in the house with population of states determining the number of seats.

Throughout Nigeria’s history, tribalism, religious persecution and ethnocentrism have played a major role in politics. Different tribes and ethnicities have attempted to shift the federal government’s power to their favor. Active secessionist movements have also occurred. The three main ethnic groups, the Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba, have been the dominant ones in politics.

The country’s political parties are currently irreligious and pan national. The People’s Democratic party of Nigeria holds 223 House seats and 76 in the Senate. Muhammadu Buhari leads the opposition All Nigeria People’s Party which holds 96 House and 27 Senate seats.

Corruption, like in other African countries, continues to be a problem. Vote rigging and other coercion methods occur by all parties in order to be competitive in elections.

Law

Nigeria has four distinct legal systems which are English law, common law, customary law, and Sharia law. Each is used in different circumstances and regions.

The highest court in the judicial branch is the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

Foreign Relations

After independence, Nigeria believed in restoring Africa’s dignity and also fought apartheid in South Africa. In the 1960s, the country maintained close ties with Israel.

After the civil war ended in the 1970s, the country became committed to liberation disputes in Southern Africa. While it never sent troops, it did send large amounts of money to anti-colonial struggles. Nigeria was an initial member of the Organization for African Unity, which became the African Union. It also founded regional efforts in West Africa. At the U.N.’s request, Nigeria sent troops to the Congo after independence.

As part of OPEC, Nigeria has been a major petroleum producer and key participant in the international oil industry.

Due to economic troubles, Nigerians have emigrated to Australia, North America, and Europe. In the U.S., one million Nigerians have emigrated and constitute the Nigerian American population.

Military

The military consists of an Army, Air Force, and Navy. The military has played a large role in the country’s politics, participating in coups and junta throughout Nigeria’s history. The Nigerian military has participated in a number of peacekeeping operations in Africa.

Geography

Nigeria is on the Gulf of Guinea with a total area of 923,768 sq. km. It is approximately twice the size of the U.S. state of California. It borders Niger, Chad, Benin, and Cameroon. Chappal Waddi is the highest point at 2,419 meters. The Benue and Niger are the two main rivers which meet and empty into the Niger Delta.

Nigeria is a biodiversity center and it is believed that the areas around Calabar contain the most diverse population of butterflies. The only location where the drill monkey is found in the wild is in Southeast Nigeria and Cameroon.

The landscape is varied with the far south is defined by tropical rainforest. The Obudu Plateau is in the southeast. The southwest and southeast have coastal plains. There is a mangrove swamp in the south as well. The fresh water swamp is north of this.

The valleys of the Niger and Benue Rivers are the most expansive topographical region. Southwest of the Niger is rugged highlands. The Mambilla Plateau, the highest in Nigeria, is southeast of the Benue. There is a rich rainforest near the Cameroon border on the coast.

Between the far north and far south is savannah. This area has three categories which are the Guinean forest-savanna mosaic, plains of tall grass, and Sahel savannah. There is desert-like climate in the Sahel. Lake Chad is in the dry, north-east part of the country.

Environmental Issues

Oils spills and other environmental problems occur in the Delta region. Other problems are waste management, soil degradation, and climate change.

Poor industrial planning and increased urbanization contribute to the water pollution problem. Untreated waste is often dumped in waterways.

Subdivisions

There are 36 states and one capital territory. These are further subdivided into 774 Local Government Areas (LGAs). Six cities have over one million in population, which are Lagos, Kano, Ibadan, Kaduna, Port Harcourt, and Benin City. Lagos’ urban area alone has a population of over 10 million.

Economy

Nigeria’s economic freedom score is 57.3, making its economy the 111th freest in the 2019 Index. Its overall score has decreased by 1.2 points, with a steep drop in fiscal health and lower scores on judicial effectiveness and trade freedom outweighing improvements in government integrity, business freedom, and labor freedom. Nigeria is ranked 14th among 47 countries in the Sub-Saharan Africa region, and its overall score is above the regional average but below the world average.

Although Nigerian governments often pledge to enlarge the private sector through free-market reforms, even sometimes proposing liberalization of the oil sector, the implementation of such policies has been very slow. State management of scarce resources has empowered political elites who fear that reforms will push up consumer prices, stoke political instability, and antagonize the middle classes, who rely on government-subsidized goods, and private-sector companies that depend on state handouts and protectionist policies.

Nigeria’s economy is mixed and is an emerging market. The World Bank classifies it as a middle income country. It has abundant resources, well-developed financial, communications, transport, and legal sectors, and a stock exchange that is Africa’s second largest. It is the U.S.’ largest trading partner in sub-Saharan Africa and provides a fifth of its oil. The U.S. is Nigeria’s largest foreign investor.

Key Sectors

The country is the world’s 12th-largest oil producer and the 8th-largest exporter. Its reserves are the 10th largest and it joined OPEC in 1971. Petroleum is 40 percent of GDP and 80 percent of the government’s earnings. Political unrest in the oil production areas has disrupted oil production.

The country’s telecommunications markets are one of the fastest growing. The government has started to expand its communications infrastructure. The country has three space satellites monitored from Abuja.

The financial industry is developed and has a mix of international and local banks, brokerage firms, asset management companies, insurers, equity funds, and investment banks.

There are also significant mineral resources that are not exploited, including coal, bauxite, gold, natural gas, tantalite, tin, iron ore, niobium, limestone, lead, and zinc.

In the past, agriculture was a principal foreign export earner. It was the largest exporter of cocoa, groundnuts, and palm oil. About 60 percent of those in Nigeria work in the agricultural sector.

Demographics

Nigeria has Africa’s highest population, which is estimated at 199,441,213 million (2018), with a 3.50 percent growth rate. The country’s growth and fertility rates are also some of the highest. In 1950, Nigeria only had 33 million people.

Over 43 percent of the people are between 0-14 years old, while those between 15 and 65 make up close to 54 percent of the population. The death rate is much lower than the birth rate.

General living conditions and health care are poor. The life expectancy is for males is 51 years, and 53 for females. Infant mortality is 74.09 deaths per 1,000 live births.

Education is neglected. Education is free but poorly attended. Infrastructure for education is decaying. An estimated 61 percent of the people in Nigeria are literate.

Ethno-Linguistic Groups

There are over 250 ethnic groups, each with different languages and customs. The Fulani/Hausa, Yoruba, and Igbo are 68 percent of the total population. Other groups include the Edo, Kanuri, Ijaw, Ibibio, Ebira Nupe, and Tiv.

Minorities of Americans, British, East Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Syrian, Greek, and Lebanese immigrants also live in Nigeria.

Language

There are 521 known languages in Nigeria, including 510 living languages. In some areas, ethnic groups speak more than one language. English is the official language. This language is used in education and government.

There are three main language families, which are Niger-Congo languages, Afro-Asiatic, and Nilo-Saharan. In rural languages, the indigenous languages are mostly used. Pidgin English is also widely used.

Culture

There are many well-known Nigerian writers, include Wole Soyinka, the first African Nobel Laureate in Literature, and the late Chinua Achebe. Nigeria is also Africa’s second largest newspaper market.

Music and Film

West African highlife, Afrobeat, and palm-wine music are part of Nigerian music. Other artists, such as Fela Kuti, fuse indigenous music with American Jazz and Soul, which is known as Afrobeat. Percussion music that is combined with traditional Yoruba music is known as JuJu. Hip hop is also gaining followers in Nigeria.

The film industry is known as Nollywood. This is the second largest movie producer in the world. Most studios are based in Lagos and Enugu.

Religion

Nigeria is almost divided half and half between followers if Islam and Christianity. Traditional religions are also followed. Most Muslims reside in the north and Christians mostly are in the south.

Most Muslims are Sunni, but minorities of Shia and Sufi are present. A few northern states use Sharia law in lieu of secular legal systems.

Of the Christians, approximately half are Roman Catholic and the other half are Protestant.

Cuisine

In Nigerian cuisine, spices and other flavorings are used with palm oil to create sauces and soups.

Sports

Football is the most popular sport. The national team is known as the Super Eagles and has made the World Cup competition four times. It has won the African Cup of Nations twice. FIFA ranks Nigeria as the sixth-best football nation in Africa and the 44th-highest in the world.

Crime

There is a substantial organized crime network in Nigeria that is active in drug trafficking. This includes the transcontinental drug trade.

Nigeria is also known for a type of advance fee fraud known as 419. The government created a task force to address this. Piracy also occurs against small ships moving oil materials and employees in the Niger Delta.

ADC Editor
ADC editors curate, aggregate, and produce news and information for Africa. Contribute stories by sending an email to media@africa.com.