Jamhuriyar Taraiyar Nijeriya (Hausa)
Ȯha nke Ohaneze Naíjíríà (Igbo)
Àpapọ̀ Olómìnira ilẹ̀ Nàìjíríà (Yoruba)
Federal Republic of Nigeria
|Motto: "Unity and Faith, Peace and Progress"
|Anthem: "Arise, O Compatriots"
|Recognized regional languages
|Edo, Efik, Fulani, Hausa, Idoma, Igbo, Ijaw, Kanuri, Yoruba  and over 500 additional indigenous languages
|Presidential Federal republic
|from the United Kingdom
|Unification of Southern and Northern Nigeria
|Declared and recognized
|1 October 1960
|1 October 1963
|923,768 km² (32nd)
|$1.275 trillion (23rd)
|$504.57 billion (27th)
|Naira (₦) (
|not observed (UTC+1)
Nigeria, officially the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is the most populous country in Africa. Archaeological evidence shows that human habitation of the area dates back to at least 9000 B.C.E. The Benue-Cross River area is thought to be the original homeland of the Bantu-speaking migrants who spread across most of central and southern Africa in waves between the first millennium B.C.E. and the second millennium C.E.
On October 1, 1960, Nigeria declared its independence from the United Kingdom after decades of colonial rule. Nigeria re-achieved democracy in 1999 after a sixteen-year interruption; from 1966 until 1999, Nigeria had largely been ruled by military dictators from 1966-1979 and 1983-1998.
The Niger River Delta, once a source of slaves, now is the source of oil that generates billions of dollars in revenue for the government. Nigeria is a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.
Nigeria is located in western Africa on the Gulf of Guinea. Nigeria shares land borders with the Benin in the west, Chad and Cameroon in the east, Niger in the north, and borders the Gulf of Guinea in the south. Since 1991, its capital has been the centrally located city of Abuja; previously, the Nigerian government was headquartered in the coastal city Lagos. Nigeria has a total area of 356,669 mi² (923,768 km²; its size makes it the world's 32nd-largest country (after Tanzania). It is comparable in size to Venezuela and is about twice the size of the U.S. state of California.
The highest point in Nigeria is Chappal Waddi at 7,936 feet (2,419 m). The Jos Plateau in the center of the country rises 900 to 2,000 ft (275 to 610 m) above the surrounding plains. The weather on the plateau is cooler and wetter, so the area is densely populated and used for agriculture.
Nigeria has a varied landscape. From the Obudu Hills in the southeast through the beaches in the south; the rainforest, Lagos estuary, and savanna in the middle and southwest of the country; and the Sahel and the encroaching Sahara Desert in the extreme north.
Nigeria is also an important center for biodiversity. It is widely believed that the areas surrounding Calabar, Cross River State, contain the world's largest diversity of butterflies. The drill monkey is only found in the wild in southeast Nigeria and neighboring Cameroon.
Archaeological evidence shows that human habitation of the area dates back to at least 9000 B.C.E. More than 2,000 years ago the Nok people in central Nigeria produced sculptures that have been discovered by archaeologists on the Jos Plateau. In the northern part of the country, Kano and Katsina peoples have a recorded history that dates back to around the first millennium C.E. Hausa kingdoms and the Kanem-Bornu Empire prospered as trade posts between North and West Africa. The latter adopted Islam in the eleventh century.
To the south, the Yoruba kingdoms of Ifẹ and Oyo in the western bloc of the country were founded about 700-900 and 1400, respectively. Another prominent kingdom in southwestern Nigeria was the Kingdom of Benin, whose power lasted between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries. In the east, stateless small communities chose their own leaders.
The slave trade in West Africa, which peaked in the eighteenth century, disrupted the indigenous cultures, resulting in the emergence of new political, economic, and cultural trends. Even after Britain's abolition of the slave trade, other products were in demand, such as palm oil from the Niger Delta, so that the pattern of Africa exporting agricultural and forest products began.
England expanded its trade ties into political and military conquest in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, first in the south and then in the north. In many cases the local people fought for their freedom, with varied, if only temporary, success. The British had greater resources, including superior weapons, to draw on, and they had gained knowledge of the country from the activities of missionaries and explorers. Thus the Nigerian kingdoms and societies were conquered one after another. Under the British, hundreds of diverse groups were united in one country by 1914. Nevertheless, the nation's diversity made it difficult to govern centrally, a problem Britain solved with indirect rule by indigenous chiefs and kings. Indirect rule granted power to chiefs that exceeded their traditional role, promoting abuse of that power since they could no longer be removed by the people.
British goals were to have Nigeria produce raw materials such as tin and coal and consume manufactured goods. Agriculture was geared away from domestic consumption into export crops: palm oil and palm kernels in the east, cocoa and rubber in the west, peanuts and cotton in the north. Railroads and roads connected commercial centers with the ports. Foreign firms controlled the mines.
Gradually, however, a Western-educated elite and trade unions formed to press for better working conditions contributed to nationalist struggles and eventually independence. After World War II, Britain had lost its position as a major power, and the United Nations supported the ideals of democracy and self-determination.
Newly independent Nigeria's government was a coalition of regionally based political parties. The nation parted with its British legacy in 1963 and declared itself a federal republic centered around the three main regions. With their tradition of independence, the Igbo in the east emerged as leaders of the nationalist movement and took positions in the new government.
A military coup in 1966 ushered in an Igbo ruler who tried to unite the country by replacing the regional system with a unitary government. Northern military officers who mistrusted this plan staged a second coup, and Hausa and Fulani peoples in the north went on a rampage against Igbos living in their areas.
The genocide against Igbos increased their desire for autonomy and protection from the military's wrath. By May 1967, the Eastern Region had declared itself an independent state called the Republic of Biafra. The Nigerian side attacked Biafra, signaling the beginning of the 30-month war that ended in January 1970. Following the war, which claimed the lives of more than 1.5 million Igbos, Nigeria became even more mired in ethnic strife.
During the oil boom of the 1970s, Nigeria helped initiate the founding of OPEC and billions of dollars generated by production in the oil-rich Niger Delta flowed into the coffers of the Nigerian state. Increasing corruption and graft at all levels of government squandered most of these earnings. As oil production rose, the Nigerian economy and government grew increasingly dependent on the revenue it generated, while the simultaneous drop in agricultural production precipitated food shortages.
Nigerians participated in a brief return to democracy beginning in 1979 when power was transferred to a civilian regime that was viewed as corrupt and incompetent by virtually all sectors of Nigerian society, so when the regime was overthrown by the military coup of Mohammadu Buhari in 1984, it was generally viewed as a positive development. Buhari promised major reforms but his government proved little better than its predecessor, and his regime was overthrown via yet another military coup in 1985.
The new head of state, Ibrahim Babangida, promptly declared himself president and commander in chief of the armed forces and the ruling Supreme Military Council and set 1990 as the deadline for a return to democracy. Babangida instituted the International Monetary Fund's Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) to aid in the repayment of the country's crushing international debt. He also inflamed religious tensions throughout the nation. but particularly the south, by enrolling Nigeria in the Organization of the Islamic Conference. After surviving an abortive coup, he pushed back the promised return to democracy to 1992. When free and fair elections were finally held in 1993, Babangida declared the results null and void, sparking mass civilian violence that effectively shut the country down for weeks and forced Babangida to resign.
Babangida's caretaker regime survived only until late 1993, when General Sani Abacha took power in another military coup. Abacha proved to be perhaps Nigeria's most brutal ruler and employed violence on a wide scale to suppress the continuing pandemic of civilian unrest. Abacha was not only brutal but very corrupt. Money has been found in various Western European countries banks traced to him. He avoided coup plots by bribing army generals. The regime of terror came to an end in 1998 when the dictator was found dead amid dubious circumstances.
Return to civilian rule
Abacha's death finally yielded an opportunity for return to civilian rule, and Nigeria elected Olusegun Obasanjo, a Yoruba and former military head of state, as the new president. This ended almost 33 years of military rule (from 1966 until 1999), excluding the short-lived second republic (between 1979 and 1983) by military dictators who seized power in coups d'état and counter-coups during the Nigerian military juntas of 1966–1979 and 1983–1998. Although the elections that brought Obasanjo to power in 1999 and again in 2003 were condemned as unfree and unfair, Nigeria has shown marked improvements in attempts to tackle government corruption and to hasten development. Subsequent elections have run smoothly with relatively little violence or voter fraud.
Challenges facing the new government include unemployment, poverty, and crime. The Niger Delta, despite producing most of the nation's oil, receives only 13 percent of the revenue generated from oil sales. This perception of inequality has led to rebellions such as that of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND).
Government and politics
Nigeria is a Federal Republic modeled after the United States, with executive power exercised by the president and overtones of the Westminster (UK) model in the composition and management of the upper and lower houses in the bicameral legislative branch.
The president presides as both chief of state and head of government and is elected by popular vote to a maximum of two four-year terms. The president's power is checked by a Senate and a House of Representatives, which are combined in a bicameral body called the National Assembly. The Senate is a 109-seat body with three members from each state and one from the capital region of Abuja; members are elected by popular vote to four-year terms. The House contains 360 seats and the number of seats per state is determined by population.
Ethnocentricism and sectarianism (especially religious) have played a dominant role in Nigerian politics prior to independence and afterward. Nigeria's three largest ethnic groups have maintained historical preeminence in Nigerian politics; competition among these three groups, the Hausa-Fulani, Yoruba, and Igbo, has fueled corruption and graft.
There are four distinct systems of law in Nigeria:
- English Law which is derived from its colonial past with Britain;
- common law, a development of its postcolonial independence;
- customary law, which is derived from indigenous traditional norms and practices;
- Sharia law, used only in the predominantly Hausa and Muslim north of the country. An Islamic legal system was first implemented in Zamfara State in late 1999, 11 other states followed suit.
There is a judicial branch with a Supreme Court, which is regarded as the highest court of the land.
Nigeria is divided into 36 states and one Federal Capital Territory, which are further sub-divided into 774 Local Government Areas (LGAs). The plethora of states, of which there were only three at independence, reflects the country's tumultuous history and the difficulties of managing such a heterogeneous national entity at all levels of government.
Nigeria has at least six cities with a population of over one million people (from largest to smallest: Lagos, Kano, Ibadan, Kaduna, Port Harcourt, and Benin City), including Lagos, the largest city in sub-Saharan Africa with a population of over 10 million.
Upon gaining independence in 1960, Nigeria made the liberation and restoration of the dignity of Africa the centerpiece of its foreign policy and played a leading role in the fight against the apartheid regime in South Africa. Nigeria's foreign policy was soon tested in the 1970s after the country emerged united from its own civil war and quickly committed itself to the liberation struggles going on in Southern Africa. Though Nigeria never sent an expeditionary force, it offered more than rhetoric to the African National Congress (ANC) by taking a tough line with regard to the racist regime and its incursions in Southern Africa, in addition to expediting large sums to aid anti-colonial struggles. Nigeria was also a founding member of the Organization for African Unity (now the African Union), and has tremendous influence in West Africa and Africa on the whole. Nigeria has additionally founded regional cooperative efforts in West Africa, functioning as standard-bearer for ECOWAS and ECOMOG, economic and military organizations, respectively.
With this African-centred stance, Nigeria readily sent troops to the Congo at the behest of the United Nations shortly after independence (and has maintained membership since that time); Nigeria also supported several Pan African and pro-self-government causes in the 1970s, including garnering support for Angola's Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), SWAPO in Namibia, and aiding anti-colonial struggles in Mozambique and Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) militarily and economically.
Nigeria is a member of the International Criminal Court, and the Commonwealth of Nations.
Nigeria has remained a key player in the international oil industry since the 1970s and maintains membership in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) which it joined in 1971. Its status as a major petroleum producer figures prominently in its international relations with both developed countries, notably the United States and more recently the China and developing countries, notably Ghana, Jamaica, and Kenya.
The military in Nigeria have played a major role in the country's history since independence. Various juntas have seized control of the country and ruled it through most of its history. Its last period of rule ended in 1999 following the sudden death of dictator Sani Abacha in 1998.
Taking advantage of its role of sub-saharan Africa's most populated country, Nigeria has repositioned its military as an African peacekeeping force. Since 1995, the Nigerian military has been deployed as peacekeepers in Liberia (1997), Cote d'Ivoire (1997-1999), Sierra Leone 1997-1999, and presently in Sudan's Darfur region under an African Union mandate.
Active-duty personnel in the three Nigerian armed services total approximately 115,000. The army has about 99,000 personnel. The navy (7,000 members) is equipped with frigates, fast attack craft, corvettes, and coastal patrol boats. The Nigerian air force (9,000 members) flies transport, trainer, helicopter, and fighter aircraft. Nigeria has pursued a policy of developing domestic training and military production capabilities.
Nigeria has a strict policy of diversification in its military procurement from various countries. After the imposition of sanctions by many Western nations, Nigeria turned to China, Russia, North Korea, and India for the purchase of military equipment and training.
Years of military rule, corruption, and mismanagement have hobbled economic activity and output in Nigeria, despite the restoration of democracy and subsequent economic reform.
Petroleum plays a large role in the Nigerian economy, accounting for 40 percent of the GDP. It is the twelfth largest producer of petroleum in the world and the eighth largest exporter, and has the tenth largest proven reserves. However, due to crumbling infrastructure, ongoing civil strife in the Niger Delta—its main oil-producing region—and corruption, oil production and exports are not at full capacity.
Mineral resources that are present in Nigeria but not yet fully exploited are coal and tin. Other natural resources in the country include iron ore, limestone, niobium, lead, zinc, and arable land. Despite huge deposits of these natural resources, the mining industry in Nigeria is almost non-existent.
About 60 percent of Nigerians are employed in the agricultural sector. Agriculture used to be the principal foreign exchange earner of Nigeria. Perhaps one of the worst undesirable effects of the discovery of oil was the decline of that sector. Nigeria, which in the 1960s grew 98 percent of its own food and was a net food exporter, now must import much of the same cash crops it once exported. Agricultural products include groundnuts, palm oil, cocoa, coconut, citrus fruits, maize, millet, cassava, yams, and sugar cane. It also has a booming leather and textile industry.
Like many developing nations, Nigeria has accumulated a significant foreign debt. Many of the projects financed by these debts were inefficient, bedeviled by corruption, or failed to live up to expectations. Nigeria defaulted on its debt as arrears and penalty interest accumulated and increased the size of the debt. After a long campaign by the Nigerian authorities, in October 2005 Nigeria and its Paris Club creditors reached an agreement that will see Nigeria's debt reduced by approximately 60 percent. Nigeria will use part of its oil windfall to pay the residual 40 percent. This deal will free up at least $1.15 billion annually for poverty-reduction programs. In April 2006, Nigeria became the first African country to fully pay off its debt (estimated at $30 billion) owed to the Paris Club.
The currency unit of Nigeria is the Naira.
Nigeria has significant production and manufacturing facilities such as factories for Peugeot (the French car maker), Bedford (the English truck manufacturer), now a subsidiary of General Motors, and also manufactures T-shirts and processed food.
Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa. According to the United Nations, Nigeria has been undergoing explosive population growth and one of the highest growth and fertility rates in the world. One out of every four Africans is Nigerian.
Health, health care, and general living conditions in Nigeria are poor. HIV/AIDS rate in Nigeria is much lower compared to the other African nations such as Kenya or South Africa whose prevalence (percentage) rates are in the double digits. Nigeria, like many developing countries, also suffered from a polio crisis as well as periodic outbreaks of cholera, malaria, and sleeping sickness. A vaccination drive, spearheaded by the WHO, to combat polio and malaria has been met with controversy in some regions.
Education is also in a state of neglect, though after the oil boom on the oil price in the early 1970s, tertiary education was improved so it would reach every subregion of Nigeria. Education is provided free by the government, but the attendance rate for secondary education is low. The education system has been described as "dysfunctional," largely due to decaying institutional infrastructure.
Nigeria has more than 250 ethnic groups, with varying languages and customs, creating a country of rich ethnic diversity. The largest ethnic groups are the Yoruba, Fulani, Hausa, and Igbo (Ibo), accounting for 68 percent of the population; the Edo, Ijaw (ten percent), Kanuri, Ibibio, Nupe, and Tiv (27 percent); other minorities make up the rest (7 percent). The middle belt of Nigeria is known for its diversity of ethnic groups, including the Pyem, Goemai, and Kofyar. Other ethnic groups include the Ham.
There are small minorities of English, Americans, East Indians, Chinese, Japanese, Syrians, Lebanese, and refugees and immigrants from other West African or East African nations. These minorities mostly reside in major cities such as Lagos and Abuja, or in the Niger Delta as employees for the major oil companies. A number of Cubans settled in Nigeria as political refugees following the Cuban Revolution. A number of them include Afro-Cubans and mixed-raced Cubans.
The number of languages currently cataloged in Nigeria is 521, which includes 510 living languages, two second languages without native speakers, and nine extinct languages. In some areas of Nigeria, ethnic groups speak more than one language. The official language of Nigeria, English, was chosen to facilitate the cultural and linguistic unity of the country. The choice of English as the official language was partially related to the fact that a part of Nigerian population spoke English as a result of British colonial occupation.
The major languages spoken in Nigeria represent three major families of African languages - the majority are Niger-Congo languages, such as Yoruba, Igbo. The Hausa language is Afro-Asiatic; and Kanuri, spoken in the northeast, primarily Borno State, is a member of the Nilo-Saharan family. While most ethnic groups prefer to communicate in their own languages, English, being the official language, is widely used for education, business transactions, and for official purposes. It is not spoken in rural areas, however. With the majority of Nigeria's populace in rural areas, the major languages of communication in the country remain tribal languages.
Nigeria has a variety of religions which tend to vary regionally. This situation accentuates regional and ethnic distinctions and has often been seen as a major source of sectarian conflict among the population. The two main religions are Christianity and Islam. Traditional religious belief systems are also widely practiced. Islam dominates in the north of the country, with some northern states having incorporated Shari'a law amid controversy.
Nigeria has a rich literary history, both prior to British imperialism and after, as Nigerians have authored several works of post-colonial literature in the English language. The first African Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka, is Nigeria's best-known writer and playwright. Other Nigerian writers and poets who are well known on the international stage include Chinua Achebe, John Pepper Clark, Ben Okri, Sonny Oti, and Ken Saro Wiwa, who was executed in 1995 by the military regime.
Nigeria has the second largest newspaper market in Africa (after Egypt) with an estimated circulation of several million copies daily.
Nigerian music includes many kinds of folk and popular music, some of which are known worldwide. Styles of folk music are related to the multitudes of ethnic groups in the country, each with their own techniques, instruments, and songs. As a result, there are many different types of music that come from Nigeria. Many late-twentieth-century musicians, such as Fela Kuti, have famously fused cultural elements of various indigenous music with American Jazz and Soul to form Afrobeat music. JuJu music, which is percussion music fused with traditional music from the Yoruba nation and made famous by King Sunny Ade, is also from Nigeria. There is also fuji music, a Yoruba percussion style, created and popularized by Mr. Fuji, Alhaji Sikiru Ayinde Barrister. Afan Music was invented and popularized by the Ewu-born poet and musician Umuobuarie Igberaese. Afan Music was invented and popularized by the Ewu-born poet and musician Umuobuarie Igberaese. There is a budding hip-hop movement in Nigeria. Christogonus Ezebuiro Obinna, alias Dr. Sir Warrior, and the Oriental Brothers International Band were famous in the Nigerian Igbo highlife music scene for several decades as well as performing internationally.
Other notable musicians from Nigeria include: Sade Adu, King Sunny Adé, Onyeka Onwenu, Dele Sosimi, Adewale Ayuba, Ezebuiro Obinna, Alhaji Sikiru Ayinde Barrister, Bennie King, Ebenezer Obey, Umobuarie Igberaese, Femi Kuti, Lagbaja, Dr. Alban, Wasiu Alabi, Bola Abimbola, Zaki Adze, Tuface Idibia, Aṣa, Nneka, Wale, P Square, and D'Banj.
Nigeria has been called "the heart of African music" because of its role in the development of West African highlife and palm-wine music, which fuses native rhythms with techniques imported from the Congo, Brazil, Cuba, and elsewhere.
The Nigerian film industry, known as Nollywood is famous throughout Africa. Many of the film studios are based in Lagos and Abuja, and the industry is now a very lucrative income for these cities.
Like many nations, football is Nigeria's national sport. There is also a local Premier League of football. Nigeria's national football team, known as the Super Eagles, has made the World Cup on three occasions:1994, 1998, and 2002. It won the African Cup of Nations in 1980 and 1994, and also hosted the Junior World Cup. Nigeria won the gold medal for football in the 1996 Summer Olympics (in which they beat Brazil). According to the official November 2006 FIFA World Rankings, Nigeria is currently fifth-ranked football nation in Africa and the 36th highest in the world.
Despite its vast government revenue from the mining of petroleum, Nigeria is beset by a number of societal problems due primarily to a history of inept governance. Some of these problems are listed below.
Homosexuality is illegal in Nigeria as it runs counter the country's deeply ingrained cultural and religious mores. Gay sex is punishable by imprisonment in the south and possibly death in the Muslim north.
Nigeria has one of the developing world's worst environmental records. Oil spills in dense areas are not uncommon, and raw sewage is a frequent problem in all major cities.
Due to its multitude of diverse, sometimes competing ethno-linguistic groups, Nigeria has been beset since prior to independence with sectarian tensions and violence. This is particularly true in the oil-producing Niger Delta region, where both state and civilian forces employ varying methods of coercion in attempts to gain control over regional petroleum resources. The civilian population, and especially certain ethnic groups like the Ogoni, have experienced severe environmental degradation due to petroleum extraction, but when these groups have attempted to protest these injustices, they have been met with repressive measures by military forces. As a result, strife and deterioration in this region continue.
There are also significant tensions on a national scale, especially between the primarily Muslim, highly conservative northern population and the Christian population from the southeastern part of the country.
Since the end of the Nigerian Civil War in 1970, ethnic and religious violence has continued. Violence between Muslims and Christians occurred until early 2004. There has subsequently been a period of relative harmony since the government introduced tough new measures against religious violence in all affected parts of the country.
Nigeria has been reorganizing its health system since the Bamako Initiative of 1987 formally promoted a community-based method of increasing accessibility of drugs and health-care services to the population. This results in more efficient and equitable provision of services.
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