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Federal Republic of Nigeria


FLAG: The national flag consists of three vertical stripes. The green outer stripes represent Nigerian agriculture. The white center stripe represents unity and peace.

ANTHEM: Arise, All Compatriots.

MONETARY UNIT: On 1 January 1973, the Nigerian pound (n£) was replaced by the naira (n) of 100 kobo at a rate of n2 = n£1. There are coins of ½, 1, 5, 10, 25, and 50 kobo and 1 naira, and notes of 5, 10, 20, and 50 naira. n1 = $0.00754 (or $1 = n132.59) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: As of May 1975, the metric system is the official standard, replacing the imperial measures.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; National Day, 1 October; Christmas, 25 December; Boxing Day, 26 December. Movable Christian religious holidays include Good Friday and Easter Monday; movable Muslim religious holidays include 'Id al-Fitr, 'Id al-'Adha', and Milad an-Nabi.

TIME: 1 pm = noon GMT.


Located at the extreme inner corner of the Gulf of Guinea on the west coast of Africa, Nigeria occupies an area of 923,768 sq. km (356,669 sq mi), extending 1,127 km (700 mi) ew and 1,046 km (650 mi) ns. Comparatively, the area occupied by Nigeria is slightly more than twice the size of the state of California. It is bordered by Chad on the NE, by Cameroon on the e, by the Atlantic Ocean (Gulf of Guinea) on the s, by Benin (formerly Dahomey) on the w, and by Niger on the nw and n, with a total boundary length of 4,900 km (3,045 mi), of which 853 km (530 mi) is coastline. The borders between Nigeria and Chad and Nigeria and Cameroon are disputed, and there have been occasional border clashes.

Nigeria's capital city, Abuja, is located in the center of the country.


Along the entire coastline of Nigeria lies a belt of mangrove swamp forest from 16 to 96 km (1060 mi) in width, which is intersected by branches of the Niger and innumerable other smaller rivers and creeks. Beyond the swamp forest is a zone, from 80 to 160 km (50100 mi) wide, of undulating tropical rain forest. The country then rises to a plateau at a general elevation of about 600 m (2,000 ft) but reaches a maximum of 2,042 m (6,700 ft) on the eastern border in the Shebshi Mountains, and the vegetation changes from woodland to savanna, with thick forest in the mountains. In the extreme north, the country approaches the southern part of the Sahara.

The Niger, the third-largest river of Africa, enters Nigeria from the northwest and runs in a southeasterly direction, meeting its principal tributary, the Benue, at Lokoja, about 550 km (340 mi) from the sea. It then flows south to the delta, through which it empties into the Gulf of Guinea via numerous channels. Other main tributaries of the Niger are the Sokoto and Kaduna rivers. The second great drainage system of Nigeria flows north and east from the central plateau and empties into Lake Chad. Kainji Lake, in the northwest, was created by construction of a dam on the Niger above Jebba.


Although Nigeria lies wholly within the tropical zone, there are wide climatic variations in different regions of the country. Near the coast, the seasons are not sharply defined. Temperatures rarely exceed 32°c (90°f), but humidity is very high and nights are hot. Inland, there are two distinct seasons: a wet season from April to October, with generally lower temperatures, and a dry season from November to March, with midday temperatures that surpass 38°c (100°f) but relatively cool nights, dropping as low as 12°c (54°f). On the Jos Plateau, temperatures are more moderate.

Average rainfall along the coast varies from about 180 cm (70 in) in the west to about 430 cm (170 in) in certain parts of the east. Inland, it decreases to around 130 cm (50 in) over most of central Nigeria and only 50 cm (20 in) in the extreme north.

Two principal wind currents affect Nigeria. The harmattan, from the northeast, is hot and dry and carries a reddish dust from the desert; it causes high temperatures during the day and cool nights. The southwest wind brings cloudy and rainy weather.


The natural vegetation is divisible into two main sections directly related to the chief climatic regions of the country: (1) high forest, including both swamp and rain forests, and (2) savanna. Along the coastal area, the mangrove tree predominates, while immediately inland is freshwater swamp forest, which is somewhat more diversified and includes varieties of palms, the abura, and mahogany. North of the swamp forest lies near the rain forest, which forms a belt with an average width of some 130 km (80 mi). Here, trees reach as much as 60 m (200 ft) in height. Principal trees include the African mahogany, iroko, African walnut, and the most popular export wood, the obeche. Farther inland, the rain forest becomes displaced by tall grass and deciduous trees of small stature, characteristic of the savanna.

Few large animals are found in the rain forest; gorillas and chimpanzees in decreasing numbers are present, as well as baboons and monkeys. Reptiles abound, including crocodiles, lizards, and snakes of many species. Although many kinds of mammals can be found inland from the rain forest, these are not nearly so plentiful as in East or South Africa. Nigeria possesses two dozen species of antelope, but large concentrations of animals, even the common antelope, are rarely observed. The hippopotamus, elephant, giraffe, leopard, and lion now remain only in scattered localities and in diminishing number. Wildcats, however, are more common and widely distributed. Wildlife in the savanna includes antelope, lions, leopards, gazelles, and desert hyenas. Nigeria also abounds in bird life with a great number of species being represented.

As of 2002, there were at least 274 species of mammals, 286 species of birds, and over 4,700 species of plants throughout the country.


Many of Nigeria's environmental problems are those typical of developing states. Excessive cultivation has resulted in loss of soil fertility. Increased cutting of timber has made inroads into forest resources, exceeding replantings. Between 1983 and 1993 alone, Nigeria lost 20% of its forest and woodland areas. In 2000, about 14.8% of the total land area was forested.

Oil spills, the burning of toxic wastes, and urban air pollution are problems in more developed areas. In the early 1990s, Nigeria was among the 50 nations with the world's highest levels of carbon dioxide emissions, which totaled 96.5 million metric tons, a per capita level of 0.84 metric tons. However, emissions levels have since dropped significantly.

Water pollution is also a problem due to improper handling of sewage. Nigeria has 221 cu km of renewable water resources. Fifty-four percent of the annual withdrawal is used for farming activity and 15% for industrial purposes.

The principal environmental agencies are the Environmental Planning and Protection Division of the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, and the analogous division within the federal Ministry of Industry.

In 2003, about 3.3% of the total land area was protected. According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), the number of threatened species included 25 types of mammals, 9 species of birds, 2 types of reptiles, 13 species of amphibians, 12 species of fish, 1 species of other invertebrate, and 170 species of plants. Threatened species include the drill, Presuu's red colobus, and the Ibadan malimbe. The Sahara oryx has become extinct in the wild.


The population of Nigeria in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 131,530,000, which placed it at number 9 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 3% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 43% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 102 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 20052010 was expected to be 2.4%, a rate the government viewed as too high. The projected population for the year 2025 was 190,287,000. The overall population density was 142 per sq km (369 per sq mi), but regional differences are significant; population is densest in the south and sparsest in the north.

The UN estimated that 44% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 3.72%. The capital city, Abuja, had a population of 452,000 in that year. The principal cities include Lagos, the former capital and still the largest city, with an estimated metropolitan population of 14,037,000 and the highest population density of any major African urban conglomeration. Kano had a metropolitan population of 2,884,000, and Ibadan had 2,649,000.

The prevalence of HIV/AIDS has had a significant impact on the population of Nigeria. The UN estimated that 5.8% of adults between the ages of 1549 were living with HIV/AIDS in 2001. The AIDS epidemic causes higher death and infant mortality rates, and lowers life expectancy.


Immigrants are drawn from neighboring nations by economic opportunity. On 17 January 1983, Nigeria, suffering from an economic crisis brought about by decreased earnings from oil, ordered all resident aliens to leave the country. Some 700,000 Ghanaians departed during the following weeks, as did smaller numbers from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Niger, Togo, and Burkina Faso. In 1985, about 200,000 to 250,000 aliens were expelled, including about 100,000 from Ghana and 50,000 from Niger.

As of 2004, there were 8,395 refugees in Nigeria. Of these, some 5,341 were settled in a camp at Oru. The remainder were in Lagos or at various locations in north Nigeria. In that same year there were 1,086 asylum seekers and 364 returned refugees. In 2004, some 16,686 Nigerians were refugees in Cameroon. In that same year 17,000 Nigerians applied for asylum in 19 countries, mainly Austria, France, and Ireland, followed by other Western countries and South Africa.

The net migration rate in 2005 was an estimated 0.27 migrants per 1,000 population. Worker remittances in 2003 amounted to an estimated $1.3 billion. The government views the migration levels as satisfactory.


There are more than 250 different ethnic groups within the country, none of which holds a majority. The four largest ethnic groups are the Hausa and Fulani, which together account for about 28% of the population; the Yoruba, accounting for 21% of the population; and the Ibos with 18% of the population. The Ijaw of the South Delta make up 10% of the people, followed by Kanuri (4%), the Ibibio (3.5%), and the Tiv (2.5%).

Yoruba predominate in Ogun, Ondo, Oyo, and Osun states. The Ibo (Igbo) predominate in Anambra, Imo, Abia, and Enugu states. The Hausa and Fulani constitute the largest single groups in Sokoto, Kaduna, Jigawa, Katsina, and Kano states. Other important groups include the Kanuri in Borno and Yobe states; the Edo (Bini) in Edo State; the Ibibio in Akwa Ibam State; the Ijaw (Ijo) in Rivers State; the Tiv in Benue and Plateau states; and the Nupe in Niger State.


The official language is English, although there are over 300 distinct indigenous tongues. Hausa is the mother tongue of more than 40% of the inhabitants of the northern states. Yoruba is commonly used in southwestern urban centers, including Lagos. Ibo and Fulani are also widely spoken. Ethnic divisions roughly reflect the distribution of other vernaculars.


Religious affiliation in Nigeria is strongly related to ethnicity, with rather distinct regional divisions between ethnic groups. The northern states, dominated by the Hausa and Fulani groups, are predominantly Muslim while the southern ethnic groups have a large number of Christians. In the southwest, there is no predominant religion. The Yoruba tribe, which is the majority ethnic group in the southwest, practice Christianity, Muslim, and/or the traditional Yoruba religion, which centers on the belief in one supreme god and several lesser deities. The Ibo of the east are primarily Catholic or Methodist, with some traditional practices included.

Overall statistics indicate that about 50% of the population are Muslim, with a majority practicing the Sunni branch of the faith. About 40% are Christian and about 10% practice traditional African religions or no religion at all. Many people include elements of traditional beliefs in their own practice of Christianity or Islam. The Christian community is composed of Roman Catholics (the largest denomination), Methodists, Anglicans, Baptists, Presbyterians, and members of Evangelical and Pentecostal groups.

Though the constitution prohibits state and local governments from declaring an official religion, a number of states have recently adopted various forms of the Islamic criminal and civil law known as Shariah, a move which many Christians believe to be an adoption of Islam as the de facto religion. The constitution also provides for freedom of religion, however, some states have restricted religious demonstrations, processions, or gatherings as a matter of public security. Business owners and public officials have been known to discriminate against individuals of a faith different than their own in matters of providing services and hiring practices. The same type of discrimination exists between members of different ethnic groups. Certain Christian and Muslim holidays are officially observed.

There is a high degree of tension between Christians and Muslims with a record of violence against both groups. However, conflicts may stem primarily from ethnic and regional differences, since there are a number of reports of violence between different ethnic groups of the same religion.


The main waterways are the Niger and Benue rivers and a system of navigable creeks and lagoons in the southern part of the country. The Niger is navigable to Onitsha by large riverboat and to Lokoja by barge throughout the year. Ports farther upstream on the Niger and Benue can be reached in the high-water season. Inland waterways total about 8,575 km (5,328 mi). Lagos remains Nigeria's principal port, handling more than 75% of the country's general cargo. Other ports are Port Harcourt, Calabar, and the delta port complex of Warri, Sapele, Koko, Burutu, Bonny, and Alesa Eleme. The Merchant Marine operated a fleet of 46 ships of 1,000 GRT or more, totaling 327,808 GRT in 2005. A 1987 decree requires 40% of total cargo generated by trade with Nigeria to be carried on Nigerian shipping.

As of 2004, the Nigerian railway system, the fifth-largest in Africa, was operated by the statutory Nigerian Railway Corp., which consisted of 3,557 km (2,210 mi) of narrow and standard gauge railways. Of that total, narrow gauge lines accounted for 3,505 km (2,180 mi). The greater part of the system is single tracked and consisted of two generally north-south lines, originating in Lagos and Port Harcourt. The westerly situated route ran northeast from Lagos through Ibadan, Ilorin, and Kaduna to Kano. An easterly situated line ran from Port Harcourt through Enugu and Makurdi, and joined the western line at Kaduna. Extensions carry the former north to Nguru and the latter north to Kaura-Namoda. Three branch lines connect other industrial and commercial centers to the main system. A 645-km (400-mi) extension of the Port Harcourt line from Kafanchan to Maiduguri, linking the main system with the northeastern corner of the country, was completed in 1964. However, years of neglect have seriously reduced the capacity and utility of the railway system.

Nigeria in 2002 had an estimated 193,200 km (120,054 mi) of roads, of which 59,892 km (37,216 mi) were paved, including 1,194 km (742 mi) of expressways. In 2003, some 1,108,200 vehicles were registered, including 681,200 passenger cars and 427,000 commercial vehicles.

Air traffic has been growing steadily. In 2004 there were an estimated 70 airports. As of 2005, a total of 36 had paved runways, and there was a single heliport. International service is provided from Lagos (Murtala Muhammed), Port Harcourt, and Kano airports by more than two dozen international airlines; a cargooriented international airport in Abuja was operational in 1987. Nigeria Airways, which operates internal Nigerian services and participates in international services, became a wholly Nigerianowned company in 1961. Its regularly scheduled flights link Lagos and 15 of the 19 state capitals. Nigeria Airways also flies to many West African destinations, to Nairobi, Kenya, and Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, and to New York, London, Amsterdam, and Rome. In 2003, about 520,000 domestic and international passengers were carried on scheduled flights.


The history of Nigeria prior to the beginnings of British administration is not well documented. There is archaeological evidence, however, that an Iron Age culture had been present sometime between 500 bc and ad 200, and agriculture and livestock raising long before then. About the 11th century ad, Yoruba city-states developed in western Nigeria, and some, such as Benin, became powerful kingdoms in later centuries. During medieval times, northern Nigeria had contact with the large kingdoms of the western Sudan (Ghana, Mali, and Songhai) and with countries of the Mediterranean across the Sahara. Islamic influence was firmly established by the end of the 15th century, and Kano was famous not only as a center of Islamic studies but also as a great commercial entrepôt of the western Sudan. Until the arrival of the British, northern Nigeria was economically oriented toward the north and east, and woven cloth and leatherwork were exported as far as the North African ports of the Mediterranean. At the beginning of the 19th century, a jihad, or holy war, led by a Fulani sheikh, Uthman dan Fodio, established Fulani rule over the surviving Hausa kingdoms, until the British conquest at the end of the century.

In the south, the Portuguese were the first Europeans to establish close relations with the coastal people. In the late 15th century, they established a depot to handle trade goods and slaves from Benin. The Portuguese monopoly was broken after a century, and other European nations participated in the burgeoning slave trade. The British abolished slave trading in 1807, and thereafter-British policy was directed at enforcing that ban on other nations. Interest in legitimate commerce developed slowly, but the discovery of the mouth of the Niger in 1830 provided an important impetus. The extension of British influence over Nigeria was gradual and, initially at least, unplanned. In 1861, the British annexed the island of Lagos, an important center of palm oil trade; thereafter, they gradually extended their influence over the adjacent mainland of Yorubaland.

In 1887, British influence over the eastern coast, which had been promoted since 1849 by consular agents, was regularized by the establishment of the Oil Rivers Protectorate. This too was gradually extended inland and became the Niger Coast Protectorate in 1894. The acquisition of the interior of Nigeria, however, was accomplished largely by Sir George Goldie, founder of the Royal Niger Company, who by 1885 had eliminated commercial competition on the Niger and, by claiming treaties with responsible African authorities, had secured recognition of British influence over the Niger Basin by the European powers at the Berlin Conference. This influence was far more fancied than real; but it provided the basis for British rule over northern Nigeria, which was consolidated by a series of punitive expeditions culminating in the establishment of the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria in 1900.

The three separate administrative units were finally amalgamated in 1914 into the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria, with Sir Frederick Lugard as governor-general. Despite the ostensible unification, the administrative individuality of the three separate regionsNorth, East, and Westwas maintained. The chief characteristic of British rule in Nigeria was its system of local administration, known as indirect rule. In real terms though, indirect rule depended on a system of centralized political units with local (or native) chiefs at the lowest rungs of the hierarchy. It functioned well in the North, with variable success in the West, and poorly in the East.

After World War II, increasing pressures for self-government resulted in a succession of short-lived constitutions. The constitution of 1954 established a federal form of government, greatly extending the functions of the regional governments. A constitutional conference of May and June 1957 decided upon immediate self-government for the Eastern and Western regions, the Northern to follow in 1959. The step from self-government to independence was quickly taken. On 1 October 1960, Nigeria became a fully independent member of the British Commonwealth, and on 1 October 1963 it became a republic. Nnamdi Azikiwe was elected the first president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Internal unrest began almost as soon as Nigeria raised its own flag; but its roots lay in the complex ethnic composition of the regions. It boiled over to resentment over the domination of the federal government by Northern elements, and culminated in a military coup on 15 January 1966. Organized by a group of Eastern junior army officers, the coup led to the deaths of the federal prime minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa; the premier of the Northern Region, Sir Ahmadu Bello; and the premier of the Western Region, Chief S. L. Akintola. By 17 January, Maj. Gen. Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, commander-in-chief of the army, had suppressed the revolt and assumed supreme power. He suspended the constitution and dissolved the legislature, established a military government, and appointed military governors to replace the popularly elected civilian governors in the regions. On 29 July 1966, mutinous elements in the army, largely Northern army officers, staged a countercoup, killed Gen. Ironsi, and replaced him with Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon as head of the military government. The July coup led to the massacre of thousands of Easterners residing in the Northern Region and to the exodus of more than one million persons (mostly Ibos) to the Eastern Region.

On 28 May 1967, Col. Gowon assumed emergency powers as head of the Federal Military Government and announced the division of the country into 12 states. The Northern Region was split into 6 states; the Mid-West, Western, and Lagos areas each became separate states; and 3 states were formed from the Eastern Region. Rejecting the realignment, Eastern Region leaders announced on 30 May the independent Republic of Biafra, with Lt. Col. Odumegwu Ojukwu as head of state. On 6 July, the federal government declared war on the fledgling republic. By the time the war ended on 12 January 1970, Biafra had been reduced to about one-tenth of its original 78,000-sq-km (30,000-sq-mi) area; a million or more persons had perished, many from disease and starvation; many more had become refugees at home or abroad. Following the surrender, many Ibos returned to their former positions in Lagos, and Gen. Gowon's military regime sought to rehabilitate the three Eastern states as quickly as possible.

In October 1970, with the civil war behind him, Gen. Gowon set 1976 as the target date for Nigeria's return to civilian rule. Political change came slowly, however, and in October 1974, Gowon announced an indefinite postponement of plans for the transfer of power. The regime's recalcitrance in this and other areas, including its failure to check the power of the state governors and to reduce the general level of corruption, led to Gowon's overthrow on 29 July 1975. His successor, Brig. Murtala Ramat Muhammad, moved quickly in dismissing large numbers of officials, many of them corrupt and inefficient; and in establishing an ombudsman commission. One of his plans was to establish a new capital territory in the center of the country, at Abuja. On 13 February 1976, Muhammad was assassinated in the course of an abortive coup. He was replaced as head of the government by the former chief of staff of the armed forces, Lt. Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, who pledged to carry on his predecessor's program. In March 1976, a decree established a 19-state federation. Political party activity was again permitted in late 1978, and a new constitution took effect on 1 October 1979, the day Alhaji Shehu Shagari took office as president. Leader of the conservative National Party of Nigeria, he also had the support of the Nigerian People's Party (NPP), led by former president Azikiwe. The NPP withdrew its support in 1981, leaving Shagari at the head of a minority government. In August 1983, Shagari won reelection to a second term as president; in late December, however, he was ousted in a military coup.

The new military regime, led by Maj.-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, provoked growing public dissatisfaction because of its increasingly authoritarian character, and a military coup on 27 August 1985 brought Maj.-Gen. Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida to power. Assuming the title of president, Babangida promised greater respect for human and civil liberties; yet he banned Second Republic (197983) officials from participation in politics for 10 years. A return to full civilian rule was pledged by 1992, with local elections on a nonparty basis, the creation of a constituent assembly, the establishment of no more than two political parties, state elections, a national census, and finally presidential elections. The first step in the processlocal elections on 12 December 1987were marred by irregularities. To deal with Nigeria's economic troubles, stemming from the fall of world oil prices in the 1980s, Babangida inaugurated a "homegrown" Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) prompted by the IMF but not directed by them. It involved cuts in public spending, decreased state control over the economy, stimulation of exports, devaluation of the currency, and rescheduling of debt.

A mostly elected Constituent Assembly met in 1988 and approved modifications in the 1979 constitution. The process of party formation proved awkward in a society as heterogeneous as Nigeria's. None of the 13 potential parties gained Babangida's approval. Instead, he decided to create two new parties, one "a little to the right" of center, another "a little to the left." Neither challenged government effectively.

Babangida's guided program of transition from military rule to a democratic civilian Third Republic was due for completion in 1992. But it was marked by crisis after crisis. Clashes between Muslims and Christians in 1991 and 1992 spread through northern cities. Hundreds were killed in the rioting itself and then by the army seeking to contain the riots. Pro-democracy groups also emerged across society, in part from frustration with the excesses of military rule; and because of suspicion that the military might renege on plans to turn over power to elected civilians.

In elections for state governors and assemblies, the National Republican Convention (NRC) won 13 of 30 assemblies and 16 governorships. The Social Democratic Party (SDP) carried 17 and 14, respectively. But voter indifference and fear of intimidation was high. When state governments took office, intraparty wrangling and political violence marred their performance.

Nonetheless, by January 1992, Nigerians geared up for the national presidential and legislative elections scheduled for later in the year. Nigeria's first successful census since independence (results announced in March 1992) indicated a population of 88.5 million, some 20 million fewer than estimated. The election register had to be revised downward, from 70 million to 39 million voters. On 20 May 1992, the government banned all political, religious, and ethnic organizations other than the two approved political parties.

In legislative elections held on 4 July, the left-of-center SDP won 47 of the 91 Senate seats and 310 of the 593 seats in the House of Representatives. The right-of-center NRC won 37 and 267 seats, respectively. The ruling military council pushed back the transition date until January 1993; it also postponed the inauguration of the National Assembly to coincide with the formal take-off of the Third Republic.

In August and September, the country began the process of narrowing the field of presidential candidates from 20 to 2 in preparation for the December elections. But on 17 November 1992, Babangida announced a third delay in the transfer of power from 2 January until 27 August 1993. Political violence and charges of electoral fraud disrupted the first round of presidential primaries. The second round in September was flawed, too. Faced with a virtual breakdown of the electoral machinery, the military council suspended the primary results in October. All 23 of the presidential aspirants were banned from future political competition. These disruptions were compounded by high levels of student and labor unrest, detentions of dissidents, and ethnic and religious violence. Nonetheless, the military council promised to give way to an elected civilian administration in 1993.

A new round of presidential nominations took place in March 1993. Chief M.K.O. Abiola (SDP) and Alhaji Bashir Tofa (NRC), both Muslim businessmen with ties to Babangida, won nomination. The presidential election of 12 June took place amid a flurry of legal efforts to halt it and great voter confusion. Abiola apparently defeated Tofa handily, 58.4% to 41.6% according to unofficial results.

But the National Electoral Commission set aside the results on 16 June. A week later, Babangida annulled the election citing irregularities, poor turnout, and legal complications. Abiola, backed largely by the Yoruba people, demanded to be certified as president-elect. Civil unrest followed, especially in Lagos.

After weeks of uncertainty and tension, Babangida resigned the presidency and his military commission on 26 August 1993. He handpicked a transitional council headed by Chief Ernest Shonekan. By mid-November, Gen. Sani Abacha forced Shonekan to resign and he installed himself as head of state. On 18 November 1993, he abolished all state and local governments and the national legislature. He replaced many civilian officials with military commanders. He banned political parties and all political activity and ordered strikers to return to work. The following week, he named an 11-member Provisional Ruling Council composed mainly of generals and police officials. He also created a 32-member Federal Executive Council to head government ministries. It included prominent civilians and some prodemocracy and human rights activists.

On 11 June 1994, Abiola proclaimed himself president and then went into hiding. He was arrested later that month, an action that portended much that was to come for Nigeria. Massive protests followed Abiola's arrest, but Abacha's military repressed the demonstrators violently. On 6 July Abiola pleaded not guilty to three counts of treason; the following day laborers went on strike to protest the Abacha regime. In the following months millions of Nigerian workers walked out in support of Abiola and refused to attend scheduled government talks. Abiola remained in prison through June 1996, when his outspoken wife Kudirat Abiola was assassinated. Strikes and protests continued in support of the sanctity of the vote, and of Abiola's mandate.

In August, General Abacha fired his army and navy commanders. Two weeks later he banned several newspapers, declaring that his government had absolute power and would not give in to prodemocracy demonstrators. Late in September, claiming that it was part of his plan to "rejuvenate the machinery of government," Abacha removed all civilians from his ruling council. Three months later he suspended habeas corpus and continued to round up and jail opponents. At the same time he rejected a court order demanding the release of Abiola from prison for medical treatment. In March 1995 Abacha ordered the arrest of former Nigerian leader Olusegun Obasanjo on suspicion of treason. Later in the month he dissolved labor unions and jailed their leaders. On 25 April Abacha canceled a 1 January 1996 deadline for the return of civilian rule and refused to discuss the matter. Though he lifted a ban on political parties in June 1995, Abacha placed tight restrictions on their operations. The July convictions in secret trials of 40 suspected traitors brought international condemnation and demands of leniency from critics of the Nigerian government. Ultimately Abacha relented on 1 October, commuting the death sentences of his convicted opponents and declaring that he would relinquish power to an elected government in 1998.

Despite these promises, many outside observers remained skeptical, largely due to fallout from the case of Ken Saro-Wiwa, leader of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People. Sentenced to death in October 1995 for a quadruple murder, many believed that Saro-Wiwa had been convicted on trumped-up charges stemming from his opposition to a proposed drilling agreement in Nigeria's main oil-producing region. The executions in early November of Saro-Wiwa and eight others brought a torrent of criticism from the international community and resulted in Nigeria's suspension from the British Commonwealth and an embargo from the European Union on arms and aid to Nigeria. Bowing to this pressure, the Abacha government amended in May 1996 the law under which Saro-Wiwa and the others had been convicted and offered to hold talks on the matter with the United Kingdom.

Abacha announced efforts in November 1996 to spur economic change and raise living standards in the country, a pronouncement met with skepticism by an increasingly angry opposition. By December, opponents of the government detonated two bombs aimed at Col. Mohammed Marwa, head of the Nigerian military. Col. Marwa escaped both attacks.

In April 1998, four of Nigeria's five major political parties nominated Abacha as their presidential candidate. Amid opposition accusations that the transition plan was designed to prolong Abacha's rule, legislative elections held on 25 April were heavily boycotted. Nigeria's political fortunes changed suddenly on 8 June when Abacha died of an apparent heart attack. General Abdoulsalami Abubakar took charge and promised to continue Abacha's transition. On 7 July, Abiola died of a suspected heart failure while still in custody.

On 20 July General Abubakar announced a new plan for return to civilian rule culminating in a transfer of power in May 1999. On 5 December local council elections took place with three parties qualifying to move on to state and national elections by winning at least 5% of the vote in 24 of 36 states. On 11 January 1999 elections for state governorships and legislatures were held.

Elections for president and the national legislature were held on 27 February 1999. Obasanjo (PDP) won the presidential elections with 62% of the vote, while Olu Falae, the candidate for the Alliance for Democracy (AD) and the All Peoples Party (APP), received 38%. Despite Falae's charges of election rigging, international observers from the Carter Center and the National Democratic Institute reported that available evidence of electoral abuse and other irregularities were unlikely to have affected the overall results. In April Olu Falae closed his case against Obasanjo after a federal appeals court in Abuja rejected two pleas. Power was handed over officially to the new government in May. Twenty heads of state attended Obasanjo's inauguration on 4 June, some two decades after he left office as a military ruler.

Obasanjo promised to restore law and order, fight corruption, and unify Nigeria's ethnically and religiously diverse peoples. The federal government increased the oil-producing states' share of revenue from 3% to 13%. However, these states were demanding a 50% share, so the increase did not resolve disputes over local ownership, control of resources, and embezzlement. In 1999, Nigeria was second on Transparency International's list of most corrupt countries (Cameroon was first).

In 1999, fighting in the Delta region killed several hundred people while outbreaks of fighting between Yorubas and Hausa in the area of Lagos resulted in hundreds more deaths. The Igbo demanded reparations of $87 billion for the 196770 civil war. In February 2000, days of violent clashes between Muslims and Christians killed as many as 750 persons (mostly Igbo Christians, other southeasterners, and some Yorubas) in Kaduna, and destroyed several churches and mosques following announcements that a fuller application of Islamic law, Shariah, would be introduced in Zamfara and at least five other northern states. The code includes punishments such as flogging and amputation, and in principle only affects Muslims, but has caused great consternation among non-Muslims.

In June and July 2001, between 100 and 200 people were killed in Nasarawa state in fighting between the Tiv and other ethnic groups. In October, more than 200 villagers were killed by the army in the east-central state of Benue in retaliation for the murder of 19 soldiers amid fighting between the Tiv and Junkun. From 713 September 2001 in the central city of Jos, about 915 lives were lost in inter-communal violence between Muslims and Christians, although the nongovernmental organization Human Rights Watch described the conflict as more political and economic than religious.

On 27 January 2002, more than 1,000 people died as a result of a series of explosions at an army munitions dump in Lagos. Many of the victims had fallen into a canal and drowned as they tried to leave the northern neighborhood of Ikeja. In February, some 100 people were killed in Lagos in ethnic clashes between Yorubas and Hausa. Thousands fled their homes. In November, more than 200 people were killed in riots between Muslims and Christians in Kaduna, following the publication of a newspaper article suggesting that the prophet Muhammad would have wished to marry one of the Miss World contestants competing in that beauty pageant to be held in Abuja on 7 December. The pageant was subsequently moved to London. Also in November, the Nigerian government stated that it would intervene to save the life of Amina Lawal, a 30-year old woman sentenced to death by stoning after she was found guilty in a Shariah court of having had extra-marital sex. Her case provoked large-scale protests from the international community.

In October 2002, the International Court of Justice ruled in favor of Cameroon in its territorial dispute with Nigeria over the oil-rich Bakassi peninsula. Fighting between the two countries over the region broke out in 1994, at which point Cameroon requested a world court ruling on the border dispute. The decision is not subject to appeal.

Nigerians, once dominated by the military, have become disappointed in the civilian rule initiated in 1999. But Nigerians have had to contend with increasing poverty, ethnic strife, religious intolerance, declining standards in health and education, and a stagnant economy. In 2000, an estimated 60% of the population lived below the poverty line. From 1999 until the end of 2002, approximately 10,000 people had been killed in political and sectarian fighting. In December 2001, Chief Ajibola Ige, the sitting attorney general and minister of justice of the federal government, was murdered in the bedroom of his home at Ibadan. Chief Ige's murder has remained unsolved, as have those of several other high-ranking politicians from the ruling PDP. These murders, a rising wave of crime in the country, as well as the militarization of the Niger Delta, cast doubts on the efficacy of the security agencies. It also served as a spur to calls for a decentralized police force, or one structured by region and/or state.

For many, the general elections of 2003 were critical to finding solutions to these and other questions, and could move the country forward. In 2002, 24 new political parties had joined the fray after the Supreme Court declared as invalid some of the conditions that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had imposed on associations seeking a license to operate as political parties. The presidential race attracted more candidates, but public debates on issues were no clearer or deeper. The larger political parties did not face much challenge either.

The 2003 elections left the PDP in greater control of government. In the presidential poll, Obasanjo won 61.9% of the votes; former military head of state and candidate of the All Nigeria People's Party (ANPP), Muhammadu Buhari, took 31.2%. The AD, with a large Yoruba following, did not field a candidate in apparent support of Obasanjo's candidacy. The PDP also won 73 seats in the Senate and 213 in the House of Representatives; ANPP won 28 and 95 seats, while the AD took 6 and 31 seats respectively. The PDP won control of government in 28 states, ANPP got 7, and ADP won only in Lagos State. The results were contested at all levels. Buhari filed a suit against Obasanjo's victory that went all the way to the Supreme Court; it also drew a dissenting opinion in favor of the appellant.

In July 2003, an attempt was made with support from a detachment of the police to forcibly remove from power Chris Ngige, governor of Anambra State in the east. Subsequent efforts involved the burning down of major government symbols and the withdrawal of security details from Ngige. A senior police officer, a judge, and several minor actors in the saga were dismissed. In early 2004, Obasanjo declared a state of emergency in central Plateau State, also controlled by the PDP. This followed allegations of corruption against the governor, Joshua Dariye, who countered that he had donated some of the missing money to the PDP. In September 2005, yet another PDP governor, this time of oil-rich Bayelsa State, was arrested in London on suspicion of money-laundering. He returned to Nigeria but was removed from office and prosecuted for various economic offences. At the federal level, Obasanjo had been locked in battle with several segments of the PDP. He also openly accused his deputy, Vice President Atiku Abubakar of disloyalty after an apparent disagreement over succession in 2007.

Obasanjo's economic policy was controversial. Incessant increases in the price of petroleum products put his administration at disagreement with organized labor, and civil society. The PDP enacted a law that made it more difficult to form and sustain a single labor federation in Nigeria. Obasanjo received a debt-forgiveness deal with Nigeria's creditors and consistently averred a commitment to antipoverty programs. Not many jobs were being created and federal government units were downsized. In 2006 Obasanjo served notice that thousands of jobs were to be erased in the public sector. The next elections were scheduled for 2007.


The 1979 constitution, promulgated by the outgoing military government, established a federal system resembling that of the United States, with a directly elected president and vice president (whose names appear on the same ballot) and separate executive, legislative, and judicial branches.

The military government that took command after the December 1983 coup suspended the 1979 constitution. The president held executive and legislative authority, in consultation with the 28-member Armed Forces Ruling Council, and appointed the cabinet.

After the Abacha seizure of power on 17 November 1993, the 1979 constitution remained suspended. A military-dominated Provisional Ruling Council (PRC) ruled by decree. A 32-member Federal Executive Council managed government departments, and the PRC dissolved the elected national and state legislatures and the local councils, replacing elected civilian governors with military administrators. The PRC also announced that it would hold a constitutional conference to plan for the future and to establish a timetable for a return to democracy. On 21 November 1993, Abacha signed a decree restoring the 1979 constitution (Second Republic). Nonetheless, legal experts disagreed which documents should form the basis for Nigerian government and law.

The new constitution, which became law in May 1999, restored constitutional rule under the Fourth Republic. Nigeria became a federal republic comprising 36 states and a Federal Capital Territory at Abuja. The national legislature is bicameral with 109 Senate seats and 360 House seats. Members of both houses are elected by universal suffrage (age 18) to a four-year term. The president is elected to no more than two four-year terms. The president chairs a Federal Executive Council, which he appoints. Legislative and presidential elections were held in April 2003. The results gave Obasanjo and many governors their second and final term under the 1999 Constitution.


Ethnic, religious, and regional differences have hindered the formation of a truly national Nigerian political party in Nigeria. Before 1966, the major parties were the Northern People's Congress (NPC), overwhelmingly dominant in the Northern Region and possessing a plurality in the federal House of Representatives; the National Council of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC), dominant in the Eastern Region and junior partner in coalition with the NPC in the federal House of Representatives; and the Action Group, majority party in the Western Region and the leading opposition group in the federal legislature. Policies and platforms of the major parties were similar, generally supporting welfare and development programs. Following the 1959 elections, the NCNC joined in a coalition with the NPC in the federal government.

The first national elections in independent Nigeria, held on 30 December 1964, were contested by two political alliances: the Nigerian National Alliance (NNA), led by Sir Ahmadu Bello, premier of the Northern Region, and the United Progressive Grand Alliance (UPGA), led by Michael Okpara, premier of the Eastern Region. The NNA comprised the NPC, the Western-based Nigerian National Democratic Party, and opposition parties representing ethnic minorities in the Eastern and Mid-Western regions. The UPGA included the NCNC, the Action Group, the Northern Elements Progressive Union (the main opposition party in the Northern Region), and the United Middle Belt Congress (a non-Muslim party strongly opposed to the NPC). Northerners feared Ibo domination of the federal government and sought support from the Yoruba, while the UPGA accused the Muslim Northerners of anti-Southern, antidemocratic, and anti-Christian attitudes. The election results, announced on 6 January 1965, gave a large majority to the NNA (198 of 267 constituencies). Before the balloting began, the UPGA charged that unconstitutional practices were taking place and announced that it would boycott the elections, in which only 4 million of the 15 million eligible voters actually cast ballots. On 4 January 1965, President Azikiwe called on Prime Minister Balewa to form a new government. In the supplementary elections held on 18 March 1965, the UPGA won all 51 seats in the Eastern Region and 3 seats in Lagos. This was followed by announcement of an enlarged and reorganized cabinet on 31 March. Ten months later the Balewa government was overthrown, the military assumed power, and on 24 May 1966 all political parties were banned.

When legal political activity resumed in 1978, five parties emerged: the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), representing chiefly the North and an educated, wealthy elite; the Nigerian People's Party (NPP), strong among the Ibos and slightly to the left of the NPN; the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), Yoruba-led and welfarist-oriented; the People's Redemption Party, advocating radical social change; and the Great Nigeria People's Party, espousing welfare capitalism. Shagari, the NPN presidential candidate, received the most votes (33.9%) in the 11 August 1979 presidential election, with Obafemi Awolowo of the UPN a close second (29.2%). In National Assembly elections held on 7 and 14 July 1979, the NPN won 36 of the 95 Senate seats and 168 of 440 House of Representatives seats. The UPN was second with 28 and 111, respectively; the NPP third with 16 and 78. Each of the five parties won control of at least two state governments in elections held 21 and 28 July 1979. In the presidential election of August 1983, incumbent President Shagari of the NPN won reelection to a second four-year term, polling 12,047,638 votes (47%). Obafemi Awolowo of the UPN placed second with 7,885,434 votes (31%). That same month, Shagari's NPN posted victories in Senate and House elections. However, there were widespread charges of irregularities in the balloting. All existing political parties were dissolved after the December 1983 coup.

During the 1990s two parties, the right-of-center National Republican Convention (NRC) and a left-of-center Social Democratic Party (SDP) were permitted limited activity during the transition from military rule. The two-chamber National Assembly to which they were elected never was granted genuine power. On 12 June 1993, Nigerians apparently elected Moshood Abiola, a wealthy businessman, president, but General Ibrahim Babangida annulled the vote over alleged corruption. Ernest Shonekan replaced him for the interim, and on 17 November General Sani Abacha took power, suspending all partisan and political activity. The May 1994 legislative elections were widely boycotted by foes of Abacha's military regime. On 1 October 1995, Abacha announced a three-year program for return to civilian rule.

Political parties, suppressed by the military government, were allowed to form in July 1998. Three parties were registered by the Provisional Ruling Council for participation in local, state and national elections: the All People's Party (APP) led by Mahmud Waziri; the People's Democratic Party (PDP) led by Soloman Lar; and the Alliance for Democracy (AD), led by Ayo Adebanjo.

In the February 1999 election Obasanjo (PDP) won 62.8% of the vote; Olu Falae (AD/APP), received 37.2%. In the Senate, the PDP claimed 66 seats, the APP 23, the AD 19, with 1 other seat. In the House of Representatives, the PDP took 215 seats, the APP 70, the AD 66, and others 9. International observers reported some flaws, but generally approved the results.

The three registered parties suffered from leadership squabbles. Two factions claimed leadership of the AD, which is dominant only in the Yoruba southwest. The APP elected a new chairman in December 1999, after its former chairman, Mahmud Waziri, defected to the PDP. In December 2002, 24 new political parties registered for the 2003 elections.

The 2003 elections were held as scheduled. They confirmed the PDP as Nigeria's largest political party. The ANPP was the second-largest party. Muhammadu Buhari, ANPP candidate for president in 2003, and its chair, Don Etiebet, each had their positions challenged. There were 33 registered political parties as of early 2006.


In March 1976, a reorganization of Nigeria's major administrative divisions was undertaken. The 12 preexisting states were reconstituted into 19 states as follows: Ogun, Ondo, and Oyo states were created out of the former Western State; Imo and Anambra states from East-Central State; Niger and Sokoto states from North-Western State; Benue and Plateau states from Benue-Plateau State; and Bauchi, Borno, and Gongola from North-Eastern State. Seven other states remained basically unchanged except for minor boundary adjustments and some name changes; these are (with original names where applicable, in parentheses) Lagos, Kaduna (North-Central), Kano, Bendel (Mid-West), Cross River (South-Eastern), Rivers, and Kwara. The Federal Capital Territory of Abuja comprises 7,315 sq km (2,824 sq mi) and was carved from the central part of the country between Kaduna, Plateau, and Niger states. By law, a fixed proportion of federally collected revenue is allotted monthly to the states and localities.

Under the military regime established in 1983, all state governors were appointed by the ruling council; in 1987, all but one governor was a military officer. The governor of each state served as chairman of an appointed state executive council. By the end of the Babangida regime in August 1993, there were 30 states (as of 2006, there were 36) governed by elected state legislatures and governors. On 18 November 1993, these governments were abolished and the civilian governors were replaced by military commanders.

The transition to civilian rule announced 20 July 1998 led to local council elections on 5 December 1998. The PDP, APP, and AD qualified to present candidates to state and national elections by winning 5% of the vote in 24 of the 36 states. The state governorships and legislatures were contested on 11 January 1999. As of mid-2002, the PDP controlled 21 of 36 state governments.

After the 2003 election, PDP controlled 28 state governments. Nearly all local government councils in these states, and many in states controlled by other parties were also run by the PDP. However, the commitment of its leadership to a system of autonomous local government was questionable. Many PDP governors (and non-PDP governors) reportedly diverted funds meant for local government; a law, the Monitoring and Allocation and Local Government Act, has made such action illegal. Shortly after May 2003, the federal government postponed local government elections to enable a panel appointed by it to examine the workings of the system. The reasoning for postponement was questionable, as the panel's report was not published.


Both the suspended 1979 constitution and the never-implemented 1989 constitutions, as well as the new constitution promulgated on 29 May 1999, provide for an independent judiciary. In practice, the judiciary is subject to executive and legislative branch pressure, influence by political leaders at both the state and federal levels, and suffers from corruption and inefficiency.

Under the 1999 constitution, the regular court system comprises federal and state trial courts, state appeals courts, the Federal Court of Appeal, the Federal Supreme Court, and Shariah (Islamic) and customary (traditional) courts of appeal for each state and for the federal capital territory of Abuja. Courts of the first instance include magistrate or district courts, customary or traditional courts, Shariah courts, and for some specified cases, the state high courts. In principle, customary and Shariah courts have jurisdiction only if both plaintiff and defendant agree, but fear of legal costs, delays, and distance to alternative venues encourage many litigants to choose these courts.

Trials in the regular court system are public and generally respect constitutionally protected individual rights, including a presumption of innocence, the right to be present, to confront witnesses, to present evidence, and to be represented by legal counsel. However, low compensation for judges, understaffing, poor equipment, bribery, special settlements, and a host of developmental factors decrease the reliability and impartiality of the courts.

Under the Abubakar government, military tribunals continued to operate outside the constitutional court system, but they were used less and less frequently as military rule waned; the tribunals officially were disbanded by the implementation of the new constitution and the return to civilian rule. The tribunals had in the past been used to try both military personnel and civilians accused of various crimes, but groups asserted that these tribunals failed to meet internationally accepted standards for fair trial.

In October 1999, the governor of Zamfara signed into law two bills passed by the state legislature aimed at instituting Shariah law in the state. As a result, school children were being segregated by sex in Zamfara schools, some public transportation, and some health facilities. There were fears among non-Muslims that despite legal provisions, women and other groups would be subjected to discrimination in Shariah courts. As of early 2003, 11 other northern states had adopted various forms or adaptations of Shariah law, including: Sokoto, Kebbi, Niger, Kano, Katsina, Kaduna, Jigawa, Yobe, Bauchi, Borno, and Gombe. Some of these states have already issued sentences of public caning for consumption of alcohol, amputations for stealing, and death by stoning for committing adultery. Some sentences have been carried out, but no life has been taken in the pursuit of a decision by a Shariah court. Those found guilty for adultery have had the verdicts reversed on appeal.

The federal government announced in early 2006 that the religious police in Kano State (also called Hisba ) had been assuming police functions with no officiali authorization to do so, thus acting beyond their powers. The same argument was advanced against ethnic militias, such as the Odu'a People's Congress.

The judiciary has faced testing moments since the 2003 polls. Obasanjo himself accused the judiciary of corruption; some legal practitioners also traded accusations against judges in open court. Election petitions at all levels brought with them allegations of bribery and witness tampering. Acting through the National Judicial Council, a body chaired by Nigeria's Chief Justice, the judiciary moved to cleanse its own house. Several judicial officers were dismissed, disciplined in other ways, or exonerated after due hearing. The stated offenses ranged from receiving undue gratification to passing judgments that were patently illegal or procedurally wrong, or that brought the judiciary to ridicule.


Nigeria's armed forces numbered 78,500 active personnel in 2005. The Army had 62,000 personnel armed with 200 main battle tanks, 100 Scorpion light tanks, 342 reconnaissance vehicles, over 397 armored personnel carriers, and more than 813 artillery pieces. The Navy had a total strength of 7,000 personnel, including Coast Guard personnel. Major naval units included one frigate, two corvettes, and eight patrol/coastal vessels. The Air Force had 9,500 personnel. Equipment included 84 combat capable aircraft, including 17 fighters and 36 fighter ground attack aircraft, in addition to 5 attack helicopters, of which 3 were nonoperational.

Paramilitary forces were estimated at 82,000 personnel and included 2,000 port security police, a coast guard, and a security and civil defense corps. Nigeria has observers and peacekeeping forces stationed in Burundi, Côte d'Ivoire, the DROC, Eritrea/Ethiopia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, and Western Sahara. In 2005, the defense budget totaled $841 million.


Nigeria was admitted to the United Nations on 7 October 1960, and since that time has become affiliated with ECA and several nonregional specialized agencies, such as the FAO, ILO, IAEA, the World Bank, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, and the WHO. The nation is also a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the WTO, the ACP Group, the African Development Bank, G-15, G-24, G-77, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), the Community of Sahel and Saharan States (CENSAD), and the African Union. Nigeria joined OPEC in June 1971. In May 1975, Nigeria became a founding member of ECOWAS. Among other regional organizations of which Nigeria is a member are the Niger Basin Authority and the Lake Chad Basin Commission. The government is participating in efforts to establish a West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ) that would include The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone.

Nigeria is a member of the Nonaligned Movement. The government has supported UN missions and operations in Kosovo (est. 1999), Western Sahara (est. 1991), Ethiopia and Eritrea (est. 2000), Liberia (est. 2003), Sierra Leone (est. 1999), Burundi (est. 2004), Côte d'Ivoire (est. 2004), and the DROC (est. 2000).

In environmental cooperation, Nigeria is part of the Basel Convention, the Convention on Biological Diversity, CITES, the London Convention, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change and Desertification.


The Nigerian economy, with an enterprising population and a wealth of natural resources, offers tremendous potential for economic growth. However, poor economic policy, political instability, and an overreliance on oil exports has created severe structural problems in the economy. Crude oil accounted for over 95% of exports and over 65% of government revenue in 2004; Nigeria is the world's eighth-largest exporter of oil. However, agriculture remains the basic economic activity for the majority of Nigerians, employing roughly 70% of the labor force and accounting for 36.3% of GDP in 2004. Crop yields have not kept pace with the average population growth of 2.5% (200105 average), and Nigeria must import most of its food.

When the oil boom of the 1970s came to an end in the early 1980s, Nigeria's failure to bring domestic and foreign expenditures in line with its lower income led to a rapid buildup of internal and external deficits. Nigeria deferred payments on its large foreign debt, adopted austerity measures, scaled back ambitious development plans, and introduced a foreign exchange auction system that devalued the naira. These policies had a positive effect and from 1986 to 1990 real GDP grew at a 5.4% average annual rate.

However, in 1992 real GDP grew at only 4.1%, while the large government deficits, 10% of GDP in 1992, continued to expand. A crippling blow to the economy came in mid-1994 when oil workers in the southeast, unhappy with the way the central government collected oil revenue without giving any back, went on strike. With daily output down 25% because of the strike, the government's lack of revenue forced it to stop servicing most of its $28 billion external debt. In the meantime the budget deficit reached $1 billion, over 12% of GDP.

In 1996, the World Bank reported that an estimated $2 billion in oil revenues from the early 1990s was diverted in a secret government bank account. There were also reports that significant amounts of oil revenue were being lost due to fraudulent practices at the country's oil terminals. In response, the Nigerian government appointed two inspection firms to oversee the loading of crude oil tankers.

By 2004 external debt stood at $30.55 billion. In 2005, Nigeria carved out a deal to have some 60% of the $31 billion debt the country owed to the Paris Club forgiven; Nigeria pledged to repay about $12 billion. High unemployment and declining productivity hamper growth. As of 2006, the pace of privatizing state-owned enterprises and balancing the budget was slow, but liberalization of the telecommunications sector was underway. The government has also committed itself to privatizing the country's four state-owned oil refineries, and to developing several small, independently owned refineries. The rate of HIV infection is on the rise, especially among children, as is income inequality.

Although national elections were due to be held in April 2007, when President Olusegun Obasanjo would be replaced by a new leader, economic reforms begun under him were projected to continue. Coupled with rising oil prices and production, real GDP growth was forecast to be strong, at 4.8% in 2005 and 4.5% in 2006, although growth was expected to fall back to 3.3% in 2007 as political uncertainty mounted over the election period. Inflation was expected to average 15.9% in 2005, 12% in 2006, and 13.5% in 2007.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Nigeria's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $132.1 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $1,000. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 5.2%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 13.5%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 26.8% of GDP, industry 48.8%, and services 24.4%.

According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $1.677 billion or about $12 per capita and accounted for approximately 2.9% of GDP. Foreign aid receipts amounted to $318 million or about $2 per capita and accounted for approximately 0.6% of the gross national income (GNI).

The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Nigeria totaled $26.24 billion or about $193 per capita based on a GDP of $57.6 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1990 to 2003 household consumption grew at an average annual rate of 3.7%. In 2001 it was estimated that approximately 51% of household consumption was spent on food, 31% on fuel, 2% on health care, and 8% on education. It was estimated that in 2000 about 60% of the population had incomes below the poverty line.


The total labor force in Nigeria was estimated at about 57.21 million in 2005. Of those gainfully employed in 1999 (the latest year for which data was available), an estimated 70% were in agriculture, with about 10% in industry, and 20% in services. The estimated unemployment rate in 2005 was estimated at 2.9%.

The four labor federations were merged in 1978 into the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), which was strengthened by legislation establishing a compulsory dues checkoff system. Unions were strengthened by government decrees and a new constitution in 1999. Freedom of association and the right to strike were restored. The NLC is the only legal trade union organization (outside the petroleum industry) and claimed a membership of about four million in 2001. About 10% of the workforce was unionized in 2002.

In 2002, the minimum wage stood at approximately $75 per month for federal workers and between $55 and $65 per month for state employees. Formal sector private employers follow the public sector standard. These wages are sufficient to provide a family with a decent standard of living. The workweek is set at 40 hours, but there is no law prohibiting excessive compulsory overtime. Children as young as 13 may work with special restrictions. In reality, as a result of crumbling public schools and dire economic conditions, many children of all ages work. The law stipulates minimum occupational health and safety standards, but such standards are not effectively enforced.


In terms of employment, agriculture is an important sector of Nigeria's economy, engaging about one-third of the labor force. Agricultural holdings are generally small and scattered; farming is often of the subsistence variety, characterized by simple tools and shifting cultivation. These small farms produce about 80% of the total food. About 33.4 million hectares (82.5 million acres), or 36% of Nigeria's land area, are under cultivation. Nigeria's diverse climate, from the tropical areas of the coast to the arid zone of the north, make it possible to produce virtually all agricultural products that can be grown in the tropical and semitropical areas of the world. The economic benefits of large-scale agriculture are recognized, and the government favors the formation of cooperative societies and settlements to encourage industrial agriculture. Large-scale agriculture, however, is not common. Despite an abundant water supply, a favorable climate, and wide areas of arable land, productivity is restricted, owing to low soil fertility in many areas and inefficient methods of cultivation. Agriculture contributed 26% to GDP in 2003.

The agricultural products of Nigeria can be divided into two main groups: food crops, produced for home consumption, and export products. Prior to the civil war, the country was self-sufficient in food, but imports of food increased substantially after 1973. Bread, made primarily from US wheat, replaced domestic crops as the cheapest staple food for much of the urban population. The most important food crops are yams and manioc (cassava) in the south and sorghum (Guinea corn) and millet in the north. In 2004, production of yams was 26.6 million tons (67% of world production); manioc, 38.1 million tons (highest in the world and 19% of global production); cocoyams (taro), 4 million tons; and sweet potatoes, 2,516,000 tons. The 2004 production estimates for major crops were as follows (in thousands of tons): sorghum, 8,028; millet, 6,282; corn, 4,779; rice, 3,542; peanuts, 2,937; palm oil, 920; sugarcane, 776; palm kernel, 618; soybeans, 465; and cotton lint, 140. Many fruits and vegetables are also grown by Nigerian farmers.

Although cocoa is the leading non-oil foreign exchange earner, growth in the sector has been slow since the abolition of the Nigerian Cocoa Board. The dominance of smallholders in the cocoa sector and the lack of farm labor due to urbanization holds back production. Nigeria produced 366,000 tons of cocoa in 2004, fifth in the world. Rubber is the second-largest non-oil foreign exchange earner. Despite favorable prices, production has fallen from 155,000 tons in 1991 to 142,000 tons in 2004. Low yield, aging trees, and lack of proper equipment have inhibited production.

Agricultural exports (including manufactured food and agricultural products) decreased in quantity after 1970, partly because of the discouraging effect of low world prices. In 1979, the importing of many foods was banned, including fresh milk, vegetables, roots and tubers, fruits, and poultry. The exporting of milk, sugar, flour, and hides and skins was also banned. During 198587, imports of wheat, corn, rice, and vegetable oil were banned as declining income from oil encouraged greater attention to the agricultural sector. In 1986, government marketing boards were closed down, and a free market in all agricultural products was established. In 2004, agricultural exports totaled $486.7 million, while agricultural imports exceeded $2.2 billion.


Livestock production accounts for about 6% of GDP. There were an estimated 15.2 million head of cattle in Nigeria in 2005, over 90% of them in the north, owned mostly by nomadic Fulani. The prevalence of the tsetse fly in other areas restricts the majority of cattle to the fly-free dry savanna areas. The cattle owned by the Fulani and Hausa consist mainly of zebu breeds; cattle in the south are mainly Shorthorns. There were also an estimated 28 million goats, 23 million sheep, 6.7 million pigs, 1 million asses, 206,000 horses, and 140 million chickens.

Improvements in stock, slaughterhouse, cold storage, and transport facilities have made parts of Nigeria almost self-sufficient in meat production, but many Nigerians outside the north suffer protein deficiency in their diet. In 2005, 1.07 million tons of meat and 432,000 tons of cow's milk were produced. The Livestock and Meat Authority controls operations in transport and slaughtering in the north.


Fish is an important dietary element and one of the few sources of animal protein available to many Nigerians. Fishing is carried on in Nigeria's many rivers, creeks, and lagoons, and in Lake Chad; trawlers operate along the coast. The total fishing catch was 505,839 tons in 2003 (40% from inland waters), not enough to meet national requirements.

Both federal and state governments are encouraging the development of local fisheries, inland and at sea, by sponsoring research, stocking reservoirs, and offering training in improved fish culture and fishing gear. Fish ponds have been established in the southern part of the country. The fishing industry output has yet to regain its 538,000-ton high of 1983.


About 14.8% of Nigeria, or roughly 13,517,000 hectares (33,400,000 acres) is classified as forest or woodland. High forest reserves occur mostly in Ogun, Ondo, and Oyo states; savanna forest reserves, chiefly in the northern states, are limited in value, yielding only firewood and local building materials. In 2004, 70.3 million cu m (2.5 billion cu ft) of roundwood were produced, 85% for fuel. That year, Nigeria's consumption of fuel wood and charcoal was third highest in Africa. Exports of timber and finished wood products were banned in 1976 in order to preserve domestic supplies. The ban was subsequently lifted and the forestry sector recorded gains. However, the country suffers from desertification, anemic reforestation efforts, and high levels of domestic wood consumption. The average annual deforestation rate was 2.6% during 19902000. In 2004, forestry imports totaled $123 million, while forest product exports only amounted to $18.5 million.


The oil sector was the cornerstone of the Nigerian economy. Nigeria in 2003 was Africa's largest oil producer, with petroleum and petroleum products accounting for 89.2% of exports in 2003. Other leading industries included cement and other construction materials, chemicals, fertilizer, ceramics, and steel.

Nigeria produced 4,800 metric tons (gross weight) of cassiterite tin concentrate in 2003, up from 3,600 metric tons in 2002. A smelter at Jos produced refined tin for export. In 2003, production of columbium and tantalum concentrates (gross weight) totaled 700 metric tons, up from 500 metric tons in 2002. Nigeria had plentiful supplies of limestone, and production totaled 2.2 million tons in 2003. In addition, Nigeria produced barite, clays, feldspar, gold, granite, kaolin, lead, marble, shale, and topaz. Gypsum output declined from 300,0008 metric tons in 2002 to 100,000 metric tons in 2003. Nitrogen production was halted in 1999, while no iron ore was produced in 1999 or 2003, even though extensive iron deposits included reserves of 2,500 million tons with an average content of 37%.

To attract local and foreign investment in the development of the nonfuel minerals sector and to broaden the country's industrial base, the Mining and Minerals Decree No. 34, enacted in 1999, provided for three-year tax holidays, exemption from customs duties for mining equipment, convertibility of foreign currency, and free transferability of funds. It also reaffirmed that all mineral rights were to be held by the federal government, although the national legislature was debating reallocation of mineral rights to the states. However, the country's reputation for civil strife, corruption, environmental degradation, fraud, poor infrastructure, and political uncertainty continued to temper international investors' interest in most projects. The adoption of Islamic Shariah law in many of the northern states added uncertainty to internal mineral projects in northern Nigeria. Mineral resource companies also had to cope with expectations that the companies should provide extensive physical and social infrastructure.


Nigeria, as of April 2005, is reported to be the eleventh-largest producer of oil in the world and the largest oil producer in Africa. It is a major oil supplier to the United States and Western Europe. Nigeria is also a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

Nigeria, as of 1 January 2005, has estimated proven oil reserves of 35.5 billion barrels, according to the Oil and Gas Journal. In 2004, the country produced an estimated 2.5 million barrels of oil per day, of which crude oil accounted for 2.3 million barrels per day. In that same year, net exports and domestic consumption of oil were estimated at 2.2 million barrels per day and 321,000 barrels per day, respectively. According to the Oil and Gas Journal, crude oil refining capacity was estimated at 438,750 barrels per day, as of 1 January 2005. As a member of OPEC, Nigeria is subject to a crude oil production quota. As of August 2004, that quota was set at 2.6 million barrels per day.

Nigeria's proven reserves of natural gas makes the country one of the world's top 10 countries so endowed, and the largest in Africa. According to the Oil and Gas Journal, Nigeria's natural gas reserves were estimated at 176 trillion cu ft as of 1 January 2005. Although the Nigerian government plans to raise its earnings from natural gas exports to 50% of the country's revenues from oil by 2010, about 75% of the natural gas currently produced is flared-off due to a lack of infrastructure, according to a November 2004 estimate by the World Bank. In 2002, Nigeria produced an estimated 501 billion cu ft of natural gas, with domestic demand for that year at 225 billion cu ft and exports estimated at 225 billion cu ft.

Nigeria also has coal deposits. In 2002, recoverable coal reserves were estimated at 209 million short tons, with domestic consumption and production each estimated at 0.07 million short tons.

Nigeria's electric generating capacity is heavily dedicated to conventional thermal sources. In 2002, electric power generating capacity stood at 5.888 million kW, of which conventional thermal sources accounted for 67% of capacity, while hydroelectric dedicated capacity accounted for the rest. Electric power output in 2002 came to 14.743 billion kWh, with conventional thermal fueled output accounting for 52.4% of the power produced, and hydropower accounting for the remainder. However, power outages in Nigeria are frequent and operations are well under the nation's estimated capacity. Also, consumers are billed for services rendered, which in part explains the country's widespread power theft, vandalism, and problems involving payments. In addition, only about 40% of the population has access to electricity, most of whom reside in urban areas. In January 2004, Nigeria began a rural electrification program that would connect 1,500 communities to the nation's power grid by 2007.


Industry accounted for 30.5% of GDP in 2004, mostly in the oil sector, and experienced 1.8% growth that year. Due to the high costs of production that result from inadequate infrastructure, Nigeria's manufacturing capacity utilization remains low. An estimated 10% of the labor force is employed in the industrial sector.

Nigeria is the eleventh-largest producer of oil in the world, and first in Africa. The oil sector supplies 95% of foreign exchange earnings and some 90% of total exports. Nigeria had proven oil reserves of 35.5 billion barrels in 2005, and planned to expand its proven reserves to 40 billion barrels by 2010. Nigeria's crude oil refining capacity was 438,750 barrels per day in 2005. There are four state-owned refineries in Nigeria, and hydrocarbon production is centered around Eleme, Warri, and Kaduna. Sabotage, fires, extended maintenance, and management problems plague the oil industry, however. There has been political unrest over the issue of the equitable sharing of Nigeria's oil profits with the population. Nigeria had an estimated 176 trillion cu ft of natural gas reserves in 2005, and the natural gas industry is seen to have great potential.

In October 2002, the International Court of Justice ruled in favor of Cameroon in its border dispute with Nigeria over the oilrich Bakassi peninsula.

The textile industry is still in early stages of development. Between 60% and 70% of all raw materials used in textile production come from local sources. Foreign investment in the textile industry is led by Chinese and Indian investors. Other areas of expansion include cement production, tire production, and furniture assembly. The Delta Steel Plant at Aladja, built by a German-Austrian consortium, began production in 1982 and supplied three steel rolling mills at Oshogbo, Katsina, and Jos. The steel complex at Abeokuta began producing in 1983 and was renovated in 1995. As of 1999, most of these steel mills were inoperative, and the ones that did work had very small production rates.

Other important industries include sawmills, cigarette factories, breweries, sugar refining, rubber, paper, soap and detergent factories, footwear factories, pharmaceutical plants, tire factories, paint factories, and assembly plants for radios, record players, and television sets. Nigeria has five state-owned motor-vehicle assembly plants for Volkswagen, Peugeot, and Mercedes products, which by 2006 were put on the path toward privatization.


Learned societies include ones for ecology, engineering, entomology, fisheries, forestry, genetics, geography, medicine, microbiology, nutrition, and veterinary medicine. The Federal Ministry of Science and Technology has 25 attached research institutes that focus on cereals, cocoa, lake ecology, horticulture, forestry, livestock, root crops, veterinary medicine, oceanography and marine sciences, oil palms, rubber, and tropical agriculture, among other areas. The Geological Survey of Nigeria, founded in 1919, is concerned with geological mapping, mineral exploration, geophysical and geochemical surveys, and consultation on geological problems.

The National Museum branch in Jos, founded in 1989, has zoological and botanical gardens and a transport museum. Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife has a natural history museum founded in 1948. Nigeria has 60 universities and colleges offering courses in basic and applied science. Science and engineering students account for about 40% of college and university enrollments.

The Nigerian Academy of Science, founded in 1977, promotes and coordinates scientific and technological activities, trains scientists, advises the government on scientific matters, and organizes symposia and lectures.


The distribution of consumer goods is effected largely through a complex network of intermediary traders, who extend the area of distribution and often break down products into very small units for delivery to the ultimate consumer. A few trading companies, especially those with European equity and management, carry full product lines. Village markets are universal but tend to be more highly organized in the densely populated areas of the south. The great market centers such as Ibadan and Kano are attended by many thousands daily. Domestic commerce is limited by poor infrastructure, widespread fraud and corruption, and shortages of fuel that are exacerbated by illegal smuggling of gasoline across Nigeria's borders. The economy is still primarily cash based. Advertising has increased markedly since independence. Newspapers, magazines, radio, television, billboards, and movies are all utilized.

Businesses and government offices are generally open from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm, Monday through Friday. In the Muslim north, establishments close at 1:00 pm on Friday so that Muslim workers can attend Jumat services. Supermarkets and stores are open from 8:30 am to 5 pm, Monday through Friday, and from 7:30 am to 1 pm on Saturdays. A large number of smaller shops and restaurants are often open from sunrise to near midnight.


Nigeria's exports have been on a dramatic upswing. Between 1998 and 1999, they grew more than three-fold, and by 2000 nearly doubled again. Exports in 2006 were 90% dominated by crude oil. Liquefied natural gas accounted for 8.1% of exports in 2004. Cocoa is the largest agricultural export. Leading imports are machinery, chemicals, transportation equipment, manufactured goods, and food.

In 2004, Nigeria's leading markets were: the United States (49.9% of all exports); India (10.2%); Spain (7.5%); and Brazil (6.9%). Leading suppliers were the United States (8.9% of all imports); China (8.5%); the United Kingdom (8.2%); and the Netherlands (6.2%).


Exports are dominated by oil, and with oil prices forecast to remain relatively high against a background of rising production from 200510, substantial trade surpluses were predicted. The trade surplus was estimated at $18.2 billion in 2004. Over the 200105 period, the current-account balance averaged 0.6% of GDP. In 2004, the current-account surplus was estimated at $5.228 billion.


In 1892, Nigeria's first bank, the African Banking Corp., was established, patterned along British lines. Before World War II, two large British banks, the Bank of British West Africa and Barclays

Country Exports Imports Balance
World 17,796.5 7,958.2 9,838.3
United States 7,320.9 822.8 6,498.1
India 2,083.3 315.7 1,767.6
Spain 1,175.6 108.3 1,067.3
France-Monaco 1,142.3 371.7 770.6
Brazil 1,051.3 174.6 876.7
Italy-San Marino-Holy See 854.0 200.8 653.2
Indonesia 537.2 107.8 429.4
Portugal 461.4 461.4
Netherlands 364.8 391.7 -26.9
Canada 357.3 38.6 318.7
() data not available or not significant.
Current Account 506.0
   Balance on goods 4,288.0
     Imports -8,588.0
     Exports 12,876.0
   Balance on services -2,496.0
   Balance on income -2,578.0
   Current transfers 1,292.0
Capital Account -48.0
Financial Account -4,002.0
   Direct investment abroad
   Direct investment in Nigeria 1,005.0
   Portfolio investment assets 50.0
   Portfolio investment liabilities -39.0
   Financial derivatives
   Other investment assets -3,319.0
   Other investment liabilities -1,699.0
Net Errors and Omissions 7.0
Reserves and Related Items 3,538.0
() data not available or not significant.

Bank, virtually monopolized Nigerian banking. After 1945, a number of African-owned banks entered the field; between 1946 and 1952, however, more than 20 such banks failed. The bank of issue became the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in 1958. It regulated most commercial banking operations in Nigeria, but the federal Ministry of Finance retained control of most international activities of the financial sector. The Nigerian Industrial Development Bank (NIDB) was established in 1964 to provides long- and medium-term financing to concerns in the industrial nonpetroleum, mining, and tourist sectors.

The 1969 Banking Decree required that all banking institutions be incorporated in Nigeria, and a 1976 law gave the government 60% ownership of all foreign banks. The Banking Decree also established minimum capital requirements for licensed banks, based on the total deposits. Important additional sources of credit were provided by thrift and loan societies and by the branches of the National Development Corporation. The National Bank for Commerce and Industry helped finance smaller enterprises. Merchant banking expanded rapidly from 1973 onward, when the Union Dominican Trust Company began operations.

With the adoption of the Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) in 1986, the licensing of new banks was liberalized. In July 1990 the state banks were privatized. Beginning in 1990 the country allowed the establishment of foreign banks, but 60% of the foreign banks that were established in Nigeria had to be held by Nigerian interests. In the same year the government began a program to establish 500 community banks. From 1985 to 1993, the number of banks rose from 40 to 120, but declined to 89 in 1998.

While there are over 100 banks in Nigeria, the main banks in 2002 included the Afribank, Universal Trust Bank, FSB International Bank, Diamond Bank Limited, United Bank for Africa (with Banque Nationale de Paris and Bankers Trust shareholdings), Union Bank of Nigeria, and First Bank of Nigeria (partly owned by Standard Chartered), Nigeria International Bank Limited. All but the last bank on the list were charged in 1996 with import duty and excise collection. Twenty-seven ailing banks were liquidated by the government in 1997, while others merged. The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $7.3 billion. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $11.8 billion. The money market rate, the rate at which financial institutions lend to one another in the short term, was 20.5%.

The Nigerian (formerly Lagos) Stock Exchange (NSE) began operations on 1 July 1961, following passage of the Lagos Stock Exchange Act; the government promulgated regulations for the exchange and provided that all dealings in stock be carried out only by members of the exchange. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) fixed prices of all new securities, and regulated the prices of those already being traded. Transactions of 50,000 shares or more were subject to SEC approval. The government encouraged public issues of shares by Nigerian companies in an effort to mobilize local capital for the country's development. The exchange, in Lagos, with branches in Kaduna and Port Harcourt, dealt in government stocks and in shares of public companies registered in Nigeria. After the provision of new investment incentives under the Nigerian Enterprises Promotion Decree of April 1974, activity on the stock exchange increased.

In a bid to encourage foreign interest in the NSE, a computerized central securities clearing system (CSCS) was installed on 14 April 1997, although it got off to a quiet start. The custodian bank for the system was Nigeria International Bank/Citibank. The benefit of the system was that trades would be settled within one week and eventually within two days, compared with the long delays hitherto experienced in effecting share transfers after purchases and sales. On 21 April 1997, a CBN directive lifted the restrictions on equity ownership of individual and corporate investors in Nigerian banks. Under this legislation, it was possible for an individual or another corporation to own up to a 100% share in a bank. Prior to the directive, the maximum shareholding for an individual was just 10%, while for companies it was 30%.

Market capitalization of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) was $14.464 billion in 2004, with 207 companies listed. The NSE All Share Index was up 18.5% in 2004 to 23,844.5.


The Nigerian Reinsurance Corp. requires foreign insurance companies to reinsure 20% through the corporation. In 1976, the government took a 60% interest in foreign-owned insurance companies. The only compulsory insurance is that for motor vehicles. Laws of 1976 and 1977 regulate insurance firms, particularly those in the life insurance field, and provide for their registration, investigation, and minimum capitalization. The regulatory body is the Director of Insurance, under the Federal Ministry of Trade (Insurance Division). In 2003, the value of all direct insurance premiums written totaled $422 million, of which nonlife premiums accounted for $345 million. In 2002, Nigeria's top nonlife insurer was Nicon, with gross written nonlife premiums of $91.6 million, while the nation's leading life insurer that same year was Aiico, with gross written life insurance premiums of $15.6 million.


The federal government is responsible for collecting taxes on income, profits, and property, as well as import and export taxes and excise duties. It also runs the national transportation system. The petroleum sector provides over 83% of budgetary revenues. A large share of these revenues is redistributed to state governments. The budget is consistently in deficit. In 1998, debt financing amounted to $4.4 billion, but the 1999 budget provided for only $1.7 billion. Public investment flourished during the oil boom years of the 1970s. When the oil market prices collapsed in the 1980s however, the Nigerian government maintained its high level of spending, thus acquiring substantial foreign debt. Although privatization efforts began in 1986, increased government spending outside the official budget since 1990 has damaged public finance reform. As a result, the federal deficit increased from 2.8% of GDP in 1990 to 9% in 1998. Through privatization, the government sold all state-owned banks, fuel distribution companies, and cement plants in 2000. Nigeria sought to sell the troubled Nigerian Airways before it ceased operations as of 2006. The state telephone company NITEL, launched a mobile phone network in 2001; the government also hoped to privatize it. Nigeria's official foreign debt is about $32 billion, about three-fourths of which is owed to Paris Club countries.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Nigeria's central government took in revenues of approximately $12.8 billion and had expenditures of $13.5 billion. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately -$680 million. Public debt in 2005 amounted to 11.2% of GDP. Total external debt was $37.49 billion.


By far the most important direct tax is the petroleum profits tax. The rate on taxable profits of petroleum companies since 1975 has been 85%, but a guaranteed profit of $2.30 per barrel was established in 1986.

With the restoration of democracy, most state and local governments have found it necessary to introduce their own local levies in the face of dwindling revenues from the Federation Account to the State and Local Governments.

Nigeria had a standard corporate tax rate of 30%, as of 2005, plus a 2% education tax. A reduced rate of 20% is available for companies engaged in manufacturing, agricultural production or mining solid minerals, and for wholly export-oriented enterprises. There was also a capital gains tax of 10% on the disposal of assets inside or outside of Nigeria, although as of 1 January 1998 capital gains from the sale of stocks and share is exempt. There is a withholding tax of 10% on dividends, interest income, rental income and royalties. There is also a tax on companies engaged in upstream (exploration and production) activities in the petroleum sector.

Under the Personal Income Tax Act, both Nigerian and foreign residents in Nigeria are subject to a progressive tax on their worldwide income, with a top rate of 30%. Property taxes are assessed by state governments.

In 1993, the Value-added Tax Decree (VAT Act) abolished the 1986 Sales Tax Decree of 1986, establishing a VAT with a standard rate of 5% (as of 2005) chargeable on most goods and services. Exempted goods include medical and pharmaceutical products, basic foodstuffs, books and educational materials, baby products, locally manufactured fertilizers, all exports, plants and machinery used in export processing zones (EPZs). Of the proceeds collected, 50% goes to state government, 35% to local governments, and 15% to the administrative costs of the tax. States are also authorized to impose a tax on goods and services rendered in the state. Excise duties on beer, tobacco, textiles, and other goods are also levied.


The federal government levies customs duties on most imports, but these duties were substantially reduced in 1986 and in 1995. The import duty varies from 560%, averaging 12%. All imports are also subject to a 7% port surcharge and a 5% value-added tax (VAT). The paperwork necessary for exporting and importing is lengthy. The taxation system has been widely avoided and valuations are arbitrary.

Prohibited exports include raw hides and skins, timber and building materials, raw palm kernels, and unprocessed rubber (to protect building and processing industries). Most goods produced in Nigeria may be freely exported. Prohibited imports include live chicks, flour, vegetable oils, gypsum, mosquito repellent coils, plastic domestic articles, used tires, and weapons.


Nigeria is West Africa's most populous country, and one of the most developed. Investment in the petroleum industry was carried out on a very large scale in the 1970s, including funds devoted to production, refining, and petrochemicals. The petroleum industry was largely nationalized during that period. Upstream operations are dominated by the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria. The company has been involved in conflict with local groups, particularly the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOPOS), which accused Shell of causing life-threatening environmental damage, while the company contends that the damage was caused by interference with its operations. Downstream, two consortiums with foreign participation have controlled about 30% of the market: Total Fin a Elf Nigeria Plc and Unipetrol/Agip. However, in 2005, Majestic Oil (Sierra Leone) acquired Unipetrol's 24.22% share in the West Africa Oil Refinery when the company failed to invest in the rehabilitation of the facility.

In December 1989, a new Nigerian Enterprises Decree permitted 100% foreign ownership in any new venture except those in banking, oil, insurance, and mining. The government uses an open tender system for awarding government contracts. However, a patronage system exerts powerful influence over the awarding of such contracts. Government scandals, political instability, and endemic corruption (Nigeria is regularly ranked among the most corrupt countries in the world, often at the top of the list) have inhibited foreign investment. Corporate profits, except for those of oil companies, are taxed at 30%.

In 1992, the Nigerian Free Zone Act was passed establishing the Nigerian Export Processing Zone Authority (NEPZA). Free trade zones (FTZ), so renamed in 2001, are expanses of land with improved ports and/or transportation, warehousing facilities, uninterrupted electricity and water supplies, advanced telecommunications services and other amenities to accommodate business operations. Under the free trade zone system, as long as end products are exported (although 25% can be sold in the domestic market), enterprises are exempt from customs duties, local taxes, and foreign exchange restrictions, and qualify for incentivestax holidays, rent-free land, no strikes or lockouts, no quotas in EU and US markets, and, under the 2000 African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), preferential tariffs in the US market until 2008. When fully developed, free zones are to encompass industrial production, offshore banking, insurance and reinsurance, international stock, commodities, and mercantile exchanges, agro-allied industry, mineral processing, and international tourist facilities.

In 1995, the military government decreed the establishment of the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC) as well as the liberalization of the foreign exchange market. These, with amendments, remain the bases of Nigeria's policy of encouraging foreign investment. Foreign direct investment (FDI) inflow was reported at $1.5 billion in 1997, and about $1 billion in both 1998 and 1999. In late 2002, the Nigerian government announced that since the return to an elected government in May 1999, n56.94 billion in FDI had flowed into the country, from a total of 170 foreign companies.

In 2003, the stock of FDI was estimated at $24 billion, which accounted for approximately 43% of GDP. Total FDI inflow was $1.2 billion in 2003. Total FDI outflow was estimated at $93 million in 2003, while total FDI outward stock was estimated at $4.6 billion, accounting for 8.3% of GDP. Most FDI inflows continue to fund oil and gas exploration and production, liquefied natural gas projects, and related activities.


The agriculture sector was the focus of intense development interest during the 1990s, with food self-sufficiency the goal. In 1990, agriculture was the subject of a separate three-year development plan involving public and private spending targets concentrating on the family farmer. The program included price stabilization plans and schemes to revitalize the palm oil, cocoa, and rubber subsectors. The Agricultural Development Projects continued through the decade, but implementation of goals was difficult. The country still imports most of its wheat from the United States.

An integrated petrochemical industry was also a priority. Using the output of the nation's refineries, Nigeria produced benzene, carbon black, and polypropylene. The development of liquid natural gas facilities was expected to lead to the production of methanol, fertilizer, and domestic gas. Nigeria's refineries operated at less than optimal rates throughout the 1990s and into the early- and mid-2000s.

In the manufacturing sector, the government was backing a policy of local sourcing whereby locally produced raw materials were converted into finished products. By 2003, manufacturing accounted for 4% of gross domestic product (GDP), down from 13% in 1982.

By the beginning of the 2000s, the government was more concerned about halting corruption and reigning in the state budget than economic development. Nevertheless, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) was created to coordinate economic and social development in the oil-producing region.

Nigeria's foreign debt stood at around $30.55 billion in 2004, a large portion of which was interest and payment arrears. The Obasanjo administration in the early 2000s was supporting private-sector-led, market-oriented economic growth, and had begun economic reform programs. Privatization of state-owned enterprises continued. A Stand-By Arrangement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved in 2000 lapsed in 2001 as the government's economic reform program went off track. By 2005, Nigeria had negotiated a deal for forgiveness of 60% of its debt with the Paris Club.

By 2006, the centerpiece of President Obasanjo's policy agenda was the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS), which aimed to diversify the economy away from its dependence upon oil. Corruption was an issue that still demanded a great deal of attention. Although the government has called for economic reform, progress in the mid-2000s was held back by strong vested interests opposed to change, especially to privatization and the restructuring of the public sector. With offshore oil production increasing, the need to renegotiate Nigeria's OPEC quota was a priority in 2006. President Obasanjo sought to maintain good relations with Western powers and to promote Nigeria as a leading international and regional power.


A 2004 law established a unified system of mandatory individual accounts for public employees. The system is not fully implemented in the private sector. The National Social Insurance Trust Fund holds contributions previously made and will transfer the funds into a private pension. Old age pensions are available after age 50, and are not payable abroad. Medical benefits are provided to insured employees of firms with 10 or more workers. Employers fund work injury insurance. There is limited social assistance and health care benefits provided to families.

Although sex discrimination is banned under the constitution, traditional practices still deprive women of many rights and the adoption of Shariah law by many northern states has more severely limited the rights and freedom of women. A Woman may not obtain a passport without her husband's permission. It is customary for all assets to be turned over to the parents after the death of a male, leaving the widow economically destitute. Segregation by gender occurs in some schools, health facilities, and, in some states, on public transportation. Purdah, the Islamic practice of completely segregating a woman from men other than those within her family, is practiced in some families, primarily in the north. In Shariah courts, women's testimony is given less weight than that of men. Female genital mutilation (FGM) is widespread throughout the country despite government opposition. Domestic violence is widespread, and wife beating is permissible under the penal code. According to a 2004 survey, more than 64% of women and 61% of men believed that a husband had justification for beating his wife under certain circumstances, including burning food.

As of 2006, Nigeria's human rights situation had improved, but serious abuses remained. Arbitrary arrest and detention were still used to silence the government's critics. Reports of torture and extrajudicial killings persisted, and prison conditions were considered to be life threatening. Overcrowding and poor sanitary conditions were compounded by limited food, water, and medicine for inmates. Sentences of stoning and amputation were still imposed.


Nigeria's health care delivery system consists of a network of primary, secondary, and tertiary facilities. As of 2004, there were an estimated 27 physicians, 66 nurses, 2 dentists, 8 pharmacists, and 52 midwives per 100,000 people. The target areas for mass procurement of medical equipment are the teaching hospitals. The lack of proper facilities and inadequate remuneration of public sector health care workers have also spurred the development of a limited number of privately-owned hospitals which cater to those who can afford them. The country is in need of medical supplies and equipment. Some pharmaceuticals are manufactured in Nigeria. Approximately 57% of the population had access to safe drinking water and 63% had adequate sanitation. Total health care expenditure was estimated at 2.8% of GDP.

Despite the receding influence of such endemic diseases as yellow fever, health problems in Nigeria remain acute. Malaria and tuberculosis are the diseases of most frequent incidence, but serious outbreaks of cerebrospinal meningitis still occur in the north. Just under half of all deaths are thought to be among children, who are especially vulnerable to malaria and account for 75% of registered malaria deaths. The prevalence of child malnutrition for children under age five was 46%. Goiter was present in 20% of all school-age children. Nigeria had the highest number of measles cases reported of all African nations, and. diarrheal diseases remain prevalent. Close to 15% of all Nigerian children did not live to their fifth birthday. Immunization rates for children up to one year old were as follows: tuberculosis, 53%; diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 45%; polio, 45%; and measles, 69%. Only 1% of children were immunized for yellow fever.

Schistosomiasis, guinea worm (19,766 cases in 1995), trachoma, river blindness, and yaws are other diseases of high frequency. Progress has been made in the treatment of sleeping sickness (trypanosomiasis) and leprosy. The former has been nearly eliminated by the introduction of new drugs, while the introduction of sulfone therapy has nearly halted the incidence of new cases of leprosy in the eastern states. A program for the eradication of river blindness and malaria has been undertaken in cooperation with the World Health Organization.

The government is also working on the control of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS, through public education and behavior change. HIV/AIDS has reached epidemic levels in Nigeria. The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 5.40 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 3,600,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country, the third-highest in the world. There were an estimated 310,000 deaths from AIDS in 2003.

Only 15% of married women used contraceptives. The fertility rate in 2000 was 5.3 children per woman surviving her childbearing years. The life expectancy for the Nigerian was only 46.74 years in 2005. In that year the infant mortality rate was 98.80 per 1,000 live births. As of 2002, the crude birth rate and overall mortality rate were estimated at, respectively, 39.2 and 14.1 per 1,000 people.


Housing generally has not ranked high on the scale of priorities for social spending and state governments have tended to rely upon local authorities to meet the problem. Efforts at providing low-cost rural housing have been minimal, despite the creation of the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria in 1977, and shantytowns and slums are common in urban areas. Overcrowding in urban housing is a serious problem. It has been estimated that about 85% of the urban population live in single rooms, often with eight to twelve persons per room. Living conditions are poor. The total number of housing units in 1992 was 25,661,000. In 1996, only about 27% of urban dwellers had access to piped water. Less than 10% of urban dwellers had an indoor toilet.

In 1979, at the establishment of a civilian government, about 37% of all housing units were cement or brick roofed with asbestos or corrugated iron; 34% were mud plastered with cement and roofed with corrugated iron. In the same year, 44% of urban dwellings were rented, 37% were owner occupied, 17% were rent free, and 2% were "quasi-rented" at below-average rates. Since then, the government has initiated a number of projects aimed at providing adequate housing at all income levels; but many of these were unsuccessful and because of the poor quality of workmanship in some of developments, many finished dwellings were soon left vacant.


The 1979 constitution made primary education the responsibility of the states and local councils. State and federal authorities have concurrent powers over postprimary education. The first six years of primary education were made compulsory in 1976. These are followed by six years of general secondary studies or technical school studies. Primary education begins in the local language but introduces English in the third year. The academic year runs from October to July.

In 2001, about 8% of children between the ages of three and five were enrolled in some type of preschool program. Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 67% of age-eligible students; 74% for boys and 60% for girls. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 29% of age-eligible students; 32% for boys and 26% for girls. It is estimated that about 82.3% of all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 42:1 in 2003; the ratio for secondary school was about 35:1. In 2003, private schools accounted for about 7% of primary school enrollment and 20.7% of secondary enrollment.

The advancement in education in the southern states, compared with the relative lag in the northern states, reflects the contribution of Christian missions to the Nigerian educational system. Teacher-training colleges are operated by missions or voluntary societies; their schools, however, are regulated and largely supported by the government. There are 13 polytechnic colleges and 4 colleges of technology. A major obstacle to the further advancement of education in Nigeria is the shortage of qualified teachers; large numbers of foreigners are employed, particularly by the universities. In 2003, about 8% of the tertiary age population were enrolled in some type of higher education program. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 66.8%, with 74.4% for men and 59.4% for women.

Public expenditure on education was estimated at less than 1% of GDP.


The National Library of Nigeria was founded in Lagos in 1962 and has over one million volumes, including some 35,000 United Nations documents and the National Information and Documentation Center. In 2004 there were 18 state branches of the National Library. The National Archives are in Enugu State. State governments have libraries in their respective capitals and in all the local government headquarters. Almost all of the 20 universities have libraries. The largest public library in Kano holds over 300,000 volumes. The chief university library is that of the University of Ibadan, which contains 450,000 volumes. Other sizable university collections are at the University of Lagos (375,000 volumes), the University of Ife (401,000), and the University of Nigeria at Nsukka and Enugu (717,000). The High Court of Lagos State holds a collection of 600,000 volumes. There are dozens of other privately maintained collections throughout the country.

The National Museum in Lagos contains many specimens of Nigerian art, mostly pieces of statuary and carvings, remarkable for their variety and quality. It also has archaeological and ethnographic exhibits. Other museums represent more specialized interests: the museum at Ife opened in 1955 in response to halt the looting of national art treasures, and contains world-renowned bronze and terra cotta heads; the decorative arts museum at Benin City has a collection of bronzes; and that at Oron has a valuable collection of ancestor carvings. The museum at Jos, opened in 1952 originally as the National Museum, is a center of research into the prehistoric culture of Nigeria. The Esie Museum, at Ilorin in Kwara State, has stone antiquities, and the National Museum at Kaduna has archaeological and ethnographic exhibits, including a "craft village." The Owo Museum, in Ondo State, displays arts, crafts, and ethnographic relics. There are also museums in Kano, Argungu, and Oshogbo. Lagos also houses the Centre for Black and African Art and Civilization.


Telephone and telegraph communications are the responsibility of the Federal Ministry of Communications through its parastatal NITEL. Trunk lines and UHF links connect all the major towns, and all of these have exchange units, including automatic exchanges at Lagos, Ibadan, Kaduna, Kano, Jos, and Port Harcourt. In 2003, there were an estimated seven mainline telephones for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were approximately 26 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people. Postal services are provided by another parastatalNIPOST. There are post offices in all 305 local-government headquarters and other major towns.

Radio broadcasting is the joint responsibility of the federal and state governments, operating under the Federal Radio Corp. of Nigeria, created in 1978; state radio stations broadcast in English and local languages. Television, introduced in 1959, now operates throughout the country under the direction of the Nigerian Television Authority, with stations in all state capitals and channels set aside for the state governments. Several states also run their own stations. In 2001, there were nine television stations and six radio stations that were privately owned. In 2003, there were an estimated 200 radios and 103 television sets for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were 7.1 personal computers for every 1,000 people and 6 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet. There were 13 secure Internet servers in the country in 2004.

In 2002 there were 26 major daily newspapers in Nigeria, some of them published by the federal or state governments. Leading Nigerian daily newspapers (with their 2002 estimated circulations) are: Daily Times (national, 400,000), National Concord (Lagos, 200,000), Daily Champion (Lagos, 150,000), Nigerian Observer (national, 150,000), The Punch (national, 150,000), Nigerian Tribune (national, 109,000), New Democrat (Kaduna, 100,000), Nigerian Standard (Jos, 100,000), New Nigerian (national, 80,000), The Guardian (Lagos, 80,000).

The constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press and the government generally respected these rights; however, there were problems in some areas, particularly in restrictions on antigovernment reports.


Cooperatives are very important in Nigerian economic life. Many different societies are included in this categoryconsumers' societies, thrift and credit societies, and othersbut the most important are the marketing societies, which play a significant role in handling export produce, and sometimes in the production of both food and cash crops. Examples include the African Groundnut Council and the Cocoa Producers' Alliance. However, the Structural Adjustment Program is gradually replacing cooperatives with farmers' societies and export societies. There are chambers of commerce in all 19 state capitals and Abuja, and a National Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines, and Agriculture in Lagos and Abuja.

The Girl Guides, the Boy Scouts, YWCA organizations, Muslim societies, Jamat Aid groups, and other community, social, and service groups are active in all towns and villages. There are sports clubs in Lagos and all the state capitals and national chapters of sports associations. Other national youth organizations include the National Association of Nigerian Students, the Ahmadyya Youth Association of Nigeria, 4-H, and the Catholic Youth Organization of Nigeria. National women's organizations include the Nigeria Association of University Women and the National Center for Women in Development.

Literary and art associations meet regularly in Lagos, Kaduna, Enugu, and other major cities. Nigerian Academy of Sciences promotes public interest and education in the sciences. The Nigerian Medical Association promotes research and education on health issues and works to establish common policies and standards in healthcare. There are several other associations dedicated to research and education for specific fields of medicine and particular diseases and conditions.

The Constitutional Rights Project, founded in 1990, is a social action group. Volunteer service organizations, such as the Lions Clubs and Kiwanis International, are also present. International organizations with national chapters include Amnesty International, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Habitat for Humanity, Caritas, and the Red Cross.


There are five-star hotels in Lagos, Abuja, and Kaduna, and firstclass hotels in all the state capitals. All of the cities have museums, which attract visitors to their historical artifacts. Many of the beaches are underdeveloped and lack accommodations and tourist facilities. Sports and social clubs offer facilities for swimming, sailing, tennis, squash, golf, and polo.

A passport valid for at least six months from visa purchase, return/onward ticket, and proof of sufficient funds are required for entry into Nigeria. Citizens of 106 countries including the United States and Canada also need visas. Travelers from infected areas are required to show a certificate of yellow fever vaccination. Precautions are recommended against malaria, meningitis, and typhoid.

There were 2,253,115 tourists who visited Nigeria in 2003, of whom 16.5% came from Europe. Receipts from tourism amounted to $263 million in 2002.

In 2004, the US Department of State estimated the daily cost of staying in Abuja at $266, and Lagos, $315.


Famous Nigerians of the 19th century include 'Uthman dan Fodio (d.1817), who founded the Fulani empire at the beginning of the century, and Samuel Ajayi Crowther (180992), a Yoruba missionary of the Church of England who was consecrated first bishop of the Niger Territories in 1864.

The Palm Wine Drinkard and other stories by Amos Tutuola (19201997) exploit the rich resources of traditional Nigerian folk tales. Benedict Chuka Enwonwu (19211994), Nigeria's leading painter and sculptor, gained international fame, as has Wole Soyinka (b.1934), a prominent playwright who was awarded the 1986 Nobel Prize for Literature, the first African so honored. Novelists of note include Chinua Achebe (b.1930) and Cyprian Ekwensi (b.1921). Sports figures include Dick Tiger (192971), twice world middleweight champion and once light-heavyweight champion.

Herbert Macaulay (18641946) is regarded as the father of Nigerian nationalism. Among contemporary political figures, Dr. (Benjamin) Nnamdi Azikiwe (190496), long one of the leading West African nationalists and formerly premier of the Eastern Region, was a founder of the NCNC and first governor-general and president of independent Nigeria. Former chief rival of Azikiwe and founder of the Action Group, Chief Obafemi Awolowo (190987) resigned as premier of the Western Region to lead the opposition in the federal House of Assembly. The hereditary leader of the Hausa-Fulani ruling class in northern Nigeria and leader of the NPC until his assassination in January 1966 was Alhaji Sir Ahmadu Bello, sardauna of Sokoto (190966), who became prime minister of the Northern Region in 1954. The first prime minister was Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa (191266), who also was assassinated in the 1966 coup. Chief Simeon Olaosebikan Adebo (191394), a leading Nigerian diplomat, has held several UN posts. Maj. Gen. Yakubu Gowon (b.1934) headed the Federal Military Government from July 1966 to July 1975, when he was deposed in a bloodless coup during his absence from Nigeria at an OAU meeting. Gowon is credited with formulating the postcivil war policy of reconciliation with the Ibos that resulted in the country's rapid recovery. Alhaji Shehu Shagari (b.1925) served in several high government posts before being elected president in 1979. Reelected in 1983, he was subsequently deposed in a military coup from which Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (b.1942) emerged as leader of the Supreme Military Council and head of state. Basketball player Hakeem Alajuwon (b.1963) was named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History by the National Basketball Association in 199697.


Nigeria has no territories or colonies.


Badru, Pade. Imperialism and Ethnic Politics in Nigeria, 19601996. Trenton, N.J.: Africa World Press, 1998.

Falola, Toyin. Culture and Customs of Nigeria. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2001.

. Development Planning and Decolonization in Nigeria. Gainesville, Fla.: University of Florida Press, 1996.

Forrest, Tom. Politics and Economic Development in Nigeria. 2nd ed. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1995.

Ihonvbere, Julius Omozuanvbo. Nigeria: The Politics of Adjustment and Democracy. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 1994.

Kastfelt, Niels. Religion and Politics in Nigeria: A Study in Middle Belt Christianity. New York: British Academic Press, 1994.

King, Mae C. Basic Currents of Nigerian Foreign Policy. Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press, 1996.

Oyewole, Anthony, and John Lucas. Historical Dictionary of Nigeria. 2nd ed. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2000.

Thompson, Joseph E. American Policy and African Famine: the Nigeria-Biafra War, 19661970. New York: Greenwood Press, 1990.

Umoren, Joseph A. Democracy and Ethnic Diversity in Nigeria. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1996.

Uwazie, Ernest E. et al, eds. Inter-Ethnic and Religious Conflict Resolution in Nigeria. Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books, 1999.

Zeilig, Leo and David Seddon. A Political and Economic Dictionary of Africa. Philadelphia: Routledge/Taylor and Francis, 2005.

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Federal Republic of Nigeria

Major Cities:
Lagos, Abuja, Ibadan, Kaduna, Kano, Enugu

Other Cities:
Aba, Abeokuta, Ado, Benin City, Bonny, Calabar, Ede, Ife, Ilesha, Ilorin, Iseyin, Iwo, Katsina, Maiduguri, Ogbomosho, Onitsha, Oshogbo, Oyo, Port Harcourt, Zaria


This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report dated April 1997. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at for the most recent information available on travel to this country.


Nigeria is a large and energetic country, striving to revive an economy that has been battered by a slump in oil prices and a lack of political unity. About the size of Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi combined, its population of 122 million is the highest in Africa, and the tenth largest in the world. Nigeria's status and influence in West Africa and throughout the continent remain strong, as does its global voice. This international position is derived from its size, its prospect for economic stability, and its determined pursuit of an autonomous political course.

Since becoming an independent nation in 1960 with aspirations of a democratic society, Nigeria has experienced the same evolutionary problems as did the United States in its early history. Regional rivalries, economic and ethnic differences, secessionist movements, civil war, and periodic unrest have all occurred. Since gaining independence from Great Britain, Nigeria has experienced many shifts between civilian and military government rule. Nigeria's evolving institutions are endeavoring to cope with the strains of a still-emerging nation.



Nigeria is a federation containing some 250 linguistic groups and nearly as many tribes. The large variety of customs, languages, and traditions continues to give the country a rich diversity.

In the 17th through 19th centuries, European traders established coastal ports for the increasing traffic in slaves destined for the Americas. Commodity trade, especially in palm oil and timber, replaced slave trade in the 19th century.

Following the Napoleonic wars, the British expanded their trade with the Nigerian interior. In 1885, British claims to a sphere of influence in that area received international recognition, and in the following year, the royal Niger Company was chartered. In 1900, the company's territory came under the control of the British Government, and in 1914, the area was formally united as the "Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria."

After World War II, in response to the growth of Nigerian nationalism and demands for independence, the British Government moved Nigeria toward self-government on a representative, increasingly Federal, basis. It was granted full independence in October 1960.

Since 1960, the government has changed many times, but only two civilians have ruled during the 35 years of independence, for a total of about 10 years. In 1993, Nigeria held presidential elections, which most observers deemed to be the fairest in its history. Election results were annulled by the military ruler, who then turned over power to a non-partisan technocrat to rule until new elections in February 1994. In November 1993, the military took over again with promises of handing over to a civilian. After successfully consolidating power, the military government later announced that a "constitutional conference" would examine and recommend the best way to restore democracy in Nigeria. The process of restoring democracy has been slow and continues to be a source of concern to the international community.

The most populous country in Africa, and one of the most richly-endowed with natural resources in the world, Nigeria accounts for one-quarter of sub-Sahara Africa's people. The economy has declined precipitously in recent years, down from the oil boom of the 1970's, subjecting most Nigerians to increasing hardships.

Lagos, situated on Nigeria's southwest coast, is a sprawling metropolitan area with an estimated population of 13.5 million (2000 est.). The bustling, noisy, and congested city covers four major islandsLagos, Iddo, Victoria, and Ikoyiand several mainland towns, including Apapa, Yaba, Surulere, and Ikeja. Apapa is the location of Africa's busiest port; Lagos Island is the center of business activity and government offices; and Victoria Island is the location of many embassies, including the American Embassy.


Most families may find that they miss some food items available at home but there are several stores on the islands which specialize in American food products. The availability of items, however, is affected by factors such as accommodation exchange fluctuations, transportation or customs clearance. Prices of imports from other countries vary according to item and country of origin, but most are within reasonable limits for the average American budget. These imported items come from a variety of countries including several in Europe and Asia and include canned, bottled and occasionally frozen goods. Prices tend to change from day to day.

Most locally-produced goods, such as cookies, are somewhat cheaper than U.S.-made products. Locally-bottled soft drinks (Coke, 7-Up, Pepsi, Sprite, orange soda, Bitter Lemon) and beer are less expensive although the soft drinks are sweeter than they are in the U.S. Many Americans shop in local grocery stores or butcher shops for meats, soft drinks, and some imported household products. While some food products are of good quality, many locally-produced processed goods (fruit, juice, coffee, canned goods, margarine, and yogurt) are not up to U.S. standards. Good bread and rolls, while somewhat more expensive, may be found in bakeries catering to foreigners and in some grocery stores.

Outdoor markets or vegetable stalls are the main source of fresh eggs, fruits, vegetables, and fish. The variety of products available in these local markets fluctuates. Some individuals venture a 20-minute drive across the bridge to Apapa on the mainland to obtain lower prices and fresher fish, as well as meat, fruits, and vegetables. However, fruit and vegetable stands abound on both Ikoyi and Victoria Islands. All prices in the markets and stalls are subject to bargaining. Eggs are always available in open markets and are usually fresh, but all eggs should be checked before use. Grocery store eggs are usually not fresh and should not be bought unless they have been refrigerated.

Quality and availability of fruits and vegetables vary according to season. Bananas, pineapples, pawpaw (papaya), and citrus fruits are almost always available and of good quality. Mangoes and guavas are available when in season. The lettuce grown locally is very good as are the tomatoes. Other local vegetables found in season are cucumbers, carrots, green beans, avocados, eggplants, onions, potatoes, parsley, peppers, spinach, cabbage, bread fruit, and cauliflower. A large variety of beans are also available locally.

Beef, chicken, mutton, pork, and goat meat are available locally, although some items, particularly beef, may be tough. Some local products (e.g., baby food) may be suspect.

Some dairy products are available in local food stores, such as reconstituted long-life (UHT) milk, powdered milk, butter, margarine and cheese. American ice cream products such as Carnation brand can be found in a number of food stores which cater to expatriate tastes. Supplies of imported products such as New Zealand lamb, butter, long-life milk, and European margarine and cheese are also available. Fresh milk is sometimes available locally, but should not be consumed.


Clothing worn in the Mid-Atlantic in the summer is suitable for Lagos. The weather is hot and humid year round, and some places are not air-conditioned. Bring a large wardrobe of washable summer wear, preferably cotton, which is more comfortable than most synthetic materials. Bring some warm clothing for trips to colder climates. Shoes are available locally and some Americans find them satisfactory. Nigerians are generally well-dressed for social and business functions so a good supply of dressy clothing may be useful.

Local fabric is plentiful, and some imported material can be found. High-quality imported fabrics for clothing, drapery and upholstery are available. Some local designers do beautiful work in fabric they dye themselves. Local tailors are readily available and do some very creative work in designing clothes or copying designs from pictures in magazines or catalogs. Ready-made clothing is available, but the variety and supply are very limited and often more expensive than buying from U.S. sources.

Hats, though not worn with street dress, are needed for protection from the sun at sports and at other outdoor events. Nigerian women wear hats to most local church services and also to local weddings, christenings, and other social functions. Hats are available locally but there is only a small selection and they are very expensive. Gloves are seldom worn at social functions by foreign women. Some people use selected local dry-cleaning facilities, but the service is uneven and a few have experienced damaged clothing. Washable clothes are preferred.

A washable lightweight raincoat, rain hat, boots, and umbrella are very useful in the rainy season.

Men: Shorts are worn for outdoor activities. Washable suits (especially those with two pairs of trousers) are practical. White suits are seldom worn. Local tailors can make native-style shirts and trousers.

Women: For daytime outdoor wear most women prefer light cotton dresses. Seasonal change is slight, but wear and tear is considerable. Cottons are appropriate for office and daytime social activities, and dressier dresses, sun dresses, or long caftans are worn for evening events. Nigerians wear beautiful native dress to most social events and to important occasions such as weddings and christenings. Summer-weight slacks are worn for informal gatherings. Shorts are usually worn only at expatriate functions. Women's shoes are available locally but require a visit to the open market and may not be up to American standards. Rubber beach thongs and tennis shoes are available locally.

Children: Children need a good supply of washable clothing. Bring a good supply of children's shoes, especially sneakers and sandals. Local supplies are not adequate.

The American International School does not require uniforms. Girls' clothing ranges from dresses to shorts and jeans, with sneakers or sandals. Boys may wear T-shirts with shorts, jeans or slacks, sandals, and sneakers, which are needed for gym class. Shorts are worn most of the time, but long pants are worn on occasion. Bring a few dressy items for children. Junior high students often have dances which require dresses for girls and slacks for boys.

Supplies and Services

Supplies: Imported supplies on the local market are often limited, unreliable, and usually very difficult to find when needed. The sun is intense so a good supply of sun screening location should be brought with you.

Basic Services: Tailoring and shoe repair services are available but the final products are not commensurate with America standards. Dry cleaning services are available but the quality is not good. Hairdressers and barbershops offer basic services but it is best if you have your own hair care products for them to use. There are a number of beauty and hair salons that have recently opened up on the islands.

Religious Activities

The following churches conduct service in English: Anglican (weekly), Baptist (weekly), Lutheran (weekly), and Catholic (daily at several churches). A nondenominational service is currently being held weekly at a local restaurant on Victoria Island and a daytime bible study group meets weekly. Lagos has no synagogues or orthodox churches, but does have few mosques that serves the community in English. Dates and times of all services can be obtained from the CLO.


The American International School of Lagos (AISL) is located on Victoria Island. AISL is a co-educational school for students in Kindergarten through Grade 9. It follows an American curriculum and has been affiliated with the Tacoma, Washington School District since 1965. The majority of the teachers at AISL are on leave of absence from Tacoma, although a number of other Americans, or American-trained teachers of other nationalities, with permanent residence in Nigeria, are also on the professional teaching staff at AISL. AISL has also established a secondary school-to-school partnership with the Klein School District in Houston, Texas. Recently the Office of Overseas Schools and the Allowances Staff has determined that an away-from-post allowance can be provided for Grade 9. Parents have the option to send their child to boarding school for Grade 9 or enrolling them in AISL. Students of high-school age (grades 10-12) have the option remain in Lagos and study by correspondence courses, but most go away to school.

The school year extends from late August to early June with a 3-week break at Christmas and a 10-day break at Easter. The school day is 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. for students in Kindergarten through Grade 6 and continues to 2:10 p.m. for students in Grades 7 to 9. AERA is currently providing transportation for children of all American employees. Each child entering AISL for the first time is charged a one-time building fund assessment. Advance registration is advisable. AISL does not have the facilities for gifted students or students with special educational needs. For more information on AISL, admission policies and requirements, and curriculum and course descriptions, please contact the school. You may write to:

Superintendent, American International School Lagos,
U.S. Department of State, Lagos
Washington, D.C. 20521-8300
Telephone (234) (1) 262-0775,
Fax (234) (1) 261-7794

AISL has a good library with over 20,500 volumes and two science laboratories. Its resources include audiovisual equipment and related teaching aids. The school is equipped with computers. All children from Kindergarten through Grade 9 are given computer instruction. The regular daily physical education program is supplemented by an after-school activities program, run by parent volunteers and the teaching faculty. The school also has a gymnasium which seats over 700 people and a 25-meter, six-lane pool. The school employs a full-time nurse. Testing, placement, and counseling services are provided, and U.S.-recognized standardized tests are given.

Other elementary schools (e.g., French, British) in Lagos and on the mainland are open to American children, if space is available.

Several day nurseries or pre-schools are available for small children. AISL offers a pre-school program for four-year olds, but usually has a waiting list. Early enrollment is recommended. The fees at AISL are higher than in the other pre-schools in Lagos.

A pre-school called the American Parents Cooperative Playcenter offers an American enrichment program for 2-1/2 to 4 year olds several mornings per week. The Playcenter also has a waiting list for new students. It was originally co-founded as a cooperative of parents in 1986 by expatriates from the U.S. Embassy and Gulf Oil Company.

Special Educational Opportunities

Very few formal educational opportunities are available in Lagos for adults or children. Universities are often closed with striking teachers. Private instruction is available in several fields, especially in foreign languages. Courses are available in French at the Alliance Francaise, in German at the Goethe Institute, and in Italian at the Italian Cultural Center. Some private institutions will teach local languages and culture. Instruction in tennis, swimming, music, and exercise is offered either by individuals or through AISL if qualified teachers are available. The American Women's Club has several groups that pursue and develop hobbies, interests and skills. The National Museum offers seminars in local art, language and culture at times.

There are no schools or facilities in Lagos which offer educational opportunities for mentally or physically handicapped children, for those with learning disabilities or for children who require a gifted program.


Many sports are available in Lagos. Sporting activities constitute an important part of life in the Tropics. Softball, volleyball, soccer, golf, squash, ping-pong, swimming, and tennis are all popular in Lagos. Sports equipment, when available, is expensive in Nigeria.

Swimming is a year-round activity. Lagos has several beaches, but few are safe for swimming.

The nearby ocean, creeks, and lagoons afford many opportunities for deep-sea fishing, sailing and motorboating. It is possible to buy used boats, but motors are often a problem. Sailing is also popular.

Bicycling opportunities are limited. Bicycles are expensive in Nigeria.

An International running group, the Hash House Harriers, sponsors weekly runs and is a means for social get-togethers. Some people jog around the islands after work. As is common in this part of the world, soccer (or "football," as it is called in Nigeria) is a popular spectator sport. Tennis and polo matches are held frequently.

Private clubs offer a variety of sports and social contacts. A waiting list for membership is common. The Ikoyi Club has mainly expatriate members and offers a variety of sports, including golf, tennis, ping-pong, badminton and squash. Two large swimming pools and a children's pool provide opportunity for swimming. The club also has a restaurant and bar.

The Polo Club affords its members the chance to ride as well as board horses. Riders are always needed to exercise the numerous horses boarded at the club. The restaurant and bar offer opportunities for social contacts within the Nigerian business community. You don't have to ride to be a member. There is also a Saddle Club in Ikeja for those interested in ordinary riding. They often sponsor several hour-long rides in the area.

The Lagos Lawn and Tennis Club offers tennis and squash; most members are Nigerian. Serious tennis players tend to prefer this club. Color tennis outfits are acceptable.

Two boat clubs are the Lagos Yacht Club, where members are required to sail on a regular basis, and the Lagos Motorboat Club, where the waiting list for membership is long.

Touring and Outdoor Activities

Touring within Nigeria is for the adventurous. The traffic is heavy, the roads poor, and overnight and rest facilities very limited. Travelers should always carry water, food and a first aid kit with them. Overnight stops require advance arrangements for food and lodging, a task that is very difficult to accomplish with the present telecommunication system. Travel to the north in Nigeria offers a change of scenery, climate and culture and some major cities do have adequate accommodations.

Lagos has no playgrounds or parks as we know them. The University of Ibadan has a small zoo and a botanical garden, but the animals are in very poor physical condition. The National Museum in Lagos has an adequate and well-arranged collection of antiquities from all parts of Nigeria, an interesting depiction of Nigeria's political history since independence, and a crafts center.

The Nigerian Field Society, an excursion group mainly for expatriates, has a low membership fee and is open to anyone. This Society, in existence for many years, offers field trips lasting from one day to one week to places within Nigeria. It also organizes seminars to educate members about the African environment.

Outside Lagos, interesting places include:

  • Badagry. About 50 miles west of Lagos on the inland waterway in Nigeria, this port flourished in slave-trading days. You still can see remnants of the barracoons where slaves were held before transport to the New World. Market Day, held once a week, is quite colorful.
  • Porto Novo and Cotonou, Benin. Porto Novo and Cotonou, Benin's capital, are 2 to 3 hours' drive from Lagos. Good restaurants, a Sheraton Hotel, a new Novotel Hotel and shopping are available in Cotonou, as are tours to game parks and to Ganvie, a fishing village on stilts, known as the Venice of Africa.
  • Lome, Togo. Two hours' drive beyond Cotonou, Lome has several good hotels with sports facilities and French restaurants. Like Cotonou, Lome provides a change of pace from Lagos.


There has recently been an increase in the variety of plays, art shows and other productions, especially those being sponsored by foreign embassies or women's groups. Local movie theaters generally have very little to offer. A number of small African repertory theater groups perform under the sponsorship of a number of Nigeria's very large banks. Those who have attended have enjoyed the presentations.

The Musical Society of Nigeria, MUSON, offers a good variety of musical shows, plays and ensembles at reasonable prices. Most of MUSON's events are co-sponsored by one of the many diplomatic missions resident in Lagos.

Lagos has some nightclubs and there are a number of restaurants in the metropolitan area. There are several Lebanese, Chinese, Indian and Italian restaurants.

On occasion films, lectures, plays, and art exhibits are provided by the Alliance Francaise, the Italian Cultural Center, the British Council, and the Goethe Institute. The Nigerian Institute for International Affairs (NIIA) holds a number of events on a regular basis at which lectures are given on a variety of subjects.

While enjoying the various forms of entertainment, it is important to remember that cameras arouse concern among Nigerians. Limit your picture-taking and avoid photographing people, bridges, airports, military installations, the harbor, and some public buildings. Cameras may be freely used for family pictures.

Within the expatriate community are singing, theater, and reading groups. A women's book group concentrating on West African, especially Nigerian, novels has recently been formed. Members find that the novels offer insights into West African culture and that the group provides introductions to both Nigerian and other expatriate women. The waiting list for membership is long.

Home entertaining is popular. Buffet dinners, receptions, and informal coffee and dessert evenings are frequent. Many center an evening's entertainment on a VCR movie.

Social Activities

Among Americans: The American Women's Club (AWC) of Lagos, founded in February 1971, sponsors a monthly general membership meeting, as well as a wide variety of welfare and social activities.

Many informal groups meet for bridge and various card games, sports, and other activities. An international bazaar is held in December.

International Contacts: The international community is friendly and informal. Social clubs and churches offer good opportunities for developing rewarding friendships. The International Women's Society, which has a small but international membership, is mainly involved in volunteer activities for charity. Information about the society is available through the United Nations Development Fund Office in Ikoyi. The Nigerian American Women's Forum was created to encourage interaction between Nigerian and American professional women. The members are interested in information exchange and targeted action regarding issues that affect women and their welfare.

Special Information

Temporary duty (TDY) and visiting travelers must obtain a Nigerian visa and have confirmed hotel reservations before coming to Nigeria. Hotel accommodations are extremely difficult to obtain; make reservations well in advance. All travelers should notify the Mission well in advance of their arrival, giving the duration of the visit and any special requirements. Bring all the clothes you will need and do not rely on unaccompanied baggage shipments. Such shipments are allowed into the country duty free but often take 4-6 weeks to process through customs.

Visitors who are staying in an hotel should be prepared to pay for your room and all meals when registering; a refund for meals not taken is made at checkout time. The Sheraton Hotel near the International Airport is recommended for those proceeding to Abuja or Kaduna within a day of their arrival. Do not pay for hotel, restaurant meals or any other service with credit cards and do not give out any financial information or account numbers to anyone. Personal financial information should never be left in the hotel room or in the home.

Crime and personal security is an issue on Ikoyi and Victoria Islands, but the risks are even greater in the rest of Lagos. Vigilance and caution should be a part of the daily routine. All houses have guards, and many people have watch dogs. In spite of this attention to security, most Americans have an active social and professional life without undue restrictions.


Abuja was created in 1976 and was officially declared the new Federal Capital on December 12, 1991. The move was to promote a sense of national unity by creating a capital in a more central location not identified with any particular ethnic group and to escape the overcrowded conditions in Lagos. Since then the Federal Government has transferred some of its offices, including the Presidency and the Foreign Ministry to Abuja.

Abuja has a sub-tropical climate. The hot, dry season is from March through April, the rainy season is from May to September, then the dry, cool season runs from October to February. The harmattan, a north wind carrying fine dust from the Sahara, will start during this period and end about the time the rains begin. The fine dust settles everywhere and can cause sinus infections and asthma attacks for those with respiratory problems.


It is necessary to stock up on basic items, as well as special food items, baby food, baby formula, diapers, toiletries, etc. Although some items can be found in Abuja, supplies tend to be erratic and quality questionable. There are a few small general stores that sell a limited variety of imported, canned food, frozen food and cleaning products. The varieties and quantities tend to be limited, and are quite expensive. Certain items may be unavailable for weeks at a time. U.S.-produced items are rare; most imported items come from Europe or the Middle East. The quality of frozen food is often doubtful because of the power fluctuations. Fruits and vegetables can usually be found in local open-air markets though they need thorough cleaning and sterilizing. Eggs are available year-round, though quality is often poor. Local beef and chicken are also available but are quite tough. The only commonly-available fresh fish is Niger perch. Frozen seafood of acceptable quality is occasionally available. It is usually preferable to purchase local meats and seafood directly from vendors rather than from local stores.

Acceptable restaurants in Abuja are limited. Most Americans eat only at a few local restaurants, including Talk of the Town (Indian/Chinese) and McDowals (Lebanese), and those at the Abuja Sheraton Hotel (theme buffets and Italian) and the Nicon Noga Hilton Hotel (themed buffets and Chinese). Other local restaurants are not recommended. Even though eating in these restaurants is generally considered safe, it is critical to eat only properly cooked food, to avoid uncooked vegetables and to drink only bottled beverages.


Men: There are no clothing stores in Abuja. Dry cleaning is available through a Kaduna-based firm, but turnaround time is several days. Local dry cleaning services are not recommended. Bring enough sports clothes and shoes because both are unavailable locally.

Women: Lightweight cotton dresses are suggested for daytime wear. Tailoring services are available and fabric can be purchased in the local market. Dry cleaning service is limited, so bring washable items. Bring a good supply of shoes as there are no shoe stores and limited shoe repair services available.

Children: Bring a good supply of washable clothing and shoes, especially sneakers and sandals. The American International School does not require a uniform.

Supplies and Services

There are dry cleaning services at the Hilton and the Sheraton Hotels, but the services are not up to American standards. Better quality service is available in Lagos and Kaduna. Barbers and hairdressers are also available at each hotel but, again, the services are often unsatisfactory. Bookstores in Abuja have extremely limited selections.

Religious Activities

There are local Catholic, Anglican, Methodist and Evangelical churches in Abuja. Most of the services are in English but the times and lengths are irregular. There is also the non-denominational International Church, Abuja that offers a more Western-style service in English. For Muslims, there are a number of mosques.


The American International School, sponsored by the State Department, was started in 1993. It offers pre-school through 8th grade; 9th and 10th grades are available through an independent-study, correspondence program. The school year is from early September to mid-June and is divided into three terms. School hours are from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. for grade school children (K-8) and 7:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. for pre-school. The school presently follows the Calvert curriculum. For more information, please contact the school principal at (234) (9) 523-5464.

Special Education Opportunities

Special educational opportunities are not available.


Golf is one of the most popular sports among visitors. The Ibrahim Golf Course offers a beautiful, well-maintained 18-hole golf course. You can also join the Hilton Club or the Sheraton Club. Both clubs feature facilities including tennis courts, swimming pools, squash courts and fitness centers.

Touring and Outdoor Activities

On Muslim holidays and special occasions in older cities such as Kano, Katsina and Zaria, durbars (colorful parades of mounted warriors, clowns, jugglers and dancers) provide a medieval flavor not seen elsewhere in the country. Hotels are available in all major cities but quality and service rarely meet the standards of even budget-priced motels in the U.S.

Travel in the North as well as in the South to Enugu and Lagos is possible by road. Roads are generally adequate between major northern cities. Road accidents are frequent and banditry on the open road is a common problem. Traveling to the South by road is particularly dangerous due to the prevalence of road bandits.

Several local airlines also offer daily flights to and from Lagos and to some other cities. Air schedules, however, are unreliable, and long delays are common.

The areas listed below are points of interest in or near Abuja:

Aso Rock : The largest granite rock in the vicinity of Abuja, its appearance has an imposing and impressive effect on first-time visitors to Abuja.

Table Rock : Accessible by car, with a picnic area and barbecues, it offers a panoramic view of Abuja.

Gurara Falls : On the Gurara River about 100 kilometers from Abuja, it is quite a spectacular scene during the rainy season; no facilities for tourists have been developed.

Zuma Rock : An enormous granite rock that stands out of the countryside on the way to Gurara Falls and Kaduna.

Usuma Dam and Jabi Dam : Man-made reservoirs supplying drinking water as well as irrigation water for Abuja and the surrounding agricultural land, both dams provide beautiful scenery and are good spots for fishing.

Pottery Centers : Abuja is well known for its traditional African pottery. There are several pottery centers in Abuja. Ladi Kwali Pottery Center is the most famous; Ushafa Pottery Center at Ushafa Village offers modern pottery and ceramics as well as traditional; Giri Pottery Center, near Kwali in Gwagwalada Area Council, has the largest selection of pottery.

Other interesting attractions in the North include:

Kano : The commercial center and largest city in northern Nigeria, Kano is approximately 5 hours by car from Abuja. Relatively good accommodations are available at the Prince Hotel. With a large foreign business community and an international airport, the city has several good restaurants and the largest market in the North.

Jos : The city of Jos, on a 4,000 foot plateau, is about 3-1/2 hours by road from Abuja, and offers a change of scenery and a cooler climate. The city is host to the largest American community in northern Nigeria and is home to Hillcrest School, an American curriculum school catering to the missionary community.

Sokoto : About 8 hours away, Sokoto is the center of the emirate system and the seat of the Sultan of Sokoto; major points of interest are the Sultan's Palace, two recently-built mosques and the tomb of first sultan Usman Dan Fodio, whose Fulani warriors conquered most of northern Nigeria early in the 19th century.

Yankari Game Preserve : Another 3 hours beyond Jos is the Yankari Game Preserve, a sanctuary with some tourist facilities. Accommodations are quite reasonable. Game can be seen during the dry season but do not expect either the number or variety of game seen in other parts of Africa. The preserve features a year-round natural hot spring.


There are two western standard nightclubs in AbujaDazzle, at the Abuja Sheraton Hotel, and Safari, at the Nicon Noga Hilton Hotel. There are neither cinemas nor performing arts theaters nor professional sports in Abuja. Diplomatic missions and cultural institutions occasionally sponsor drama or musical presentations. The Sheraton and the Agura Hotels have video clubs which stock PAL tapes pirated from subscription satellites and other sources. They are often of poor quality.

Social Activities

Among Americans: Since the American community is very small, social activities tend to be very informal and center around tennis courts, swimming pools and the golf course.


Kaduna was created in 1917 by the British Governor, Lord Lugard, as the administrative center of northern Nigeria. Several textile mills, a petroleum refinery, an auto assembly plant, a brewery and bottling plant, and other industries have been established. The city has retained the atmosphere of a government center, so it lacks the special character of older, walled cities such as Kano and Zaria. Kaduna's population is estimated at 800,000.

Beyond Kaduna lie the thirteen states of northern Nigeria. The area contains roughly half of Nigeria's population. Islam predominates in the North, and the Hausa-Fulani, one of Nigeria's three major ethnic/cultural groups, are concentrated there.

Kaduna lies at an altitude of about 2,000 feet. The weather is not as extreme as in other parts of the country, but from November through February, the air, heavy with harmattan dust, irritates eyes and nasal and bronchial passages and affects allergy sufferers, often severely. The dust also permeates every nook and cranny, making house cleaning tedious.


Kaduna has general stores and numerous specialty shops that sell a variety of imported canned and frozen foods, including chicken, beef, lamb and fish. However, inventories are erratic, and the quality, especially of meats, is unpredictable.

Imported, perishable items are expensive and often suffer a considerable loss of quality through improper handling and storage. Vegetables, such as green beans, carrots, yams, spinach, squash, potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, cauliflower and cabbage, are grown locally and are of fairly good quality. Because Kaduna is north of the citrus belt, however, grapefruit and oranges, as well as pineapples, do not compare in quality with the fruit that is available in the South.


A two-year wardrobe similar to that required for the spring and summer seasons in the Mid-Atlantic should be brought. A few sweaters, long-sleeved clothes, etc., for the cool season should also be included.

Children: Uniforms are required by the Aisha Mohammed International School. Girls wear navy blue culottes with blue and white gingham blouses or blue and white gingham drop-waist dresses. Material for girls' dresses is available locally. Boys wear navy blue shorts (long trousers in cool weather) and blue and white gingham shirts. Children in Grades 2-6 also need special clothes for physical education. Boys and girls need navy blue shorts, white T-shirts or polo shirts, white socks and sneakers (preferably white). All children need lunch boxes and school bags or backpacks.

Religious Activities

Major Christian denominations, both Catholic and Protestant, are present in Kaduna, and English-language services are offered at least once a week. Kaduna has several mosques but there is no synagogue.


The Aisha Mohammed International School was established in 1985 as a nonprofit organization with no religious affiliation. The school year is from September to July and is divided into three terms. School hours are from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. for primary school children and 8 a.m. to 12 noon for children in the nursery.

Private nursery schools and play groups are available in Kaduna at reasonable rates.

Special Educational Opportunities

No special formal educational opportunities are available in the area.


However, membership at one or more of the many private clubs in Kaduna offering golf, polo, rugby and soccer can also be enjoyable.

Bring all sports equipment, especially golf, tennis and equestrian. All clubs require membership fees.

Touring and Outdoor Activities

Travel in the North is possible by road and, to some destinations, by air. Air schedules are unreliable, and long delays are common. Roads are generally good in the North, although accidents and other mishaps are all too frequent. For security purposes no one should drive on the highway after nightfall.

Republics of Niger and Cameroon. Longer car trips may be made during the dry season to Niger and Cameroon. The roads are rough, and four-wheel drive is sometimes useful. An ice chest and a large Thermos are necessary for long trips, especially if traveling with children.

On holidays and other special occasions in older cities such as Kano, Katsina and Zaria, colorful parades of clowns, dancers, jugglers and mounted warriors provide a flavor not seen elsewhere in the country.


The National Museum has a small, interesting collection of traditional art in bronze, carvings, pottery, cloth, and leather. A crafts center located at the Museum sells good quality artifacts, which you can watch local artisans create. The Northern Historical Society offers lecture meetings in Kaduna on natural history and ethnographic topics.

The Kaduna Music and Drama Society meets regularly and offers one or two public performances each year. The Nigerian Field Society offers field trips and lectures.

A very limited selection of hardback and paperback books is available in the general trading stores and book shops. Books and periodicals are available for borrowing at the USIS library.

Kaduna has a few good restaurants that offer a variety of foods at reasonable prices. The most popular among these include the Arewa Chinese Restaurant, an Indian restaurant, and the Jacaranda In Town, which offers continental cuisine and local dishes in a picturesque and relaxing setting.

A few channels of television are available locally, and CNN and other international signals are available via cable subscription. Short-wave reception in Kaduna is strong.

Social Activities

Among Americans: Kaduna's American community is very small. However, Americans have little trouble meeting host country nationals through work and many educated Nigerians accept invitations to American homes and attend functions with their spouses.

International Contacts: The International Women's Club (IWC) is a voluntary organization that offers many opportunities for charity work and for meeting people of all nationalities. There are local chapters of the Lions Club, Rotary and June Wheel Clubs.


Ibadan is the capital of Oyo State. It is the center of a rich agricultural area where most of Nigeria's cacao crop is produced. The city is built on a series of low hills, 750 feet above sea level and about 90 miles northeast of Lagos. Its estimated population of 1,739,000 is exceeded only by Lagos among cities south of the Sahara.

Ibadan was founded in the 1830s as a military camp during the Yoruba civil wars, and then developed into the most powerful Yoruba city-state. It came under British protection in 1893. Today, it is one of the major commercial and industrial centers in Nigeria.

Ibadan has been a center of agricultural development for many years, as is reflected in the name of the 27-story Cocoa House, one of West Africa's tallest buildings. Recently, one of the oldest research institutions in Nigeria, Moor Plantation on the Abeokuta Road, was incorporated into a system of 16 federal research centers throughout the country. Now called National Cereals Research Institute, Moor Plantation focuses on research and extension programs in grain cereals.

A long-established School of Forestry and Research Center is in the Jericho area of Ibadan. A sister institute for horticultural research was inaugurated in 1976, also on the west side of the city. About ten miles north of Ibadan, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) employs 55 scientists from various countries. IITA is one of six such institutes throughout the world, and is internationally funded, with the U.S. share coming from United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations. About a dozen American scientists and their families are assigned to IITA.

Ibadan is developing major industrial parks. Several steel construction plants, a tire processing company, wire and cable plants, a battery factory, soft drink (including Pepsi-Cola and Coca-Cola) plants, cashew processing plants, three major breweries, a canning factory, and the National Tobacco Company are among Ibadan's industries.

The commercial areawith department stores, shops, banks, and other businesses, as well as a large marketis in the city's center.

Most Americans reside along with the British, Lebanese, Israelis, Germans, and Nigerians in outlying residential areas. Some live at the Institute of Tropical Agriculture or at the University of Ibadan.


The International School, a university-owned secondary school for grades seven through 12, adjoins the University of Ibadan campus. Applicants for the school should send recent school transcripts and registration forms (obtainable from the school). Written tests determine eligibility and placement. However, students with satisfactory records from American, international, or British Commonwealth schools rarely are refused. Students prepare for the London University Overseas Advanced Level Examinations and the American College Board Examinations.

The school follows British lines, but a flexible curriculum caters to the needs of both Nigerian/British-and American-education systems. The school year has three 12-week terms beginning in mid-September. Elective courses and activities are held after classes.

The nearby International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) operates a Calvert-system school, with local teachers in grades one through six. Several children of American expatriates have attended the school and found the instruction inadequate. The main constraint of the IITA school is that classes end with grade six.

Ibadan public schools are not considered adequate for U.S. children; teaching quality is subject to change. Inquiries should be made in advance. Many parents now feel that because of overcrowding, the International School is unable to provide quality instruction. Parents now send their children either to boarding schools abroad or to the American missionary school in Jos.

The University of Ibadan bases its curriculum on the British system, adapted to Nigerian needs. Admission requirements for degree courses are rigid, but special courses are offered with flexible admission requirements. Courses can also be taken on a non-degree basis.


Soccer is the national sport in Nigeria, and in Ibadan it has an enthusiastic following. Liberty Stadium, built during the 1960 independence celebrations, holds more than 30,000 people. It is the site of many sports events and festivals, as well as major soccer games. Good swimming, golf, and tennis facilities also are available in Ibadan, and some sight-seeing trips attract the adventurous. Fishing is good at certain times of the year.

About 125 miles east of Ibadan, on the main road, the agricultural center of Akure has been designated capital of Ondo State. About 15 miles from Akure is the village of Idanre, a well-fortified town that can be approached only by a long series of hillside steps. Idanre is a famous traditional center of Yoruba culture and religion.

Located on the Niger River outside New Bussa, about 200 miles north of Ibadan in Kwara State, is Kainji, a modern hydroelectric dam which attracts interested tourists from all over the world. Many large species of African game may be seen at the nearby Borgu Game Reserve. The natives in this area are relatively untouched by modern civilization.


Films, lectures, concerts, and exhibits are part of the social life in Ibadan. There are many Western-educated Nigerians, and the city has an international character. The Ibadan Rotary Club, one of several service clubs, meets regularly at the Premier Hotel. Membership includes men of several nationalities representing the city's various industries. The Men's Dining Club, with 25 Nigerian and 25 foreign members, meets weekly at the same hotel, as does its sister organization, the Ladies' Dining Club. Local branches of Girl Guides, Red Cross, YMCA, YWCA, University Women, and the National Council of Women's Societies are active here. Opportunities to do volunteer work for handicapped children and adults vary each year with the creation of new facilities and the amalgamation of existing institutions.

Public cinemas show mostly Indian and kung-fu films, and are neither clean nor comfortable. There are, however, a number of reasonably good dining facilities in the city, among them the Cabin, the Coco-Dome, and the Premier Chinese Restaurant, which offer good food and pleasant atmosphere.

Several active amateur theatrical groups usually play to packed houses. Both Nigerians and foreigners participate. Music devotees join the Operatic Society, Music Circle, Music Society, or Madrigal Society, as well as the choral group of All Saints Church.

Photographers enjoy Ibadan and the surrounding area. These areas afford many interesting pictures, but local sensitivities limit photo opportunities. The prices here for equipment and film are very high. Permission should always be asked before photographing local people, as some may be greatly offended; others may expect money for posing.


Kano is the largest city in northern Nigeria, and the third largest in the country. For centuries, it was the center of caravan routes, and has served as a link between the Islamic north and West Africa. The walled Old City retains its ancient character.

As one of the seven original Hausa emirates, Kano keeps many links with its past while growing rapidly and trying to meet modern challenges. Situated in the savanna at the edge of the Sahara, it has long been an important trading and commercial center. Its international airport links it with London, Paris, Rome, Brussels, Amsterdam, Cairo, Jeddah (Saudi Arabia), Khartoum (Sudan), Abidjan (Côte d'Ivoire), Lomé (Togo), and other cities. The airport runways are also crowded with private jets belonging to local business representatives.

Kano's written history can be traced back to 999, when it was already several hundred years old. At that time it was a cultural, handicraft, and commercial center, trading with other parts of western and northern Africa. Kano figured prominently in the Negro wars of the 15th and 16th centuries and, for a short time around 1600, the city converted to Islam. In 1809, it was conquered by the Fulani; in 1903, it was captured by Frederick Lugard and became British.

The climate, similar to that of the American southwest, is milder than Lagos' climate. Although extremely hot from March to June, with temperatures sometimes exceeding 100°F, the dryness makes the heat more bearable. The rainy season lasts from June through September, with an average rainfall of only 28 inches. From November through March, the harmattan brings dust from the Sahara. At this time, the midday sun is obscured, and everything is covered with a fine, white powder. Cooler temperatures prevail during harmattan ; at night, the temperature sometimes drops to 55°F.

Kano, with a population estimated over one million in 2000, is the capital of Kano State, the most populous in Nigeria. The traditional home-land of the Hausa and the Fulani, it is now home to Nigerians from all over the country. Sizable British and Lebanese communities exist in the city; Chinese, South Asians, and other nationalities are also represented in large numbers. The approximately 50 Americans in Kano are mostly at Bayero University, or at the church-sponsored eye hospital and mission. A host of other educational institutions are located here.

People here march to a less-frenzied pace than those in some other cities in Nigeria. Traffic flows more smoothly, people are friendlier, and movement in and out of town is easier and safer.

Kano is the trade and shipping center for an agricultural region whose chief crops are cotton, groundnuts, and cattle. It is also the major industrial center of northern Nigeria, where peanut flour and oil, cotton textiles, steel furniture, processed meat, canned food, soft drinks, beer, concrete blocks, shoes, and soap are manufactured. Heavy industries manufacture asbestos, bicycles, automobiles, trucks, and chemicals. Kano is also well-known for its leather work. The Kano traditional city, with its extensive market, is one of the north's most interesting tourist attractions.


Although Kano has some national groups (Lebanese, French, Poles, and Belgians) which operate their own schools, most local educational institutions do not meet appropriate standards. Many British nationals send their older children to boarding schools in England.

The Corona Society has established a school for kindergarten and first grade students, which accepts American children. Teachers are British, with U.K. teaching credentials. Trustees are trying to procure funds for expansion.

Kano Capital and St. Louis Private are schools for children aged six to 13. Upper-level schools include St. Thomas Secondary and St. Louis Secondary, both in Kano, for ages 14 to 16.


Within and surrounding Kano are many sites worth visiting, including the city's old Furmi market and its ancient dye pits. The towns of Dambatta, Katsina, Rano, Wudil, Kazaure, and Jibiya have interesting markets on designated days.

The Niger border is only two hours away. Niamey, capital of the Niger Republic, is a 14-hour drive; the Nigerian consulate in Kano issues visas overnight.

Yankari Game Park in Bauchi State is a pleasant day's drive. Longer trips include Sokoto (six hours by car, 45 minutes by air), where the Argungu Fishing Festival is held each February or March; Maiduguri (five hours driving, one hour flying); and northern Cameroon, which takes about eight hours to the border and another two to the Waza Game Park; visas for Cameroon must be obtained in Lagos. Closer at hand is Bagauda Lake, formed by Tiga Dam, where there is a sailing club and a resort hotel. Zaria is about 90 minutes from Kano by car; Kaduna is another hour down a dangerous road.

In town, the Kano Club offers tennis, golf, swimming, squash, and snooker (a variation of pool). It also has a restaurant. The Lebanon Club maintains dining facilities, tennis, billiards, and a new swimming pool. Dancing is offered here on weekends, and also at the French Club (Le Circle), which has an excellent, although not French, menu. There is dancing on Saturday evenings at the Peking Chinese Restaurant. Kano has several other good dining spots.

As a rule, men wear safari or bush suits for business, and casual attire for social evenings; suits and ties are worn for some functions. Women dress conservatively here so as not to offend local Muslim sensitivities, but sundresses are considered appropriate. Expatriates congregate at the bar in the Central Hotel.


Enugu, with a population of 280,000 (1991 estimate), is situated in southeastern Nigeria, about 275 miles east of Lagos and 100 miles north of Port Harcourt. Enugu developed as an important town after the discovery of coal in 1909, but coal mining today has been sharply curtailed because of petroleum production.

Enugu served as capital of Nigeria's Southern Region from 1929 to 1939, of the Eastern Region from 1939 to 1967, and of the short-lived secessionist state of Biafra from 1967 to 1970. The campus of the University of Nigeria that includes an economic development institute is located here. The city is the site of a Mercedes plant, which produces Mercedes Benz cars as well as heavy trucks. Two breweries opened in Enugu in 1983. French firms have built a major hospital in the area. Enugu is served by several hospitals, including the Teaching Hospital of the University of Nigeria and an orthopedic hospital.


ABA is situated in southeastern Nigeria, about 40 miles northeast of Port Harcourt and 275 miles southeast of Lagos. Originally a small Ibo village developed by the British as an administrative center early in the 20th century, Aba had a population of 264,000 in 1991. It is a regional market and manufacturing center for textiles, shoes, plastics, soap, beer, pharmaceuticals, and palm oil. Aba has a school of arts and sciences, secondary schools, a teaching college, and several technical and trade institutes.

ABEOKUTA , the capital of Ogun State, is located in southwest Nigeria, about 60 miles north of Lagos. It was established about 1830 as a refuge from slave hunters of the Yoruba civil wars and was the chief town of the Egbas, who made a treaty with the British in 1893. Abeokuta is the site of the famous Olumo Rock, where the city was originally founded. It is also known for its educational and medical institutions. Of particular interest is the Aro Hospital for Nervous Diseases, which sometimes can be visited by prior arrangement with the director. A campus of the University of Lagos was established in Abeokuta in 1984. The city is an exporting point for cocoa, palm products, kola nuts, and fruit. Industrial capacity is small-scale, with an emphasis on sawmills, fruit-canning plants, and a plastics factory. Abeokuta's population is approximately 377,000.

ADO , sometimes known as Ado-Ekiti, is 35 miles west of Lagos, and has a population over 300,000. Located in a region where rice is grown, Ado has rice mills, and manufactures textiles, bricks, tile, shoes, and pottery. Yams, cassava, corn, okra, fruits, and pumpkins are marketed locally. The city was founded in the 15th century as the capital of the Yoruba Ekiti state. It alternated between independence and occupation by Benin until the British gained control in 1894.

BENIN CITY is situated in southern Nigeria on the west delta of the Niger River, about 150 miles east of Lagos. With a population of 203,000 (1991 estimate), the city is the processing area for rubber, palm nuts, and timber produced nearby. It also manufactures furniture, soft drinks, and carpets. Benin City was the capital of a black African kingdom that probably was founded in the 13th century, and which flourished from the 14th to 17th century. Benin traded slaves, along with ivory, pepper, and cloth to Europe. The kingdom declined after 1700, but revived in the 19th century with the development of palm products and increased commercial activity with Europe. The British conquered and burned Benin City in 1898. Iron work, carved ivory, and bronze busts made as early as the 13th century rank with the finest art in Africa, and can be seen displayed in museums throughout the city. Benin City has Anglican, Roman Catholic, Muslim, government, and private secondary schools and is the site of the University of Benin, which was founded in 1970. Several hospitals serve Benin City and the surrounding area.

The city of BONNY is in southeastern Nigeria on the Niger River delta, just south of Port Harcourt. During the 18th and 19th centuries, it was the center of a powerful trading state and became the leading exporter of palm oil. Bonny served as the administrative center of the British Oil River Protectorate from 1885 until 1894. It declined in the 20th century, but enjoyed a revival after 1961, when the port was modernized and used as an export point for petroleum refined at Port Harcourt. The town has an Anglican cathedral and a government health center.

CALABAR is located in a beautiful hilly area near the Calabar River. It is a port city on the southeastern border of Nigeria near Cameroon. Calabar has approximately 154,000 (1991 est.) residents. Formerly called Old Calabar, it was established in the early 17th century by the Efik branch of the Ibibio people. The city has been influenced by the Portuguese and British. Rubber, food, and palm oil processing plants are located in Calabar, along with a sawmill and cement factory. The town's artisans sculpt ebony artifacts for the tourist market in Lagos. Educational opportunities are not lacking in Calabar, where there is a university and two colleges.

Located in the southwestern part of Nigeria, 112 miles north of Lagos, EDE is the old town of the Yoruba people. Since a railway was built from Lagos in 1906, Ede is a major exporting center for palm oil and cacao. Local trading includes yams, okra, pumpkins, kola nuts, and corn. The population was estimated at 271,000 in 1991.

The historical and spiritual center of Yorubaland is IFE , located 54 miles east of Ibadan in southwestern Nigeria. Founded about 1300, Ife is the oldest Yoruba town and the most powerful tribal kingdom until the late 17th century. Sometimes called Ile-Ife, the city is an important center for marketing and shipping cacao. It is famous for its museum adjoining the palace of the Oni of Ife (traditional ruler). The museum houses beautiful Ife bronzes and terra-cotta treasures. These sculptures, made in the area as early as the 12th century, are considered the finest among west African art. The Oranyan Staff, about a half mile from the palace, is an important Yoruba monument. The nearby Obafemi Awolowo University (formerly University of Ife), established in 1961, has a spacious modern campus. An exhibit of African art at the Institute of African Studies, an experimental farm, and an art and cultural center (Ori Olokun) are also located here. Cocoa, cotton, palm oil and kernels, yams, cassava, and kola nuts are traded in the city. Ife has a population of about 262,000 (1991 estimate).

ILESHA , with a population of about 334,000, is located in southwestern Nigeria, 15 miles southeast of Oshogbo. It served as the capital of the Yoruba Ilesha kingdom of Oyo until it collapsed and became part of Ibadan in the early 19th century. Ilesha was taken by the British in 1893. The city was formerly a hub for caravan trade, and is now an agricultural and commercial center. Cacao, kola nuts, and yams are shipped from Ilesha. The city has several industries, particularly nail and carpet manufacturing. Ilesha is the home of the Oyo State College of Education and numerous teaching colleges.

ILORIN , the capital of Kwara State, is about 100 miles north of Ibadan and 170 miles northeast of Lagos. It has a population of 420,000 (1991 estimate). This mud-walled city became the capital of the Yoruba kingdom about 1800. Its territory was extended through warfare against Oyo and Ibadan late in the 19th century, but it was conquered by Royal Niger Company British troops in 1897. Today, Ilorin is an industrial center, producing cigarettes, matches, soap, soft drinks, and sugar, as well as an agricultural market for cattle, poultry, palm products, and yams. It is also a center for traditional artisans who make woven and leather goods, tin products, wood carvings, and pottery. Several U.S. missionaries work in and around Ilorin. Health services in Ilorin include a number of government, private, and religious hospitals and a nursing home for the elderly.

ISEYIN is located in the southwest, near Benin. It is about 100 miles from Lagos. Traditionally, Iseyin has been a cotton marketplace known for its dyes. The dyes are exported along with teak and tobacco. Iseyin was once a mining town, but now relies on imported metals. The town has several Christian-sponsored secondary schools and a hospital. The population is over 200,000.

IWO , whose population numbers 320,000, is in southwestern Nigeria, on the rail route just northeast of Ibadan. It is a trade center for the nearby farming region which specializes in cacao. The city was founded in the 17th century as the capital of a Yoruba kingdom, and grew during the 19th century by sheltering refugees from the Yoruba civil wars. Yams, corn, cassava, and palm kernels are grown north of town.

KATSINA is in the northern tip of Nigeria near the Niger border. The city was founded around 1100 and was named for the wife of a Durbawa king, Kacinna. Katsina was a vital center of the Hausa states from the late 16th century until the late 18th century. There is a palace in the city and its treasures include a 13th century sword called Gajere. Katsina is a holding place for peanuts and hides that are sent on to Kano for export. Traditional crafts of the town's predominantly Hausa population include cotton weaving and dyeing, leather and metalworking, and the designing of embroidery and pottery. Several industries were brought to Katsina in the 1970s. The most important are vegetable oil and steel processing mills. The city is an educational center for the region; it houses several colleges including the Kaduna State College of Legal Studies. Katsina's population was about 182,000 in 1991.

MAIDUGURI , in the Lake Chad region some 300 miles east of Kano, was founded in 1907 as a British military post. Its population has grown to more than 282,000 (1991 estimate). Maiduguri is the rail, road, and air transportation center for northeast Nigeria, Niger, and Chad. Leather goods made from hides of crocodiles caught in Lake Chad are the city's leading product. Cattle hides, skins, dried fish, peanuts, and gum arabic are the city's exports. The city has several important industries. These include the manufacturing of leather goods, aluminum, cement, and furniture. Maiduguri is a hub for the main railway line linking northeastern Nigeria to Port Harcourt. An international airport is located five miles west of the city. Maiduguri is situated along the historic route that Muslims traveled from Senegal to Mecca.

OGBOMOSHO , with a steadily increasing population already higher than 650,000, is one of Nigeria's many large and growing cities. It is situated in Western State, 50 miles north-northeast of Ibadan. Ogbomosho was founded in the mid-17th century as a military camp, and became the focal point of resistance to Fulani invasions in the early 19th century. The city grew by absorbing refugees from towns destroyed by the Fulani. At one time, there was a sizable American missionary settlement here, caring for victims of Hansen's disease (leprosy). Today, Ogbomosho is a trade center in a farming region, shipping foodstuffs, tobacco, and livestock. A teachers' college is located here. A prominent landmark in Ogbomosho is a large square tower on the city's central mosque. Ogbomosho has other mosques and several churches and is the headquarters of the American Baptist Church of Nigeria and its theological seminary. Several schools and a teacher's college are located in the city.

ONITSHA is a port city located on the Niger River, about 135 miles from its mouth, and 225 miles east of Lagos. With a population of more than 350,000, Onitsha is a commercial and market center whose local industries include canoe building, saw-milling, printing, fishing, and beverage manufacturing. Situated at the northern limit of year-round navigation on the river, the city is an important port linking the Niger delta with the upper Niger and Benue Rivers, as well as with a wide region of eastern Nigeria. A road bridge built across the river at Onitsha in 1965 is a principal link between east and west Nigeria. A large textile plant is located near the bridge.

OSHOGBO , situated at a road and rail junction on the Oshun River, is about 50 miles northeast of Ibadan. In 1839, the city was the site of the decisive battle in which the Yoruba city-state, Ibadan, defeated the expansionist Fulani state, Ilorin, halting the latter's southward advance. An influx of refugees helped to increase Oshogbo's population; today it is more than 400,000. Oshogbo is a center for local artists, and interesting shrines to various Yoruba deities also can be seen here. The annual Oshogbo festival draws close to 10,000 visitors every August. Cotton ginning and weaving and tobacco growing are local occupations. Food processing and steel milling are local industries. Oshogbo is the home of a small teaching college, vocational school, and secondary schools. The city is also serviced by several hospitals.

OYO , located in southwestern Nigeria about 32 miles north of Ibadan, has a population of over 226,000. It was founded in the early 19th century as a replacement for Old Oyo, the capital of the eponymous Yoruba empire destroyed in earlier civil wars. Oyo came under British protection in 1893. Today, it is a farming town that produces tobacco, cotton, and yams. Resident artisans make leather goods and carve utensils from gourds. The town has secondary schools, a government vocational center, and several hospitals. Oyo is a hub for local roads serving the state.

PORT HARCOURT is a deep water port on the Bonny River, about 40 miles from the sea. Located in southern Nigeria the city, with a population of roughly 362,000, was first laid out in 1912, and named for Viscount Lewis Harcourt, the secretary of state for the colonies between 1910 and 1915. Port Harcourt is the operational headquarters for the Nigerian petroleum industry; it refines the oil, then pipes it to Bonny for export. Its industries include steel, aluminum products, pressed concrete, glass, tires, paint, footwear, furniture, cigarettes, plastics, paints, and enamelware. Port Harcourt is the center of the state radio and television broadcasting services.

ZARIA , population 335,000 (1991 estimate), is located in northern Nigeria on a major north-south highway about 87 miles southwest of Kano. First known as Zazzau, the city was founded about 1000 as one of the seven Hausa city-states. Zaria was captured by the Fulani in 1805 and by the British, under Frederick Lugard, in 1901. It is the home of Ahmadu Bello University, built in 1962. The old part of the city is walled and presents an interesting contrast to the modern structures. Zaria has many inhabitants from the Hausa and Gbari tribes for whom leather tanning and cotton weaving are primary occupations. Peanuts, cotton, and shea nuts are processed in town and shipped by rail to Lagos for export. Several significant industries are located in Zaria, among them basket weaving, bicycle assembly, publishing, cigarette and cosmetic manufacturing, and furniture making. The city has several hospitals, colleges, and research institutes.


Geography and Climate

Nigeria's 356,669 square miles, roughly equal to the area of California, Nevada, and Utah combined, cover four climatic regions of West Africa: a narrow coastal belt of man-grove swamp; a somewhat wider section of rolling hills and tropical rain forest in the south; a still larger dry central plateau, with much open woodland and savanna and a strip of semi-desert on the fringes of the Sahel in the north. Nigeria is bounded by Benin on the west, by Niger on the north, by Chad at its northeast corner, by Cameroon on the east, and by the Gulf of Guinea on the south.

The country's major geographical features are the Niger and Benue Rivers. The two rivers form the upper arms of a somewhat flattened letter "Y," come together in the south-central part of the country, and from there proceed due south (as the Niger) to the Gulf of Guinea, fanning out into a large and intricate river delta as the waters reach the open sea. Most of the country's oil deposits are found in the delta area. The highest elevations in Nigeria are in the eastern highlands along the border with Cameroon, with peaks up to 7,936 feet. The most extensive upland area is the Jos Plateau in east-central Nigeria: 2,000 to 4,000 feet above sea level, with peaks up to 5,841 feet.

The temperature is high year round. Temperatures range from the low 90's F to the mid-70's F on the coast and well over 100°F to 60°F in the north. The hottest period is February-April in the south and March-June in the north. The coolest period throughout Nigeria is July and August, though minimum night temperatures in the north are lowest in December and January when the harmattan, a dry north-easterly wind, carries fine sand from the Sahara all the way south to the coast, occasionally closing down airports with a dusty haze. Rainfall is heaviest in the south along the coast, averaging 70 inches a year in the west, increasing to 170 inches in the east. The rainfall decreases fairly sharply inland, averaging 50 inches over most of central Nigeria and 20 inches a year in the far north. The dry and rainy seasons are fairly distinct. The rainy season is May-October (June-September in the far north). In the southwest, including Lagos, there is a principal rainy season in May-July and a secondary rainy season from the second half of September through October. Near the coast, the humidity is high throughout the year, though it abates occasionally during the harmattan from mid-December to mid-February. Northward from the coast, the humidity decreases steadily and varies abruptly with the seasons. Mildew can be a problem under the more humid conditions, but it is controllable with air conditioning.


Nigeria's population in 2000 was estimated at 117,170,948, approximately one-fourth of the total for all Africa. The population is distributed among more than 250 tribal or ethno-linguistic groups. The country's three major groupsHausa-Fulani in the north (29%), Yoruba in the west (21%), and Ibo in the east (18%)constitute some two-thirds of the total population. Numerous remaining groups range in size from several million members to fewer than 50,000. English is the official language, although it is less common in the north, where Hausa is widely spoken. A pidgin English, difficult for the American ear to distinguish, is also common.

About 50 percent of the population is Muslim, and about 40 percent is ChristianProtestant, Roman Catholic, or a variety of independent African churches. About 10 percent of the population follows some form of traditional religion. Many Christians and Muslims in Nigeria have incorporated into their faith indigenous beliefs or rituals of worship. Muslims are predominant in the north, where historically they have been less influenced by Western education and institutions. Christians are predominant in the southeast. The Ibos of this region quickly adapted to Western education and commerce. The southwest is divided between Christian and Moslem. The Yorubas predominate in this region. Ethnic and religious diversities in Nigeria present a constant potential for antagonisms, which succeeding federal governments have sought to defuse by fostering the ideal of national unity.

Most Nigerians, from traditional farmers in the villages to business executives in the cities, observe a complex pattern of familial obligations and relationships. The term "extended family" only hints at the ties that link educated and cosmopolitan Lagos urbanites to family members throughout the country. When a person speaks of his "brother," for example, he may have in mind a sibling, a cousin, or a good friend from a neighboring village.

Few Nigerians can be neatly labeled "traditional" or "modern," and the educated Nigerian of the 1990s is a vital bridge between these two ways of life. Aspects of modernity have reached the most remote village, while patterns of traditional life still exist among the most highly educated people. In addition to styles of dress and food preferences, Nigerian tradition is evident in such attitudes as a respect for elders, often to the point of semi-veneration; a hesitancy to criticize the acknowledged leader directly, even in the course of partisan politics; and a preference to seek consensus in most deliberative bodies and focus disagreements on procedural rather than substantive matters.

Public Institutions

Nigeria gained its independence from the United Kingdom on October 1, 1960, inheriting a parliamentary representative government from the British. The military came to power in a coup d'etat in 1966 and suspended the constitution until civilian rule was restored in 1979. Nigeria's 1979 Constitution called for a government closely resembling that of the U.S., with a president and vice president elected every 4 years, a bicameral legislature, and an independent judiciary.

The military returned to power in 1983 and suspended all sections of the 1979 Constitution relating to electoral and legislative procedures at both the federal and state level. Ruling by decree, the military government announced in 1987 a program for Nigeria's transition back to civilian rule. The regime conducted local government, state government, and national assembly elections, and civilians took over the positions.

On June 12, 1993, Nigerians went to the polls to elect a civilian president and complete the last leg of the military's carefully orchestrated transition program. Though most observers described the election as the fairest in Nigeria's history, the regime quickly annulled the poll, provoking a protracted political crisis that continues today. To try to address growing political turmoil, the regime stepped down and turned over power to a civilian-led Interim National Government (ING). The ING proved unable to tackle Nigeria's continuing political and economic problems, and the military took over again on November 17, 1993.

The new military regime quickly consolidated power, dissolved all democratic institutions, and replaced civilian governors with military officers. Under the military rule, the main decision making organ is the military provisional ruling council (PRC), which rules by decrees that have the force of law. The PRC oversees the 32-member Federal Executive Council composed of military officers and civilians, including several prominent politicians. After conducting an election for delegates in May 1994, the PRC convened a constitutional conference mandated to examine the best way to restore democracy and recommend a new constitution. The regime pledged to announce a more specific transition program after reviewing the conference's draft constitution. Though the conference delegates were unable to meet a January 1995 deadline, the conference completed deliberations in April 1995 and presented its report and draft Constitution to the military government.

Elections is 1999 brought Matthew Olusegun Fajinmi Aremu Obasanjo into the presidency.

Arts, Science, and Education

A new arrival in Nigeria should visit the National Museum in Lagos to see "2000 Years of Nigerian Art," the definitive collection of Nigeria's cultural past, which toured the U.S. and Europe in the late 1970s. The collection begins with the terra-cotta figures of the Nok Culture, which flourished in the Jos region before A.D. 800. The delicate lost-wax castings recovered in a chief's tomb in Igbo-Ukwu, shed a new light on the history of Eastern Nigeria a thousand years ago. Excavations at Ife and Oyo yielded busts of the Yoruba kings, who ruled in the 14th century. And finally, the Museum offers the bronze castings and ivory carvings of the Benin Kingdom, among the finest artistic achievements of African civilization.

Nigerian artistic achievement is not only in the distant past. The Igbo spirit masks and the Yoruba carved figures of twins called "ibeji" are only two examples of Nigerian art that will be familiar to anyone with even a casual knowledge of African culture, and these are still made and used today. Artisans still cast and carve in the traditional manner, and their products, readily available in markets and galleries, range from the merely decorative to striking copies of traditional masterpieces. Woven fabrics, embroidery, dyed fabrics, jewelry, decorated calabashes, leather-works, pottery, and baskets abound in markets in every Nigerian city.

Contemporary Nigerian art has been undergoing a "boom" in recent years, and openings of art exhibitions are a feature of the Lagos cultural/social landscape. The first generation of Nigerian painters and sculptors is still activeBen Ewonwu, Bruce Onobrakpeya, Jimoh Buraimoh, Yusuf Grillo, Nike Davies, Lamidi Fakeye, and Twin Seven-Seven are among the best known. Their studentsKolade Osinowo, Obiora Udechukwu, Emmanual Anatsui, and othersexhibit regularly in Nigeria, and a younger generation of artists is already filling galleries and museums. Among the latter are Chika Okeke, Victor Ekpuk, and Chinedu Agbodike.

Pageantry is still characteristic of Nigerian life, and towns and villages perform impressive exhibitions of music and dance to welcome important visitors. Benin City is still enveloped in the Igue Festival in December and you can catch a glimpse of the traditional Egungun and Eyo masquerades even in Lagos.

Nightclubs have made a comeback in Lagos, and local jazz, "juju," and "high life" music can be heard on weekends, in clubs, and at weddings and other celebrations. Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, King Sunny Ade, Charley Boy, Aiyende Marshal (Quam I), and Ebenezer Obey are international stars. Shina Peters has captured the Nigerian market with his juju/pop fusion. Although foreign movies have been eclipsed by the video shops that proliferate in Nigeria, the local movie industry produces 10-15 video tape films each year for the enthusiastic domestic market, most of them in Yoruba (and few with subtitles). Nigeria's best known authors are Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka and Chinua Achebe. A host of other playwrights, novelists, and poets have made their name, including Steve Rhodes, Ken Saro Wiwa, John Pepper Clarke, Ola Rotimi, Cyprian Ekwensi, Festus Iyayi, Flora Nwapa, and Chukwuemeka Ike, Ben Okri, Femi Osofisan, Bode Sowande and their works can be found at university bookstores, hotels, and airports.

The Federal Government has mandated an emphasis on scientific and technical education at the tertiary level. While the country trains its own doctors, dentists, technicians, and scientific personnel, there is little in the way of a "culture of science." The country's efforts have not as yet produced much original research, although they have produced a number of first-rate scientists.

Nigerians have evinced enthusiasm for education that has far outstripped the government's resources. Primary education is free and compulsory; there is considerable debate about its quality and availability, but at present most Nigerian children receive at least some primary education. In Lagos, it is rare to find people without some reading and writing ability in English, although in the rural areas they predominate.

There are a number of federal universities and state universities, though higher education has been paralyzed in recent years by strikes and non-payment of staff. The Federal Government also funds more than 250 teachers training colleges and 130 polytechnics. An increasing population, a growing number of secondary school graduates and the traditional enthusiasm for education have led to severe overcrowding in all of these institutions and, as with the primary schools, there is considerable concern about the quality of tertiary education. There are no private tertiary institutions in Nigeria but private technical schools abound.

Commerce and Industry

Despite the economic advantages of a low-cost labor pool, abundant natural resources and the largest domestic market in sub-Saharan Africa, Nigeria's economic performance remains wedded to the fortunes of its petroleum sector. In recent years, oil accounted for roughly 20 percent of Nigeria's GDP, over 95 percent of its export earnings, and over 65 percent of the Government's fiscal revenue.

Through much of Nigeria's history, misguided economic policies and political instability have held back development. The Nigerian Government used much of the revenues from the oil boom of the 1970s to finance a high level of consumption, and some ill-advised investments, leaving Nigeria's economy debt-ridden and vulnerable to the oil-market downturn that followed in the mid-1980s.

To correct these problems, Nigeria launched a IMF/IBRD Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) in 1986, which was in place until 1992. Shortly after the military regime took over in 1993, the economic advisors led a reversal of the SAP reforms implemented in 1986. Market mechanisms gave way to regulated exchange rates and regulated investment regimes. Income took a sharp drop in 1994 as a result of those policies which prompted the military government to take a second look. Since then, a number of SAP reforms have been reinstituted. The exchange rate has been partially deregulated and the budget deficit has shrunk considerably. Regulations on foreign investment and foreign exchange transactions were eased. Decrees regarding money laundering and advance-fee fraud (known locally as "419" schemes) were promulgated to combat those crimes that badly tarnish Nigeria's image. But some distortions remain; the foreign debt remains high, currently at US $32 billion.

Nigeria's basic infrastructure is extensive, but it is largely unmaintained and inadequate for the demands of a large country with a population of over 100 million. Deficiencies range from crumbling roads and bridges to erratic telephone service and endemic shortages of water, fuel and electricity. Political uncertainty, along with the declining economy and Nigeria's reputation for corruption and fraud, detract from the Nigerian Government's professed interest in attracting foreign investors.

About 70 percent of the population is engaged in agriculture. Before Nigeria began to export petroleum in large quantities, its chief exports were agricultural commodities such as cocoa, peanuts, palm produce, rubber, timber, cotton, and wood products. While many of these exports virtually disappeared during the oil boom years, Nigeria still depends on subsistence farmers using traditional methods on small plots for most of its food.

Over 65 percent of Nigeria's imports in recent years have been capital goods and raw materials for industry. Most of its imports are sourced from Western Europe, with the remainder coming largely from the U.S., Japan, and other Asian countries. Locally produced consumer goods include textiles, beverages, lumber, furniture, plastics, pharmaceuticals, and food products. Other domestic manufacturers include cement, paper, and wood products. Nigeria has four oil refineries, and two fertilizer plants, with construction on a petrochemical plant underway. Other planned industrial projects in the development or planning stages involve steel, aluminum, fertilizers and liquefied natural gas.



"Go-slows" (traffic jams) are a way of life in Lagos. Most roads are in serious disrepair and are often congested. City streets are narrow and contain numerous potholes, which make them hazardous, especially during the rainy season. Floods in the rainy season cause, periodically, three to four feet of water in the streets. Also during the rainy season, "go-slows" are often worse than normal and driving even a short distance can take a long time. Violent car-jacking, especially of newer four-wheel-drive and other popular luxury vehicles, have become a major security concern during recent years.

Safe and reliable public transportation is not available. Public transportation in Lagos is primarily by large buses called "molues" or by yellow taxis. The buses are not utilized by Mission personnel as they are in disrepair, are always very overcrowded and pose serious danger to the occupants. For security reasons, the Regional Security Officer does not recommend that American employees utilize the local taxi service.


Nigeria's transportation network consists of roads and air services. Although one or more of these links can be used to get to most areas of the country, the level of service can often be disappointing. There are several domestic airlines but domestic air safety has been a problem. Not one domestic airline can assure safetydue to lack of proper maintenance, poor pilot and crew training, and inadequate air traffic control. Service is now available on a daily basis from Lagos to Abuja, the capital, and at least three times per week to most other major cities. The country's two international airports in Lagos and Kano are served by several international airlines. Domestic and International flight schedules are not reliable due to maintenance problems, inclement weather and/or over scheduling of planes.

All driving within Nigeria is on the right side of the road. Major intercity roads are paved, but maintenance is poor. Some roads between cities are close to impassable in some sections. Bandits are a constant danger, so adequate preparation for security should be made before beginning any road trip. Traveling in caravans is strongly recommended by the Regional Security Officer. Roadside facilities are far from adequate and lack basic amenities. Food, water, medical kit, and some basic automobile parts should be carried in the car and caution should be used at all time. Since medical care is seldom available, attention to safety on the road is critical.


Telephone and Telegraph

Local telephone service is sporadic at best and unreliable. The service level offered in Nigeria is still inadequate for the country's size and is troubled by frequent interruptions and breakdowns. Trunk lines connect most of Nigeria's principal cities, but telephone service throughout Nigeria is usually unavailable. International calls may be made by direct dial, via satellite, to the U.S. and to Europe. Service is reliable, but it is sometimes difficult to get an outgoing line, especially during office hours. A great deal of patience is required.

Radio and TV

The Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) oversees the operation of the Federal television network, which comprises the National Television Production Center in Lagos and NTA station in each of the 30 states and Abuja. An estimated 6.9 million TV sets are in use. Programming begins about 4 p.m. with children's programs, including " Sesame Street," and continues until midnight. On Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, transmission on most stations starts at 9 a.m. All broadcasts are in color. Most of the on-air programs are locally produced by Nigerians, but both American and British programming is frequently seen. Newscasts are shown several times nightly on the national networks. Television in Nigeria uses the 625-line PAL color system.

Radio is the primary source of information for most Nigerians. As of 1997, Nigerians owned an estimated 23.5 million radio receivers, mostly medium wave. Broadcasts, talk programs, and much disco music, are transmitted in English and several local languages over a national network operated by the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria and by stations owned by the 30 states. In 1994, the first private radio station, RAY POWER 100, opened in Lagos. It is affiliated with an American station located in Los Angeles.

Many radio stations outside Nigeria broadcast to West Africa, and short-wave reception is usually good, particularly at night. VOA and BBC programs can be heard on several frequencies. All radio, phonograph and other electronic equipment should be tropicalized and carefully packed. American models are difficult to repair in Nigeria. Many people use voltage regulators for TV's, videos, and stereos because of occasional power surges.

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals

There are numerous local newspapers and almost all are printed in English. Although newspapers are at least partially owned by federal or state governments, the press is lively and expressive. International coverage is minimal with major stories taken from the wire services. The International Herald Tribute, USA Today and the London Times as well as Time, The Economist and Newsweek magazines, are available.

British, French, German and other American magazines such as Readers Digest, Ebony and Essence are available on a regular basis at selected locations on Victoria and Ikoyi Islands. Books for all ages, especially paperbacks from the U.K. are sometimes available but are not always in good condition.

Health and Medicine

Community Health

Common diseases are frequently seen in travelers here in Nigeria, but severe trauma (auto accidents) is the greatest risk. Everyone should WEAR THEIR SEAT BELTS AT ALL TIMES whenever traveling in any vehicle and caution should be exercised at all times while driving on Nigerian roads. Although diseases endemic to Africa such as parasitic intestinal infections (amoeba, giardia, shigella) are common among the local population, they remain relatively rare among visitors. In any case, treatment is relatively straight forward and well tolerated. Viral "flu," colds, gastro-intestinal upsets, and common skin infections make up the majority of medical problems. Individuals, and especially small children, who suffer from asthma, allergies or skin problems such as eczema or psoriasis may find that these problems become more pronounced in Lagos.

Travelers visiting areas outside of the major cities should carry at least some fundamental first aid equipment with them during their travels. Snake bites are very rare among visitors, although quite common among the indigenous population in some parts of the country. Travelers should be aware of this risk, especially in bush areas, and should wear protective shoes and clothing when hiking and exploring these regions.

Water shortages are quite common and general sanitation is poor throughout the entire region. As a consequence, outbreaks of water, food and mosquito-borne illnesses are often identified even within our own community. All water used for drinking and preparing ice cubes must be boiled and filtered before use. Bottled water is generally considered safe for consumption. Fruits and vegetables purchased on the local economy are often contaminated with parasites and bacterial contamination and should be cleaned by soaking with dilute clorox or other safe decontaminants. Imported products are generally safe, but refrigeration is not always reliable. Restaurants offer foods from different countries and generally considered to serve "safe" food. However, one should avoid foods prepared by the street vendersa reliable source of illness!

Preventive Measures

Malaria is endemic throughout Africa, similarly so in all of Nigeria. Falciparum malaria makes up 95 percent of all the malaria that are seen here. This unfortunately is the same malaria that has become resistant to many drugs and is the one that can, if not treated promptly or if treated incorrectly, can lead to cerebral malaria which has a 20 percent fatality rate despite treatment. It is absolutely imperative that ALL MUST TAKE MALARIA PROPHYLAXIS . Mefloquine is the drug of choice for this region, but there are other alternatives if this medication is not tolerated. Combinations of Chloroquine plus Paludrine may be used or one can use daily Doxyxycline. Neither is as effective as Mefloquine. All anti-malarials should be started 1-2 weeks before arrival at post and should be continued for 4 weeks after your permanent departure from a malarious area. The final permanent cure requires an additional medication taken daily for 2 weeks after your departure (Primaquine). In spite of good prophylaxis, breakthroughs of malaria are still possible and require prompt treatment with appropriate follow-up to exclude resistance.

Nigeria requires that all persons over the age of 1 year traveling to this country MUST be immunized against yellow fever. It is especially important to receive all of your immunizations before coming to post. It is of some note that we have minimized our use of Gamma Globulin to prevent hepatitis A and now use the recently released Hepatitis A vaccine.


The U.S. Department of State warns against travel by U.S. citizens. Violent crimes can occur throughout the country, and kidnappings are common throughout the Niger Delta region.

Direct flights from the United States to Murtala Muhammed Airport were suspended in September, 1993, due to inadequate provisions for security. Direct flights to Lagos are available from several European cities. Travelers are encouraged to arrive during the day or early in the evening for security reasons.

American Visitors. Any American traveling to Nigeria should exercise caution by ensuring that they are met at the airport by persons known to them.

Airport Arrival. Air travelers arrive in Lagos at Murtala Muhammed International Airport, about 15 miles from downtown Lagos. Although only a short distance, the trip into the city can take from 45 minutes to 1-1/2 hours, depending on traffic conditions. Private vehicles en route to and from the airport are frequently subjected to armed shakedowns by persons uniformed as police officers. Violent car-jacking also occur from time to time. Special Note: There are no public telephones at the airport.

All U.S. citizens must have a valid visa to enter Nigeria, which is issued at Nigerian embassies and consulates worldwide. Apply for visas well in advance.

Travel to neighboring West African countries invariably requires a visa. If you plan to travel out of Nigeria for business or pleasure, bring at least thirty (30) passport-sized photos. These will be needed for visa applications and other documentation.

Personnel should obtain a cholera stamp and be sure that a yellow fever shot is recorded in their immunization card in order to guarantee entry into Nigeria. All personnel should check with the State Department immunization clinic for a list of the immunizations currently recommended for official personnel.

Nigerian law provides only for the private ownership of breach loaded, non-pump shotguns and rifles, excepting rifles above the caliber of 30-06. A pump action shotgun is prohibited as this is considered to be an auto-loading device. Shotguns that are single or double-barrel are acceptable. No pistols or other handguns are legal for private possession in Nigeria.

The basic unit of Nigerian currency is the Naira, which consists of 100 kobo. Nigeria abandoned a fixed exchange rate system in September 1986. Since then, the value of the Naira has been allowed to fluctuate in accordance with market forces. In August 1996, one dollar equaled about 84 Naira. A number of well-known European and U.S. banks are established, as minority partners, in the Nigerian banking system. These include the affiliate of Citibank, the Nigerian International Bank.

Nigeria has adopted the metric system of weights and measures.

Some hotels accept American Express credit cards as well as travelers checks, which they will exchange for Naira. The Embassy, however, advises against use of any credit card in Nigeria and other arrangements for payment should be made. No financial information should be left in the home or hotels and no account numbers should be given or available to anyone.


Jan. 1 New Year's Day

Mar/Apr. Good Friday*

Mar/Apr. Easter*

Mar/Apr. Easter Monday*

May 1Worker's Day

June 12 Democracy Day

Oct. 1 Independence Day

Dec. 25 Christmas Day

Dec. 26 Boxing Day

Id al-Adah*


Id al-Fitr*

Mawlid an Nabi*



The following titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country. The Department of State does not endorse unofficial publications.

Abonja, Simi, and Tola Pearce, eds. Social Change in Nigeria. White Plains, NY: Longman Publishing Group, 1986.

Ate, Bassey E. Decolonization & Dependence: The Development of Nigerian-U.S. Relations, 1960-1984. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1985.

Awolowo, Obafemi. The People's Republic. Oxford University Press: London, 1968.

. Awo: The Autobiography of Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Cambridge University Press: London, 1960.

Azikiwe, Nnamdi. My Odyssey. C. Hurst & Company: London, 1970.

. Zik. London, 1961.

Bailey, Donna, and Anna Sproule. Nigeria. Austin, TX: Steck-Vaughan, 1990.

Baker, Carol. A Family in Nigeria. Minneapolis, MN: Lerner Publications, 1985.

Bair, Frank E., ed. Countries of the World 1992. Detroit, MI: Gale Research, 1992.

Bovil, E.W. The Golden Trade of the Moors. Oxford University Press: London, 1958.

De St. Jorre, John. The Nigerian Civil War. Hodder & Stoughton: London, 1972.

Decalo, Samuel. Historical Dictionary of Nigeria. 2nd ed. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1989.

Dudley, B.J. Parties and Politics in Northern Nigeria. Frank Cass & Co., Ltd: London, 1968.

Ekwe-Ekwe, Herbert. The Biafra War: Nigeria & the Aftermath. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 1991.

. Conflict & Intervention in Africa: Nigeria, Angola, Zaire. New York: St. Martins Press, 1990.

Enahoro, Peter. Y ou Gotta Cry To Laugh: How To Be a Nigerian. Caxton Press: Ibadan.

Fagg, William. Nigerian Images. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press International, 1990.

Foreign Area Studies, the American University. Nigeria: A Country Study. 3d ed. U.S. Government Printing Office: Washington, D.C., 1979.

Freville, Nicholas. Let's Visit Nigeria. 3d rev. ed. Bridgeport, CT: Burke Books, 1988.

. Nigeria. New York: Chelsea House, 1990.

Hackett, Rosalind I., ed. New Religious Movements in Nigeria. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 1987.

Hodgkin, Thomas. Nigerian Perspectives: An Historical Anthology. 2d ed. Oxford University Press: London, 1975.

Jarmon, Charles. Nigeria: Reorganization & Development Since the Mid-Twentieth Century. Edited by K. Ishwaran. Kinderhook, NY: EJ Brill, 1988.

Kirk-Greene, A.H.M. Crisis and Conflict in Nigeria: A Documentary Sourcebook, 1966-69. 2 vols. Oxford University Press: London, 1971.

Leith-Ross, Sylvia. Stepping Stones: Memoirs of Colonial Nigeria, 1907-1960. Chester Springs, PA: Dufour Editions, 1983.

McLuckie, C.W. Nigerian Civil War Literature. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 1990.

Olajide, Aluko. Essays on Nigerian Foreign Policy. London, 1981.

Opaku, Joseph. Nigeria: Dilemma of NationhoodAn African Analysis of the Biafran Conflict.

Oyediran, Oyeleye, ed. Nigerian Government and Politics Under Military Rule, 1966-79. Macmillan: London, 1979.

Panter-Brick, S. Keith, ed. Soldiers and Oil: The Political Transformation of Nigeria. N.J. Class: London, 1978.

Shaw, Timothy M., and Julius O. Ihonubere, eds. Nigeria. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1990.

. Nigeria: The Illusions of Power. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1992.

Sorenson, Karen. Nigeria: On the Eve of "Change", a Transition to What? New York: Human Rights Watch, 1991.

Soyinka, Wole. Isara: A Voyage Around "Essay". New York: Random House, 1990.

Stremlau, John J. The International Politics of the Nigerian Civil War, 1967-1970. Princeton University Press: Princeton, 1977.

Watt, Peggy. There Is Only One Nigeria. New York: State Mutual Book & Periodical Service, 1987.

Watts, Michael, ed. State, Oil, & Agriculture in Nigeria. Berkeley, CA: University of California, Institute of International Studies, 1987.

Wente-Lukas, Renate, and Adam Jones. Handbook of Ethnic Units in Nigeria. Philadelphia, PA: Coronet Books, 1985.

Williams, David. President and Power in Nigeria: The Life of Shehu Shagari. N.J. Class: London and Ottawa, 1982.

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Federal Republic of Nigeria



Nigeria is located in Western Africa, and borders the Gulf of Guinea, between Benin on the west and Cameroon on the east. It has a compact area of 923,768 square kilometers (356,376 square miles). The country's land mass extends from the Gulf of Guinea in the south to the Sahel (the shore of the Sahara Desert) in the north. Comparatively, Nigeria is slightly more than twice the size of California, or the size of California, Nevada, and Arizona combined. Abuja, the capital city of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, replaced the former capital city, Lagos, in December 1991, because of its more central location, among other reasons. Lagos remains Nigeria's commercial capital. Other major Nigerian cities include Ibadan, Kaduna, Kano, Maid-uquri, Jos, Port Harcourt, Enugu, Calabar, and Aba.


Accurate population counts for Nigeria are difficult to obtain because such figures are tied directly to representation in the National Assembly and distribution of national wealth; therefore, they are often skewed by groups vying for political or economic advantage. In the absence of an accurate census, it is impossible to determine how many people live in Nigeria beyond rough estimates. The population of Africa's largest country was estimated at 123,337,822 in 2000. This figure represents an increase of 39.36 percent over the 1991 population census figure of 88.5 million, which was hotly debated and widely believed to have been an undercount. In the year 2000, the birth rate was estimated at 40.12 per 1,000, while the death rate was estimated at 13.72 per 1,000. With a projected annual population growth rate of 2.67 percent between 2000 and 2015, Nigeria's population is expected to increase to 156,269,020 in the year 2015. Excess mortality due to AIDS, lower life expectancy, and higher infant mortality and death rates might reduce this projected figure.

The density of population in Nigeria is among the highest in Africa. It ranges from 100 persons per square kilometer in the northeastern and west-central regions to more than 500 persons per square kilometer in the south and northwestern regions. The population is largely young. According to a 2000 estimate of the age structure, the largest segment of the population (53 percent) comprised individuals who are between 15 and 64 years old. This percentage included 33,475,794 males and 32,337,193 females. The second largest segment (44 percent) were between 0 and 14 years old and included 27,181,020 males and 26,872,317 females. The smallest segment (3 percent) were individuals 65 years and older, including 1,729,149 males and 1,722,349 females. The estimated sex ratio of the total population in 2000 was 1.02 males to 1 female while life expectancy at birth for the total population was 51.56 years: 51.58 years for males, and 51.55 years for females. The government hopes that the expansion of education, especially among women, and the availability of birth control information, including family planning, will help to control the population growth. Nigeria has received assistance from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to develop and implement its programs on family planning and child survival. In 1992, Nigeria added an HIV/AIDS prevention and control program to its existing health activities.

Nigeria is a plural or multinational state, with 250 ethnic or nationality groups. The most populous and politically influential of the nationality groups include the Hausa-Fulani (29 percent) in the north, the Yoruba (21 percent) in the southwest, the Igbo (18 percent) in the southeast, and the Ijaw (10 percent) in the Niger Delta. This characteristic ethnic composition gives Nigeria a rich diversity in customs, languages, religious and cultural traditions. It also compounds Nigeria's political and economic problems. Although the people are primarily rural dwellers, Nigeria, like other post-colonial African countries, has been urbanizing rapidly. In the year 2000, nearly 25 percent of the Nigerian population were urban dwellers. At least 24 cities have populations of more than 100,000. Lagos, the largest city, had a population of 9.8 million in 1995, 12.5 million in 2000, and is projected to have a population of 25 million in 2015.


As of 2001, the most conspicuous fact about Nigeria's economy is that the corruption and mismanagement of its post-colonial governments has prevented the channeling of the country's abundant natural and human resourcesespecially its wealth in crude oilinto lasting improvements in infrastructure and the construction of a sound base for self-sustaining economic development. Thus, despite its abundant resources, Nigeria is poorer today than it was at independence in 1960. Still one of the less developed and poorer countries of the world, it has the potential to become a major economic power if the leaders resolve to learn from past mistakes and to harness the country's rich natural and human resources for a productive and sustained effort to promote economic development.

Before the country was colonized by Britain, during the second half of the 19th century, the various nationality groups that currently make up Nigeria were largely an agricultural people. They were food self-sufficient and produced a variety of commodities that were exported overseas. British colonial administrators amalgamated (joined together) the nationality groups in 1914 into a larger economy for exploitation for the benefit of British industrial classes. Under colonial rule, Nigeria remained an agricultural country, exporting raw materials to Britain and importing from it finished goods. Therein lay the origins of the dependence of Nigerian economy on commodity markets of the industrialized Western world for its foreign exchange. While the industrialization of the country was discouraged, rudimentary foundations for a modern Nigerian economy, however, were laid. Colonial economic policies shaped future independent Nigeria's economy, particularly in marketing, labor supply, and investment. The process of colonial rule and formal economic exploitation ended in 1960 but left Nigeria a relatively strong but undiversified economy. Thereafter, Nigerians were poised to remedy this defect and to build a self-sustaining Nigerian economy comprising agricultural, industrial, and service sectors.

From independence in 1960, the state took up the direction and planning of economic growth and development. Education was progressively expanded at all levels to reduce the rate of illiteracy and to provide the requisite skills and labor force for development. Infrastructure of roads and communication networks were constructed far beyond what was inherited from colonial rule. Hydroelectric dams were built to generate electricity. Secondary industries and automobile assembly plants were established to create more employment opportunities. Because of the paucity (small number) of indigenous (native or local) private capital, these activities were undertaken and financed by the government, often with foreign assistance from such countries as Britain and the United States. Foreign oil companies, such as Shell-BP, Exxon-Mobil, Chevron, Agip, and Texaco, operate in partnership with the government in the oil sector, the mainstay of Nigeria's economy. The capital-intensive oil sector provides 95 percent of Nigeria's foreign exchange earnings and about 65 percent of its budgetary revenues.

Because the established, government-owned industries and businesses were often inefficient and corrupt, productivity was low at best. In particular, mismanagement and corruption were endemic (characteristic of) in the successive governments and throughout the nation. However, the gravest problem was caused by the government's decision to stress the industrial sector above all others. Caught in a web of competing demands for scarce resources, the officials took the path of rapid, large-scale industrialization at the expense of the agricultural sector, as well as light manufacturing. They directed the bulk of investment capital towards the promotion of what Western advisers captioned "industrial take off." This decision to abandon the knownagriculturefor the unknownrapid large-scale industrializationwas a fundamental error. The capital and the skill needed for rapid, large-scale industrialization were not sufficiently available. Thus, an unskilled workforce and insufficient funds severely handicapped the industrial sector. Also, Nigeria's neglect of the agricultural sector aggravated already problematic food shortages. Nigeria had raised enough food to meet domestic needs during its colonial period and in the decade following independence. However, it experienced food shortages in the 1970s and 1980s, which necessitated the importation of food from foreign countries. Among the imports were palm oil (from Malaysia), of which Nigeria had been the world's largest producer and exporter, and rice (from the United States) which was considered less nutritious than Nigerian brown rice. Once Africa's largest poultry producer, Nigeria lost that status because of inefficient corn production and a ban on the importation of corn. Furthermore, it is no longer a major exporter of cocoa, peanuts, and rubber.

Several forces compounded the problems of the agricultural sector. The migration of labor from the rural areas to the urban centers reduced the traditional agricultural labor force. Ecological constraints such as poor soil, erosion, drought, and the absence of agricultural research added to the problem. Other constraints on agricultural production include the use of antiquated technology due to a lack of capital, the low status given to agriculture in the education of the youth, inefficient marketing, an inadequate transportation infrastructure, lack of refrigeration, trade restrictions, under-investment due to unavailability of credit, low prices, and unstable pricing policies which resulted in farmers literally subsidizing urban dwellers and other sectors of the economy. In addition to these handicaps, import constraints limit the availability of many agricultural and food-processing plants. In general, land tenure discourages long-term investment in technology and modern production techniques.

The problem of food shortages and imports was addressed in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In the late 1970s the military government of Olusegun Obasanjo embarked upon "Operation Feed the Nation." His civilian successor, President Shehu Shagari, continued the program as the "Green Revolution." Both programs encouraged Nigerians to grow more food, and urged unemployed urban dwellers to return to the rural areas to grow food crops. The government provided farmers with fertilizers and loans from the World Bank. The food situation has stabilized, although Nigeria still imports food. A related problem which has not been completely resolved is the pollution of water in the Delta region and Ogoniland by oil companies. Water pollution disrupts farming efforts and has been a source of friction between farmers on one side and the national government and the oil companies on the other.

The oil boom which Nigeria experienced in the 1970s helped the nation to recover rapidly from its civil war and at the same time gave great impetus to the government's program of rapid industrialization. Many manufacturing industries sprang up and the economy experienced a rapid growth of about 8 percent per year that made Nigeria, by 1980, the largest economy in Africa. The growth, however, was not sustained. The new oil wealth did little to reverse widespread poverty and the collapse of even basic infrastructure and social services. The iron and steel industry, started with the help of the Soviet Union, still has not achieved a satisfactory level of production. The oil boom also provoked a shortage of labor in the agricultural sector as members of the rural workforce migrated to jobs in the urban construction boom and a growing informal sector . When the price of crude oil fell and corruption and mismanagement still prevailed at all levels, the economy became severely depressed. The urban unemployment rate rose to 28 percent in 1992, and crime also increased as 31.4 percent of the population lived below the poverty line.

Nigeria's debts mounted as administrators engaged in external borrowing and subsidized food and rice imports and gasoline prices. In the 1980s, economic realities forced Ibrahim Babangida's military regime to negotiate a loan with the World Bank and to reschedule Nigeria's external debts . His regime undertook an economic structural adjustment program (ESAP) to reduce Nigeria's dependence on oil and to create a basis for sustainable non-inflationary growth. However, external borrowing to shore up the economy created more problems than it alleviated. Much of the borrowed money never reached Nigeria. The portion that reached the country often went towards abandoned or nonperforming public sector projects. External loans escalated Nigeria's debts to US$30 billion during the Babangida regime and consumed external earnings in debt servicing . Similarly, the ESAP prescribed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) failed to advance the economy, and aggravated the problems of inflation and unemployment. It caused a reduction of state spending on education and health care. Continuing political instability due to Babangida's annulment of the presidential election results in June 1993 and the subsequent authoritarian rule of Sani Abacha (1993 to 1998) made the general economic situation worse. The gross corruption by the Abacha regime and its violations of people's fundamental rights turned Nigeria into an international pariah for 6 years, and thus discouraged foreign investment in the economy. Many industries and manufacturing companies could not obtain raw materials and closed down. Others operated under severe handicaps, including rampant power outages and refined petroleum scarcity. Not enough had been done in the years of plenty to diversify the economy or to sustain the development. Military coups (military overthrow of civilian governments) and political instability worsened the situation.

There was considerable optimism in May 1999 when Oluseguan Obasanjo became Nigeria's civilian president. Many hoped that he would lift Nigeria from the verge of economic bankruptcy. One of Obasanjo's objectives to that purpose was to secure debt relief from Nigeria's foreign creditors. However, these creditors insisted that Nigeria's wealth of untapped resources provided the means for the country to pay off its debts, and refused to cancel its debts of US$30 billion.

In spite of some opposition, Obasanjo embarked upon a program of privatizing some parastatals in order to reduce corruption, promote efficiency, and raise productivity. He introduced an anti-corruption bill which passed through the legislature, and recovered some of the revenues that had been stolen from the country and deposited in Western banks. The inflation rate , which was estimated at 12.5 percent at the start of his administration, was estimated at 6.6 percent in 2000. Significant exports of liquified natural gas started in 1999, and increased crude oil prices in 2000 provided his administration with additional revenues. So far, however, he has been unable to bring about economic recovery. Industrial capacity utilization appears to have diminished. Worse still, infrastructural facilities, including the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA), continue to be in a state of disrepair. Expected massive inflow of foreign investment, on which the government had hinged its economic revival program, failed to materialize. This is in part because of the high cost of doing business in Nigeria and a lack of transparency in economic decision-making in the country. In addition to these realities, the unemployment situation in the country remains unchanged months after the restoration of civilian government. In fact, it has worsened among university graduates and ranged from 30 to 40 percent in 2000. Political uncertainties due to ethnic and religious conflicts between Muslims and Christians, and constant feuding between the president and the legislators aggravate the economic climate. Widespread armed robbery and a crime syndicate known locally as 419 prey on foreign nationals, further hindering foreign investment and tourism. The country's economy needs the collective efforts of the president and the National Assembly as well as more definite measures to address its ills in order to foster its recovery and growth. Currently, funds available to the government are insufficient to meet the needs of all sectors of the economy at once. External investors can contribute through long-term investment and joint ventures in Nigeria's large national market. Crude oil, the price of which rose sharply recently, remains a very considerable asset. Properly managed, it could provide a solid platform for more sustained Nigerian development and prosperity in the 21st century and beyond.


Nigeria is a federal republic currently under a strong presidential administration, a National Assembly made up of 2 chambersa Senate and a House of Representativesand a judiciary. It has 36 administrative divisions known as states. Each of the states is divided into local governments. Thus, Nigeria has 3 tiers of government: national, state, and local.

Nigeria emerged from British colonial rule with a multi-party system deemed essential to democratic governance. However, those political parties were not differentiated or distinguished from each other by any political or economic ideology. Rather, they were essentially ethnic and regionally based, and were preoccupied with promoting ethnic and regional interests. Two of the largest parties, the Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) and the Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU), represented and championed the interests of the predominantly Muslim Northern Nigeria. The other leading parties, the National Council of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) and the Action Group (AG), pursued the interests of the southeast and southwest where they were respectively based. The primary interest of the political parties was thus to use Nigeria's constitutional set up, together with the country's national wealth and power, to promote ethnic and regional security and well-being rather than a national end. Thus, upon independence from Britain in 1960, the 4 leading political parties preoccupied themselves with acquiring control of Nigeria's national wealth and power rather than distributing the nation's power and resources equitably among its nationality groups. This issue continues to dominate Nigerian politics in spite of the formation of more comprehensive national parties in the late 1970s and early 1990s.

The politics of ethnic and regional security play a key role in Nigeria's political and economic development as well as its role in Africa and the world in general. It is the major source of growing political crisis in Nigeria. It undermines the selection of responsible and responsive national leadership by politicizing ethnicity. National leaders are recruited on the basis of their ethnicity and region, rather than their ability, experience, and vision. Hence, Nigeria's political and economic performance falls below par in comparison with other countries of comparable size and resources. The primacy of ethnicity has resulted in periodic outbreaks of violence between Nigerian people groups; this violence, in turn, supports military governments that rule with an iron fist in order to maintain order in Nigeria's tense political climate. Census enumeration for economic planning and electoral representation has fallen victim to the same ethnic politics as people groups claim bloated population numbers in order to secure more government funding and representation. It is also often the factor that determines the location of industries and development projects rather than feasibility studies or viability of the location.

Nigeria has been under 3 civilian administrations and 7 military regimes since its political independence from Britain in 1960. After the independence elections in 1959, an NPC-NCNC coalition ruled the country with Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa of the NPC (the senior partner) as the prime minister. In mid-January 1966, Sir Abubakar and a few of his associates were killed in a poorly executed but popular military coup after a succession of political crises, violence, and repression which Sir Abubakar could not or refused to stop. The leader of the coup, Major Kaduna Nzeogwnu, portrayed the deposed leaders as corrupt individuals who sought to keep Nigeria permanently divided so they could remain in office.

The 15 January 1966 military coup established Nigeria's first military government under General John T.U. Aguiyi-Ironsi. Like most of the leaders of the coup that overthrew Abubakar's government, Aguiyi-Ironsi was an Igbo from southeastern Nigeria, which immediately raised the suspicions of the Muslim leaders and soldiers of northern Nigeria. They saw the coup as a plot to impose Igbo-domination on Nigeria, and resentment in northern Nigeria against Aguiyi-Ironsi grew fast. His corrective policy of centralization of power became an excuse for a counter-coup by northern soldiers that put a northerner, Yakubu Gowon, in power on 29 July 1966. Initially, Gowon's regime was uncertain and unstable. It witnessed an orgy of ethnic bloodletting in which about 30,000 Igbo residents in northern Nigeria were slaughtered. Attempts to restructure Nigeria into a confederation failed. In May 1967 as Colonel Obumegwu Ojukwu, governor of Eastern Nigeria, contemplated the breakaway of the region, Gowon issued a decree dividing Nigeria into 12 states6 in the North, 3 in the East, and 3 in the West and Midwest. On 30 May 1967 Ojukwu declared the Eastern region the Sovereign Republic of Biafra. Consequently, a 30-month Nigeria-Biafra War began in July 1967. The war ended in January 1970 when Nigeria forced Biafra's surrender.

Achievement of post-war reconciliation and reconstruction goals was remarkably smooth, facilitated by the oil boom of the early 1970s. However, Gowon suspended the country's normal political activities beyond his promises and the expectations of eager politicians. In addition, he was unable to curb widespread corruption as well as a scandalous and excessive import of cement that clogged the port of Lagos (then Nigeria's capital). Consequently, he was overthrown in a bloodless coup on 29 July 1975 by General Murtala Muhammad.

In February 1976 Muhammad, who had already initiated a plan for a return to civilian rule over a period of 4 years, was himself assassinated in an attempted coup later that year. He was succeeded by his second-in-command, General Olusegun Obasanjo. In the same year, 7 additional states were created, bringing the total to 19. By 1996, 17 others were carved out. Meanwhile, Obasanjo strictly observed the set schedule for a return to civilian rule. An assembly elected to draft a new constitution completed the task in 1978. The constitution was published on 21 September 1978. On the same day the ban on political activity was lifted, leading to the formation of 5 political parties. In 1979, the political parties competed in a series of elections for state and national offices. Shehu Shagari, a northern Muslim and member of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), was elected as president. Thus, after a transition period of 3 years Obasanjo transferred political power in October 1979 to a civilian administration led by Alhaji Shehu Shagari.

President Shagari's administration marked the beginning of Nigeria's Second Republic. His administration was a coalition of 2 political partiesthe National Party of Nigeria (NPN, senior partner) and the Nigerian Peoples Party (NPP). Under the administration, the characteristic politics of ethnic and regional security that ruined the First Republic re-emerged. The coalition collapsed in 1981. Internal dissension, corruption, and abuse of power by the administration became manifest and weakened the moral authority of the government.

Senior military officers overthrew Shagari's government on 31 December 1983. The officers accused the government of widespread corruption, waste, and mismanagement of the economy, making Nigeria a "beggar nation." From 1984 to 1998, Nigeria experienced socioeconomic and political subjugation under 3 successive military dictators: Muhammadu Buhari (1984 to 1985), Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (1985 to 1993), and Sani Abacha (1993 to 1998). The series of dictators caused further decline in the Nigerian economy as unprincipled, unproductive, corrupt, and weak political elites partnered with the military to smother any opposition and banish all democratic liberties and opportunities in the country. A planned return to civilian government in 1993 did not take place. On 23 June 1993 Babangida nullified the election of Moshood Abiola, a Yoruba businessman from southwest Nigeria as president on 12 June. Faced with riots, in which 100 people were killed, and lack of support from the military, Babangida stepped down on 26 August and installed a military-backed interim government headed by another southwestern Nigerian businessman, Ernest Shonekan. Shonekan, who received little or no public support because he was perceived as a strategic tool of the military, was to rule until new elections, scheduled for 1994. He was unable to deal with Nigeria's ever-growing economic problems and was removed on 17 November 1993 by Sani Abacha, who then assumed full political authority.

Abacha quickly dissolved all democratic political institutions and replaced all elected governors with military officers. He promised to return the government to civilian rule but refused to disclose a timetable. Faced with domestic and external criticism for his measures, Abacha called for elections for delegates to a Constitutional Conference. Most Nigerians boycotted the elections which were held in May 1994. Leaders of the major opposition group, the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), were arrested when they attempted to reactivate disbanded democratic institutions. In 1997 Abacha inaugurated a period of transition to civilian rule and promoted the emergence of 5 political parties. Soon, however, he decided instead on a program of self-succession; he created and financed a youth movement and other paid political sycophants (flatterers) to advocate his self-succession. He manipulated the 5 political parties to adopt him as their candidate for the presidency. Thus, the national election that had been planned for August 1998 was to become a referendum (a decision by the general population) on Abacha's self-succession. Every measure of opposition against the plan was foiled, while lavish national resources were spent to promote it. The referendum on Abacha's self-succession did not take place, however. On 7 June 1998, Abacha died suddenly, the nation was told, from natural causes. While he ruled, Abacha had committed human rights abuses, significantly impaired the authority and independence of the judiciary, imprisoned his critics, looted the national treasury, and failed to tackle the nation's economic problems.

Upon Abacha's death, General Abdulsalami Abubakar was selected by the military leadership to succeed him. Abubakar worked to calm the tempers of an agitated nation and promised to end military dictatorship through a genuine transition to civilian rule by the end of May 1999. He proceeded to release Abacha's political prisoners, including journalists and human rights activists. He reached an understanding to release Moshood Abiolathe presumed winner of the 12 June 1993 presidential election annulled by Babangidafrom detention. However, Abiola died of a heart attack in August before he could be released. In a further move, Abubakar dissolved the 5 Abacha-regime political parties. In their place emerged 15 others, only 3 of whichPeople's Democratic Party (PDP), All People's Party (APP), and the Alliance for Democracywere certified to contest the elections at local, state, and national levels. The elections were completed at all levels by February 1999. The PDP won a majority of the seats in both chambers of the National Assembly as well as 21 of the country's 36 governorships. Olusegun Obasanjo, a former military head of state and a PDP candidate, won the presidential election. On 5 May 1999, Abubakar proclaimed by decree a constitution which went into effect on 29 May 1999. On the same day Obasanjo was inaugurated as the president of the Third Republic of Nigeria.

His administration faces formidable political and economic problems. Leaders of the southern states persistently demand a sovereign national conference to restructure the federation. The governors, especially those of the oil-producing states, demand a new formula for revenue allocation. Leaders of the northern states complain of neglect and inadequate allocation of resources and national offices to their region. Infrastructure of roads, especially in the south, is in disrepair. There is a growing income disparity, and a constant shortage of electricity and gasoline. Lax security and widespread armed robbery have triggered demands for regional control of security and resources. Ethnic and religious clashes discourage foreign investment and worsen the enormous rate of unemployment. Critics have described Obasanjo's government as unimaginative in dealing with these issues.

From independence in 1960 to the present, Nigerian governments, whether civilian or military, have not differed substantially on their economic policy. Each supported the concept of a mixed economya public sector controlled by the state and a private sector or free enterpriseand state intervention in such social sectors as education and health. This was in accord with the system of economy inherited at independence from Britain. In 1962, 2 years after independence, Sir Abubakar's government inaugurated a 6-year development plan. The plan mapped Nigeria's transition from an agricultural economy to a mixed economy whose bases were agricultural expansion and limited industrial growth.

Broad in its scope, the economic development plan sought to achieve national economic objectives, such as faster growth and higher levels of average material welfare. The plan included economic forecasts, policies towards the private sector, and a list of proposed public expenditures. Nigerian political leaders determined the general objectives and priorities of the plan, but the main authors of the actual document were foreign (Western) economists. The national government became heavily involved in carrying out the plan because it was unable to generate local private investment to raise sufficient capital for development. The Western advisors discouraged increased taxes on the wealthy and called for foreign assistanceabout 50 percent of the public-sector investmentin carrying out the plan.

After the civil war, the military regime of Yakubu Gowon instituted a second development plan for the years 1970 to 1975. The plan sought to promote reconstruction after the civil war, to restore the nation's productive capacity, and to achieve a measurable degree of self-reliance. In 1972 the government issued the first of Nigeria's indigenization decrees that forbade aliens to invest in specified enterprises and reserved participation in certain trades to Nigerian citizens. At that time, about 70 percent of commercial firms operating in Nigeria were foreign-owned. In 1975, as a follow-up to the indigenization decree, the federal government bought 60 percent of the equity in the marketing operations of the major oil companies in Nigeria. It rejected full nationalization as a means of promoting its program of indigenization. After the overthrow of Gowon in 1975, a third development plan (1975 to 1980) was begun. Stimulated by the oil boom of 1974, the plan sought to expand agriculture, industry, transport, housing, education, health facilities, water supply, rural electrification, and community development. These objectives were not fully achieved because of inflation in minimum wage and administrative salaries awarded by the Udorji Commission and decline in projected oil revenue.

The slump in oil revenue caused the civilian administration of Shehu Shagari to delay the start of the fourth development plan (1981 to 1985). Falling oil revenues, cost of increased food imports, and the inability of the local governments to carry out their responsibilities threatened and undermined the plan. The overthrow of the civilian government of Shagari by Muhammadu Buhari in 1985 delayed the fifth development plan. In 1989, General Babangida, who had overthrown Buhari in 1985, abandoned the idea of a 5-year national development plan. In its place he introduced a 3-year "rolling plan" between 1990 and 1992, anticipating a more comprehensive 15-to 20-year plan. Because of rapid change and economic uncertainty, such rolling plans were to be revised at the end of each year and new estimates, targets, and projects were to be added. Babangida's rolling plan sought to reduce inflation and naira exchange rate instability, achieve food self-sufficiency, maintain infrastructure, and reduce the adverse effects of economic structural adjustment he had imposed on the nation. His rolling plan did no better than previous 5-year plans to promote Nigeria's economic development. The current civilian administration of Obasanjo is emphasizing a private-sector-led economy and "market oriented" economy. So far, it has done little to create a solid enabling environment in spite of its anti-corruption campaign aimed at injecting transparency and accountability into economic decision-making.

Nigeria derives its budgetary revenues primarily from petroleum profit taxation, import and excise duties , and mining rents and royalties. Petroleum taxation accounts for 65 percent of the budgetary revenues. As of May 2000 the tax rate for assessable petroleum profit was 85 percent. In March 1995, the government established a new tariff structure levying taxes on imported goods, ranging from 5 to 60 percent. Import tax is non-preferential and applies equally to all countries. Import duties are either specific or ad valorem ( value-added tax , VAT) depending on the commodity. In 2000 the VAT rate was 5 percent. Import duties are collected by the Nigerian Customs Service in association with government-appointed accounting/auditing firms and paid into the federal treasury through selected banks, such as First Bank of Nigeria, Public Limited Company (PLC); Union Bank of Nigeria, PLC; and United Bank for Africa, PLC.

Other sources of revenue include: companies' income tax (30 percent of assessable profit), capital gains tax (10 percent of capital gains), various types of licenses, and personal income tax. Employees "pay as they earn." Such taxes are deducted at monthly pay periods by employers for the federal treasury. In 2000 the tax rate varied from 5 to 25 percent of cumulative or total taxable income. Prior to the 1970s, self-employed people, including well-to-do traders and business people, paid virtually no income taxes. The government sought to collect the taxes by introducing tax clearance certificates. Individuals had to produce such certificates, proving that they had paid their taxes, before receiving government benefits, holding public office, or receiving passports for foreign travel.


Nigeria has a fairly extensive infrastructure of roads, railroads, airports, and communication networks. The road system is by far the most important element in the country's transportation network, carrying about 95 percent of all the nation's goods and passengers. Currently, many of the roads are in disrepair because of poor maintenance and years of heavy traffic.

ROADS. The road system was started in the early 1900s under British colonial rule essentially as a feeder network for newly completed railroads. Two trunk roads running from Lagos (southwest) and Port Harcourt (southeast) to Kano (north central) were built. These were followed by the construction of several east-west roads, 2 north and 2 south of the natural division created by the Niger and Benue Rivers. The major purpose was to transport goods from the interior to the coast for export.

After independence in 1960, expansion of the road system to facilitate access to state capitals and large towns became one of the major areas of government investment. In 1978, an expressway was constructed from Lagos to Ibadan. Later, a branch of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway was extended to Benin City. By 1980 another express-way connected Port Harcourt to Enugu. Similar express-ways connected major cities and commercial centers in the north. Thus, by 1990 Nigeria had 108,000 kilometers (67,112 miles) of roads. Of this total, 30,000 kilometers (18,642 miles) were paved, 25,000 kilometers (15,535 miles) were gravel, and 53,000 kilometers (32,935 miles) were unimproved earth.

Much of the road system is in disrepair and barely useable. Massive traffic jams are very common in the large cities. There are also long delays in the movement of goods. Highway accidents and deaths are frequent, and number more than 30,000 and 8,000, respectively.

RAILROADS. Railroads provide Nigeria's second means of transportation. The rail system consists of 3,500 kilometers (2,175 miles) route of 1.067 meters (3.5 feet)

Country Telephones a Telephones, Mobile/Cellular a Radio Stations b Radios a TV Stations a Televisions a InternetService Providers c Internet Users c
Nigeria 500,000 (2000) 26,700 AM 82; FM 35;shortwave 11 23.5 M 2 (1999) 6.9 M 11 100,000
United States 194 M 69.209 M (1998) AM 4,762; FM 5,542;shortwave 18 575 M 1,500 219 M 7,800 148 M
Dem. Rep. of Congo 21,000 8,900 AM 3; FM 12;shortwave 1 (1999) 18.03 M 20 (1999) 6.478 M 2 1,500 (1999)
Cameroon 75,000 4,200 AM 11; FM 8;shortwave 3 2.27 M 1 (1998) 450,000 1 20,000
aData is for 1997 unless otherwise noted.
bData is for 1998 unless otherwise noted.
cData is for 2000 unless otherwise noted.
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [Online].

gauge. Two main lines of the single-track railroad system connect the coast with the interior. One line runs from Lagos (southwest) to Kano (north). The Lagos-Kano line was extended to Nguru, a cattle-raising region, in 1930. The other line runs from Port Harcourt (south-east) to Kaduna (north). A branch line runs from Zaria to Kaura Namoda, an important agricultural area in the northwest. The Port Harcourt-Kaduna line was extended to Maiduguri (northeast) in 1964. The rail system is operated by the Nigeria Railway Corporation. The system suffered a progressive decline because of inadequate funding, poor maintenance, and declining profit.


Inland waterways totaling 8,575 kilometers, (5,329 miles) and consisting of Niger and Benue Rivers and smaller rivers and creeks, provide Nigeria's third internal transportation network. Water transportation of goods and services using boats and canoes is essential and common in riverine areas of Nigeria where road construction is difficult. In the 1980s the government invested funds in building river ports, hoping that increased passenger traffic on the nation's inland waterways would relieve the strained highway system. A major problem involves the fluctuations in the water level during the dry season, which hinder the movement of canoes.


Ports provide facilities for exports and imports. The port in Lagos handles the majority of cargo flowing in and out of the country by ship; other important ports include Port Harcourt, Calabar, and the delta port complex of Warri, Sapele, Koko, and Alesa Eleme. In addition to these port complexes, 2 specialized tanker terminals at Bonny, near Port Harcourt, and Burutu, near Warri, handle crude oil exports.


Nigeria has 72 (1998 estimate) airports, 36 of which have paved runways. Three major international airportsMurtala Muhammad International at Lagos, Aminu Kano International at Kano, and another at Port Harcourtoffer regularly scheduled international flights. Nigeria Airport Authority manages the airports. Nigeria Airways provides domestic service between the international airports and other Nigerian cities. On 26 August 2000, Nigeria and the United States signed an "Open Skies Agreement" to expand and enhance the overall aviation partnership between the 2 countries. Among others, the agreement provides for a direct flight between Lagos and John F. Kennedy Airport in New York. It is hoped that the direct flight will boost Nigeria's tourism sector and develop Lagos as a gateway to Africa.


Electrical power for industrial and household purposes is supplied by Nigeria's National Electric Power Authority (NEPA). The state-owned corporation, nicknamed "Never Expect Power Always" by Nigerians, is very unreliable, with daily shortages and blackouts. In 1998 its production of 14.75 billion kilowatts from fossil fuel (61.69 percent) and hydropower (38.31 percent) was highly inadequate to meet the nation's industrial and household needs. As a consequence, businesses and manufacturers operate well below capacity, while thousands of Nigerians in urban centers and rural areas buy their own power generators.


Telecommunications services provide high quality links internally and to the rest of the world. The government is pursuing an ambitious telecommunications expansion program. It plans to increase Nigeria's mobile and wire lines from year 2000 numbers of 700,000 to over 4 million functional telephone lines by 2002. Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL) was the nation's sole carrier until 1993 when 8 private firms were approved to be connected to its switching system so as to provide services to various Nigerian zones.

Virtually all Nigerian localities receive broadcasts from one of 65 AM radio stations, and more than a dozen cities from FM radio stations. Shortwave broadcasts from overseas and 6 local transmitters are received throughout the country. Television services are available to most urban areas as well as rural areas with rural electrification. According to World Development Indicators (2000), 223 per 1,000 Nigerians owned radios (1997), while 66 per 1,000 owned television sets (1998). While there were 5 Internet service providers, less than 20 percent of the Nigerian urban population used the Internet in 1999.


Despite the availability of natural resources, population, and domestic markets, all sectors of the Nigerian economy performed below their potential during the nation's first 40 years of independence. The structure of the economy remained stagnant (unchanged) and over-dependent on the oil sector. The largely subsistent agricultural sector failed to keep up with rapid population growth, forcing the one-time food exporter to import food. Inter-sectoral linkages remain weak, and the rate of unemployment remains high and problematic.

Most observers of the Nigerian scenedomestic as well as foreignattribute the poor performance and the over-reliance on the oil sector to a variety of reasons, including political instability, prolonged authoritarian rule by the military, poor macroeconomic management, inadequate infrastructure, and external financing. In November 1996, the military ruler Abacha set up the VISION 2010 Committee which looked into the general situation and recommended targets for year 2010. No tangible progress has so far been made.

The civilian administration of Obasanjo has proposed substantial reform in its economic policy for 1999 to 2003. The main thrust of the reform is to deregulate the economy and to disengage the state from activities which are private-sector oriented, leaving the state to act as a facilitator. The plan also concentrates on the provision of incentives, policy, and infrastructure essential to the private sector's role as the engine of growth. The administration's industrial policy seeks to generate productive employment and raise productivity, increase export of locally manufactured goods, create a wider geographical dispersal of industries, attract foreign investment, and increase private sector participation. The policy places highest priority on the agricultural sector to achieve both poverty reduction, especially in rural areas, and sufficiency in food production and surplus for use as industrial raw materials for export. Other areas of high priority include manufacturing industries, solid minerals, oil and gas, small and medium enterprises, and tourism. Also, the industrial policy includes partial privatization of government-owned enterprises in such sectors as telecommunications, electricity generation and distribution, petroleum refining, coal and bitumen production, and tourism, in which citizens as well as foreigners may freely participate.


Although it depends heavily on the oil industry for its budgetary revenues, Nigeria is predominantly still an agricultural society. Approximately 70 percent of the population engages in agricultural production at a subsistence level. Agricultural holdings are generally small and scattered. Agriculture provided 41 percent of Nigeria's total gross domestic product (GDP) in 1999. This percentage represented a normal decrease of 24.7 percent from its contribution of 65.7 percent to the GDP in 1957. The decrease will continue because, as economic development occurs, the relative size of the agricultural sector usually decreases.

Nigeria's wide range of climate variations allows it to produce a variety of food and cash crops . The staple food crops include cassava, yams, corn, coco-yams, cow-peas, beans, sweet potatoes, millet, plantains, bananas, rice, sorghum, and a variety of fruits and vegetables. The leading cash crops are cocoa, citrus, cotton, groundnuts (peanuts), palm oil, palm kernel, benniseed, and rubber. They were also Nigeria's major exports in the 1960s and early 1970s until petroleum surpassed them in the 1970s. Chief among the export destinations for Nigerian agricultural exports are Britain, the United States, Canada, France, and Germany.

A significant portion of the agricultural sector in Nigeria involves cattle herding, fishing, poultry, and lumbering, which contributed more than 2 percent to the GDP in the 1980s. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization 1987 estimate, there were 12.2 million cattle, 13.2 million sheep, 26.0 million goats, 1.3 million pigs, 700,000 donkeys, 250,000 horses, and 18,000 camels, mostly in northern Nigeria, and owned mostly by rural dwellers rather than by commercial companies. Fisheries output ranged from 600,000 to 700,000 tons annually in the 1970s. Estimates indicate that the output had fallen to 120,000 tons of fish per year by 1990. This was partly due to environmental degradation and water pollution in Ogoniland and the Delta region in general by the oil companies.

Decline in agricultural production in Nigeria began with the advent of the petroleum boom in the early 1970s. The boom in the oil sector brought about a distortion of the labor market. The distortion in turn produced adverse effects on the production levels of both food and cash crops. Governments had paid farmers low prices over the years on food for the domestic market in order to satisfy urban demands for cheap basic food products. This policy, in turn, progressively made agricultural work unattractive and enhanced the lure of the cities for farm workers. Collectively, these developments worsened the low productivity, both per unit of land and per worker, due to several factors: inadequate technology, acts of nature such as drought, poor transportation and infrastructure, and trade restrictions.

As food production could not keep pace with its increasing population, Nigeria began to import food. It also lost its status as a net exporter of such cash crops as cocoa, palm oil, and groundnuts. According to U.S. Department of State FY2001 Country Commercial Guide, Nigeria's total food and agricultural imports are valued at approximately US$1.6 billion per year. Among the major imports from the United States are wheat, sugar, milk powder, and consumer-ready food products.

Efforts since the late 1970s to revitalize agriculture in order to make Nigeria food self-sufficient again and to increase the export of agricultural products have produced only modest results. The Obasanjo administration, however, has made agriculture the highest priority of its economic policy.



The oil industry dominates Nigeria's mineral development, making petroleum the most important sector of the Nigerian economy. Nigeria produces 2.3 million barrels of crude oil per day (2000). It is Africa's largest oil producer, contributing 3.0 percent to the global production, and is the world's sixth largest oil exporter. Its proven reserves are estimated at 20 billion barrels, enough to last 40 years at the current rate of production. Continuing exploration is expected to raise the total to more than 25 billion. Nigeria is a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

The state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) cooperates with foreign oil companies such as Shell, Mobil, Elf, Agip, Chevron, and BP in its oil industry. The parastatal was recently restructured as part of a general policy to commercialize state concerns and encourage private-sector participation in them.

Crude oil (11 percent of production) is refined in Nigeria in 4 refineries which seldom meet the country's demands. Hence, there is constant shortage of fuel. Crude oil is also the nation's largest export to such countries as the United States and Japan. Petroleum products accounted for two-thirds of Nigeria's energy consumption in the 1990s. Domestic consumption of crude oil was 250,000 barrels per day.

During the process of oil exploration, vast reserves of natural gasestimated at 100 billion standard cubic feetwere discovered. They are the largest reserves found so far in Africa. In 1988, Nigeria produced 21.2 billion cubic meters per day with 2.9 billion cubic meters used by National Electric Power Authority and other domestic customers, 2.6 billion cubic meters used by foreign oil companies, and 15.7 billion cubic meters wasted through flaring. In 2000 Nigeria began to export Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), an increasingly important sector which is expected at some point to surpass oil as the nation's major source of revenue. Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas Ltd., a subsidiary of the NNPC, had signed agreements in 1992 with 4 countriesUnited States, France, Italy, and Spainfor supplies of LNG.

Nigeria's emphasis on the oil industry resulted in the neglect of other sectors of the mining industry. Recently, however, interest has rekindled in solid minerals such as coal, tin, iron, columbine, gold, uranium, tantalum, marble, and phosphates. Many other commercially-viable solid minerals have yet to be exploited. All solid minerals are owned by the federal government. Prospecting licenses, mining leases, quarrying licenses, and leases are granted by the Ministry of Solid Minerals Development, established early in 1995 to boost non-oil exports. The National Fertilizer Company of Nigeria operates a fertilizer complex at Onne (Rivers State). Coal production had declined as industries and trains shifted to the use of oil, gasoline, and diesel, but in 1991 2 joint ventures began operations for its mining and export. A total of 60,000 tons were exported to England in 1991. The solid minerals are attracting foreign interest for potential exploitation. In addition to the development of the solid minerals noted, Nigeria engages in processing industries for such products as palm oil, peanuts, rubber, wood, hides, and skins.


The manufacturing sector in the Nigerian economy is dominated by import substitution light industries designed to produce goods that previously had been imported. The Nigerian Enterprises Promotion decrees (1972, 1977, and 1981) shifted the manufacturing sector from foreign majority ownership in the 1960s to indigenous (local) majority ownership in the mid-to-late 1970s by limiting foreign ownership shares in various industries. As a result, a few civil servants, military leaders, business people, and professionals became considerably wealthy through the purchase of the relinquished foreign-owned shares. The third development plan (1975 to 1980) envisaged a rapid phase of industrialization, emphasizing heavy industries such as iron, steel, and petrochemicals, as well as such consumer durables as automobiles. Automobile assembly plants were established in 1978 by Leyland, Peaugeot, Volkswagen, Fiat, and Daimler-Benz. Major industrial projects during the third development plan included 3 new oil refineries, 2 pulp and paper mills, an iron and steel complex, 2 liquefied natural gas plants, 3 sugar refineries, and 3 new cement factories. Their productivity was low. The iron and steel complex remained incomplete.

The fourth development plan (1981 to 1985) placed high priority on the manufacturing sector in order to promote rapid development and transformation of the economy. The extant manufacturing industries concentrated on consumer goods : food products, mineral distillation and beer brewing, textiles, cement, building materials, glass, footwear, furniture, chemical products, ceramics, and small appliances. They produced a range of goods but did not substantially increase employment or industrial growth.

Manufacturing industries are among the Obasanjo administration's priority areas of industrial investment. The administration favors industries which can rapidly be supported by locally-produced raw materials. The government also hopes to support food-production programs through local manufacture of chemicals, equipment, and light commercial vehicles. It will also focus on industries with multiplier effect such as flat-sheet mills and machine tools industry, including foundries and engineering industries for spare-parts production. The administration invites local and foreign investors in the priority areas.

The manufacturing sector suffers from a number of constraints including low demand for locally-made goods such as textiles and footwear, and the poor state of social and economic infrastructure typified by power and water shortages. However, Nigeria's manufacturing capacity utilization rose from 34 percent in 1998 to 36 percent in 1999.



Tourism in Nigeria is highly undeveloped, considering the West African nation's available tourist resources: land, climate, vegetation, people and their festivals, abundant art treasures, national monuments, ports, traditional sports, and music. Recognizing the potential revenue the nation could generate from tourism, the government decided in 1991 to develop and promote tourism into an economically viable industry. The thrust of its policy was to "make Nigeria a prominent tourism destination in Africa, generate foreign exchange, encourage even development, promote tourism-based rural enterprises, and generate employment."

An institutional framework was put in place, namely the Federal Ministry of Commerce and Tourism, to pursue the objectives and maintain links with the state governments on funding and monitoring of a nation-wide tourism infrastructure. The government provided incentives to encourage domestic and foreign investors to participate in the venture. For example, the sector was accorded preferred-sector status, qualifying it for tax holidays and import-duty exemption on tourism-related equipment. Upon the inauguration of the Third Republic, President Obasanjo accorded the industry an additional boost by creating a separate Ministry of Tourism and Culture with Chief Ojo Madueke as its minister.

The boost notwithstanding, many impediments stand in the way of a tourist industry in Nigeria. Warnings issued by foreign governments on the dangers of travel to Nigeria scare tourists. Violent crime by individuals in police and military uniforms, as well as by ordinary criminals, is an acute and constant problem. Frequently, harassment and shakedowns of foreigners and Nigerians by uniformed personnel and others occur throughout the federation. Fake business and other advance-fee scams target foreigners worldwide and pose dangers of financial loss and potential physical harm. Other barriers to a successful tourist industry include inconsistent regulations, widespread corruption and crime, crumbling roads and bridges, erratic telephone service, frequent shortages of fuel, electricity and water, and social unrest in some parts of the country.


Regular banking services in Nigeria began in 1892 when the country's first bank was established. By 1952 there were 3 foreign-owned banks (the Bank of British West Africa, Barclays Bank, and the British and French Bank) and 2 indigenous banks (the National Bank of Nigeria and the African Continental Bank). A central bank, demanded by members of the Nigerian Federal House of Assembly in 1952 to help promote economic development, was established and operational on 1 July 1959. Similar to central banks in Western Europe and North America, the Central Bank of Nigeria establishes the Nigerian currency, controls and regulates the banking system, serves as banker to other banks in Nigeria, and carries out the government's economic policy in the monetary field.

Despite the tendency of Nigerians to prefer cash to checks for business and debt settlements, the banking system has expanded to include 90 banks in 2000 in 3 categories: commercial, merchant, and industrial or development banks. In addition to these categories, there are many mortgage and community banks, insurance companies, pension funds, and finance and leasing companies active in Nigeria. A drastic decline in the number of financial houses, commercial banks, and mortgage and community banks began in 1995 because of distress in the financial sector.


Nigeria has one of the best-developed and most extensive retail industrial sectors in sub-Saharan Africa. This is due to its large population located in many large commercial centers, such as Lagos, Ibadan, Kano, Port Harcourt, Aba, and Onitsha, in addition to hundreds of smaller towns with more than 200,000 inhabitants. There are also hundreds of trading corporations, financial institutions, and a great variety of small business enterprises, many in the informal sector, along with thousands of large market (and roadside stands) in urban as well as rural areas.

The commercial centers house a variety of retail stores, restaurants, and secular and Christian bookshops that cater to the commercial and household needs of traders and residents. Nigerians now dominate the wholesale and retail trade which in colonial days had been virtually controlled by foreign companies from metropolitan Western Europe, Lebanon, Syria, and India. Nigerian women are playing an increasing role in the retail and distribution sector.


Nigeria exports primarily petroleum and other raw materials such as cocoa, rubber, palm kernels, organic oils, and fats. It imports secondary products such as chemicals, machinery, transport equipment, manufactured goods, food, and animals. The dependence on oil and a few other commodities for export caused Nigeria to become especially vulnerable to world oil price fluctuations.

During the colonial years, Britain was Nigeria's leading trading partner. After independence, Nigeria diversified its trading partners. It now trades worldwide with about 100 countries. The United States replaced Britain as the primary trading partner in the 1970s. However, Britain remains Nigeria's leading vendor, selling the former colony more than 14 percent of its imports in the 1990s. Other major trading partners are Germany, France, the Netherlands, Canada, Japan, Italy, and Spain. Nigeria's meager trade with Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union declined even further after the collapse of Euro- Communism and the breakup of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. Nigeria's trade with sister African countriesmainly with other West African members of the Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS,

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Nigeria
Exports Imports
1975 7.845 6.041
1980 25.968 16.660
1985 12.548 8.877
1990 13.670 5.627
1995 34.179 34.488
1998 37.029 43.798
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.

created in 1975)was only about 4 percent of its total trade in 1990.

Prior to 1966, Nigeria had a persistent trade deficit . The rapid growth of petroleum as an export commodity reversed the trend between 1966 and 1977. Sluggish international demand for Nigerian crude oil renewed the trade deficit from 1978 to 1983. Severe import restrictions and an economic structural adjustment program (ESAP) adopted to address the economic breakdown brought about trade surpluses from 1984 to 1986, and again in 1990. Monies sent home by Nigerian residents overseas helped to cushion the drastic effects of the deficit and the ESAP-induced decreased government spending on the population.


The naira, Nigeria's currency, declined rapidly after the military deposed the civilian administration of Shehu Shagari on 31 December 1983 at the time of depressed oil prices. In 1981 N1.00 was worth US$1.67. By 1986 the value of N1.00 had tumbled to US$0.64 (N1.56 equals US$1.00). It declined further in 1987 and has continued a downward spiral. In 1995, under the Babangida regime's policy of "guided deregulation" of the foreign exchange market, the official rateN22.00 to US$1.00became available only to the government. All individuals and organizations had to meet their foreign exchange needs from an Autonomous Foreign Exchange Market (AFEM).

The prevailing AFEM rate in 1999 was N100.00 to US$1.00. Obasanjo abolished the parallel official rate of N22.00 to US$1.00 upon his inauguration in May 1999. Since then the exchange rate has risen to N120.00 to US$1.00 (October 2000).


Despite Nigeria's enormous resources and potential, poverty is widespread throughout the nation. Its basic indicators place it among the 20 poorest countries of the

Exchange rates: Nigeria
nairas (N) per US$1
Jan 2001 110.005
2000 101.697
1999 92.338
1998 21.886
1997 21.886
1996 21.884
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].
GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Nigeria 301 314 230 258 256
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Dem. Rep. of Congo 392 313 293 247 127
Cameroon 616 730 990 764 646
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.
Distribution of Income or Consumption by Percentage Share: Nigeria
Lowest 10% 1.6
Lowest 20% 4.4
Second 20% 8.2
Third 20% 12.5
Fourth 20% 19.3
Highest 20% 55.7
Highest 10% 40.8
Survey year: 1996-97
Note: This information refers to expenditure shares by percentiles of the population and is ranked by per capita expenditure.
SOURCE: 2000 World Development Indicators [CD-ROM].

world. Nigeria has been in stagnation and relative decline since 1981, from a per capita GDP of US$1,200 in 1981 to about US$300 in 2000. In 1992, 34.1 percent of the population was below the poverty line, according to the CIA World Factbook 2000 ; about 70 percent fell below that line in 2000, according to the World Bank.

For many Nigerians the quality of life has declined rather than improved since independence 40 years ago. By contrast, the standard of living for a few privileged Nigeriansmilitary officers and their civilian associates, corrupt politicians, and big contractorshas improved substantially. The average salaried worker cannot earn enough to support a family because of inflation and rises in food prices and transportation costs. The national minimum wage of N5,500 (about US$55.00) per month, adopted by the federal government but rejected by most of the states, falls far short of what is needed to cover housing, food, education, health care and transportation. The material condition of women, who comprise 50 percent of the population, is even worse than that of men because the welfare of women in general, including education, political participation, and workforce, had been neglected over the years until recently. The incidence of prostitution of Nigerian women within and outside the country has therefore increased. It is no wonder, given these prevailing conditions, that hypertension has become a major sickness among Nigerians since the 1980s.

Housing and living facilities for the wealthy are very similar to those available to their counterparts in countries of the western world. Middle and lower-level income groups in the urban and rural areas live in individual houses or crowded flats (apartments). Rural dwellers live in cement or mud block houses with tin or thatched roofs, and have no running water for the most part. Water and electricity services in the major cities are erratic. Water supplies in many rural areas are infested with disease-carrying worms, while electricity services, under government auspices, are seldom available.

There is, therefore, much despair throughout Nigeria, a situation that has led to a "brain drain" from the country to other nations of the world. Much of the despair can be linked to the abysmal quality of life of the average Nigerian, and also to the huge income disparity between the poverty-stricken masses and the few well-to-do Nigerians. Mismanagement and corruption on the part of the government squandered the nation's wealth, and fostered an atmosphere of violence and instability that makes it very difficult to attract foreign investors. Unfortunately, the legislative and executive arms of the present civilian rule include leaders from the corrupt and wasteful regimes of Babangida and Abacha who helped create that climate. Their presence casts doubt over the

Household Consumption in PPP Terms
Country All food Clothing and footwear Fuel and power a Health care b Education b Transport & Communications Other
Nigeria 51 5 31 2 8 2 2
United States 13 9 9 4 6 8 51
Dem. Rep. of Congo N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Cameroon 33 12 8 2 9 8 28
Data represent percentage of consumption in PPP terms.
aExcludes energy used for transport.
bIncludes government and private expenditures.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

nation's ability to rise above its tumultuous past into a brighter future.

The economic situationthe abject poverty and the high rate of unemployment especiallyhas not improved since Obasanjo became president in May 1999, despite his administration's Poverty Alleviation Program. His critics argue that the program consists merely of direct cash transfer to politically selected beneficiaries. The gap between the rich and the poor continues to widen. Segments of the nation continue to complain about their marginalization (being left at the margin or neglected), while others are favored. Armed robbery and wide-spread insecurity persist.


Nigeria had an estimated labor force of 42.844 million in 1999. Women comprised 36 percent of that force, which included talented and well-educated entrepreneurs. The estimated unemployment rate in 1992 was 28 percent. In 2000 the estimated unemployment rate increased to 32 percent. Secondary school graduates and women make up the largest proportion of the unemployed. The unemployment rate among the urban youth had hovered around 40 percent since the 1990s. Many college graduates have remained without full employment since the late 1980s. The government, including federal, state, and local units, is the largest employer outside the agricultural sector.

With the exception of employees classified as essentialmembers of the armed services, the police force, firefighters, Central Bank employees, and customs and excise staffNigerian workers may form or join trade or labor unions. They may strike to obtain improved working conditions and benefits and bargain collectively for higher wages. In 1999 about 3.5 million non-agricultural workers belonged to 42 recognized trade unions under a single national labor federation.

The first labor unionthe civil service union emerged in 1912. By 1950 the number had grown to 144 with more than 144,000 members, and 300,000 in 1963 affiliated with 5 central labor associations. Because of a series of labor problems and the meddling of politicians between 1963 and 1975, the military government dissolved the central unions and decreed only 1 central unit, the Nigerian Labor Congress, in 1976. In 1977 11 labor union leaders were banned from further union activity. A 1978 labor decree amendment reorganized more than 1,000 previously existing unions into 70 registered industrial unions under the Nigerian Labor Congress. In addition to the recognized trade unions, women's organizations, mostly professional and social clubs, collectively seek to improve women's conditions and participation in the economic and political life of the nation. Journalists, university professors, and students have their own organizations also as interest groups.

Nigerian labor laws prohibit forced or compulsory labor. They also prohibit the employment of children under 15 years of age in commerce and industry and restrict other child labor to domestic or agricultural work. Many children, however, hawk goods in markets and junctions of major roads and streets in the cities and assist their parents in trade and commerce. In 1974 the military government changed the work week from 35 to 40 hours by decree and stipulated payment for extra work done over the legal limit. Employers are required by law to compensate employees injured at work and dependent survivors of those who died in industrial accidents.

Strikes or industrial actions by workers tend to be frequent in Nigeria. Although plagued by leadership struggles, ideological differences, and regional ethnic conflicts, the Nigerian Labor Congress has been able to organize or threaten nationwide workers' strikes, demanding the retention of government subsidies on petroleum products, minimum wages, and improved working conditions. Public health doctors organized in 1985; several labor unions in 1998 protested the austerity measures of the Structural Adjustment Program. Similar actions were taken by the Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (1986, 1988), the National Union of Nigerian Students (1986, 1989, 1990s), and the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (1997).

Conditions for workers in Nigeria are far from ideal. Civil servants and employees of private companies (foreign) have relatively good offices and facilities, health care, and wages, but that is not the case for most of the others. Conditions in the pre-collegiate schools and the universities have deteriorated markedly because of repression, underfunding, and irregular payment of salaries. Protests or industrial actions by trade union leaders often resulted in detention. A number of university students were killed by the police, and the universities shut down following students' protests and riots. Some doctors and professors lost their jobs because of industrial action. In addition, income inequalities between the rulers and bureaucrats on the one hand and masses of workers on the other, poor wages, and late payment of salaries demoralize workers. Furthermore, they adversely affect their standard of living, health, and work productivity. The poor conditions contribute to the pervasive corruption in Nigeria and the use of the country as a conduit for drug trafficking.


1861. King Dosumu of Lagos cedes the territory to Britain which becomes a British Crown colony.

1865. The British establish a consulate at Lokoja.

1887-1900. Various parts of what later became Nigeria are brought under British colonial rule as protectorates of Southern Nigeria and Northern Nigeria.

1903. The Sokoto-based Fulani Empire becomes part of the British Protectorate of Northern Nigeria.

1906. The colony of Lagos merges with the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria.

1914. For budgetary and administrative convenience, the Colony of Lagos and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria are merged with the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria as the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria.

1922. The Clifford Constitution allows for Africans to be elected into the Legislative Council in Lagos.

1936. Nigerian Youth Movement emerges as precursor of political parties.

1937. Shell Oil Company begins oil exploration in Nigeria.

1939. Governor Bourdillion divides Southern Nigeria into Eastern and Western provinces, later to become Eastern and Western regions.

1944. The National Council of Nigeria and Cameroon emerges (becomes National Council of Nigerian Citizens in 1961).

1946. Sir Arthur Richards' Constitution goes into effect.

1949. The Northern People's Congress is formed.

1950. The Action Group (Party) is formed.

1951. Macpherson Constitution goes into effect.

1954. The Lyttleton Constitution, establishing Nigeria as a federation of 3 regionsEastern, Western, and Northerngoes into effect.

1959. Elections, in preparation for independence, are held; an NPC-NCNC coalition government is formed with Sir Abubakar as prime minister.

1960. Nigeria becomes independent (1 October).

1963. Nigeria becomes a republic (1 October).

1966. Military overthrows Abubakar government. Major-General Ironsi is installed and is later assassinated and succeeded by Lt. Colonel Yakubu Gowon.

1966-79. Military rule; Gowon (overthrown 29 July 1975), Murtala Muhammed (assassinated 1976), succeeded by Olusegun Obasanjo.

1967-70. Eastern Region declares independence as Republic of Biafra, precipitating Nigeria-Biafra War which ends January 1970 with the defeat of Biafra.

1979-83. Second Republic with civilian rule under Shehu Shagari.

1983-93. Prolonged military rule; Muhammed Buhari overthrows the Shagari administration; is ousted (1985) by Ibrahim Babangida.

1993. Presidential election (won by M.K.O. Abiola) is annulled by Babangida (23 June) who retires and appoints businessman Shonekan as interim ruler. Abacha ousts Shonekan (17 November) and inaugurates a brutal regime.

1998. Abacha dies of natural causes. His successor, General Abubakar, inaugurates transition to civilian rule. Local government elections are held.

1999. Gubernatorial elections are held 9 January, National Assembly elections are held 20 January, and presidential elections follow 27 February. Obasanjo is inaugurated 29 May as president of the Third Republic.


Nigeria's prospects for sustainable economic growth are mixed. Despite current hardships, Nigeria represents an important market in Africa with its vast human and natural resources. Its revenues from both the recent and ongoing recovery in oil prices and the export of liquified natural gas should help to rebuild the nation's shattered socio-economic infrastructure. The anti-corruption legislation, rigorously enforced, should help to restore transparency and accountability into economic decisions, which would boost national and international investor confidence in the nation. The liberalized rules for foreign investment and initiatives by the Obasanjo government to privatize some state-owned enterprises and promote tourism should help the nation move steadily towards targeted growth.

Nigeria has many impediments on its road to sustainable development. Earnings from non-oil exports are unlikely to improve significantly because of the high cost of production. Acrimony between the executive and legislative arms of the government continue relentlessly to the detriment of collective and decisive action. Painful and costly fuel shortages, caused by the inability of Nigeria's dilapidated refineries to produce anywhere near capacity, immobilize the nation. Inter-ethnic and religious conflicts continue to take their tolls in human lives and physical assets of the nation. Unemployment, especially among college graduates, has reached intolerable levels. Armed robbery and crime constitute a present danger to the economy. These impediments must be more determinedly addressed to enhance Nigeria's chances for growth and development.


Nigeria has no territories or colonies.


Aborisade, Oladimeji, and Robert J. Mundt. Politics in Nigeria. New York: Longman, 1999.

Achebe, Chinua. The Trouble with Nigeria. London: Heinemann,1983.

Adejumobi, Said, and Abubakar Momoh, editors. The Political Economy of Nigeria Under Military Rule: 1984-1993. Harare: Sape Books, 1995.

Forrest, Tom. Politics and Economic Development in Nigeria. Updated edition. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1994.

Ihonvbere, Julius. Nigeria: The Politics of Adjustment and Democracy. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books, 1994.

Library of Congress. Nigeria: A Country Study. <>. Accessed August 2001.

Oyewole, Anthony, and John Lucas. Historical Dictionary of Nigeria. Second edition. London: Scarecrow, 2000.

Palmer, Monte. Comparative Politics: Political Economy, Political Culture, and Political Independence. Itasca, IL: E.E. Peacock, 1997.

Soyinka, Wole. The Open Sore of a Continent: A Personal Narrative of the Nigerian Crisis. New York: Oxford Univ., 1996.

Theen, Rolf H.W., and Frank L. Wilson. Comparative Politics: An Introduction to Seven Countries. Fourth edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2001.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2000. <>. Accessed August 2001.

U.S. Department of State. FY 2001 Country Commercial Guide: Nigeria. <>. Accessed August 2001.

F. Ugboaja Ohaegbulam




Naira (N). 1 naira equals 100 kobo. Coins in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 25, and 50 kobo, and notes in denominations of 5, 10, 20, and 50 naira are issued.


Petroleum and petroleum products, cocoa, rubber, lumber, and peanuts.


Machinery, chemicals, transport and electronic equipment, manufactured goods, food, and live animals.


US$110.5 billion (purchasing power parity, 1999 est.).


Exports: US$13.1 billion (f.o.b., 1999). Imports: US$10 billion (f.o.b., 1999).

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Basic Data
Official Country Name: Federal Republic of Nigeria
Region: Africa
Population: 123,337,822
Language(s): English, Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo (Ibo), Fulani
Literacy Rate: 57.1%
Number of Primary Schools: 38,649
Compulsory Schooling: 6 years
Public Expenditure on Education: 0.7%
Libraries: 76
Educational Enrollment: Primary: 16,190,947
  Secondary: 4,451,329
  Higher: 266,679
Educational Enrollment Rate: Primary: 98%
  Secondary: 33%
Teachers: Primary: 435,210
  Secondary: 152,596
  Higher: 18,010
Female Enrollment Rate: Primary: 87%
  Secondary: 30%

History & Background

Nigeria ranks as the tenth largest nation in the world, and by far the largest nation in Africa, with an estimated population of 123,337,822 people. Located north of the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa, Nigeria is bordered on the east by Cameroon, on the northeast by Chad, on the north by Niger, and on the west by the Republic of Benin. Land features change dramatically in Nigeria, from rain forests along the coast to rolling savanna hills about 200 miles north of the coastline. The savanna extends another 200 miles northward across the Niger and Benue Rivers. In the northeast, mountains form the border between Cameroon and Nigeria. The central and western part of northern Nigeria is a flat, semi-desert land called the Sahel. The Sahara Desert expands southward into the northern edges of Nigeria. The total land area is 356,669 square miles (923,773 square kilometers).

In 2000, more than 50 percent of the people in Nigeria lived in urban areas. Lagos, the former capital on the southwestern coast, has an estimated 13.5 million citizens. Lagos is among the 10 largest cities in the world. Other large cities include Ibadan in the west with 1.5 to 2.0 million people, Ogbomosho in the west with more than 720,000 people, and Kano in the north with almost 800,000 people. In 1991 the capital was moved to Abuja, located in the central part of Nigeria north of the Niger and Benue River confluence. By 2000, the capital had grown to more than 335,000 people.

Four major ethnic groups make up about 65 to 70 percent of the population. The largest group is the Hausa/Fulani, a mixture of two ethnic groups living primarily in the northern half of the country. The Hausa/Fulani people number about 35 to 40 million. The Yoruba in western Nigeria number about 30 million people, and the Igbo in eastern Nigeria number about 15 million people. More than 300 ethnic groups, each speaking a different language, live in Nigeria. English, nonetheless, is the common language used for business, education, and government.

Before the British arrived in the early nineteenth century, there were two major types of education in Nigeria. In the Islamic north, education was strictly religious in nature. In each Muslim community, a mallam drilled children as young as five years old in the teachings of the Qur'an and the Arabic alphabet. During the colonial era, larger cities set up more expansive Islamic schools that included subjects such as math and science. In 1913, these Islamic schools, almost all in the north, numbered 19,073 and enrolled 143,312 students. In the 1970s the government took control of the Islamic schools, but in the 1990s, the schools were allowed to operate independently again.

The indigenous system was the second type of education before the British occupation. Students were taught the practical skills needed to function successfully in traditional society. Usually children within two or three years of age belonged to an age-group. Together, they learned the customs of their community and were assigned specific duties around the village, such as sweeping lanes or clearing brush. As the children grew older, the boys were introduced to farming and more specialized work, such as wood carving or drumming. Girls would learn farming and domestic skills. Boys would often enter into apprenticeship-type relationships with master craftsmen. Even in the twenty-first century, this kind of education is common.

Formal, Western-type of education was introduced by British missionaries in the 1840s. The Anglican Church Missionary Society (CMS) started several schools in the mid-1800s. The colonial government gave the church financial aid, but in the early twentieth century the government began building primary and secondary schools. By the time the British combined the northern and southern regions into one colony in 1914, a total of 11 secondary schools were in operation, all but 1 run by missionaries. There were also 91 mission and 59 government elementary schools.

Western education slowly entered the northern region. In 1947, only 66,000 students were attending primary schools in the north. Ten years later, the number enrolled had expanded to 206,000 students. In the western region, over the same period, primary school enrollment expanded from 240,000 to 983,000 students. The eastern region experienced the most dramatic growth in primary enrollment during this period, jumping from 320,000 to 1,209,000 students. The number of secondary school students in the entire nation grew much less dramatically, increasing from 10,000 in 1947 to 36,000 in 1957. Most of this growth, 90 percent, was almost entirely in the south.

In the 1950s, Nigeria adopted the British system called Form Six that divided grades into six elementary years, three junior secondary years, two senior secondary years, and a two-year university preparation program. Those who scored high on exit examinations at the end of Form Six usually were qualified to enter universities.

Although Nigeria celebrated its independence in 1960, the second half of the sixties brought the chaos and disaster of the Nigeria Civil War. After a long series of ethnic riots and killings against the Igbo of eastern Nigeria, the Igbos seceded from Nigeria in May 1967, naming their new country the Republic of Biafra. The war destroyed much of the nation's educational framework, especially in eastern Nigeria. Biafra surrendered in 1970, but the country never fully resolved the issues that led to the war.

In 1976, Nigeria passed a law making education compulsory for all children between the ages of 6 and 12. By 1980, approximately 98 percent (15,607,505 students) of this age group were enrolled in primary school, up from 37 percent in 1970. The military and civilian governments paid little attention to education, however, and the quality of education deteriorated nationwide.

By 1985, the country as a whole had 35,000 primary schools with fewer than 13 million students. Another 3.8 million primary school-aged children lived on the streets. Conditions became progressively worse. By 1994, the number of primary students in school had changed little, even with the country's high birth rate.

Secondary education fared worse than the other levels of education. During the 1970s and 1980s, the majority of primary students finishing sixth grade never went on to junior secondary school. Those who did rarely went on to senior secondary school, and for those who were qualified for higher education, very few openings existed in the 1960s. At independence, with about 6,000 students, there were only six higher educational institutions in Nigeria: the University Ibadan, the University of Ife, the University of Lagos, Ahmadu Bello University, the University of Nigeria at Nsukka, and the Institute of Technology at Benin. More universities and polytechnics were built in the 1970s, and more students were able to go on for postsecondary education. In 1971, approximately 19,000 students were studying in institutions of higher education. By 1985, the number had increased to 125,000 students, but this still represented a tiny portion of the population.

Nigeria has since struggled through a series of military dictatorships that ended in May 1999 with the democratic election of President Olusegun Obasanjo. The government seems determined to restore a damaged educational system over the last two decades of the twentieth century.

Constitutional & Legal Foundation

A nationwide Board of Education was established by the colonial government in 1926. The education departments of Southern and Northern Nigeria were shortly thereafter merged to form a federal Department of Education. Government planning occurred after World War II. The 1946 Ten-Year Development Plan stimulated rapid expansion of schools especially in the south. In 1951 Nigeria was divided into three regions: North, East, and West. Each region had its own Board of Education and Ministry of Education. Four years later, the West took the lead in Universal Primary Education (UPE) by passing a law making primary education free. Two years later the East made the first three years of primary education free.

In 1973, the government created the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) to promote patriotism among the young. The program required all students finishing schools that grant diplomas and certificates (postsecondary programs), to serve one year in public service in areas such as primary education, rural health, and construction.

In September 1976, the federal government initiated a national UPE program. Its success was mixed because of the political and economic turmoil of the following two decades. In the late 1970s, however, the government was optimistic that it could bring the people together through an expansive educational program. Consistent with this goal, the government declared in 1977 that education was an instrument of national development. The 1983 Constitution placed elementary schools under the responsibility of local governments and secondary schools under the combined administration of state and federal governments. Chapter II of the Constitution passed in 1999 promised "equal and adequate educational opportunities at all levels," to "promote science and technology," and "to eradicate illiteracy" by working toward "(a) free, compulsory and universal primary education; (b) free secondary education; (c) free university education; and (d) free adult literacy programs."

In September 1999, President Obasanjo introduced Universal Basic Education (UBE), which promised free education for all Nigerians through junior secondary school (grade nine). Nigeria received a $55 million loan from the World Bank to help implement UBE. The money helped train about 30,000 teachers a year for 5 years. In addition, the president announced that Nigeria built 28,000 classrooms in the year 2000. UBE also includes a nation-wide literacy push to educate those outside the formal schooling system, including schools for families of pastoral nomads and migrant fishermen.

Educational SystemOverview

Nigerian law requires compulsory education for all students between the ages of 6 and 15. Students in primary and secondary school attend three equally divided sessions from January through December, with about a month vacation between sessions.

In 1982, Nigeria switched to the American system of six primary, three junior secondary, and three senior secondary school grades, but the rigid examination system remained. To qualify for entry into Junior Secondary School (JSS), Senior Secondary School (SSS), and higher education, nationwide examinations are held each year. Because exam scores determine a student's future educational choices, schools tend to stress memorization of facts, rather than creative problem solving. There are not enough senior secondary schools in Nigeria, so most students who finish JSS go into the workforce.

Certain federal and state agencies plan and carry out special education programs. Teachers receive training to teach in these programs. Mostly, though, the government encourages integration of special education students into the regular schools. The Ministry of Social Development, Youth, and Sports also runs centers throughout the nation to help train people with special needs.

There are three major categories of higher or tertiary education. One is postsecondary, which is non-university level training in technical and vocational fields. Students receive certificates of training for completing work-oriented courses. The second type of higher education institution consists of higher technical, but non-university level programs offered at technical colleges, polytechnics, and colleges of education. They usually offer a variety of options for students that lead to a National Diploma (ND) for two years of study or a Higher National Diploma (HND) for four years of study. The third type of tertiary institution is the degree-granting institution offering bachelor's and higher degrees.

About two-thirds of the universities are federally owned, and a majority of the others are state-owned. There are 13 federally owned and 14 state-owned polytechnic colleges. Unlike primary and secondary schools, the institutions of higher education normally follow a 15-week semester system, running from October to mid-July.

Preprimary & Primary Education

Most preschools and kindergartens are privately owned, but they must register with the government and follow federal guidelines. They are normally very expensive, so only the wealthy can afford to send their children to preschools and kindergartens. The federal government initiated an Early Childhood Care Development Education (ECCDE) program in the early 1990s, but rapid changes in political events prevented it from making progress. In 1991, only 4.7 percent of preschool children had some preprimary education. The program called for community-based childcare. In 2001, as support for the UBE program, some communities began building their own nursery and preschool facilities with federal money and international grants and loans.

Primary school is free, paid for by local governments, but there are expenses the families must pay, such as school uniforms, supplies, and transportation. In October 2000, there were almost 19 million students enrolled in more than 41,500 elementary schools. Estimates suggest that about 65 percent of primary students complete grades 1 through 6, but only about 45 percent of these continue on to junior secondary school.

A major factor in the quality of education is the teacher-student ratio. In Islamic schools, often the ratio is ideal, only eight or nine students per teacher. In the public schools where the vast majority of students are educated, the average pupil-teacher ratio in 1996 was 34:1. The range varies considerably, as UNESCO figures illustrate: Anambra, 21:1; Kwara, 21:1; Taraba, 22:1; Plateau, 26:1; Ogun, 26:1; Abuja (federal capital), 26:1; Adamawa, 53:1; Yobe, 73:1; and Kano, 565:1

The major courses taught in primary schools are mathematics, English, Bible or Qur'an, science, social sciences, and one of the three major Nigeria languages: Hausa, Igbo, or Yoruba. Most courses are taught in the local language. In some schools computer skills, art, and/or French are offered. In their sixth year, students take the National Common Entrance Examination (NCEE) for entry into federal and state government secondary schools.

In 1983, a 144-page guide was published by the government detailing the social science syllabus for primary grades 1 through 6. Using Nigerian culture as a base, the syllabus focused even more on social topics: problems of living in the family, problems of employment, problems of group conflict, and religious problems. In the late 1980s, the government added emphasis on health and safety. With some adjustments to encourage problem-solving skills, this guide remains to be used.

Primary school classrooms across Nigeria lack basic supplies for teaching. A study published by UNESCO indicates that 10 percent of the sampled schools had no chalkboards, and most of the chalkboards in use needed replacement. Ten percent of the schools with chalkboards had no chalk, and in more than 50 percent of the schools, the supply was too little. Teaching materials, such as charts and maps, were missing in 42.0 percent of schools, and another 44.5 percent had inadequate supplies of these materials. Almost 89 percent of the schools had no science equipment.

Secondary Education

Secondary schools are mostly state or federally owned, although in 2001 the federal government began encouraging the return of former church mission schools. The federal government promised to continue paying teacher salaries. Generally, the federal government funds and manages two federal government colleges (secondary schools) in each state. In addition, each state owns and operates secondary schools. In 1996, there were 7,104 secondary schools with 4,448,981 students. The teacher-pupil ratio was approximately 32:1. The government pays most of the fees for students, but students must pay incidental costs and sometimes part of their board or other expenses that can amount to $200 a year, a considerable amount in a nation where the average annual income was only about $300 in 2000.

Students attend junior secondary school for grades seven through nine. At this point, the majority of students are at least 15-years-old and are no longer required to attend school. In the ninth grade, students take the Junior Secondary Certificate Examination (JSCE) to qualify for the limited number of openings in senior secondary schools. Those who do well on the exam may continue at the same institution or transfer to a different school if they qualify.

The language of instruction for all secondary school grades is English, except for special courses that require another language. Students study 9 to 12 subjects, including a core group that consists of mathematics, English language, a major Nigeria language (Hausa, Igbo, or Yoruba), social studies, creative arts, integrated science, practical agriculture, religious studies (Christianity or Islam), and physical education. Depending on the school, students may select electives from courses such as introduction to technology, home economics, business studies, local crafts, and foreign languages (often Arabic or French).

Many of the subjects taken at the JSS level are offered in SSS, except in more depth. Students are streamed through testing and counseling into one of three areas of concentration: academic (science or humanities), technical/commercial, or teacher education. The core of required courses for all students includes English language, a Nigerian language, mathematics, science (physics, chemistry, and biology), humanities (literature, history, or geography), and either an agricultural science or a vocational subject. Students also select three more subjects from a wide range of electives depending on each school's resources. The more common electives are Christian or Islamic religion; business subjects such as economics, commerce, and accounting; foreign languages; computer science; fine arts; physical education; food and nutrition; home management; clothing and textile; applied electricity; auto mechanics; technical drawing; woodwork; and metalwork.

In their twelfth year, students take the Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE). They are required to register for a minimum of seven and a maximum of nine subjects. English and mathematics examinations are mandatory. The government estimated that over 500,000 registered to take the SSCE in May/June 2001.

To receive their Secondary School Certificate (SSC or West African Senior Secondary School Certificate), students are evaluated by a formula that combines continuous assessment in their courses, which counts 30 percent, and by their scores on the SSCE, which counts 70 percent. Those students who want to apply for higher education but who do not score high enough on the SSCE may take the General Certificate Examination (GCE) in the fall of the following year to attempt to qualify for openings.

The SSCE is prepared and administered by the West African Examination Council (WAEC), an organization that has operated school examinations in several West African countries since 1954. In 1989, the SSCE replaced the West African General Certificate of Education O and A levels.

In 1999, the Nigerian government established the National Examination Council of Nigeria (NECO) to compete with the WAEC. The NECO first try at offering the SSCE, in June and July 2000, was considered a failure. The rivalry between the two testing organizations increased so much that by early 2001 there was much confusion among students over which organization's exam they should take. The issue was not resolved by the spring of 2001, but more students will likely choose WAEC examinations for several years, especially if WAEC follows up on its promise to upgrade its system with modern technology.

Although technical and vocational education is offered at several kinds of institutions, including some academic secondary schools, most technical and vocational students attend specialized secondary schools or colleges. The programs can be short, such as welding programs that take only a few months, to longer programs, such as auto mechanics that lasts three years. Usually, students finishing vocational courses are offered apprenticeships for training in specific crafts. Apprenticeship programs vary from six months to three years of work under close supervision. Some technical schools offer the entire six years of secondary education and prepare students to take the SSCE. The majority, however, take national exams in their specialties, such as the Federal Craft Certification Examination (FCCE) and the National Business and Technical Board Examination (NABTEB).

Another group of students who finish primary school go into teacher training colleges that cover the entire six years of secondary school. Successful students receive the Nigerian Certificate in Education (NCE), qualifying them to teach in grades one through nine and in technical colleges.

In an effort to promote Nigerian patriotism and discourage ethnic rivalry, the federal government established 63 Unity Secondary Schools around the country. These special schools use a quota system to admit students from all the states in the nation. The purpose is to bring together young boys and girls from many different ethnic groups to study and live together in harmony, so that in the future they might serve as good role models for others in the nation.

Higher Education

Because there are only enough openings annually for about 20 percent of the qualified applicants, competition for places in higher education is severe. In 1996-1997, for example, 475,923 applied for university places but only 79,904 received offers. Almost 50 percent of those enrolled in higher education go to universities to work on bachelor level degrees. The annual dropout rate for all university students is about 18 percent. For the 1996 academic year, teacher educational institutions of higher education enrolled 89,247 students. Those enrolled in technical education at the postsecondary level numbered 148,666. Most of the college fees for government universities are paid by the federal government. Whether this includes meals and other extras depends on the individual university and on the availability of funds.

There are several types of tertiary institutions, but the four most common are: those that offer university degrees; those that offer national diplomas; those that offer teacher training; and those that offer a variety of professional and skill certificates. In 1998, Nigeria had 37 arts and sciences universities, 3 agriculture universities, 1 military university, 4 polytechnics, and 63 colleges of education. In 1999 the National Universities Commission (NUC), which oversees the university system, approved the creation of private universities. In addition, there are 24 federal and 12 state government universities.

The technical colleges, polytechnics, and colleges of education offer the ND for two years of study, and the HND for four years of study. University programs in the arts, social sciences, and pure sciences usually take four years for the bachelor's degree. Engineering and technology degrees typically take five years. Medicine and dentistry are six-year programs. For a master's degree, one or two years is normal. Doctoral degrees take two or three years after finishing a master's degree.

In late 2000, President Obasanjo initiated the Nigerian University Systems Innovation Project (NUSIP), which began the process of making universities independent, so they would not rely on federal funds for survival. They would be run more like private businesses. The opposition to this plan was immediate, with students and teachers believing the plan required much higher fees and put higher education beyond the reach of most students, and the outcome is still in doubt.

In general, to gain admittance to a postsecondary institution, candidates need the SSC. Those with high enough scores on five major SSCE subjects, in no more than two attempts, qualify to take the Universities Matriculation Examination (UME). The major subjects on the SSCE include biology, chemistry, English language, geography, history, mathematics, and physics.

Begun in 1978 by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), the UME is more difficult than the SSCE. Students must register for English language and three more subjects in their major field. Candidates have traditionally scored low in mathematics and sciences. For the 2001 academic year, the average score in mathematics was 38.90 percent; in biology, 48.33 percent; and in chemistry, 45.51 percent.

For students who finished secondary school and took the West African GCE A Level or GCE O Level before 1989, high scores on these exams qualify candidates for university admission. There are several other possible options, including high scores on the NCE and ND. In addition, there might be other requirements depending on a student's major field.

In the spring of 2000, President Obasanjo introduced a new plan that required all primary and secondary schools to teach courses in African culture. In order to enter a university, students will have to provide proof that they have passed cultural knowledge courses. The courses focus on African and Nigerian history, mythology, and proverbs.

Higher educational institutions must also follow federal guidelines that attempt to balance the differences among ethnic groups receiving a higher education. They must weigh test scores, residency of the candidate, and whether the candidate is from an educationally less developed state in determining who is admitted.

The polytechnic colleges have different requirements for admission. Normally they require the SSC, but other requirements are generally set by the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) and vary with programs. Most candidates must take an entry exam called the Polytechnics and Colleges of Education Exam (PCE). About 120,000 candidates took the exam for the 2001 academic year. A few polytechnics are beginning to offer bachelor's degrees in technical fields, but most offer programs leading to the ND and HND.

One striking feature of university education is the lack of majors in the sciences. Only 10.3 percent graduated in 1992 with degrees in pure science, engineering, agriculture, and technology. The government's goal is to shift the admission ratio of majors for incoming freshmen away from the humanities to 60 percent science and technology. In 2000, though, only 20 percent committed to science while 80 percent went into the humanities. The enrollment at technical training institutions, colleges of agriculture, and polytechnics remained disappointingly low as well.

Administration, Finance, & Educational Research

At the federal level, two major groups prepare and propose national policy for primary and secondary education: The Joint Consultative Committee on Education (JCC) and the National Council on Education (NCE). Drawn from federal and state ministries, university faculty, WAEC, the National Union of Teachers (NUT), and other groups, the JCC considers educational proposals and recommends policy to the NCE. The NCE, with the federal Minister of Education as the head, consists of state education commissioners and recommends policy to the federal executive council.

The organizations that consider policies for higher education are the National Universities Commission (NUC) and the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE). The latter considers policies for both bachelor level and lower certificate programs in the vocational and technical fields.

Money for education comes mainly from the federal government's Education Tax Fund (ETF). In 2001, the government allocated 35 percent of the budget, or 24.8 billion Nigerian dollars (about US$248 million) to education. This money was distributed to the states, and they determined how to divide it among the local governments. As a result, decision-making and policy implementation began at the federal level. The idea, however, is for the federal and state education agencies to cooperate in planning and allocating funds.

Some states, such as Rivers State in southern Nigeria, have built schools to serve as "centers of excellence" as part of a nationwide attempt to improve the educational system. Sometimes, state governments use the money to improve the lives of their students. For example, Lagos provides free lunch for all its primary students. Enugu State in eastern Nigeria offers students free train service. Many of the states pay for students' major national examinations.

In the universities, research is common. Some universities have received international recognition for their scholar and research programs. Funding is a problem, therefore, the most successful research programs are those with international funding.

In Nigeria's federal system, most educational decisions are made at the local and state level. A good example is Lagos in southwestern Nigeria, with the largest concentration of students being in the country. Lagos has a Ministry of Education made up of several departments, including Basic Education Services, Curriculum and Education Technology, Private Education and Special Programmes, Science and Technology, Finance and Administration, Inspectorate, and Curriculum Services. Lagos also has a Legal and Policy Unit, Examination Board, Scholarship Board, and a Library Board.

The state Ministry of Education actually depends on local Education Districts (ED) to carry out policies in the schools. A state Primary Schools Management Board (PSMB) performs much of the overall administering of primary education. The PSMB recruits teachers and staff; oversees promotion; disburses money from the federal, state, and local governments; and advises on school construction. The Lagos Post-Primary Teaching Service Commission (TESCOM) addresses similar issues at the secondary level. The state also has an Examination Board with the duty of conducting and supervising examinations sponsored by the state, including the NCEE, JSSCE, SSCE, and Civil Service Examinations.

Nonformal Education

Nigeria has an illiteracy rate close to 50 percent. The government spends a lot of effort promoting nationwide literacy and life-skills programs. Each state has agencies that also offer programs. The Agency for Mass Education in Lagos has set up 310 mass literacy centers around the state, which served 9,088 learners in 2000. They also have established 73 postprimary continuing education centers with almost 1,000 teachers.

Some universities are major forces in community education. The Adult Education Department of the University of Ibadan, for example, has won international prizes for its community-based programs to teach literacy in rural areas. The Department set up a Community Development Literacy and Health program in 1989 that evolved into the University Village Association, which promotes and offers money for literacy classes and small-business start-ups.

Teaching Profession

In the past, to teach in primary school a person needed a Teacher Certificate Grade II (TCGDII) from four years of secondary school at a Grade II Teacher-training college. These were phased out after 1998, when the Nigerian Certificate of Education (NCE) became the required diploma for all primary and junior secondary school teachers. In 1996, out of approximately 420,000 primary school teachers in the country, about 80 percent had either the NCE or TCGDII (equally divided between the two).

The government created the National Teachers Institute (NTI) in 1978 to conduct programs that would upgrade teacher qualifications to the NCE level, with most of this training carried out by distance learning. Between 1993 and 1996, the NTI graduated 34,486 in their NCE distance learning programs. In 2000, it trained 20,000 teachers. A Bachelor of Education program with NTI received approval by the government at the end of 2000. NTI also conducts workshops and conferences on curriculum development and in other areas of teacher training.

To teach in senior secondary schools a person must have either a bachelor's degree in education or a bachelor's degree in a subject field combined with a postgraduate diploma in education. The faculty in senior secondary schools are among the best qualified in the country, almost all holding bachelor's degree. A few teachers possess the NCE.

The bachelor's degree programs in education are offered at major teacher universities, such as Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, the University of Ibadan in Ibadan, and the University of Nigeria in Nsukka. Of the 63 colleges of education offering the three-year NCE program, about a third are owned by the federal government, and about half by state governments. The remaining are privately owned. All are under the supervision of the National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE), which sets and maintains standards and approves of courses and programs for all universities in Nigeria.

To teach at Nigerian universities, teachers must have qualifications that are similar to professors at U.S. and European universities, usually a doctorate. At the university level, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) represents university faculty, and the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) bargains for the senior non-academic workers. The Academic Staff Unions of Polytechnics (ASUP) represents polytechnic faculty members. These unions are very active.

The major teacher organization representing primary and secondary school teachers is the Nigeria Union of Teachers. Although it is very active, NUT has been unable to change the unsatisfactory conditions under which teachers work. UNESCO reports that "34.4 percent of the teachers had neither the pupils' textbook nor the teachers' guide for any of the school subjects."

Another major concern of teachers is salary. Not only is payment often incomplete, but the salaries are low. Salaries are set by the local, state, and federal governments, depending on which level controls the institution. Some of the higher paid teachers are in the northeastern state of Jigawa where the State Commission of Education reported that in September 2000 the lowest paid teacher received 20,000 Nigerian dollars monthly (about US$176). A senior lecturer in higher education received about 80,000 Nigerian dollars monthly (approximately US$704).

This is a dramatic improvement from the long years of decline under the military governments. A senior lecturer in a university averaged about $23,500 annually in 1982. Within four years, poor economic policy and the decline in international oil prices led to the near disappearance of the Nigerian middle class. The salary of senior lecturers fell to about $2,630 and continued to fall for many years. In 1994, for example, the average annual salary for senior lecturers was $754. Only after the May 1999 election of Obasanjo were any serious attempts made to reverse this downward trend in salaries.


The problems in Nigeria's education system stem from a complicated mix of economic, political, and social situations. Three decades of political instability followed civil war in the late 1960s. Economic wealth from huge oil reserves in the southeast were diverted away from education and other socially progressive programs into the pockets of corrupt politicians and military leaders. The formula of corruption, poor planning, and a worldwide drop in oil prices in the 1980s resulted in the crash of Nigeria's economy. According to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Nigeria's per capita income dropped from US$1,200 in the 1980s to US$300 in 2000.

The economic decline and the political rivalries, especially dividing the northern Muslim states from the southern non-Muslim states, resulted in deterioration in the educational system all over the country, but the most dramatic figures are reported from the northern states. Of the 19 states labeled "educationally disadvantaged," 17 are in the North. In 1995, for example, there were 4,448,869 secondary students enrolled in Nigeria. The northern area, with about half the country's population, accounted for only 1,417,645 of these students. In 1999, the six states with the most candidates applying for university admission (all in the south) had a total of 200,506 applicants. The bottom six states in number (about the same population) were all in the north, with a total of 5,619. The numbers for applications to polytechnics and colleges of education showed similar results. Out of a nationwide total of 160,724 candidates, some 72,830 were from 6 southern states, while the bottom 6 states, all in the north, had only 375 candidates. The qualification of teachers mirrors the same unequal distribution. In the late 1990s, only 16 percent of the primary school teachers in the north held the NCE, considered the minimum qualification for teaching. In the south, more than 94 percent held the NCE.

The educational infrastructure needs to be revamped, especially at the primary level. At most schools, there is a desperate shortage of texts. Even in better areas, such as Abia State, primary schools only have enough texts in core subjects for 45 to 50 percent of the pupils. In the poorest states, the number is lower than 10 percent.

Another serious problem is the dropout rate at all levels of education, especially among boys. In 1995, the percentage of elementary students dropping out by the sixth year stood at 30.8 percent. The dropout rate in areas with long reputations for high achievement in education is especially surprising. In Enugu State, for example, nearly 100 percent of primary-school-aged boys and 91 percent of the girls were enrolled in schools in 1992. As political and economic conditions worsened, the figures declined. In 1996 the enrollment figures showed only 42 percent for boys and 35 percent for girls. In the conservative Islamic state of Sokoto in northwest Nigeria, the enrollment statistics for 1992 and 1996 were 41 and 49 percent for boys and 12 and 15 percent for girls. People in conservative Islamic states, however, often send their children to Qur'anic schools, so it is likely that a higher percentage of their children were attending schools.

Because school graduates often have difficulty finding jobs that match their education, the younger generation frequently sees little practical value in staying in school beyond a few primary grades. This problem is especially severe in the eastern region among the Igbo people. The dropout rate becomes critical at the junior secondary level. In 1994, for example, the distribution of boys and girls in Enugu state is about equal in primary school. Of the 156,001 students enrolled in secondary schools, 81,080 were females. The dropout rate in the following year for boys was astronomical. In 1995, of the 99,867 students enrolled in secondary schools, some 91,311 were girls. Boys had dropped out to find work in businesses and trade, while girls stayed in school. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the completion rate for boys in the east stood at only 30 percent.

The federal government has made a strong commitment to education. The UBE is a positive step towards educational success. The goal is to create an educated public whose best interests are to support a unified nation. Emphasizing African and Nigerian history and culture in social sciences is another important step in developing a feeling of unity among the people. Another step is the creation of Unity Secondary Schools throughout the country.

Probably the most promising long-term programs involve local communities throughout the country taking control of their future. These range from integrating teaching in Qur'anic schools with national basic literacy programs to private businessmen offering prizes for students who win literacy contests. They include community involvement, such as the pilot school program initiated by NPEC for the state education boards to seek schools and communities that will set up community participation programs. They come together and raise funds, provide supplies, and help coordinate the various social services available such as health and child care.

The prospects for the future are uncertain. The federal government must deal with great divisions between regions politically, the gap in economic development, and the strong identity of people with their local cultures. People still distrust a strong centralized government. The idea of a unified nation of people who should sacrifice ethnic loyalty for the welfare of the country as a whole is still being tested in Nigeria. The government leaders realize that the survival of Nigeria as a unified country is at risk if the educational system remains inefficient and inconsistent.


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John A. Zurlo

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Basic Data

Official Country Name: Federal Republic of Nigeria
Region (Map name): Africa
Population: 126,635,626
Language(s): English (official),Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo,Fulani
Literacy rate: 57.1%
Area: 923,768 sq km
GDP: 41,085 (US$ millions)
Number of Television Stations: 2
Number of Television Sets: 6,900,000
Television Sets per 1,000: 54.5
Number of Radio Stations: 128
Number of Radio Receivers: 23,500,000
Radio Receivers per 1,000: 185.6
Number of Individuals with Computers: 750,000
Computers per 1,000: 5.9
Number of Individuals with Internet Access: 200,000
Internet Access per 1,000: 1.6

Background & General Characteristics

A multiplicity of media voices can be found in Nigeria largely because of the diversity of the population of the country and the history preceding its independence. The nation remains unsettled and its constitution is not enforced in all regions equally. This has led to confusion, frustration, and violence resulting in numerous deaths in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Reports of deaths from Islamic fundamentalists are commonplace in media reports particularly in the northern states of Nigeria.

The British reporter Flora Shaw coined the term "Nigeria" which was to become the name of the country. In the 1890s she took the term from the Niger River to apply it to the region during the era of colonial rule.

Like other segments of society, media reflects the population of the people. Nigeria has over 250 different ethnic groups. It is nearly twice the size of California, and with a population of approximately 110 million, is the most densely populated country in Africa. Other estimates have the population even higher. One source reports that because tribalism is so sensitive an issue population estimates based on pre-independence data are intentionally inexact so as not to ignite controversy. Hundreds of thousands of Nigerians live in the United States, and nearly 200,000 of them have attained U.S. citizenship. English is the official language of Nigeria. Broadcast stations and print media provide content to audiences in English. Other dominant languages spoken are Hausa, Yoruba, Ibo, and Fulani. Hausa and Fulani are primarily in the north. Yoruba is in the southwest, while Ibos are located in the southeast.

The country has had varying degrees of freedom of the press over its tumultuous history. There has generally been a diversity of voices in the media; however, as the government changed hands frequently and in violent circumstances, the media voices that were in support of a leader would find themselves without a voice as a replacement emerged. At some points, newspapers and magazines were proscribed entirely due to their criticism of government authorities.

Examples of this form of silencing the press are found in the late 1970s and mid 1980s. Although newspapers and magazines were privately owned, the government prohibited them from expressing their editorial opinions. In 1977 Newbreed was closed down. In 1984 the government closed down the Tribune and four years later in 1988 Newswatch was a victim of government censorship. Also during this time period, government leaders harassed individual journalists. In 1971 Minere Amakiri, a reporter for the Nigerian Observer, was detained and had his hair shaved. Numerous other journalists experienced similar assaults.

The cause of violence in the country is sometimes difficult to determine because ethnic and religious differences both enter the mix. The largest religious group is Muslim, making up about 50 percent of the population. Christians account for about 40 percent, while the remaining 10 percent of the people follow traditional beliefs or some combination of the two major groups.

Rivalries between various ethnic groups within Nigeria can be traced back for as far as these groups have existed. Tensions flare for a period, then a temporary peace follows. During the waning days of the colonial period these ancestral rivalries played a role in the country's evolution to independence. In January 1956, Queen Elizabeth II visited Nigeria for a ceremonial tour, which was in part a reaction to anti-colonialism that had taken place in other African nations such as the Mau-Mau uprising in Kenya. The concern in the United Kingdom was that Moslems in northern Nigeria would stir passions of revolt. Two years earlier Nigeria had been granted a degree of autonomy with the aim of solidifying British loyalty, according to a report in the Chronicle of the twentieth Century.

The internal conflict has taken its toll on life expectancy. The nation has the 15th highest infant mortality rate in the world, 87 deaths per 1,000 live births. Life expectancy in Nigeria is 56 years, compared to 76 years in the United States. Steps are being taken to improve the plight of the Nigerian people, however. The United States has initiated a series of actions to help provide some stability to the emerging democracy. In 2000 a $19.9 million agreement was signed by USAID to assist Nigeria in reforming its educational policies. The goal was to encourage civic participation on a broad basis. Under the plan six Community Resource Centers would be built that would provide increased Internet access to every region of the nation. The U.S. Education for Development and Democracy Initiative (EDDI) provided $4.5 million to establish the centers. Local educators would receive training at the centers, which would also be used to support distance education to Nigerian universities, provide computer, and targeted vocational educational training to local communities, and support adult literacy and AIDS education. An additional part of the initiative is $500,000 which allowed girls who would otherwise not have access to educational opportunities to attend school from the primary to university level.

Although the press was intended to be a "watchdog" for the country, similar to its role in free countries such as the United Kingdom or the United States, it has had difficulty fulfilling that role due to the demands of the various competing special interest groups. The large number of different voices created something of a marketplace of ideas although some of the ideas resulted in violence.

At the end of the twentieth century Nigeria had more than thirty national and provincial newspapers. There were more than twenty general interest magazines and journals in circulation, along with more than twenty television and radio stations. Just because media fare was available, that does not necessarily mean the people were reached with its content. In spite of the relatively large number of newspapers and magazines nearly one third of men and half the women are illiterate.

One of the country's most respected philosophers, Chinua Achebe, described the tragedy facing the press by writing "listen to Nigerian leaders and you will frequently hear the phrase 'this great country of ours.' Nigeria is not a great country. It is one of the most disorderly nations in the world. It is one of the most corrupt, insensitive, inefficient places under the sun. It is dirty, callous, noisy, ostentatious, dishonest and vulgar. In short it is among the most unpleasant places on earth" (Hudgens and Trillo 914).

Nigeria is governed under a constitution that was adopted in 1999. It is largely based on an earlier constitution that was written in 1979. Over the course of those two decades violence and turmoil has remained constant. Besides high rates of illiteracy, another one of the many problems faced by media personnel seeking to serve in a watchdog capacity is the constant turnover of the government. Cordelia C. Nwagwu points out that since achieving independence in 1960, Nigeria has experienced a turnover in the government averaging every 3.5 years. Nwagwu describes the havoc this has on an integral part of any society such as the educational system. With the vast majority of the short-term governments being military regimes the consideration for public approval was ignored.

There is some indication that some of the earlier restrictions on freedom, which resulted when the constitution was ignored may ending. The Times of India reports that the attorney general declared strict Islamic law unconstitutional in that it discriminates against Nigerians on the basis of religion and sex as it applies only to Muslims, and in some cases, only to women.

In its 2000 annual report the United States Department of State expressed concern over the constitutional liberties lost due to the implementation of Sharia law in the northern states of Nigeria. The report said "although Christians were exempt from the law, the societal ramifications of expanded Sharia law infringed upon the rights of non-Muslims in the north to live in society governed by secular laws." The report went on to add "plans to implement expanded Sharia laws in Kaduna state, which has a large Christian population, sparked violence in February 2000 that lasted for several days and resulted in an estimated 1,000 to 1,500 deaths."

Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was elected president of Nigeria in 1999. He had previously been head of state between 1976 and 79, but voluntarily resigned and handed the reigns of power over to the democratically elected Aljaji Shehu Shagari. The web page of the Consulate General of Nigeria in Atlanta reports that Obasanjo was born in former Western Nigeria, a part of what is now Ogun State in 1937. He was educated in military academies in Nigeria, India, the United Kingdom, and the United States. He reluctantly became the head of state after his military forces defeated Biafran forces in January 1970. He was an outspoken critic of military rule during this time in the nation's history.

Not only is the press faced with political instability and uncertainty, but the infrastructure of the nation is lacking in many basic services too. The internal infrastructure of Nigeria has not been maintained over the years. Portions of the government are not fully functional. Due to political corruption, including bribes and payoffs, oil-rich Nigeria does not have the basic services available to its citizens that other nations provide which have fewer natural resources, but are better managed.

It is interesting to note the career track Nigerian journalists have taken historically. In the early 1980s John Merrill noted that newspapers in Nigeria attempted to recruit former broadcast journalists. This runs counter to the career path in many other countries where electronic media managers have sought to recruit print journalists.

Economic Framework

Nigeria is a nation of many mineral resources, but the political uncertainty of the country is such that the assets of the region are not realized by the population. Oil-rich Nigeria has been held back by years of political instability, corruption, mismanagement, and lack of direction. The various military leaders neglected to diversify the nation's economy and as a result the country has found itself in a situation of overdependence on the capital-intensive oil sector. Petroleum products provide about 20 percent of the Gross Domestic Product.

Agriculture in Nigeria has failed to keep up with the rapid population growth. At one time in its history, Nigeria exported agricultural products, now it is an importer. In August 2000, following the signing of an IMF standby agreement, Nigeria received a debt-restructuring deal from the Paris Club. Additionally the nation was granted a $1 billion loan from the IMF. Both the restructuring and the loan were contingent on economic reforms.

Increases in foreign investment and oil production enhanced economic for the country for a while. Nigeria remains vulnerable to world oil prices. This is one factor over which leadership has no control.

Press Laws & Censorship

Adigun A. B. Agbaje explains the reason the press laws of Nigeria are so difficult to describe is because of the complexity of the ever-changing society in which they are found. He describes myriad competing influences on how the press constructs legitimacy for the Nigerian people. Agbaje describes it as a "battlefield of representations."

Engaged in this battlefield are such segments of society as the educational system, the work environment, popular culture, the mass media, the languages of the various groups, sports, and other competing forms of entertainment. Agbaje goes on to describe the problem being exacerbated by the colonial heritage and non-Africans trying to explain the realities of the nation's complex social structure.

The lack of enforced freedom of press laws is in part due to the competing power bases. Various cultural, religious, and tribal groups continue to be at odds over how the country should be governed. Even reaching an agreed upon political philosophy is a significant challenge to the various groups within the country.

This ongoing battle of ideas can be seen throughout Nigeria's history. For example, in debating a constitutional draft in the late 1970s, then Head of State, General Muhammed said of ideology:

Since the inception of this Administration, and particularly since the announcement of your appointment as members of the Constitution Drafting Committee, there has been a lively debate in the Press urging the introduction of one form of political ideology or another. Past events have, however, shown that we cannot build a future for this country on a rigid political ideology. Such an approach would be unrealistic. The evolution of a doctrinal concept is usually predicated upon the general acceptance by the people of a national political, philosophy and, consequently, until all our people, or a large majority of them, have acknowledged a common ideological motivation, it would be fruitless to proclaim any particular philosophy or ideology in our constitution.

In spite of the framework that has been set in place for press freedom, Nigeria continues to fight to be able to publish opinions freely.

Censorship is a recurring problem in Nigeria regardless of the supposed freedoms expressed in the constitution. Both during periods of civilian rule and military dictatorships, the nation has never experienced a complete assurance of a free press. Government philosophy and documents may state press freedoms exist, but in the day to day affairs of life such freedoms fluctuate widely.

Among the newspapers and magazines that have been proscribed are: Newbreed in 1977, the Tribune in 1984, and Newswatch in 1988.

Four years after Nigerian gained independence from Britain, the Nigerian Federal House of Parliament passed a controversial newspaper law. The Newspapers (Amendment) Act of 1964 imposed restrictions on the press in the new nation's early development stage. The act stated:

(a) Any person who authorises for publication, publishes, reproduces or circulates for sale in a newspaper any statement, rumour or report knowing or having reason to believe that such statement, rumour or report is false shall be guilty of an offense and liable on conviction to a fine of two hundred pounds or to imprisonment for a term of one year. (b) It shall be no defence to a charge under this section that he did not know or did not have reason to believe that the statement, rumour or report was false unless he proves that prior to publication, he took reasonable measures to verify the accuracy of such statement, rumour or report.

Nigerian scholar Luke Uka Uche points out the irony of this act, adopted by the leaders of the nation so soon after gaining independence. He notes, "if the colonial government had stringently imposed such sanctions, it would have been very doubtful that Nigerian nationalism would have seen light of day through the pages of newspapers. Ironically, we have just seen how Azikiwe, who later became the first Nigerian President, fought a 1948 newspaper ordinance that merely sought for the payment of cash as part of a security deposit prior to the publication of a newspaper."

State-Press Relations

Due to the instability of the various governments over the years the relationship between the state and the press has fluctuated, depending upon a number of factors. At times there have been some moderate consideration given to press freedoms, while other times the crackdown on journalists disagreeing with the government has been blatant and violent.

In reviewing the history of the nation, the long-term trend has been that of the repression of a free press. The constitutional privileges that are in writing have simply not been experienced in the real world of daily Nigerian life. On the surface it appears there is much diversity of expression due to the large number of media outlets in the nation. However when a closer observation is made, the complex political and social systems of the nation are the context in which these media organizations operate and it is discovered that the "societal watchdog" function of the press does not operate in reality in Nigeria as it does in more free and open societies.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York based nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that monitors press freedoms globally, reported serious reservations about Nigeria's government-press relations following the election of President Obasanjo. CPJ noted that "although a new constitution was promulgated on May 5 (1999), it was modeled largely after the 1979 constitution and offered the media no specific protection."

About 20 anti-media decrees were identified by CPJ in the revised Nigeria constitution. One of the measures was repealed, the one that called for newspapers and magazines to register with the government. Later it was surreptitiously introduced as the Nigerian Press Council (Amendment) Decree Number 60 of 1999.

While press attacks decreased significantly after the transition from military to civilian rule, there remained reported abuses. CPJ reported that shortly after the election, police raided the editorial offices of the independent Lagos newspaper, The News and arrested several employees. Around the same time, Lanre Arogundade, chairman of the Lagos Council of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), was arrested on charges that seemed to be politically motivated. Even government owned media employees experienced harassment. Two reporters for the state-owned newspaper The Observer were suspended for publishing statements considered to be critical of the election process made by international observers.

Attitude toward Foreign Media

Nigerians want to interact with foreign news agencies, but they do not want to lose control of the way their nation is presented in the global marketplace of ideas. They generally advocate limited involvement with foreign media.

The U.S. Department of State warned of Nigeria: "permission is required to take photographs of government buildings, airports, bridges or official-looking buildings. these sites are not always clearly marked, and application of these restrictions is subject to interpretation. Permission may be obtained from Nigerian security personnel. Penalties may include confiscation or breaking of the camera, exposure of the film, a demand for payment of a fine or bribe, or a roughing-up."

News Agencies

There are no domestic news agencies in Nigeria. Some news bureaus are maintained by news agencies from other countries in Nigeria. The BBC and CNN are two Western media organizations that continually monitor developments in the nation.

Broadcast Media

Due to the volatile nature of Nigerian politics there is no predictability in the way laws granting free speech will be interpreted at any given time. Broadcasters are vulnerable in such a climate. Violence is one component that has never left Nigeria's history regardless of the persons in the top elected offices.

There were 2 government controlled television broadcast stations in Nigeria in 1999 and 14 licenses to operate private television stations. The nation has 82 AM radio stations and 35 FM stations. There are 11 short-wave stations in Nigeria. Throughout the country there are 23.5 million radios and 6.9 million television sets.

In 1992 the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) was founded to monitor and regulate broadcasting on a national basis. One goal of the organization is to open up the industry to the marketplace paradigm. Both foreign and domestic participation is sought. A total of nine mandates are itemized in the charter of the NBC.

Additionally, the agency has the role of arbitrator between the industry and other areas of the government. Education is also a component of the organization's work. It is charged with ensuring the development of trained personnel through accredited curricula and programs that offer courses in mass communication and broadcasting. And the final mandate is to guarantee the liberty and protection of the broadcasting industry under the constitution.

Nigeria's president appoints the Board of Commission for the NBC based on the advice of the Minister of Information. The Commission consists of a Chairman, the Director-General. Ten other members are also on the board representing law, business, culture, education, social science, broadcasting, public affairs, engineering, and state security service. Members serve on the board on a part-time basis. The Director-General, who occupies the role of chief executive, conducts day-to-day oversight. That position is assisted by the Secretary to the Commission and the Board of Management, which includes the Heads of Directorate and Departments. On July 26, 1999, Mallam Nasir Danladi Bako was named the Director-General.

Electronic News Media

Nigerians are active in Internet technology. The Internet country code for Nigeria Eleven Internet Service Providers (ISPs) operate in the nation. An estimated 100,000 Nigerians are Internet users. Numerous media outlets are available on the Internet. These include specialty media, designed for target audiences to general interest publications.

All is an Internet source for a broader audience. It contains daily news updates, viewpoints, feature articles and essays on Nigeria, Africa and the world at large from a Nigerian perspective. Nigeria Infonet is a site on the Internet that provides a listing of numerous news and media sources available to anyone interested in either niche or general interest publications.

An example of international media outlets providing news analysis on Nigeria's political situation can be found on the websites of both American and British media outlets. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and Cable News Network (CNN) both maintain special websites on events and personalities related to the 1999 election.

Nigeriaworld is an example of a state of the art newspaper online. Its URL is . The Daily Times is another Nigerian newspaper found online. It serves as a contrast to Nigeriaworld in that it lacks both the content and distribution advantages of its competitor. It is not updated on a consistent basis and it does not have the stable of writers found in the pages of Nigeriaworld. Nigeria Daily is between the other two newspapers in terms of quality. It updates its web page on a consistent basis, yet it does not have the resources Nigeriaworld has to provide content from such a wide number of credentialed sources.

The international nature of news flow on the Internet makes it more difficult for the government to control content distributed through this means. Some of the Nigerian newspapers that have daily updated Internet sites have columnists and editorial writers based in the United States and Europe. Many of these people have been educated in American and British institutions of higher learning. A significant number have graduate degrees.

Education & Training

Nigeria has a long history of interacting with other nations in the pursuit of education and training. Not only are many Nigerian reporters educated in the U.S. and the U.K., but seminars by educators from these countries provide refresher courses for decision makers in Nigerian media organizations.

The largest academic department for acquiring a degree in media studies in west Africa is the University of Jos in Nigeria. Over 500 students are enrolled in the program. Although the title of the department is the Theatre and Communication Arts Department, there is a heavy emphasis on mass communication in the curriculum.

A student can study a wide range of media related topics. Both undergraduate and graduate programs are available. In addition to journalism courses, students have the option of taking courses in media management or public relations.

Among the problems encountered in Nigeria's educational systems were: poor funding, inadequate facilities, admission and certificate racketeering, personnel problems, examination malpractice, frequent strikes, lack of discipline, the emergence of secret cults, and a general abandonment of academic standards. Nwagwu sees the solutions as: dedicated teachers, adequate facilities, staff and support personnel in sufficient number, and a democratically elected government.


Nigeria seems to always be in a state of transition. The constitutional framework for an open society is in place. Educational systems encourage the tradition of free speech, as experienced in the U.S. and western Europe. The freedom of the press will be greatly increased when the many ethnic and other conflicts raging in Nigeria are able to be resolved.


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William Covington, Jr.

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Nigeria (nījĬr´ēə), officially Federal Republic of Nigeria, republic (2006 provisional pop. 140,003,542), 356,667 sq mi (923,768 sq km), W Africa. It borders on the Gulf of Guinea (an arm of the Atlantic Ocean) in the south, on Benin in the west, on Niger in the northwest and north, on Chad in the northeast, and on Cameroon in the east. Abuja is the capital and Lagos is the largest city.

Land and People

The Niger River and its tributaries (including the Benue, Kaduna, and Kebbi rivers) drain most of the country. Nigeria has a 500-mile (800-km) coastline, for the most part made up of sandy beaches, behind which lies a belt of mangrove swamps and lagoons that averages 10 mi (16 km) in width but increases to c.60 mi (100 km) wide in the great Niger delta in the east. North of the coastal lowlands is a broad hilly region, with rain forest in the south and savanna in the north. Behind the hills is the great plateau of Nigeria (average elevation 2,000 ft/610 m), a region of plains covered largely with savanna but merging into scrubland in the north. Greater altitudes are attained on the Bauchi and Jos plateaus in the center and in the Adamawa Massif (which continues into Cameroon) in the east, where Nigeria's highest point (c.6,700 ft/2,040 m) is located.

In addition to Abuja and Lagos, other major cities include Aba, Abeokuta, Ado, Benin, Enugu, Ibadan, Ife, Ilesha, Ilorin, Iwo, Kaduna, Kano, Maiduguri, Mushin, Ogbomosho, Onitsha, Oshogbo, Port Harcourt, and Zaria.

Nigeria is easily the most populous nation in Africa and one of the fastest growing on earth. The inhabitants are divided into about 250 ethnic groups. The largest of these groups are the Hausa and Fulani in the north, the Yoruba in the southwest, and the Igbo in the southeast. Other peoples include the Kanuri, Nupe, and Tiv of the north, the Edo of the south, and the Ibibio-Efik and Ijaw of the southeast. English is the official language, and each ethnic group speaks its own language. About half of the population, living mostly in the north, are Muslim; another 40%, living almost exclusively in the south, are Christian; the rest follow traditional beliefs. Religious and ethnic tensions have at times led to deadly violence in which hundreds of Nigerians have died.


The economy of Nigeria historically was based on agriculture, and about 70% of the workforce is still engaged in farming (largely of a subsistence type). The chief crops are cocoa, peanuts, palm oil, corn, rice, sorghum, millet, soybeans, cassava, yams, and rubber. In addition, cattle, sheep, goats, and pigs are raised.

Petroleum is the leading mineral produced in Nigeria and provides about 95% of foreign exchange earnings and the majority of government revenues. It is found in the Niger delta and in the bights of Benin and Biafra. Petroleum production on an appreciable scale began in the late 1950s, and by the early 1970s it was by far the leading earner of foreign exchange. The growing oil industry attracted many to urban centers, to the detriment of the agricultural sector, and the huge government revenues from oil led to widespread corruption that has continued to be a problem. In the 1980s a decline in world oil prices prompted the government to bolster the agricultural sector. Nonetheless, both refinery capacity and agriculture have not kept pace with population growth, forcing the nation to import refined petroleum products and food. Other minerals extracted include tin, iron ore, coal, limestone, columbite, lead, zinc, and gold.

Industry in Nigeria includes the processing of agricultural products and minerals, and the manufacture of textiles, construction materials, footware, chemicals, fertilizer, and steel. Fishing and forestry are also important to the economy, and there is small commercial shipbuilding and repair sector. In addition, traditional woven goods, pottery, metal objects, and carved wood and ivory are produced. Nigeria's road and rail systems are constructed basically along north-south lines; the country's chief seaports are Lagos, Warri, Port Harcourt, and Calabar.

Except when oil prices are low, Nigeria generally earns more from exports than it spends on imports. Other important exports include cocoa, rubber, and palm products. The main imports are machinery, chemicals, transportation equipment, manufactured goods, food, and live animals. The United States is by far the largest trading partner, followed by China, Brazil, Spain, and Great Britain.


Nigeria is governed under the constitution of 1999 as amended. The president, who is both head of state and head of government, is popularly elected for a four-year term and is eligible for a second term. The bicameral legislature, the National Assembly, consists of the 109-seat Senate and a 360-seat House of Representatives; all legislators are elected by popular vote for four-year terms. Administratively, the country is divided into 36 states and the federal capital territory.


Early History

Little is known of the earliest history of Nigeria. By c.2000 BC most of the country was sparsely inhabited by persons who had a rudimentary knowledge of raising domesticated food plants and of herding animals. From c.800 BC to c.AD 200 the Nok culture (named for the town where archaeological findings first were made) flourished on the Jos Plateau; the Nok people made fine terra-cotta sculptures and probably knew how to work tin and iron. The first important centralized state to influence Nigeria was Kanem-Bornu, which probably was founded in the 8th cent. AD, to the north of Lake Chad (outside modern Nigeria). In the 11th cent., by which time its rulers had been converted to Islam, Kanem-Bornu expanded south of Lake Chad into present-day Nigeria, and in the late 15th cent. its capital was moved there.

Beginning in the 11th cent. seven independent Hausa city-states were founded in N Nigeria—Biram, Daura, Gobir, Kano, Katsina, Rano, and Zaria. Kano and Katsina competed for the lucrative trans-Saharan trade with Kanem-Bornu, and for a time had to pay tribute to it. In the early 16th cent. all of Hausaland was briefly held by the Songhai Empire. However, in the late 16th cent., Kanem-Bornu replaced Songhai as the leading power in N Nigeria, and the Hausa states regained their autonomy. In southwest Nigeria two states—Oyo and Benin—had developed by the 14th cent.; the rulers of both states traced their origins to Ife, renowned for its naturalistic terra-cotta and brass sculpture. Benin was the leading state in the 15th cent. but began to decline in the 17th cent., and by the 18th cent. Oyo controlled Yorubaland and also Dahomey. The Igbo people in the southeast lived in small village communities.

In the late 15th cent. Portuguese navigators became the first Europeans to visit Nigeria. They soon began to purchase slaves and agricultural produce from coastal middlemen; the slaves had been captured further inland by the middlemen. The Portuguese were followed by British, French, and Dutch traders. Among the Igbo and Ibibio a number of city-states were established by individuals who had become wealthy by engaging in the slave trade; these included Bonny, Owome, and Okrika.

The Nineteenth Century

There were major internal changes in Nigeria in the 19th cent. In 1804, Usuman dan Fodio (1754–1817), a Fulani and a pious Muslim, began a holy war to reform the practice of Islam in the north. He soon conquered the Hausa city-states, but Bornu, led by Muhammad al-Kanemi (also a Muslim reformer) until 1835, maintained its independence. In 1817, Usuman dan Fodio's son, Muhammad Bello (d.1837) established a state centered at Sokoto, which controlled most of N Nigeria until the coming of the British (1900–1906). Under both Usuman dan Fodio and Muhammad Bello, Muslim culture, and also trade, flourished in the Fulani empire. In Bornu, Muhammad al-Kanemi was succeeded by Umar (reigned 1835–80), under whom the empire disintegrated.

In 1807, Great Britain abandoned the slave trade; however, other countries continued it until about 1875. Meanwhile, many African middlemen turned to selling palm products, which were Nigeria's chief export by the middle of the century. In 1817 a long series of civil wars began in the Oyo Empire; they lasted until 1893 (when Britain intervened), by which time the empire had disintegrated completely.

In order to stop the slave trade there, Britain annexed Lagos in 1861. In 1879, Sir George Goldie gained control of all the British firms trading on the Niger, and in the 1880s he took over two French companies active there and signed treaties with numerous African leaders. Largely because of Goldie's efforts, Great Britain was able to claim S Nigeria at the Conference of Berlin (see Berlin, Conference of) held in 1884–85.

In the following years, the British established their rule in SW Nigeria, partly by signing treaties (as in the Lagos hinterland) and partly by using force (as at Benin in 1897). Jaja, a leading African trader based at Opobo in the Niger delta and strongly opposed to European competition, was captured in 1887 and deported. Goldie's firm, given (1886) a British royal charter, as the Royal Niger Company, to administer the Niger River and N Nigeria, antagonized Europeans and Africans alike by its monopoly of trade on the Niger; in addition, it was not sufficiently powerful to gain effective control over N Nigeria, which was also sought by the French.


In 1900 the Royal Niger Company's charter was revoked and British forces under Frederick Lugard began to conquer the north, taking Sokoto in 1903. By 1906, Britain controlled Nigeria, which was divided into the Colony (i.e., Lagos) and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria and the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria. In 1914 the two regions were amalgamated and the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria was established.

The administration of Nigeria was based on a system devised by Lugard and called "indirect rule" ; under this system, Britain ruled through existing political institutions rather than establishing a wholly new administrative network. In some areas (especially the southeast) new African officials (resembling the traditional rulers in other parts of the country) were set up; in most cases they were not accepted by the mass of the people and were able to rule only because British power stood behind them. All important decisions were made by the British governor, and the African rulers, partly by being associated with the colonialists, soon lost most of their traditional authority. Occasionally (as in Aba in 1929) discontent with colonial rule flared into open protest.

Under the British, railroads and roads were built and the production of cash crops, such as palm nuts and kernels, cocoa, cotton, and peanuts, was encouraged. The country became more urbanized as Lagos, Ibadan, Kano, Onitsha, and other cities grew in size and importance. From 1922, African representatives from Lagos and Calabar were elected to the legislative council of Southern Nigeria; they constituted only a small minority, and Africans otherwise continued to have no role in the higher levels of government. Self-help groups organized on ethnic lines were established in the cities. A small Western-educated elite developed in Lagos and a few other southern cities.

In 1947, Great Britain promulgated a constitution that gave the traditional authorities a greater voice in national affairs. The Western-educated elite was excluded, and, led by Herbert Macaulay and Nnamdi Azikiwe, its members vigorously denounced the constitution. As a result, a new constitution, providing for elected representation on a regional basis, was instituted in 1951.

Three major political parties emerged—the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC; from 1960 known as the National Convention of Nigerian Citizens), led by Azikiwe and largely based among the Igbo; the Action Group, led by Obafemi Awolowo and with a mostly Yoruba membership; and the Northern People's Congress (NPC), led by Ahmadu Bello and based in the north. The constitution proved unworkable by 1952, and a new one, solidifying the division of Nigeria into three regions (Eastern, Western, and Northern) plus the Federal Territory of Lagos, came into force in 1954. In 1956 the Eastern and Western regions became internally self-governing, and the Northern region achieved this status in 1959.

Independence and Internal Conflict

With Nigerian independence scheduled for 1960, elections were held in 1959. No party won a majority, and the NPC combined with the NCNC to form a government. Nigeria attained independence on Oct. 1, 1960, with Abubakar Tafawa Balewa of the NPC as prime minister and Azikiwe of the NCNC as governor-general; when Nigeria became a republic in 1963, Azikiwe was made president.

The first years of independence were characterized by severe conflicts within and between regions. In the Western region, a bloc of the Action Group split off (1962) under S. I. Akintola to form the Nigerian National Democratic party (NNDP); in 1963 the Mid-Western region (whose population was mostly Edo) was formed from a part of the Western region. National elections late in 1964 were hotly contested, with an NPC-NNDP coalition (called the National Alliance) emerging victorious.

In Jan., 1966, Igbo army officers staged a successful coup, which resulted in the deaths of Federal Prime Minister Balewa, Northern Prime Minister Ahmadu Bello, and Western Prime Minister S. I. Akintola. Maj. Gen. Johnson T. U. Aguiyi-Ironsi, an Igbo, became head of a military government and suspended the national and regional constitutions; this met with a violent reaction in the north. In July, 1966, a coup led by Hausa army officers ousted Ironsi (who was killed) and placed Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon at the head of a new military regime. In Sept., 1966, many Igbo living in the north were massacred.

Gowon attempted to start Nigeria along the road to civilian government but met determined resistance from the Igbo, who were becoming increasingly fearful of their position within Nigeria. In May, 1967, the Eastern parliament gave Lt. Col. Chukwuemeka O. Ojukwu, the region's leader, authority to declare the region an independent republic. Gowon proclaimed a state of emergency, and, as a gesture to the Igbos, redivided Nigeria into 12 states (including one, the East-Central state, that comprised most of the Igbo people). However, on May 30, Ojukwu proclaimed the independent Republic of Biafra, and in July fighting broke out between Biafra and Nigeria.

Biafra made some advances early in the war, but soon federal forces gained the initiative. After much suffering, Biafra capitulated on Jan. 15, 1970, and the secession ended. The early 1970s were marked by reconstruction in areas that were formerly part of Biafra, by the gradual reintegration of the Igbo into national life, and by a slow return to civilian rule.

Modern Nigeria

Spurred by the booming petroleum industry, the Nigerian economy quickly recovered from the effects of civil war and made impressive advances. Nonetheless, inflation and high unemployment remained, and the oil boom led to government corruption and uneven distribution of wealth. Nigeria joined the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries in 1971. The prolonged drought that desiccated the Sahel region of Africa in the early 1970s had a profound effect on N Nigeria, resulting in a migration of peoples into the less arid areas and into the cities of the south.

Gowon's regime was overthrown in 1975 by Gen. Murtala Muhammad and a group of officers who pledged a return to civilian rule. In the mid-1970s plans were approved for a new capital to be built at Abuja, a move that drained the national economy. Muhammad was assassinated in an attempted coup one year after taking office and succeeded by Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo. In a crisis brought on by rapidly falling oil revenues, the government restricted public opposition to the regime, controlled union activity and student movements, nationalized land, and increased oil industry regulation. Nigeria sought Western support under Obasanjo while supporting African nationalist movements.

In 1979 elections were held under a new constitution, bringing Alhaji Shehu Shagari to the presidency. Relations with the United States reached a new high in 1979 with a visit by President Jimmy Carter. The government expelled thousands of foreign laborers in 1983, citing social disturbances as the reason. The same year, Shagari was reelected president but overthrown after only a few months in office; Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari was installed in power. Buhari, strongly opposed to corruption, established a harsh authoritarian regime.

In 1985 a coup led by Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Babangida brought a new regime to power, along with the promise of a return to civilian rule. A new constitution was promulgated in 1990, which set national elections for 1992. Babangida annulled the results of that presidential election, claiming fraud. A new election in 1993 ended in the apparent presidential victory of Moshood Abiola, but Babangida again alleged fraud. Soon unrest led to Babangida's resignation. Ernest Shonekan, a civilian appointed as interim leader, was forced out after three months by Gen. Sani Abacha, a long-time ally of Babangida, who became president and banned all political institutions and labor unions. In 1994, Abiola was arrested and charged with treason.

In 1995, Abacha extended military rule for three more years, while proposing a program for a return to civilian rule after that period; his proposal was rejected by opposition leaders, but five political parties were established in 1996. The Abacha regime drew international condemnation in late 1995 when Ken Saro-Wiwa, a prominent writer, and eight other human-rights activists were executed; the trial was condemned by human-rights groups and led to Nigeria's suspension from the Commonwealth of Nations. Also in 1995, a number of army officers, including former head of state General Obasanjo, were arrested in connection with an alleged coup attempt. In 1996, Kudirat Abiola, an activist on behalf of her imprisoned husband, was murdered.

Abacha died suddenly in June, 1998, and was succeeded by Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar, who immediately freed Obasanjo and other political prisoners. Riots followed the announcement that Abiola had also died unexpectedly in July, 1998, while in detention. Abubakar then announced an election timetable leading to a return to civilian rule within a year. All former political parties were disbanded and new ones formed. A series of local, state, and federal elections were held between Dec., 1998, and Feb., 1999, culminating in the presidential contest, won by General Obasanjo. The elections were generally deemed fair by international monitors. The People's Democratic party (PDP; the centrist party of General Obasanjo) dominated the elections; the other two leading parties were the Alliance for Democracy (a Yoruba party of the southwest, considered to be progressive), and the All People's party (a conservative party based in the north).

Following Obasanjo's inauguration on May 29, 1999, Nigeria was readmitted to the Commonwealth. The new president said he would combat past and present corruption in the Nigerian government and army and develop the impoverished Niger delta area. Although there was some progress economically, government and political corruption remained a problem. The country also was confronted with renewed ethnic and religious tension. The latter was in part a result of the institution of Islamic law in Nigeria's northern states, and led to violence that has been an ongoing problem since the return of civilian rule. Army lawlessness was a problem as well in some areas. A small success was achieved in Apr., 2002, when Abacha's family agreed to return $1 billion to the government; the government had sought an estimated $4 billion in looted Nigerian assets.

In Mar., 2003, the Ijaw, accusing the Itsekiri, government, and oil companies of economic and political collusion against them, began militia attacks against Itsekiri villages and oil facilities in the Niger delta, leading to a halt in the delta's oil production for several weeks and military intervention by the government. The presidential and earlier legislative elections in Apr., 2003, were won by President Obasanjo and his party, but the results were marred by vote rigging and some violence. The opposition protested the results, and unsuccessfully challenged the presidential election in court. The Ijaw-Itsekiri conflict continued into 2004, but a peace deal was reached in mid-June. The Ijaw backed out of the agreement, however, three weeks later. Christian-Muslim tensions also continued to be a problem in 2004, with violent attacks occurring in Kebbi, Kano, and Plateau states.

Obasanjo's government appeared to move more forcefully against government corruption in early 2005. Several government ministers were fired on corruption charges, and the senate speaker resigned after he was accused of taking bribes. A U.S. investigation targeted Nigeria's vice president the same year, and Obasanjo himself agreed to be investigated by the Nigerian financial crimes commission when he was accused of corruption by Orji Uzor Kalu, the governor of Abia and a target of a corruption investigation. Ijaw militants again threatened Niger delta oil operations in Sept., 2005, and several times in subsequent years, resulting in cuts in Nigeria's oil production as large as 25% at times. Since early 2006 the Niger delta area has seen an increase in kidnappings of foreign oil workers and attacks on oil operations; the resulting government focus on protecting oil facilities allowed criminal gangs to expand their influence in populated areas there. In Oct., 2005, the government reached an agreement to pay off much of its foreign debt at a discount, a process that was completed in Apr., 2006.

The end of 2005 and early 2006 saw increased contention over whether to amend the constitution to permit the president and state governors to run for more than two terms. The idea had been rejected in July, 2005, by a national political reform conference, but senators reviewing the conference's proposals indicated they supported an end to term limits. The change was opposed by Vice President Atiku Abubakar, but other PDP leaders who objected were removed from their party posts. A census—a contentious event because of ethnic and religious divisions in Nigeria—was taken in Mar., 2006, but the head count was marred by a lack of resources and a number of violent clashes, and many Nigerians were believed to have been left uncounted. In May the Nigerian legislature ended consideration of a third presidential term when it became clear that there was insufficient support for amending the constitution. Nigeria agreed in June, 2006, to turn over the Bakassi peninsula to Cameroon after a two-year transition period; the region was finally ceded in Aug., 2008.

In July the vice president denied taking bribes from a U.S. congressman, but in September the president called for the Nigerian senate to remove the vice president from office for fraud, based on an investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The senate agreed to investigate the charges, and the PDP suspended the vice president, blocking him from seeking the party's presidential nomination. Abubakar counteraccused Obasanjo of corruption. The EFCC was also investigating most of Nigeria's state governors, but the commission itself was tainted by charges that it was used for political retaliation by Obasanjo and his allies. Several state governors were impeached by legally unsound proceedings, moves that were seen as an attempt by Obasanjo to tighten his control prior to the 2007 presidential election.

When the vice president accepted (Dec., 2006) the presidential nomination of a group of opposition parties, the president accused him of technically resigning and sought to have him removed, an action Abubakar challenged in court; the government backed down the following month, and the courts later sided with Abubakar. In Jan., 2007, the results of the 2006 census were released, and they proved as divisive as previous Nigerian censuses. The census showed that the largely Muslim north had more inhabitants than the south, and many southern political leaders vehemently rejected the results.

In February, the EFCC declared Abubakar and more than 130 other candidates for the April elections unfit due to corruption, and the election commission barred those candidates from running. Abubakar fought the move in court, but the ruling was not overturned until days before the presidential election. The state elections were marred by widespread and blatant vote fraud and intimidation, but the election commission certified nearly all the results, handing gubernatorial victories to the PDP in 27 states. In the presidential election, Umaru Yar'Adua, the relatively unknown governor of Katsina state who was hand-picked by Obasanjo to be the PDP candidate, was declared the winner with 70% of the vote, but fraud and intimidation were so blatant that EU observers called the election a "charade" and the president was forced to admit it was "flawed." Nonetheless, Yar'Adua's inauguration (May) marked the first transition of power between two elected civilian presidents in Nigeria's post-colonial history.

Yar'Adua subsequently moved to reorganize and reform the national petroleum company, but those efforts stalled, as did action to fight government corruption. The federal government did not, however, interfere with challenges in the courts to state elections. In Dec., 2008, challenges in the courts to Yar'Adua's election came to an end when the supreme court ruled that opposition lawyers had not provided sufficient evidence to annul the vote.

In Feb., 2009, KBR, a U.S. company, pleaded guilty in U.S. court to giving $180 million in bribes to Nigerian officials to obtain a contract to build a liquefied natural gas plant. A significant army offensive against Niger delta militants that began in May, 2009, provoked an increased round of attacks against oil facilities, particularly pipelines. At the same time, however, Yar'Adua offered (June) amnesty to militants who lay down their weapons by Oct. 4, and many militants ultimately accepted the amnesty, though some did not. Subsequent slow progress by the government led to increased tensions in 2010. In July, 2009, Boko Haram, an extremist Islamist sect, launched attacks against the government in NE Nigeria after several leaders were arrested; the subsequent fighting was especially fierce in Maiduguri, where the group's headquarters was destroyed and some 700 died. The group began a new series of attacks in Sept., 2010, that continued into subsequent years, with the attacks become more significant beginning in mid-2011.

The president traveled to Saudi Arabia in Nov., 2009, to seek medical treatment. As his stay there prolonged into 2010 many prominent Nigerians called for executive powers to be transferred on an interim basis to the vice president, Goodluck Jonathan, but the president did not initiate the constitutional process necessary for it to happen. In Feb., 2010, the National Assembly unanimously voted to make Jonathan acting president, but the lack of a formal letter from the president notifiying the Assembly of his absence raised constitutional issues. Jonathan remained acting president after Yar'Adua returned later in the month, and succeeded him as president when Yar'Adua died in May.

Jonathan's subsequent decision to run for a presidential term in his own right threatened to split the PDP, which had alternated fielding northern and southern presidential candidates. In Dec., 2010, however, he won the support of most of the state governors who were members of the PDP, and the following month the PDP nominated him for the presidency. In Sept., 2010, one faction of Niger delta militants announced an end to their cease-fire, and the group subsequently set off car bombs in Abuja during an independence day parade on October 1.

The Apr., 2011, elections were won by Jonathan and the PDP. Jonathan won 57% of the vote, but overwhelmingly majorities in a number of southern states led to charges of vote rigging. The opposition candidates challenged the results, and in some northern states, where support for the opposition was strong, there were riots after the results were announced. International observers, however, generally described the presidential election as the country's freest and fairest in many years. In the National Assembly elections, the PDP won with a reduced majority in both houses, and it also lost control of a number of governorships in the subsequent gubernatorial elections.

By the first half of 2012 the increasingly violent, ongoing insurgency by the Islamic militant group Boko Haram was stoking sectarian tensions and worsening the economic situation in the already economically stagnant N Nigeria; the situation had also led to significantly larger government expenditures on security, diverting money from other needs. In May, 2013, after increasing Islamist-related violence, Nigeria imposed martial law in three northern states and launched an offensive against Islamist militants, but in many cases the militants fled without confronting the army, and subsquently they launched an increasing number of murderous attacks later in the year and in subsequent years. In April, 2014, Boko Haram kidnapped more than 250 schoolgirls in Borno state, though about a fifth later escaped; it was the largest of a number of abductions by the group. The group established control over an increasing area of NE Nigeria during 2014, and in August Boko Haram announced it had established an Islamic state in areas it controlled.

In August, 2013, tensions in the PDP led to a split in the party, and several governors and a number of legislators left to form the New PDP; later in the year, most of them joined the All Progressives Congress (APC), an opposition group formed by the merger of several parties earlier in 2013. Jonathan suspended the central bank governor in Feb., 2014, accusing him of misconduct; the governor, who was highly regarded, had accused the state oil company of failing to account for at least $10 billion in revenue.

In early 2015, the African Union authorized a multinational force to counter Boko Haram, with contingents from Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Niger, and Benin. Subsequently Chadian forces, in conjunction with Cameroon and Niger, mounted attacks against Boko Haram in along Nigeria's border and into bordering areas of Nigeria. Nigerian forces also had increased successes again the Islamists, and by Apr., 2015, many areas, including the larger towns, held by Boko Haram had been recaptured. The group, nonetheless, continued to mount attacks, though they interfered little with Nigeria's federal and state elections in March and April.

In those elections, Muhammadu Buhari, the APC candidate, defeated Jonathan, and the APC won a majority in both houses of the National Assembly. The APC also scored successes in many state elections as well. There were again charges of vote rigging, particularly in SE Nigeria, but the election was generally seen as fair and was relatively free from violence. Corruption, economic issues, and Boko Haram's insurgency were generally seen as the issues that led to the win by Buhari, who was regarded as incorruptible and better suited, as a former military officer, to deal with Boko Haram. In June, 2015, a joint military force to combat Boko Haram was established under Nigerian leadership with participation from Chad, Cameroon, Niger, and Benin.


See S. J. Hogben and A. H. M. Kirk-Greene, The Emirates of Northern Nigeria (1966); R. K. Udo, Geographical Regions of Nigeria (1970); C. K. Eicher and C. Liedholm, ed., Growth and Development of the Nigerian Economy (1970); S. K. Painter-Brick, Nigerian Politics and Military Rule: Prelude to Civil War (1970); T. Hodgkin, ed., Nigerian Perspectives (2d ed. 1975); M. Crowder, The Story of Nigeria (4th ed. 1978); A. H. M. Kirk-Greene and D. Rimmer, Nigeria Since 1970 (1981); J. O. Irukwu, Nigeria at the Crossroads (1983); R. Olaniyan, Nigerian History and Culture (1984); T. Falola, The Rise and Fall of Nigeria's Second Republic, 1979–1984 (1985).

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Nigeria is a multitribal, multilingual, and, consequently, multicultural country in the West African subregion. It occupies an area of 923,770 square kilometers with an estimated population of more than 100 million people. The capital of Nigeria is Abuja; the official language is English. Nigerians speak more than 300 languages and dialects; the major ones are Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba. Nigeria has about equal numbers of Christians and Muslims (about 45% of each). The remaining 10 percent of the population follows traditional religions or are atheist and freethinkers.

Families in Nigeria

A family, which is usually made up of people who are related by blood, marriage, or adoption, is very important to most Nigerians. There are two major family types; the nuclear family, which is made up of one man, his wife, and their unmarried children, and the extended family, which is usually made up of a series of nuclear families. Culturally, most Nigerian cultural groups practice patrilineal descent, have patriarchal authority, have patrilocal rule of residence, and are generally patricentric in outlook. The children are socialized with this arrangement in mind, and female children are consciously socialized to serve and be subordinate to males. This hierarchical structure has sometimes led to dissolution of marriages on the grounds of the birth of only or mostly female children (Omokhodion 1996).

In Nigeria, having many children is fashionable and is a status symbol. For example, although a large family brings a greater economic burden, many families in the eastern part of Nigeria have ten or more children. Thus, the national fertility rate was estimated at 6.31 children per woman in 1995. The birth rate was 43.26 births per 1,000 people, while the death rate was 12 deaths per 1,000 population. However, the infant mortality rate was 72.6 deaths per 1,000 live births due to the poor medical facilities and the poverty of most Nigerians. This rate is one of the highest in the world and had a negative influence on the birth rate. The maternal mortality rate is also high.

A unique feature of the Nigerian family is the existence of a loose matrilineage and use of various terms to describe households and unions. For example, some households are headed by women. This may be the result of the women being widowed or divorced. The women might also be out-side wives. This term describes women who function as wives to married men who live with their original wives and have extra wives outside their homes. These men are mobile husbands who move among their various partners, spending nights, having sex with their partners, and supporting them financially. These outside wives use the surname of their "husbands," and in many cases, are known to the man's original wife. Those who are not part of the culture may find this confusing, but the practitioners seem to manage well. The Nigerian legal system has improvised ways of accommodating such women and their children. In many cultures in Nigeria, there is no such status as illegitimate child.

Nigerian families are also distinctive in their loose use of the word uncle when referring to all older male relatives and sometimes nonrelatives as well. Also, all older female relatives and nonrelatives may be referred to as "aunty." Similarly, women above the age of forty-five are loosely called "mommy," while men who are about fifty or older are loosely called "daddy." People of greater social status, regardless of age, are addressed as sir or madam. This may be based on the traditional cultural deference to elders or superiors, which is very important to most Nigerian cultures.

The Yorubas of southwestern Nigeria practice bilateral descent. Thus, many of the current traditional rulers (Obas) have ascended the throne from their mother's lineage. In most parts of Nigeria, family linkage and consanguinity are very important. Thus, people have fourth, fifth, sixth, or even seventh cousins. They may refer to people from their village or town as brothers or sisters and create associations to perpetuate the linkage.

As a result of urbanization and migration and associated economic factors, however, the nuclear family is gradually becoming the dominant family type. It functions slightly differently from the typical nuclear family in Western countries. This may be the result of traces of the extended family system of being "our brothers' keepers."

Marriages in Nigeria

Two major types of marriage exist in Nigeria: monogamy, a marriage of one man to one woman, and polygyny, a marriage of one man to two or more wives. In most cultural groups in Nigeria, traditional marriage is usually an arrangement between two families as opposed to an arrangement between two individuals. Accordingly, there is pressure on the bride and bridegroom to make the marriage work as any problem will usually affect both families and strain the otherwise cordial relationship between them. In most Nigerian cultures, the man usually pays the dowry or bride-price and is thus considered the head of the family. Adultery is acceptable for men, but forbidden for women. Marriage ceremonies vary among Nigerian cultures.

Idoma marriage. The Idoma people live in central Nigeria, in the Benue State. The myth of their origin states that they are descended from the Zulu tribe of South Africa. They are mainly warriors. Some of their subgroups are the Adors, Otupas, Ogbanibos, Apas, Ofokanus and Owukpas. Marriage in Idoma land is considered a lifelong state, although divorce is possible on the grounds of adultery or other concrete reasons. When an Idoma man is at least twenty-five years old and has the financial and physical capacity to maintain a wife and children, he searches for and finds a woman of his choice, who is at least eighteen years old. He reports his findings to his family, which then chooses a go-between, a person who is familiar with the girl's family. The go-between investigates the family of the prospective bride to ascertain that the family has no history of mental disease, epilepsy, or similar problems. If the result of this investigation is positive, the prospective groom's family visits the woman's family with gifts of kola nut and hot drinks. After the first visit, another visit is scheduled for the woman to meet her future husband, after which a final visit is scheduled for the future groom and his family to pay the bride-price and offer other gifts. If the woman refuses to marry the man after these gifts have been provided, the groom's family keeps them (Omokhodion 1998).

On the wedding day, in addition to the bride-price, the groom must pay a dowry first to the bride's mother and then another dowry to the father; this involves a significant amount of bargaining. Also every member of the bride's mother's family must be given money, with the groom's family determining the amount. The bride's age group and her more distant relatives also are given money, with the amount varying with level of the bride's education and productivity. Then the groom's family gives the bride a rooster and some money. If she accepts these gifts and gives them to her mother, she indicates her acceptance of the groom, but if she refuses, she signifies her refusal. If she accepts him, she is showered with gifts and money, and the two families eat and drink together. Before the bride is finally handed over to her husband, however, her age group will pose as a mock barrier to those who want to take her and extort money from the anxious groom's family. The bride's mother buys her cooking utensils and food because she is not expected to go to the market for the first five market days after her marriage. At the end of the eating and drinking, the wife is finally handed over to her husband's family. (Omokhodion 1998).

Ideally the bride should be a virgin at marriage, which brings pride and joy to her family. If she is found not to be a virgin, she is taken to the husband's family' ancestral shrine for cleansing. After this the Ije is put on her to invoke fertility on her. This marks the beginning of married life among the Idoma tribe.

Marriage in Okrika land. Okrika is located in the eastern part of the Niger Delta of Nigeria, in the Rivers State. The Okrika clan is made up of nine major towns and more than fifteen villages.The fifteen villages are known as Iwoama (new towns). Okrika is the largest town with the largest population and is the administrative and traditional headquarters of the clan. In the Wakirike area, there are two main types of marriages—the Ya or Iyaye and the Igwa.

The Ya marriage ceremony involves certain customary functions that precede the consummation of the marriage. Here the bride and groom must come from the same tribe. When the husband is ready, members of the family assemble for the essential marriage rites, including the tying of the knot. The man is required to produce three to five pieces of kano cloth or Ikpo, one piece of real India cloth, or injiri, four yards of raffia palm cloth sewn together (okuru), and another separate yard of the same material. If the husband is wealthy, he adds additional kinds of cloth. He also provides three or four large pots of palm wine and twenty-two or twenty-four manila. These offerings are placed in the shrine of the family ancestors, and an elderly person in the family takes up the single yard of raffia cloth and ties the knot. The husband and wife stand before the shrine, side by side. The elder then ties the raffia cloth round the waist of the wife seven times, each time uttering some words that invoke blessings on the couple. Palm wine is poured into a drinking cup, and the bride and groom drink from it simultaneously. The knot has thus been tied, and divorce becomes virtually impossible. The single yard of raffia cloth is the essential thing to make the marriage binding. In case of unavoidable divorce as aresult of adultery on the woman's part, the parents of the wife are bound to return double the cumulative expenses of the husband (Ikiriko 1984).

The second system, Igwa, means mixed; the woman and the man may marry even though they are from different families. A woman married under the Ya system can be married under Igwa if the Ya husband is not living with her as husband and wife under the same roof. All offspring of this second marriage belong not to the biological father but to the Ya husband, who by custom is regarded as their legal father. If the woman has not been previously married to any man under the Ya system, children from the Igwa marriage belong either to the lawful husband of the wife's mother or to her brothers. However, the once unchangeable custom of the possession of children born under the Igwa system of marriage is relaxing under the pressure of modern times. Many adult men and young people engage in Igwa marriage if their previous marriage produced no children (Omokhodion 1998).

Marriage among the Ibos. The Ibos are a very class-conscious group. They have a caste system and encourage endogamy. In the Ibo society, the castes include the Nwadiani, who are the upper caste of freeborn and land owners, and the Osu, who are the lower caste and descendants of former slaves. In the past, the Osu were used in human sacrifices. (Though the Osus are no longer slaves, yet they are still discriminated against by the free-born, who will usually oppose any of their children marrying an Osu.)

Within the Nwadiani are three groups:

  1. The freeborn, who are able to trace their lineage to the founder of a segment of the community.
  2. The Omoru, whose ancestors came from elsewhere to settle and become attached to the founder of the community. Their descendants are accepted as full members of the village or town because of their freeborn status in their place of origin.
  3. The descendants of the autonomous groups who lived in the area before the founders of the state arrived and incorporated them into the structure of the community, which they established.

Intermarriage among Nwadiani has united these three categories in a closely knit kinship system. All the lineages in the village were believed to have descended from one ancestor or the other. Kinship links were sometimes invoked to create special relationships with neighboring village groups or village. Owing to their close kinship ties, men had to find their wives outside the village. One kind of link is between villages and village groups. Villages in a group, as well as neighboring villages, were linked by bonds forged by marriage alliances.

Endogamous marriage seemed to have served to perpetuate the Osu status, which is inferior. At Oguta, Osomari, Onitsha, and Abo, Osu could only marry an Osu because of their outcast status. They are thus despised by the freeborn. This discrimination was carried further at Osamari where the Osu class had their exclusive residential quarters (ebo) in each division. This also gave the servile quarters a sense of corporate solidarity in opposition to the "Freeborn" quarters. Through the intermarriage between members of different Ogbe, Ebo and the Osu of a community they have developed a web of kinship similar to that, which characterizes the Nwadiani. However, permitted intermarriage between Osu and Nwadianins and children born of such mixed marriages are allowed to have the status of Nwadiani. (Note that though this caste system is historical, the descendants of these castes have inherited their ancestors' classes and are therefore stratified along that line even today.)

Marriage ceremonies in traditional Ibo society are elaborate affairs celebrated with much fanfare and merriment. The couple must have had some period of courtship during which the prospective groom informs his parents of his intention to take a woman of a certain village as wife. The parent of his intended wife must be known to his parents, and the courtship requires the prospective bride to pay at least one courtesy call on her potential inlaws to enable them to get to know her. After getting acquainted with the woman, the parents of the bridegroom will give their approval if they are satisfied that their prospective daughter-in-law has an unblemished reputation. Such courtships usually become public knowledge. The day of the marriage must be mutually agreed upon by both families (Omokhodion 1998).

On the day of marriage, the bride proceeds to her future spouse's village, accompanied by her mother, many girls of her own age, and her mother's female friends. An Ibo bride may also carry with her a "bride's dowry," which usually consists of kitchen utensils, mortar, palm oil, cassava, locust beans, and other condiments. The bride's dowry is usually contributed by her parents, their friends, and her own friends. The bridegroom and the two families, including friends and well-wishers, sit in their compound to eagerly await the arrival of the bride. When she comes, several young, unmarried women of the host village attend to her as a sign of welcome. An Ibo bride is usually colorfully decorated and given a beauty mark and other embellishments to set her apart. Jigida, which are waist beads of different colors (as many as fifteen or eighteen), adorn her waist. The young women dance in a circle around her, while her future husband and in-laws occasionally break through the circle one or two at a time and stick money on her forehead. As the money falls to the ground, one of the young women picks it up for her. As she dances, the jigida that covers her waist and the upper part of her buttocks jingle. After the feasting, the mother and others from her village return home, while the bride remains in her husband's village.

Marriage in the Hausa culture. The Hausas live in northern Nigeria. They are also found in Ghana, Togo, and Benin. The Hausas generally attach great importance to premarital chastity. A Hausa husband who discovers that the girl he has married is not a virgin will proclaim her shame to the entire town by breaking a pot outside his house. Among most Fulani, and other subtribes of the Hausa, custom forbids sexual intercourse between young people who are betrothed. Other tribes, however, view premarital intercourse as a kind of trial marriage. The Piri suitor cohabits with his fiancée for a period of four months in her mother's compound. Some of them may bear children before marriage, depending on the length of courtship. The young men are usually happy to marry these young mothers. Among tribes who accept premarital sex, no stigma is attached to the young woman girl who bears a child before marriage. The child is claimed by the girl's family, except where the father of the child is the girl's betrothed and has paid the bride-price in full. Kona boys and girls who are betrothed may cohabit. If the girl conceives, the boy has to make additional payments to her father, presumably on the ground that her fertility has been proven.

Some tribes practice the custom of placing young women under the care of their betrothed before they reach marriageable age; this is common among the Kona, Margi, Mumuye, and Mumbake, as well as the Mosi tribe. The objective appears to be twofold (Omokhodion 1996, 1998). First, the responsibility for the girl's upbringing and chastity is thrown on the fiancé's family, and second, the appropriation of the girl by her betrothed is clearly signified. As a result of pre-nuptial relations, a man can repudiate his betrothal at any time without the payment of damages in Hausaland.

Types of marriages in Hausaland. The Hausas practice various kinds of marriage. They include junior levirate marriage, whereby a younger brother may marry his late senior brother's wife or wives, and sororate marriage, whereby a man may marry his late wife's sister. Other types of marriage in Hausaland include cousin marriage known as auren zumunta, whereby a man or woman may marry anyone from a second cousin onward. Polygyny is also very popular, while many of the women, especially among the Muslims, are kept in the harems. The Hausas also practice a special type of polyandry that is a counterpart of concubinage. Among the Fulani pagan nomads, "wife lending" to a husband's brother or son is regarded as an act of reciprocal hospitality. The Munshi, Amgula, Yergurn, Rukuba, and Lungu practice marriage by "wife abduction." Other types of marriages in Hausaland include "marriage by purchase" (women are seen as transferable property) and "marriage by exchange" (one man gives his sister or daughter to a friend for a wife in exchange for a wife for himself). Marriage can also be by "capture," in most cases with the girl's consent, or by elopement.

Marriage Ceremony

If a man desires to marry a woman who is a virgin, he will first ask her. If she agrees, he goes to her father, and if he gives his consent, the prospective husband gives the father money. This money is divided into two parts, with half going to the girl's mother and half to her father. This is the preliminary part of the marriage ceremony.

About two or three months later, if the woman is still willing to marry, the groom may go to her father and discuss the bride-price with him. Once he knows the amount, he then tries to gather the money, which is usually handed over to the bride's father as soon as it is ready. The father then passes the money to the girl's mother to buy clothes and food for the marriage feast, including the white cloth that the bride will wear during the marriage ceremony. Also, part of the money will be used to purchase the food that the bride will eat after marriage for at least two weeks.

For about five to seven days after the ceremony, the bride remains in her father's house. She wears a white cloth and covers up her face, while her fingers are printed with henna. Usually, other young women come to play with her, while she is taught various homemaking skills. These girls usually eat food provided by the bride's father at the husband's expense. After about seven days, her relatives come to her house and take her to her husband's house, where the husband's friend (grooms men) try to get her to enter the house. Traditionally, she is supposed to refuse. At this stage, some money is usually given to the bridesmaids while a struggle ensues, with some pushing the bride while others pull her until she eventually enters her husband's house. All the women usually enter with her, singing, clapping, and dancing. At this stage the bridegroom's friends enter the house and distribute money to the dancing young women, who then spend some nights with the bride before returning home.

While the above is taking place, the bridegroom is not usually there, but in his best man's house. He only returns to his own house after five or seven days. If he decides to come home before this time, the bridesmaids will drive him away, but from the sixth day he can come and give the bridesmaids money and urge them to return to their homes, thus marking the end of the marriage ceremonies. Thereafter, the newly married couple will be free to live together as husband and wife (Omokhodion 1998).


The cultural diversity, richness, and distinctive qualities of Nigerian society are reflected in the various family types within the country. Culturally, Nigerian society is patrilineal, and the average man is socialized to have an inflated image of himself and other men. The desirability and permanence of marriage is the ideal of all the cultural groups in Nigeria. The payment of at least token dowry or bride-price is a cultural prescription cherished by most Nigerian cultural groups because it depicts the value of a properly socialized wife and conveys respect and appreciation for her family. Thus, marriage and family types in Nigeria are one major area of cultural similarity among the more than 300 diverse tribes and cultural groups that make up Nigeria.

See also:Kinship; Yoruba Families


ikiriko, i. okrika. (1984). okrika people. oragold publishers porthacort, nigeria.

omokhodion, j. o. (1996). sociology of education: anafrican experience. lagos, nigeria: tropical publications.

omokhodion, j. o (1998). socialization in some nigeriancommunities: readings in sociology of education. lagos, nigeria: john odionuwa publishers.


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Obasanjo, Olusegun 1937–

Olusegun Obasanjo 1937

Nigerian politician and retired military officer

At a Glance

Became Leading Civil War Commander

Rise to Power and Head of State

Nigerias Future

Selected writings


Throughout the early 1990s, voters in Nigeria, the most populous nation in Africa, were negotiating a precarious transition from military to civilian rule. The Journal of West Africa reported in November of 1992 that the completion of this transitionone of several attempts at a conversion to a democratic form of governmentwould be postponed another year. In light of the challenges facing the country, the experiences of former Nigerian head of state General Olusegun Obasanjo, designer of Nigerias Second Republic (1979-1984), take on particular relevance. Obasanjo is credited with holding to his word in the late 1970s and delivering Nigeria to civilian rule, although his Second Republic survived only five years. More recently, Obasanjo has assumed leadership in analyzing the problems and challenges facing Nigeriaa country rife with religious and tribal tensionsat the dawn of the twenty-first century.

Nigeria is located on the eastern end of the west African coastline. A former British colony, the country experienced extreme nationalist agitation before finally gaining its independence in 1960. Obasanjo was a student during Nigerias tumultuous conversion from a colonial territory to an independent state. He attended both elementary and secondary school in his hometown of Abeokuta in Ogun State, where he was born on May 5, 1937. Having enlisted in the Nigerian Army in 1958, he trained at Mons Officers Cadet School in Aldershot, England, and was commissioned in the Nigerian Army in 1959. He then enrolled in a variety of military courses abroad and began a long series of promotions in the Nigerian Army.

In England, Obasanjo attended the Royal College of Military Engineering in Chatham, the School of Survey in Newbury, and the Royal College of Defence Studies in London. Tunde Adeniran noted in Africa Report that Obasanjo won first prize and a citation as the best Commonwealth student ever at the British Royal Engineers Young Officers School in Shrivenham, England. In addition, Obasanjo engaged in further study at the Indian Defence Staff College and the Indian Army School of Engineering in the mid-1960s.

While taking these various professional training courses, Obasanjo advanced through the ranks of the Nigerian Armed Forces. In 1958-1959, he served in the 5th Battalion in Kaduna and the Cameroons. He was commissioned second lieutenant in 1959 and lieutenant the next year, when he served in the Nigerian contingent of the United Nations Force in the Congo (now Zaire). Obasanjo joined the only Engineering

At a Glance

Born May 5, 1937, in Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nigeria; married Oluremi Akinbwon; children: two sons, four daughters. Education: Attended Mons Officers Cadet School, Aldershot, England, 1958; Royal College of Military Engineering; School of Survey, Newbury; Indian Defence Staff College; and Royal College of Defence Studies, London.

Enlisted in the Nigerian Army, 1958; served in 5th Battalion, Kaduna and the Cameroons, 1958-59; commissioned second lieutenant, 1959; promoted to lieutenant, 1960, and served with U.N. force in the Congo (now Zaire); became captain and cammander of Nigerian Armys Engineering Unit, 1963; became major and commander of Field Engineering Unit, 1965; became lieutenant-colonel, 1967, and commander of lbadan Garrison, 1967-69; became colonel, 1969, and commander of 3rd Infantry Division, 1969-70; commander of 3rd Marine Commando Division, South-Eastern State, 1970; accepted Biafran surrender ending Nigerian civil war, January 13, 1970; appointed federal commissioner for Works and Housing, January-July 1975; led bloodless coup with Murtala Muhammed to overthrow head of state Yakubu Gowon, July 29, 1975; appointed chief of staff, Supreme Headquarters, Lagos, 1975-76; member, then chairman, Supreme Military Council, 1975-79; head of state and commander in chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, 1976-79; retired from Nigerian Army as general, October 1979; member of advisory council of state. Founder, Obasanjo Farms Nigeria Ltd., 1979, and Africa Leadership Forum, 1988; member of several peace and disarmament commissions.

Selected awards: Grand Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1980; Africa Prize for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger, 1990; several honorary degrees.

Addresses: P.O. Box 2286, Abeokuta, Nigeria.

Unit of the Nigerian Army and became its commander in 1963, at which time he was also promoted to captain of the Nigerian Army. Two years later he advanced to major, and by 1967 he had become lieutenant-colonel.

Civil war broke out in Nigeria in 1967. The Nigerian Army previously regarded as a brutal enforcer of colonial policy maintained its militant stance even after the country gained independence in 1960. When in 1966 the military seized power from the First Republic (the corrupt and disintegrating civilian government in place at the time), it interrupted a deluge of strikes, work-to-rule actions, demonstrations, and riots by the workers and peasants. Protests arose against the unrestrained use of police force on civilians, the inability to maintain public services, and the flagrant show of wealth by politicians in the midst of mass poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, and hunger.

According to historians Toyin Falola and Julius Ihonvbere in their book The Rise and Fall of Nigerias Second Republic, 1979-1984, Major Nzeogwu, the leader of the 1966 coup, employed populist rhetoric in support of the enraged people and targeted against all the big wigs in government. While he termed it a revolution for an undefined Nigerianism, within six months a second coup deposed him and his populist rhetoric: Nzeogwus philosophy of government action in the interest of the common people proved empty, since it embodied no specific plans to change the essentially colonial economic relationships still in force in Nigeria. It also failed to offer an alternative to the still top-heavy government supported by money from those colonial relationships. No action was taken to alleviate the structural poverty and inequity existing throughout the country. While the first coup succeeded in suspending popular outrage, neither of these two coups could stabilize the regional conflicts within the moneyed, ruling class itself. A year later, a civil war broke out in Nigeria; the countrys Eastern Region of Biafra, with its Christian populace, seceded from the central government.

Became Leading Civil War Commander

During the civil war, Obasanjo distinguished himself as a leading general, assuming command of the Nigerian 3rd Marine Commando Division. Under his lead, federal troops split the Biafran Army into two enclaves, making possible the final Biafran surrender less than one month later on January 13, 1970. Obasanjo described the maneuver in his book, My Command, a story of personal and national achievement in bringing the conflict to a close and reuniting the nation. He noted in the preface: Within a space of six months I turned a situation of low morale, desertion and distrust within my division and within the Army into one of high morale, confidence co-operation and success for my division and for the Army... A nation almost torn asunder and on the brink of total disintegration was reunited and the wound healed.

Following the civil war, Obasanjo returned to his pre-war position of chief of army engineers. In 1972, he was promoted to brigadier, after which he enrolled in an advanced training course for two years at the Royal College of Defence Studies in London. Upon returning to Nigeria, Obasanjo was appointed federal commissioner for Works and Housing.

Rise to Power and Head of State

In 1974 Nigerian head of state Yakubu Gowon announced that the 1976 target date for a return to civilian rule was unrealistic. He postponed the transition indefinitely. Consequently, opposition to his regime mushroomed in newspaper editorials and features. Gowon responded with coercion to silence his critics. The crusade to oust him from office merely intensified, however, and top military officials openly criticized his administration. On July 29, 1975, Murtala Muhammed and Olusegun Obasanjo led a bloodless coup that overthrew Gowon. Muhammed became the new head of state and enjoyed wide popularity in his reaffirmation of the promise to return to civilian rule. However, his five-stage transition program toward that goal was halted by an unforeseen turn of events. On February 13, 1976, Muhammed was assassinated.

Obasanjo was subsequently appointed head of state and commander in chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces. He assured Nigerians that he would carry forth Muhammeds programe of transition on time. His efforts culminated in the formation of Nigerias Second Republic in 1979. At the end of his three years in office, Obasanjo successfully implemented the return to civilian rule, handing power over to elected president Shehu Shagari on October 1, 1979, as planned.

Plagued by endemic and violent corruption within its ranks and mounting protests, however, the Second Republic collapsed after only five years. In 1984, under the leadership of General Muhammadu Buhari, the military seized control of the state to prevent its fall to protesting students, workers, peasants, and the unemployed. In The Rise and Fall of Nigerias Second Republic, 1979-1984, Falola and Ihonvbere remarked that once again, the struggles of workers and peasants was practically hijacked by a fraction of the armed forces with interests congruent to those of the custodians of state power in the Second Republic.

While in office, Obasanjo had overseen the writing of a new constitution for Nigeria. His government added seven new states, bringing the total to 19 states to better reflect Nigerias ethnic diversity. He reformed the system of local government by setting up a one-tier system and by specifically defining its shape, functions, and sources of revenue. But as Falola and Ihonvbere pointed out, the democratic nature of the civilian constitution was limited by previsions that curtailed the registration of certain political parties. Also, no process existed to recall officials seen as inefficient, ineffective, or corrupt.

The most fatal limitation of the new constitution, however, was that it left unchanged the colonial-based international economic relations and the stark division of wealth within Nigeria that both stems from and reinforces those economic relations. During Obasanjos administration in the late 1970s, income from the export of oil steadily increased. On the other hand, though, as historian Okello Oculi demonstrated in Review of African Political Economy, Nigeria also virtually ceased producing its own food; imports of food subsequently rose, as did food prices. As noted in The Rise and Fall of Nigerias Second Republic, 1979-1984, overinflated costs of construction contracts with foreign firms and the heavy importation of machinery, spare parts, and weaponry meanwhile created a trade deficit and government deficit. Those individuals involved with the sale of oil or with the importation of goods, however, continued to become enormously wealthy. Hence, colonial economic relations continued.

The division of wealth within Nigeria accompanying these trade relations also continued. The wealthy few who controlled state power remained unaccountable to the impoverished majority they supposedly represented. Falola and Ihonvbere recounted that within four years after the begining of the Second Republic, the civilian government employed its police force without regard to law to suppress its citizens. Protest against the government once again climaxed. And once again, the military stepped in to restore order.

Having retired from the armed forces as a general in 1979, Obasanjo joined the advisory council of state and started a company called Obasanjo Farms Nigeria Limited in Otta, Ogun State, Nigeria. He also became a fellow at the University of Ibadans Institute of African Studies. In the early 1980s he began writing and advising prolifically about Africas contemporary crises.

By the mid-1980s, Obasanjo recognized that the government he brought into being had failed. That recognition led the former head of state to renew efforts to contribute to stable civilian rule in Nigeria. By founding and working for a variety of policy research and advisory committees throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, including co-chairing the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group on South Africa in 1985 and founding the Africa Leadership Forum in 1988, Obasanjo continued to study Africas problems and advise courses of action to relieve them.

Nigerias Future

Addressing Africas place in the world in his 1990 book Challenges of Leadership in African Development, Obasanjo expressed a fear of a new colonialism. Pointing to indicators of recent African decline, such as the enormous problem of malnutrition, the rising infant and child mortality rates, and fragmenting agricultural and industrial base, Obasanjo described the debt burden as the gravest problem yet to face Africa since the onset of independence. While over 30 African nations implement structural adjustment programs sponsored by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, officials from those international institutions assume powerful positions in the economies, central banks, customs departments, and ministries of finance and planning. Obasanjo warned of the power wielded by these officials, stating: Thus ensconced, no major decision or initiative on the economy can be taken without their acquiescence at the very least. Unless we can summon the necessary resolution to resist it successfully, I fear a new dependence not unlike the old colonialism in content is upon us.

African historians such as S.O. Osoba argue that economic dependence and underdevelopment will continue to plague Africa even after decades of independence. In his article The Transition to Neo-Colonialism, a study of decolonization in Nigeria that was published in Britain and Nigeria: Exploitation or Development, Osoba observed that Britain had fostered the growth of an indigenous elite through last-minute powersharing that would protect the colonial economic bequest. From independence, Osoba argued, the British meant to dismantle their formal colonial empire while at the same time... strengthening their informal colonial powers. Oculi has shown how Obasanjos own agriculture policies while head of state reinforced Nigerian dependence. In his reflection in 1990, Obasanjo described the latest intensification of economic dependence that the industrialized world imposes upon Africa through the essential cooperation of the indigenous African elite.

In Africa Today, Pita Ogaba Agbese, a critic of the current transition to democracy in Nigeria, claimed that Nigerias Third Republic would become one more exercise in futility before the military reclaimed power with a renewed lease of legitimacy. In this political context in the most populous nation in Africa, Olusegun Obasanjos experiences as head of state and designer of the Second Republic become a crucial precedent in any understanding of the contemporary Third Republic.

Selected writings

A March of Progress: Collected Speeches, Federal Ministry of Information, 1979.

My Command: An Account of the Nigerian Civil War, 1967-1970, Heinemann Educational Books, 1980.

(With others) Mission to South Africa: The Commonwealth Report, Penguin Books, 1986.

Africa in Perspective: Myths and Realities, Council on Foreign Relations, 1987.

Nzeogwu, Spectrum Books, 1987.

Africa Embattled, Fountain Publication, 1988.

Constitution for National Integration and Development, Friends Foundation Publishers, 1989.

Not My Will, Ibadan University Press, 1990.

(Coeditor) Challenges of Leadership in African Development, Crane Russak, 1990.

(Coeditor) Elements of Development, ALF Publications, 1991.

(Coeditor) The Leadership Challenge of Economic Reforms in Africa, Crane Russak, 1991.

(Coeditor) The Impact of Agricultural Production and Food Security in Africa, Crane Russak, 1992.

(Coeditor) The Impact of Europe in 1992 on West Africa, Crane Russak, 1992.

Founder and editor of magazine Africa Forum, 1990. Contributor to periodicals, including Foreign Policy, Foreign Affairs, Review of International Affairs, and New Perspectives Quarterly.



Falola, Toyin, editor, Britain and Nigeria: Exploitation or Development, Zed Books, 1987.

Falola, Toyin, and Julius Ihonvbere, The Rise and Fall of Nigerias Second Republic, 1979-1984, Zed Books, 1985.

Kirk-Greene, Anthony, and Douglas Rimmer, Nigeria Since 1970: A Political and Economic Outline, Hodder & Stoughton, 1981.

Obasanjo, Olusegun, My Command: An Account of the Nigerian Civil War, 1967-1970, Heinemann Educational Books, 1980.

Obasanjo; Olusegun, Challenges of Leadership in African Development, Crane Russak, 1990.


Africa Report, May/June 1976.

Africa Today, Number 3, 1990.

Journal of West Africa, November 1992.

Riview of African Political Economy, May/December 1979.

Nicholas S. Patti

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Obasanjo, Olusegun 1937–

Olusegun Obasanjo 1937

Nigerian president

Rose Through Ranks of Nigerian Military

Took Over as Head of State

Dedicated Himself to Farming, Writing

Elected President of Nigeria


Nigeria, located on the west coast of Africa, is the continents most populous nation, and potentially its richest. Since it gained independence from Britain in 1960, however, it has been plagued by political instability and economic problems. Olusegun Obasanjo, a Nigerian military officer, first came to international prominence in 1975, when he co-engineered the bloodless coup of General Yakubu Gowon, Nigerias head of state. The following year, Obasanjo took over as the countrys leader. In 1979, after implementing a wide range of governmental reforms, Obasanjo stepped down from office and restored civilian rule. In doing so, he became the only Nigerian military leader to voluntarily hand power to a democratically-elected government. Following two decades of corrupt political leadership, Obasanjo presented himself as a candidate for president, and was elected in March of 1999.

As president, Obasanjo faced some daunting problems. In the 20 years since he was last in office, the countrys annual per capita income has dropped from $788 to $679. Its currency, the naira, was worth almost $2 then; today it trades for just over a cent. The economy, already damaged by high-level corruption, is dependent on oil for 98.9 percent of its export earningsand the price of oil has continued to drop.

Top of his agenda should be three issues, the Economist advised, corruption, weaning the economy off its dependency on oil, and finding a more democratic federal system that spreads power and money more evenly through the country. Whether Obasanjo can undo the damage of years of mismanagement remains to be seen.

Rose Through Ranks of Nigerian Military

Olusegun Obasanjo was born on May 5, 1937, in Abeokuta, Ogun State, in southwest Nigeria. He was educated at Abeokuta Baptist High School and Mons Officers Cadet School in Aldershot, England. In 1958, Obasanjo enlisted in the Nigerian army. He was commissioned in 1959, and served in the Congo (now Zaire) the following year.

During his military career, Obasanjo frequently studied in Britain, receiving training at the Royal College of Military Engineering in Chatham and at the School of Survey in Newbury. At the British Royal Engineers Young Officers

At a Glance

Born Olusegun Obasanjo, May 5, 1937, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nigeria; married Oluremi Akinbwon; two sons, four daughters. Education: Abeokuta Baptist High School; Mons Officers Cadet School, Aldershot, England; Royal College of Military Engineering, Chatham; England; School of Survey, Newbury, England; British Royal Engineers Young Officers School, Shrivenham, England; Indian Defence Staff College; Indian Army School of Engineering; Royal College of Defence Studies, London.

Career: Enlisted in the Nigerian Army, 1958; served in 5th Battalion, Kaduna and the Cameroons, 195859; second lieutenant, 1959; lieutenant, 1960; captain and commander of Nigerian Armys Engineering Unit, 1963; major and commander of Field Engineering Unit, 1965; lieutenant-colonel, 1967; commander of Ibadan Garrison, 196769; colonel, 1969; commander of 3rd Marine Commando Division, 196970; accepted Biafran surrender ending Nigerian Civil War, 1970; federal commissioner for Works and Housing, 1975; led coup to overthrow head of state Yakubu Gowon, 1975; head of state and commander in chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, 197679; founder, Obasanjo Farms Nigeria Ltd. In Otta, Ogun State, 1979-; elected president of Nigeria, 1999.

Author, A March of Progress: Collected Speeches (1979), My Command: An Account of the Nigerian Civil War, (1980), Africa in Perspective: Myths and Realities (1907), Africa Embattled (1988), Constitution for National Integration and Development (1989), Not My Will (1990); many articles for periodicals, including Foreign Policy, Foreign Affairs, Review of International Affairs, and New Perspectives Quarterly.

Selected awards: Grand Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1980; Africa Prize for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger, 1990; several honorary degrees.

Addresses: Home Abeokuta, Nigeria.

School in Shrivenham, he won first prize and a citation as the best Commonwealth student ever. In the mid-1960s, Obasanjo studied at the Indian Defence Staff College and the Indian Army School of Engineering.

In his two decades in the military, Obasanjo advanced steadily through the ranks. From 1958 to 1959, he served in the 5th Battalion in Kaduna and the Cameroons. In 1959, he was commissioned second lieutenant. The following year, he was promoted to lieutenant, and served in the Nigerian contingent of the UN Force in the Congo. In 1963, he became commander of the only engineering unit of the Nigerian Army; the same year, he was promoted to captain. He became a major in 1965, lieutenant-colonel in 1967, and colonel in 1969.

Meanwhile, in 1960, Nigeria gained its independence from Britain, and a period of intense political instability followed. In 1966, the military seized power. In 1969, Biafrathe countrys eastern, predominantly-Christian regionseceded from Nigeria, and civil war broke out. During the civil war, Obasanjo served as commander of the 3rd marine commando division. Under his leadership, federal troops split the Biafran Army into two enclaves, and forced a surrender less than a month later.

In his autobiographical work, My Command: An Account o/the Nigerian Civil War, Obasanjo described this tumultuous period in Nigerian history: Within a space of six months I turned a situation of low morale, desertion, and distrust within my division and within the Army into one of high morale, confidence, co-operation, and success for my division and for the Army.A nation almost torn asunder and on the brink of total disintegration was reunited and the wound healed.

Following the war, Obasanjo returned to his former position as chief of army engineers. After he was promoted to brigadier-general in 1972, he enrolled in an advanced training course at the Royal College of Defence Studies in London. Two years later, he returned to Nigeria, and was appointed federal commissioner for works and housing.

Took Over as Head of State

The political situation in Nigeria, then under military rule, continued to be unstable. In 1974, the Nigerian head of state, General Yakubu Gowon, declared that a return to civilian rule would be postponed indefinitely. Opposition to Gowons rule grew, and in 1975 Obasanjo, along with Murtala Muhammed, led a bloodless coup that overthrew him.

The following year, Muhammed was assassinated, and Obasanjo was appointed head of state and commander-in-chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces. He assured Nigerians that he would follow a strict program to return Nigeria to civilian rule.

During his time in office, Obasanjo proved himself to be a tough leader, unafraid to stand up to colonial powers. At one point, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher refused to restore British authority in Rhodesia (now called Zimbabwe) after the countrys white population usurped power. In response, Obasanjo nationalized British Petroleums interests in Nigeria, and threatened to boycott British imports. Thatcher eventually relented, and began the process that led to free elections and majority rule in Zimbabwe.

In 1979, after three years as Nigerias leader, Obasanjo handed power to elected president Shehu Shagari. In doing so, he became the only military ruler in Nigerias history to voluntarily step down in favor of a democratically-elected government. While Obasanjo was widely praised for adhering to his promise, many Nigerians were glad to see him go. Students and journalists remember his years in office as a time of repression and lack of tolerance, Barnaby Phillips wrote in the Daily Telegraph.

While in office, Obasanjo oversaw the creation of a new constitution for Nigeria, and implemented a wide range of governmental reforms. However, the newly-elected civilian government suffered from corruption, and collapsed in just five years, when the military once again seized power. According to the Economist, the army, once seen as the only institution capable of running the country, turned instead to looting, and destroyed it. Nigerias descent into chaos accelerated.

Dedicated Himself to Farming, Writing

Having retired from the armed forces as a general in 1979, Obasanjo started a company called Obasanjo Farms Nigeria Ltd. in Otta, Ogun State. According to Jonathan Power, writing in the Los Angeles Times, Obasanjo was so obsessed by his countrymens refusal to come to terms with economic chaos, not least the running down of the countrys precious agricultural base, that he decided to show what could be done with the land. He supervised the construction of the farm closely, often choosing to spend the night in the half-built structures. I call myself a chicken farmer, he told Rushworth M. Kidder of the Christian Science Monitor. Some of my friends dont like that, but some do!

Obasanjo also became a fellow at the University of Ibadans Institute of African Studies. During the 1980s and 1990s, he wrote prolifically, publishing My Command and numerous books and articles on African development. He served on a variety of policy research and advisory committees concerned with the future of African countries. Democracy, farming, and disarmament are Obasanjos passions, Jonathan Power wrote in the Los Angeles Times, and he has relentlessly promulgated them.

The improvement of living standards and the wealth of nations are more of a journey and less of a destination, Obasanjo was quoted as saying in the Los Angeles Times. In his view, it would take three or four generations for Africa to transform its centuries-old culture to fit with the demands of the global marketplace; but at the same time, African culture should not be devalued. What, for example, is wrong with our traditional society, which respects age, experience, and authority? he was quoted as saying in the Los Angeles Times. Or the norm that everybody is his brothers keeper? Or the practice of stigmatizing and ostracizing evil-doers and the indolent?

In 1993, a civil election was held in Nigeria, but the countrys military ruler, General Ibrahim Babangida, refused to hand over power to the winner. We demand that the Babangida administration be terminated forth-with, Obasanjo was quoted as saying in the Boston Globe. In protest, the European Community suspended aid to Nigeria, but the military government held on.

By 1995, leadership had passed to General Sani Abacha, who jailed Obasanjo and other military officers on charges of plotting a coup. Obasanjo strongly denied the charges, andafter international pressure was appliedhe was soon released from prison, although he was restricted to his hometown indefinitely.

In the summer of 1998, Abacha, whom the Economist once called the worst ruler Nigeria has ever had, died suddenlywhether from natural or unnatural causes is still uncertain. In his place came General Abdulsalam Abubakar, who quickly announced his intention to restore Nigeria to civilian rule after 15 years of army dictatorship. He set out a timetable for the formation of political parties and for democratic elections, and released a number of political prisoners, including Obasanjo. Almost immediately, rumors began circulating that he would run for office. In November of 1998, Obasanjo confirmed the rumors, arousing both interest and controversy.

More than issues, however, the election is about the complex balancing of hundreds of ethnic interests, Anton La Guardia wrote in the Dai/y Telegraph. Although Obasanjo is from southwestern Nigeria, critics claimed that he was a pawn of the northern-dominated military establishment, which bankrolled his campaign. He is not a true democrat, and having a former soldier in power does not provide the clean break with the past that Nigeria needs, one prominent politician was quoted as saying in the Daily Telegraph. However, his years spent in house arrest were a definite asset for his campaign: Mr. Obasanjos aura as a political martyr is expected to help him to overcome the handicap of his uniform, La Guardia observed.

Elected President of Nigeria

During the ill-fated 1993 election, Obasanjo criticized General Yakubu Gowonwhom he had earlier ejected from officefor seeking the presidential nomination. What did you forget to take from the State House that you have to go back? the Dai/y Telegraph quoted him as saying. Five years later, Obasanjo denied that he was vulnerable to the same criticism, telling the Dai/y Tele-graph, I have not forgotten anything. I do not regret leaving power. What I left behind and should have been taken care of has all been destroyed.

Obasanjo also rejected accusations that he would perpetuate decades of military rule in the guise of a civilian government. He told the Dai/y Telegraph that he had to return to power to bring Nigeria out of the mess it has been put into by a succession of corrupt army dictators. I believe I have something to offer. If someone has something to offer, he should say so and let the electorate decide, he was quoted as saying.

On March 1, 1999, Obasanjo was formally proclaimed Nigerias new civilian president. According to the final tally, Obasanjo, heading the Peoples Democratic Party, won by 63 percent of the vote, while Chief Olu Falae, head of a coalition of the Alliance for Democracy and the All Peoples Party, captured 37 percent.

However, Obasanjos opponents, as well as international observers, questioned the result, alleging that there had been widespread election fraud. Jimmy Carter, the former U.S. president and head of one of several foreign monitoring groups, was quoted as stating in the Dai/y Telegraph, There was a wide disparity between the number of voters observed at the polling stations and the final results that have been reported from several states. it is not possible for us to make an accurate judgement about the outcome of the presidential elections. In setting up the timetable for the elections, current ruler Abubakar had allowed for such a possibility; he planned to remain in power until at least May of 1999, in part to give time for any legal challenges.

Obasanjo admitted that irregularities had occurred, but blamed ignorant people, rather than planned election fraud. I dont believe there is anywhere in the world where elections are conducted by human beings that are perfect, he was quoted as saying in the Dai/y Telegraph. Democracy, under my leadership, will continue.



Boston Globe, July 14, 1993, p. 13.

Christian Science Monitor, March 18, 1987.

Daily Telegraph, March 2, 1999; February 17, 1999; February 22, 1999.

Economist, March 6, 1999, p. 44.

Los Angeles Times, April 4, 1995, p. B7.

New York Times, March 24, 1995, p. A5.

Carrie Golus

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Isu (Spiced Boiled Yams) ............................................. 76
Nigerian Stew ............................................................. 77
Jollof Rice .................................................................... 79
Iyan (Pounded Yams) .................................................. 79
Efo (Greens Stew)........................................................ 80
Dodo (Fried Plantains)................................................. 80
Chinchin ..................................................................... 81


The name Nigeria is taken from the Niger River, which plays an important part in Nigerian lives. Not only is it a transportation highway, it is an excellent source of fish, including carp, Nile perch, and catfish. It also provides the water needed to cultivate crops.

Nigeria is located on the west coast of Africa at the inner corner of the Gulf of Guinea (part of the Atlantic Ocean). Its land area is comparable to being about twice the size of California.

An area of mangrove (a type of tropical tree) swamp forest lines the coast of Nigeria. Beyond the forest lies a wide tropical forest, then a plateau that leads to the Shebshi Mountains (on the eastern side of the country). The extreme north borders on the Sahara Desert.

Many different climates mirror the varied land regions, although Nigeria is mostly in a tropical zone. On the coast, it is very humid, and the nights are hot. Inland there is a wet season from April to October and a dry season from November to March.


Trade was largely responsible for changing the flavors of African cuisine. Before trading between continents began, main staples included rice, millet (a type of grain), and lentils. The Portuguese were the first Europeans to reach Nigeria. There, they established a slave trade center around the 1400s. Portuguese explorers and traders introduced cassava to western Africa (including present-day Nigeria) through their trade with the African coasts and nearby islands. British, Dutch, and other European traders later competed for control of the trade. By the 1700s, the British were the main traders of slaves on the Nigerian coast.

European explorers and traders introduced several food staples to western Africa, such as beans, cassava, and maize. These foods were introduced to the explorers while on journeys to America; they, in turn, brought the foods to western Africa. Asian seasonings such as pepper, cinnamon, and nutmeg were also brought back, and are still used to flavor dishes.


Nigeria is one of the world's most ethnically diverse countries. The Hausa and Yoruba make up around 21 percent of the population; the Igbo/Ibo, 18 percent; the Fulani, around 11 percent; and Ibibio, 5 percent. Various other groups make up the remaining 23 percent.

Nigeria has such a variety of people and cultures that it is difficult to pick one national dish. Each area has its own regional favorite that depends on customs, tradition, and religion. The different foods available also depend on the season: the "hungry season" is before the rains arrive in March, and the "season of surplus" follows the harvest in October and November. Fruits, however, are enjoyed year-round. A large part of Nigeria lies in the tropics, where many fruits are available. Some of the popular fruits are oranges, melons, grapefruits, limes, mangoes, bananas, and pineapples.

People of the northern region (mostly Muslim, whose beliefs prohibit eating pork) have diets based on beans, sorghum (a type of grain), and brown rice. The Hausa people of this region also like to eat meat in the form of tsere or suya (kebabs, which are chunks of roasted, skewered meat). Muslims love to drink tea, making coffeehouses popular places to socialize.

The people from the eastern part of Nigeria, mostly Igbo/Ibo, eat gari (cassava powder) dumplings, pumpkins, and yams. Yams are usually eaten in place of potatoes and are an important part of the Nigerian diet. However, African yams are different than Western yams. They are pale, barely sweet, and are not commonly found in United States supermarkets.

Isu (Spiced Boiled Yams)


  • 2 pounds yams, peeled and thickly sliced (regular yams can be used in place of African yams)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 4 Tablespoons butter, melted
  • Cayenne pepper, to taste


  1. Place the yams in a large saucepan and add enough water to cover them.
  2. Add the salt, garlic clove, and cinnamon. Bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat to medium and cook until tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
  4. Drain the yams and remove the garlic clove and discard it.
  5. Place the yams on a platter and drizzle the butter over the top.
  6. Sprinkle with a little cayenne pepper (be careful, cayenne pepper tastes very hot) and serve.

The Yoruba people of the southwest and central areas eat gari with local varieties of okro (okra) and spinach in stews or soups. They also like to eat mashed yams or mashed cassava.

Near the coast of the Gulf of Guinea, Nigerians prefer eating seafood stews (made with fish, shrimp, crab, and lobster), yams, rice, and vegetables. Fish is important to the Nigerian diet since it is one of only a few sources of protein. A common way coastal Nigerians prepare fish is to make a marinade of ginger, tomatoes, and cayenne pepper, and then cook the fish in peanut oil. Efo (stews) are also popular.

Nigerian Stew


  • 2 pounds fish fillets, thinly sliced (although it won't be authentic Nigerian, chicken may be substituted for fish)
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pinch of thyme
  • ¼ cup red bell pepper, minced
  • ¾ cup tomato paste (6-ounce can)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 cups water
  • ¼ cup peanut or vegetable oil
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube


  1. Season fish fillets with salt and thyme. Set aside.
  2. Place the pepper, tomato paste, onion, and water in a large pot.
  3. Cook for 10 minutes over medium heat.
  4. Add the oil and bouillon cube. Simmer over low heat for 15 minutes.
  5. Add the seasoned fish fillets and simmer for 10 minutes. (If using chicken, simmer for 20 minutes.) Serve with rice.

Serves at least 8.

People living in the cities tend to buy their food from "chop bars" (bars that sell food), street vendors, hawkers (peddlers who shout what they are selling), or from restaurants. They may purchase dishes such as ukwaka, a steamed pudding made from corn and ripe plantains, and moin-moin, a steamed cake of ground dried beans and fish. These dishes may be served with jollof rice (a spicy tomato-based rice), cassava, yams, okro, beans, plantains, or kebabs.

Nigerian stews, such as ikokore (made with fish and yams), are typically spicy and eaten with rice, yams, cassava, and corn. Peppers and chilies are used regularly in dishes and as a relish. A Yoruba Proverb says, "The man that eats no pepper is weak, pepper is the staff of life..."


Nigerians practice traditional African religious beliefs in addition to various branches of Islam and Christianity. Muslims make up 45 percent of the population. Muslim and Christian holidays include the end of Ramadan (a month of fasting), Easter, Good Friday, and Christmas. Nigerians return to their villages for Christmas to be with their families. In the afternoon, children open gifts and go from house to house, singing carols and hoping for candy and cookies. A Christmas feast may include obe didin (roasted goat), jollof rice with chicken stew, moin-moin, iyan (pounded yams), and chopped liver.

Jollof Rice


  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons tomato paste
  • 1½ cups cooked rice
  • 1 green chili, seeded and chopped (green pepper can be substituted)
  • 1 cup meat or vegetable stock


  1. Cook the rice according to package directions.
  2. Heat the oil in a frying pan and sauté the onion until soft, but not browned.
  3. Add the tomato paste and chili and cook on medium heat while stirring, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add the rice and continue stirring.
  5. Add the stock and bring the mixture to a boil.
  6. Reduce heat to medium and cook until almost all of the stock has evaporated. Serve.

Makes 4 servings.

Iyan (Pounded Yams)

African yams are not readily available elsewhere in the world, so regular yams may be substituted.


  • 4 yams, peeled (canned yams may be substituted, if necessary)
  • Water
  • Salt, to taste


  1. Rinse the yams in water and slice them into chunks. Place chunks in a large pot or saucepan. If substituting canned yams, pour the contents of the can into a saucepan, but do not add additional water.
  2. Bring to a boil and cook, uncovered, about 20 minutes (10 minutes for canned yams), or until soft enough that a fork is easily inserted.
  3. Drain the yams and place them into a blender (or mash by hand). Blend until smooth.
  4. Season with salt and serve with soup or stew.

Serves 6.

Besides religious holidays, there are many cultural festivals throughout the year. The Argungu Fish and Cultural Festival is held on the banks of the River Sokoto. Several months before the festival, the River Sokoto is dammed (blocked at a certain point). When the celebration begins, hundreds of fishermen jump into the river at once to scare the fish into the air and into waiting nets.

Igbo Day is a festival of Iri-ji, which means, "new-yam eating." It is held by the Igbo people in Nigeria in August and is a day to celebrate the end of the cultivation season. The oldest man in the community performs the solemn ritual of eating the first new yam. This ritual is meant to express the community's appreciation to the gods for making the harvest of farm crops possible. Only yams are served at the festival.


Many Nigerians rise as early as 5 a.m., when a small breakfast is eaten to begin their day. Breakfast usually consists of rice and mangoes, or stewed soybeans. Dodo (fried plantains) is a common dish, as well as leftovers from the night before.

Lunch is eaten around 11 a.m. and considered the most important meal of the day. A late dinner may be served with dishes similar to those offered at lunch. Most Nigerian meals are made up of one course and are cooked outside over an open fire (gas and kerosene stoves are sometimes used, but the two fuels are very expensive for many Nigerians). Dishes such asefo (stew) or moin-moin may be served at lunch. Soups and stews are common lunchtime foods, eaten with hands cupped like a spoon. Many Nigerians only use their right hand. In southern Nigeria, two favorite soups are egusi soup and palm nut soup. Egusi is a spicy yellow soup made with meat, red chilies, ground dried shrimp, and greens. Palm nut soup is a stew made with meat, chilies, tomatoes, onions, and palm nut oil.

Efo (Greens Stew)


  • 1 pound collard greens or spinach
  • 1 can (8-ounce) tomato paste
  • 1 can (8-ounce) tomato puree
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • l Tablespoon vegetable oil


  1. Wash the greens and tear into small pieces.
  2. In a large pot or saucepan, place the greens in water and add the oil.
  3. Boil greens until tender.
  4. Add tomato paste, tomato puree, and diced onion.
  5. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until vegetables are tender. Serve.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Lunch and evening meals are typically served on large communal plates and shared among children according to their gender and age. Young children may eat from a dish with their mother, but when they reach the age of seven or eight, the boys and girls are separated and meals are eaten with members of the same sex.

Dodo (Fried Plantains)

Plantains are slightly larger than bananas and can be found in most supermarkets. When ripe, their skins are yellowish green or yellow (or black if extremely ripe). Plantains do not taste sweet, like yellow bananas.


  • 4 ripe plantains, peeled and sliced
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • Salt, to taste


  1. Heat oil in a large frying pan.
  2. Place the sliced plantains in the frying pan and fry, turning as needed, until golden brown.
  3. Drain on paper towels.
  4. Season with salt and serve hot or warm.

Nigerians enjoy many different snacks that are eaten throughout the day. Some examples are fried yam chips, boiled groundnuts, and meat pastries. Akara, which is a puffy, deep-fried cake made with black-eyes peas, is sometimes eaten with chili dip. Other snacks are kulikui (small deep-fried balls of peanut paste), suya, a hot and spicy kebab, and a few sweets like chinchin (fried pastries in strips). Snack foods are an important part of a child's diet. Fresh fruits (mangoes are a favorite to many), fried bean cakes, cookies, or candy are commonly sold by street vendors. Snacks provide an opportunity for children to eat on their own, without having to share with siblings.



  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 cup butter or margarine
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup milk (or an additional cup of water)
  • Sugar
  • Vegetable oil, for frying


  1. Mix all the ingredients together (except oil) to form a dough.
  2. Sprinkle some flour on a cutting board or other flat surface. Knead the dough until smooth (about 10 minutes).
  3. Tear off a piece of dough and flatten it (about ½-inch thick) on the cutting board.
  4. Cut the dough into 1-inch squares.
  5. Pour some sugar in a paper bag (to coat the chinchin after it is fried).
  6. Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat.
  7. Place a few of the squares into the oil and fry until golden brown.
  8. Place the fried chinchin on a paper towel for a few seconds to soak up the extra oil (do not cool).
  9. Place the chinchin into the bag of sugar and shake to coat all sides. Serve.

Makes about three dozen.


About 8 percent of the population of Nigeria are classified as undernourished by the World Bank. This means they do not receive adequate nutrition in their diet. Of children under the age of five, about 39 percent are underweight, and over 39 percent are stunted (short for their age).

Many families are fairly self-sufficient where food is concerned. They harvest their own food crops, such as yams, cassava, corn, and millet.



DeWitt, Dave. Flavors of Africa: Spicy African Cooking. Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing, 1998.

Hafner, Dorinda. A Taste of Africa. Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press, 1993.

Imoisi, Janice. Cooking Nigerian Style: Delicious African Recipes. Houston, TX: Gayle Publishing., 2000.

Nason, Ian. Enjoy Nigeria: A Travel Guide. Ibadan: Spectrum Books Ltd., 1991.

West Africa. Melbourne, Oakland, CA: Lonely Planet Publications, 1999.

Web Sites [Online] Available,15463,801,00.html (accessed April 12, 2001). [Online] Available (accessed April 12, 2001).

Recipes from Nigeria. [Online] Available (accessed August 17, 2001).

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Official name: Federal Republic of Nigeria

Area: 923,768 square kilometers (356,669 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Chappal Waddi (2,419 meters/7,936 feet)

Lowest point on land: Sea level

Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern

Time zone: 1 p.m. = noon GMT

Longest distances: 1,127 kilometers (700 miles) from east to west; 1,046 kilometers (650 miles) from north to south

Land boundaries: 4,047 kilometers (2,514 miles) total boundary length; Chad 87 kilometers (54 miles); Cameroon 1,690 kilometers (1,050 miles); Benin 773 kilometers (480 miles); Niger 1,497 kilometers (930 miles)

Coastline: 853 kilometers (530 miles)

Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)


Nigeria is located in western Africa, bordering the Gulf of Guinea. The country also shares borders with Chad, Cameroon, Benin, and Niger. With an area of about 923,768 square kilometers (356,669 square miles), the country is slightly more than twice the size of California. Nigeria is divided into thirty-six states and one federal territory.


Nigeria has no outside territories or dependencies.


The climate in Nigeria varies from equatorial in the south, to tropical in the center, and arid in the north. Inland, the midday temperatures may surpass 38°C (100°F), but the nights are relatively cool, dropping as low as 12°C (54°F). On the Jos Plateau, temperatures are more moderate. Near the coast, temperatures rarely exceed 32°C (90°F), but humidity is high and nights are hot.

Inland, there are two distinct seasons: a wet season from April through October, with generally lower temperatures, and a dry season from November through March, with hotter temperatures. Along the coast, annual rainfall varies from about 180 centimeters (70 inches) in the west to about 420 centimeters (170 inches) in certain parts of the east. Inland, it decreases to around 130 centimeters (50 inches) over most of central Nigeria and only 50 centimeters (20 inches) in the extreme north.


Nigeria sits on the center of the African Tec-tonic Plate and lies entirely in the tropics, with its southern edge being only a few degrees above the equator and its northern border well below the Tropic of Cancer.

The outstanding geographic feature of the country is the basin of the Niger and Benue Rivers, running east and west through the center of the country. South of the basin, the elevation generally is less than 304 meters (1,000 feet), except for a few plateau surfaces. To the north of the basin, a broad plateau occupies the country to its northern border with elevations from 304 meters to 1,219 meters (1,000 to 4,000 feet). In the east, the country contains mountainous regions, in which the highest point is located.


Seacoast and Undersea Features

Nigeria faces the Gulf of Guinea, which is a part of the Atlantic Ocean.

Sea Inlets and Straits

The Bight of Benin is to the west and the Bight of Biafra to the southeast; both of these are inlets of the Gulf of Guinea. There are a number of lagoons along the westerly coastal areas.

Islands and Archipelagos

Islands of solid ground within the Niger Delta are inhabited. The city of Lagos is located on a group of islands at the western end of Lagos Lagoon.

Coastal Features

Low swampy land, which varies in width up to 32 kilometers (20 miles) or more, is part of the coastal belt extending along the entire Gulf of Guinea coast of West Africa. The outer edge of the coastal area consists of sand spits; it changes to mud as the coast nears the Niger Delta. Behind the outer spits and lagoons, creeks of varying size parallel the coast and form a continuous waterway from the border with Benin on the west to the tributaries of the Niger Delta in the east.

One of the major features of the West African coastline is the Niger Delta, which projects into the Gulf of Guinea from the southern coast of Nigeria. This great bulge of sedimentary material, deposited by the Niger River, stretches some 120 to 128 kilometers (75 to 80 miles) from its apex below the town of Aba to the sea. It covers an area of about 25,900 square kilometers (10,000 square miles). The water of the Niger flows through this delta in a series of radial tributaries. For navigational purposes, the two most important rivers are the Forcados and the Nun.

The outer edge of the delta is fringed by sand spits and ridges, varying in width from less than one kilometer to more than 16 kilometers (more than 10 miles). Behind these ridges are mangrove swamps covering about 10,360 square kilometers (4,000 square miles); farther inland is an extensive area of freshwater swamps. The delta contains large natural gas and oil deposits.

Mangroves dominate the coast, while freshwater swamp forests with palms, abura, and mahogany predominate throughout the adjacent inland area.


The largest lake in Nigeria is Lake Chad, which is shared by the neighboring countries of Chad and Niger. The size of the lake varies from season to season depending on rain-fallfrom 10,360 to 25,900 square kilometers (4,000 to 10,000 square miles)as it alternately advances and recedes over considerable distances in the flat plains area on the Nigerian side. Between December and January, at the height of the rainy season, the lake may cover up to 25,900 square kilometers (10,000 square miles). During the ensuing months, however, it may diminish to less than half that size, with depths of only 1.2 to 5 meters (4 to 16 feet). At times, the waters recede so much that the entire portion located within Nigeria dries up. Little water is supplied to the lake from rivers in Nigeria. Its principal source is the Chari River in the Republic of Chad. The lake has no outlets. Lake Chad is the largest inland body of water on the Sahel.

In the far western part of the country is Kainji Lake, formed in 1968 by the damming of the Niger River. The lake extends for about 137 kilometers (85 miles) in a section of the Niger River valley from Kainji to a point beyond Yelwa. At maximum level, it covers an area of about 1,243 square kilometers (480 square miles) and has a width of 14 to 24 kilometers (9 to 15 miles)


The valleys of the Niger and Benue Rivers, which account for most of the country's drainage, form a great east-west arc across the middle of the country. The Niger River valley extends from the border with Benin on the west and the Benue River valley extends from the eastern border with Cameroon. Near Lokoja, in the center of the country, the two rivers join and change course to flow southward to the Gulf of Guinea.

The Niger is the longest river in Nigeria, with a total length of about 4,100 kilometers (2,460 miles). It rises in the Fouta Djallon of Guinea and travels in a wide arc through Mali, Niger, and Benin before crossing the border into Nigeria. Inside Nigeria, the river travels approximately 1,175 kilometers (730 miles) before it empties into the Gulf of Guinea.

The Benue, which rises in Cameroon, flows about 796 kilometers (495 miles) inside Nigeria to its confluence with the Niger River.

The most important river outside this system is the Cross River in the southeast. The Cross originates in southern Cameroon and enters the country through the Eastern Highlands. It was a major transportation route for the slave trade in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

South of the Western High Plains, several rivers flow directly into the Gulf of Guinea or its fringe lagoons. In the north from the Jos Plateau radiate rivers that flow toward Lake Chad or into the Niger-Benue system, including the Sokoto, Kaduna, Rima, Komadugu, Yobe, and Gongola rivers.


Though there are no true desert regions in Nigeria, the northern part of Nigeria lies within the region known as the Sahel. Sahel is an Arabic word that means "shore." It refers to the 5,000-kilometer (3,125-mile) stretch of savannah that forms the shore or edge of the Sahara Desert. The Sahel spreads west to east from Mauritania and Senegal to Somalia.


Many of the low-lying plains are covered in wetlands. Most of these wetlands are found along the Niger Delta, the Niger River flood plains, and in the Lake Chad basin. On the northern edges of the coastal lagoons, many smaller rivers lose themselves in freshwater swamps. Open flood plains extend between Yelwa and Jebba in the Niger River valley. Eastward from Jebba, to the confluence of the Niger and Benue Rivers, extensive swampy plains spread up to 80 kilometers (50 miles) wide. Extremely low gradients in the Lake Chad basin impede river flow so that during much of the year, the flood plains are swampy.

Beyond the tropical belt to the north grow tall grasses and deciduous trees of small stature, characteristic of the savannah. The Western High Plains are covered largely with savannah parkland and grass.

The uppermost levels of the Obudu Uplands and the Oban Hills, westward extensions of the Bamenda Highlands, are covered grasslands.

Tropical rain forests form a belt roughly 130 kilometers (80 miles) wide across the southern zone, with trees such as African mahogany, irokol, African walnut, and obeche reaching heights of 60 meters (200 feet). These forests are found in the Obudu Uplands and the Oban Hills in the east as well as in the plains in Western State. The central and western sections of Mid-Western State, with gentle slopes and elevations mostly less than 122 meters (400 feet), contain extensive and luxuriant forest areas in protected reserves.


Nigeria's boundary with Cameroon contains about 804 kilometers (500 miles) of mountainous country. The northern part of the highlands consists of several hill groups, with peaks around 1,097 meters (3,600 feet). To the south of these are the Mandara Mountains, a dissected plateau with a general elevation of about 1,219 meters (4,000 feet) encompassing an area of some 482 kilometers (300 miles) in length with an average width of about 32 kilometers (20 miles).

The central part of the border region consists of the Adamawa Highlands, a discontinuous series of mountain ranges and high plateau surfaces situated between the Benue River valley and the Donga River valley. They include the Alantika Mountains along the border and the Shebshi Mountains. The Shebshi Mountains, generally at an elevation of 1,066 meters (3,500 feet), are a dissected plateau with highly eroded lower slopes. The highest surveyed point in the country, Chappal Waddi, at a height of 2,419 meters (7,936 feet), is located in these hills. To the southwest of the Adamawa Highlands lies the Nigerian section of the Bamenda Highlands at 1,219 meters (4,000 feet) in elevation. The Gotel Mountains rise up along the southeastern border with Cameroon.


There are no significant caves or canyons in Nigeria.


With the exception of the coastal plains and the Niger-Benue valley, Nigeria consists mostly of high plains and plateaus. Directly to the east of the Lower Niger Valley are the Udi and Igala Plateaus and the Akwa-Orlu Uplands. The general elevation of these plateaus is about 304 meters (1,000 feet), with escarpments rising considerably higher. Between the low western coastal plains and the Niger-Benue River valley lie the Western High Plains, or Plateau of Yorubaland, part of the belt of high plains that extends through West Africa. Plateau surfaces here vary in elevation from about 228 meters to 372 meters (750 feet to 1,200 feet), with some dome-shaped hills attaining a height of 609 meters (2,000 feet).

North of the Niger-Benue valley lies a broad plateau, the Northern High Plains or the High Plains of Hausaland. The central section of the plateau extends for about 482 kilometers (300 miles) from east to west, with stepped plains ranging from about 183 meters (600 feet) at the outer edge to roughly 914 meters (3,000 feet) in the area surrounding the Jos Plateau. The Jos Plateau covers an area of about 7,770 square kilometers (3,000 square miles), separated from the surrounding area by pronounced escarpments. The area's general elevation is above 1,219 meters (4,000 feet), and some hills in its eastern section attain heights of over 1,767 meters (5,800 feet). The Jos Plateau contains tin and other metals that have made the region economically important.

The Biu Plateau to the east of the Gongola River basin covers about 5,180 square kilometers (2,000 square miles). The upper level of the plateau, from 609 to 914 meters (2,000 to 3,000 feet), is separated from the Northern High Plains by a pronounced escarpment. Inactive volcanic cones are found in the northern part of this area.


Kainji Lake was developed as a combined hydroelectric power and river navigation project. A dam built on the Niger River created the lake.


The Tropics is the name given to the region of the world that lies between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. The Tropic of Cancer is the parallel of latitude located at 23°30' north of the equator. The Tropic of Capricorn is located at the parallel of latitude that is 23°30' south of the equator. These imaginary lines mark the boundaries of an area in which the Sun will appear to be directly overhead, or at a 90° angle from Earth, at noon. North or south of these lines, the angle of the Sun at noon appears to be less than 90°. The lines were named for the constellations that the Sun crosses during the solstices (Capricorn on December 21 or 22 and Cancer on June 21 or 22).



Achebe, Chinua. Anthills of the Savannah. New York: Doubleday, 1987.

Africa South of the Sahara, 2002. Nigeria. London: Europa, 2001.

Floyd, Barry. Eastern Nigeria: A Geographical Review. London: Macmillan, 1969.

Grove, Alfred Thomas. The Changing Geography of Africa. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989.

Udo, Reuben K. Geographical Regions of Nigeria. London: Heinemann, 1970.

Web Site

Nigeria Today. (accessed June 18, 2003).

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923,770sq km (356,668sq mi)



capital (population):

Abuja (350,000)


Federal republic

ethnic groups:

Hausa 21%, Yoruba 21%, Ibo (or Igbo) 19%, Fulani 11%, Ibibio 6%


English (official)


Christianity (Protestant 26%, Roman Catholic 12%, others 11%), Islam 45%


Naira = 100 kobo

Republic in w Africa. The Federal Republic of Nigeria is the most populous nation in Africa. It has a sandy coastline, fringed by a belt of mangrove swamps and lagoons, which includes the former capital, Lagos. The Niger and Benue rivers meet in central Nigeria, and run s into the Niger Delta, where Benin City is situated. North of the coastal lowlands is a hilly region of rainforest and savanna. At the foot of the great plateau of Nigeria lies the city of Ibadan. The plateau is a region of high wooded and savanna plains, and includes the capital, Abuja. In the extreme ne lies the Lake Chad basin. In the nw lies the Sokoto plains. The Adamawa Highlands extend along the se border with Cameroon, and contain Nigeria's highest point, at 2042m (6699ft).

Climate and Vegetation

Lagos has a tropical climate, with high temperatures and rain throughout the year. The n is drier and often hotter than the s, though the highlands are cooler. Kano in n central Nigeria has a marked dry season from October to April. Behind the coastal swamps are rainforests, although farmers have cleared large areas. The plateau contains large areas of tropical savanna with forested river valleys. Open grassland and semi-arid scrub occur in drier areas. To the n lie the dry grasslands of the Sahel.

History and Politics

Excavations around the Nigerian village of Nok have uncovered some of the oldest and most beautiful examples of African sculpture. The Nok civilization flourished between 500 bc and ad 200. In the 11th century, the Kanem-Bornu kingdom extended s from Lake Chad into Nigeria, and the Hausa established several city-states. In sw Nigeria, the state of Benin and the Yoruba kingdom of Oyo flourished in the 15th century. They produced superb brass, bronze and ivory sculptures. The Songhai Empire dominated n Nigeria in the early 16th century.

The Portuguese were the first Europeans to reach the Nigerian coast, and they established trading links with Benin in the late 15th century. Nigeria became a centre of the slave trade, with major European powers competing for control. The Igbo established city-states built on the wealth of the trade. In the early 19th century, the Fulani captured many of the Hausa city-states. Sokoto retained its independence. The sw began a protracted civil war. In 1807, Britain renounced the slave trade, but other countries continued the practice. In 1861, Britain seized Lagos, ostensibly to stop the trade. By 1885, Britain controlled all of s Nigeria and gradually extended northwards. By 1906, Britain had conquered all of Nigeria, and divided the country into the Colony (Lagos) and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria and the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria. The two merged in 1914, and Britain ruled indirectly through colonial officials and local rulers. Cities, infrastructure and industries developed. In 1954, Nigeria federated into three regions (n, e, and w) plus the territory of Lagos. In 1960, Nigeria gained independence. It became a republic in 1963. The division of Nigeria into 30 states reflected the fact that it contains more than 250 ethnic and language groups, and several religious ones. In 1966, Igbo army officers staged a successful coup, but a Hausa-led coup quickly toppled the regime. In 1967, the Igbo, increasingly concerned for their safety within the federation, formed the independent republic of Biafra. For the next three years, civil war raged before Biafra finally capitulated.

The early 1970s were more peaceful. Nigeria expanded its oil industry and joined OPEC in 1971. Oil revenue created widespread government corruption and widened the wealth gap. Drought in the Sahel killed much livestock and led to mass migration to the s. After several military coups, civilian rule briefly returned in 1979. Following 1983 elections, the military seized power again. Between 1960 and 1996, Nigeria enjoyed only nine years of civilian government. The military government declared the 1993 presidential elections, won by Chief Moshood Abiola, invalid. The army commander in chief, General Sanni Abacha, gained power. In 1994, nationwide demonstrations prompted Abiola to form a rival government, but he was swiftly arrested. In 1995 Abacha received an open-ended term in office, vowing to restore civilian rule by 1998. His regime was criticized for human rights abuses and the suppression of opposition. After the execution of nine activists, Nigeria was suspended from the Commonwealth of Nations (1995–99).

In 1998, Abacha died and General Abubakar succeeded. In July 1998, Abiola's death in prison prompted widespread rioting. In 1999 elections, General Olusegun Obasanjo, a former military ruler (1976–79) of Nigeria, became president. In 2000, the adoption of Islamic Sharia law by some of Nigeria's n states led to violent clashes between Muslims and Christians.


Nigeria is a low income developing country, with great economic potential (2000 GDP per capita, US$950). Corruption is an endemic problem. Nigeria is the world's eleventh-largest producer of crude oil, which accounts for 95% of its exports. Agriculture employs 43% of the workforce. It is the world's third-largest producer of palm oil and palm kernels, fourth-largest producer of groundnuts, sixth-largest producer of cocoa, and seventh-largest producer of rubber. Cattle rearing is important in the n grasslands, while fishing is a major activity in the s. Manufacturing is diversifying. Products include chemicals and clothing. Nigeria has oil refineries, vehicle assembly plants, and steel mills.

Political map

Physical map


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NIGERIA A country of West Africa and the most populous country in Africa. Languages: English and the main languages of each state (official); the most widely spoken of the estimated 400 indigenous languages are Hausa (27%), Igbo (11%), Yoruba (18%); Nigerian Pidgin English is a widely used LINGUA FRANCA. English is the language of education after the first three years of primary school.


The Portuguese established the first trading posts along the Guinea coast in the 15c and various European nations traded in the area for gold, ivory, and slaves. British contacts with Nigeria go back at least to the 16c and varieties of English were well established in coastal areas in the 18c. British missionaries began to teach English in Nigeria during the first half of the 19c, but relations between Britain and parts of Nigeria were not formalized until 1861 when the settlement of Lagos was declared a colony. The Berlin Conference of 1885 recognized Britain's claim to the Oil Rivers Protectorate created in 1882 in the Niger delta area. This was enlarged and renamed the Niger Coast Protectorate in 1893. The Protectorate of Southern Nigeria and the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria were created in 1900 from territories controlled by the Royal Niger Company. These were amalgamated into the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria in 1914. Nigeria became independent in 1960, a republic within the Commonwealth in 1961, and a federal republic in 1963.

Nigerian English

A wide spectrum of English is used in Nigeria, including standard English whose spoken forms are influenced by various mother tongues, more general English whose structures are influenced by the mother tongues, the Indian English of many traders and teachers, and Nigerian Pidgin English, which is part of the continuum of WEST AFRICAN PIDGIN ENGLISH is used throughout the country as a lingua franca. It is sometimes acquired as a mother tongue in such urban areas as Calabar and Port Harcourt, but almost always in conjunction with one or more local languages. It has many forms that reflect mother-tongue and English influence and, although a number of PIDGIN dictionaries have been written and cyclostyled, it has not yet been standardized. It has been used in prose by many writers, including Chinua Achebe, and as a vehicle for poetry by Frank Aig-Imoukhuede and for drama by Ola Rotimi.


(1) All varieties of Nigerian English are non-rhotic. RP is no longer the norm for the media, but continues to have prestige and to influence pronunciation. (2) There is a tendency towards syllable-timing that becomes more pronounced as one moves from standard English to Pidgin. Polysyllables tend to have all syllables equally stressed. (3) The central vowels /ə/ and /ɪ/ in RP tend to be replaced by /a/, /ɔ/, or /ɛ/, so that but can rhyme with got or in hypercorrect forms with get, and all three can occur in church. (4) There are fewer vowel contrasts in Nigerian English: often no distinction between cheap and chip, caught, court, and cot, pool and pull. (5) The diphthongs in RP day and dough tend to become the single vowels /e/ and /o/; those in hear and hair tend to have the SCHWA replaced by /a/. (6) There are differences in the pronunciation of consonants in different parts of the country. The initial consonants in thin and then tend to be replaced by /t, d/ in Igbo and Yoruba-influenced English, and by /s, z/ in Hausa-influenced English. Igbo and Yoruba speakers tend to replace the final consonant /ʒ/ as in rouge by sh (‘roosh’), while Hausa speakers often use /dʒ/ (‘roodge’).


Educated Nigerians use standard forms especially in the written medium, but the following features are widely described as occurring in general Nigerian English: (1) Uncountable nouns are often treated as countable: I had only fruits to eat; I am grateful for your many advices. (2) Definite articles are sometimes used as if the rules of standard English have been reversed: Lorry was overcrowded; What do you think of the Structuralism? (3) The use of prepositions can differ from BrE and AmE norms: He came to my office by four o'clock (that is, at four o'clock); She is the best teacher for our school (in our school). (4) PHRASAL VERBS are sometimes used differently (as in He couldn't cope up with any more money worries) or drop their particles (Pick me at the corner: not pick me up). (5) The MODAL VERBS could and would are often used instead of can and will: He has assured me that he could come tomorrow; They say that he would be attending our next meeting. Will is also sometimes used for would: I will first of all like to thank you. (6) Themselves is often used with like/love for each other: The husband and wife loved themselves dearly; Why do they like themselves so much?


There are three groups of distinctive words in Nigerian English: (1) BORROWINGS from local languages and Pidgin: danshiki (Hausa) male gown, oga (Yoruba) master, boss, obanje (Igbo) spirit child, dash (Pidgin) to give, a gift. (2) LOANTRANSLATIONS from local languages: have long legs to exert influence, throw water to offer a bribe. (3) Items given local meanings or coined for local purposes: come, as in I'm coming I'll be with you soon, You've come! Welcome; decampee a person who moves to another political party; hear to understand, as in I hear French; senior elder, as in senior sister elder sister. See WEST AFRICAN ENGLISH.

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Nigeria. Former British colony and protectorate in West Africa. British missionaries arrived in Nigeria in the 1840s and in 1853 Lagos was annexed as a British colony as part of the campaign to halt the West African slave trade. When the activities of legitimate British traders in the Niger delta region were threatened by French rivals, the British government took responsibility for the conquest of the interior in 1900. The presence of powerful Muslim emirates in the north and of disparate systems of tribal organization in the south resulted in the division of Nigeria by the British into three distinct administrative regions, amalgamated under one central authority in 1914. Cocoa and palm-oil products brought a measure of wealth to the two southern regions but the north remained poor. The religious and economic differences between north and south resulted in the creation of an uneasy federal system of government when Nigeria became independent in 1960. The declaration of independence by the province of Biafra in 1966 provoked a bloody civil war, and though the Biafrans were defeated in 1970, Nigeria, a large and populous country, remains a prey to military coups.

Kenneth Ingham

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Culture Name



Identification. Though there is archaeological evidence that societies have been living in Nigeria for more than twenty-five hundred years, the borders of modern Nigeria were not created until the British consolidated their colonial power over the area in 1914.

The name Nigeria was suggested by British journalist Flora Shaw in the 1890s. She referred to the area as Nigeria, after the Niger River, which dominates much of the country's landscape. The word niger is Latin for black.

More than 250 ethnic tribes call present-day Nigeria home. The three largest and most dominant ethnic groups are the Hausa, Yoruba, and Igbo (pronounced ee-bo). Other smaller groups include the Fulani, Ijaw, Kanuri, Ibibio, Tiv, and Edo. Prior to their conquest by Europeans, these ethnic groups had separate and independent histories. Their grouping together into a single entity known as Nigeria was a construct of their British colonizers. These various ethnic groups never considered themselves part of the same culture. This general lack of Nigerian nationalism coupled with an ever-changing and often ethnically biased national leadership, have led to severe internal ethnic conflicts and a civil war. Today bloody confrontations between or among members of different ethnic groups continue.

Location and Geography. Nigeria is in West Africa, along the eastern coast of the Gulf of Guinea, and just north of the equator. It is bordered on the west by Benin, on the north by Niger and Chad, and on the east by Cameroon. Nigeria covers an area of 356,669 square miles (923,768 square kilometers), or about twice the size of California.

Nigeria has three main environmental regions: savanna, tropical forests, and coastal wetlands. These environmental regions greatly affect the cultures of the people who live there. The dry, open grasslands of the savanna make cereal farming and herding a way of life for the Hausa and the Fulani. The wet tropical forests to the south are good for farming fruits and vegetablesmain income producers for the Yoruba, Igbo, and others in this area. The small ethnic groups living along the coast, such as the Ijaw and the Kalabari, are forced to keep their villages small due to lack of dry land. Living among creeks, lagoons, and salt marshes makes fishing and the salt trade part of everyday life in the area.

The Niger and Benue Rivers come together in the center of the country, creating a "Y" that splits Nigeria into three separate sections. In general, this "Y" marks the boundaries of the three major ethnic groups, with the Hausa in the north, the Yoruba in the southwest, and the Igbo in the southeast.

Politically, Nigeria is divided into thirty-six states. The nation's capital was moved from Lagos, the country's largest city, to Abuja on 12 December 1991. Abuja is in a federal territory that is not part of any state. While Abuja is the official capital, its lack of adequate infrastructure means that Lagos remains the financial, commercial, and diplomatic center of the country.

Demography. Nigeria has the largest population of any African country. In July 2000, Nigeria's population was estimated at more than 123 million people. At about 345 people per square mile, it is also the most densely populated country in Africa. Nearly one in six Africans is a Nigerian. Despite the rampages of AIDS, Nigeria's population continues to grow at about 2.6 percent each year. The Nigerian population is very young. Nearly 45 percent of its people are under age fourteen.

With regard to ethnic breakdown, the Hausa-Fulani make up 29 percent of the population, followed by the Yoruba with 21 percent, the Igbo with 18 percent, the Ijaw with 10 percent, the Kanuri with 4 percent, the Ibibio with 3.5 percent, and the Tiv with 2.5 percent.

Major urban centers include Lagos, Ibidan, Kaduna, Kano, and Port Harcourt.

Linguistic Affiliations. English is the official language of Nigeria, used in all government interactions and in state-run schools. In a country with more than 250 individual tribal languages, English is the only language common to most people.

Unofficially, the country's second language is Hausa. In northern Nigeria many people who are not ethnic Hausas speak both Hausa and their own tribal language. Hausa is the oldest known written language in West Africa, dating back to before 1000 c.e.

The dominant indigenous languages of the south are Yoruba and Igbo. Prior to colonization, these languages were the unifying languages of the southwest and southeast, respectively, regardless of ethnicity. However, since the coming of the British and the introduction of mission schools in southern Nigeria, English has become the language common to most people in the area. Today those who are not ethnic Yorubas or Igbos rarely speak Yoruba or Igbo.

Pidgin, a mix of African languages and English, also is common throughout southern Nigeria. It basically uses English words mixed into Yoruban or Igbo grammar structures. Pidgin originally evolved from the need for British sailors to find a way to communicate with local merchants. Today it is often used in ethnically mixed urban areas as a common form of communication among people who have not had formal education in English.

Symbolism. Because there is little feeling of national unity among Nigeria's people, there is little in terms of national symbolism. What exists was usually created or unveiled by the government as representative of the nation. The main national symbol is the country's flag. The flag is divided vertically into three equal parts; the center section is white, flanked by two green sections. The green of the flag represents agriculture, while the white stands for unity and peace. Other national symbols include the national coat of arms, the national anthem, the National Pledge (similar to the Pledge of Allegiance in the United States), and Nigeria's national motto: Peace and Unity, Strength and Progress.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. Every ethnic group in Nigeria has its own stories of where its ancestors came from. These vary from tales of people descending from the sky to stories of migration from far-off places. Archaeologists have found evidence of Neolithic humans who inhabited what is now Nigeria as far back as 12,000 b.c.e.

The histories of the people in northern and southern Nigeria prior to colonization followed vastly different paths. The first recorded empire in present-day Nigeria was centered in the north at Kanem-Borno, near Lake Chad. This empire came to power during the eighth century c.e. By the thirteenth century, many Hausa states began to emerge in the region as well.

Trans-Sahara trade with North Africans and Arabs began to transform these northern societies greatly. Increased contact with the Islamic world led to the conversion of the Kanem-Borno Empire to Islam in the eleventh century. This led to a ripple effect of conversions throughout the north. Islam brought with it changes in law, education, and politics.

The trans-Sahara trade also brought with it revolutions in wealth and class structure. As the centuries went on, strict Islamists, many of whom were poor Fulani, began to tire of increasing corruption, excessive taxation, and unfair treatment of the poor. In 1804 the Fulani launched a jihad, or Muslim holy war, against the Hausa states in an attempt to cleanse them of these non-Muslim behaviors and to reintroduce proper Islamic ways. By 1807 the last Hausa state had fallen. The Fulani victors founded the Sokoto Caliphate, which grew to become the largest state in West Africa until its conquest by the British in 1903.

In the south, the Oyo Empire grew to become the most powerful Yoruban society during the sixteenth century. Along the coast, the Edo people established the Benin Empire (not to be confused with the present-day country of Benin to the west), which reached its height of power in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

As in the north, outsiders heavily influenced the societies of southern Nigeria. Contact with Europeans began with the arrival of Portuguese ships in 1486. The British, French, and Dutch soon followed. Soon after their arrival, the trade in slaves replaced the original trade in goods. Many of the coastal communities began selling their neighbors, whom they had captured in wars and raids, to the Europeans in exchange for things such as guns, metal, jewelry, and liquor.

The slave trade had major social consequences for the Africans. Violence and intertribal warfare increased as the search for slaves intensified. The increased wealth accompanying the slave trade began to change social structures in the area. Leadership, which had been based on tradition and ritual, soon became based on wealth and economic power.

After more than 350 years of slave trading, the British decided that the slave trade was immoral and, in 1807, ordered it stopped. They began to force their newfound morality on the Nigerians. Many local leaders, however, continued to sell captives to illegal slave traders. This lead to confrontations with the British Navy, which took on the responsibility of enforcing the slave embargo. In 1851 the British attacked Lagos to try to stem the flow of slaves from the area. By 1861 the British government had annexed the city and established its first official colony in Nigeria.

As the nonslave trade began to flourish, so, too, did the Nigerian economy. A new economy based on raw materials, agricultural products, and locally manufactured goods saw the growth of a new class of Nigerian merchants. These merchants were heavily influenced by Western ways. Many soon became involved in politics, often criticizing chiefs for keeping to their traditional ways. A new divide within the local communities began to develop, in terms of both wealth and politics. Because being a successful merchant was based on production and merit, not on traditional community standing, many former slaves and lower-class people soon found that they could advance quickly up the social ladder. It was not unusual to find a former slave transformed into the richest, most powerful man in the area.

Christian missionaries brought Western-style education to Nigeria as Christianity quickly spread throughout the south. The mission schools created an educated African elite who also sought increased contact with Europe and a Westernization of Nigeria.

In 1884, as European countries engaged in a race to consolidate their African territories, the British Army and local merchant militias set out to conquer the Africans who refused to recognize British rule. In 1914, after squelching the last of the indigenous opposition, Britain officially established the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria.

National Identity. The spread of overt colonial control led to the first and only time that the ethnic groups in modern Nigeria came together under a commonly felt sense of national identity. The Africans began to see themselves not as Hausas, Igbos, or Yorubas, but as Nigerians in a common struggle against their colonial rulers.

The nationalistic movement grew out of some of the modernization the British had instituted in Nigeria. The educated elite became some of the most outspoken proponents of an independent Nigeria. This elite had grown weary of the harsh racism it faced in business and administrative jobs within the government. Both the elite and the uneducated also began to grow fearful of the increasing loss of traditional culture. They began movements to promote Nigerian foods, names, dress, languages, and religions.

Increased urbanization and higher education brought large multiethnic groups together for the first time. As a result of this coming together, the Nigerians saw that they had more in common with each other than they had previously thought. This sparked unprecedented levels of interethnic teamwork. Nigerian political movements, media outlets, and trade unions whose purpose was the advancement of all Nigerians, not specific ethnic groups, became commonplace.

As calls for self-determination and a transfer of power into the hands of Nigerians grew, Britain began to divest more power into the regional governments. As a result of early colonial policies of divide and conquer, the regional governments tended to be drawn along ethnic lines. With this move to greater regional autonomy, the idea of a unified Nigeria became to crumble. Regionally and ethnically based political parties sprang up as ethnic groups began to wrangle for political influence.

Ethnic Relations. Nigeria gained full independence from Britain on 1 October 1960. Immediately following independence, vicious fighting between and among political parties created chaos within the fledgling democracy. On 15 January 1966 a group of army officers, most of whom were Igbo, staged a military coup, killing many of the government ministers from the western and northern tribes. Six months later, northern forces within the military staged a countercoup, killing most of the Igbo leaders. Anti-Igbo demonstrations broke out across the country, especially in the north. Hundreds of Igbos were killed, while the rest fled to the southeast.

On 26 May 1967 the Igbo-dominated southeast declared it had broken away from Nigeria to form the independent Republic of Biafra. This touched off a bloody civil war that lasted for three years. In 1970, on the brink of widespread famine resulting from a Nigeria-imposed blockade, Biafra was forced to surrender. Between five hundred thousand and two million Biafran civilians were killed during the civil war, most dying from starvation, not combat.

Following the war, the military rulers encouraged a national reconciliation, urging Nigerians to once again become a unified people. While this national reconciliation succeeded in reintegrating the Biafrans into Nigeria, it did not end the problems of ethnicity in the country. In the years that followed, Nigeria was continually threatened by disintegration due to ethnic fighting. These ethnic conflicts reached their height in the 1990s.

After decades of military rule, elections for a new civilian president were finally held on 12 June 1993. A wealthy Yoruba Muslim named Moshood Abiola won the elections, beating the leading Hausa candidate. Abiola won support not only from his own people but from many non-Yorubas as well, including many Hausas. This marked the first time since Nigeria's independence that Nigerians broke from ethnically based voting practices. Two weeks later, however, the military regime had the election results annulled and Abiola imprisoned. Many commanders in the Hausa-dominated military feared losing control to a southerner. They played on the nation's old ethnic distrusts, hoping that a divided nation would be easier to control. This soon created a new ethnic crisis. The next five years saw violent protests and mass migrations as ethnic groups again retreated to their traditional homelands.

The sudden death of Nigeria's last military dictator, General Suni Abacha, on 8 June 1998 opened the door for a transition back to civilian rule. Despite age-old ethnic rivalries, many Nigerians again crossed ethnic lines when they entered the voting booth. On 22 February 1999 Olusegun Obasanjo, a Yoruba who ironically lacked support from his own people, won the presidential election. Obasanjo is seen as a nationalist who opposed ethnic divisions. However, some northern leaders believe he favors his own ethnic group.

Unfortunately, violent ethnic fighting in Nigeria continues. In October 2000, clashes between Hausas and supporters of the Odua People's Congress (OPC), a militant Yoruba group, led to the deaths of nearly a hundred people in Lagos. Many also blame the OPC for sparking riots in 1999, which killed more than a hundred others, most of them Hausas.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

With the influx of oil revenue and foreigners, Nigerian cities have grown to resemble many Western urban centers. Lagos, for example, is a massive, overcrowded city filled with traffic jams, movie theaters, department stores, restaurants, and supermarkets. Because most Nigerian cities grew out of much older towns, very little urban planning was used as the cities expanded. Streets are laid out in a confusing and often mazelike fashion, adding to the chaos for pedestrians and traffic. The influx of people into urban areas has put a strain on many services. Power cuts and disruptions of telephone service are not uncommon.

Nigerian architecture is as diverse as its people. In rural areas, houses often are designed to accommodate the environment in which the people live. The Ijo live in the Niger Delta region, where dry land is very scarce. To compensate for this, many Ijo homes are built on stilts over creeks and swamps, with travel between them done by boat. The houses are made of wood and bamboo and topped with a roof made of fronds from raffia palms. The houses are very airy, to allow heat and the smoke from cooking fires to escape easily.

Igbo houses tend to be made of a bamboo frame held together with vines and mud and covered with banana leaves. They often blend into the surrounding forest and can be easily missed if you don't know where to look. Men and women traditionally live in separate houses.

Much of the architecture in the north is heavily influenced by Muslim culture. Homes are typically geometric, mud-walled structures, often with Muslim markings and decorations. The Hausa build large, walled compounds housing several smaller huts. The entryway into the compound is via a large hut built into the wall of the compound. This is the hut of the father or head male figure in the compound.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. Western influences, especially in urban centers, have transformed Nigerian eating habits in many ways. City dwellers are familiar with the canned, frozen, and prepackaged foods found in most Western-style supermarkets. Foreign restaurants also are common in larger cities. However, supermarkets and restaurants often are too expensive for the average Nigerian; thus only the wealthy can afford to eat like Westerners. Most urban Nigerians seem to combine traditional cuisine with a little of Western-style foods and conveniences. Rural Nigerians tend to stick more with traditional foods and preparation techniques.

Food in Nigeria is traditionally eaten by hand. However, with the growing influence of Western culture, forks and spoons are becoming more common, even in remote villages. Whether people eat with their hand or a utensil, it is considered dirty and rude to eat using the left hand.

While the ingredients in traditional plates vary from region to region, most Nigerian cuisine tends to be based around a few staple foods accompanied by a stew. In the south, crops such as corn, yams, and sweet potatoes form the base of the diet. These vegetables are often pounded into a thick, sticky dough or paste. This is often served with a palm oilbased stew made with chicken, beef, goat, tomatoes, okra, onions, bitter leaves, or whatever meats and vegetables might be on hand. Fruits such as papaya, pineapples, coconuts, oranges, mangoes, and bananas also are very common in the tropical south.

In the north, grains such as millet, sorghum, and corn are boiled into a porridge-like dish that forms the basis of the diet. This is served with an oilbased soup usually flavored with onions, okra, and tomatoes. Sometimes meat is included, though among the Hausa it is often reserved for special occasions. Thanks to the Fulani cattle herders, fresh milk and yogurt are common even though there may not be refrigeration.

Alcohol is very popular in the south but less so in the north, where there is a heavy Islamic influence. Perhaps the most popular form of alcohol is palm wine, a tart alcoholic drink that comes from palm trees. Palm wine is often distilled further to make a strong, ginlike liquor. Nigerian breweries also produce several kinds of beer and liquor.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. Food plays a central role in the rituals of virtually all ethnic groups in Nigeria. Special ceremonies would not be complete without participants sharing in a meal. Normally it is considered rude not to invite guests to share in a meal when they visit; it is even more so if the visitors were invited to attend a special event such as a marriage or a naming ceremony.

Basic Economy. Until the past few decades, Nigeria had been self-sufficient in producing enough food to feed the population. However, as petroleum production and industry began to boom in Nigeria, much of the national resources were concentrated on the new industries at the expense of agriculture. Nigeria, which had previously been a net exporter of agricultural products, soon needed to import vast amounts of food it once was able to produce for itself.

Since the 1960s, Nigeria's economy has been based on oil production. As a leading member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Nigeria has played a major role in influencing the price of oil on the world market. The oil-rich economy led to a major economic boom for Nigeria during the 1970s, transforming the poor African country into the thirtieth richest country in the world. However, falling oil prices, severe corruption, political instability, and economic mismanagement since then have left Nigeria no better off today than it was at independence.

Since the restoration of civilian rule in 1999, Nigeria has begun to make strides in economic reform. While hopes are high for a strong economic transformation, high unemployment, high inflation, and more than a third of the population living under the poverty line indicate it will be a long and difficult road.

Oil production has had some long-lasting ethnic consequences as well. While oil is Nigeria's largest industry in terms of output and revenue, oil reserves are found only in the Niger Delta region and along the coast. The government has long taken the oil revenues and dispersed them throughout the country. In this way, states not involved in oil production still get a share of the profits. This has led to claims that the minority ethnic groups living in the delta are being cheated out of revenue that is rightfully theirs because the larger ethnic groups dominate politics. Sometimes this has led to large-scale violence.

More than 50 percent of Nigeria's population works in the agriculture sector. Most farmers engage in subsistence farming, producing only what they eat themselves or sell locally. Very few agricultural products are produced for export.

Land Tenure and Property. While the federal government has the legal right to allocate land as it sees fit, land tenure remains largely a local issue. Most local governments follow traditional land tenure customs in their areas. For example, in Hausa society, title to land is not an absolute right. While communities and officials will honor long-standing hereditary rights to areas of land traditionally claimed by a given family, misused or abandoned land may be reapportioned for better use. Land also can be bought, sold, or rented. In the west, the Yoruban kings historically held all the land in trust, and therefore also had a say in how it was used for the good of the community. This has given local governments in modern times a freer hand in settling land disputes.

Traditionally, only men hold land, but as the wealth structure continues to change and develop in Nigeria, it would not be unheard of for a wealthy woman to purchase land for herself.

Major Industries. Aside from petroleum and petroleum-based products, most of the goods produced in Nigeria are consumed within Nigeria. For example, though the textile industry is very strong, nearly all the cloth produced in Nigeria goes to clothing the large Nigerian population.

Major agricultural products produced in Nigeria include cocoa, peanuts, palm oil, rice, millet, corn, cassava, yams, rubber, cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, timber, and fish. Major commercial industries in Nigeria include coal, tin, textiles, footwear, fertilizer, printing, ceramics, and steel.

Trade. Oil and petroleum-based products made up 95 percent of Nigeria's exports in 1998. Cocoa and rubber are also produced for export. Major export partners include the United States, Spain, India, France, and Italy.

Nigeria is a large-scale importer, depending on other countries for things such as machinery, chemicals, transportation equipment, and manufactured goods. The country also must import large quantities of food and livestock. Major import partners include the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, France, and the Netherlands.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. The highest tier of Nigerian society is made up of wealthy politicians, businessmen, and the educated elite. These people, however, make up only a tiny portion of the Nigerian population. Many Nigerians today suffer under great poverty. The lower classes tend have little chance of breaking from the vicious cycle of poverty. Poor education, lack of opportunities, ill health, corrupt politicians, and lack of even small amounts of wealth for investment all work to keep the lower classes in their place.

In some Nigerian ethnic groups there is also a form of caste system that treats certain members of society as pariahs. The criteria for determining who belongs to this lowest caste vary from area to area but can include being a member of a minority group, an inhabitant of a specific village, or a member of a specific family or clan. The Igbo call this lower-caste group Osu. Members of the community will often discourage personal, romantic, and business contact with any member of the Osu group, regardless of an individual's personal merits or characteristics. Because the Osu are designated as untouchable, they often lack political representation, access to basic educational or business opportunities, and general social interaction. This kind of caste system is also found among the Yoruba and the Ibibios.

Symbols of Social Stratification. Wealth is the main symbol of social stratification in modern Nigeria, especially in urban areas. While in the past many ethnic groups held hereditary titles and traditional lineage important, money has become the new marker of power and social status. Today the members of the wealthy elite are easily identifiable by their fancy clothing and hairstyles and by their expensive cars and Western-style homes. Those in the elite also tend to have a much better command of English, a reflection of the higher quality of education they have received.

Wealth also can be important in marking social boundaries in rural areas. In many ethnic groups, those who have accumulated enough wealth can buy themselves local titles. For example, among the Igbo, a man or a woman who has enough money may claim the title of Ozo. For women, one of the requirements to become an Ozo is to have enough ivory, coral, and other jewelry for the ceremony. The weight of the jewelry can often exceed fifty pounds. Both men and women who want to claim the title must also finance a feast for the entire community.

Political Life

Government. Nigeria is a republic, with the president acting as both head of state and head of government. Nigeria has had a long history of coups d'états, military rule, and dictatorship. However, this pattern was broken on 29 May 1999 as Nigeria's current president, Olusegun Obasanjo, took office following popular elections. Under the current constitution, presidential elections are to be held every four years, with no president serving more than two terms in office. The Nigerian legislature consists of two houses: a Senate and a House of Representatives. All legislators are elected to four-year terms. Nigeria's judicial branch is headed by a Supreme Court, whose members were appointed by the Provisional Ruling Council, which ruled Nigeria during its recent transition to democracy. All Nigerians over age eighteen are eligible to vote.

Leadership and Political Officials. A wealthy political elite dominates political life in Nigeria. The relationship between the political elite and ordinary Nigerians is not unlike that between nobles and commoners. Nigerian leaders, whether as members of a military regime or one of Nigeria's short-lived civilian governments, have a history of doing whatever it takes to stay in power and to hold on to the wealth that this power has given them.

Rural Nigerians tend to accept this noble-peasant system of politics. Low levels of education and literacy mean that many people in rural areas are not fully aware of the political process or how to affect it. Their relative isolation from the rest of the country means that many do not even think of politics. There is a common feeling in many rural areas that the average person cannot affect the politics of the country, so there is no reason to try.

Urban Nigerians tend to be much more vocal in their support of or opposition to their leaders. Urban problems of housing, unemployment, health care, sanitation, and traffic tend to mobilize people into political action and public displays of dissatisfaction.

Political parties were outlawed under the Abacha regime, and only came back into being after his death. As of the 1999 presidential elections, there were three main political parties in Nigeria: the People's Democratic Party (PDP), the All Peoples Party (APP), and the Alliance for Democracy (AD). The PDP is the party of President Obasanjo. It grew out of support for opposition leaders who were imprisoned by the military government in the early 1990s. The PDP is widely believed to have received heavy financial assistance from the military during the 1999 elections. The APP is led by politicians who had close ties to the Abacha regime. The AD is a party led by followers of the late Moshood Abiola, the Yoruba politician who won the general election in 1993, only to be sent to prison by the military regime.

Social Problems and Control. Perhaps Nigeria's greatest social problem is the internal violence plaguing the nation. Interethnic fighting throughout the country, religious rioting between Muslims and non-Muslims over the creation of Shari'a law (strict Islamic law) in the northern states, and political confrontations between ethnic minorities and backers of oil companies often spark bloody confrontations that can last days or even months. When violence of this type breaks out, national and state police try to control it. However, the police themselves are often accused of some of the worst violence. In some instances, curfews and martial law have been imposed in specific areas to try to stem outbreaks of unrest.

Poverty and lack of opportunity for many young people, especially in urban areas, have led to major crime. Lagos is considered one of the most dangerous cities in West Africa due to its incredibly high crime rate. The police are charged with controlling crime, but their lack of success often leads to vigilante justice.

In some rural areas there are some more traditional ways of addressing social problems. In many ethnic groups, such as the Igbo and the Yoruba, men are organized into secret societies. Initiated members of these societies often dress in masks and palm leaves to masquerade as the physical embodiment of traditional spirits to help maintain social order. Through ritual dance, these men will give warnings about problems with an individual's or community's morality in a given situation. Because belief in witchcraft and evil spirits is high throughout Nigeria, this kind of public accusation can instill fear in people and cause them to mend their ways. Members of secret societies also can act as judges or intermediaries in disputes.

Military Activity. Nigeria's military consists of an army, a navy, an air force, and a police force. The minimum age for military service is eighteen.

The Nigerian military is the largest and best-equipped military in West Africa. As a member of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Nigeria is the major contributor to the organization's military branch, known as ECOMOG. Nigerian troops made up the vast majority of the ECOMOG forces deployed to restore peace following civil wars in Liberia, Guinea-Bissau, and Sierra Leone. Public dissatisfaction with Nigeria's participation in the Sierra Leonean crisis was extremely high due to high casualty rates among the Nigerian soldiers. Nigeria pledged to pull out of Sierra Leone in 1999, prompting the United Nations to send in peacekeepers in an attempt stem the violence. While the foreign forces in Sierra Leone are now under the mandate of the United Nations, Nigerian troops still make up the majority of the peacekeepers.

Nigeria has a long-running border dispute with Cameroon over the mineral-rich Bakasi Peninsula, and the two nations have engaged in a series of cross-boarder skirmishes. Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger, and Chad also have a long-running border dispute over territory in the Lake Chad region, which also has led to some fighting across the borders.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

Severe poverty, human rights violations, and corruption are some of the major social ills that have plagued Nigeria for decades. Because Nigeria is in the midst of major political change, however, there is great hope for social reform in the country.

President Obasanjo's administration has been focusing much of its efforts on changing the world's image of Nigeria. Many foreign companies have been reluctant to invest in Nigeria for fear of political instability. Obasanjo hopes that if Nigeria can project the image of a stable nation, he can coax foreign investors to come to Nigeria and help bolster the country's failing economy. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are also working with Nigeria to develop economic policies that will revitalize the nation's economy.

Obasanjo also says that rooting out corruption in all levels of government is one of his top priorities. He signed the Anti-Corruption Act in June 2000, creating a special commission for investigating charges of corruption brought by ordinary Nigerians against government officials.

According to Amnesty International's 2000 report, Nigeria's new government continues to make strides in improving human rights throughout the country, most notably in the release of political prisoners. However, the detention of journalists critical of the military and reports of police brutality continue to be problems. Foreign governments and watchdog organizations continue to press the Nigerian government for further human rights reforms.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. In general, labor is divided in Nigerian society along gender lines. Very few women are active in the political and professional arenas. In urban areas, increasing numbers of women are becoming involved in the professional workforce, but they are greatly outnumbered by their male counterparts. Women who do manage to gain professional employment rarely make it into the higher levels of management.

However, women in Nigeria still play significant roles in the economy, especially in rural areas. Women are often expected to earn significant portions of the family income. As a rule, men have little obligation to provide for their wives or children. Therefore women have traditionally had to farm or sell homemade products in the local market to ensure that they could feed and clothe their children. The division of labor along gender lines even exists within industries. For example, the kinds of crops that women cultivate differ from those that men cultivate. In Igbo society, yams are seen as men's crops, while beans and cassava are seen as women's crops.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. Modern Nigeria is a patriarchal society. Men are dominant over women in virtually all areas. While Nigeria is a signatory to the international Convention on Equality for Women, it means little to the average Nigerian woman. Women still have fewer legal rights than men. According to Nigeria's Penal Code, men have the right to beat their wives as long as they do not cause permanent physical injury. Wives are often seen as little more than possessions and are subject to the rule of their husbands.

However, women can exercise influence in some areas. For example, in most ethnic groups, mothers and sisters have great say in the lives of their sons and brothers, respectively. The blood relationship allows these women certain leeway and influence that a wife does not have.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. There are three types of marriage in Nigeria today: religious marriage, civil marriage, and traditional marriage. A Nigerian couple may decide to take part in one or all of these marriages. Religious marriages, usually Christian or Muslim, are conducted according to the norms of the respective religious teachings and take place in a church or a mosque. Christian males are allowed only one wife, while Muslim men can take up to four wives. Civil official weddings take place in a government registry office. Men are allowed only one wife under a civil wedding, regardless of religion. Traditional marriages usually are held at the wife's house and are performed according to the customs of the ethnic group involved. Most ethnic groups traditionally allow more than one wife.

Depending on whom you ask, polygamy has both advantages and disadvantages in Nigerian society. Some Nigerians see polygamy as a divisive force in the family, often pitting one wife against another. Others see polygamy as a unifying factor, creating a built-in support system that allows wives to work as a team.

While Western ways of courtship and marriage are not unheard of, the power of traditional values and the strong influence of the family mean that traditional ways are usually followed, even in the cities and among the elite. According to old customs, women did not have much choice of whom they married, though the numbers of arranged marriages are declining. It is also not uncommon for women to marry in their teens, often to a much older man. In instances where there are already one or more wives, it is the first wife's responsibility to look after the newest wife and help her integrate into the family.

Many Nigerian ethnic groups follow the practice of offering a bride price for an intended wife. Unlike a dowry, in which the woman would bring something of material value to the marriage, a bride price is some form of compensation the husband must pay before he can marry a wife. A bride price can take the form of money, cattle, wine, or other valuable goods paid to the woman's family, but it also can take a more subtle form. Men might contribute money to the education of an intended wife or help to establish her in a small-scale business or agricultural endeavor. This form of bride price is often incorporated as part of the wooing process. While women who leave their husbands will be welcomed back into their families, they often need a justification for breaking the marriage. If the husband is seen as having treated his wife well, he can expect to have the bride price repaid.

Though customs vary from group to group, traditional weddings are often full of dancing and lively music. There is also lots of excitement and cultural displays. For example, the Yoruba have a practice in which the bride and two or three other women come out covered from head to toe in a white shroud. It is the groom's job to identify his wife from among the shrouded women to show how well he knows his wife.

Divorce is quite common in Nigeria. Marriage is more of a social contract made to ensure the continuation of family lines rather than a union based on love and emotional connections. It is not uncommon for a husband and wife to live in separate homes and to be extremely independent of one another. In most ethnic groups, either the man or the woman can end the marriage. If the woman leaves her husband, she will often be taken as a second or third wife of another man. If this is the case, the new husband is responsible for repaying the bride price to the former husband. Children of a divorced woman are normally accepted into the new family as well, without any problems.

Domestic Unit. The majority of Nigerian families are very large by Western standards. Many Nigerian men take more than one wife. In some ethnic groups, the greater the number of children, the greater a man's standing in the eyes of his peers. Family units of ten or more are not uncommon.

In a polygamous family, each wife is responsible for feeding and caring for her own children, though the wives often help each other when needed. The wives also will take turns feeding their husband so that the cost of his food is spread equally between or among the wives. Husbands are the authority figures in the household, and many are not used to their ideas or wishes being challenged.

In most Nigerian cultures, the father has his crops to tend to, while his wives will have their own jobs, whether they be tending the family garden, processing palm oil, or selling vegetables in the local market. Children may attend school. When they return home, the older boys will help their father with his work, while the girls and younger boys will go to their mothers.

Inheritance. For many Nigerian ethnic groups, such as the Hausa and the Igbo, inheritance is basically a male affair. Though women have a legal right to inheritance in Nigeria, they often receive nothing. This is a reflection of the forced economic independence many women live under. While their husbands are alive, wives are often responsible for providing for themselves and their children. Little changes economically after the death of the husband. Property and wealth are usually passed on to sons, if they are old enough, or to other male relatives, such as brothers or uncles.

For the Fulani, if a man dies, his brother inherits his property and his wife. The wife usually returns to live with her family, but she may move in with her husband's brother and become his wife.

Kin Groups. While men dominate Igbo society, women play an important role in kinship. All Igbos, men and women, have close ties to their mother's clan, which usually lives in a different village. When an Igbo dies, the body is usually sent back to his mother's village to be buried with his mother's kin. If an Igbo is disgraced or cast out of his community, his mother's kin will often take him in.

For the Hausa, however, there is not much of a sense of wide-ranging kinship. Hausa society is based on the nuclear family. There is a sense of a larger extended family, including married siblings and their families, but there is little kinship beyond that. However, the idea of blood being thicker than water is very strong in Hausa society. For this reason, many Hausas will try to stretch familial relationships to the broader idea of clan or tribe to diffuse tensions between or among neighbors.


Infant Care. Newborns in Nigerian societies are regarded with pride. They represent a community's and a family's future and often are the main reason for many marriages.

Throughout Nigeria, the bond between mother and child is very strong. During the first few years of a child's life, the mother is never far away. Nigerian women place great importance on breast-feeding and the bond that it creates between mother and child. Children are often not weaned off their mother's milk until they are toddlers.

Children who are too young to walk or get around on their own are carried on their mother's backs, secured by a broad cloth that is tied around the baby and fastened at the mother's breasts. Women will often carry their children on their backs while they perform their daily chores or work in the fields.

Child Rearing and Education. When children reach the age of about four or five, they often are expected to start performing a share of the household duties. As the children get older, their responsibilities grow. Young men are expected to help their fathers in the fields or tend the livestock. Young women help with the cooking, fetch water, or do laundry. These tasks help the children learn how to become productive members of their family and community. As children, many Nigerians learn that laziness is not acceptable; everyone is expected to contribute.

While children in most Nigerian societies have responsibilities, they also are allowed enough leeway to be children. Youngsters playing with homemade wooden dolls and trucks, or groups of boys playing soccer are common sights in any Nigerian village.

In many Nigerian ethnic groups, the education of children is a community responsibility. For example, in the Igbo culture the training of children is the work of both men and women, within the family and outside it. Neighbors often look after youngsters while parents may be busy with other chores. It is not strange to see a man disciplining a child who is not his own.

All Nigerian children are supposed to have access to a local elementary school. While the government aims to provide universal education for both boys and girls, the number of girls in class is usually much lower than the number of boys. Sending every child in a family to school can often put a lot of strain on a family. The family will lose the child's help around the house during school hours and will have to pay for uniforms and supplies. If parents are forced to send one child to school over another, many will choose to educate boys before girls.

Higher Education. Historically, Nigerians have been very interested in higher education. The lack of universities providing quality education equal to that in Britain was a major component of the social reforms that led to Nigeria's independence. Today there are forty-three universities in Nigeria. The majority of these are government-run, but the government has recently approved the creation of three private universities.

While Nigeria's system of higher education is the largest in Africa, the demand for higher education far exceeds the capacity of the facilities. There simply are not enough institutions to accommodate the demand. In 1998 only thirty-five thousand students were accepted to Nigerian universities out of a pool of more than four hundred thousand applicants.

Nigeria also has 125 technical training schools. The majority of these focus on polytechnic and agricultural training, with a few specializing in areas such as petroleum sciences and health.


Age is greatly respected in Nigeria. In an area where the average life expectancy is not very high, those who live into their senior years are seen as having earned special rights of respect and admiration. This is true of both men and women.

Socially, greetings are of the utmost importance. A handshake and a long list of well wishes for a counterpart's family and good health are expected when meeting someone. This is often true even if you have seen that person a short time earlier. Whether you are talking to a bank teller or visiting a friend, it is considered rude not to engage in a proper greeting before getting down to business.

Shaking hands, eating, or passing things with the left hand are unacceptable. The left hand is reserved for personal toiletries and is considered dirty.


Religious Beliefs. It is estimated that 50 percent of Nigerians are Muslim, 40 percent are Christian, and that the remaining 10 percent practice various indigenous religions.

While Muslims can be found in all parts of Nigeria, their strongest footholds are among the Hausa and the Yoruba. Islam in Nigeria is similar to Islam throughout the world. It is based on the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad, which are outlined in the Qur'an.

Christianity is most prevalent in the south of Nigeria. The vast majority of Igbo are Christians, as are many Yorubas. The most popular forms of Christianity in Nigeria include Anglican, Presbyterian, American Southern Baptist, and Methodist. Also, there are large pockets of Seventh-Day Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses.

Conflict with the way some missionaries administered the churches during colonial times also created several breakaway African-Christian churches. Most of these adhere to the doctrines of Western churches but have introduced African music and tradition to their Masses. Some have even eased Christian restrictions on polygamy.

Relations between Christians and Muslims are tense in many areas. Since late 1999, numerous clashes between the two have led to thousands of deaths. The northern city of Kaduna has been the flash point for many of these riots, as local leaders discussed whether to institute Shari'a law in the region. Demonstrations by Christians against the idea soon led to violent confrontations with Muslims. The debate over Shari'a law and the violence accompanying it continue in many of the northern states.

While Islam and Christianity are the dominant religions in Nigeria, neither is completely free of influence from indigenous religions. Most people who consider themselves good Muslims or good Christians often also follow local religious practices. This makes up for perceived shortcomings in their religion. Most indigenous religions are based on a form of