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Nigeria (/naɪˈdʒiriə/ ), officially the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is a country in West Africa. It is the most populous country in Africa; geographically situated between the Sahel to the north, and the Gulf of Guinea to the south in the Atlantic Ocean; covering an area of 923,769 square kilometres (356,669 sq mi), with a population of over 211 million. Nigeria borders Niger in the north, Chad in the northeast, Cameroon in the east, and Benin in the west. Nigeria is a federal republic comprising 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, where the capital, Abuja, is located. The largest city in Nigeria is Lagos, one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world and the second-largest in Africa.

Nigeria has been home to several indigenous pre-colonial states and kingdoms since the second millennium BC, with the Nok civilization in the 15th century BC marking the first internal unification in the country. The modern state originated with British colonialization in the 19th century, taking its present territorial shape with the merging of the Southern Nigeria Protectorate and Northern Nigeria Protectorate in 1914 by Lord Lugard. The British set up administrative and legal structures while practising indirect rule through traditional chiefdoms in the Nigeria region.[9] Nigeria became a formally independent federation on October 1, 1960. It experienced a civil war from 1967 to 1970, followed by a succession of democratically elected civilian governments and military dictatorships, until achieving a stable democracy in the 1999 presidential election; the 2015 election was the first time an incumbent president had lost re-election.[10]

Nigeria is a multinational state inhabited by more than 250 ethnic groups speaking 500 distinct languages, all identifying with a wide variety of cultures.[11][12][13] The three largest ethnic groups are the Hausa in the north, Yoruba in the west, and Igbo in the east, together comprising over 60% of the total population.[14] The official language is English, chosen to facilitate linguistic unity at the national level.[15] Nigeria’s constitution ensures freedom of religion[16] and it is home to some of the world’s largest Muslim and Christian populations, simultaneously.[17] Nigeria is divided roughly in half between Muslims, who live mostly in the north, and Christians, who live mostly in the south; indigenous religions, such as those native to the Igbo and Yoruba ethnicities, are in the minority.[18]

Nigeria’s economy is the largest in Africa, the 27th-largest in the world by nominal GDP, and 25th-largest by PPP. Nigeria is often referred to as the Giant of Africa owing to its large population and economy[19] and is considered to be an emerging market by the World Bank. It is a regional power in Africa, a middle power in international affairs, and is an emerging global power. However, the country ranks very low in the Human Development Index and remains one of the most corrupt nations in the world.[20][21] Nigeria is a founding member of the African Union and a member of many international organizations, including the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Nations, NAM,[22] the Economic Community of West African States, and OPEC. It is also a member of the informal MINT group of countries and is one of the Next Eleven economies.

Federal Republic of NigeriaJamhuriyar Taraiyar ta Najeriya  (Hausa)Orílẹ̀-èdè Olómìniira Àpapọ̀ Nàìjíríà  (Yoruba)Ọ̀hàńjíkọ̀ Ọ̀hànézè Naìjíríyà  (Igbo)
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: “Unity and Faith, Peace and Progress”
Anthem: “Arise, O Compatriots
Show globeShow map of AfricaShow all
9°4′N 7°29′E
Largest cityLagos
Official languagesEnglish
National languagesHausa Igbo Yoruba
Other languages[2]Over 525 languages[1] including:
Ethnic groups (2018)[3]30% Hausa 15.5% Yoruba 15.2% Igbo 6% Fulani 2.4% Tiv 2.4% Kanuri 2% Ibibio 1.8% Ijaw 24.7% Other
GovernmentFederal presidential republic
• PresidentMuhammadu Buhari
• Vice PresidentYemi Osinbajo
• Senate PresidentAhmed Lawan
• House SpeakerFemi Gbajabiamila
• Chief JusticeTanko Muhammad
LegislatureNational Assembly
• Upper houseSenate
• Lower houseHouse of Representatives
Independence from United Kingdom
• Declaration1 October 1960
• Federation1 October 1963
• Current constitution29 May 1999
• Total923,769 km2 (356,669 sq mi) (32nd)
• Water (%)1.4
• 2021 estimate211,400,708[4] (7th)
• 2006 census140,431,691
• Density218/km2 (564.6/sq mi) (42nd)
GDP (PPP)2021 estimate
• Total$1.116 trillion[5] (25th)
• Per capita$5,280 (129th)
GDP (nominal)2021 estimate
• Total$514.049 billion[5] (27th)
• Per capita$2,432 (137th)
Gini (2020)Positive decrease 35.1[6]
HDI (2019)Increase 0.539[7]
low · 161st
CurrencyNaira (₦) (NGN)
Time zoneUTC+01:00 (WAT)
Driving sideright[8]
Calling code+234
ISO 3166 codeNG

British colonization

A changing legal imperative (the transatlantic slave trade was outlawed by Britain in 1807) and economic imperative (a desire for political and social stability) led most European powers to support the widespread cultivation of agricultural products, such as the palm, for use in European industry. The Atlantic slave trade was engaged in by European companies until it was outlawed in 1807. After that illegal smugglers purchased slaves along the coast by native slavers. Britain’s West Africa Squadron sought to intercept the smugglers at sea. The rescued slaves were taken to Freetown, a colony in West Africa originally established by Lieutenant John Clarkson for the resettlement of slaves freed by Britain in North America after the American Revolutionary War.

Britain intervened in the Lagos kingship power struggle by bombarding Lagos in 1851, deposing the slave-trade-friendly Oba Kosoko, helping to install the amenable Oba Akitoye and signing the Treaty between Great Britain and Lagos on 1 January 1852. Britain annexed Lagos as a crown colony in August 1861 with the Lagos Treaty of Cession. British missionaries expanded their operations and travelled further inland. In 1864, Samuel Ajayi Crowther became the first African bishop of the Anglican Church.[46]

In 1885, British claims to a West African sphere of influence received recognition from other European nations at the Berlin Conference. The following year, it chartered the Royal Niger Company under the leadership of Sir George Taubman Goldie. By the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the company had vastly succeeded in subjugating the independent southern kingdoms along the Niger River, the British conquered Benin in 1897, and, in the Anglo-Aro War (1901–1902), defeated other opponents. The defeat of these states opened up the Niger area to British rule. In 1900, the company’s territory came under the direct control of the British government and established the Southern Nigeria Protectorate as a British protectorate and part of the British Empire, the foremost world power at the time.

By 1902, the British had begun plans to move north into the Sokoto Caliphate. British General Lord Frederick Lugard was tasked by the Colonial Office to implement the agenda. Lugard used rivalries between many of the emirs in the southern reach of the caliphate and the central Sokoto administration to prevent any defence as he worked towards the capital. As the British approached the city of Sokoto, Sultan Muhammadu Attahiru I organized a quick defence of the city and fought the advancing British-led forces. The British force quickly won, sending Attahiru I and thousands of followers on a Mahdist hijra. In the northeast, the decline of the Bornu Empire gave rise to the British-controlled Borno Emirate which established Abubakar Garbai of Borno as ruler.

In 1903, the British victory in the Battle of Kano gave them a logistical edge in pacifying the heartland of the Sokoto Caliphate and parts of the former Bornu Empire. On 13 March 1903, at the grand market square of Sokoto, the last vizier of the caliphate officially conceded to British rule. The British appointed Muhammadu Attahiru II as the new caliph. Lugard abolished the caliphate but retained the title sultan as a symbolic position in the newly organized Northern Nigeria Protectorate. This remnant became known as “Sokoto Sultanate Council“. In June 1903, the British defeated the remaining forces of Attahiru I and killed him; by 1906 resistance to British rule had ended.

On 1 January 1914, the British formally united the Southern Nigeria Protectorate and the Northern Nigeria Protectorate into the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria. Administratively, Nigeria remained divided into the Northern and Southern Protectorates and Lagos Colony. Inhabitants of the southern region sustained more interaction, economic and cultural, with the British and other Europeans owing to the coastal economy.[47] Following World War II, in response to the growth of Nigerian nationalism and demands for independence, successive constitutions legislated by the British government moved Nigeria toward self-government on a representative and increasingly federal basis. By the middle of the 20th century, a great wave for independence was sweeping across Africa.

Christian missions established Western educational institutions in the protectorates. Under Britain’s policy of indirect rule and validation of Islamic tradition, the Crown did not encourage the operation of Christian missions in the northern, Islamic part of the country.[48] Some children of the southern elite went to Great Britain to pursue higher education. By independence in 1960, regional differences in modern educational access were marked. The legacy, though less pronounced, continues to the present day. Imbalances between north and south were expressed in Nigeria’s political life as well. For instance, northern Nigeria did not outlaw slavery until 1936 whilst in other parts of Nigeria slavery was abolished soon after colonialism.[49][41]

Nigeria gained a degree of self-rule in 1954, and full independence from the United Kingdom on October 1, 1960, as the Federation of Nigeria with Abubakar Tafawa Balewa as its prime minister, while retaining the British monarch, Elizabeth II, as nominal head of state and Queen of Nigeria. Azikiwe replaced the colonial governor-general in November 1960. At independence, the cultural and political differences were sharp among Nigeria’s dominant ethnic groups: the Hausa in the north, Igbo in the east and Yoruba in the west.[50]

The founding government was a coalition of conservative parties: the Northern People’s Congress led by Sir Ahmadu Bello, a party dominated by Muslim northerners, and the Igbo and Christian-dominated National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons led by Nnamdi Azikiwe. The opposition comprised the comparatively liberal Action Group, which was largely dominated by the Yoruba and led by Obafemi Awolowo. An imbalance was created in the polity as the result of the 1961 plebiscite. Southern Cameroons opted to join the Republic of Cameroon while Northern Cameroons chose to join Nigeria. The northern part of the country became larger than the southern part.


Main article: Law of Nigeria

The country has a judicial branch, with the highest court being the Supreme Court of Nigeria.[94] There are three distinct systems of law in Nigeria:

  • Common law, derived from its British colonial past, and development of its own after independence;
  • Customary law, derived from indigenous traditional norms and practice, including the dispute resolution meetings of pre-colonial Yorubaland secret societies such as the Oyo Mesi and Ogboni, as well as the Ekpe and Okonko of Igboland and Ibibioland;
  • Sharia law, used only in the predominantly Muslim northern states of the country. It is an Islamic legal system that had been used long before the colonial administration.


Main article: Nigerian Armed Forces

The Nigerian military is charged with protecting the Federal Republic of Nigeria, promoting Nigeria’s global security interests, and supporting peacekeeping efforts, especially in West Africa. This is in support of the doctrine sometimes called Pax Nigeriana. The Nigerian Military consists of an army, a navy, and an air force.[94] The military in Nigeria has played a major role in the country’s history since independence. Various juntas have seized control of the country and ruled it through most of its history. Its last period of military rule ended in 1999 following the sudden death of Sani Abacha in 1998. His successor, Abdulsalam Abubakar, handed over power to the democratically elected government of Olusegun Obasanjo the next year.

As Africa’s most populated country, Nigeria has repositioned its military as a peacekeeping force on the continent. Since 1995, the Nigerian military, through ECOMOG mandates, has been deployed as peacekeepers in Liberia (1997), Ivory Coast (1997–1999), and Sierra Leone (1997–1999).[100] Under an African Union mandate, it has stationed forces in Sudan’s Darfur region to try to establish peace. The Nigerian military has been deployed across West Africa, curbing terrorism in countries like Mali, Senegal, Chad, and Cameroon, as well as dealing with the Mali War, and getting Yahya Jammeh out of power in 2017.[citation needed]

Administrative Divisions

Main article: Administrative divisions of Nigeria

Nigeria is divided into thirty-six states and one Federal Capital Territory, which are further sub-divided into 774 local government areas. In some contexts, the states are aggregated into six geopolitical zones: North West, North East, North Central, South West, South East, and South-South.[110][111]

Nigeria has five cities with a population of over a million (from largest to smallest): Lagos, Kano, Ibadan, Benin City and Port Harcourt. Lagos is the largest city in Africa, with a population of over 12 million in its urban area.[112]


Main articles: Geography of Nigeria and Geology of Nigeria

Nigeria is located in western Africa on the Gulf of Guinea and has a total area of 923,768 km2 (356,669 sq mi),[113] making it the world’s 32nd-largest country. Its borders span 4,047 kilometres (2,515 mi), and it shares borders with Benin (773 km or 480 mi), Niger (1,497 km or 930 mi), Chad (87 km or 54 mi), and Cameroon (including the separatist Ambazonia) 1,690 km or 1,050 mi. Its coastline is at least 853 km (530 mi).[114] Nigeria lies between latitudes and 14°N, and longitudes and 15°E. The highest point in Nigeria is Chappal Waddi at 2,419 m (7,936 ft). The main rivers are the Niger and the Benue, which converge and empty into the Niger Delta. This is one of the world’s largest river deltas and the location of a large area of Central African mangroves.

Nigeria’s most expansive topographical region is that of the valleys of the Niger and Benue river valleys (which merge and form a Y-shape).[115] To the southwest of the Niger is a “rugged” highland. To the southeast of the Benue are hills and mountains, which form the Mambilla Plateau, the highest plateau in Nigeria. This plateau extends through the border with Cameroon, where the montane land is part of the Bamenda Highlands of Cameroon.


Nigeria has a varied landscape. The far south is defined by its tropical rainforest climate, where annual rainfall is 1,500 to 2,000 millimetres (60 to 80 in) per year.[116] In the southeast stands the Obudu Plateau. Coastal plains are found in both the southwest and the southeast.[115] Mangrove swamps are found along the coast.[117]

The area near the border with Cameroon close to the coast is rich rainforest and part of the Cross-Sanaga-Bioko coastal forests ecoregion, an important centre for biodiversity. It is a habitat for the drill primate, which is found in the wild only in this area and across the border in Cameroon. The areas surrounding Calabar, Cross River State, also in this forest, are believed to contain the world’s largest diversity of butterflies. The area of southern Nigeria between the Niger and the Cross Rivers has lost most of its forest because of development and harvesting by increased population, with it being replaced by grassland.

Everything in between the far south and the far north is savannah (insignificant tree cover, with grasses and flowers located between trees). Rainfall is more limited to between 500 and 1,500 millimetres (20 and 60 in) per year.[116] The savannah zone’s three categories are Guinean forest-savanna mosaic, Sudan savannah, and Sahel savannah. Guinean forest-savanna mosaic is plains of tall grass interrupted by trees. Sudan savannah is similar but with shorter grasses and shorter trees. Sahel savannah consists of patches of grass and sand, found in the northeast.[117] In the Sahel region, rain is less than 500 millimetres (20 in) per year, and the Sahara Desert is encroaching.[116] In the dry northeast corner of the country lies Lake Chad, which Nigeria shares with Niger, Chad and Cameroon.

Environmental Issues

Main articles: Environmental issues in the Niger Delta and Deforestation in Nigeria

Nigeria’s Delta region, home of the large oil industry, experiences serious oil spills and other environmental problems, which has caused conflict in the Delta region.

Waste management including sewage treatment, the linked processes of deforestation and soil degradation, and climate change or global warming are the major environmental problems in Nigeria. Waste management presents problems in a megacity like Lagos and other major Nigerian cities which are linked with economic development, population growth and the inability of municipal councils to manage the resulting rise in industrial and domestic waste. This waste management problem is also attributable to unsustainable environmental management lifestyles of Kubwa community in the Federal Capital Territory, where there are habits of indiscriminate disposal of waste, dumping of waste along or into the canals, sewerage systems that are channels for water flows, and the like. Haphazard industrial planning, increased urbanisation, poverty and lack of competence of the municipal government are seen as the major reasons for high levels of waste pollution in major cities of the country. Some of the solutions have been disastrous to the environment, resulting in untreated waste being dumped in places where it can pollute waterways and groundwater.[124]

In 2005, Nigeria had the highest rate of deforestation in the world, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.[125] That year, 12.2%, the equivalent of 11,089,000 hectares had been forested in the country. Between 1990 and 2000, Nigeria lost an average of 409,700 hectares of forest every year equal to an average annual deforestation rate of 2.4%. Between 1990 and 2005, in total Nigeria lost 35.7% of its forest cover or around 6,145,000 hectares.[126] Nigeria had a 2019 Forest Landscape Integrity Index mean score of 6.2/10, ranking it 82nd globally out of 172 countries.[127]

In the year 2010, thousands of people were inadvertently exposed to lead-containing soil from informal gold mining within the northern state of Zamfara. While estimates vary, it is thought that upwards of 400 children died of acute lead poisoning, making this perhaps the largest lead poisoning fatality outbreak ever encountered.[128]


Main article: Economy of Nigeria

Nigeria’s mixed economy is the largest in Africa, the 26th-largest in the world by nominal GDP, and 25th-largest by PPP. It is a lower-middle-income economy,[129] with its abundant supply of natural resources, well-developed financial, legal, communications, transport sectors and Nigerian Stock Exchange. Economic development has been hindered by years of military rule, corruption, and mismanagement. The restoration of democracy and subsequent economic reforms have successfully put Nigeria back on track towards achieving its full economic potential. Next to petroleum, the second-largest source of foreign exchange earnings for Nigeria are remittances sent home by Nigerians living abroad.[130]

During the oil boom of the 1970s, Nigeria accumulated a significant foreign debt to finance major infrastructural investments. With the fall of oil prices during the 1980s oil glut, Nigeria struggled to keep up with its loan payments and eventually defaulted on its principal debt repayments, limiting repayment to the interest portion of the loans. Arrears and penalty interest accumulated on the unpaid principal, which increased the size of the debt. After negotiations by the Nigerian authorities, in October 2005 Nigeria and its Paris Club creditors reached an agreement under which Nigeria repurchased its debt at a discount of approximately 60%. Nigeria used part of its oil profits to pay the residual 40%, freeing up at least $1.15 billion annually for poverty reduction programmes. Nigeria made history in April 2006 by becoming the first African country to completely pay off its debt (estimated $30 billion) owed to the Paris Club.[citation needed]

Source: Nigeria, (last visited Jan. 9, 2022).

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