Area 356,667 square mi (923,768 square km)
Population 177.5 million (2014)
Capital Abuja
Highest Point 7,936 ft (2,419 m)
Lowest Point 0 m
GDP $568.5 billion (2014)
Primary Natural Resources oil, coal, tin, palm oil, peanuts, cotton, rubber.

NIGERIA, THE MOST populous nation in Africa, is bordered to the south by the Gulf of Guinea in the ATLANTIC OCEAN, and to the west and east by the Republic of BENIN and CAMEROON, respectively. The Republic of NIGER is across the border in the north. Nigeria's northeast neighbor is CHAD. It is slightly more than twice the size the state of CALIFORNIA.

Nigeria is a tropical country with tropical forests, savannas, mangroves, swamps, and rivers. The Benue and NIGER are the two main rivers in Nigeria. The Niger River flows through the south-central area and forms a large delta to the Atlantic Ocean. There are savannas in central Nigeria, mangrove forests along the coast, and plateaus in the north-central part of the country.


The most important plateau is the Jos Plateau with an elevation of 6,000 ft (1,829 m) above sea level. The far north is characterized by DESERT and some patchy grassland. The climate of Nigeria is hot and humid, though humidity is less than that encountered in the American South.

The Federal Republic of Nigeria is composed of 36 states with a federal capital territory at Abuja. Nigeria was a British colony until October 1, 1960, when it became an independent nation. The people of modernday Nigeria have a rich history that predates European contacts. They possessed remarkable ancient culture such as the Nok culture, the Yoruba civilization, the Igbo states, and the Ife and Benin civilization. When Portuguese traders and sailors reached the coast of Lagos and the Niger Delta area around 1472, they were surprised to see the people organized, engaging in trade and commerce and displaying their arts and culture. Thus, the first contact was not to trade in humans across the Atlantic; rather, it was for legitimate commerce.


This soon changed, however, because of internal strife and civil wars among the people, as well as European demand for and encouragement of trafficking in human beings. The Atlantic slave trade, like the trans-Saharan slave trade, was successful because African compradors were willing to cooperate with European merchants. To this group, it was beneficial. The toll on African communities was devastating and perilous. British imperial interests along the west coast of Africa began with the need to stop the Atlantic slave trade, partly to ensure the supply of necessary materials for the emergent industrial factories in England. The British squadron ships patrolled to ensure that no slave was transported across the Atlantic. By 1851, a consulate was established in Lagos and the Niger Delta area to encourage trade in legitimate commerce. This was the harbinger of British colonial rule in what later became Nigeria.

In 1861, Lagos became a colony, and by 1885 the activities of the United African Company (Royal Niger Company) had paid dividends with the establishment of Oil Rivers Protectorate for the coastal region. A direct administration was not established until consolidation beyond the coastal areas in 1891. And by 1893, the Niger Coast Protectorate was established, which sealed British imperial goals in what later formed the eastern region. The northern part became a protectorate in 1903, giving Britain a greater claim to what later became northern Nigeria.


The name Nigeria did not emerge until the amalgamation of 1914 by Frederick Lugard. At the end of World War I, the League of Nations gave German Cameroon to Nigeria as a mandated territory. In 1939, the British divided the Southern Protectorate into eastern and western provinces, with the north remaining intact. Lagos, however, continued to enjoy the benefits of a capital city and administrative nerve center. By 1950, an urban administration was set up to address the growing urban problems in Lagos. With the institution of the mayoral office, Africans were given the opportunity to find solutions to urban problems. Although the mayoral office was canceled in the Lagos colony in 1953, the same office was constituted in Port Harcourt to address urban needs.

Other efforts made were in the realm of constitutional changes and reforms, economic developmental plans, training of junior and senior civil service officials, and other reforms aimed at decolonization. The British did not pursue these efforts as part of a benevolent administrative gesture; rather, they were partly a result of Nigerian anticolonial movements. The leftist groups perhaps played a significant role in British reforms and the pace of decolonization after World War II. With the growing emergence of leftist groups, Marxist literature, and funds from international communist fronts, Nigerian leftist groups were able to make British officials and pro-Western Nigerian nationalist and labor leaders uncomfortable.

Anticommunism thus became an essential part of decolonization, and its success became an ingredient in the eventual transfer of power in 1960. It should not be surprising that postcolonial administration tursued anti-leftist policies both domestically and internationally. The military interfered in Nigerian politics in 1966 with a coup d'etat that overthrew the civilian administration. The country was soon plunged into a civil war in 1967 that lasted for three years. Since 1966, the military has played a dominant role in governance and civil relations in Nigeria.

Although a transfer of power was smoothly ensured in 1979 by the military, the Second Republic (1979– 83) did not survive, as the military saw itself in command of development and reforms. The contrary however is the case. The Nigerian military, like most military in the developing world, is allegedly corrupt and contributed to the underdevelopment of the country. Nigeria is, however, experimenting with a Third Republic, which began in June 1999 when the erstwhile military head of state, Olusegun Obasanjo, was elected in a democratic election.

Nigeria has three main ethnic groups: Hausa/ Fulani, Igbo, and Yoruba. The ethnic groups also have some 250 different subgroups and language dialects. Although English remains the official language, there are three main languages represented by the three main ethnic groups. The Hausa/Fulani dominate the northern part, with the Igbo people are in the east, and the Yoruba are in the west. Christianity, Islam, and traditional religion permeate the lives and homes of the people.

While Nigeria is a rich country in terms of proceeds from oil sales, the people are largely poor and marginalized. The benefits from oil profits are not adequately redistributed among the people, nor is it judiciously used in the development of the country. Oil discovery at Oloibiri in 1958, and subsequently in other parts of the Niger Delta area accounts for 95 percent of Nigeria's exports. Although the economy is supported by abundant hydroelectric power, the country has witnessed more blackouts than any third-world nation. There is a growing effort in textile, cement, and automobile industries.