Nigeria is a pulsating powerhouse: as the most populous nation on the continent, it dominates the region economically and culturally. Lagos is bursting at the seams: with burgeoning technology and telecommunications industries, posh restaurants and clubs, and an exploding music and arts scene, this megacity is the face of modern Africa.
In villages and towns outside Gidi (as Lagosians call their city), you may feel LIKE a lone explorer getting a glimpse of the raw edges of the world. Immersing yourself in the deep and layered cultures, histories, and surroundings – ancient Muslim cities of the north, the river deltas, Yoruba kingdoms, spiritual shrines, the legacy of tribal conflict and the slave ports, and stunning natural environments.
Official name. Federal Republic of Nigeria
Capital. Abuja 9°4′N 7°29′E
Largest city. Lagos 6°27′N 3°23′E
Languages. Official – English. Major languages: Hausa Igbo Yoruba
Government. Federal presidential republic. President Muhammadu Buhari. Upper house-Senate. Lower house-House of Representatives
Independence from the United Kingdom. Unification of Southern and Northern Nigeria 1914. Declared and recognised 1 October 1960. Republic declared 1 October 1963
Area. Total 923,768 km2 (32nd)
Population. 2015 estimate 182,202,000 (7th). 2006 census 140,431,790. Density 197,2/km2 (71st)
GDP (PPP). 2016 estimate Total $1.166 trillion (20th). Per capita $6,351 (124th)
GDP (nominal). 2016 estimate Total $484.895 billion (21st). Per capita $2,642 (122nd)
When to Go. Oct–Jan: Your best bet for dry weather. Dec–Jan: Lots of events and festivals; also the busiest and most expensive time of year.
Jun–Aug Nigeria’s rainy season and usually quite wet, but not necessary to avoid.
MONEY. Naira (₦) (NGN). Exchange rate (Sept 2016, www.xe,com): 1US$ = 315 Naira. 1 Euro = 355 Naira.
Credit cards are not accepted in many stores or even hotels in Nigeria.
ATMs. Most accept both Visa and MasterCars/Maestro. Usually located within the premises of most big Nigerian commercial banks including their branches and outlets. Be aware that these machines only allow you to withdraw 20,000 Naira at a time, which is a relatively small amount in Nigeria. This means you will have to make multiple withdrawals at a time, and for each of those transactions you might have to pay a hefty Cash Advance Fee depending upon your bank policies. Also, most ATM’s allow a maximum withdrawal of 100,000 Naira per day. Use Diamond Bank, who gives you NGN40,000 per withdrawal.
Changing money. Buy Naira using foreign currency at the airports or near large hotels. Even here, only US dollars, pounds sterling, and euros are normally traded. Change your home currency to one of these three before you land in Nigeria. Changing large bills of US dollars or euros will give a better rate with professional money changers, such as on the currency exchange market near Lagos Domestic Airport. These are not formal bureaux de change and you negotiate the exchange rate. Count your money in front of the exchanger, and don’t be afraid to walk away if you are not happy with the deal. Be wary of your safety in money changing areas, and take care to make sure you are not followed when leaving them. Formal Bureau De Change in banks, but rates may be slightly higher.
Cash all your naira back into another currency before you leave Nigeria. The rate is irrelevant, as naira is not worth much outside Nigeria, basically worthless pieces of paper once you come out of the country. Banks will change foreign currency to Naira, BUT USUALLY NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND, EVEN THOUGH YOU ARE A FOREIGNER.
Street vendors – keep the money fully visible and count carefully with them, as they may short-change you. Naira is a thick bundle of small notes. Change Naira into CFAs (XOF) on the Benin/Niger side) or XAF (Cameroon side)).
Abuja and Lagos International Airport have several ATMs.
MasterCard / Maestro users can withdraw from ATMs at Zenith Bank and GT Bank, Ecobank, First Bank and Intercontinental Bank (red ATM sign outside). Visa is however a safer option if you are visiting the French countries around Nigeria as well, as Mastercard/Maestro is close to useless in these countries.
Western Union branches are useless unless you have a Nigerian bank account.
VISAS. Everyone needs a visa to visit Nigeria, and applications can be quite a process. Many Nigerian embassies issue visas only to residents and nationals of the country in which the embassy is located, so it’s essential to put things in motion well before your trip. As a rule of thumb, forms are required in triplicate, proof of funds to cover your stay, a round-trip air ticket, and possibly confirmed hotel reservations. You also need a letter of invitation from a resident of Nigeria or a business in the country. The cost of a 30-day visa is according to nationality.
Accra (Ghana) – best place in West Africa to apply for a visa, as no letter of introduction is required. Niamey (Niger) also claims to issue visas the same way.
Visa Extensions At the Federal Secretariat (Alagbon Cl, Ikoyi) in Lagos, but it’s a byzantine process of endless forms, frustration and dash, with no clear sense of success.
Visas for Onward Travel. Benin: One-month visas, two photos, 24 hours. Cameroon (Lagos, Abuja and Calabar): A one-month visa, two photos, issued in a day. Chad: one-month, two photos, the next day. Niger Best obtained in Abuja and Kano, a one-month, two photos, issued in 48 hours.
Nigeria is often referred to as the “Giant of Africa”, owing to its large population and economy. With approximately 184 million inhabitants, Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and the seventh most populous country in the world. Nigeria has one of the largest populations of youth in the world. The country is viewed as a multinational state, as it is inhabited by over 500 ethnic groups, of which the three largest are the Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba; these ethnic groups speak over 500 different languages, and are identified with wide variety of cultures. The official language is English. Nigeria is divided roughly in half between Christians, who live mostly in the southern part of the country, and Muslims in the northern part. A minority of the population practise religions indigenous to Nigeria, such as those native to Igbo and Yoruba peoples.
As of 2015, Nigeria is the world’s 20th largest economy, worth more than $500 billion and $1 trillion in terms of nominal GDP and purchasing power parity respectively. It overtook South Africa to become Africa’s largest economy in 2014. Also, the debt-to-GDP ratio is only 11 percent, which is 8 percent below the 2012 ratio. Nigeria is considered to be an emerging market by the World Bank; It has been identified as a regional power on the African continent, a middle power in international affairs, and has also been identified as an emerging global power. Nigeria is a member of the MINT group of countries, which are widely seen as the globe’s next “BRIC-like” economies. It is also listed among the “Next Eleven” economies set to become among the biggest in the world. Nigeria is a founding member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the African Union, OPEC, and the United Nations amongst other international organisations.
In the 2014 ebola outbreak, Nigeria was the first country to effectively contain and eliminate the Ebola threat that was ravaging three other countries in the West African region, as its unique method of contact tracing became an effective method later used by other countries, such as the United States, when Ebola threats were discovered.
Since 2002, the North East of the country has seen sectarian violence by Boko Haram, an Islamist movement that seeks to abolish the secular system of government and establish Sharia law. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan in May 2014 claimed that Boko Haram attacks have left at least 12,000 people dead and 8,000 people crippled. At the same time, neighbouring countries, Benin, Chad, Cameroon and Niger joined Nigeria in a united effort to combat Boko Haram in the aftermath of a world media highlighted kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls and the spread of Boko Haram attacks to these countries.
Etymology. The name Nigeria was taken from the Niger River running through the country. This name was allegedly coined in the late 19th century by British journalist Flora Shaw, who later married Baron Frederick Lugard, a British colonial administrator. The origin of the name Niger, which originally applied only to the middle reaches of the Niger River, is uncertain. The word is likely an alteration of the Tuareg name egerew n-igerewen used by inhabitants along the middle reaches of the river around Timbuktu prior to 19th-century European colonialism.
Early (500 BC – 1500). The Nok civilisation of Northern Nigeria flourished between 500 BC and AD 200, producing life-sized terracotta figures which are some of the earliest known sculptures in Sub-Saharan Africa. Further north, the cities Kano and Katsina have a recorded history dating to around 999 AD. Hausa kingdoms and the Kanem-Bornu Empire prospered as trade posts between North and West Africa.
The Kingdom of Nri of the Igbo people consolidated in the 10th century and continued until it lost its sovereignty to the British in 1911. Nri was ruled by the Eze Nri, and the city of Nri is considered to be the foundation of Igbo culture. Nri and Aguleri, where the Igbo creation myth originates, are in the territory of the Umeuri clan. Members of the clan trace their lineages back to the patriarchal king-figure Eri. In West Africa, the oldest bronzes made using the lost-wax process were from Igbo Ukwu, a city under Nri influence.
The Yoruba kingdoms of Ife and Oyo in southwestern Nigeria became prominent in the 12th and 14th centuries, respectively. The oldest signs of human settlement at Ife’s current site date back to the 9th century, and its material culture includes terracotta and bronze figures.
Middle Ages (1500–1800).
Benin Empire, 16th century. Oyo, at its territorial zenith in the late 17th to early 18th centuries, extended its influence from western Nigeria to modern-day Togo. The Edo’s Benin Empire is located in southwestern Nigeria. Benin’s power lasted between the 15th and 19th centuries. Their dominance reached as far as the city of Eko (an Edo name later changed to Lagos by the Portuguese) and further.
At the beginning of the 19th century, Usman dan Fodio directed a successful jihad and created and led the centralised Fulani Empire (also known as the Sokoto Caliphate). The territory controlled by the resultant state included much of modern-day northern and central Nigeria; it lasted until the 1903 break-up of the Empire into various European colonies.
For centuries, various peoples in modern-day Nigeria traded overland with traders from North Africa. Cities in the area became regional centres in a broad network of trade routes that spanned western, central and northern Africa. In the 16th century, Spanish and Portuguese explorers were the first Europeans to begin significant, direct trade with peoples of modern-day Nigeria, at the port they named Lagos and in Calabar. Europeans traded goods with peoples at the coast; coastal trade with Europeans also marked the beginnings of the Atlantic slave trade.
Slavery. The port of Calabar on the historical Bight of Biafra (now commonly referred to as the Bight of Bonny) become one of the largest slave trading posts in West Africa in the era of the transatlantic slave trade. Other major slaving ports in Nigeria were located in Badagry, Lagos on the Bight of Benin and on Bonny Island on the Bight of Biafra. The majority of those enslaved and taken to these ports were captured in raids and wars. Usually the captives were taken back to the conquerors’ territory as forced labour; after time, they were sometimes acculturated and absorbed into the conquerors’ society. A number of slave routes were established throughout Nigeria linking the hinterland areas with the major coastal ports. Some of the more prolific slave traders were linked with the Oyo Empire in the southwest, the Aro Confederacy in the southeast and the Sokoto Caliphate in the north.
Slavery also existed in the territories comprising modern-day Nigeria;. its scope was broadest towards the end of the 19th century. According to the Encyclopedia of African History, “It is estimated that by the 1890s the largest slave population of the world, about 2 million people, was concentrated in the territories of the Sokoto Caliphate. The use of slave labor was extensive, especially in agriculture.”
A changing legal imperative (transatlantic slave trade outlawed by Britain in 1807) and economic imperative (a desire for political and social stability) led most European powers to support widespread cultivation of agricultural products, such as the palm, for use in European industry.
British Nigeria (1800–1960). The slave trade was engaged in by European state and non-state actors such as Great Britain, the Netherlands, Portugal and private companies, as well as various African states and non-state actors. With rising anti-slavery sentiment at home and changing economic realities, Great Britain outlawed the international slave trade in 1807. Following the Napoleonic Wars, Great Britain established the West Africa Squadron in an attempt to halt the international traffic in slaves. It stopped ships of other nations that were leaving the African coast with slaves; the seized slaves were taken to Freetown, a colony in West Africa originally established for the resettlement of freed slaves from Britain. 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.
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. In 1900 the company’s territory came under the control of the British government, which moved to consolidate its hold over the area of modern Nigeria. On 1 January 1901, Nigeria became a British protectorate, and part of the British Empire, the foremost world power at the time. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries the independent kingdoms of what would become Nigeria fought a number of conflicts against the British Empire’s efforts to expand its territory. By war, the British conquered Benin in 1897, and, in the Anglo-Aro War (1901–1902), defeated other opponents. The restraint or conquest of these states opened up the Niger area to British rule.
In 1914, the British formally united the Niger area as 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.
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. 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.
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. Nigeria achieved independence in 1960.
Independent Federation and First Republic (1960–1966). Nigeria gained independence from the United Kingdom as a Commonwealth Realm on 1 October 1960. Nigeria’s government was a coalition of conservative parties.
An imbalance was created in the polity by the result of the 1961 plebiscite. Southern Cameroon opted to join the Republic of Cameroon while Northern Cameroons chose to remain in Nigeria. The northern part of the country was now far larger than the southern part. In 1963, the nation established a Federal Republic, with Azikiwe as its first president. When elections were held in 1965, the Nigerian National Democratic Party came to power in Nigeria’s Western Region.
Civil war (1967–1970). The disquilibrium and perceived corruption of the electoral and political process led, in 1966, to back-to-back military coups. The first coup in 1966 and was led by Igbo soldiers. The coup plotters succeeded in murdering Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Premier Ahmadu Bello of the Northern Region and Premier Ladoke Akintola of the Western Region. But, the coup plotters struggled to form a central government and handed over control to the Army, then under an Igbo, General JTU Aguiyi-Ironsi.
Later, the counter-coup of 1966, supported primarily by Northern military officers, facilitated the rise of Lt. Colonel Yakubu Gowon to head of state. Tension rose between North and South; Igbos in Northern cities suffered persecution and many fled to the Eastern Region.
Biafra. In 1967, the Eastern Region declared independence as a state called the Republic of Biafra, under the leadership of Lt. Colonel Emeka Ojukwu. The Nigerian Civil War began as the official Nigerian government side (predominated by soldiers from the North and West) attacked Biafra (Southeastern) on 6 July 1967 at Garkem. The 30 month war, with a long siege of Biafra and its isolation from trade and supplies, ended in January 1970. Estimates of the number of dead in the former Eastern Region are between 1 and 3 million people, from warfare, disease, and starvation, during the 30-month civil war.
France, Egypt, the Soviet Union, Britain, Israel, and others were deeply involved in the civil war behind the scenes. Britain and the Soviet Union were the main military backers of the Nigerian government while France and others aided the Biafrans. Nigeria used Egyptian pilots for their air force.
Military juntas (1970–1999). During the oil boom of the 1970s, Nigeria joined OPEC and the huge oil revenues it was generating enriched the economy. Despite these revenues, the military government did little to improve the standard of living of the population, help small and medium businesses, or invest in infrastructure. As oil revenues fueled the rise of federal subsidies to states, the federal government became the centre of political struggle and the threshold of power in the country. As oil production and revenue rose, the Nigerian government became increasingly dependent on oil revenues and on international commodity markets for budgetary and economic concerns. It did not develop alternate revenue sources in the economy for economic stability. That spelled doom to federalism in Nigeria.
In 1979, a brief return to democracy and the civilian regime of Shehu Shagari was viewed as corrupt and incompetent by virtually all. The military coup of Muhammadu Buhari shortly after the fraudulent re-election in 1984 was generally viewed as a positive development. Buhari promised major reforms, but his government fared little better than its predecessor. His regime was overthrown by another military coup in 1985.
Ibrahim Babangida, declared himself president and head of the armed forces. He instituted the International Monetary Fund’s Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) to aid in the repayment of the country’s crushing international debt. At the time most federal revenue was dedicated to servicing that debt. He enrolled Nigeria in the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, which aggravated religious tensions in the country.
Babangida survived an abortive coup, then postponed a promised return to democracy to 1992. Free and fair elections were finally held in June 1993, the first since the military coup of 1983, with a presidential victory for Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola. However, Babangida annulled the elections, leading to massive civilian protests which effectively shut down the country for weeks. Babangida finally kept his promise to relinquish office to a civilian government, but not before appointing Ernest Shonekan head of an interim government. Babangida’s regime has been considered the most corrupt, and responsible for creating a culture of corruption in Nigeria.
In late 1993 Shonekan’s caretaker regime taken over by a coup of General Sani Abacha, who used military force to suppress the continuing civilian unrest. He shifted money to offshore accounts in western European banks and defeated coup plots by bribing army generals. In 1995 the government hanged environmentalist Ken Saro-Wiwa on trumped-up charges in the deaths of four Ogoni elders. Lawsuits under the American Alien Tort Statute against Royal Dutch Shell and Brian Anderson, the head of Shell’s Nigerian operation, settled out of court with Shell continuing to deny liability. Several hundred million dollars in accounts traced to Abacha were discovered in 1999. The regime came to an end in 1998, when the dictator was found dead amid questionable circumstances. His successor, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, adopted a new constitution in May 1999, which provided for multiparty elections. On 29 May 1999 Abubakar transferred power to the winner of the elections, Obasanjo, who had since retired from the military.
Democratisation (1999–). Nigeria regained democracy in 1999 when it elected Olusegun Obasanjo.. This ended almost 33 years of military rule (from 1966 until 1999), excluding the short-lived second republic (between 1979 and 1983) by military dictators who seized power in coups d’état and counter-coups during the Nigerian military juntas of 1966–1979 and 1983–1998. Although the elections in 1999 and 2003 were condemned as unfree and unfair, Nigeria has shown marked improvements in attempts to tackle government corruption and to hasten development.
Ethnic violence for control over the oil-producing Niger Delta region and inadequate infrastructures are some of the issues in the country. Umaru Yar’Adua of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) came into power in the general election of 2007. The international community has been observing Nigerian elections to encourage a free and fair process, and condemned this one as being severely flawed.
Yar’Adua died on 5 May 2010. Dr. Goodluck Jonathan was sworn in as Yar’Adua’s replacement on 6 May 2010, becoming Nigeria’s 14th Head of State.
In April 2011, a new presidential election declared Jonathan of the PDP was declared the winner over Muhammadu Buhari from the main opposition party, the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC). The international media reported the elections as having run smoothly with relatively little violence or voter fraud, in contrast to previous elections.
In the March 2015 election, Muhammadu Buhari defeated Goodluck Jonathan by roughly 2 million votes. Observers generally praised the election as being fair. Jonathan was generally praised for conceding defeat and limiting the risk of unrest.
Government and politics. Nigeria is a Federal Republic modelled after the United States, with executive power exercised by the president with a maximum of two 4-year terms.
The president’s power is checked by a Senate and a House of Representatives, which are combined in a bicameral body called the National Assembly. The Senate is a 109-seat body with three members from each state and one from the capital region of Abuja. The House contains 360 seats, with the number of seats per state is determined by population.
Ethnocentrism, tribalism, religious persecution, and prebendalism have affected Nigerian politics both prior and subsequent to independence in 1960. Kin-selective altruism has made its way into Nigerian politics, resulting in tribalist efforts to concentrate Federal power to a particular region of their interests. Nationalism has also led to active secessionist movements such as MASSOB, Nationalist movements such as Oodua Peoples Congress, Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta and a civil war. Nigeria’s three largest ethnic groups (Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba) have maintained historical preeminence in Nigerian politics; competition amongst these three groups has fuelled corruption and graft.
Because of the above issues, Nigeria’s political parties are pan-national and secular in character (though this does not preclude the continuing preeminence of the dominant ethnicities). The major political parties at that time included the then ruling People’s Democratic Party of Nigeria, which maintains 223 seats in the House and 76 in the Senate (61.9% and 69.7% respectively); the opposition formerly All Nigeria People’s Party now All Progressives Congress has 96 House seats and 27 in the Senate (26.6% and 24.7%). About twenty minor opposition parties are registered.
As in many other African societies, prebendalism and high rates of corruption continue to constitute major challenges to Nigeria. All major parties have practised vote rigging and other means of coercion to remain competitive. In 1983, the policy institute at Kuru concluded that only the 1959 and 1979 elections to that time were conducted with minimal vote rigging.
Law. There are three distinct systems of law in Nigeria: Common law, derived from the British, Customary law, derived from indigenous traditional norms and practice, including the dispute resolution meetings of pre-colonial Yorubaland secret societies. 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. In late 1999, Zamfara emphasised its use, with eleven other northern states following suit. These states are Kano, Katsina, Niger, Bauchi, Borno, Kaduna, Gombe, Sokoto, Jigawa, Yobe, and Kebbi.
Foreign relations. Upon gaining independence in 1960, Nigeria made African unity the centrepiece of its foreign policy and played a leading role in the fight against the apartheid government in South Africa. One notable exception to the African focus was Nigeria’s close relationship developed with Israel throughout the 1960s. The latter nation sponsored and oversaw the construction of Nigeria’s parliament buildings.
Nigeria’s foreign policy was tested in the 1970s after the country emerged united from its own civil war. It supported movements against white minority governments in the Southern Africa sub-region. Nigeria backed the African National Congress (ANC) by taking a committed tough line with regard to the South African government and their military actions in southern Africa. Nigeria was also a founding member of the Organisation for African Unity (now the African Union), and has tremendous influence in West Africa and Africa on the whole. Nigeria has additionally founded regional cooperative efforts in West Africa, functioning as standard-bearer for the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and ECOMOG, economic and military organisations, respectively.
With this African-centred stance, Nigeria readily sent troops to the Congo at the behest of the United Nations shortly after independence. Nigeria also supported several Pan African and pro-self government causes in the 1970s, including garnering support for Angola’s MPLA, SWAPO in Namibia, and aiding opposition to the minority governments of Portuguese Mozambique, and Rhodesia.
Nigeria retains membership in the Non-Aligned Movement. In late November 2006, it organised an Africa-South America Summit in Abuja to promote what some attendees termed “South-South” linkages on a variety of fronts. Nigeria is also a member of the International Criminal Court, and the Commonwealth of Nations. It was temporarily expelled from the latter in 1995 when ruled by the Abacha regime.
Nigeria has remained a key player in the international oil industry since the 1970s, and maintains membership in Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which it joined in July 1971. Its status as a major petroleum producer figures prominently in its sometimes volatile international relations with both developed countries, notably the United States, and the developing countries of China, Jamaica, and Ghana and Kenya in Africa.
Millions of Nigerians have emigrated at times of economic hardship, primarily to Europe, North America and Australia. It is estimated that over a million Nigerians have emigrated to the United States and constitute the Nigerian American populace. Individuals in many such Diasporic communities have joined the “Egbe Omo Yoruba” society, a national association of Yoruba descendants in North America.
Military. 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 former dictator Sani Abacha in 1998. His successor, Abdulsalam Abubakar, handed over power to the democratically elected government of Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999.
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, have been deployed as peacekeepers in Liberia (1997), Ivory Coast (1997–1999), and Sierra Leone (1997–1999). Under an African Union mandate, it has stationed forces in Sudan’s Darfur region to try to establish peace.
Nigeria is located in western Africa on the Gulf of Guinea and has a total area of 923,768 km2 (356,669 sq mi), making it the world’s 32nd-largest country (after Tanzania). It is comparable in size to Venezuela, and is about twice the size of the US state of California. It shares a 4,047-kilometre (2,515 mi) border with Benin (773 km), Niger (1497 km), Chad (87 km), Cameroon (1690 km), and has a coastline of at least 853 km. Nigeria lies between latitudes 4° and 14°N, and longitudes 2° and 15°E.
The north touches on the Sahel and is mostly savannah with low hills. Mountains are found only along the Cameroon border in the east, although there is a 1500m-high plateau around Jos in the centre of the country. The coast is an almost unbroken line of sandy beaches and lagoons running back to creeks and mangrove swamps and is very humid most of the year.
The highest point in Nigeria is Chappal Waddi at 2,419 m (7,936 ft). The main rivers are the Niger (enters from the NW) 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 into each other and form a “y” shape).
Nigeria has a varied landscape. The far south is defined by its tropical rainforest climate, where annual rainfall is 60 to 80 inches (1,500 to 2,000 mm) a year. The coastal plains’ is defined as “salt water swamp” or mangrove swamp. North of this is fresh water swamp, containing different vegetation from the salt water swamp, and north of that is rain forest.
The area near the border with Cameroon close to the coast is rich rainforest, an important centre for biodiversity. It is habitat for the drill monkey, found in the wild only in this area. The areas surrounding Calabar, also in this forest, contain the world’s largest diversity of butterflies. Southern Nigeria between the Niger and the Cross Rivers is deforested and 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 (20 and 60 in) per year. The savannah zone’s three categories are: Guinean forest-savanna mosaic – plains of tall grass interrupted by trees; Sudan savannah – similar but shorter grasses and trees; Sahel savannah – patches of grass and sand in the northeast. In the Sahel region, rain is less 20 in per year and the Sahara Desert is encroaching. In the dry north-east corner of the country lies Lake Chad, which Nigeria shares with Niger, Chad and Cameroon.
Environmental issues. Nigeria’s Delta region, home of the large oil industry, experiences serious oil spills and other environmental problems, which has caused conflict. Waste management including sewage treatment, the linked processes of deforestation and soil degradation, and climate change or global warming are the major environmental problems. Waste management presents problems in a mega city 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. In the Kubwa Community in the Federal Capital Territory, waste is dumped into canals.
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 Nigerian cities. Some of the ‘solutions’ have been disastrous, with untreated waste dumped in places where it can pollute waterways and groundwater.
In 2005 Nigeria had the highest rate of deforestation in the world. In 2005 12.2%, the equivalent of 11,089,000 hectares had been forested in Nigeria. Between 1990 and 2000, Nigeria lost an average of 409,700 hectares of forest every year equal to an average annual deforestation rate of 2.38%. Between 1990 and 2005, in total Nigeria lost 35.7% of its forest cover, or around 6,145,000 hectares.
An underfunded national parks service does exist, but in practice very little land in Nigeria is effectively protected. The expanding population has contributed to widespread deforestation – 95% of the original forests have been logged. However, the oil industry has caused the greatest number of environmental problems: oil spills and gas flaring have damaged the fishing industry, with little of the industry’s wealth trickling down to the local level.
Nigeria is classified as a mixed economy emerging market, and has already reached lower middle income status according to the World Bank, with its abundant supply of natural resources, well-developed financial, legal, communications, transport sectors and stock exchange (the Nigerian Stock Exchange), which is the second largest in Africa.
Nigeria was ranked 30th in the world in terms of GDP (PPP) in 2012. Nigeria is the United States’ largest trading partner in sub-Saharan Africa and supplies a fifth of its oil (11% of oil imports). It has the seventh-largest trade surplus with the US of any country worldwide. Nigeria is the 50th-largest export market for US goods and the 14th-largest exporter of goods to the US. The United States is the country’s largest foreign investor. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) projected economic growth of 9% in 2008 and 8.3% in 2009.
2011: According to Citigroup, Nigeria will have the highest average GDP growth in the world between 2010–2050. Nigeria is one of two countries from Africa among 11 Global Growth Generators countries.
Previously, economic development had 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. As of 2014 it is the largest economy in Africa, having overtaken South Africa.
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 Nigeria 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.
Nigeria is trying to reach the first of the Sustainable Development Goals, which is to end poverty in all its forms by 2030. Government officials have not taken official action to reach this. One of the many options to reach this would be to reduce the corruption levels within the state.
Agriculture. As of 2010, about 30% of Nigerians are employed in agriculture. Agriculture used to be the principal foreign exchange earner of Nigeria. Major crops include beans, sesame, cashew nuts, cassava, cocoa beans, groundnuts, gum arabic, kolanut, maize (corn), melon, millet, palm kernels, palm oil, plantains, rice, rubber, sorghum, soybeans and yams. Cocoa is the leading non-oil foreign exchange earner. Rubber is the second-largest non-oil foreign exchange earner.
Prior to the Nigerian civil war, Nigeria was self-sufficient in food. Agriculture has failed to keep pace with Nigeria’s rapid population growth, and Nigeria now relies upon food imports to sustain itself. The Nigerian government promoted the use of inorganic fertilizers in the 1970s.
Oil. Nigeria is the 12th largest producer of petroleum in the world and the 8th largest exporter, and has the 10th largest proven reserves. (The country joined OPEC in 1971). Petroleum plays a large role in the Nigerian economy, accounting for 40% of GDP and 80% of Government earnings. However, agitation for better resource control in the Niger Delta, its main oil producing region, has led to disruptions in oil production and prevents the country from exporting at 100% capacity.
The Niger Delta Nembe Creek Oil field was discovered in 1973. By 2014 most were making moves to divest their interests, citing a range of issues including oil theft. In August 2014, Shell Oil Company said it was finalising its interests in four Nigerian oil fields.
Overseas remittances. Next to petrodollars, the second biggest source of foreign exchange earnings are remittances sent home by Nigerians living abroad. In 2014, 17.5 million Nigerians resided in foreign countries, with the UK and the USA having more than 2 million Nigerians each.
According to the International Organization for Migration, Nigeria witnessed a dramatic increase in remittances sent home from overseas Nigerians, going from USD 2.3 billion in 2004 to 17.9 billion in 2007. The United States accounts for the largest portion of official remittances, followed by the United Kingdom, Italy, Canada, Spain and France. On the African continent, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Chad, Libya and South Africa are important source countries of remittance flows to Nigeria, while China is the biggest remittance-sending country in Asia.
Services. Nigeria has one of the fastest growing telecommunications markets in the world, major emerging market operators (like MTN, Etisalat, Zain and Globacom) basing their largest and most profitable centres in the country. The government has recently begun expanding this infrastructure to space based communications. Nigeria has a space satellite which is monitored at the Nigerian National Space Research and Development Agency Headquarters in Abuja.
Nigeria has a highly developed financial services sector, with a mix of local and international banks, asset management companies, brokerage houses, insurance companies and brokers, private equity funds and investment banks.
Mining. Nigeria also has a wide array of underexploited mineral resources which include natural gas, coal, bauxite, tantalite, gold, tin, iron ore, limestone, niobium, lead and zinc. Despite huge deposits of these natural resources, the mining industry in Nigeria is still in its infancy.
Manufacturing. Nigeria has a manufacturing industry which includes leather and textiles (centred Kano, Abeokuta, Onitsha, and Lagos), Nigeria currently has an indigenous auto manufacturing company; Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing located in Nnewi. It produces Buses and SUVs.car manufacturing (for the French car manufacturer Peugeot as well as for the English truck manufacturer Bedford, now a subsidiary of General Motors), t-shirts, plastics and processed food.
Nigeria in recent years has been embracing industrialisation. Nigeria also has few Electronic manufacturers like Zinox, the first Branded Nigerian Computer and Electronic gadgets (like tablet PCs) manufacturers. In 2013, Nigeria introduced a policy regarding import duty on vehicles to encourage local manufacturing companies in the country. In this regard, some foreign vehicle manufacturing companies like Nissan have made known their plans to have manufacturing plants in Nigeria. Ogun is considered to be the current Nigeria’s industrial hub, as most factories are located in Ogun and more companies are moving there, followed by Lagos.
Government satellites. The Nigerian government has commissioned the overseas production and launch of four satellites. The Nigeriasat-1 was launched from Russia in 2003. The primary objectives were: to give early warning signals of environmental disaster; to help detect and control desertification in the northern part of Nigeria; to assist in demographic planning; to establish the relationship between malaria vectors and the environment that breeds malaria and to give early warning signals on future outbreaks of meningitis using remote sensing technology; to provide the technology needed to bring education to all parts of the country through distant learning; and to aid in conflict resolution and border disputes by mapping out state and International borders. NigeriaSat-2 is a high-resolution earth satellite. NigComSat-1, a Nigerian satellite built in 2004 eventually failed after losing power on 11 November 2008. The 2009 NigComSat-1R was the replacement for the failed NigComSat-1 was for communications, internet services, health, agriculture, environmental protection and national security.
Nigeria’s population increased by 57 million from 1990 to 2008, a 60% growth rate in less than two decades. Almost half of Nigerians are 14 years old or younger. Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and accounts for about 18% of the continent’s total population, however, exactly how populous is a subject of speculation.
The United Nations estimates that the population in 2009 was at 154,729,000, distributed as 51.7% rural and 48.3% urban, and with a population density of 167.5 people per square kilometre. Nigeria has been undergoing explosive population growth and has one of the highest growth and fertility rates in the world. By their projections, Nigeria is one of eight countries expected to account collectively for half of the world’s total population increase from 2005–2050. By 2100 the UN estimates that the Nigerian population will be between 505 million and 1.03 billion people (middle estimate: 730 million). In 1950, Nigeria had only 33 million people.
One in four Africans is a Nigerian. Presently, Nigeria is the seventh most populous country in the world. 2006 estimates claim 42.3% of the population is between 0–14 years of age, while 54.6% is between 15–65; the birth rate is significantly higher than the death rate, at 40.4 and 16.9 per 1000 people respectively.
Nigeria’s largest city is Lagos. Lagos has grown from about 300,000 in 1950 to an estimated 15 million today.
Ethnic groups. Nigeria has more than 500 ethnic groups, with varying languages and customs, creating a country of rich ethnic diversity. The largest ethnic groups are the Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo and Fulani, together accounting for more than 70% of the population, while the Edo, Ijaw, Kanuri, Ibibio, Ebira, Nupe, Gwari, Itsekiri, Jukun, Urhobo, Igala, Idoma and Tiv comprise between 25 and 30%; other minorities make up the remaining 5%.
The middle belt of Nigeria is known for its diversity of ethnic groups, including the Pyem, Goemai, and Kofyar. The official population count of each of Nigeria’s ethnicities has always remained controversial and disputed as members of different ethnic groups believe the census is rigged to give a particular group (usually believed to be northern groups) numerical superiority.
There are small minorities of British, American, East Indian, Chinese (est. 50,000), white Zimbabwean, Japanese, Greek, Syrian and Lebanese immigrants in Nigeria. Immigrants also include those from other West African or East African nations. These minorities mostly reside in major cities such as Lagos and Abuja, or in the Niger Delta as employees for the major oil companies. A number of Cubans settled in Nigeria as political refugees following the Cuban Revolution.
In the middle of the 19th century, a number of ex-slaves of Afro-Cuban and Afro-Brazilian descent and emigrants from Sierra Leone established communities in Lagos and other regions of Nigeria. Many ex-slaves came to Nigeria following the emancipation of slaves in the Americas. Many of the immigrants, sometimes called Saros (immigrants from Sierra Leone) and Amaro (ex-slaves from Brazil) later became prominent merchants and missionaries in these cities.
Languages. There are 521 languages that have been spoken in Nigeria (nine of which are now extinct). In some areas of Nigeria, ethnic groups speak more than one language. The official language of Nigeria, English, was chosen to facilitate the cultural and linguistic unity of the country, owing to the influence of British colonisation that ended in 1960. Even though most ethnic groups prefer to communicate in their own languages, English as the official language is widely used for education, business transactions and for official purposes. English as a first language is used only by a small minority of the country’s urban elite, and it is not spoken at all in some rural areas.
Many French speakers from surrounding countries have influenced the English spoken in the border regions of Nigeria and some Nigerian citizens have become fluent enough in French to work in the surrounding countries. Most of the population speaks English and their native language.
The major languages represent three major families of languages of Africa: the majority are Niger-Congo languages, such as Igbo, Yoruba and Fulfulde; Kanuri, spoken in the northeast, primarily in Borno and Yobe State, is part of the Nilo-Saharan family; and Hausa is an Afroasiatic language (Hausa is the most widely spoken of the 3 main languages spoken in Nigeria itself (Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba) but unlike the Yorubas and Igbos, the Hausas tend not to travel far outside Nigeria itself.
With the majority of Nigeria’s populace in the rural areas, the major languages of communication in the country remain indigenous languages. Some of the largest of these, notably Yoruba and Igbo, have derived standardised languages from a number of different dialects and are widely spoken by those ethnic groups.
Only upper and middle-class people in the largest cities actually speak English, and most citizens have a good understanding of it. The national lingua franca is Nigerian pidgin, an English-based creole language spoken by 75 million people as a second language and by 3-5 million people as a native language, mostly in the Niger Delta. Nigerian pidgin is highly intelligible to an English-speaker to a certain degree, but it will take time to get accustomed to it. However, Nigerian pidgin will not hinder day to day communications. The easiest way to overcome any initial language block is to ask questions. They will not hesitate to ask you to clarify what you mean, or admit that they do not understand an outsider’s particular manner of phrasing. Do not assume that a Nigerian’s inability to answer you indicates ignorance. Often known simply as ‘Pidgin’ or ‘Broken’ (Broken English) has varying regional influences on dialect and slang. The pidgin English or Nigerian English is widely spoken within the Niger Delta Regions, predominately in Warri, Sapele, Port Harcourt, Agenebode, Ewu, and Benin City.
Religion. Nigeria is a religiously diverse society. Nigerians are nearly equally divided into Christians and Muslims, with a tiny minority of adherents of Animism and other religions.
Islam 40%, mainly Sunni. A large number of Sunni Muslims are members of Sufi brotherhoods. Most Sufis follow the Qadiriyya, Tijaniyyah and/or the Mouride movements. A significant Shia minority exists. There are also Ahmadiyya and Mahdiyya minorities. Islam dominated the north and had a number of supporters in the South Western, Yoruba part of the country. Nigeria has the largest Muslim population in sub-Saharan Africa.. Some northern states have incorporated Sharia law into their previously secular legal systems, which has brought about some controversy: Kano State, Quranists follow the Kalo Kato or Quraniyyun movement.
Christianity 58% – 74% are Protestant, 25% Roman Catholic, 1% other Christian). Protestantism and local syncretic Christianity are also in evidence in Yoruba areas, while Roman Catholicism is more prominent in south eastern Nigeria. Both Protestantism and Roman Catholicism dominated in the Ibibio, Annang, and the Efik kiosa lands. There has been a sharp increase since 1953 in the number of Christians (up 23%); a decline among those professing indigenous beliefs, compared with 20%; and only a modest (6%) drop of Muslims which can likely be attributed to immigration, emigration, and birthrate.
Animism and other religions 1.4% of the population. Nigeria has become an African hub for the Grail Movement and the Hare Krishnas and the largest temple of the Eckankar religion is in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, with a total capacity of 10,000.
Health. Community-based accessibility to drugs and health care, in part by implementing user fees, resulted in more efficient and equitable provision of services.
HIV/AIDS rate in Nigeria is much lower compared to the other African nations such as Kenya or South Africa: adults ages 15–49 – 3.1 percent.
As of 2014, life expectancy in Nigeria is 52.62 years on average according to CIA, and just over half the population have access to potable water and appropriate sanitation; As of 2010, the Infant mortality is 8.4 deaths per 1000 live births.
Nigeria was the only country in Africa to have never eradicated polio. Polio was cut 98% between 2009 and 2010.
In 2012, a new bone marrow donor program was launched by the University of Nigeria for leukaemia, lymphoma, or sickle cell disease. In the 2014 ebola outbreak, Nigeria was the first country to effectively contain and eliminate the Ebola threat that was ravaging three other countries in West African, the Nigerian unique method of contact tracing employed by Nigeria became an effective method later used by countries such as the United States.
The Nigerian health care system is continuously faced with a shortage of doctors known as ‘brain drain’, because of emigration by skilled Nigerian doctors to North America and Europe. In 1995, it was estimated that 21,000 Nigerian doctors were practising in the United States alone, which is about the same as the number of doctors working in the Nigerian public service. Retaining these expensively trained professionals has been identified as one of the goals of the government.
Education. After the 1970s oil boom, tertiary education reached every subregion of Nigeria. 68% of the Nigerian population is literate, and the rate for men (75.7%) is higher than that for women (60.6%). Nigeria provides free, government-supported education, but attendance is not compulsory at any level, and certain groups, such as nomads and the handicapped, are under-served.
Crime. Nigeria is home to a substantial network of organised crime, active especially in drug trafficking, shipping heroin from Asian countries to Europe and America; and cocaine from South America to Europe and South Africa. The various Nigerian Confraternities or “campus cults” are active in both organised crime and in political violence as well as providing a network of corruption. As confraternities have extensive connections with political and military figures, they offer excellent alumni networking opportunities. The Supreme Vikings Confraternity, for example, boasts that twelve members of the Rivers State House of Assembly are cult members. On lower levels of society, there are the “area boys”, organised gangs mostly active in Lagos who specialise in mugging and small-scale drug dealing. According to official statistics, gang violence in Lagos resulted in 273 civilians and 84 policemen killed in the period of August 2000 to May 2001.
419. Internationally, Nigeria is infamous for a form of bank advance fee fraud dubbed 419 (named after Section 419 of the Nigerian Penal Code) along with the “Nigerian scam”, a form of confidence trick practised by individuals and criminal syndicates. These scams involve a complicit Nigerian bank (the laws being set up loosely to allow it) and a scammer who claims to have money he needs to obtain from that bank. The victim is talked into exchanging bank account information on the premise that the money will be transferred to him, and then he’ll get to keep a cut. In reality, money is taken out instead, and/or large fees (which seem small in comparison with the imaginary wealth he awaits) are deducted. In 2003, the Nigerian Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (or EFCC) was created, ostensibly to combat this and other forms of organised financial crime.
There is also some major piracy in Nigeria, with attacks directed at all types of vessels. Consistent with the rise of Nigeria as an increasingly dangerous hot spot, 28 of the 30 seafarers kidnapped as of January–June 2013 were in Nigeria. Additionally, the single death to date in 2013 occurred in Nigeria.
Nigeria has also been pervaded by political corruption. It was ranked 143 out of 182 countries in Transparency International’s 2011 Corruption Perceptions Index; however, it improved to 136th position in 2014.
More than $400 billion were stolen from the treasury by Nigeria’s leaders between 1960 and 1999. In late 2013, Nigeria’s then central bank governor Lamido Sanusi informed President Goodluck Jonathan that the state oil company, NNPC had failed to remit US$20 billion of oil revenues, which it owed the state. Jonathan however dismissed the claim and replaced Sanusi for allegedly mismanagingment of the central bank’s budget. A Senate committee also found Sanusi’s account to be lacking substance. After the conclusion of the NNPC’s account Audit, it was announced in January 2015 that NNPC’s non-remitted revenue is actually US$1.48billion, which it needs to refund back to the Government.
Literature. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe is Africa’s most popular and best selling literary piece ever, translated into over 40 languages across Africa and the World. Nigeria’s best-known writers are Wole Soyinka, the first African Nobel Laureate in Literature, and Chinua Achebe, best known for the novel, Things Fall Apart and his controversial critique of Joseph Conrad. Other Nigerian writers and poets who are well known internationally include John Pepper Clark, Ben Okri, Cyprian Ekwensi, Buchi Emecheta, Helon Habila, T. M. Aluko, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Daniel O. Fagunwa, Femi Osofisan and Ken Saro Wiwa, who was executed in 1995 by the military regime. Nigeria has the second largest newspaper market in Africa (after Egypt) with an estimated circulation of several million copies daily in 2003.
Music and film. West African highlife, Afrobeat, and palm-wine music, which fuses native rhythms with techniques that have been linked to the Congo, Brazil, Cuba, Jamaica and worldwide. Fela Kuti famously fused cultural elements of various indigenous music with American jazz and soul to form Afrobeat. JuJu music is percussion music fused with traditional music from the Yoruba nation and made famous by King Sunny Adé. There is also Fuji music, a Yoruba percussion style.
In November 2008, Nigeria received international attention when MTV hosted the continent’s first African music awards show in Abuja.
The Nigerian film industry is known as Nollywood and is now the 2nd-largest producer of movies in the world. Nigerian film studios are based in Lagos, Kano and Enugu, forming a major portion of the local economy of these cities.
Sport Football is largely considered the Nigeria’s national sport and the country has its own Premier League of football. Nigeria’s national football team, known as the “Super Eagles”, has made the World Cup on five occasions 1994, 1998, 2002, 2010, and most recently in 2014. In April 1994, the Super Eagles ranked 5th in the FIFA World Rankings, the highest ranking achieved by an African football team. They won the African Cup of Nations in 1980, 1994, and 2013, and have also hosted the U-17 & U-20 World Cup. They won the gold medal for football in the 1996 Summer Olympics (in which they beat Argentina) becoming the first African football team to win gold in Olympic Football.
International players: Nwankwo Kanu, a two-time African Footballer of the year who won the European Champions League with Ajax Amsterdam and later played with Inter Milan, Arsenal, West Bromwich Albion and Portsmouth. Other players that graduated from the junior teams are Nduka Ugbade, Jonathan Akpoborie, Victor Ikpeba, Celestine Babayaro, Wilson Oruma and Taye Taiwo. According to the official May 2010 FIFA World Rankings, Nigeria was the second top-ranked football nation in Africa and the 21st highest in the world.
Basketball. Nigeria has been home to numerous internationally recognised basketball players in the world’s top leagues in America, Europe and Asia. These players include Basketball Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon, and later NBA draft picks Solomon Alabi, Yinka Dare, Obinna Ekezie, Festus Ezeli and Olumide Oyedeji. Also ricket and track and field. Boxing is also an important sport in Nigeria; Dick Tiger and Samuel Peter are both former World Champions.
Societal issues. Despite its vast government revenue from the mining of petroleum, Nigeria is faced by a number of societal issues, owing primarily to a history of inefficiency in its governance.
Human rights. Nigeria’s human rights record remains poor: use of excessive force by security forces; impunity for abuses by security forces; arbitrary arrests; prolonged pretrial detention; judicial corruption and executive influence on the judiciary; rape, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of prisoners, detainees and suspects; harsh and life‑threatening prison and detention centre conditions; human trafficking for the purpose of prostitution and forced labour; societal violence and vigilante killings; child labour, child abuse and child sexual exploitation; female genital mutilation (FGM); domestic violence; discrimination based on sex, ethnicity, region and religion.
Child marriage remains common in Northern Nigeria. Under the Shari’a penal code that applies to Muslims in twelve northern states, offences such as alcohol consumption, homosexuality, infidelity and theft carry harsh sentences, including amputation, lashing, stoning and long prison terms.
Under a law signed early 2014, same-sex couples who marry face up to 14 years each in prison. Witnesses or anyone who helps gay couples marry will be sentenced to 10 years behind bars. The bill also punishes the “public show of same-sex amorous relationships directly or indirectly” with ten years in prison. Another portion of the bill mandates 10 years in prison for those found guilty of organising, operating or supporting gay clubs, organisations and meetings.
Strife and sectarian violence. Because of its multitude of diverse, sometimes competing ethno-linguistic groups, Nigeria prior to independence was faced with sectarian tensions and violence, particularly in the oil-producing Niger Delta region, where both state and civilian forces employ varying methods of coercion in attempts gain control over regional petroleum resources. Some of the ethnic groups like the Ogoni, have experienced severe environmental degradation due to petroleum extraction.
Since the end of the civil war in 1970, some ethnic violence has persisted. There has subsequently been a period of relative harmony since the Federal Government introduced tough new measures against religious violence in all affected parts of the country. The 2002 Miss World pageant was moved from Abuja to London in the wake of violent protests in the Northern part of the country that left more than 100 people dead and over 500 injured. The rioting erupted after Muslims in the country reacted in anger to comments made by a newspaper reporter. Rioters in Kaduna killed an estimated 105 men, women, and children with a further 521 injured taken to hospital.
Since 2002, the country has seen sectarian violence by Boko Haram, an Islamist movement that seeks to abolish the secular system of government and establish Sharia law in the country. In 2010, more than 500 people were killed by religious violence in Jos.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan in May 2014 claimed that Boko Haram attacks have left at least 12,000 people dead and 8,000 people crippled. In May 2014 Benin, Chad, Cameroon and Niger joined Nigeria in a united effort to combat Boko Haram in the aftermath of the 2014 Chibok kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls. In April 2016, over 500 people in ten villages in predominantly Christian areas in Agatu were murdered by Fulani herdsmen. A visiting Nigerian Senator reported all the primary and post-primary schools, health centres, worship centres as well as the police station in the area were destroyed. The UNHCR representative said in 20 years of work, she had “never seen such a level of destruction”.
Drilling and Killing: Chevron and Nigeria’s Oil Dictatorship, an audio documentary produced by Amy Goodman first aired in 1998 on Democracy Now!.
Sweet Crude, a documentary film produced and directed by Sandy Cioffi about Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta.
Poison Fire, a documentary exposing oil and gas abuses in Nigeria, featuring Friends of the Earth Nigeria volunteers, which premiered at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam.
Nollywood Babylon, a 2008 documentary by Montrealers Ben Addelman and Samir Mallal about the Nigerian film industry, Nollywood. It premiered at the Festival de nouveau cinéma de Montréal 2008.
Air. International airports are located in Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Port Harcourt and Enugu. The Lagos domestic and international terminals are located 5kms apart. Transfers between the two terminals are time consuming. Walking is not advised and therefore need a taxi to get from the one to the other.
Arik Air, Bellview Airlines, and Aero Contractors make local and regional flights (to other West African countries).
Arik Air – international service to London (UK), New York (USA), Luanda (Angola), and Johannesburg (South Africa).
British Airways (London Heathrow – Abuja, Lagos),
Virgin Atlantic (London Heathrow – Lagos),
KLM (Amsterdam – Abuja, Lagos, Kano),
Air France (Paris-Charles de Gaulle – Lagos),
Alitalia (Rome- Fiumicino – Accra, Lagos),
Turkish Airline (Istanbul – Lagos),
Lufthansa (Frankfurt – Abuja, Lagos),
Iberia Airlines (Madrid – Lagos),
Ethiopian Airlines (Addis Ababa – Lagos, Enugu)
Delta Airlines – 5 times a week a non-stop service from Atlanta to Lagos
United Airlines (which bought Continental) flies at least 5x per week nonstop from Houston to Lagos using either the Boeing 777 or 787.
Other inter-continental airlines fly to Lagos. They include: China Southern Airlines (Beijing, Dubai), Emirates (Dubai), Middle East Airlines (Beirut), Qatar Airways (Doha), Etihad Airways (Abu Dhabi). There are African companies: South African Airlines from Johannesburg, Egypt Air from Cairo, Ethiopian Airlines from Addis Ababa, Kenya Airways from Nairobi, Afriqya Airways from Tripoli, Hewa Bora from Kinshasa.
Besides these, there are other airlines (in addition to VNA and Bellview) that operate domestic and regional flights to places like Abidjan, Accra, Banjul, Conakry, Dakar, Douala, Freetown, Johannesburg, Libreville, Monrovia.
Currently, The Port Harcourt International Airport is fully operational again after being closed for about 2 years for rehabilitation works.
There are also airports in most states of the federation and local air travel is widespread.
Train. Most of the trains in Nigeria are for transporting cargo. At the moment it is not advisable to travel on train especially if you are a foreign national.
Bus. Getting around is relatively easy, except traffic jams within most major cities. There are multitudes of coaches and buses that will take you to any part of Nigeria you wish (ABC Transport Services is well known for its services among others). Lagos state government also operates a transit system (BRT buses) which serves the Lagos metropolis. CHISCO is another well-known bus company in Nigeria. Both CHISCO and ABC Transport provide regular, reliable international service between Lagos (Nigeria) and Accra (Ghana).
Boat. Transport by boat isn’t widespread unless you venture into the riverine areas of Nigeria.
It would be best to travel around in your own car or a hired one (with a driver) but there are various other modes of transport. The road systems in Nigeria are relatively poor compared with North American and European countries, but often still passable. The “okada” (motorcycle) is not for the faint-hearted (there used to be no helmets but as a law the rider is required to have two helmets for himself and a passenger) and should only be used for short distance journeys. “Okadas” will get you to where you want to go quickly and you will get there in one piece. In Lagos, there are lots of buses and taxis. There are two main types of buses, the molue and the danfo. Most smaller cities have more taxis than buses, and they are quite affordable.
For travelling from one city to another, you go to the “motor park”, find the taxi that’s going to your destination, and wait until it “fills up”. The price is fixed, you don’t have to negotiate. Some drivers may have a risky driving style however – practically this means that the only rule consistently adhered to (by cars, not necessarily motorcycles), is keeping on the right.
Car. Driving in Nigeria (especially Lagos) is somewhat unique, vaguely resembling driving in Cairo. If mastered, you should however be able to cope in most other countries on the planet. Roads are bad. Expect potholes of every size. Expect people to drive on the wrong side to avoid potholes or just bad patches of road. Even on the highway. Expect the road to be gone. Expect everything. Grass or branches on the road means there is a broken down vehicle ahead of you, be careful.
Abuja, however, is relatively easier because the roads are mostly good, but since the population is lower compared to Lagos, you should adopt defensive driving especially on weekends where drunk and rich speedsters feel that there’s no one on the road.
If you are white, get used to Nigerians shouting at you as you pass by. It will be something like “Oyibo”, “MBakara”, “Bature” or “white man” if you’re white. It all means the same, they are just telling you.
Self-driving for short-term visitors unfamiliar with the roads, especially in Lagos, is by no means advisable and could actually be quite foolish if not dangerous. With crime on the rise, you could easily wander into an area or a road block set by local gangs. If you choose to rent a car, it will come with a driver familiar with the area and style of driving, which is a much easier and safer option.
If you as a foreigner wish to drive yourself, it is advisable to stick to the rules, as you will be an easy target for poorly paid police officers looking for somebody to “fine” (payable directly to the officer in cash without a ticket or receipt) for the most petty reasons like not indicating your intention of wanting to drive straight. Should you be pulled over, do not give them your licence, as you will then lose all bargaining power when negotiating the fine, which could easily be a maximum of all the visible cash you have on you at the time. Rather carry a copy of the licence and hand that over, or show your licence through your window. Also do not let the police get into your car. They are not really dangerous, but it could get expensive and certainly annoying. However, if you just don’t pay and never get angry, it only costs time. They have no real power over you.
Especially over weekends and festive times, it is common practice for police, especially in the richer areas of Lagos, to flag you down and wish you happy weekend/holiday/Christmas/Easter/sunny weather/trip to work. In this case, you did nothing wrong and they do not intend to “fine” you, but are rather begging for some small money for them. If you insistently yet politely refuse to give something, they will eventually let you go. Just wish them a nice weekend/holiday/etc. too.
If you work for a big company in Nigeria, you will usually have a company driver to drive you around, thereby avoiding the above mentioned problems to a large extent. He can arrange a local driving licence for you should the need arise without a driving test or proof of foreign licence.
Nigeria is not part of the most standard international Road Traffic Convention and as such will require a special International Driving Permit (valid only for driving in Nigeria, Somalia and Iraq) (if you do not want to get the Nigerian license), not the normal one applicable to almost all other countries in the world.
Lots of street sellers surround the car when you get to crossroads in crowded areas. You should not have a problem if you keep the windows and doors locked however.
The last Saturday of the month is Sanitation Day in Lagos, when the locals clean their premises. While it is not illegal to be out on the street 07:00-10:00, due to the higher than usual presence of police officers and road checkpoints, most Nigerians choose to restrict their movements until after 10:00. Should you be caught at this time, you may be taken away by the police to perform some “public sanitation” duty, like mowing lawns, etc.
Arik, Virgin Nigeria and Aero Contractors have good scheduled domestic connections with modern aircraft to most significant destinations at reasonable prices. Their websites are very user friendly and well updated.
Unesco World Heritage Sites: 1. Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove 2. Sukur Cultural Landscape
Lagos: Bar Beach, Badagary Beach, Tarkwa bay Beach
Lekki (suburb of Lagos): Lekki Forest Reserve – nice little fenced-off and interesting patch of tropical rainforest with wooden walkways located on the outskirts of the city (ask a taxi to take you to “across from Chevron Oil Company (who financed much of the refurbishment of the forest to look greener) on the Lekki Express Way, just before the second toll gate”, as locals tend not to know about the existence of the place, so taxi will probably look at you with a “huh” expression even though he may drive past it daily), Lekki Beach, Eleko Beach
Jos: Hiking and tourism on the Plateau
Enugu: Hiking and traditional events e.g New yam and atiliogwu dancers
Calabar: Harbour and slave monuments in Calabar and Tinapa (the Nollywood studios) a little drive outside the city.
Obudu: Small town a few hours to the north from Calabar very close to the Cameroon border – rent a car from Calabar airport (comes with driver) and ask the driver to take you there via Tinapa. This is a cool mountain escape with a nice resort (Obudu Mountain Resort) on the mountain (the president also has a week-end home there). They have some forest walks, hiking, one of the longest cable cars in the world (Austrian built) and very nice pristine swimming pools with fountains available.
Kainji National Park
Yankari National Park
Festivals and Events.
Osun Festival in Oshogbo in late August in honour of the river goddess. Music, dancing and sacrifices form one of the centrepieces of the Yoruba cultural and spiritual year.
Calabar – festival throughout December with national and international stars scheduled closer to Christmas. The highlight of the festival is the cultural masquerade carnival, when tens of thousand of costumed revellers descend on the city.
The Eyo Festival in Lagos is a large Yoruba masquerade organised to commemorate the life of a recently passed spiritual leader.
Argungu Fishing and Cultural Festival in Argungu mid-February is a spectacular three-days.
Northern Nigeria, particularly in Kano, Zaria and Katsina, for two important Islamic holidays: the end of Ramadan, and Tabaski, 69 days later, which feature colourful processions of cavalry. Ramadan can be a tiring time to travel in the north – head for the Sabon Gari (foreigners’ quarter) in each town, where food is served throughout the day.
Southwest Nigeria – land of the Yoruba and Edo as well as minorities, the major city of Lagos
Southeast Nigeria – land of the Igbo people, the Ibibio and Ijaw, as well as minorities and centre of the huge oil industry
Central Nigeria – transitional zone between the southern forests and northern savanna
Eastern Nigeria – a rural region with several nature reserves and highlands along the border with Cameroon
Northern Nigeria – land of the Hausa and Fulani, almost exclusively Islamic with Sharia Law imposed
Northeastern Nigeria – dominated by the Kanuri people
Cities. Nigeria has eight cities with a population of over 1 million people. Kaduna 1,652,844, Maiduguri 1,044,497 and Zaria 1,018,827A are the three not included below.
Abuja — Capital. Although built from scratch, it has beautiful rolling terrain with modern Nigerian architecture.
Benin City — 1,051,600, city of the Edo people
Calabar — oil region, World’s highest concentration of butterflies is situated in the surrounding regions of the city
Ibadan — 3,078,400,; geographically the largest city in Africa
Kano — 3,848,885, important Hausa City, commercial hub of the north
Lagos — 7,937,932, 17 million in urban area; second most populous city in Africa, former colonial capital and huge commercial hub
Osogbo — home of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Sacred Grove of Osun
Owerri — a quiet city in the Igbo speaking region.
Port Harcourt — 1,320,214, port city in the oil region
Warri — home of the deltans
Enugu — The coal city (ancient coal town, very cool and tourist friendly)
Uyo — oil region with a lot of tourism potentials
Makurdi — Capital of Benue State: The food basket of the Nation. You can enjoy maximum hospitality and a lot of good food (at cheap rates) as well as see the beautiful River Benue.
It is advisable that you know where to buy things in advance of your going out. This can save you unnecessary exposure to touts. Nigerian Yellow Pages provides list of businesses, contact addresses and phone numbers and for shops and restaurants, your hotel can give you advise as well. When meeting businesses, the best thing to do is to locate the business, call their representative, who can give you detailed information on how to locate them.
Bargaining. At markets, you are supposed to haggle for your goods (a notable exception is bread: its price is fixed). As a general rule, the real price is about half the price that was first asked. The seller may exaggerate the price when he or she thinks that you are a rich tourist ignorant of the real price. After agreeing on a price, don’t walk away without buying, this is considered very rude. It is also advisable to go to the market with a friend you trust (preferably Nigerian). That way the seller will know you can’t be tricked into paying a higher price than normal.
Shops like supermarkets and restaurants will typically charge fixed prices. Fresh products and Western-style sit-in restaurants are quite expensive, with it not being uncommon to pay USD75 for a dinner per person.
Nigerian cuisine, like West African cuisine in general, is known for its richness and variety. Many different spices, herbs and flavourings are used in conjunction with palm oil or groundnut oil to create deeply flavoured sauces and soups often made very hot with chili peppers. Nigerian feasts are colourful and lavish, while aromatic market and roadside snacks cooked on barbecues or fried in oil are plentiful and varied.
There are many types of traditional cuisine to enjoy. For example: afang soup, okra soup, owo soup and starch in the Niger Delta, plantain (fried, boiled, roasted), pepper soup, amala, eba, efo, pounded yam (iyan – Yoruba for “pounded yam” pronounce ” ee-yarn” ), jollof rice, ground nut soup, ogbono soup, isi ewu (goat’s head stew), egusi soup, suya (meat on a kebab rolled in spiced and cooked over a fire grill), moin moin, ewedu, gbegiri soup (beans soup), edikangikong, ground-rice, puff-puff (fried doughnut), chin chin, ikokore, owerri soup (ofe owerri), which is the most expensive African soup in Nigeria. Not to forget 404 pepper soup – it will make you act like “Oliver Twist.” You must realise that 404 means “dog meat.” and yes, it can only be found in certain parts of the country because in the west it is seen a barbaric. All the foods above vary greatly in their taste, spice and flavour. Be warned, it is not uncommon to have a lot of pepper in soups (Nigerian pepper can be very hot and spicy, probably more spicy than Spanish chillies).
For the less adventurous traveller, there are loads of “foreign” restaurants in Lagos with flavours from every corner of the world. Outside Lagos and to a lesser extent Abuja, Western food will tend to disappear, with “Jollof Rice and friend chicken” being a “safe” option if you are not adventurous. Foreign restaurants are expensive and you can prepare for a bill of at least USD50 to USD75 or even USD100 per head for main course, ice cream and one drink per person.
As a new expat in Lagos, acquaint yourself early with the expensive, foreign owned smaller specialist shops selling all the delicacies and nice imported red meats that foreigners long for (Shoprite, Park and Shop and Goodie’s, the main supermarkets, may not stock): 1. Deli’s on Akin Adesola (the main road leading to Bar Beach), 2. L’Epicérie across the road from Mega Plaza and 3. La Pointe on Kofo Abayomi Street (close to the Brazilian Embassy/Consulate) and not easy to spot. Knowing these places will significantly improve your coping ability in the first couple of months.
Drink. Guinness is brewed outside of Ireland. Beer is big business in Nigeria, although the move toward evangelism and Islamic law is making its mark. Lagos is relatively unaffected due to its cosmopolitan nature. Heineken, Star, Harp, Gulder and other international beers are available. Malt beverages (non alcoholic) are very common in Nigeria. Gin, which is locally made, is cheap.
Other drinks to consider include: palm wine, wine, zobo (red soft drink, is a tea of dried roselle flowers), kunun, kai kai (also called ogogoro).
The northern states have implemented Sharia law, so alcohol is prohibited.
Hotels are of a fair standard throughout Nigeria, but they’re expensive. Lagos is particularly expensive; rooms are either very cheap and shoddy or very expensive – there’s not much middle ground.
Almost all hotels in Nigeria require you to pay before you get your key. This applies even to the Sheraton and the Hilton. Typically you are requested to pay 125% of the room rate and you will be refunded when settling the bill at your departure. If you stay more than one night you need to keep the credit up. However, paying this deposit by credit card can leave you open to subsequent fraudulent use of your details.
EDUCATION. It is worth it to organize a trip to whatever institution of learning you are interested in to give you a personal perspective. To gain admission to universities, must sit the UME(Universities Matriculation Examination).
WORK. Working in Nigeria can be a very positive experience. Nigerian organizations tend to operate like small families, taking in newcomers with open arms and avoiding the coolness and sterility that often characterize the Western professional work environment. Don’t even think about coming into the office in the morning without greeting each of your colleagues. Even if you don’t, be sure that they will go out of their way to greet you and inquire about your well-being.
It’s not uncommon to work late or on weekends. One should be prepared to work beyond the standard 35-40 hr work week.
“African time” applies to the work environment. Meetings start late and take longer than necessary. Although Nigerians will unabashedly admit to their habitual tardiness, rarely does one see efforts to correct this behavior. The higher ones position, the later one may arrive at a meeting. Starting the meeting before the important people arrive is very rude.
If used to strict North American political correctness at the office, you may be shocked by the more liberal inter-sexual relations in the Nigerian workplace. Mild sexual jokes are common in meetings and in the office in general, though usually good natured and harmless. A white person working in an all-Nigerian workplace should also be prepared to frequently be reminded of their skin tone, though never in a nasty way. This can become tiresome, but Nigerians are generally very friendly. They use the term “Oyibo” (white man in Yoruba) or “Bature” (white man in Hausa) as a form of affection.
The use of professional titles in written and verbal form is very common in Nigeria. Expect to address your boss as Sir, Doctor, Colonel, etc., and avoid using the first name of a superior unless given permission to do so. Being a foreigner, you will be forgiven for any faux pas, but it is always best to err on the side of caution and politeness.
The mobile phone (cell phone) is an essential tool for virtually all urban – and most rural – Nigerians. Because of the instability of local networks, many people have two or even three “handsets”, each on a different network. Anyone doing business in the country for more than a few days should consider having a mobile phone.
STAY SAFE. Lagos has a reputation for petty and violent crime, not always undeserved, although it’s been on the decline in the past few years. As a traveller you’re unlikely to have trouble with large-scale corruption and bribery. Police roadblocks are common, but fines and bribes are paid by the driver. Some caution should be exercised on the major highways into Lagos, where armed robbery is a problem at night.
Currently the most dangerous region is northern Nigeria, where Boko Haram, a militant jihadist organisation, wages a low-grade war against the federal government. Most Nigerians will tell you to avoid northern Nigeria altogether.
A previously troubled region of the country is the Niger delta.
Enugu has a reputation for kidnapping schemes, but they’re more likely after wealthy oil execs rather than scruffy backpackers.
Nigeria is a fairly dangerous destination. It is advisable to travel with a Nigerian friend. Abuja, the Capital, houses most dignitaries and politicians, so it has a high level of security. Crime levels are high, particularly in Lagos. Be wary of travelling by road outside of the cities at night due to the risk of armed robbery. The Niger delta area is unsafe for tourists. There is continual low-level violence between government and militant groups, and there have been several kidnappings of foreign oil workers.
Many foreign governments advise against travel to much of Northern and Central Nigeria due to ethnic tension, lawlessness and the current activities of Islamist groups such as Boko Haram. The waters outside Nigeria is one of the most likely places to be attacked by modern day pirates.
LGBT travellers. Travel Warning: Homosexuality is ILLEGAL in Nigeria. LGBT travellers should be very cautious when travelling to Nigeria, especially in the North, where sharia law implementation can be strict due to the activities of Boko Haram, an Islamist group which engages in jihad. Both gays and lesbians can be executed. All public or private displays of affection are emphatically discouraged.
Do not risk unprotected sex with strangers or even with the person you think you know. Yellow fever vaccination is required. As malaria is prevalent, malaria pills and mosquito nets are recommended.
Purchase bottled water from convenience stores rather than by the roadside.
If you are speaking the language, some of the languages have different ways for someone to address someone older than themselves. Do not hand things with your left hand. It’s considered an insult. Don’t cross or jump over someone’s legs if they are sitting with the legs extended out. It’s considered bad luck.
Avoid shaking hands with elders and older people in non Igbo villages. It’s disrespectful to do that. Bow down a little, Kneeling or genuflecting for women or prostrating by men (especially among the Yoruba) is the normal thing to do. You may not need to do it either, but just show some form of respect when greeting older people. You can get away with not doing that in big cities or urban areas, they are less traditional there.
If you want to go out with anyone (friend, interest) whatever the sex, it is customary to allow the friend if he/she is still living under their parent’s roof), to ask the parents/guardians first. The sense of ‘youth independence’ is virtually nonexistent until your friend moves out.
When entering a house in the predominantly Muslim North, let them know in advance that you are visiting so the women can cover themselves up. Knock and wait to be answered before going in. They will ask you to wait while the women are informed. Do not be offended by the wait.
Airports especially the Port Harcourt Airport can be confusingt. If you are White, be prepared to courtesy tip, as Airport security take longer searching your bags on purpose. “Do you have a coffee or mineral to give me”.
CONTACT. Dialling out from Nigeria: you will need to dial the International Call Prefix for Nigeria of 009 (followed by the) Country code and then the local number including trunk code if any.
Internet. Decent connections exist in most towns. Never use internet banking in cybercafes.
Post. Mail sent to or from Nigeria is notoriously slow. For parcels, use an international courier like DHL or FedEx, which have offices in most towns.
Travel north to Niger, and into the Saharan desert.
Travel east to Cameroon, for some mountain climbing.
Travel west to Benin, the best way out when traveling to Europe overland.
Travel northeast to Chad.