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(nījĭr`ēə), officially Federal Republic of Nigeria, republic (2015 est. pop. 181,182,000), 356,667 sq mi (923,768 sq km), W Africa. It borders on the Gulf of Guinea (an arm of the Atlantic Ocean) in the south, on Benin in the west, on Niger in the northwest and north, on Chad in the northeast, and on Cameroon in the east. AbujaAbuja
, city and federal capital territory (2006 provisional pop. 1,405,201), central Nigeria. Plans to move the capital from Lagos were approved in 1976, and a 3,000-sq mi (7,770-sq km) capital territory was created near the old town of Abuja (renamed Suleja).
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 is the capital and LagosLagos
, city (1991 est. pop. 1,274,000), SW Nigeria, on the Gulf of Guinea. It comprises the island of Lagos and three former neighboring islands (now connected by landfill to the mainland or Lagos).
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 is the largest city.

Land and People

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

In addition to Abuja and Lagos, other major cities include AbaAba
, city (1991 est. pop. 264,000), SE Nigeria. It is an important regional market, a road and rail hub, and a manufacturing center for cement, textiles, pharmaceuticals, processed palm oil, shoes, plastics, soap, and beer.
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, AbeokutaAbeokuta
, city (1991 est. pop. 377,000), SW Nigeria. It is the trade center for an agricultural region producing rice, yams, cassava, cotton, fruit, vegetables, and palm products. Manufactures of the city include beer, cement, dyed textiles, and canned foods.
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, AdoAdo
, city (1987 est. pop. 287,000), SW Nigeria. Located in a region where rice, corn, cassava, and yams are grown. Traditionally an important cotton-weaving town, Ado also manufactures bricks, tile, and pottery.
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, BeninBenin
, city (1991 est. pop. 203,000), S Nigeria, a port on the Benin River. Palm nuts and timber are produced nearby and processed in Benin, which is the center of Nigeria's rubber industry. Furniture and carpets are also made. The Univ.
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, EnuguEnugu
, city (1991 est. pop. 279,000), SE Nigeria. It is a diversified industrial center and a road and rail hub. Furniture, ceramics, textiles, shoes, asbestos, cement, oxygen and acetylene gases, and steel are the chief products.
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, IbadanIbadan
, city (1991 est. pop. 1,263,000), SW Nigeria. The second largest city in Nigeria, it is a major commercial center. Manufactures include metal products, furniture, soap, and handicrafts.
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, IfeIfe
, city (1991 est. pop. 262,000), SW Nigeria. Located in a farm region, the city is an important center for marketing and shipping cacao. According to tradition, Ife is the oldest Yoruba town (founded c.1300).
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, IleshaIlesha
, city (1991 est. pop. 334,000), SW Nigeria. Formerly a caravan trade center, Ilesha is today an agricultural and commercial city. Cacao, kola nuts, palm oil, and yams are shipped from there. There is a sawmill, and alluvial gold is found.
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, IlorinIlorin
, city (1991 est. pop. 420,000), SW Nigeria. It is an industrial city and the market (especially for cattle, poultry, palm products, and yams) and transport center for a wide region. Manufactures include cigarettes, matches, and sugar.
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, IwoIwo
, city (1991 est. pop. 320,000), SW Nigeria. It is the trade center for a farm region specializing in cacao. A coffee plantation is located nearby. Iwo was the capital of a Yoruba kingdom (founded in the 17th cent.) that grew rapidly in the 19th cent.
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, KadunaKaduna
, town (1991 est. pop. 302,000), N Nigeria. A commercial and industrial center of N Nigeria, Kaduna has cotton-textile, beverage, and furniture factories. It is a rail and road junction and the trade center for the surrounding agricultural area.
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, KanoKano
, city (1991 est. pop. 595,000), N Nigeria. It is the trade and shipping center for an agricultural region where cotton, cattle, and about half of Nigeria's peanuts are raised.
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, MaiduguriMaiduguri
, town (1991 est. pop. 282,000), capital of Borno state, NE Nigeria. The city is an important industrial center engaged in food processing and aluminum, steel, asbestos, and cement production.
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, MushinMushin
, city (1987 est. pop. 266,000), SW Nigeria, an industrial and residential suburb of Lagos. Manufactures include textiles, furniture, printed materials, metal products, plastics, milk products, and shoes. Motor vehicles are assembled.
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, OgbomoshoOgbomosho
, city (1991 pop. 644,000), SW Nigeria. It is the trade center for a farming region. Yams, cassava, corn, and tobacco are grown. Cotton is grown and used to weave cloth. Ogbomosho was founded in the 17th cent. It resisted Fulani invasions in the early 19th cent.
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, OnitshaOnitsha
, city (1991 est. pop. 328,000), SE Nigeria, a port on the Niger River. The city's manufactures include textiles, beverages, shoes, lumber, and printed materials. Fishing and canoe-building are traditional local industries.
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, OshogboOshogbo
, city (1991 est. pop. 421,000), SW Nigeria, on the Oshun River. Primarily a farming and commercial city, it has cotton gins, a steel-rolling mill, a traditional textiles industry, and cigarette and food-processing factories.
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, Port HarcourtPort Harcourt
, city (1991 est. pop. 362,000), SE Nigeria, a deepwater port on the Bonny River in the Niger delta. It is an industrial and commercial center where steel and aluminum products, pressed concrete, glass, tires, paint, footwear, furniture, and cigarettes are
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, and ZariaZaria
, city (1991 est. pop. 335,000), N Nigeria. It is the ginning center for Nigeria's main cotton-growing region. Cottonseed, peanuts, and shea-nut oil are produced. The city is on a major north-south railroad and highway and has an airport.
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Nigeria is easily the most populous nation in Africa and one of the fastest growing on earth. The inhabitants are divided into about 250 ethnic groups. The largest of these groups are the HausaHausa
or Haussa
, black African ethnic group, numbering about 23 million, chiefly in N Nigeria and S Niger. The Hausa are almost exclusively Muslim and practice agriculture.
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 and FulaniFulani
, people of W Africa, numbering approximately 14 million. They are of mixed sub-Saharan African and Berber origin. First recorded as living in the Senegambia region, they are now scattered throughout the area of the Sudan from Senegal to Cameroon.
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 in the north, the YorubaYoruba
, people of SW Nigeria and Benin, numbering about 20 million. Today many of the large cities in Nigeria (including Lagos, Ibadan, and Abeokuta) are in Yorubaland.
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 in the southwest, and the IgboIgbo
or Ibo
, one of the largest ethnic groups in Nigeria, deriving mainly from SE Nigeria, numbering around 15 million. Originally settled in many autonomous villages, the Igbo nevertheless had a sense of cultural unity and the ability to unite for political action.
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 in the southeast. Other peoples include the Kanuri, Nupe, and Tiv of the north, the Edo of the south, and the Ibibio-Efik and Ijaw of the southeast. English is the official language, and each ethnic group speaks its own language. About half of the population, living mostly in the north, are Muslim; another 40%, living almost exclusively in the south, are Christian; the rest follow traditional beliefs. Religious and ethnic tensions have at times led to deadly violence in which hundreds of Nigerians have died.


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

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

Industry in Nigeria includes the processing of agricultural products and minerals, and the manufacture of rubber products, construction materials, footware, chemicals, fertilizer, ceramics, and steel; the textile and leather industries have diminished in importance in the 21st cent. Fishing and forestry are also important to the economy; telecommunications is of increasing significance; and there is small commercial shipbuilding and repair sector. In addition, traditional woven goods, pottery, metal objects, and carved wood and ivory are produced. Nigeria's road and rail systems are constructed basically along north-south lines; the country's chief seaports are Lagos, WarriWarri
, city (1991 est. pop. 111,000), S Nigeria, a port on the Warri River. It is a transshipment point where oceangoing vessels meet Niger River boats. The main items shipped from Warri are rubber, palm products, cacao, peanuts, and hides and skins.
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, Port Harcourt, and CalabarCalabar
, city (1991 est. pop. 154,000), SE Nigeria, a port on an estuary of the Gulf of Guinea. Rubber is processed, and palm oil, cacao, rubber, and timber are exported. Calabar, an important Niger delta trading state in the 19th cent., grew as a center of the palm oil trade.
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Except when oil prices are low, Nigeria generally earns more from exports than it spends on imports. Other important exports include cocoa, rubber, and palm products. The main imports are machinery, chemicals, transportation equipment, manufactured goods, food, and live animals. The United States is by far the largest trading partner, followed by China, Brazil, Spain, and Great Britain.


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


Early History

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

Beginning in the 11th cent. seven independent Hausa city-states were founded in N Nigeria—Biram, Daura, Gobir, Kano, KatsinaKatsina
, city (1991 est. pop. 182,000), N Nigeria, near the Niger frontier. The city, surrounded by a wall 13 mi (21 km) long, is the trade center for an agricultural region where guinea corn and millet are grown for home consumption, and peanuts, cotton, and hides are produced
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, Rano, and Zaria. Kano and Katsina competed for the lucrative trans-Saharan trade with Kanem-Bornu, and for a time had to pay tribute to it. In the early 16th cent. all of Hausaland was briefly held by the Songhai Empire. However, in the late 16th cent., Kanem-Bornu replaced Songhai as the leading power in N Nigeria, and the Hausa states regained their autonomy. In southwest Nigeria two states—Oyo and Benin—had developed by the 14th cent.; the rulers of both states traced their origins to Ife, renowned for its naturalistic terra-cotta and brass sculpture. Benin was the leading state in the 15th cent. but began to decline in the 17th cent., and by the 18th cent. Oyo controlled Yorubaland and also Dahomey. The Igbo people in the southeast lived in small village communities.

In the late 15th cent. Portuguese navigators became the first Europeans to visit Nigeria. They soon began to purchase slaves and agricultural produce from coastal middlemen; the slaves had been captured further inland by the middlemen. The Portuguese were followed by British, French, and Dutch traders. Among the Igbo and Ibibio a number of city-states were established by individuals who had become wealthy by engaging in the slave trade; these included BonnyBonny
, town, SE Nigeria, in the Niger River delta, on the Bight of Biafra. In the 18th and 19th cent., Bonny was the center of a powerful trading state, and in the 19th cent. it became the leading site for slave exportation in W Africa.
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, Owome, and Okrika.

The Nineteenth Century

There were major internal changes in Nigeria in the 19th cent. In 1804, Usuman dan FodioUsuman dan Fodio
1754–1817. Fulani religious and political leader. Beginning as an itinerant Muslim missionary in northern Nigeria, he gained a large following for his syncretic visions, establishing a base in Gudu.
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 (1754–1817), a Fulani and a pious Muslim, began a holy war to reform the practice of Islam in the north. He soon conquered the Hausa city-states, but Bornu, led by Muhammad al-Kanemi (also a Muslim reformer) until 1835, maintained its independence. In 1817, Usuman dan Fodio's son, Muhammad Bello (d.1837) established a state centered at SokotoSokoto
, city (1987 est. pop. 164,000), NW Nigeria, on the Sokoto River. It is the commercial center for a wide region and a collection place for hides, skins, and peanuts. Rice and tobacco are grown for local consumption.
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, which controlled most of N Nigeria until the coming of the British (1900–1906). Under both Usuman dan Fodio and Muhammad Bello, Muslim culture, and also trade, flourished in the Fulani empire. In Bornu, Muhammad al-Kanemi was succeeded by Umar (reigned 1835–80), under whom the empire disintegrated.

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

In order to stop the slave trade there, Britain annexed Lagos in 1861. In 1879, Sir George GoldieGoldie, Sir George
(George Goldie Taubman), 1846–1925, British colonial administrator, b. Isle of Man. Goldie entered the Niger River trade in the 1870s, and his company soon dominated trade on the lower river.
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 gained control of all the British firms trading on the Niger, and in the 1880s he took over two French companies active there and signed treaties with numerous African leaders. Largely because of Goldie's efforts, Great Britain was able to claim S Nigeria at the Conference of Berlin (see Berlin, Conference ofBerlin, Conference of,
1884–85, international meeting aimed at settling the problems connected with European colonies in Africa. At the invitation of the German chancellor Otto von Bismarck, representatives of all European nations, the United States, and the Ottoman Empire
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) held in 1884–85.

In the following years, the British established their rule in SW Nigeria, partly by signing treaties (as in the Lagos hinterland) and partly by using force (as at Benin in 1897). JajaJaja
, fl. 1869–87, Nigerian merchant prince. A former slave, he became an important trader in Bonny in the 1860s as a middleman between the coastal markets and the Nigerian interior. In 1869 he founded his own state at Opobo on the Gulf of Guinea.
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, a leading African trader based at OpoboOpobo
, town, SE Nigeria, in the Niger River delta. It is a palm-oil collection center and has fishing and boatbuilding industries. Opobo was founded in 1869 by a group of immigrants from nearby Bonny led by Jaja, a middleman in the palm oil trade with Europeans.
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 in the Niger delta and strongly opposed to European competition, was captured in 1887 and deported. Goldie's firm, given (1886) a British royal charter, as the Royal Niger Company, to administer the Niger River and N Nigeria, antagonized Europeans and Africans alike by its monopoly of trade on the Niger; in addition, it was not sufficiently powerful to gain effective control over N Nigeria, which was also sought by the French.


In 1900 the Royal Niger Company's charter was revoked and British forces under Frederick LugardLugard, Frederick John Dealtry Lugard, 1st Baron
, 1858–1945, British colonial administrator. After an early military career, he entered (1889) the service of the British East Africa Company and was sent (1890) to
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 began to conquer the north, taking Sokoto in 1903. By 1906, Britain controlled Nigeria, which was divided into the Colony (i.e., Lagos) and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria and the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria. In 1914 the two regions were amalgamated and the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria was established.

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

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

In 1947, Great Britain promulgated a constitution that gave the traditional authorities a greater voice in national affairs. The Western-educated elite was excluded, and, led by Herbert Macaulay and Nnamdi AzikiweAzikiwe, Benjamin Nnamdi
, 1904–96, Nigerian statesman, popularly known as Zik. After advanced studies in the United States (1925), he returned to Nigeria, founded a chain of newspapers, and became one of the country's leading Igbo nationalists.
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, its members vigorously denounced the constitution. As a result, a new constitution, providing for elected representation on a regional basis, was instituted in 1951.

Three major political parties emerged—the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC; from 1960 known as the National Convention of Nigerian Citizens), led by Azikiwe and largely based among the Igbo; the Action Group, led by Obafemi AwolowoAwolowo, Obafemi
, 1909–87, Nigerian statesman, a Yoruba chief, commonly known as "Awo." In politics from 1940, he was one of the founders (1943) of the Nigerian Trades Union Congress. In 1950 he founded the Action Group, a new political party.
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 and with a mostly Yoruba membership; and the Northern People's Congress (NPC), led by Ahmadu Bello and based in the north. The constitution proved unworkable by 1952, and a new one, solidifying the division of Nigeria into three regions (Eastern, Western, and Northern) plus the Federal Territory of Lagos, came into force in 1954. In 1956 the Eastern and Western regions became internally self-governing, and the Northern region achieved this status in 1959.

Independence and Internal Conflict

With Nigerian independence scheduled for 1960, elections were held in 1959. No party won a majority, and the NPC combined with the NCNC to form a government. Nigeria attained independence on Oct. 1, 1960, with Abubakar Tafawa BalewaBalewa, Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa
, 1912–66, Nigerian political leader. He was born Mallam Abubakar. After studying to become a teacher, he held a series of posts in education and then became a member of the Northern Region house of assembly in 1947.
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 of the NPC as prime minister and Azikiwe of the NCNC as governor-general; when Nigeria became a republic in 1963, Azikiwe was made president.

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

In Jan., 1966, Igbo army officers staged a successful coup, which resulted in the deaths of Federal Prime Minister Balewa, Northern Prime Minister Ahmadu Bello, and Western Prime Minister S. I. Akintola. Maj. Gen. Johnson T. U. Aguiyi-Ironsi, an Igbo, became head of a military government and suspended the national and regional constitutions; this met with a violent reaction in the north. In July, 1966, a coup led by Hausa army officers ousted Ironsi (who was killed) and placed Lt. Col. Yakubu GowonGowon, Yakubu
, 1934–, Nigerian head of state. After entering the Nigerian army in 1954, he advanced (1966) to battalion commander. After Nigeria's second bloody coup in 1966, he was appointed commander in chief of the armed forces and head of the military government.
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 at the head of a new military regime. In Sept., 1966, many Igbo living in the north were massacred.

Gowon attempted to start Nigeria along the road to civilian government but met determined resistance from the Igbo, who were becoming increasingly fearful of their position within Nigeria. In May, 1967, the Eastern parliament gave Lt. Col. Chukwuemeka O. OjukwuOjukwu, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu
, 1933–2011, Nigerian general and secessionist. Of Igbo background, he joined (1957) the Nigerian army and rose to become (1966–67) military governor of E Nigeria.
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, the region's leader, authority to declare the region an independent republic. Gowon proclaimed a state of emergency, and, as a gesture to the Igbos, redivided Nigeria into 12 states (including one, the East-Central state, that comprised most of the Igbo people). However, on May 30, Ojukwu proclaimed the independent Republic of BiafraBiafra, Republic of,
secessionist state of W Africa, in existence from May 30, 1967, to Jan. 15, 1970. At the outset Biafra comprised, roughly, the East-Central, South-Eastern, and Rivers states of the Federation of Nigeria, where the Igbo people predominated.
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, and in July fighting broke out between Biafra and Nigeria.

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

Modern Nigeria

Spurred by the booming petroleum industry, the Nigerian economy quickly recovered from the effects of civil war and made impressive advances. Nonetheless, inflation and high unemployment remained, and the oil boom led to government corruption and uneven distribution of wealth. Nigeria joined the Organization of Petroleum Exporting CountriesOrganization of Petroleum Exporting Countries
(OPEC), multinational organization (est. 1960, formally constituted 1961) that coordinates petroleum policies and economic aid among oil-producing nations.
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 in 1971. The prolonged drought that desiccated the Sahel region of Africa in the early 1970s had a profound effect on N Nigeria, resulting in a migration of peoples into the less arid areas and into the cities of the south.

Gowon's regime was overthrown in 1975 by Gen. Murtala Muhammad and a group of officers who pledged a return to civilian rule. In the mid-1970s plans were approved for a new capital to be built at Abuja, a move that drained the national economy. Muhammad was assassinated in an attempted coup one year after taking office and succeeded by Gen. Olusegun ObasanjoObasanjo, Olusegun
, 1937–, Nigerian military officer and political leader, b. Abeokuta. Obasanjo, who joined the army in 1958 and rose quickly to general, was a key commander during the secession of Biafra (1967–70). He was Gen.
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. In a crisis brought on by rapidly falling oil revenues, the government restricted public opposition to the regime, controlled union activity and student movements, nationalized land, and increased oil industry regulation. Nigeria sought Western support under Obasanjo while supporting African nationalist movements.

In 1979 elections were held under a new constitution, bringing Alhaji Shehu ShagariShagari, Alhaji Shehu,
1925–, president of Nigeria (1979–83). In 1978 he helped form the National party, and his subsequent election as president marked the end of 13 years of military rule in Nigeria.
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 to the presidency. Relations with the United States reached a new high in 1979 with a visit by President Jimmy CarterCarter, Jimmy
(James Earl Carter, Jr.), 1924–, 39th President of the United States (1977–81), b. Plains, Ga, grad. Annapolis, 1946.

Carter served in the navy, where he worked with Admiral Hyman G. Rickover in developing the nuclear submarine program.
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. The government expelled thousands of foreign laborers in 1983, citing social disturbances as the reason. The same year, Shagari was reelected president but overthrown after only a few months in office; Maj. Gen. Muhammadu BuhariBuhari, Muhammadu,
1942–, Nigerian military officer and political leader. A Fulani from Katsina State, he joined the army in 1961; he rose to the rank of general and participated in several coups.
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 was installed in power. Buhari, strongly opposed to corruption, established a harsh authoritarian regime.

In 1985 a coup led by Maj. Gen. Ibrahim BabangidaBabangida, Ibrahim
, 1941–, Nigerian military and political leader. After graduating (1963) from Nigeria's military college, he joined the army and received further training abroad.
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 brought a new regime to power, along with the promise of a return to civilian rule. A new constitution was promulgated in 1990, which set national elections for 1992. Babangida annulled the results of that presidential election, claiming fraud. A new election in 1993 ended in the apparent presidential victory of Moshood Abiola, but Babangida again alleged fraud. Soon unrest led to Babangida's resignation. Ernest Shonekan, a civilian appointed as interim leader, was forced out after three months by Gen. Sani Abacha, a long-time ally of Babangida, who became president and banned all political institutions and labor unions. In 1994, Abiola was arrested and charged with treason.

In 1995, Abacha extended military rule for three more years, while proposing a program for a return to civilian rule after that period; his proposal was rejected by opposition leaders, but five political parties were established in 1996. The Abacha regime drew international condemnation in late 1995 when Ken Saro-WiwaSaro-Wiwa, Ken
(Kenule Beeson Saro-Wiwa) , 1941–95, Nigerian writer and environmental activist, b. Rivers state, grad. Univ. of Ibadan, 1965. He was a government administrator in the early 1970s before he worked as a journalist, author, and television producer.
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, a prominent writer, and eight other human-rights activists were executed; the trial was condemned by human-rights groups and led to Nigeria's suspension from the Commonwealth of Nations. Also in 1995, a number of army officers, including former head of state General Obasanjo, were arrested in connection with an alleged coup attempt. In 1996, Kudirat Abiola, an activist on behalf of her imprisoned husband, was murdered.

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

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

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

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

The end of 2005 and early 2006 saw increased contention over whether to amend the constitution to permit the president and state governors to run for more than two terms. The idea had been rejected in July, 2005, by a national political reform conference, but senators reviewing the conference's proposals indicated they supported an end to term limits. The change was opposed by Vice President Atiku AbubakarAbubakar, Atiku
, 1946–, Nigerian politician, grad. Ahmadu Bello Univ. Law School (1969). A Muslim and member of the Hausa ethnic group, he worked in the government's customs department, later going into business.
..... Click the link for more information.
, but other PDP leaders who objected were removed from their party posts. A census—a contentious event because of ethnic and religious divisions in Nigeria—was taken in Mar., 2006, but the head count was marred by a lack of resources and a number of violent clashes, and many Nigerians were believed to have been left uncounted. In May the Nigerian legislature ended consideration of a third presidential term when it became clear that there was insufficient support for amending the constitution. Nigeria agreed in June, 2006, to turn over the Bakassi peninsula to Cameroon after a two-year transition period; the region was finally ceded in Aug., 2008.

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

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

In February, the EFCC declared Abubakar and more than 130 other candidates for the April elections unfit due to corruption, and the election commission barred those candidates from running. Abubakar fought the move in court, but the ruling was not overturned until days before the presidential election. The state elections were marred by widespread and blatant vote fraud and intimidation, but the election commission certified nearly all the results, handing gubernatorial victories to the PDP in 27 states. In the presidential election, Umaru Yar'AduaYar'Adua, Umaru Musa
, 1951–2010, Nigerian politician, president of Nigeria (2007–10). Born into a family active in Nigerian political and military affairs, he was trained as a chemist at Ahmadu Bello Univ., Zello (B.Sc, 1975; M.Sc. 1980).
..... Click the link for more information.
, the relatively unknown governor of Katsina state who was hand-picked by Obasanjo to be the PDP candidate, was declared the winner with 70% of the vote, but fraud and intimidation were so blatant that EU observers called the election a "charade" and the president was forced to admit it was "flawed." Nonetheless, Yar'Adua's inauguration (May) marked the first transition of power between two elected civilian presidents in Nigeria's post-colonial history.

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

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

The president traveled to Saudi Arabia in Nov., 2009, to seek medical treatment. As his stay there prolonged into 2010 many prominent Nigerians called for executive powers to be transferred on an interim basis to the vice president, Goodluck JonathanJonathan, Goodluck Ebele,
1957–, Nigerian politician, president of Nigeria (2010–). An Ijaw from the Niger delta region, he was educated as a zoologist (Ph.D. Univ.
..... Click the link for more information.
, but the president did not initiate the constitutional process necessary for it to happen. In Feb., 2010, the National Assembly unanimously voted to make Jonathan acting president, but the lack of a formal letter from the president notifiying the Assembly of his absence raised constitutional issues. Jonathan remained acting president after Yar'Adua returned later in the month, and succeeded him as president when Yar'Adua died in May.

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

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

By the first half of 2012 the increasingly violent, ongoing insurgency by the Islamic militant group Boko Haram was stoking sectarian tensions and worsening the economic situation in the already economically stagnant N Nigeria; the situation had also led to significantly larger government expenditures on security, diverting money from other needs. Attempts since 2012 to establish a regional force to combat Boko Haram stalled due to tensions among, and the divergent aims of, Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Niger, and Benin, though the was greater progress from 2015. In May, 2013, after increasing Islamist-related violence, Nigeria imposed martial law in three northern states and launched an offensive against Islamist militants, but in many cases the militants fled without confronting the army, and subsquently they launched an increasing number of murderous attacks later in the year and in subsequent years. In April, 2014, Boko Haram kidnapped more than 270 schoolgirls in Borno state; as many as 500 children were kidnapped later in the year, also in Borno. Though some later escaped or were freed, many remained captive several years later. The group established control over an increasing area of NE Nigeria during 2014, and in August Boko Haram announced it had established an Islamic state in areas it controlled.

In August, 2013, tensions in the PDP led to a split in the party, and several governors and a number of legislators left to form the New PDP; later in the year, most of them joined the All Progressives Congress (APC), an opposition group formed by the merger of several parties earlier in 2013. Jonathan suspended the central bank governor in Feb., 2014, accusing him of misconduct; the governor, who was highly regarded, had accused the state oil company of failing to account for at least $10 billion in revenue. Increasing conflicts over land between herders and farmers in central Nigeria became especially deadly in 2014, and violence between the two groups in the region remained a problem in subsequent years; an even greater outbreak of violence occurred in 2018.

In early 2015, the African Union authorized a multinational force to counter Boko Haram, with contingents from Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Niger, and Benin. Subsequently Chadian forces, in conjunction with Cameroon and Niger, mounted attacks against Boko Haram in along Nigeria's border and into bordering areas of Nigeria. Nigerian forces also had increased successes again the Islamists, and by Apr., 2015, many areas, including the larger towns, held by Boko Haram had been recaptured. The group, nonetheless, continued to mount deadly attacks through 2017, though they interfered little with Nigeria's federal and state elections in March and April of 2015, and by mid-2016 the territory Boko Haram controlled in Nigeria had been greatly reduced.

In the 2015 elections, Muhammadu BuhariBuhari, Muhammadu,
1942–, Nigerian military officer and political leader. A Fulani from Katsina State, he joined the army in 1961; he rose to the rank of general and participated in several coups.
..... Click the link for more information.
, the APC candidate, defeated Jonathan, and the APC won a majority in both houses of the National Assembly. The APC also scored successes in many state elections as well. There were again charges of vote rigging, particularly in SE Nigeria, but the election was generally seen as fair and was relatively free from violence. Corruption, economic issues, and Boko Haram's insurgency were generally seen as the issues that led to the win by Buhari, who was regarded as incorruptible and better suited, as a former military officer, to deal with Boko Haram.

Niger delta militants mounted a string of attacks in 2016 that reduced petroleum output in the area. There were increasing concerns over the president's health and its affect on the leadership of Nigeria in 2017; Buhari was absent abroad for long stretches for undisclosed medical reasons, leading Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to assume the presidency temporarily for weeks at a time. In Feb., 2018, Boko Haram abducted 110 girls from a school in Yobe state, NE Nigeria, but nearly all were released in March. Late 2018 and early 2019 saw a series of deadly attacks by the group's various factions, and by late 2019 they controlled a number of rural areas in NE Nigeria.

In the 2019 presidential election Buhari faced Atiku Abubakar, who was the PDP and main opposition candidate. Logistical problems led to the postponement of the vote from February to March, and the resulting turnout was a record low 35.6%. Buhari won reelection, benefiting from a larger turnout in N Nigeria than in the south. The APC also won a majority in both houses of the National Assembly. In Aug., 2019, Nigeria closed its land borders to commercial traffic primarily to combat smuggling, especially of rice into Nigeria and gasoline out of the country; the closure continued into 2020.

In Oct., 2020, there were widespread demonstrations against a national police antirobbery force accused of torture and killings. The government announced it would disband the force, but protestors continued to call for police reforms and an end to corruption. When security forces shot and killed peaceful demonstrators in two areas of Lagos after a curfew had been imposed, it provoked two days of violent unrest there, and led to international condemnation. In Dec., 2020, there was a mass kidnapping of more than 300 schoolboys in Katsina state; Boko Haram claimed responsibility, but it was not clear if they were directly involved. Most students were released a week later.


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

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Nigeria is a state in West Africa, situated in the lower Niger Basin. It is a member of the British Commonwealth. Nigeria borders on Benin in the west, Niger in the north, the Republic of Chad in the northeast, Cameroon in the east and southeast, and the Gulf of Guinea of the Atlantic Ocean in the south. It has an area of 923,800 sq km (according to the 1972 UN Statistical Yearbook). Population estimates range from 59.6 million (1973, UN estimate) to 79.7 million (preliminary data from the 1973 census). The capital is Lagos. On Feb. 3, 1976, Nigeria was divided into 19 states.

Nigeria is a federal republic. Its governmental structure is based on a constitutional decree issued Mar. 17, 1967, and on later modifications that abolished or altered most of the articles in the 1963 constitution, which was in effect until 1966. All legislative and executive authority is vested in a federal military government consisting of the Supreme Military Council, the Federal Executive Council, and the National Council of the States. The head of government is a member of all three governmental bodies and serves as the commander in chief of the armed forces. Each state is ruled by an autonomous military government.

The highest judicial body is the Supreme Court, an appellate court. Each state has a high court, the highest court in the state, magistrate’s courts, and courts of customary law.

Nigeria’s coast is low-lying and slightly indented. In the west a chain of sand spits separates lagoons from the ocean, the largest of which is Lagos Lagoon.

Terrain. An aggradational plain extends in a narrow strip along the coast. The terrain rises to the north, forming the Yoruba Plateau, the Udi Plateau, and the vast stepped plateau of central Nigeria with average elevations ranging from 400–600 to 600–1,000 m. The highest part of the central region is the Jos Plateau, rising to 1,735 m. In the northwest the plateau gradually gives way to a plain in the Sokoto River basin, and in the northeast, it merges with the Bornu Plain. South of the plateau are the Niger and Benue valleys. In the east the terrain is mountainous, with some peaks reaching 2,000 m or more.

Geological structure and minerals. Tectonically, Nigeria is part of the African Platform. The metamorphic rock of the foundation occupies more than 50 percent of the country’s area, forming the Dahomey-Nigerian Massif in the west and the rim of the Cameroon Massif in the east. ʘts structure includes Pre-cambrian gneiss, migmatite, amphibolite, quartzite, and schist, breached by granite. The mantle consists of elongated depressions filled with marine and continental deposits from the Lower Cretaceous to recent times. These include the Benue, Lower Niger, and Sokoto depressions, the southwestern part of the Chad depression, and the depressions of the Gulf of Guinea and the Niger delta.

There are deposits of oil and gas along the Atlantic coast, at Ughelli, Bomu, Imo-River, and elsewhere. In early 1973 known reserves totaled more than 2 billion tons of petroleum and about 1 billion tons of natural gas. Deposits of bituminous coal (estimated at 400 million tons) and lignite and brown coal (200 million tons) are confined mainly to the Upper Cretaceous and Paleogene rocks of the Enugu basin (Benue graben). Deposits of niobium (columbite), tin, tungsten, and molybdenum are associated with the “young” granites of the Jos Plateau. The plateau also has deposits of uranium ore. In the northwest, at Birnin Gwari and other places, the “foundation-complex” rocks include gold deposits. The Benue graben contains lead and zinc ores (Ameka, Nieba, Abakaliki), iron ore (Patti, estimated at 2 billion tons), and titanium ore.


Climate. Most of the country has an equatorial monsoonal climate. A damp southwesterly summer monsoon influences the climate in the southern regions, and the northern regions are similarly affected by a dry northeasterly winter trade wind (harmattan). Between December and March, when the harmattan prevails, temperatures rise sharply and dust storms are frequent. With the onset of spring, almost the entire country experiences a rainy season. The Niger delta and the eastern part of the coast receive the greatest rainfall, up to 4,000 mm per year. In central Nigeria the annual precipitation totals 1,000–1,350 mm, increasing to more than 1,500 mm on the Jos Plateau. The smallest amount of precipitation (500 mm) occurs in the far north and the northeast. In the interior the average temperature during the hottest month (April or May) ranges from 25° to 33°C, and during the coldest month (December or January) it varies from 20° to 27°C. In the coastal plain the average temperature is about 28°C during the hottest month (March) and about 24°C during the coldest month (August).

Rivers and lakes. The coastal plain and the Jos Plateau have the densest river networks. The coastal plain is watered by numerous rivers, including the Niger (one of Africa’s largest rivers), the Benue (a tributary of the Niger), and the Cross River. The Niger and the Benue are the most important transportation arteries. Until the construction of a hydroelectric station at Kainji, the Niger was navigable for a distance of 800 km, from its mouth to the rapids. Today, the river is navigable over its entire course within Nigeria. The Benue is navigable almost to its upper reaches from July through October. Of the rivers flowing out of the Jos Plateau, the largest are the Kaduna (left tributary of the Niger), the Gongola (right tributary of the Benue), and the Komadugu Yobé, which flows into Lake Chad. The remaining rivers of the Lake Chad basin become very shallow during the dry season.

Soil. Moving from south to north three main types of soil may be distinguished: the reddish yellow lateritic soils of equatorial rain forests, the red lateritic soils of tropical forests and tall-grass savannas, and the reddish brown soils of dry savannas. In the north, to the south and west of Lake Chad, there are pockets of black soils of dry tropical savannas, swamp soils, and saline soils. Along the coast of the Gulf of Guinea stretches a narrow strip of soils of mangrove swamps, and alluvial soils are found in the river valleys.

Flora. The predominant types of vegetation are tropical forests and savannas. Mangrove thickets grow in a narrow belt along the coast. To the north they are replaped by tropical evergreen forests. As a result of overcutting and the slash-and-burn method of farming, full-grown forests have survived mainly in state preserves along the right bank of the lower Niger and in the Cross River valley.

Further north the tropical forests give way to savannas. A transitional zone, called Guinea savanna, lies between the tropical forests and the typical savanna. Here, stretches of savanna alternate with park and gallery forests, which lose their foliage during the annual dry period. The grass cover of the savanna, reaching a height of 1.5–4.0 m, is dominated by various grasses of the genera Andropogon and Pennisetum, forming dense growths. Short broad-leaved trees with twisted trunks grow in clumps in the savanna. Groves of fan palm fringe the banks of the Niger. In the typical savanna on the central plateau the grass is lower. Many different acacias and shrubs grow here, as well as baobabs, doum palms, silk-cotton trees (Ceiba), and fan palms. The far northeast is occupied by the Sahel savanna, a transitional zone extending from the typical savanna to the desert vegetation of the Sahara. The plant cover is sparse, and throughout most of the year trees (mainly acacias) and shrubs are leafless and the grass is scorched.

Fauna. Small numbers of elephants and rhinoceroses have survived in the savannas and savanna woodlands. A state preserve was established in North-Eastern State in 1962 for their protection. Leopards, jackals, and wildcats are the most common predators. There are many antelopes (about 30 species) and giraffes. Large numbers of monkeys live in the tropical forests, as well as some chimpanzees and gorillas. Hippopotamuses are found in the floodplains of rivers. Reptiles include crocodiles, various lizards, and snakes. Insects are numerous and include mosquitoes (carriers of yellow fever) and the tsetse fly.

Natural regions. Nigeria is divided into five natural regions: a coastal aggradational plain with damp evergreen equatorial forests; the Yoruba Plateau and the central plateau with savanna landscapes; the Jos Plateau, occupied by a secondary mountain savanna; the Benue and Niger grabens, consisting of deep and broad valleys; and the northern dry plains, occupied by desert savannas.


According to official data, more than 200 peoples, speaking different languages, inhabit Nigeria. The most numerous peoples, speaking the Guinean languages, are the Yoruba, Ibo, Edo, and Nupe. The Yoruba, who have been estimated to number between 10 million and 12 million persons in 1972, are concentrated in Western, Lagos, and Mid-Western states; the Ibo (about 12 million) live mainly in East-Central State; the Edo (about 1.5 million) live in Mid-Western State and elsewhere; and the Nupe (about 1 million) are the principal inhabitants of Kwara State. The large Hausa-speaking population includes the Hausa proper (about 15 million), inhabiting Kano, North-Western, North-Central, and other states; the Kotoko; the Musgu; and the Ngizim. The Kanuri (about 3 million) live in North-Eastern State, and the Fulani (about 5 million) inhabit northern Nigeria. Of the peoples speaking Eastern Bantoid languages, the most numerous are the Ibibio (more than 2 million) and Tiv (about 2 million), living along the banks of the Benue River and in the Cross River area. In the southeast are found two small Bantu-speaking tribes—the Bakwiri and Balundu. The populations of the southern and southeastern regions of North-Eastern State speak various languages of the Central Sudan.

Intensive ethnic consolidation and integration has led to the development of the Ibo, Yoruba, Hausa, and other nations. Other groups include small numbers of Europeans, Americans, Asians, and immigrants from other African countries. About half the population practices Islam, which predominates in the northern states and among the Yoruba in Western State. Most of the inhabitants of southern Nigeria adhere to various Christian denominations. Many Nigerians have preserved their traditional beliefs. English is the official language, and the official calendar is the Gregorian.


Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and one of the most densely settled. Between 1963 and 1971 the population increased at an average rate of 2.5 percent annually. The average density is 64 persons per sq km. The most densely populated areas are the region around Ibadan in the west (350 persons per sq km) and in the south, where in places the density approaches 600 persons per sq km. The far northeast and the northwest are the most thinly populated. The economically active population numbers 27.7 million persons, of whom 67 percent are employed in agriculture, 15 percent in commerce, 12 percent in handicrafts and manufacturing, and 6 percent in other fields (1970, estimate).

Nigeria has 26 cities with populations exceeding 100,000 (1971), and some two-thirds of these cities are situated in the southwest. Urban dwellers accounted for 23 percent of the population in 1970. The major cities are Lagos (about 1 million inhabitants in 1972), Ibadan, Ogbomosho, Kano, Oshogbo, Ilorin, Abeokuta, Port Harcourt, Zaria, and Ilesha.

Nigeria from earliest times to the period of colonial enslavement (mid-19th century). The first settlements on the territory of modern Nigeria date from the Middle and Late Paleolithic. Archaeological excavations in northern Nigeria attest to the relatively high level of the material culture of these regions as early as the first millennium B.C. Artifacts belonging to the Nok culture have been discovered in northern and central Nigeria. The tribes inhabiting these areas smelted metals long before the arrival of Europeans.

Between the eighth and tenth centuries the Hausa founded early-class states (Kano, Katsina, Gobir, Zaria), in which weaving, leather-making, dyeing, and the working of iron and other metals were well developed. East of the Hausa states lay the early-class state of Kanem-Bornu. One of the largest states of this period was the Kingdom of Benin in southern Nigeria. Fulani tribes migrated into northern Nigeria in about the 13th century and soon intermarried with the Hausa.

The first Europeans in Nigeria were the Portuguese, who arrived in 1472. English ships reached the coast of Nigeria in 1553. The arrival of European colonialists and the rise of an extensive slave trade retarded the natural development of the peoples of Nigeria. Like the Portuguese, the English sold the inhabitants into slavery, later embarking on direct conquest of the country.

Colonial period (mid-19th century to 1960). A British consulate was established in Benin in 1849. In 1861, on the pretext of combatting the slave trade, the British occupied Lagos, and the British colony of Lagos was created a year later. Between 1866 and 1874 the colony was incorporated into Great Britain’s West African possessions and was administered by the governor of the colony of Sierra Leone at Freetown. The colony was part of Britain’s Gold Coast Colony from 1874 to 1886, when it became a separate possession. In the late 1870’s the British colonialists gained control over a large part of the Niger Basin. The Oil Rivers Protectorate was formed in 1885 out of the coastal region stretching from Lagos to Cameroon; it was renamed the Niger Coast Protectorate in 1893. In 1906 the protectorate was extended to include Lagos and renamed the Colony and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria.

In the late 19th century British forces pushed into the interior, capturing Benin, whose inhabitants fiercely resisted the colonialists. After defeating the army of the Sokoto Sultanate, which had emerged in the early 19th century in the area inhabited by the Hausa and the Fulani, the British established control over northern Nigeria by 1904. On Jan. 1, 1914, the entire territory of present-day Nigeria became the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria. After the unification of the north and south, the British colonial authorities rapidly extended indirect rule over the entire country. Local feudal rulers, who retained nominal authority, were actually generously paid colonial officials. In the southeast, where the colonial authorities did not always find acceptable tribal chiefs, the institution of appointed chiefs was introduced.

Although they were united into a single colony, the regions differed markedly in their socioeconomic and sociopolitical development. The Hausa and Fulani had centralized feudal systems of government; patriarchal-clan relations prevailed among the Ibo, Ibibio, Efik, and other peoples in the southeast; and the relatively large Yoruba city-states in the west and southwest were constantly at war and did not recognize a central authority.

In the early 20th century the British colonialists began to use Nigeria as a sphere for capital investment and as a source of cheap mineral and agricultural raw material. Oil palm products, cocoa beans, peanuts, and tin ore were exported. To facilitate the transport of export products, a railroad was built between Lagos and Kano. The building of mines around Enugu and Jos and the construction of the railroad created the first relatively large proletarian groups in Nigeria. A mingling of tribal, feudal, and capitalist relations was already apparent at this time. There were frequent instances of unrest caused by the exploitation and arbitrary rule of the British colonial authorities and their agents. The expropriation of land belonging to Africans provoked unrest in Lagos in 1907–08; between 1908 and 1913 riots broke out in many cities in southern Nigeria, including Calabar, Onitsha, Ondo, and Abeokuta; and a peasant insurrection was precipitated in Egbe in western Nigeria in 1918 by the imposition of direct taxation.

The first public and political organizations arose after World War I. The Nigerian branch of the National Congress of West Africa was established in 1920, and Nigeria’s first political party, the National Democratic Party, headed by H. Macauley, was founded in 1922. The party won all three seats allocated to Lagos in the elections to the 46-member Legislative Council, created in 1922 under the Clifford Constitution, which had been adopted that year. The party’s program included reforms both for Lagos and the country as a whole, although like the Nigerian branch of the National Congress of West Africa, the party operated chiefly in the Lagos region.

The world economic crisis of 1929–33 seriously undermined Nigeria’s economy. Prices of exports declined, while prices of imported industrial commodities increased sharply. The people’s condition, already dire, deteriorated further. In late 1929 a large peasant uprising broke out in Aba, sparked by rumors that women would be taxed. (One of the appointed chiefs of the town of Aloko, near Aba, began to take a census of women and children, as well as an inventory of livestock.) In Aba, Calabar, and other cities thousands of Africans gathered in front of the residences of British officials and company offices, demanding the abolition of taxes and higher prices for palm oil. The population destroyed warehouses, set fire to court buildings, and attacked British officials and some local chiefs. On Dec. 17, 1929, on the order of the colonial authorities, the police fired on the demonstrators, killing among others about 80 women and children. These events strongly influenced the development of the national liberation movement in Nigeria.

In the late 1920’s and early 1930’s more public organizations emerged, headed mainly by members of the national intelligentsia. The largest of these organizations, the Lagos Youth Movement, was founded in 1933; in 1936 it was renamed the Nigerian Youth Movement (NYM). By late 1938 the NYM had about 10,000 members. The Youth Charter, proclaimed in 1938 by the organization’s leaders, called for unity and struggle for self-government in Nigeria.

During World War II imports were sharply reduced, thereby stimulating the development of local industry. Numerous small enterprises for tanning leather, making cotton fabrics, and processing vegetables and fruits were established.

Resenting the stranglehold of British monopolies, the more radical members of the national bourgeoisie vociferously demanded self-government and political independence. The first national political party, the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC), was founded in August 1944, incorporating several dozen youth, women’s, and occupational organizations. H. Macauley was elected chairman of the party, and N. Azikiwe, general secretary. The party was renamed the National Council of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) in 1962.

The first trade unions were organized in the early 1940’s. Many unorganized workers, who had previously not taken part in strikes, joined the first general strike in 1945. Another large proletarian demonstration occurred in late 1949, when the police, on orders from the British colonial authorities, fired on unarmed striking miners at Enugu on Nov. 18, 1949. The incident touched off a wave of mass strikes, demonstrations, and protest rallies with strong anticolonialist overtones. Strikes in various branches of industry continued into the 1950’s.

Attempting to neutralize the workers’ movement for independence, the colonial authorities embarked on constitutional maneuvering. The Richards Constitution, named after the governor of Nigeria, was introduced in 1947. Under this constitution Nigeria was divided into three administrative divisions:, the Western, Eastern, and Northern regions, each administered by local governing bodies. The governor retained the power of veto. The regional principle was reinforced in the constitutional reforms introduced by Governor Macpherson in 1951 and by the British colonial secretary O. Lyttelton in 1954. The Macpherson Constitution provided for the formation of regional governments from among representatives of the majority party, thereby intensifying rivalry among the parties. Two new parties were formed in 1950—51: the Action Group in the Western Region, which drew its support from the prosperous peasantry (cocoa producers) and traditional chiefs, headed by O. Awolowo, and the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) in the Northern Region, backed by the feudal ruling elite, headed by A. Bello. The formation of new parties weakened the NCNC, whose leaders derived their support from eastern Nigeria and the Ibo people. The regional and ethnic basis of the political parties prevented them from becoming national parties.

In October 1958, at a constitutional conference in London, representatives of all parts of Nigeria demanded independence, and the British government agreed to grant independence in 1960.

Independence. On Oct. 1, 1960, Nigeria became an independent state within the Commonwealth, and on Oct. 7, 1960, it was admitted to the UN. Headed by A. T. Balewa, one of the leaders of the Northern People’s Congress (NPC), and consisting of representatives of the NPC and the NCNC, the government carried out reforms aimed at overcoming the country’s economic and cultural backwardness. The national development plan of 1962–68 was initiated. The government declared its intention not to join blocs. The Anglo-Nigerian defense agreement concluded in early 1961 was annulled in January 1962. In 1963, Nigeria took part in the creation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). On Oct. 1, 1963, Nigeria was declared a federal republic.

The federal parliamentary elections that were held on Dec. 30, 1964, were accompanied by intense party struggles and bloody tribal clashes. A compromise providing for additional balloting in 54 electoral districts resulted in the formation of a new government in January 1965, headed by A. T. Balewa and comprising representatives of the NPC and the NCNC. The government declared that its first priority would be to carry out social and economic reforms aimed at raising the people’s living standard. But these promises were not fulfilled. Corruption, bribery, and nepotism became rampant. The Balewa government’s narrowly pro-Western foreign policy antagonized the country’s progressive forces.

A military coup was carried out on Jan. 15, 1966, and a federal military government was formed, headed by General A. Ironsi. The new government abolished the presidency and all ministerial posts in the federal and regional governments, and military governors were appointed to administer the provinces. On May 24, 1966, a decree was issued proclaiming Nigeria a unitary republic, and all political parties and organizations were banned. The decree was extremely unpopular and strengthened tribal and separatist tendencies in the north and south.

A second military coup, staged on July 29, 1966, brought to power a government headed by Y. Gowon, which immediately restored the federal form of government. The Nigerian Constitutional Conference was convened in Lagos in September 1966 for the purpose of reaching an agreement on Nigeria’s future governmental structure. However, the conference was indefinitely postponed because of violence in the Northern Region and a boycott by leaders of the Eastern Region, who pursued a separatist course.

The attempts of Gowon’s federal military government to settle differences with the government of the Eastern Region through negotiations proved unsuccessful. In early January 1967, at a conference of Nigerian military leaders in Aburi, Ghana, O. Ojukwu, the governor of the Eastern Region, demanded greater autonomy for the provincial governments, transforming Nigeria into a confederation of essentially independent states. The decisions reached in Aburi to some extent met Ojukwu’s conditions because the federal military government was anxious to conclude an agreement and preserve the country’s unity. However, the leaders of the separatists in the Eastern Region continued to press for secession. On May 30, 1967, Ojukwu announced that the Eastern Region was withdrawing from the federation to form the independent Republic of Biafra. Civil war broke out in July 1967, lasting 30 months and causing enormous material losses. By early January 1970 the Biafran troops were in a hopeless position. Ojukwu fled on Jan. 11, 1970, and the armed forces of the separatists surrendered the next day.

In a decree issued on May 27, 1967, the federal military government had announced the country’s division into 12 states. A program for postwar reconstruction and development was made public on Oct. 1, 1970, the tenth anniversary of Nigeria’s independence. It provided for the implementation of a national development plan (1970–74), reorganization of the armed forces, eradication of corruption, a census of the population, the preparation and adoption of a new constitution, and a number of other measures. The program also envisaged the restoration of a civilian government in 1976.

The Gowon government’s policies served the interests of the wealthy sections of the population. In October 1974, Gowon announced that civilian rule would not be restored.

On July 29, 1975, the country experienced another military coup, which brought to power M. Muhammad, who proposed a program of transition to a civilian government. During a riot incited by members of the bourgeoisie and some officers, Muhammad was assassinated. After the riot was suppressed on Feb. 13, 1976, the government was headed by Lieutenant General O. Obasanjo. An administrative reform dividing Nigeria into 19 states was carried out in 1976. A new national economic development plan was initiated, and a draft constitution was proposed.

In foreign policy the military government pursued a course of mutually advantageous cooperation with other states. In the UN and the OAU, Nigeria called for the immediate and just solution of such urgent problems as disarmament and the abolition of colonialism and racial discrimination. Diplomatic relations between the USSR and Nigeria were established in 1960. The USSR rendered moral support and material assistance to the federal government during the war of 1967–70, supporting the forces defending Nigeria’s unity and territorial integrity. A number of economic, commercial, and cultural agreements were concluded between the USSR and Nigeria in 1968 and in subsequent years.


Ol’derogge, D. A. Drevnosti Benina, vols. 1–3. In Sb. Muzeia antropologii i etnografii AN SSSR, vols. 15–17. Moscow-Leningrad, 1953–57.
Ol’derogge, D. A. Zapadnyi Sudan v XV-XIX vv: Ocherki po istorii i istorii kul’tury. Moscow-Leningrad, 1960.
Pribytkovskii, L. N. Nigeriia v bor’be za nezavisimost’. Moscow, 1961.
Ismagilova, R. N. Narody Nigerii. Moscow, 1963.
Azikiwe, N. The Development of Political Parties in Nigeria. London, 1957.
Coleman, J. S. Nigeria: Background to Nationalism. Los Angeles, 1958.
Sklar, R. L. Nigerian Political Parties. Princeton, 1963.


There are approximately 1,000 trade unions in Nigeria. The largest trade union association, the Nigerian Federation of Trade Unions, was founded in 1973 and comprises about 800 trade unions. Other associations include the United Labor Congress of Nigeria (founded in 1950), a member of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, and the Council of Nigerian Christian Workers (founded in 1961).

General characteristics. Nigeria is an agricultural country with a rapidly developing mining industry. It is the capitalist world’s leading producer of palm oil products and columbite, the second largest producer and exporter of cocoa beans, and the second largest exporter of peanuts. It occupies fifth-sixth place in the production of tin concentrates and sixth-seventh place in the export of rubber. In 1970, Nigeria became one of the world’s ten leading oil-exporting countries -and the second largest producer among the African countries, after Libya.

The structure of Nigeria’s economy evolved under the long-term influence of British monopoly capital. During the colonial period agriculture was adapted to the needs of the mother country, and mining was the only industrial sector to be developed. Roads and seaports were built to accommodate the export of mineral and agricultural raw materials. Although there was some growth in manufacturing after World War II, chiefly in the processing of agricultural raw material, the economy continued to develop unevenly. In 1956–57, agriculture, lumbering, and fishing accounted for more than 60 percent of the gross national product, and industry, including handicrafts, for 4 percent.

After the proclamation of independence in 1960, the government promoted the development of private national enterprise and sought to attract foreign capital. British monopolies retained their firm hold on the economy, and American, Japanese, and West German capital investments increased steadily. The first economic development plan (1962–68) stressed the creation of an infrastructure and industrial projects of nationwide importance, such as the hydroelectric power station on the Niger River and the petroleum refinery in Port Harcourt. The program was only partially carried out, largely owing to the civil war that lasted from 1967 to 1970. At the end of the war the federal military government proposed a plan to restore and further develop the economy between 1970 and 1974. The state accounts for 55 percent of all capital investments, and private enterprise for 45 percent. About 13 percent of the state investments are allocated for agriculture, 10.5 percent for industry and commerce, and 24 percent for transport.

In the early 1970’s measures were taken to reduce Nigeria’s dependence on foreign capital, to strengthen the state sector, and to bolster the position of the national bourgeoisie. Such industries as brewing, meat packing, construction, and the production of rubber, perfume, and paint and varnish have been wholly or partly transferred to local entrepreneurs. The federal military government now owns 40 percent of the shares in all foreign banks; the participation of national capital in foreign commercial banks has been expanded; and income from foreign oil companies has increased. Between 1960 and 1970 there were major changes in the structure of the economy: the role of agriculture declined, the petroleum industry developed, and a manufacturing industry arose. In 1971 the per capita gross national product was $128.

Agriculture. With the development of industry, agriculture’s share of the gross national product declined from 60 percent in 1956–57 to 41.8 percent in 1971–72. Communal farming prevails throughout much of the country. Vestiges of feudalism have survived in the north, and capitalist relations are evolving in areas where export crops are raised. Most agricultural produce —both for the domestic market and for export—is raised on small farms. The land holdings of most peasants range from 0.4–0.8 to 1.0–1.5 hectares (ha). Of the total land area 25.6 percent is plowed land and land under perennial plantings and 30.3 percent is meadows and pastures.

The main branch of agriculture is crop cultivation. The principal food crops are millet, sorghum, corn, yams, and cassava. Yams, cassava, and corn are raised in the south, where rainfall is abundant, and drought-resistant millet and sorghum are grown in the north. Legumes, sugarcane, and vegetables are also important. Rice production (350,000 ha, 600,000 tons in 1972) has been increasing; the valleys of the Sokoto River and its tributary, the Rima River, are being developed to increase the rice output.

The chief export crops are oil palm, cacao, peanuts, and rubber-bearing plants. Oil palms grow profusely along the left bank of the Niger River, chiefly in natural groves (1.6 million hectares). Palm kernels are exported in large quantities (185,000 tons in 1970), but most of the palm oil is used locally. In 1970, Nigeria supplied about 40 percent of the world’s palm kernels. Cacao is grown chiefly in Western State, mostly on small peasant farms, and most of the cocoa bean harvest, averaging 200,000

Table 1. Sown area and yield of principal crops
 Area (hectares)Yield (tons)
1 Average annual
Millet and sorghum ...............6,380,0006,651,00010,311,0003,800,0005,608,0007,402,000
Corn ...............727,0001,120,0001,281,000644,0001,033,0001,188,000
Yams and sweet potatoes ...............1,305,0001,502,0001,367,0009,972,00014,512,00014,504,000
Cassava ...............1,000,000832,000960,0005,800,0007,800,0009,570,000
Oil palm kernels ...............372,000436,900423,000
oil ...............422,000671,800650,000
Peanuts ...............970,0001,845,0001,855,000690,0001,863,0001,233,000
Cotton (fiber) ...............130,000372,000330,00013,00044,00038,000
Cacao ...............550,000700,000105,000218,200244,000
Rubber ...............13,70066,40062,000

tons per year, is exported. In 1971, Nigeria provided about one-fifth of the world’s cacao. Peanuts are grown only in the north, and the Hadejia River basin produces most of the peanuts for export. Annual peanut exports average 500,000 tons, or about two-fifths of the world supply. In the 1960’s Nigeria began to export peanut oil (about one-third of the world supply) and oil cake. Rubber production is concentrated in the tropical forests of southeastern and southwestern Nigeria. About 130,000 ha are under cultivation, and 50,000–60,000 tons of rubber are exported annually. Cotton is grown mainly in the north. (See Table 1 for the sown area and yield of the principal crops.)

Livestock raising is of the extensive type and contributes about one-tenth of the value of the gross national product. Most of the livestock is in the north, where much of the cattle are owned by the Fulani. In 1972 there were 11.4 million head of cattle, 23.5 million goats, and 8 million sheep. Nigeria is West Africa’s leading exporter of leather raw material (7,200 tons in 1972). Fishing is well developed; in 1971 the fish catch was 155,800 tons.

Nigeria is an important exporter of timber, including such valuable species as African mahogany (Khaya), sapele, iroko, and agba. Most of the timber comes from southern Nigeria. In 1970, 370,000 cu m of lumber were produced, and 47,000 cu m of timber and lumber were exported.

Industry. In 1971–72 industry provided 27 percent of the value of the gross national product, with mining accounting for 18.5 percent and manufacturing for 8.5 percent. (See Table 2 for the output of minerals and industrial products.)

Table 2. Output of selected minerals and industrial products
1 Average annual 2Tin content
Coal (tons) ...............658,000341,000
Petroleum (million tons) ...............9.590.9
Natural gas (million cu m) ...............72158
Tin concentrates (tons)2 ...............9,1006,732
Columbite (tons) ...............2,3101.361
Electrical energy (million kW-hr) ...............1,0252,194
Cement (tons) ...............733,0001,117,000

Petroleum production is concentrated in the Niger Delta, at Ughelli, Bomu, Imo-River, and other places. In 1972 about 65 percent of the oil was extracted by the Anglo-Dutch company Shell-British Petroleum, 18.5 percent by the American company Gulf Oil, and 10 percent by the American firm Mobil Oil. Between 1971 and 1973 the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) acquired a 35 percent share in the Nigerian enterprises of the foreign oil companies, and in 1974 the Nigerian government increased its share to 55 percent. A Soviet-Nigerian agreement on technical assistance to the NNPC was signed in 1973; the agreement also provided for the establishment of a training center for petroleum specialists at Warri. Almost all the oil produced in Nigeria is exported. Pipelines connect the oil fields with Port Harcourt, Bonny, and Warri. In 1973 oil exports totaled 93.3 million tons, of which more than two-thirds were purchased by Western European countries and the rest by the United States and other countries. The petroleum refinery near Port Harcourt can produce 2.7 million tons of petroleum products annually; 60 percent of the company’s shares are owned by the NNPC and the remainder by Shell-British Petroleum.

The mining of tin ore (cassiterite) and niobium ore (columbite), controlled mainly by British companies, continues to be an important source of revenue. Tin metal, produced by a smelting plant in Jos, and columbite are exported mainly to the USA and Great Britain.

Coal is mined near Enugu. The output of coal, sharply reduced during the civil war, subsequently increased. Small quantities of tungsten, lead, and zinc are also extracted.

In 1971, Nigeria’s electric power plants had a capacity of 805 megawatts (MW). The country’s largest hydroelectric plant, the Kainji plant on the Niger River, was put into operation in 1969. Its first stage has a capacity of 320 MW. Electric energy production totaled 2.2 billion kW-hr in 1972.

Manufacturing is dominated by the food-processing and textile industries. The largest food enterprises (butter-making, flour milling, brewing, canning, tobacco curing) are found in Lagos, Ibadan, Port Harcourt, and Kano. Kaduna has traditionally been an important textile center, and since independence textile factories have been built in southern Nigeria, at Onitsha, Aba, Asaba, and elsewhere. The leather-footwear, rubber, cement, metalworking, and petrochemical industries are expanding. The chemical industry produces soap, perfume, pharmaceuticals, and plastics, and the rubber industry is represented by rubber-processing and tire-making enterprises. The largest enterprises are in Lagos, Port Harcourt, Aba, and Kano. Small machinery and repair workshops predominate in the metalworking industry. There are also plants for the assembly of bicycles, trucks, tractors, radio sets, and sewing machines. Peugeot and Volkswagen assembly plants were under construction in 1974 with the participation of Nigerian state and private capital. Lagos is the largest metalworking center.

The newly introduced metallurgical industry includes a steel-rolling mill at Emene, near Enugu. Plans for a metallurgical complex with an annual capacity of about 1 million tons were being drawn up in 1974 with the assistance of the USSR. The largest cement plants are at Nkalagu (capacity 500,000 tons) and Ewekoro (capacity 400,000–500,000 tons), and other cement plants have been built at Sokoto and Calabar. The woodworking industry is represented by a large lumber and plywood factory at Sapele. There are also furniture enterprises, a paper and pulp factory (at Jebba), and a match factory (at Ilorin). Traditional handicrafts include weaving, woodcarving, metalworking, leatherworking, and pottery.

Transportation. Nigeria had 3,500 km of railroad track in 1971. The western (Lagos-Kano) and eastern (Port Harcourt-Kaduna) trunk lines link the seacoast with the interior. Of the country’s some 100,000 km of roads, 16,000 km were paved by 1971. The major highways connect Lagos with Kano and Ibadan with Abakaliki. The country has 7,200 km of inland waterways. The Niger River and its tributary, the Benue, are the main transportation arteries. The largest seaports are Bonny, Lagos, Port Harcourt, Sapele, Warri, and Burutu. The total freight turnover of the country’s seaports exceeded 80 million tons in 1971. A national airline provides domestic air transportation. Lagos and Kano have international airports.

Foreign trade. In 1972 imports amounted to 990,000,000 nairas, and exports totaled 1,434,100,000 nairas. Since 1966 Nigeria has had a favorable balance of trade owing to the increased export of petroleum, which has largely displaced Nigeria’s traditional export commodities. In 1972 petroleum accounted for nearly four-fifths of the value of exports, cocoa beans for 7 percent, and peanuts and oil palm products together for less than 3 percent. Other important exports are tin metal, columbite, rubber, leather raw materials, and lumber. The major imports are machinery and equipment (about 40 percent of all imports) and manufactured goods (36.6 percent). Foodstuffs, beverages, and tobacco account for 10 percent of imports.

Nigeria’s principal trading partners are Great Britain (30 percent of the value of imports and 21 percent of the value of exports in 1972), the United States (10 percent of imports and 21 percent of exports), the Federal Republic of Germany (14 percent of imports), Japan (10 percent of imports), and France (14 percent of exports). Nigeria maintains trade relations with the socialist countries. Trade between the USSR and Nigeria is expanding; in 1973 it totaled 39.6 million rubles. Nigeria imports from the USSR trucks and passenger cars, cement, equipment, cotton fabrics, and sugar, and it exports to the USSR cocoa beans, rubber, and tropical timber. On Jan. 1, 1973, the naira replaced the Nigerian pound as the monetary unit.


Asoian, N. S. Nigeriia. Moscow, 1963.
Petrov, E. A. Nigeriia. Moscow, 1971.
Pedler, F. J. Economic Geography of West Africa. London-New York-Toronto, 1955.
Buchanan, K. M., and J. C. Pugh. Land and People in Nigeria. London, 1961.


Nigeria’s armed forces consist of an army, navy, and air force. The commander in chief is the head of the federal military government, and the chiefs of staff of the three branches are responsible for the general supervision of the armed forces. The army is recruited by voluntary enlistment. The officer corps is trained in national schools, as well as in Great Britain, the United States, India, and Canada. In 1973 the overall strength of the armed forces was about 260,000 men. The army of about 250,000 men is divided into several infantry divisions. The air force of more than 4,000 men is equipped with about 50 aircraft, including 38 combat planes. The navy (about 5,000 men) has about ten warships. All weapons and matériel are foreign made.

Medicine and public health. Based on incomplete data, the birth rate was 49.6 per 1,000 inhabitants in 1970, and the mortality rate, 24.9 per 1,000 inhabitants; the infant mortality rate was 41.1 per 1,000 live births. The average life expectancy is 37.2 years for men and 36.7 years for women. Infectious diseases predominate and include yellow fever, smallpox, and cholera. Typhoid fever, bacillary dysentery, amebiasis, tuberculosis, leprosy, trachoma, children’s infections, and venereal diseases are also widespread. Malaria occurs everywhere. It is highly communicable (15 percent of all newcomers contract the disease despite chemoprophylaxis), and the carriers have developed a resistance to insecticides. Yellow fever is endemic throughout the country, and ancylostomiasis is prevalent. Disorders associated with malnutrition are common.

In the south malaria is endemic, and urogenital schistosomiasis, loiasis, acanthocheilonemiasis, dracunculiasis, wuchereriasis, and paragonimiasis are widespread. In central Nigeria malaria occurs everywhere, and trypanosomiasis and urogenital schistosomiasis are encountered in the Niger and Benue valleys. Pockets of onchocerciasis, one of the leading causes of blindness, loiasis, and dracunculiasis are also found in central Nigeria, and there is a high incidence of poliomyelitis and viral hepatitis.

In the north malaria and dermal leishmaniasis are widespread, and brucellosis, leptospirosis, salmonellosis, taeniasis, and typhus occur in the Katsina area. Outbreaks of epidemic cerebrospinal meningitis and cases of purulent meningitis have been recorded. Pellagra, beriberi, and other vitamin deficiency diseases are the most common noninfectious diseases. South of Sokoto there are pockets of endemic goiter.

Medical services are provided by both private capitalist and government facilities. In 1968 there were 2,800 hospitals with 28,100 beds (0.5 beds per 1,000 inhabitants). Of the country’s 3,000 doctors in 1971 (one per 29,000 persons), only 626 were Africans. In addition, there were 100 dentists, 808 pharmacists, and about 36,000 medical assistants.

Doctors are trained in the medical faculty of the University of Ibadan and in medical schools in Lagos and Zaria. Schools of hygiene train health inspectors and home-nursing personnel. There are also schools for training nurses and midwives. Other training facilities include a pharmacy school, a university pharmacy faculty, and two university faculties teaching laboratory methods. A school of dental hygiene was founded in 1955.

The USSR supplied Nigeria with medical equipment in 1969, with medical supplies in 1968 and 1970, and with vaccine to combat cholera epidemics in 1971. In addition to three laboratories producing rabies, smallpox, and yellow fever vaccines, there is a laboratory manufacturing lyophilized smallpox vaccine in Lagos (20 million doses annually). The International Center for Eradicating Malaria, financed by the World Health Organization, is based in Lagos.


Veterinary services. Many infectious diseases of animals are endemic diseases whose agents are transmitted by blood-sucking insects. Few other countries have such a high incidence of trypanosomiasis, and streptothrichosis of cattle, babesiasis, and rickettsiosis are widespread. Other prevalent diseases include foot-and-mouth disease, anthrax, blackleg, pleouropneumonia of goats, and such helminthiases as fascioliasis, echinococcosis, and onchocerciasis. Low livestock productivity also results from deficiency diseases (insufficient amounts of trace elements and vitamins in fodder), brucellosis, and tuberculosis. A program has been launched to eradicate plague, pleuropneumonia, and trypanosmiasis. There is a veterinary station in Vom. In 1972, Nigeria had 225 veterinarians.

The first missionary schools were founded in the mid-19th century. In 1950 about 90 percent of the adult population was illiterate. That year 970,000 pupils were enrolled in primary schools, and 29,000 pupils attended secondary schools, chiefly lower secondary schools. The University College of Ibadan was established in 1948 as one of the first higher educational institutions in tropical Africa. Appropriations for public education increased significantly after independence. Short-term courses have been organized to eradicate illiteracy among the adult population, and compulsory elementary education has been introduced. Religious (Koranic) schools are coming under government supervision. In many respects the curriculum of the Koranic schools is similar to that of secular primary schools. Primary education lasts for six years in the west and east and in Lagos and seven years in the north; more than 3 million children were enrolled in primary schools in 1971. Most general secondary schools are either grammar schools, offering five or six years of instruction, or modern schools with a three- or four-year course emphasizing practical training. The secondary schools charge tuition and a fee for taking examinations. More than 180,000 students were enrolled in secondary schools in 1971. Vocational education is expanding. In 1971, more than 24,000 students were enrolled in technical schools, and 32,000 attended teacher-training schools.

Nigeria has six universities, the largest of which is the University of Ibadan, formed in 1962 out of the University College. After independence, universities were founded at Nsukka in 1960, at Ife in 1961, at Lagos in 1962, at Zaria in 1962 (the Ahmadu Bello University, with a branch at Kano), and at Benin in 1972. The universities had an enrollment of more than 10,000 students in 1972. Many Nigerians are studying abroad, including about 700 persons in the USSR in 1974.

The largest libraries are the university libraries and the National Library in Lagos. Nigeria has six museums: the National Museum in Lagos, the Benin Museum, and museums in Ife, Jos, Oron, and Kano.


A number of institutes are engaged in agricultural research, including animal husbandry and fishing. The Federal Institute of Industrial Research, founded in Ikeja in 1955, is developing methods for processing local food crops and vegetable raw materials. The Institute for Cocoa Bean Research in Ibadan, founded in 1962, also conducts research on the cultivation of coffee and kola nuts, and the Institute for Oil Palm Research in Benin studies oil palm cultivation and methods of selection. The Federal Department of Agricultural Research, founded at Moor in 1910, is striving to increase the yield of food crops and improve agronomic methods. Research on animal husbandry is conducted by the Federal Department of Veterinary Research in Vom, founded in 1924, and other institutions. Several research stations operated by the Federal Fisheries Service in Lagos are studying problems of breeding new varieties of fish. The Federal Department of Forest Research in Ibadan works on problems of forest preservation and development. The agricultural faculties of the universities at Ibadan, Zaria, Ife, and Nsukka also conduct research on plant breeding and the control of plant diseases and pests. The Institute for Agricultural Research in Samaru (founded in 1924), affiliated with the university at Zaria, is the largest institution of its kind in Nigeria.

Medical research is conducted at the institute in Yaba (virology), the Institute for Trypanosomiasis Research in Kaduna, the Institute for the Study of Leprosy in Uzuakoli, and the Institute of Child Health at the University of Ibadan. Problems of planning, agricultural economics, industry, foreign trade, finance, education, and social welfare are studied at the Nigerian Institute of Social and Economic Research in Ibadan, founded in 1957. There is an institute of economic research in Nsukka. As many as 50 percent of the scientific workers in research institutes are foreigners, mainly from English-speaking countries, working on contract. The Economic Society, founded in 1958, is the largest learned society. The Council on Science and Technology, formed in 1970, and the Medical Research Council, established in 1972, advise the federal government and coordinate research.


Nigeria Year Book, 1970. Lagos, 1970.
Okafor Nduka. The Development of Universities in Nigeria. London, 1971.


In 1975 about 90 newspapers and journals were published in Nigeria, most of them in English; some specialized publications are issued in the local languages. The largest daily newspapers are the Daily Times, founded in 1925 and published in Lagos (circulation, more than 200,000), the West African Pilot, founded in 1937 and published in Lagos (circulation, about 50,000), the Nigerian Tribune, founded in 1949 and published in Ibadan (circulation, 30,000), the Daily Sketch, founded in 1964 and published in Ibadan (circulation, more than 19,000), and the New Nigerian, founded in 1965 and published in Kaduna (circulation, 45,000). The Sunday Times, a weekly newspaper founded in 1953, is published in Lagos and has a circulation of 368,000. The Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation, established in Lagos in 1957, broadcasts radio programs in English and the local languages. The corporation also operates the Nigerian Television Service, founded in 1962.

The literature of the peoples of Nigeria is closely linked with oral folk traditions. A literature has developed in the Yoruba, Ibo, and Hausa languages; Hausa literature has been influenced by Islam. Most Nigerian authors write in English.

Publicistic writing originated in the late 19th century, stimulated by the national liberation movement. The first poems on social themes were written by N. Azikiwe and D. Osadebay between the 1920’s and 1940’s. The beginnings of drama in the 1930’s are associated with the activity of the Christian church, which encouraged plays on biblical themes. The book fairs that were held in some cities, notably Onitsha, in the 1930’s and 1940’s facilitated the dissemination of popular literature, which reflected in simplified form the morality and attitudes of different strata of the population. The book fairs influenced the development of the modern Nigerian short story and helped train Nigerian writers, including C. Ekwensi (born 1921), the author of the first Nigerian novel, People of the City (1954). The works of A. Tutuola (born 1920)—The Palm-Wine Drinkard (1952), My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (1954), and Simbi and the Satyr of the Dark Jungle (1955)—derive their inspiration from Yoruba folklore.

The prose of the 1960’s reflects a greater interest in everyday life and writers’ attempts to “rehabilitate” patriarchal Africa in the eyes of European readers. Noteworthy works of this type are Wand of Noble Wood (1961) and Blade Among the Boys (1962) by O. Nzekwu (born 1928), and The Concubine (1966) and The Great Ponds (1969) by Elechi Amadi (born 1934). Social problems are treated in Highlife for Lizards (1965) by Nzekwu, Efuru (1966) by Flora Nwappa (born 1931), and More Than Once (1967) by C. Agunwa (born 1933). In his novel Kinsman and Foreman (1966), T. Aluko (born 1920) attempts to portray an ideal citizen. O. Egbuna (born 1932) in his novel Wind Versus Polygamy (1964) and N. Nwanko in his novel Danda (1964) contrast the patriarchal community with bourgeois morality. In their artistic structure these novels recall the 18th-century European Bildungsroman.

The main trend in Nigerian prose is critical realism, reaching a high point in the novels of C. Achebe (born 1930). Achebe’s trilogy, comprising Things Fall Apart (1958), No Longer at Ease (1960), and Arrow of God (1964), portrays important stages in the history of the peoples of Nigeria beginning with the colonial conquest in the mid-19th century. His novel A Man of the People (1966) depicts contemporary life. Ekwensi’s novellas and his novels Jagua Nana (1961), Beautiful Feathers (1963), and Iska (1966) deal with social problems. Similar themes are treated by John Munonye (born 1929). A more complex plot and structure and efforts to enrich the English language with African elements distinguish the novels The Voice (1964) by G. Okara (born 1928), The Interpreters (1965) by W. Soyinka (born 1935), and The Edifice (1971) by K. Omotoso (born 1943).

The plays and poems of the 1960’s have strong social overtones. An important contribution to the development of verse and drama was made by Okara; by Soyinka, who wrote the narrative poem Idanre (1967) and the plays Dance of the Forests (1960), The Road (1965), and Kongi’s Harvest (1967); by J. Clark (born 1935), best known for his plays Song of a Goat (1961) and Ozidi (1966) and his anthology Poems (1962); and by C. Okigbo (1932–67), the author of the verse cycles Heavensgate (1962), Limits (1964), and Paths of Thunder (1967) and the anthology Labyrinths (1971). The principal literary magazines are Black Orpheus and Okike.


Ivasheva, V. V. “Roman sovremennoi Nigerii.” In the collection Literatura stran Afriki. Moscow, 1964.
Gal’perina, E. “Pod znakom Oguna.” Inostrannaia literatura, 1967, no. 6.
Potekhina, G. I. Ocherki sovremennoi literatury Zapadnoi Afriki. Moscow, 1968.
Vavilov, V. N. Proza Nigerii. Moscow, 1973.
Sovremennye literatury Afriki. Moscow, 1973.
Laurence, M. Long Drums and Cannons: Nigerian Dramatists and Novelists, 1952–1966. London, 1968.
Introduction to Nigerian Literature. Lagos-London, 1971.
Roscoe, A. A. Mother Is Gold: A Study in West African Literature. London, 1971.


The diversity of Nigerian architecture results from varying environmental and climatic conditions. In the tropical forest regions in the south, southwest, and southeast the houses are rectangular structures made of wood, pisé, or wattle, with gabled roofs of straw and palm leaves. Among the Ibo and Yoruba, houses and other buildings are grouped around a rectangular courtyard, which is surrounded by a covered terrace. In central Nigeria, including the Jos Plateau, buildings are spherical and made of pisé, with conical straw roofs. Rectangular, flat-roofed houses prevail in the savanna and semidesert regions of the north. The walls, doors, and supporting posts of houses are frequently decorated with ornamental and figured carving.

Between the 13th and 15th centuries cities with a regular layout flourished in the south (Great Benin), whereas northern cities, (Kano, Zaria, Katsina) were built according to a radial scheme. The northern cities consisted of one- and two-story houses and were surrounded by pisé walls with numerous gates. With the spread of Islam in northern Nigeria in the 14th century, rectangular mosques, often without minarets, were built; their roofs were supported by clay pylons. In the late 19th century, Nigerians repatriated from Brazil introduced into southern Nigerian architecture such elements of the Latin American baroque as heraldic sculptural insignia, balustrades, and iron grillwork. Influenced by European architecture, the appearance of Nigerian cities changed greatly after World War II. In Lagos, Ibadan, and Enugu the districts inhabited by colonial administrators acquired multistory buildings, usually designed by British architects using modern building materials and designs and special sun-protective devices. After independence, several outstanding local architects emerged, notably O. Olumuyiwa and A. Adjemi. Nigerian architects began to use sculptural decoration, such as grillwork and ornamentation of windows and doors, executed by skilled craftsmen in the traditional folk styles.

The oldest art relics discovered in Nigeria are terra-cotta sculpture belonging to the Nok culture. Bronze human statues, found in Jebba and Tada, date from the beginning of the Common Era. In the sculpture that flourished in Benin and Ife between the 12th and 17th centuries, refined modeling was often combined with precise detail.

From earliest times the Yoruba, Hausa, Ibo, Ibibio, Ijaw, and Ekoi have carved small wooden statues of people and animals. Their polychrome human figurines had a grotesque dynamic quality achieved through the distortion of sharply contrasting forms. There is a great variety of wooden ritual masks, now used in carnivals. Artistic handicrafts include the production of carved stools, bracelets, decorated calabashes, print and embroidered fabrics, and vessels of clay, glass, and leather.

Professional art has developed rapidly since independence. The sculptors O. Idah, F. Idubor, and A. Akanji, the painter U. Okeke, and the graphic artist I. Wangboje draw heavily on traditional Nigerian art. European realistic styles have been adopted by the painter A. Onabolu and the sculptor B. Enwonwu, and the influence of modernism may be seen in the paintings of J. Akolo, J. Grillo, B. Onobrakpeya, and U. Egonu and the sculpture of B. Osabe and E. O. Emokpae. D. Nwoko is an outstanding stage designer.


Ol’derogge, D. Iskusstvo narodov Zapadnoi Afriki v muzeiakh SSSR. Leningrad-Moscow, 1958.
Mirimanov, V. B. Afrika: Iskusstvo. [Moscow, 1967.]
Voronina, V. L. “Arkhitektura Zapadnoi i Vostochnoi Afriki.” In Vseobshchaia istoriia arkhitektury, vol. 10. Moscow, 1972.
Voronina, V. L. Sovremennaia arkhitektura stran tropicheskoi Afriki. Moscow, 1973.
Beier, U. “Moderne Architektur in Nigerien.” Baukunst und Werkform, 1957, no. 2, pp. 80–83.
Beier, U. Art in Nigeria. 1960. Cambridge-Ibadan, 1960.
Beier, U. Contemporary Art in Africa. London, 1968.
Fagg, W. Nigerian Images. New York-London, 1963.

Originating in the distant past, Nigerian music, chiefly religious, flourished during the Middle Ages. Young people were taught traditional songs and dances. Musicians recounted court chronicles, royal genealogies, legends, and myths in “drum language.” Drums of various types were the most popular instruments. In the 19th century the colonial activity of missionaries undermined the influence of local religions and caused the gradual disappearance of religious music.

After World War II, as musicians began to use European instruments, European harmonic structures were introduced and new musical forms were created, based on the complex rhythmic and harmonic patterns of African folk music. Music schools were founded after independence. Foremost among the professional composers who appeared in the 1960’s and early 1970’s are Akin Euba, Fela Sowande, Sam Akrobot, Ayo Bankole, and Adam Fiberisima, all of whom compose for African and European musical instruments. Annual music and dance festivals are organized in cities by the Philharmonic Choir of Ibadan, the Choral Society of the University of Ife, and the Nigerian Musical Culture Society in Lagos.


The traditional dramatic presentations of the peoples of Nigeria are based on dances associated with everyday life and rituals. During festivals and anniversary celebrations processions of masked and costumed villagers are held, and pantomimes on mythological subjets are acted out. The pantomimes portray divinities personifying the forces of nature, the spirits of ancestors, and mythological heroes. European theater was introduced in the early 20th century, mainly in schools and missionary organizations. The singer and schoolteacher H. Ogunde was one of the originators of Yoruba-language theater. In 1944—45 he organized a traveling company for which he composed didactic parable plays and propaganda plays dealing with important political issues. After Nigeria gained its independence in 1960, Ogunde’s group became a professional traveling company. Yoruba-language theater was further developed by K. Ogunmola, who in the early 1950’s formed a traveling company to perform his plays on folklore subjects, and by the playwright D. Lapido, who writes plays inspired by the history and mythology of his people and stages musical dramas.

Since the late 1950’s there has been a growing interest in amateur English-language theater, particularly among students at Ibadan College. The Arts Theatre was built at the college in 1955, and a drama school was founded there in 1962. A permanent company was formed from among the students of the drama school in 1968. Of the amateur companies of the 1960’s, the most famous was The 1960 Masks, founded at the time of the preparations for the celebration of independence. The company was headed by the playwright W. Soyinka, and its first production was Dance of the Forests. In 1964 a group of performers left the company to establish the professional Orisun Repertory Theatre Company, which existed until 1969. Today, the leading amateur companies in Lagos are the Theater Workshop, founded in 1962 and directed by S. Jyamu; Stage Craft, organized in 1965 and directed by F. Davies; the Nigerian Playhouse, established in 1968 and directed by C. Ekije; and the Neighborly Actors, formed in 1969 and directed by S. Simpson. The development of amateur theater is encouraged by the Nigerian Arts Council, established in 1958. Similar councils have functioned in each state since 1967.


“Our Authors and Performing Artists.” Nigeria Magazine, 1966, no. 88, pp. 57–64; no. 89, pp. 133–40.
Ogunba, O. “Le Théâtre au Nigeria.” Présence africaine, 1966, no. 58, pp. 67–90.
Adedeji, J. “A Profile of Nigerian Theater, 1960–1970.” Nigeria Magazine, 1971, nos. 107–109, pp. 3–14.

N. I. L’vov

British entrepreneurs organized a film company in Lagos in 1947 which since 1950 has been called the Federal Film Unit. In the early 1960’s the only films produced were documentaries, made by foreign cameramen and directors. By the mid-1960’s, however, films were being made by Nigerian cinematographers trained in European schools. About three or four documentary films are released annually, and several have been shown at international film festivals, including those held in Tashkent in 1969 and 1974 and in Moscow in 1971. There were 129 movie theaters in operation in 1973, showing mostly foreign films; about 500 films are imported annually. [17–1676–1; updated]

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


Official name: Federal Republic of Nigeria

Capital city: Abuja

Internet country code: .ng

Flag description: Three equal vertical bands of green (hoist side), white, and green

National motto: “Unity and Faith, Peace and Progress”

Geographical description: Western Africa, bordering the Gulf of Guinea, between Benin and Cameroon

Total area: 356,700 sq. mi. (923,768 sq. km.)

Climate: Varies; equatorial in south, tropical in center, arid in north

Nationality: noun: Nigerian(s); adjective: Nigerian

Population: 135,031,164 (July 2007 CIA est.)

Ethnic groups: Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, is composed of more than 250 ethnic groups; the following are the most populous and politically influential: Hausa and Fulani 29%, Yoruba 21%, Igbo (Ibo) 18%, Ijaw 10%, Kanuri 4%, Ibibio 3.5%, Tiv 2.5%

Languages spoken: English (official), Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo (Ibo), Fulani

Religions: Muslim 50%, Christian 40%, indigenous reli­gions 10%

Legal Holidays:

Boxing DayDec 26
Christmas DayDec 25
Democracy DayMay 29
Easter MondayApr 25, 2011; Apr 9, 2012; Apr 1, 2013; Apr 21, 2014; Apr 6, 2015; Mar 28, 2016; Apr 17, 2017; Apr 2, 2018; Apr 22, 2019; Apr 13, 2020; Apr 5, 2021; Apr 18, 2022; Apr 10, 2023
Good FridayApr 22, 2011; Apr 6, 2012; Mar 29, 2013; Apr 18, 2014; Apr 3, 2015; Mar 25, 2016; Apr 14, 2017; Mar 30, 2018; Apr 19, 2019; Apr 10, 2020; Apr 2, 2021; Apr 15, 2022; Apr 7, 2023
Independence DayOct 1
Labor DayMay 1
New Year's DayJan 1
Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.


a republic in West Africa, on the Gulf of Guinea: Lagos annexed by the British in 1861; protectorates of Northern and Southern Nigeria formed in 1900 and united as a colony in 1914; gained independence as a member of the Commonwealth in 1960 (membership suspended from 1995 to 1999 following human rights violations); Eastern Region seceded as the Republic of Biafra for the duration of the severe civil war (1967--70); ruled by military governments from 1966. It consists of a belt of tropical rain forest in the south, with semidesert in the extreme north and highlands in the east; the main export is petroleum. Official language: English; Hausa, Ibo, and Yoruba are the chief regional languages. Religion: animist, Muslim, and Christian. Currency: naira. Capital: Abuja. Pop.: 127 117 000 (2004 est.). Area: 923 773 sq. km (356 669 sq. miles)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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