The Federal Republic of Nigeria, commonly referred to as Nigeria, is a federal republic in West Africa, bordering Benin in the west, Chad and Cameroon in the east, and Niger in the north. Its coast in the south lies on the Gulf of Guinea in the Atlantic Ocean. It comprises 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, where the capital, Abuja is located. Nigeria is officially a democratic secular country.
Modern-day Nigeria has been the site of numerous kingdoms and tribal states over the millennia. The modern state originated from British colonial rule beginning in the 19th century and the merging of the Southern Nigeria Protectorate and Northern Nigeria Protectorate in 1914. The British set up administrative and legal structures whilst practicing indirect rule through traditional chiefdoms. Nigeria became a formally independent federation in 1960. It experienced a civil war from 1967 to 1970. It then alternated between democratically elected civilian governments and military dictatorships until it achieved a stable democracy in 1999, with the 2011 presidential elections considered the first to be reasonably free and fair.
Nigeria is often referred to as the “Giant of Africa”, owing to its large population and economy. With approximately 186 million inhabitants, Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and the seventh most populous country in the world. Nigeria has one of the largest populations of youth in the world. The country is viewed as a multinational state as it is inhabited by over 500 ethnic groups, of which the three largest are the Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba; these ethnic groups speak over 500 different languages and are identified with wide variety of cultures. The official language is English. Nigeria is divided roughly in half between Christians, who live mostly in the southern part of the country, and Muslims, who live mostly in the north. A minority of the population practice religions indigenous to Nigeria, such as those native to the Igbo and Yoruba ethnicities.
As of 2015, Nigeria is the world’s 20th largest economy, worth more than $500 billion and $1 trillion in terms of nominal GDP and purchasing power parity respectively. It overtook South Africa to become Africa’s largest economy in 2014. The 2013 debt-to-GDP ratio was 11 percent. Nigeria is considered to be an emerging market by the World Bank; it has been identified as a regional power on the African continent, a middle power in international affairs,and has also been identified as an emerging global power. Nigeria is a member of the MINT group of countries, which are widely seen as the globe’s next “BRIC-like” economies. It is also listed among the “Next Eleven” economies set to become among the biggest in the world. Nigeria is a founding member of the African Union and a member of many other international organizations, including the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Nations and OPEC.
Nigeria is located in western Africa on the Gulf of Guinea and has a total area of 923,768 km2 (356,669 sq mi), making it the world’s 32nd-largest country (after Tanzania). It is comparable in size to Venezuela, and is about twice the size of the US state of California. Its borders span for 4,047-kilometre (2,515 mi). It shares a border with Benin (773 km or 480 mi), Niger (1,497 km or 930 mi), Chad (87 km or 54 mi), Cameroon (1,690 km or 1,050 mi), and has a coastline of at least 853 kilometres (530 miles). Nigeria lies between latitudes 4° and 14°N, and longitudes 2° and 15°E.
The highest point in Nigeria is Chappal Waddi at 2,419 m (7,936 ft). The main rivers are the Niger and the Benue, which converge and empty into the Niger Delta. This is one of the world’s largest river deltas, and the location of a large area of Central African mangroves.
Nigeria has a varied landscape. The far south is defined by its tropical rainforest climate, where annual rainfall is 60 to 80 inches (1,500 to 2,000 mm) a year. In the southeast stands the Obudu Plateau. Coastal plains are found in both the southwest and the southeast. This forest zone’s most southerly portion is defined as “salt water swamp,” also known as a mangrove swamp because of the large amount of mangroves in the area. North of this is fresh water swamp, containing different vegetation from the salt water swamp, and north of that is rain forest.
Nigeria’s most expansive topographical region is that of the valleys of the Niger and Benue river valleys (which merge into each other and form a “y” shape). To the southwest of the Niger is “rugged” highland. To the southeast of the Benue are hills and mountains, which form the Mambilla Plateau, the highest plateau in Nigeria. This plateau extends through the border with Cameroon, where the montane land is part of the Bamenda Highlands of Cameroon.
The area near the border with Cameroon close to the coast is rich rainforest and part of the Cross-Sanaga-Bioko coastal forests ecoregion, an important centre for biodiversity. It is habitat for the drill monkey, which is found in the wild only in this area and across the border in Cameroon. The areas surrounding Calabar, Cross River State, also in this forest, are believed to contain the world’s largest diversity of butterflies. The area of southern Nigeria between the Niger and the Cross Rivers has lost most of its forest because of development and harvesting by increased population, with it being replaced by grassland (see Cross-Niger transition forests).
Everything in between the far south and the far north is savannah (insignificant tree cover, with grasses and flowers located between trees). Rainfall is more limited, to between 500 and 1,500 millimetres (20 and 60 in) per year. The savannah zone’s three categories are Guinean forest-savanna mosaic, Sudan savannah, and Sahel savannah. Guinean forest-savanna mosaic is plains of tall grass interrupted by trees. Sudan savannah is similar but with shorter grasses and shorter trees. Sahel savannah consists of patches of grass and sand, found in the northeast. In the Sahel region, rain is less than 500 millimetres (20 in) per year and the Sahara Desert is encroaching. In the dry north-east corner of the country lies Lake Chad, which Nigeria shares with Niger, Chad and Cameroon.
Economy & Infrastructure
Nigeria is classified as a mixed economy emerging market, and has already reached lower middle income status according to the World Bank, with its abundant supply of natural resources, well-developed financial, legal, communications, transport sectors and stock exchange (the Nigerian Stock Exchange), which is the second largest in Africa.
Nigeria was ranked 21st in the world in terms of GDP (PPP) in 2015. Nigeria is the United States’ largest trading partner in sub-Saharan Africa and supplies a fifth of its oil (11% of oil imports). It has the seventh-largest trade surplus with the US of any country worldwide. Nigeria is the 50th-largest export market for US goods and the 14th-largest exporter of goods to the US. The United States is the country’s largest foreign investor. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) projected economic growth of 9% in 2008 and 8.3% in 2009. The IMF further projects an 8% growth in the Nigerian economy in 2011.
In February 2011, Citigroup projected that Nigeria would have the highest average GDP growth in the world in 2010–2050. Nigeria is one of two countries from Africa among 11 Global Growth Generators countries.
Previously, economic development had been hindered by years of military rule, corruption, and mismanagement. The restorations of democracy and subsequent economic reforms have successfully put Nigeria back on track towards achieving its full economic potential. As of 2014 it is the largest economy in Africa, having overtaken South Africa.
During the oil boom of the 1970s, Nigeria accumulated a significant foreign debt to finance major infrastructural investments. With the fall of oil prices during the 1980s oil glut Nigeria struggled to keep up with its loan payments and eventually defaulted on its principal debt repayments, limiting repayment to the interest portion of the loans. Arrears and penalty interest accumulated on the unpaid principal, which increased the size of the debt. After negotiations by the Nigeria authorities, in October 2005 Nigeria and its Paris Club creditors reached an agreement under which Nigeria repurchased its debt at a discount of approximately 60%. Nigeria used part of its oil profits to pay the residual 40%, freeing up at least $1.15 billion annually for poverty reduction programmes. Nigeria made history in April 2006 by becoming the first African country to completely pay off its debt (estimated $30 billion) owed to the Paris Club.
Nigeria is trying to reach the first of the Sustainable Development Goals, which is to end poverty in all its forms by 2030. Government officials have not taken official action to reach this.
Nigeria’s population increased by 57 million from 1990 to 2008, a 60% growth rate in less than two decades. Almost half of Nigerians are 14 years old or younger. Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and accounts for about 18% of the continent’s total population; however, exactly how populous is a subject of speculation.
The United Nations estimates that the population in 2016 was at 185,989,640, distributed as 51.7% rural and 48.3% urban, and with a population density of 167.5 people per square kilometer. National census results in the past few decades have been disputed. The results of the most recent census were released in December 2006 and gave a population of 140,003,542. The only breakdown available was by gender: males numbered 71,709,859, females numbered 68, 293,008. In June 2012, President Goodluck Jonathan said that Nigerians should limit their number of children.
According to the United Nations, Nigeria has been undergoing explosive population growth and has one of the highest growth and fertility rates in the world. By their projections, Nigeria is one of eight countries expected to account collectively for half of the world’s total population increase in 2005–2050. By 2100 the UN estimates that the Nigerian population will be between 505 million and 1.03 billion people (middle estimate: 730 million). In 1950, Nigeria had only 33 million people.
One in four Africans is a Nigerian. Presently, Nigeria is the seventh most populous country in the world. 2006 estimates claim 42.3% of the population is between 0–14 years of age, while 54.6% is between 15 and 65; the birth rate is significantly higher than the death rate, at 40.4 and 16.9 per 1000 people respectively.
Nigeria’s largest city is Lagos. Lagos has grown from about 300,000 in 1950 to an estimated 15 million today.
There are 521 languages that have been spoken in Nigeria (nine of which are now extinct).
In some areas of Nigeria, ethnic groups speak more than one language. The official language of Nigeria, English, was chosen to facilitate the cultural and linguistic unity of the country, owing to the influence of British colonization that ended in 1960.
Many French speakers from surrounding countries have influenced the English spoken in the border regions of Nigeria and some Nigerian citizens have become fluent enough in French to work in the surrounding countries. The French spoken in Nigeria may be mixed with some native languages but is mostly spoken like the French spoken in Benin. French may also be mixed with English as it is in Cameroon. Most of the population speaks English and their native language.
The major languages spoken in Nigeria represent three major families of languages of Africa: the majority are Niger-Congo languages, such as Igbo, Yoruba and Fulfulde; Kanuri, spoken in the northeast, primarily in Borno and Yobe State, is part of the Nilo-Saharan family; and Hausa is an Afroasiatic language.
Even though most ethnic groups prefer to communicate in their own languages, English as the official language is widely used for education, business transactions and for official purposes. English as a first language is used only by a small minority of the country’s urban elite, and it is not spoken at all in some rural areas. Hausa is the most widely spoken of the 3 main languages spoken in Nigeria itself (Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba) but unlike the Yorubas and Igbos, the Hausas tend not to travel far outside Nigeria itself.
With the majority of Nigeria’s populace in the rural areas, the major languages of communication in the country remain indigenous languages. Some of the largest of these, notably Yoruba and Igbo, have derived standardised languages from a number of different dialects and are widely spoken by those ethnic groups. Nigerian Pidgin English, often known simply as “Pidgin” or “Broken” (Broken English), is also a popular lingua franca, though with varying regional influences on dialect and slang. The pidgin English or Nigerian English is widely spoken within the Niger Delta Regions, predominately in Warri, Sapele, Port Harcourt, Agenebode, Ewu, and Benin City.
The culture of Nigeria is shaped by Nigeria’s multiple ethnic groups. The country has 527 languages, seven of them are extinct. Nigeria also has over 1150 dialects and ethnic groups. The six largest ethnic groups are the Hausa and Fulani in the north, the Igbo in the southeast, and the Yoruba predominate in the southwest, Efik – Ibibio, and Ijaw of the southsouth.
The Edo people are most frequent in the region between Yorubaland and Igboland. Many of the Edo tend to be Christian. This group is followed by the Ibibio/Annang/Efik people of the coastal south southern Nigeria and the Ijaw of the Niger Delta.
Nigeria’s other ethnic group, sometimes called ‘minorities’, are found throughout the country but especially in the north and the middle belt. The traditionally nomadic Fulani can be found all over West and Central Africa. The Fulani and the Hausa are predominantly Muslim while the Igbo are predominantly Christian and so are the Efik, Ibibio, and Annang people. The Yoruba are equally likely to be either Christian or Muslim. Indigenous religious practices remain important to all of Nigeria’s ethnic groups, and frequently these beliefs are blended with Christian beliefs, a practice known as syncretism
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