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People and Society
There are an estimated 250 ethnic groups in Nigeria. Each inhabits a territory that it considers to be its own by right of first occupancy and inheritance. Individuals who are not members of a dominant group but who have lived and worked for several decades in the territory of the group are still considered to be aliens. In most rural areas, such aliens may not acquire outright title to land, yet considerable numbers of people have migrated from one ethnic territory to another in search of farmland. There are three major ethnic groups in the country: the Hausa–Fulani, the Yoruba, and the Igbo.
Nigeria’s adult literacy rate was 69.1 percent on average, with a higher rate for men (78.2 percent) than for women (60.1 percent). Nigeria provides free, government-supported education, but attendance is not compulsory at any level, and certain groups, such as nomads and the handicapped, are underserved. The education system consists of six years of primary school, three years of junior secondary school, three years of senior secondary school, and four years of university education leading to a bachelor’s degree. 59 percent of girls and 68 percent of boys were enrolled in primary school. However, only 23 percent of girls and 28 percent of boys were enrolled in secondary school.
Although federal and state governments have the major responsibility for education, other organizations, such as local governments and religious groups, may establish and administer primary and secondary schools. Most secondary schools, trade centers, technical institutes, teacher-training colleges, and colleges of education and of technology are controlled by the state governments.
Nigeria has more than 130 universities and colleges widely dispersed throughout the country in an attempt to make higher education easily accessible. Many of the universities are federally controlled, and the language of instruction is English at all the universities and colleges. At the time of Nigeria’s independence in 1960, there were only two established postsecondary institutions, both of which were located in the southwestern part of the country: University College at Ibadan (founded in 1948, now the University of Ibadan) and Yaba Higher College (founded in 1934, now Yaba College of Technology). Four more government-operated universities were established in the 1960s: University of Nigeria, Nsukka (1960), in the east; University of Ife (founded in 1961, now Obafemi Awolowo University) in the west; University of Northern Nigeria (founded in 1962, now Ahmadu Bello University) in the north; and University of Lagos (1962) in the south.
Nigeria’s energy revenues flow to the government, 16 percent cover operational costs, and the remaining 4 percent go to investors. However, the World Bank has estimated that, as a result of corruption, 80 percent of energy revenues benefit only 1 percent of the population. Following a milestone agreement with the Paris Club of lending nations in 2005 and a similar agreement with the London Club of lending nations in 2006, Nigeria succeeded in eliminating almost all of its external debt. The agreements consisted of a combination of debt forgiveness and repayment from the country’s energy revenues. Outside of the energy sector, Nigeria’s economy is highly inefficient. Moreover, human capital is underdeveloped—Nigeria ranked 158 out of 177 countries in the United Nations Development Index in 2005—and non-energy-related infrastructure is inadequate.
The agriculture, forestry, and fishing sector constitutes about 17.6 percent of the gross domestic product but employs up to 70 percent of the workforce. Agricultural products include cassava (tapioca), cocoa, corn, millet, palm oil, peanuts, rice, rubber, sorghum, and yams. Livestock products include cattle, chickens, goats, pigs, and sheep. Although overall agricultural production rose by 28 percent during the 1990s, per capita output rose by only 8.5 percent during the same decade.
Agriculture has failed to keep pace with Nigeria’s rapid population growth, so that the country, which once exported food, now relies on imports to sustain itself. About two-thirds of all Nigerians obtain a living from agricultural production. Most are small-scale subsistence farmers who produce only a little surplus for sale and who derive additional income from one or more cash crops and from the sale of local crafts. Farms are small, usually less than 2.5 acres (1 hectare) in the south and about 7.5 acres (3 hectares) in the open grassland areas of the north. Because the soil is not totally amenable to mechanized equipment, the hoe and matchet (machete) continue to be the dominant farm implements. The shortage of farmland in some localities and limited access to land in others are among the factors that restrict the size of farmland cultivated per family. Environmental deterioration, inferior storage facilities, a poor transport system, and a lack of investment capital contribute to low productivity and the general stagnation in agriculture.
Industry accounts for 53.1 percent of Nigeria’s gross domestic product (GDP), much of which is attributable to the lucrative energy sector, and it employs about 10 percent of the labor force. The oil and gas sector accounts for 95 to 99 percent of Nigeria’s export revenues. Manufacturing’s share of export revenues is estimated at 1 percent. By contrast, in 2005 manufactured goods constituted the largest category of imports. In 2006 the capacity utilization rate of the industry stood at 53.3 percent, a relatively low rate that policymakers hoped to increase by reversing capital flight and removing impediments to private-sector activity.
Revenue from mining has enabled the federal government to establish such capital-intensive industries as the Ajaokuta and Aladja steel mills, pulp and paper mills at Oku Iboku and Iwopin, petrochemical plants at Kaduna, Abuja, and Port Harcourt, and an aluminum smelter at Ikot Abasi. In the past, large-scale manufacturing—dominated by the production of textiles, tobacco, beverages, and cement—was controlled by foreign investors. The government’s indigenization efforts have altered the ownership situation, although the management and effective control of most large factories have remained in the hands of expatriate representatives of multinational corporations.
A member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Nigeria has proven oil reserves of 36.2 billion barrels, the tenth largest reserves in the world. Most of the reserves are located in the Niger River Delta. In 2006 Nigeria produced 2.4 million barrels per day of oil, approximately 2.1 million of which were exported. Nigeria ranks as the world’s eighth largest exporter of oil and the United States’ fifth largest source of imported oil.
Resource extraction is the most important and the fastest-growing sector of the economy, reflecting the rise to prominence of crude oil output. Nigeria has been a member of OPEC since 1971. There are oil refineries at Port Harcourt, Warri, and Kaduna. The petroleum industry remains dominant, and crude petroleum continues to account for virtually all export earnings. The most economically valuable minerals are crude oil, natural gas, coal, tin, and columbite (an iron-bearing mineral that accompanies tin). Petroleum, first discovered in 1956, is the most important source of government revenue and foreign exchange—its share of the gross domestic product rose from virtually nothing in the 1950s to about two-fifths in the late 1990s. Most of the oil output comes from onshore fields in the Niger Delta, although an increasing proportion of the crude is produced at offshore locations. There are vast reserves of natural gas, but most of the gas produced is a by-product of crude oil; in the past, this was burned off, as there was no market for it, but efforts have been made to utilize more of this commodity.
In 2005 Nigeria received more than 2.7 million tourists. The largest contingents came from Niger (620,658), Benin (393,215), Liberia (107,401), and Cameroon (107,108). In 2004 tourism receipts totaled US$49 million. The Nigerian government encourages its citizens to visit tourism destinations within the country through various financial incentives. Concerns exist regarding the quality of amenities and personal safety.
Services accounted for an estimated 29.3 percent of the gross domestic product and employed roughly one in five workers in 2006. The most important branch of the services sector is banking and finance. Nigeria has many attractions of interest to tourists. There are miles of coastal beaches, wildlife reserves, a variety of cultures, and many museums that house artistic treasures. However, the many decades Nigeria spent under military rule created a repressive environment not well suited to the tourist. Since the installation of the democratically elected government in 1999, the country has faced periods of ethnic violence, also not conducive to attracting a tourist clientele. Nevertheless, more than two million people visited the country annually in the early 2000s.
Banking and Finance
In 2006 Nigeria’s banking sector successfully completed a consolidation program under the supervision of the Central Bank of Nigeria, which has regulatory authority over the entire financial sector. From a total of 89 banks, many of them marginal, 25 relatively well-capitalized deposit banks have emerged. Even before the consolidation, loan assets and deposit liabilities were highly concentrated. In addition to deposit banks, Nigeria has hundreds of community banks and a small number of specialized development and mortgage banks. A similar consolidation is planned for the insurance sector. In 2007 Nigerian banks such as intercontinental Bank and Guaranty Trust were the beneficiaries of significant foreign investment. Contrary to modern practice, many financial transactions in Nigeria are conducted in cash rather than with bank letters of credit.
Evidence of human occupation in Nigeria dates back thousands of years. The oldest fossil remains found by archaeologists in the southwestern area of Iwo Eleru, near Akure, have been dated to about 9000 BCE. There are isolated collections of ancient tools and artifacts of different periods of the Stone Age, but the oldest recognizable evidence of an organized society belongs to the Nok culture (c. 500 BCE–c. 200 CE). The earliest culture in Nigeria is identifiable by the distinctive artifacts of the Nok people. These skilled artisans and ironworkers flourished between the fourth century B.C. and the second century A.D. in a large area above the confluence of the Niger and Benue rivers.
Long before 1500, much of present-day Nigeria was divided into states, which can still be linked to the modern ethnic groups that trace their history to the origins of these states. These early states included the Yoruba kingdoms, the Edo kingdom of Benin, the Hausa cities, and Nupe. In addition, numerous small states to the west and south of Lake Chad were absorbed or displaced in the course of the expansion of Kanem, centered to the northeast of Lake Chad. Borno, initially the western province of Kanem, became independent in the late fourteenth century.
The sixteenth century marked a high point in the political history of northern Nigeria. During this period, the Songhai Empire reached its greatest limits, stretching from the Senegal and Gambia rivers in the far west and incorporating part of Hausaland in the east. At the same time, the Sayfawa Dynasty of Borno asserted itself, conquering Kanem and extending its control westward to Hausa cities that were not under Songhai imperial rule. For almost a century, much of northern Nigeria was part of one or the other of these empires, and after the 1590s, Borno dominated the region for 200 years. Despite Borno’s hegemony, the Hausa states wrestled for ascendancy among themselves for much of the seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries.
European Slave Trade in West Africa
By 1471 Portuguese ships had reconnoitered the West African coast south as far as the Niger Delta. Portugal’s lasting legacy for Nigeria was its initiation of the transatlantic slave trade. The Portuguese monopoly on West African trade was broken at the end of the sixteenth century when Portugal’s influence was challenged by the rising naval power of the Netherlands. The Dutch took over Portuguese trading stations on the coast that were the source of slaves for the Americas. French and British competition later undermined the Dutch position, and Britain became the dominant slaving power in the eighteenth century. By the end of the eighteenth century, the area that was to become Nigeria was far from a unified country.
Furthermore, the orientation of north and south was entirely different. The savanna states of Hausaland and Borno in the north had experienced a difficult century of political insecurity and ecological disaster but otherwise continued in a centuries-long tradition of slow political and economic change that was similar to other parts of the savanna. The southern areas near the coast, by contrast, had been swept up in the transatlantic slave trade. The political and economic change had been rapid and dramatic. By 1800 Oyo, a constitutional monarchy, governed much of southwestern Nigeria, while the Aro, another polity, had consolidated southeastern Nigeria into a confederation. Both Oyo and the Aro confederacy were major trading partners of the slave traders from Europe and North America.
Islam In Nigeria
In the first decade of the nineteenth century, two unrelated developments that were to have a major influence on virtually all of the area that is now Nigeria ushered in a period of radical change. First, between 1804 and 1808 the Islamic holy war of Usman dan Fodio established the Sokoto Caliphate, a loose confederation of emirates centered in northwestern Nigeria. By the middle of the nineteenth century, when the Sokoto Caliphate was at its greatest extent, it comprised 30 emirates and the capital district of Sokoto. All the important Hausa emirates, including Kano, the wealthiest and most populous, were directly under Sokoto. The Bayajidda legend, concerning a mythical Middle Eastern ancestor of the Hausa, seems to suggest that the rise of a centralized political system in Hausaland was influenced by Borno. Though the rulers of Borno embraced Islam, the structure of the monarchy remained traditional, with the queen mother and other female officials exercising considerable power. The selection of the monarch, the coronation rites, and other bases of royal authority was dictated by pre-Islamic beliefs. The princes and other members of the royal family were granted fiefs and posted away from the capital to govern frontier zones, while people of slave origin were preferred for the royal guard and palace officials.
Second, in 1807 Britain declared the transatlantic slave trade to be illegal, an action that occurred at a time when Britain itself was responsible for shipping more slaves to the Americas than any other country. Although the transatlantic slave trade did not end until the 1860s, other commodities, especially palm oil, gradually replaced it. The shift in trade had serious economic and political consequences in the interior, which led to increasing British intervention in the affairs of Yorubaland and the Niger Delta.
In 1885 at the Berlin Conference, the European powers attempted to resolve their conflicts of interest in Africa by allotting areas of exploitation. The conferees also enunciated the principle, known as the “dual mandate,” that the interests of both Europe and Africa would best be served by maintaining free access to the African continent for trade and by providing Africa with the benefits of Europe’s civilizing mission. Britain’s claims to a sphere of influence in the Niger Basin were acknowledged formally, but it was stipulated that only effective occupation would secure full international recognition. In the end, pressure from France and Germany hastened the establishment of effective British occupation and the creation of protectorates in northern and southern Nigeria.
After the British government assumed direct control of the Royal Niger Company’s territories, the northern areas were renamed the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria, and the land in the Niger Delta and along the lower reaches of the river was added to the Niger Coast Protectorate, which was renamed the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria. Lagos remained the capital of the south, with Zungeru the new capital of the north. On January 1, 1914, the two protectorates were amalgamated to form the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria under a single governor-general resident in Lagos. Between 1919 and 1954 the title reverted to the governor.
Independence and Civil War
Nigeria became an independent country within the Commonwealth on October 1, 1960. In 1963 Nigeria became a republic within the Commonwealth. The change in a status called for no practical alteration of the constitutional system. The president, elected to a five-year term by a joint session of the parliament, replaced the crown as the symbol of national sovereignty and the British monarch as head of state. Nnamdi Azikiwe became the republic’s first president.
Although the first postindependence parliamentary elections were held in December 1964, the nation’s leadership in the several decades following independence was determined by coup, not by election, and by the military, rather than civilian, government. One of the most important developments during the 1960s was the declaration of independence by the Eastern Region in 1967, followed by a 30-month civil war. In the face of increased sectarian violence, the Eastern Region’s military governor, Lieutenant Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, was under pressure from Igbo (also seen as Ibo) officers to assert greater independence from the Federal Military Government (FMG).
Initially, the FMG launched “police measures” to restore the authority of Lagos in the Eastern Region, but soon full-scale civil war broke out. Finally, in January 1970 Biafran resistance collapsed, and the FMG reasserted its authority over the area. An estimated 1 to 3 million Nigerians died from hostilities, disease, and starvation during the civil war, and more than 3 million Igbo became refugees. The economy of the region was shattered. In several years, however, the state government achieved the rehabilitation of 70 percent of the industry incapacitated during the war. The federal government granted funds to cover the state’s operating expenses for an interim period and much of the war damage was repaired.
During the oil boom of the 1970s, Nigeria joined OPEC and the huge oil revenues it was generating enriched the economy. As oil revenues fueled the rise of federal subsidies to states, the federal government became the center of political struggle and the threshold of power in the country.
Beginning in 1979, Nigerians participated in a return to democracy when Olusegun Obasanjo transferred power to the civilian regime of Shehu Shagari. The Shagari government became viewed as corrupt by virtually all sectors of Nigerian society. The military coup of Muhammadu Buhari shortly after the regime’s re-election in 1984 was generally viewed as a positive development. Buhari promised major reforms, but his government fared little better than its predecessor. His regime was overthrown by another military coup in 1985.
The new head of state, Ibrahim Babangida, declared himself president and commander in chief of the armed forces and of the ruling Supreme Military Council. Babangida survived an abortive coup, then postponed a promised return to democracy in 1992. Free and fair elections were finally held on 12 June 1993, the first since the military coup of 1983, with a presidential victory for Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola of the Social Democratic Party. However, Babangida annulled the elections, leading to massive civilian protests that effectively shut down the country for weeks. Babangida finally kept his promise to relinquish office to a civilian government, but not before appointing Ernest Shonekan head of an interim government. Babangida’s regime has been considered the most corrupt, and responsible for creating a culture of corruption in Nigeria
Upon Abacha’s death in June 1998, his chief of defense staff, Major General Abdulsalami Abubakar, assumed control and began to release political prisoners, including the former leader Obasanjo. Local government elections were held in December 1998, state legislative elections followed in January 1999, and federal legislative and presidential elections completed the transition to civilian government in February 1999.
Obasanjo was elected president, and his party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), won a majority of the seats in both the Senate and House of Representatives, amidst ever-present allegations of election irregularities. Fifteen years of military rule had come to an end, and Nigeria entered the longest period of civilian rule since independence.
Yar’Adua died on 5 May 2010. Dr. Goodluck Jonathan was sworn in as Yar’Adua’s replacement on 6 May 2010, becoming Nigeria’s 14th Head of State, while his vice-president, Namadi Sambo, an architect and former Kaduna State governor, was chosen on 18 May 2010, by the National Assembly. His confirmation followed President Jonathan’s nomination of Sambo to that position.
Goodluck Jonathan served as Nigeria’s president until 16 April 2011, when a new presidential election in Nigeria was conducted. Jonathan of the PDP was declared the winner on 19 April 2011. In the March 2015 election, Muhammadu Buhari defeated Goodluck Jonathan by roughly 2 million votes. Observers generally praised the election as being fair. Jonathan was generally praised for conceding defeat and limiting the risk of unrest