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Background Information

Nigeria, officially the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is the tenth largest state of the African continent with a landmass of 924,000 square kilometers. It lies in West Africa with bordering states of Cameroon, Niger, Benin and Chad. One side of the country is a coastline of the Gulf of Guinea on the Atlantic Ocean. Nigeria is also the most populous country on the continent with a population of 141 million people.

Nigeria began as an area consisting of various groups (differentiating in culture, ethnic and linguistic components) that lived in kingdoms and functioned with traditional systems of government. These groups included the Oyo, Benin, Nupe, Jukun, Kanem-Borny and Hausa-Fulani. Nigeria officially came into being as a nation-state in 1914, but was soon claimed and conducted as a British colony until 1942.

Nigeria’s path to independence from the British rule took place in two steps. First, Nigeria achieved partial self-governance in the early 1950’s by having a legislature which majority of members were Nigerian. Full and official independence was achieved in October of 1960 under a constitutions that provided a parliamentary system and the federation was broken down into three regions (Northern, Western, and Eastern). From this, regional hostilities was a prominent issue due to population imbalances. Significant tension centered around the Northern half consisting of the Fulani and Hausa territories (majority of the countries population). Everywhere else anti-northern unrest fumed. Civil war resulted with chaotic killings and starvation throughout the country. The conflict came to a halt when General Yakubu Gowon emerged from the north as the country’s leader where he achieved considerable reconciliation in 1970.

Now, Nigeria is comprised of 36 states grouped into six geographic zones (North Central, North East, North West, South East, South South, and South West) and the Federal Capital Territory of Lagos. In addition, there are 774 recognized local governments. It can also claim the second most influential military power in sub-Saharan Africa.

Nigeria has many natural resources that include tin, columbate, iron ore, coal, limestone, lead, zinc, natural gas, hydropower and arable land. The most influential natural resource is petroleum oil. Nigeria was Africa’s first oil producer. Being the continents most populous  country and the fifth largest oil produce, it has been considered one of the richest of Africa. In addition, from 1999 to 2006, the country’s estimated GDP growth rate grew from 2.7 to 6.0 percent with the public sector accounting for fifty percent of the GDP. Significant progress has been made toward a market-based economy and privatization.

The country is divided into various linguistic groups that take up distinctive areas of the territory. The most prominent group, in terms of land coverage, is the Hausa and Fulani which are located throughout the majority of the northern half of country. Other notable groups include the Yoruba and Kanuri.



Nigeria consists of two primary religious groups. Muslims make up fifty percent of the population while Christians make up forty-five percent. Islam was first documented in the ninth century in Northern Nigeria, long before colonization. 12 Northern states (out of 36 total) already implement sharia law, which is a strict list of crimes and subsequent punishments derived derived from the Holy Qur’an. Islam obviously dominates the mindset of many Nigerians very strongly as it has run deep in their culture for a very long time. Currently, Islam makes up 99% of Hausa and Fulani (Northern) territories.

Pie Chart Nigerian Religions