After lurching from one military coup to another, Nigeria now has an elected leadership. But it faces the growing challenge of preventing Africa’s most populous country from breaking apart along ethnic and religious lines.
Political liberalisation ushered in by the return to civilian rule in 1999 has allowed militants from religious and ethnic groups to express their frustrations more freely, and with increasing violence.
Thousands of people have died over the past few years in communal rivalry. Separatist aspirations have been growing, prompting reminders of the bitter civil war over the breakaway Biafran republic in the late 1960s.
The government is striving to boost the economy, which experienced an oil boom in the 1970s and is once again benefiting from high prices on the world market. But progress has been undermined by corruption and mismanagement.
The former British colony is one of the world’s largest oil producers, but the industry has produced unwanted side effects. The trade in stolen oil has fuelled violence and corruption in the Niger delta – the home of the industry. Few Nigerians, including those in oil-producing areas, have benefited from the oil wealth. Nigeria is keen to attract foreign investment but is hindered in this quest by security concerns as well as by a shaky infrastructure troubled by power cuts.
Full name: The Federal Republic of Nigeria
Population: 151.5 million (UN, 2008)
Largest city: Lagos
Area: 923,768 sq km (356,669 sq miles)
Major languages: English (official), Yoruba, Ibo, Hausa
Major religions: Islam, Christianity, indigenous beliefs
Life expectancy: 46 years (men), 47 years (women) (UN)
Monetary unit: 1 Nigerian naira = 100 kobo
Main exports: Petroleum, petroleum products, cocoa, rubber
GNI per capita: US $930 (World Bank, 2007)
Internet domain: .ng
International dialling code: +234
President: Umaru Yar’Adua
Umaru Yar’Adua of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) won the presidency following the April 2007 elections which were condemned by local and foreign observers, who alleged widespread vote-rigging.
He had served as governor of the remote northern Katsina state since May 1999. A little-known figure in national politics, he was chosen by outgoing President Olusegun Obasanjo as his successor.
He comes from a prominent political family. His father was a minister in the first government after independence and his late elder brother was an army general who served as deputy to President Olusegun Obasanjo when he was Nigeria’s military ruler during the 1970s.
When he was elected governor of Katsina in 1999, he immediately declared his assets. In his bid for the presidency he promised to fight corruption.
Mr Yar’Adua’s health has been the subject of media speculation and during the election campaign he travelled to Germany for treatment.
He was born in 1951 and was a chemistry teacher until he went into business, then politics, in the 1980s.
Mr Yar’Adua took over from Olusegun Obasanjo, whose election in 1999 came at the end of a period of military rule. Mr Obasanjo won a second term in 2003. A bid to keep him in office for a third term was blocked by parliament.
Mr Obasanjo began his first leadership stint in 1976 after the assassination of Brigadier Murtala Mohamed in a failed coup. In 1979 he earned the distinction of becoming Africa’s first modern military leader to hand over power to civilian rule.
Nigeria’s media scene is one of the most vibrant in Africa. State-run radio and TV services reach virtually all parts of the country and operate at a federal and regional level. All 36 states run their own radio stations, and most of them operate TV services.
Radio is the key source of information for many Nigerians. International broadcasters, including the BBC, are widely listened to. Rebroadcasts of foreign radio stations were banned in 2004.
Private radio and TV stations have been licensed, and there is substantial take-up of pay TV.
Private TV stations in particular are dogged by high costs and scarce advertising revenues. Moreover, legislation requires that locally-made material must comprise 60% of output. Viewing is concentrated in urban areas.
There are more than 100 national and local newspapers and publications, some of them state-owned. They include well-respected dailies, tabloids and publications which champion the interests of ethnic groups. The lively private press is often critical of the government.
Press freedom improved under former President Obasanjo, but restrictive decrees remain.
Media rights body Reporters Without Borders says Nigeria is often a violent place for the press, with journalists suffering beatings, unfair arrests and police raids.
By March 2008, 10 million Nigerians were online (ITU figure).
Lagos (pronounced /ˈleɪɡɒs/, or /ˈlɑːɡoʊs/ overseas) is the most populous conurbation in Nigeria with 7,937,932 inhabitants at the 2006 census. It is currently the second most populous city in Africa, and currently estimated to be the second fastest growing city in Africa (7th fastest in the world), immediately following Bamako. Formerly the capital of Nigeria, Lagos is a huge metropolis which originated on islands separated by creeks, such as Lagos Island, that fringe the southwest mouth of Lagos Lagoon, protected from the Atlantic Ocean by long sand spits such as Bar Beach which stretch up to 100 km east and west of the mouth. From the beginning, Lagos has spread on the mainland west of the lagoon and the conurbation, including Ikeja and Agege, now reaches more than 40 km north-west of Lagos Island. The city is the economic and financial capital of Nigeria.
Lagos was a Yoruba settlement of Awori people initially called Oko. The name was later changed to Eko (Edo: “cassava farm”) or Eko (“war camp”) during the Kingdom of Benin occupation. The Yoruba still use the name Eko when they speak of ‘Lagos’, a name which never existed in Yoruba language. It is likely that the name ‘Lagos’ was given to the town by the first Portuguese settlers who navigated from a coastal town of the same name in Portugal. The present day Lagos state has a higher percent of Awori, who migrated to the area from Isheri along the Ogun river. Throughout history, it was home to a number of warring ethnic groups who had settled in the area. During its early settlement, it also saw periods of rule by the Kingdom of Benin.
Portuguese explorer Rui de Sequeira visited the area in 1472, naming the area around the city Lago de Curamo; indeed the present name is Portuguese for “lakes”. Another explanation is that Lagos was named for Lagos, Portugal – a maritime town which at the time was the main centre of the Portuguese expeditions down the African coast and whose own name is derived from the Latin word Lacobriga.
From 1404-1889 it served as a major centre of the slave trade, ruled over by Yoruba kings called the Oba of Lagos. In 1841 Oba Akitoye ascended to the throne of Lagos and tried to ban slave trading. Lagos merchants, most notably Madam Tinubu, resisted the ban, deposed the king and installed his brother Oba Kosoko.
While exiled, Oba Akitoye met with the British, who had banned slave trading in 1807, and got their support to regain his throne. In 1851 he was reinstalled as the Oba of Lagos
Lagos was formally annexed as a British colony in 1861. This had the dual effect of crushing the slave trade and establishing British control over palm and other trades.
The remainder of modern-day Nigeria was seized in 1887, and when the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria was established in 1914, Lagos was declared its capital. It continued to be the capital when Nigeria gained its independence from Britain in 1960.
Lagos experienced rapid growth throughout the 1960s and 1970s as a result of Nigeria‘s economic boom prior to the Biafran War.
Lagos was the capital of Nigeria from 1914 up to 1991; it was stripped of this title when the Federal Capital Territory was established at the purpose-built city of Abuja. However, most government functions (especially the head of state) stayed in Lagos for a time since Abuja was still under construction. In 1991, the head of state and other government functions were finally relocated to the Capital city Abuja
In 2002, an accidental detonation of military explosives caused the death of more than 1100 people.
The city of Lagos lies in south-western Nigeria, on the Atlantic coast in the Gulf of Guinea, west of the Niger River delta, located on longitude 3° 24′ E and latitude 6° 27′ N. On this stretch of the high-rainfall West African coast, rivers flowing to the sea form swampy lagoons like Lagos Lagoon behind long coastal sand spits or sand bars. Some rivers, like Badagry Creek flow parallel to the coast for some distance before finding an exit through the sand bars to the sea.
The two major urban islands of Lagos in Lagos Lagoon are Lagos Island and Victoria Island. These islands are separated from the mainland by the main channel draining the lagoon into the Atlantic, which forms Lagos Harbour. The islands are separated from each other by creeks of varying sizes and are connected to Lagos Island by bridges. However the smaller sections of some creeks have been sand filled and built over.
Lagos Island contains many of the largest markets in Lagos, its central business district, the central mosque, and the Oba’s palace. Though largely derelict, Tinubu Square on Lagos Island is a site of historical importance; it was here that the Amalgamation ceremony that unified the North and South took place in 1914.
Ikoyi situated on the eastern half of Lagos Island, housed the headquarters of the federal government and all other government buildings. It also has many hotels, and one of Africa’s largest golf courses. Originally a middle class neighbourhood, in recent years, it has become a fashionable enclave for the upper middle class to the upper class.
Victoria Island and Lekki are situated to the south of Lagos Island. Along with Ikoyi, they are suburbs of Lagos which boasts of several sizable commercial and shopping districts (including Nigeria’s largest mall and movie theater) and several trendy beaches.
Across the main channel of the lagoon from Lagos Island, a smaller island called Iddo Island is situated close to the mainland, and now is connected to the mainland like a peninsula. Three major bridges join Lagos Island to the mainland: Eko Bridge and Carter Bridge which start from Iddo Island, and the Third Mainland Bridge which passes through densely populated mainland suburbs through the lagoon.
Most of the population live on the mainland,so, most of the industries are located on the mainland. Lagos is known for its music and night life which used to be located in areas around Yaba and Surulere but in recent years more night clubs have sprung on the island making the island especially Victoria Island, the main nightlife attraction, Mainland districts include Ebute-Meta, Surulere, Yaba (Lagos) (site of the University of Lagos), Mushin, Maryland, Isolo, Ikotun, Ipaja, Ejigbo and Ikeja, site of Murtala Muhammed International Airport and the capital of Lagos State.
Lagos is Nigeria’s most prosperous city, and much of the nation’s wealth and economic activity are concentrated there. The commercial, financial and business center of Lagos and of Nigeria remains the business district of Lagos Island, where most of the country’s largest banks and financial institutions are located. More than half of Nigeria’s industrial capacity is located in Lagos’s mainland suburbs, particularly in the Ikeja industrial estate. A wide range of manufactured goods are produced in the city, including machinery, motor vehicles, electronic equipment, chemicals, beer, processed food, and textiles. Lagos has one of the highest standard of living as compared to other cities in Nigeria as well as in Africa at large.
Lagos is also home to many of Nigeria’s Financial Institutions, Banks and Insurance Companies.
The Port of Lagos is Nigeria’s leading port and one of the largest in Africa. It is administered by the Nigerian Port Authority and is split into three main sections: Lagos port, in the main channel next to Lagos Island, no longer used much, Apapa Port (site of the container terminal) and Tin Can Port, both located in Badagry Creek which flows into the Lagos Harbour from the west. The port features a railhead.
The port handles imports of consumer goods, foodstuffs, motor vehicles, machinery, and industrial raw materials. Its export trade in timber and agricultural products such as cacao and groundnuts has declined since the early 1970s, although the port has seen growing amounts of crude oil exported, with export figures rising between 1997 and 2000. Oil and petroleum products provide 20% of GDP and 95% of foreign exchange earnings in Nigeria as a whole.[
Music & film industry
Lagos is famous throughout West Africa for its music scene. Lagos has given birth to a variety of styles such as highlife, juju, fuji, and Afrobeat. In recent years Lagos has been the fore-runner with African styled hip-hop branded Afrohip-hop.
Lagos is the center of the Nigerian film industry, often referred to as ‘Nollywood.’ Idumota market on Lagos Island is the primary distribution center. Also many films are shot in the Festac area of Lagos.
The cinemas are gradually losing their supporters to the movie industry. Yoruba films happen to be the most watched in the cinemas, followed by Indian films. Films are not premiered for a long period of time in the western sense, especially with Yoruba films. The English spoken films move directly from the studios to the market.
Iganmu is home to the National Arts Theater — the primary centre for the performing arts in Nigeria.