Many people have heard of Nigeria (formally known as the Federal Republic of Nigeria), but few know where it is located or anything about the country’s history. Nigeria has 36 states and a Federal Capital Territory which contains the country’s capital city Abuja. As of 2011, Nigeria has an estimated 167 million people, making it the most populous Africa country and the seventh most populous country in the world according to Maps of World. A large portion of this population is children and young adults.
These 167 million inhabitants of Nigeria are from over 250 ethnic groups and speak a large number of languages and dialects. English is the official language of Nigeria (mostly due to the country’s colonial history with the United Kingdom). The largest ethnic groups include the Hausa, Igbo and the Yoruba. The languages spoken by these three groups are the next most popular languages after English.
Nigeria is less diverse when it comes to religion. About half of Nigerians are Christians who mostly live in southern Nigeria and the other half are Muslims who mostly live in the north. Some people do practice indigenous religions, but they make up a small portion of the population.
The religious geographic divisions in Nigeria has it roots in British colonization. After the United Kingdom abolished slavery in 1833, they were looking for another form of income. Much of western Africa was devastated by years of slavery, so European colonization was not difficult to create. In 1884, Britain created the Oil Rivers Protectorate which included Nigeria and several other nearby countries. In 1914, Britain merged the Southern and Northern Nigeria Protectorate. Throughout its control, Britain practiced indirect rule and Nigeria became formerly independent in 1960.
Independence did not solve all of Nigeria’s problems. From 1967-1970, Nigeria had a civil war and throughout the next 30 years Nigeria switched back and forth between military dictatorships and democratically-elected civilian governments. Finally, Nigeria obtained a more stable democracy in 1999 and their 2011 presidential elections were widely viewed internationally as their first free and fair election. Muhammadu Buhari is the current president of Nigeria and was elected in May 2015.
Nigeria’s government was roughly modeled after the United States with a president elected by popular vote with a maximum of two 4-year terms. Nigeria is a federal constitutional republic with a bicameral body made up of a Senate and a House of Representatives. The two major parties are the People’s Democratic Party of Nigeria and the All Nigeria People’s Party/All Progressives Congress.
As of 2015, Nigeria has the 20th largest economy (largely due to their oil exports) and is considered to be an emerging market according to the World Bank. Nigeria proved its modern growth by being the first country to effective contain and eliminate ebola during the outbreak.
One of the main threats to Nigeria in recent years has not been a disease like ebola, but instead Boko Haram. Boko Haram is a Nigeria based Islamic extremist group whose name is normally translated to mean “Western education is forbidden.” Boko Haram has been active in northeastern Nigeria since 2002, seeking to overthrow the secular Nigerian government and establish Sharia Law. As of May of 2014, it is estimated that Boko Haram is responsible for the death of 12,000 people and wounding 8,000 people. Boko Haram made national news in April of 2014 when they kidnapped about 280 schoolgirls from Chibok, Nigeria. To this day, the majority of these girls remain missing despite several attempts by the Nigerian government and other international governments to find and free the kidnapped girls.
Another problem for Nigeria is the continuing decline in oil prices. Nigeria is the 12th largest producer of petroleum and in 2002 gas and oil exports represented 98% of Nigeria’s export earnings. As the price for a barrel of oil decreases Nigeria’s economic growth will likely also halt. Global warming will likely cause problems for Nigeria as well since 30% of Nigerians are employed in agriculture as of 2010.
Nigeria is clearly growing economically, but the country has not yet caught up to many developed countries in terms of human rights abuses. Today, 43% of Nigerian girls are married off before their 18th birthday. Also, homosexual activity is punishable by 14 years in prison and simply supporting same-sex marriages can get you a 10 year in prison sentence. Until Nigeria addresses these human rights abuses, I think the country will be unable to develop much further. Economically and politically, Nigeria is on the right track, in my opinion, and I hope that it will become a more accepting society in the future.