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Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa
Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa
Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa. It accounts for over half of West Africa's population. Less than 25% of Nigerians are urban dwellers; however 24 cities have populations of more than 100,000. There are a variety of customs, languages, and traditions among Nigeria's 250 ethnic groups which gives the country a rich diversity. It has the most dominant ethnic groups. In the northern side two-thirds of the country is the Hausa-Fulani, the majority are Muslim. Other major ethnic groups of the north are the Nupe, Tiv, and Kanuri. The Yoruba people are predominant in the southwest.

About half of the Yorubas are Christian and half Muslim. The predominantly Catholic Igbo are the largest ethnic group in the southeast, with the Efik, Ibibio, and Ijaw comprising of a large part of the population in that area. Nigerians are very affluent people. English is commonly spoken but Nigerians have knowledge of two or more Nigerian languages. Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo, Fulani, and Kanuri are the most widely used Nigerian languages.

HISTORY
In the northern cities of Kano and Katsina, recorded history dates back to about 1000 AD. In the centuries that followed, these Hausa kingdoms and the Bornu empire near Lake Chad prospered as important terminals of north-south trade between North African Berbers and forest people who exchanged slaves, ivory, and kola nuts for salt, glass beads, coral, cloth, weapons, brass rods, and cowrie shells used as currency.

In the southwest, the Yoruba kingdom of Oyo was founded about 1400, and at its height from the 17th to 19th centuries attained a high level of political organization and extended as far as modern Togo. In the south central part of present-day Nigeria, as early as the 15th and 16th centuries, the kingdom of Benin had developed an efficient army; an elaborate ceremonial court; and artisans whose works in ivory, wood, bronze, and brass are prized throughout the world today. In the 17th through 19th centuries, European traders established coastal ports for the increasing traffic in slaves destined for the Americas. Commodity trade, especially in palm oil and timber, replaced slave trade in the 19th century, particularly under anti-slavery actions by the British Navy. In the early 19th century the Fulani leader, Usman dan Fodio, promulgated Islam and brought most areas in the north under the loose administrative control of an empire centered in Sokoto.

Geography
Area: 923.8 thousand sq. km. (356,700 sq. mi.) about the size of California, Nevada, and Arizona.
Cities: Capital--Abuja (pop. est. 1.6 million
Terrain: Ranges from southern coastal swamps to tropical forests, open woodlands, grasslands, and semi-desert in the far north. The highest regions are the Jos Plateau 1,200-2,400 meters above sea level and the mountains along the border with Cameroon.
Climate: Annual rainfall ranges from 381 cm. along the coast to 64 cm. or less in the far north.

A British Sphere of Influence
Following the Napoleonic wars, the British expanded trade with the Nigerian interior. In 1885, British claims to a sphere of influence in that area received international recognition and, in the following year, the Royal Niger Company was chartered. In 1900, the company's territory came under the control of the British Government, which moved to consolidate its hold over the area of modern Nigeria. In 1914, the area was formally united as the "Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria."

Independence
Nigeria gained full independence in October 1960, as a federation of three regions (northern, western, and eastern) under a constitution that provided for a parliamentary form of government. Under the constitution, each of the three regions retained a substantial measure of self-government. The federal government was given exclusive powers in defense and security, foreign relations, and commercial and fiscal policies. In October 1963, Nigeria altered its relationship with the United Kingdom by proclaiming itself a federal republic and promulgating a new constitution. A fourth region (the mid-west) was established that year.

In a move that gave greater autonomy to minority ethnic groups, the military divided the four regions into 12 states. The Igbo rejected attempts at constitutional revisions and insisted on full autonomy for the east. Finally, in May 1967, Lt. Col. Emeka Ojukwu, the military governor of the eastern region, who emerged as the leader of increasing Igbo secessionist sentiment, declared the independence of the eastern region as the "Republic of Biafra." The ensuing civil war was bitter and bloody, ending in the defeat of Biafra in 1970.

Following the civil war, reconciliation was rapid and effective, and the country turned to the task of economic development. Foreign exchange earnings and government revenues increased spectacularly with the oil price rises of 1973-74. On July 29, 1975, Gen. Murtala Muhammed and a group of fellow officers staged a bloodless coup, accusing Gen. Yakubu Gowon's military government of delaying the promised return to civilian rule and becoming corrupt and ineffective. General Muhammed replaced thousands of civil servants and announced a timetable for the resumption of civilian rule by October 1, 1979. Muhammed also announced the government's intention to create new states and to construct a new federal capital in the center of the country.

General Muhammed was assassinated on February 13, 1976, in an abortive coup. His chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, became head of state. Obasanjo adhered meticulously to the schedule for return to civilian rule, moving to modernize and streamline the armed forces and seeking to use oil revenues to diversify and develop the country's economy. Seven new states were created in 1976, bringing the total to 19. The process of creating additional states continued until, in 1996, there were 36.

Principal Government Officials
President--Goodluck Jonathan
Vice President--vacant

Nigeria maintains an embassy in the United States at 3519 International Place, NW, Washington, DC 20008, (phone: 202-986-8400, fax: 202-362-6552, website: http://www.nigeriaembassyusa.org); and consulates general in New York at 575 Lexington Ave., New York, NY 10022 (phone: 212-850-2217), and in Atlanta at 8060 Roswell Road, Atlanta GA 30350 (phone: 770-394-6161).

ECONOMY
Nigeria is the United States' largest trading partner in sub-Saharan Africa, largely due to the high level of petroleum imports from Nigeria, which supply 8% of U.S. oil imports--nearly half of Nigeria's daily oil production. Nigeria is the fifth-largest exporter of oil to the United States. Nigeria is the 50th-largest export market for U.S. goods and the 14th-largest exporter of goods to the United States. The United States is Nigeria's largest trading partner after the United Kingdom. Although the trade balance overwhelmingly favors Nigeria, thanks to oil exports, a large portion of U.S. exports to Nigeria is believed to enter the country outside of the Nigerian Government's official statistics, due to importers seeking to avoid Nigeria's excessive tariffs.

The United States is the largest foreign investor in Nigeria. The stock of U.S. foreign direct investment (FDI) in Nigeria in 2006 was $339 million, down from $2 billion in 2004. U.S. FDI in Nigeria is concentrated largely in the petroleum/mining and wholesale trade sectors. Exxon-Mobil and Chevron are the two largest U.S. corporate players in offshore oil and gas production.

Dominated by Oil - The oil boom of the 1970s led Nigeria to neglect its strong agricultural and light manufacturing bases in favor of an unhealthy dependence on crude oil. In 2002 oil and gas exports accounted for more than 98% of export earnings and about 83% of federal government revenue. New oil wealth, the concurrent decline of other economic sectors, and a lurch toward a statist economic model fueled massive migration to the cities and led to increasingly widespread poverty, especially in rural areas. A collapse of basic infrastructure and social services since the early 1980s accompanied this trend. By 2002 Nigeria's per capita income had plunged to about one-quarter of its mid-1970s high, below the level at independence. Along with the endemic malaise of Nigeria's non-oil sectors, the economy continues to witness massive growth of "informal sector" economic activities, estimated by some to be as high as 75% of the total economy.

NIGERIA’S FLAG
Color: Three vertical stripes of green white green.
Adopted October 1, 1960
Designed by Michael Taiwo Akinkunmi

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