What You Should Know About Nigeria

The History, Geography, Politics and Climate of the West African Country

Boy with face painted like the Nigerian flag

 Mariano Sayno / husayno.com

Nigeria is a country located in West Africa along the Atlantic Ocean's Gulf of Guinea. Its land borders are with Benin to the west, Cameroon, and Chad to the east and Niger to the north. Nigeria's main ethnic groups are Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba. It is the most populous country in Africa and its economy is considered one of the fastest growing in the world. Nigeria is known for being the regional center of West Africa.

Fact Facts: Nigeria

  • Official Name: Federal Republic of Nigeria
  • Capital: Abuja
  • Population: 203,452,505 (2018)
  • Official Language: English
  • Currency: Naira
  • Form of Government: Federal presidential republic
  • Climate: Equatorial in south, tropical in center, arid in north
  • Total Area: 356,669 square miles (923,768 square kilometers)
  • Highest Point: Chappal Waddi at 7,934 feet (2,419 meters)
  • Lowest Point: Atlantic Ocean at 0 feet (0 meters)

History of Nigeria

Nigeria has a long history that dates back as far as 9000 B.C.E. as shown in archaeological records. The earliest cities in Nigeria were the northern cities of Kano and Katsina that started around 1000 C.E. Around 1400, the Yoruba kingdom of Oyo was founded in the southwest and reach its height from the 17th to the 19th century. Around this same time, Europeans began establishing ports for the trade of enslaved people to the Americas. In the 19th century, this changed to the trading of goods like palm oil and timber.

In 1885, the British claimed a sphere of influence over Nigeria and in 1886, the Royal Niger Company was established. In 1900, the area became controlled by the British government and in 1914 it became the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria. Throughout the mid-1900s and especially after World War II, the people of Nigeria began pushing for independence. In October 1960, it came when it was established as a federation of three regions with a parliamentary government.

In 1963 however, Nigeria proclaimed itself a federal republic and drafted a new constitution. Throughout the 1960s, Nigeria's government was unstable as it underwent several governmental overthrows; its prime minister was assassinated and was engaged in a civil war. Following the civil war, Nigeria focused on economic development and in 1977, after several more years of government instability, the country drafted a new constitution.

Political corruption remained throughout the late 1970s and into the 1980s though and 1983, the Second Republic government as it came to be known was overthrown. In 1989, the Third Republic began and in the early 1990s, government corruption remained and there were several attempts to again overthrown the government.

Finally, in 1995, Nigeria began to transition into a civilian rule. In 1999 a new constitution and in May of that same year, Nigeria became a democratic nation after years of political instability and military rule. Olusegun Obasanjo was the first president during this time and he worked to improve Nigeria's infrastructure, the government's relationship with its people and its economy.

In 2007, Obasanjo stepped down as president. Umaru Yar'Adua then became the president of Nigeria and he vowed to reform the country's elections, fight its crime problems and continue working on economic growth. On May 5, 2010, Yar'Adua died and Goodluck Jonathan became the president of Nigeria on May 6.

Government of Nigeria

Nigeria's government is considered a federal republic and it has a legal system based on English common law, Islamic law (in its northern states) and traditional laws. Nigeria's executive branch is made up of a chief of state and a head of government- both of which are filled by the president. It also has a bicameral National Assembly consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. Nigeria's judicial branch is made up of the Supreme Court and the Federal Court of Appeal. Nigeria is divided into 36 states and one territory for local administration.

Economics and Land Use in Nigeria

Although Nigeria has long had problems of political corruption and a lack of infrastructure it is rich in natural resources like oil and recently its economy has begun to grow into one of the fastest in the world. However, oil alone provides 95% of its foreign exchange earnings. Nigeria's other industries include coal, tin, columbite, rubber products, wood, hides and skins, textiles, cement and other construction materials, food products, footwear, chemicals, fertilizer, printing, ceramics, and steel. Nigeria's agricultural products are cocoa, peanuts, cotton, palm oil, corn, rice, sorghum, millet, cassava, yams, rubber, cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, timber, and fish.

Geography and Climate of Nigeria

Nigeria is a large country that has a varied topography. It is about twice the size of the U.S. state of California and is located between Benin and Cameroon. In the south, it has lowlands that climb into hills and plateaus in the central part of the country. In the southeast, there are mountains while the north consists mainly of plains. Nigeria's climate also varies but the center and the south are tropical due to their locations near the equator, while the north is arid.

More Facts about Nigeria

  • Life expectancy in Nigeria is 47 years of age
  • English is Nigeria's official language but Hausa, Igbo Yoruba, Fulani, and Kanuri are others that are spoken in the country
  • Lagos, Kano, and Ibadan are the largest cities in Nigeria


Central Intelligence Agency. (1 June 2010). CIA - The World Factbook - Nigeria. Retrieved from: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ni.html

Infoplease.com. (n.d.). Nigeria: History, Geography, Government, and Culture- Infoplease.com. Retrieved from: http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0107847.html
United States Department of State. (12 May 2010). Nigeria. Retrieved from: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2836.htm
Wikipedia.com. (30 June 2010). Nigeria - Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nigeria

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Briney, Amanda. "What You Should Know About Nigeria." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, thoughtco.com/geography-of-nigeria-1435246. Briney, Amanda. (2020, August 27). What You Should Know About Nigeria. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/geography-of-nigeria-1435246 Briney, Amanda. "What You Should Know About Nigeria." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/geography-of-nigeria-1435246 (accessed May 29, 2023).