Country profile - Nigeria

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Country profile: Nigeria


A young woman from an animist community listens to a Christian preacher in Maiduguri. © Seamus Murphy/Panos Pictures


Nigeria calls itself the ‘Giant of Africa’. But other people say that they have many natural resources, but not very good people.

Nigeria became independent from Britain more than 55 years ago. It has the highest population in Africa. But the drinking water, healthcare and roads are still not good enough. There are a lot of resources eg. a lot of oil. So they should have solved these problems. But no-one was surprised recently to know that Nigeria still imports toothpicks and pencils, and spends about two billion naira a day on importing rice. Or when the World Bank said recently that Nigeria’s private sector is restricted by unreliable electricity, poor access to finance, and corruption.

There is corruption everywhere. Many people say this is because of the oil. But because of the oil, they should have developed more than the other poor countries of West Africa. Oil exports began in 1958, just before independence. But when the oil prices went up a lot in the 1970s, Nigeria made oil the only thing in its economy. And this ‘black gold’ has probably been more negative than positive for them. Many people say it caused the corruption and made people lazy. The continuing trial of Sambo Dasuki (former National Security Adviser) for mis¬using $2.1 billion has shown that people from all parts of the country took money in this corrupt deal.

There are three main problems in Nigeria’s underdevelopment: ethnicity, religion and corruption. There have been six successful coups d’état since 1960 – all of them have said they were because of at least one of these problems.

This time, they have had a democratic government - the Fourth Republic – since1999 after the death of the military dictator General Sani Abacha. This is by far the longest time of democracy since independence. There have been four presidents. The president now Mohammadu Buhari - led the military coup of 1983.


A market in Lagos. Seamus Murphy/Panos Pictures

They have had some ethnic group problems in recent elections. In the 2011 election, Goodluck Jonathan was mostly supported by the south, where the people are mainly Christian. In 2015, Buhari won mostly because of the north, where the people are mainly Muslim. Many people left their homes before the election last year, particularly in the north. They were afraid there would be violence, like after the election in 2011 when more than 800 people died.

But after Buhari and his All Progressives Congress won, there were problems. Before the election, they had promised they would pay unemployed young people 5,000-naira ($25) per month. But they used that money to build infrastructure to create jobs instead.

Buhari says his government will end corruption and diversify the economy. This will mean they need to take difficult, unpopular decisions, for example the new restrictions on foreign-exchange transactions that started in January 2016. Nigerians probably don’t believe what Buhari promises. Most promises by past leaders did not happen. Most people now think that nothing is working as it should.

Samuel Malik

Country profile: Nigeria Fact File

Leader President Mohammadu Buhari.

Economy GNI per capita $2,970 (Niger $410, UK $43,430). Nigeria now has Africa’s largest economy, with 2015 GDP about $1.1 trillion. The economy is very dependent on oil so they have suffered with the lower oil prices. Recently the agriculture, telecommunications and services sectors have grown.

Money Naira.

Main exports Oil and petroleum products are 95% of exports. They also export cocoa and rubber.

People 177.5 million. Annual population growth 2.7%. People per square kilometre 195 (UK 267).

Health 69 babies die in every 1,000 births (Niger 57, UK 4). Lifetime chance of maternal mortality 1 in 31 (UK 1 in 6,900). HIV 3.2%.

Environment The biggest problems are in the oil industry, mainly in the Ogoniland region of the Niger Delta. Here, pollution is very bad and affects local drinking-water. They dump a lot of waste on roads and public spaces in cities.

Culture There are more than 250 ethnic groups. The biggest groups are: Hausa/Fulani 29%; Yoruba 21%; Igbo 18%; Ijaw 10%.

Language English is the official language and each ethnic group has another language.

Religion About 50% are Muslim (most in the north) and 40% Christian (most in the south). About 10% have traditional animist beliefs.

Human development index 0.514, 152nd of 188 countries (Niger 0.348, UK 0.907).

Country profile: Nigeria ratings in detail

Income distribution The rich in Nigeria live in luxury, but 112 million are below the poverty level, (Nigerian Bureau of Statistics).

Life expectancy 52 years (Niger 61, UK 81). Niger is a much poorer country, but Nigeria has a much lower life expectancy because of very bad public health.

Position of women Women in Nigeria now have more power in making decisions, even in the conservative north. But there are not many women are elected to power.

Literacy Nigeria has a 59.6% literacy rate (UNESCO). About 10 million children do not go to school.

Freedom Since the country has had a democratic government again in 1999, the only real improvement has been in freedom of expression. Now you are not punished if you insult the President.

Sexual minorities Homosexuality, female and male, is illegal. You can go to prison for 14 years. In the 12 northern states with sharia law, the punishment is death by stoning.

NI Assessment (Politics) When he became president, Buhari said his government will not tolerate human rights abuses. But very little has happened. The main problem is the fight against corruption and to make the economy stable. The low oil price is a problem and ordinary people are suffering because prices of commodities are now higher because the naira is lower against the dollar. People do not trust the politicians.

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