Nigeria, country located on the western coast of Africa. Nigeria has a diverse geography, with climates ranging from arid to humid equatorial. However, Nigeria’s most diverse feature is its people. Hundreds of languages are spoken in the country, including Yoruba, Igbo, Fula, Hausa, Edo, Ibibio, Tiv, and English. The country has abundant natural resources, notably large deposits of petroleum and natural gas.
The new national capital is Abuja, in the Federal Capital Territory, which was created by decree in 1976. Lagos, the former capital, retains its standing as the country’s leading commercial and industrial city.
Modern Nigeria dates from 1914, when the British Protectorates of Northern and Southern Nigeria were joined. The country became independent on Oct. 1, 1960, and in 1963 adopted a republican constitution but elected to stay a member of the Commonwealth. The First Republic was replaced by the military, which ruled for 13 years. The Second Republic lasted from 1979 to 1983, followed by another 15 years of military rule.
Nigeria is bordered to the north by Niger, to the east by Chad and Cameroon, to the south by the Gulf of Guinea of the Atlantic Ocean, and to the west by Benin. Nigeria is not only large in area—larger than the U.S. state of Texas—but also Africa’s most populous country.
In general, the topography of Nigeria consists of plains in the north and south interrupted by plateaus and hills in the centre of the country. The Sokoto Plains lie in the northwestern corner of the country, while the Borno Plains in the northeastern corner extend as far as the Lake Chad basin. The Lake Chad basin and the coastal areas, including the Niger River delta and the western parts of the Sokoto region in the far northwest, are underlain by soft, geologically young sedimentary rocks. Gently undulating plains, which become waterlogged during the rainy season, are found in these areas. The characteristic landforms of the plateaus are high plains with broad, shallow valleys dotted with numerous hills or isolated mountains, called inselbergs; the underlying rocks are crystalline, although sandstones appear in river areas. The Jos Plateau rises almost in the centre of the country; it consists of extensive lava surfaces dotted with numerous extinct volcanoes. Other eroded surfaces, such as the Udi-Nsukka escarpment (see Udi-Nsukka Plateau), rise abruptly above the plains at elevations of at least 1,000 feet (300 metres). The most mountainous area is along the southeastern border with Cameroon, where the Cameroon Highlands rise to the highest points in the country, Chappal Waddi (7,936 feet [2,419 metres]) in the Gotel Mountains and Mount Dimlang (6,699 feet [2,042 metres]) in the Shebshi Mountains.
The major drainage areas in Nigeria are the Niger-Benue basin, the Lake Chad basin, and the Gulf of Guinea basin. The Niger River, for which the country is named, and the Benue, its largest tributary, are the principal rivers. The Niger has many rapids and waterfalls, but the Benue is not interrupted by either and is navigable throughout its length, except during the dry season. Rivers draining the area north of the Niger-Benue trough include the Sokoto, the Kaduna, the Gongola, and the rivers draining into Lake Chad. The coastal areas are drained by short rivers that flow into the Gulf of Guinea. River basin development projects have created many large man-made lakes, including Lake Kainji on the Niger and Lake Bakolori on the Rima River.
The Niger delta is a vast low-lying region through which the waters of the Niger River drain into the Gulf of Guinea. Characteristic landforms in this region include oxbow lakes, river meander belts (see meander), and prominent levees. Large freshwater swamps give way to brackish mangrove thickets near the seacoast.
Soils in Nigeria, and in Africa generally, are usually of a poorer quality than those in other regions of the world. However, over the centuries Nigerians have utilized agricultural techniques such as slash and burn, intercropping, and the use of shallow planting implements to cope with the shortcomings of the soil. In the precolonial period the country normally produced enough agricultural commodities to feed its population, and it even maintained a surplus for export.
Nigeria’s major soil zones conform to geographic location. Loose sandy soils consisting of wind-borne deposits and riverine sands are found in the northern regions, although, in areas where there is a marked dry season, a dense surface layer of laterite develops, making these soils difficult to cultivate. The soils in the northern states of Kano and Sokoto, however, are not subject to leaching and are therefore easily farmed. South of Kano the mixed soils contain locally derived granite and loess (wind-borne deposits). The middle two-thirds of the country, the savanna regions, contain reddish, laterite soils; they are somewhat less fertile than those of the north because they are not subject to as much seasonal drying, nor do they receive the greater rainfall that occurs in the more southerly regions. The forest soils represent the third zone. There the vegetation provides humus and protects it from erosion by heavy rainfall. Although these soils can readily be leached and lose their fertility, they are the most productive agriculturally. Hydromorphic and organic soils, confined largely to areas underlain by sedimentary rocks along the coast and river floodplains, are the youngest soil types.
Nigeria has a tropical climate with variable rainy and dry seasons, depending on location. It is hot and wet most of the year in the southeast but dry in the southwest and farther inland. A savanna climate, with marked wet and dry seasons, prevails in the north and west, while a steppe climate with little precipitation is found in the far north.
In general, the length of the rainy season decreases from south to north. In the south the rainy season lasts from March to November, whereas in the far north it lasts only from mid-May to September. A marked interruption in the rains occurs during August in the south, resulting in a short dry season often referred to as the “August break.” Precipitation is heavier in the south, especially in the southeast, which receives more than 120 inches (3,000 mm) of rain a year, compared with about 70 inches (1,800 mm) in the southwest. Rainfall decreases progressively away from the coast; the far north receives no more than 20 inches (500 mm) a year.
Temperature and humidity remain relatively constant throughout the year in the south, while the seasons vary considerably in the north; during the northern dry season the daily temperature range becomes great as well. On the coast the mean monthly maximum temperatures are steady throughout the year, remaining about 90 °F (32 °C) at Lagos and about 91 °F (33 °C) at Port Harcourt; the mean monthly minimum temperatures are approximately 72 °F (22 °C) for Lagos and 68 °F (20 °C) for Port Harcourt. In general, mean maximum temperatures are higher in the north, while mean minimum temperatures are lower. In the northeastern city of Maiduguri, for example, the mean monthly maximum temperature may exceed 100 °F (38 °C) during the hot months of April and May, while in the same season frosts may occur at night. The humidity generally is high in the north, but it falls during the harmattan (the hot, dry northeast trade wind), which blows for more than three months in the north but rarely for more than two weeks along the coast.
Plant and animal life
The main vegetation patterns run in broad east-west belts, parallel to the Equator. Mangrove and freshwater swamps occur along the coast and in the Niger delta. A short way inland, the swamps give way to dense tropical rainforests. Economically valuable, the oil palm grows wild and is usually preserved when forest is cleared for cultivation. In the more densely populated parts of the southeast, the original forest vegetation has been replaced by open palm bush. In the southwest large areas of forest have been replaced by cacao and rubber plantations. Tropical grassland occupies the area north of the forest belt and is studded with baobab, tamarind, and locust bean trees. The savanna becomes more open in the far north and is characterized by scattered stunted trees and short grasses. Semidesert conditions exist in the Lake Chad region, where various species of acacia and the doum species of palm are common. Gallery forests (narrow forest zones along rivers) are also characteristic of the open savanna in the north. In densely populated areas of the savanna, such as those around the towns of Sokoto, Kano, and Katsina, the vegetation has been removed by continuous cropping, overgrazing, and bush burning. In the far northern areas the nearly total disappearance of plant life has facilitated a gradual southward advance of the Sahara.
Camels, antelopes, hyenas, lions, baboons, and giraffes once inhabited the entire savanna region, and red river hogs, forest elephants, and chimpanzees lived in the rainforest belt. Animals found in both forest and savanna included leopards, golden cats, monkeys, gorillas, and wild pigs. Today these animals can be found only in such protected places as the Yankari National Park in Bauchi state, Gashaka Gumti National Park in Taraba state, Kainji Lake National Park in Kwara state (see Kainji Lake), and Cross River National Park in Cross River state. Rodents such as squirrels, porcupines, and cane rats constitute the largest family of mammals. The northern savanna abounds in guinea fowl. Other common birds include quail, vultures, kites, bustards, and gray parrots. The rivers contain crocodiles, hippopotamuses, and a great variety of fishes.
There are an estimated 250 ethnic groups in Nigeria. Each inhabits a territory that it considers to be its own by right of first occupancy and inheritance. Individuals who are not members of a dominant group but who have lived and worked for several decades in the territory of the group are still considered to be aliens. In most rural areas, such aliens may not acquire outright title to land, yet considerable numbers of people have migrated from one ethnic territory to another in search of farmland. There are three major ethnic groups in the country: the Hausa-Fulani, the Yoruba, and the Igbo.
The northern-dwelling Hausa, the most numerous group in the country, have become integrated with the smaller Fulani group, whose members conquered Hausaland in the early 19th century; the great majority of both are Muslims. Town-dwelling Fulani intermarry freely with the Hausa and other groups, and they continue to control the administration of the Hausa towns. The cattle-herding rural Fulani, who generally do not intermarry, speak the Fulani language, Fula, rather than Hausa.
Another large and politically dominant group is the Yoruba of southwestern Nigeria. They consider the city of Ile-Ife their ancestral home and the deity Oduduwa their progenitor. Most Yoruba are farmers but live in urban areas away from their rural farmland. Each Yoruba subgroup is ruled by a paramount chief, or oba, who is usually supported by a council of chiefs. The ooni (oni) of Ile-Ife, who is the spiritual leader of the Yoruba, and the alaafin (alafin) of Oyo, who is their traditional political leader, are the most powerful rulers, and their influence is still acknowledged throughout the Yoruba areas.
The third major ethnic group, the Igbo of southeastern Nigeria, lives in small decentralized and democratic settlements. The largest political unit is the village, which is ruled by a council of elders (chosen by merit, not heredity) rather than by a chief. A smaller proportion live in large towns and are culturally much closer to the Edo of neighbouring Benin City (in Edo state) than to the Igbo east of the lower Niger valley.
Less numerous are the Ibibio, who live near the Igbo and share many of their cultural traits, and the Edo, who created the important precolonial kingdom of Benin. In the middle belt, where the greatest concentration of ethnic groups (more than 180) occurs, the Tiv and the Nupe are the largest groups. Both are settled cultivators, but, while Nupe society is hierarchical, that of the Tiv tends to be decentralized.
The languages of Nigeria are classified into three broad linguistic groups: Niger-Congo, Nilo-Saharan, and Afro-Asiatic. The huge Niger-Congo group is further subdivided into nine major branches, including the Kwa subgroup, spoken in the extreme southwestern corner of the country; the Ijoid branch, spoken in the Niger Delta region; the Atlantic subgroup, which most notably includes Fula; the extensive Benue-Congo subgroup, which includes Tiv, Jukun, Edo, Igbo, Igala, Idoma, Nupe, Gwari, Yoruba, and several languages of the Cross River basin such as Efik, Ibibio, Anang, and Ekoi; and the Adamawa-Ubangi languages, such as Awak, Waja, Waka, and Tula, spoken in northern Nigeria. The Nilo-Saharan group is represented in Nigeria principally by Kanuri, although speakers of Bagirmi and Zerma are also present in the country. Afro-Asiatic is a much larger linguistic group and comprises Hausa, Margi, and Bade, among others. Some peoples (such as the Fulani and the Tiv) are relatively recent immigrants, but, on the basis of modern linguistic research, it is thought that the great majority of Nigerian languages—specifically the Kwa subgroup—have been spoken in roughly the same locations for some 4,000 years.
Hausa was an official language of the northern states from 1951 to 1967. It is the most widely spoken language, although English is the official language of Nigeria. In addition to English, Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo, Fula, and English Creole are widely spoken. Many of the languages exist in written form.
At the beginning of the 20th century, most Nigerians were followers of traditional religions, but British colonial policies discouraged this to such an extent that by the time of independence in 1960 the great majority of the people were classified as Muslims or Christians. At the beginning of the 21st century, more than two-fifths of the population was Muslim, slightly less than that was Christian, and about one-tenth claimed to follow traditional religions. However, many of those professing to be Muslims and Christians also openly performed certain rites or rituals of traditional religions that were no longer condemned as they had been during the colonial period. While a supreme god (called Olorun Olodumare in Yoruba, Chukwu in Igbo, Osalobua in Edo, and Abasi Ibom in Ibibio) is central to many of the traditional religions, the deity is worshipped through a number of intermediaries or lesser gods.
Religious freedom is guaranteed by the constitution, and Muslims and Christians live and work together, although there is continuing conflict between the two groups and between them and adherents of traditional religions. The greatest concentration of Muslims is in the northern states; there, three-fourths of the people profess the religion of Islam, which also is the dominant faith in a few of the southern states. Christians make up more than three-fourths of the population in the eastern states.
The main established Christian groups are Roman Catholics, Methodists, Anglicans, and Baptists. A growing number of breakaway Christian churches, which embrace indigenous cultural traditions, are gaining popularity—a development perceived as a threat by the older established churches. The breakaway Christian churches often include drumming and dancing in their services, a practice since adopted by the established churches in an attempt to avoid losing members. Another issue has been how Islam and Christianity have chosen to incorporate the traditional practice of polygamy. Christianity has officially disallowed it, while Islam has allowed men to have up to four wives; however, breakaway Christian churches often have placed no limits on the practice.
Marked differences exist between north and south, not only in physical landscape, climate, and vegetation but also in the social organization, religion, literacy, and agricultural practices of the people. These differences form the basis of the division of Nigeria into three geographic regions: the south, or Guinea coastlands; the central region; and the north, or Nigerian Sudan.
The south is the most economically developed part of Nigeria. Its forest resources are intensively exploited, and its tree crops are harvested on peasant farms and commercial plantations. All of the country’s major industrial centres and oil fields, as well as its seaports, are concentrated in the region. Important cultural centres are also found in the south, such as those of the Yoruba in the western part of the region, the Edo in the region’s midwestern section, and the Igbo-Ibibio in the east. Parts of the country’s Igbo and Ibibio-inhabited areas are the most densely settled areas in sub-Saharan Africa. The Yoruba-inhabited areas where cacao is grown are also densely settled and attract many migrants from the congested Igbo and Ibibio-inhabited areas. The eastern Cross River area is virtually uninhabited owing to the poor soil and climate.
The central region is the most sparsely settled and least developed part of Nigeria, comprising about two-fifths of the country’s land area but supporting less than one-fifth of the total population. Small pockets of dense population occur in the tin fields of the Jos Plateau and in the southern Tiv-inhabited area. The remaining, and by far the greater, part of this region is virtually uninhabited owing to the poor soil and climate.
Before 1970, large-scale development in this region, often referred to as the middle belt, was restricted to a few government-supported projects, such as the Kainji Dam and the Bacita sugar project (both in the northwestern part of the region) and a few industries in the towns of Jos and Kaduna (now the capitals of Plateau and Kaduna states, respectively). After the national administrative reorganization of 1975, this central region gained importance because 7 of the then 19 (now 36) state capitals, as well as the approximately 2,800-square-mile (7,250-square-km) Federal Capital Territory were located there. In addition, during the early 1980s a giant iron and steel complex was built at Ajaokuta, near Lokoja.
The north, or Nigerian Sudan, underwent significant change in the beginning of the 20th century, when a new economic pattern was created by the construction of a railroad that connected the region to the country’s coastal ports. Before then, the Nigerian Sudan was more outward oriented through regular trans-Saharan contacts with North Africa, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East. Except in the Lake Chad basin, where the Kanuri people established the state of Borno, the Nigerian Sudan has been dominated by a blend of the cultures of the Fulani and Hausa. The former are traditionally nomadic cattle herders, the latter settled cultivators; both groups are predominantly Muslim.
Two regions of dense population are found in the extreme north: the Sokoto area and the Kano-Katsina area. The Kano concentration is based on intensive agriculture in an area of relatively fertile soils, but the densely settled areas around nearby Katsina have impoverished soils and do not produce enough food for the local population.
About half of the people live in rural areas. Densely populated settlements occur along the coast, in the Yoruba-inhabited area in the southwest, and in the Hausa- and Kanuri-inhabited areas of the far north. In parts of the Igbo and the Anang-Ibibio-inhabited areas in the southeast and the Tiv-inhabited areas in the central region, settlements consist of dispersed homesteads called compounds. Each compound houses a man, his immediate family, and some relatives. A number of compounds make up the village, usually inhabited by people claiming a common ancestor—often the founder of the village.
In the eastern states, each village has a chief, or headman, who, as one of the oldest and most prosperous men in the community, rules by the consent of the people. In the Yoruba- and Edo-inhabited areas and in most parts of the northern states, the chief is chosen by, or with the consent of, the region’s traditional ruler. A characteristic feature of village life is the age-grade system, in which people are grouped together with others of a similar age. This system was more important traditionally—serving to separate males into three-year groupings for purposes of labour and initiation—but its use has diminished.
Only the Yoruba, Hausa, Edo, Kanuri, and coastal peoples were town dwellers before the 20th century. The Yoruba long have been the most urbanized people in tropical Africa. Their towns, most of them several hundred years old, were originally administrative and trading centres, a function many have retained. About half the Yoruba now live in towns of more than 5,000, notably Ibadan, Ogbomosho, Abeokuta, Ile-Ife, and Oyo. Benin City, like Ibadan and Oyo, is a political as well as a cultural capital; its history dates back several centuries to when it was the centre of the historic state of Benin.
The towns of Bonny, Opobo Town, Okrika, Buguma, Brass, Forcados, Creek Town, and Calabar grew from coastal fishing and salt-trading villages into towns as trade (first in slaves and later in agricultural goods) increased between the coastal peoples and Europeans. At the beginning of colonial rule, these port towns had a more cosmopolitan population than the Yoruba towns and the far north, but they were much smaller.
Kano, Zaria, and Katsina, northern towns of the Nigerian Sudan, are much older than the Yoruba towns. Owing their existence to the trans-Saharan trade as well as to the agricultural wealth of the surrounding region, they were once walled cities. Today Kano, the most important of the ancient towns, contains separate quarters for Hausa-Fulani, southern Nigerians, and Europeans.
Lagos, a cosmopolitan city consisting of islands and mainland areas, is the former capital of and the largest urban region in Nigeria. It was founded (probably through the expansion of the kingdom of Benin) before the 15th century and had a population of about 250,000 when it was declared a British colony in 1861; that number increased to some 8,000,000 in the early 21st century. The creation of many states since 1967 diverted some of the industries and job-seeking migrants from Lagos to the new state capitals, especially the older and larger ones such as Ibadan, Kaduna, Kano, and Enugu. Some small towns, notably Minna, Uyo, Makurdi, Maiduguri, and Bauchi, experienced remarkable growth in population and economy after becoming state capitals.
Abuja, a planned city in the centre of the country, has been the official capital of Nigeria since 1991, although some government offices remain in Lagos, the former capital. The decision to create a new capital was made in the mid-1970s, and work on it began in the 1980s. The location was chosen so that no single ethnic group would be favoured over another, although one such group, the Gwari, was displaced by the construction.
Nigeria, like other developing countries, has birth and mortality rates that are higher than the world average. Since the mid-20th century, however, infant mortality has declined drastically, and life expectancy has increased; as a consequence, population growth has been rapid. In the early 21st century, almost three-fourths of the population was younger than age 30.
There is considerable migration in Nigeria, especially between the north and the south. Large numbers of southern migrants have settled in the northern cities of Kano, Sokoto, Kaduna, and Jos, while seasonal migrants have often moved from the northern Sokoto and Kano areas to southern areas where cacao is grown. A more significant number of people have migrated from the southeast to the more industrialized and urbanized western states of Lagos, Oyo, and Ogun or to the agricultural western states of Ondo and Edo.
Before the end of the country’s civil war in 1970, many Nigerians emigrated to work in Benin, Ghana, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, and Sierra Leone. African migration into Nigeria began about 1972 and was officially encouraged in 1978 by the establishment of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), under which the citizens of member states were guaranteed free movement. In the early 1980s a downturn in the Nigerian economy and the alleged involvement of foreigners in religious riots prompted the government to reverse its immigration policy. By 1985 some 2.7 million aliens had been expelled; such measures, however, have not been repeated. The actions of the series of military governments in the 1980s and ’90s caused many Nigerian citizens to immigrate to Europe and the United States.
The Nigerian economy is one of the largest in Africa. Since the late 1960s it has been based primarily on the petroleum industry. A series of world oil price increases from 1973 produced rapid economic growth in transportation, construction, manufacturing, and government services. Because this led to a great influx of rural people into the larger urban centres, agricultural production stagnated to such an extent that cash crops such as palm oil, peanuts (groundnuts), and cotton were no longer significant export commodities; in addition, from about 1975 Nigeria was forced to import such basic commodities as rice and cassava for domestic consumption. This system worked well as long as revenues from petroleum remained constant, but since the late 1970s the agricultural sector has been in continuing crisis because of the fluctuating world oil market and the country’s rapid population growth. Although much of the population remained engaged in farming, too little food was produced, requiring increasingly costly imports. The various governments (most of them military-run) have dealt with this problem by banning agricultural imports and by focusing, albeit briefly, on various agricultural and indigenization plans.
In the late 1990s the government began to privatize many state-run enterprises—especially in communications, power, and transportation—in order to enhance the quality of service and reduce dependence on the government. Most of the enterprises had been successfully privatized by the beginning of the 21st century, but a few remained in government hands.
At the turn of the 21st century, Nigeria continued to face an unsteady revenue flow, which the government attempted to counter by borrowing from international sources, introducing various austerity measures, or doing both at the same time. As a result, an ever-increasing share of the national budget was needed for debt repayment, which, with corruption dominating government operations, meant that very little of Nigeria’s income was being spent on the people and their needs. The country benefited from a 2005 debt-relief plan by which the majority of its debt to a group of creditor countries known as the Paris Club would be forgiven once it had repaid a certain amount; Nigeria successfully met this condition in 2006, becoming the first African country to settle its debt with the group. (For information on the role women have played in Nigeria’s economy and culture, see Sidebar: Nigerian Women.)
Agriculture, forestry, and fishing
Nigeria has no shortage of arable land overall, but there is an extreme shortage of farmland in the most densely settled areas of the southeastern states and around Kano, Katsina, and Sokoto. This has forced large numbers of land-hungry Igbo, Ibibio, and Hausa people to migrate to other parts of the country. Often, however, cultural traditions, such as the prohibition against selling family land, have restricted access to farmland in some localities that appear to have abundant cultivable land, and, in the far north, desertification has severely limited the land area available for cultivation.
About two-thirds of all Nigerians obtain a living from agricultural production. Most are small-scale subsistence farmers who produce only a little surplus for sale and who derive additional income from one or more cash crops and from the sale of local crafts. Farms are small, usually less than 2.5 acres (1 hectare) in the south and about 7.5 acres (3 hectares) in the open grassland areas of the north. Because the soil is not totally amenable to mechanized equipment, the hoe and matchet (machete) continue to be the dominant farm implements. The shortage of farmland in some localities and limited access to land in others are among the factors that restrict the size of farmland cultivated per family. Environmental deterioration, inferior storage facilities, a poor transport system, and a lack of investment capital contribute to low productivity and general stagnation in agriculture. With the population growing rapidly and urbanization accelerating, the food deficit continues to worsen despite government efforts to rectify the situation.
millet: Nigeria [Credit: Daniel Berehulak—Reportage/Getty Images]Root crops—notably yams, taro, and cassava—are the main food crops in the south, while grains and legumes—such as sorghum, millet, cowpeas, and corn (maize)—are the staple crops of the drier north. Rice is also an important domestic crop. Trees—notably oil palm, cacao, and rubber trees—are the principal industrial crops of the south, while peanuts (groundnuts) and cotton are produced in the north. Small-scale farmers dominate the production of industrial crops, as they do with staple food crops. Cocoa beans, from the cacao tree, are the major agricultural export; production of other industrial crops has declined, owing to the general stagnation in agriculture.
In 1982, in the first major step taken to halt the decline in industrial crop production, the government disbanded the produce marketing boards, which paid prices set by the government. Many farmers have since been motivated to cultivate tree crops, and the federal and state governments have established plantations of oil palm, rubber, and cacao. Programs to alleviate the food shortage have featured the direct purchase and distribution of foodstuffs by government agencies and the production by government parastatals of various staples on large commercial farms. The Operation Feed the Nation program of 1976–80 sought to increase local food production and thereby reduce imports. Citizens were encouraged to cultivate any empty plot of land, urban dwellers being encouraged to garden undeveloped building plots. Since 1980 agricultural policies have focused on the small farmer.
The raising of sheep, pigs, and goats was underdeveloped at the beginning of the 21st century. The cattle-herding Fulani are still the main beef producers, although some of the cattle under the care of these nomads belong to settled farmers and city dwellers. However, the level of meat consumption in Nigeria, as in most African countries, does not approach that of the West.
Nigeria’s permanent forest reserves occupy less than one-fifth of the total land area. Outside these reserves, much of the forest cover has been destroyed through regular burning to prepare land for farming or to facilitate hunting. Forest destruction is most extensive in the more densely settled areas, such as the Niger delta, and in the drier savanna, where overgrazing, bush fires, and the great demand for fuelwood prevent normal regeneration of plants on fallow land. There are many large plantations of exotic species, such as gmelina and teak, established by the government to provide electric and telegraph poles and fuelwood. In the arid zone of Sokoto, Kano, and Borno states, forest belts have been established to help arrest the southward advance of the Sahara. Forest plantations have been established in many watersheds to protect water catchment areas of rivers and to reduce the incidence of soil erosion.
Fishing has assumed greater importance as a food source following the loss of thousands of head of livestock during the recurring drought in the Sahel since the early 1970s. The domestic catch supplies more than half of the fish demand. Lake Chad and the southern coastal waters are the main sources of fish, but large quantities are caught every year in pools in seasonal rivers of the northern states.
Resources and power
Nigeria has a variety of both renewable and nonrenewable resources, some of which have not yet been effectively tapped. Solar energy, probably the most extensive of the underutilized renewable resources, is likely to remain untapped for some time, and the vast reserves of natural gas produced with crude oil have yet to be fully exploited.
offshore drilling: offshore oil rig near Port Harcourt, Nigeria [Credit: Walter Weiss/Ostman Agency]Resource extraction is the most important and the fastest-growing sector of the economy, reflecting the rise to prominence of crude oil output. Nigeria has been a member of OPEC since 1971. There are oil refineries at Port Harcourt, Warri, and Kaduna. The petroleum industry remains dominant, and crude petroleum continues to account for virtually all export earnings. The most economically valuable minerals are crude oil, natural gas, coal, tin, and columbite (an iron-bearing mineral that accompanies tin). Petroleum, first discovered in 1956, is the most important source of government revenue and foreign exchange—its share of the gross domestic product rose from virtually nothing in the 1950s to about two-fifths in the late 1990s. Most of the oil output comes from onshore fields in the Niger delta, although an increasing proportion of the crude is produced at offshore locations. There are vast reserves of natural gas, but most of the gas produced is a by-product of crude oil; in the past this was burned off, as there was no market for it, but efforts have been made to utilize more of this commodity. Since 1984, oil companies have been required to reinject into the ground some of the natural gas produced in the course of pumping crude oil. Production has often been interrupted by protests, as the inhabitants of the oil-producing regions have demanded a larger share of the revenues.
Nigeria possesses significant reserves of coal, but these deposits are being developed gradually. Coal is used by the railroad, by traditional metal industries, and by power plants to generate electricity. Coal mining, initially concentrated around the city of Enugu and its environs, began in 1915. It declined after the late 1950s with the discovery of oil but subsequently increased. Substantial coal reserves of varying quality can be found in south-central states in a band that stretches from Benin to Cameroon. Deposits discovered more recently in the southwestern part of the country at Lafia-Obi are being developed for the Ajaokuta steel complex.
The Jos Plateau, where tin mining began in 1905, also contains columbite. By the early 21st century, the country’s tin-smelting capacity had not been reached, a result of diminished world demand in the late 1980s; production of columbite has also declined since the mid-1970s.
There are iron-ore deposits in the Lokoja area, which is close to the Ajaokuta steel complex in the lower Niger valley, and limestone occurs in many areas, where it is widely exploited for manufacturing cement and for use in the steel industry. Extensive iron-ore deposits found in Kwara state have been exploited since 1984. Construction of a plant to process the ore began in 1992 with the intention of supplying the Ajaokuta steel complex, whose river port was completed in 1995.
Other mined minerals include gypsum, kaolin, rock salt, baryte, phosphates, gold, sapphires, topazes, and aquamarines. Uranium deposits discovered in the northeastern part of the country have not yet been exploited.
About one-third of the country’s power is provided by hydroelectricity, although this source has the potential to provide an even greater amount of power. The main sources of hydroelectric power are the dams at Kainji, Shiroro (Niger state), and Jebba (Kwara state). Thermal plants fired with natural gas and coal are at Afam, Sapele, and Lagos and on the Oji River and supply about three-fifths of the country’s power. Demand, however, always exceeds supply. Fuelwood (firewood and charcoal) is still an important energy source for domestic use.
Revenue from mining has enabled the federal government to establish such capital-intensive industries as the Ajaokuta and Aladja steel mills, pulp and paper mills at Oku Iboku and Iwopin, petrochemical plants at Kaduna, Abuja, and Port Harcourt, and an aluminum smelter at Ikot Abasi. In the past, large-scale manufacturing—dominated by the production of textiles, tobacco, beverages, and cement—was controlled by foreign investors. The government’s indigenization efforts have altered the ownership situation, although the management and effective control of most large factories have remained in the hands of expatriate representatives of multinational corporations. The greatest weakness of this sector has been its dependence on imported raw materials. That situation changed in 1987, when the import of a wide range of raw materials was prohibited, although the ban was later rescinded. Even so, imports were subject to some restrictions at the beginning of the 21st century, and manufacturers were encouraged to use raw materials from local sources. The highest concentration of large factories is in the Greater Lagos area. Each state capital has a number of large manufacturing industries, but a few major industries, such as paper mills and steel mills, are located in remote areas where new towns have grown up to serve the factories.
Traditional industries carried out in homes or in makeshift workshops include the making of iron implements such as hoes and hatchets, door hinges, bolts, and dane guns (firearms of obsolete design, originally of European manufacture). Traditional soap- and salt-making workshops appeared in large numbers after the near collapse of the Nigerian economy in 1983, when most wage earners were unable to pay for factory-made soap and imported table salt. These industries continued after the economy recovered, but they were concentrated in rural areas. Pottery making and wood carving are widespread, as are canework and the making of bags and mats from raffia.
The Central Bank of Nigeria issues the national currency, the naira, which has been devalued several times since 1980. The Central Bank has branches in all the state capitals and provides guidelines to all commercial and merchant banks in the country. In 1976 all foreign banks were compelled to sell 60 percent of their shares to Nigerians. Banks proliferated in the 1980s, after the financial sector was liberalized. Many of these banks proved unstable, however, and in 1995 the government was forced to rescue some of them. Soon after, the government began privatizing banks and closing those that had violated banking regulations. By the beginning of the 21st century, the country had some 100 banks and financial institutions, and branch locations were widespread. There are a stock exchange and a securities exchange commission in Lagos.
The direction of domestic trade in staple foods is largely north-south between different ecological zones but also between major urban centres in the southeast and southwest. The southern states supply plantains, cassava, kola nuts, and fruit to the northern states, which in turn supply beans, onions, and livestock to the southern states. Yams from the central region are traded in the southern and the far northern cities. Women play a dominant role in marketing foodstuffs and manufactured goods in the southern states. Most of the food items and manufactured goods are sold in open market stalls, in small neighbourhood shops, and on the streets.
There is very little trade between Nigeria and other African countries. The main markets for Nigerian exports—consisting mostly of crude oil, cocoa beans, and rubber—are the United States and the countries of the European Union (EU). The main imports are machinery and transport equipment, manufactured goods (iron and steel products, textiles, and paper products), chemicals, and food, most of which come from the EU, China, and the United States.
At independence Nigeria had accumulated a trade deficit, which resulted from the importation of large quantities of machinery and equipment. By the late 1960s it had a trade surplus, as revenue from crude oil exports allowed the country to import capital goods and industrial raw materials. Trade deficits returned beginning in mid-1970. Since then Nigeria’s balance of trade has alternated between periods of deficits and of surpluses, driven by fluctuations in the global oil market and government decisions on how to spend its money. A trade surplus in 1980, for example, allowed work to continue on the new federal capital designate of Abuja, but by 1982 the surplus had become a deficit, and at the end of 1983 the country was virtually bankrupt. At the beginning of the 21st century, exports were greater than imports, but the interest on the country’s external debt was so high that a truly favourable balance of trade (as opposed to one that existed on paper only) hinged at least partly on the effectiveness of debt relief.
Nigeria has many attractions of interest to tourists. There are miles of coastal beaches, wildlife reserves, a variety of cultures, and many museums that house artistic treasures. However, the many decades Nigeria spent under military rule created a repressive environment not well suited to the tourist. Since the installation of the democratically elected government in 1999, the country has faced periods of ethnic violence, also not conducive to attracting a tourist clientele. Nevertheless, more than two million people visited the country annually in the early 2000s.
Labour and taxation
Nigeria has a long history of labour movements and contains numerous unions. Under the various military governments, labour activity was sharply curtailed. After the democratic elections in 1999, however, labour movements were once again able to express their discontent, and various strikes took place at the end of the 20th century and into the beginning of the 21st.
In the southern part of Nigeria, women perform the majority of the agricultural labour, and, in cities such as Lagos, women dominate the market activity as well. No legal barriers exclude women from universities and professions, particularly in the south. However, women in northern states, especially those following Islamic law (Shariah), have their activities more tightly controlled.
The main sources of government finance consist of petroleum royalties and rents, import duties, and corporate income and value-added taxes.
Transportation and telecommunications
Roads are the most important means of transportation in Nigeria, carrying more than four-fifths of all passenger and freight traffic. The general pattern of road transport, from north to south and from the interior to the southern seaports, dates to the colonial period, when raw materials were shipped to Britain and other western European countries, which returned them as finished goods. More roads were added in the 1970s and early ’80s—an expressway running between Lagos and Ibadan opened in 1978, and a road between Benin-Shagamu and Port Harcourt–Enugu was turned into a four-lane divided highway by 1981.
Road traffic is heaviest in the cacao belt of southwestern Nigeria, the peanut and cotton belt of the Kano-Katsina region, the Jos Plateau tin fields, and the palm belt of southeastern Nigeria. These areas are served by a dense network of all-weather roads. The relatively unproductive and sparsely settled areas of the central region, the Cross River region, and the Lake Chad basin have tenuous road links that carry only a few trucks a day.
Because the well-developed road system of the 1970s and ’80s was not maintained, it became increasingly dangerous to use. Moreover, as a result of deteriorating road conditions, a trip from Benin City to Lagos in the early 21st century took twice as long as it did in 1980. Road safety standards also are poor; the accident rate is high; and, because of Nigeria’s chronic economic problems, it is difficult to find spare parts to repair motor vehicles. Lagos has notorious traffic problems; its streets are packed with both pedestrians and vehicles that create traffic tie-ups called “go slows.” To ease the traffic problems, people often share taxis or ride in trucks.
Now surpassed by roads, railroads were once the dominant transport system. Nigeria’s railroads have proved incapable of transporting large cargoes such as peanuts and cotton from the north. In addition, passenger volume dropped significantly by the 1980s because the trains were slow (attributed largely to the narrow-gauge track) and service was poor. The railroad system has two single-track trunk lines: the eastern line from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri and the western line from Lagos to Kano. Branch lines connect the western trunk line to Kaura Namoda, Nguru, and Baro on the Niger. A newer railway line includes the Ajaokuta steel complex. Since 1960 tracks have been relaid with heavier rails to permit greater loads and higher speeds, signals have been improved to speed rail movements, and steam engines have been replaced by diesel locomotives. Beginning in the 1990s, there was expansion of the railway system, including the laying of new track between Warri and Ajaokuta and the addition of mass transit lines between Lagos and several cities to the west.
SHIPPING AND AIR TRANSPORT
Creeks and rivers were historically the primary avenue of transportation. The most important waterways, the Niger and Benue, were dredged in the 1990s because they were drying up; they still carry substantial quantities of goods. The Cross River is used to ship exports to the port at Calabar, but, like other rivers in Nigeria, it is not navigable during the dry season. Passenger and cargo boats operate on the lagoons and on the many creeks along the Nigerian coast from Lagos to the Cross River. Ports at Lagos and Port Harcourt, administered by the Nigerian Ports Authority since its establishment in 1954, are the main international seaports. Chronic congestion at these two ports was largely responsible for the authority’s takeover in 1970 of the installation and administration of the smaller ports of Warri, Sapele, Koko, and Calabar. The Lagos port complex (including the Apapa and Tin Can Island ports) was subsequently expanded, and facilities in the smaller ports also were modernized and enlarged. Bonny and Burutu are the major ports for shipment of petroleum.
Almost all the state capitals are served by air transport. There are smaller airfields in some provincial cities and in the oil-producing areas of the Niger delta and the Cross River estuary. Lagos, Kano, and Abuja handle most of the international air traffic. At the beginning of the 21st century, Nigeria had a notoriously poor aviation safety record.
Mobile phone service has expanded considerably more quickly than land telephone services. Although telephone lines have existed in the major cities since the late 1970s, service was expensive and inadequate and was often cut off for no apparent reason. Use of cellular phones, on the other hand, has spread steadily since the late 1990s. Internet service began to expand rapidly at the beginning of the 21st century.
Government and society
Under the 1999 constitution, executive power is vested in a president who serves as both the head of state and the chief executive, is directly elected to a four-year term, and nominates the vice president and members of the cabinet. The constitution provides for a bicameral National Assembly, which consists of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Each state elects 10 members to the House of Representatives for four-year terms; members of the Senate—three from each state and one from the Federal Capital Territory—also are elected to four-year terms.
There are two tiers of government—state and local—below the federal level. The functions of the government at the local level were usurped by the state government until 1988, when the federal government decided to fund local government organizations directly and allowed them for the first time to function effectively.
Nigeria administrative boundaries in 1996 [Credit: Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.]Nigeria is divided into 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, where the country’s capital, Abuja, is located; the constitution also includes a provision that more states can be created as needed. At independence the country was divided into three regions: Northern, Eastern, and Western. The Mid-West region was created out of the Western region in 1963. In 1967 Col. Yakubu Gowon, then the military leader, turned the regions into 12 states: 6 in the north, 3 in the east, and 3 in the west. Gen. Murtala Mohammed created an additional 7 states in 1976. Gen. Ibrahim Babangida created 11 more states—2 in 1987 and 9 in 1991—for a total of 30. In 1996 Gen. Sani Abacha added 6 more states.
The Nigerian legal and judicial system contains three codes of law: customary law, Nigerian statute law (following English law), and Shar??ah (Islamic law). Customary laws, administered by native, or customary, courts, are usually presided over by traditional rulers, who generally hear cases about family problems such as divorce. Kadis (judges) apply Shar??ah based on the Maliki Islamic code. Since 1999, several states have instituted Shar??ah law. Although the states claim that the law applies only to Muslims, the minority non-Muslim population argues that it is affected by the law as well. Christian women, for example, must ride on female-only buses, and some states have banned females from participating in sports.
Nigerian statute law includes much of the British colonial legislation, most of which has been revised. State legislatures may pass laws on matters that are not part of the Exclusive Legislative List, which includes such areas as defense, foreign policy, and mining—all of which are the province of the federal government. Federal law prevails whenever federal legislation conflicts with state legislation. In addition to Nigerian statutes, English law is used in the magistrates’ and all higher courts. Each state has a High Court, which is presided over by a chief judge. The Supreme Court, headed by the chief justice of Nigeria, is the highest court.
The constitution grants all citizens at least 18 years of age the right to vote. The Action Group (AG) and the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) were the major Nigerian parties when the country became independent in 1960. However, their regional rather than national focus—the AG represented the west, the NPC the north, and the National Council for Nigeria and the Cameroons the east—ultimately contributed to the outbreak of civil war by the mid-1960s and more than 20 years of military rule. Political parties were allowed briefly in 1993 and again starting from 1998, but only parties with national rather than regional representation were legal, such as the newly created People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the Alliance for Democracy, and the All Nigeria People’s Party. Since then, many other parties have been created, most notably the All Progressives Congress (APC), the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), and the Labour Party.
Women have participated in the government since the colonial period, especially in the south. Their political strength is rooted in the precolonial traditions among particular ethnic groups, such as the Igbo, which gave women the power to correct excessive male behaviour (known as “sitting on a man”). Igbo women, showing their strength, rioted in 1929 when they believed colonial officials were going to levy taxes on women. Yoruba market women exercised significant economic power, controlling the markets in such Yoruba cities as Lagos and Ibadan. Some ethnic groups, such as the Edo who constituted the kingdom of Benin, also gave important political power to women; the mother of the oba (king) played an important part in the precolonial state. Women such as Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti (the mother of the musician Fela and human rights activist and physician Beko) actively participated in the colonial struggle, and several women have held ministerial positions in the government. Although Nigerian women may wield influence and political power, particularly at the familial and local level, this has not always been reflected at the federal level: in the early 21st century, women made up about 5 percent of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
The Nigeria Police Force, established by the federal constitution, is headed by the inspector general of police, who is appointed by the president. The general inefficiency of the force is attributable in part to the low level of education and the low morale of police recruits, who are poorly housed and very poorly paid, and to the lack of modern equipment. Corruption is widespread.
The federal military includes army, navy, and air force contingents. Nigerian troops have participated in missions sponsored by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) and by the United Nations (UN).
Health and welfare
The concentration of people in the cities has created enormous sanitary problems, particularly improper sewage disposal, water shortages, and poor drainage. Large heaps of domestic refuse spill across narrow streets, causing traffic delays, while the dumping of garbage along streambeds constitutes a major health hazard and has contributed to the floods that have often plagued Ibadan, Lagos, and other cities during the rainy season. Lower respiratory infections are one of the leading causes of death, as are malaria and HIV/AIDS.
Health conditions are particularly poor in the shantytown suburbs of Greater Lagos and other large cities, where domestic water supplies are obtained from wells that are often polluted by seepage from pit latrines. Rural communities also suffer from inadequate or impure water supplies. Some villagers have to walk as far as 6 miles (10 km) to the nearest water point—usually a stream. Because people wash clothes, bathe, and fish (sometimes using fish poison) in the same streams, the water drawn by people in villages farther downstream is often polluted. During the rainy season, wayside pits containing rainwater, often dug close to residential areas, are the main source of domestic water supplies. Cattle are often watered in the shallower pools, and this contributes to the high incidence of intestinal diseases and guinea worm in many rural areas.
Medical and health services are the responsibility of all levels of government. There are hospitals in the large cities and towns. Most of the state capitals have specialized hospitals, and many are home to a university teaching hospital. There are numerous private hospitals, clinics, and maternity centres. Medical services are inadequate in many parts of the country, however, because of shortages of medical personnel, modern equipment, and supplies.
Overcrowding in the cities has caused slums to spread and shantytown suburbs to emerge in most of the larger urban centres. Most houses are built by individuals, and, because banks do not normally lend money for home construction, most of these individuals must rely on their savings. A federal housing program provides funds for the construction of low-cost housing for low- and middle-income workers in the state capitals, local government headquarters, and other large towns.
House types vary by geographic location. In the coastal areas the walls and roofs are made from the raffia palm, which abounds in the region. Rectangular mud houses with mat roofs are found in the forest belt, although the houses of the more prosperous have corrugated iron roofs. In the savanna areas of the central region and in parts of the north, houses are round mud buildings roofed with sloping grass thatch, but flat mud roofs appear in the drier areas of the extreme north. Some mud houses are also covered with a layer of cement. Larger houses are designed around an open courtyard and traditionally contained barrels or cisterns in which rainwater could be collected.
During the colonial period, British officials lived in segregated housing known as Government Reserve Areas (GRA). After independence GRA housing became very desirable among the African population.
Great Britain did little to promote education during the colonial period. Until 1950 most schools were operated by Christian missionary bodies, which introduced Western-style education into Nigeria beginning in the mid-19th century. The British colonial government funded a few schools, although its policy was to give grants to mission schools rather than to expand its own system. In the northern, predominantly Muslim area, Western-style education was prohibited because the religious leaders did not want Christian missionaries interfering with Islam, and Islamic education was provided in traditional Islamic schools.
Today primary education, free and compulsory, begins at age six and lasts for six years. Secondary education consists of two three-year cycles. Although federal and state governments have the major responsibility for education, other organizations, such as local governments and religious groups, may establish and administer primary and secondary schools. Most secondary schools, trade centres, technical institutes, teacher-training colleges, and colleges of education and of technology are controlled by the state governments.
Nigeria has more than 130 universities and colleges widely dispersed throughout the country in an attempt to make higher education easily accessible. Many of the universities are federally controlled, and the language of instruction is English at all the universities and colleges. At the time of Nigeria’s independence in 1960, there were only two established postsecondary institutions, both of which were located in the southwestern part of the country: University College at Ibadan (founded in 1948, now the University of Ibadan) and Yaba Higher College (founded in 1934, now Yaba College of Technology). Four more government-operated universities were established in the 1960s: University of Nigeria, Nsukka (1960), in the east; University of Ife (founded in 1961, now Obafemi Awolowo University) in the west; University of Northern Nigeria (founded in 1962, now Ahmadu Bello University) in the north; and University of Lagos (1962) in the south. In the 1970s and ’80s the government attempted to found a university in every state, but, with the ever-increasing number of states, this practice was abandoned. Numerous federal and state universities have since been established, especially during the 21st century. Attempts by individuals and private organizations, including various Christian churches, to establish universities did not receive the approval of the federal Ministry of Education until the 1990s. Since then, dozens of private postsecondary institutions have been established.
Nigeria’s rich and varied cultural heritage derives from the mixture of its ethnic groups with Arabic and western European influences. The country combines traditional culture with international urban sophistication. Secret societies, such as Ekpo and Ekpe among the Igbo, were formerly used as instruments of government, while other institutions were associated with matrimony. According to the Fulani custom of sharo (test of young manhood), rival suitors underwent the ordeal of caning as a means of eliminating those who were less persistent. In Ibibio territory, girls approaching marriageable age were confined for several years in bride-fattening rooms before they were given to their husbands. A girl was well-fed during this confinement, with the intent of making her plump and therefore more attractive to her future husband; she would also receive instruction from older women on how to be a good wife. These and other customs were discouraged by colonial administrators and missionaries. Some of the more adaptable cultural institutions have been revived since independence; these include Ekpo and Ekong societies for young boys in parts of the southeast and the Ogboni society found in the Yoruba and Edo areas of southern Nigeria.
Daily life and social customs
Nigeria’s vibrant popular culture reflects great changes in inherited traditions and adaptations of imported ones. Establishments serving alcoholic beverages are found everywhere except where Islamic laws prohibit them. Hotels and nightclubs are part of the landscape of the larger cities. Movie theatres, showing mostly Indian and American films, are popular among the urban middle- and low-income groups. Radio, television, and other forms of home entertainment (e.g., recorded music and movies) have also grown in popularity, though their use is dependent on the availability of electricity.
marriage: Nigerian bride and groom [Credit: Kerstin Geler—Gallo Images/Corbis]Whether in urban or rural areas, the family is the central institution. Families gather to celebrate births and weddings. Funerals are also times when the family gathers. Because so many Nigerians live outside the country, funerals for non-Muslims are often delayed for a month or more to allow all the family members to make plans to return home.
Food is an important part of Nigerian life. Seafood, beef, poultry, and goat are the primary sources of protein. With so many different cultures and regions, food can vary greatly. In the southern areas a variety of soups containing a base of tomatoes, onions, red pepper, and palm oil are prepared with vegetables such as okra and meat or fish. Soups can be thickened by adding ground egusi (melon) seeds. Gari (ground cassava), iyan (yam paste), or plantains accompany the soup. Rice is eaten throughout the country, and in the north grains such as millet and wheat are a large part of the diet. Beans and root vegetables are ubiquitous. Many dishes are flavoured with onions, palm oil, and chilies.
Nigerians celebrate several holidays throughout the year, including Independence Day (October 1), Workers Day (May 1), and various Christian and Islamic holidays.
Nok culture: terra-cotta Nok head [Credit: Andre Held]Nigeria has a rich artistic heritage, including both traditional and contemporary art forms. From the naturalistic statues produced at Ife to the bronzes made for the king of Benin, Nigerian artists have crafted art that is world famous. The terra-cotta figurines of the Nok are some of the earliest statues in existence from sub-Saharan Africa. Ekpe masks and ikenga (personal shrines) from the Igbo in eastern Nigeria and ibeji (twin) sculptures from the Yoruba in western Nigeria are just three examples of the art produced in pre-colonial Nigeria. While many artists still work in these traditions, more-contemporary artists, who combine African and Western traditions, also abound. One of the earliest of these was Ben Ewonwu, who painted in oils as well as producing sculptures; to commemorate the visit to Nigeria of Queen Elizabeth II of England in 1956, Ewonwu made a bronze statue of her, later displayed at the Nigerian House of Representatives in Lagos. Other Nigerian artists include the Nsukka group, formed at the University of Nigeria at Nsukka in the early 1970s, consisting of Uche Okeke, Chike Aniakor, Obiora Udechukwu, El Anatsui, Tayo Adenaike, Ada Udechukwu, and Olu Oguibe. The Oshogbo movement, founded in the early 1960s, includes the artists Muraina Oyelami, Twins Seven-Seven (Prince Taiwo Osuntoki), Bisi Fabunmi, Tijani Mayakiri, Rufus Ogundele, and Ademola Onibonokuta.
Music and dance are integral to Nigerian culture, and each ethnic group has its own specialties. Traditional instruments include various types of flutes, trumpets, musical bows, xylophones, and wooden clappers, as well as many varieties of drums. Music is used to celebrate rulers and to accompany public assemblies, weddings and funerals, festivals, and storytelling. At one time the Edo of the kingdom of Benin distinguished between urban music that was performed at the palace and less complex music that was played in rural areas. Dance also has many varieties: Ishan stilt dancers in colourful costumes twist themselves in the air; one Tiv dance, called ajo, features male dancers who work in pairs, and another involves teams of women who perform a dance called icough while composing songs about current events. Dance for the Ubakala shows their value system, helps resolve conflicts, and also institutes change. Ekiti Yoruba dancers wear head masks so heavy that they can do only processional dances. The Hausa, who do not consider dancing to be an art, divide their dances into the categories of social dancing and ceremonial bòorii dances.
Nigerian playwright and musician Hubert Ogunde, founder of Nigeria’s first professional theatrical company (the Ogunde Concert Party), incorporated traditional instruments into his musical dramas of the 1940s in an effort to revive interest in indigenous culture. After radio and television stations were established in all the state capitals, they began broadcasting programs featuring traditional music and dance, folk operas, and storytelling; these programs are now available in some 25 languages.
Ade, King Sunny [Credit: © Chris Water—Retna Ltd.]Nigerian contemporary music, which combines Western popular music with indigenous forms, has been exported throughout the world and has had wide influence (see also African popular music). Notable musicians include King Sunny Ade, who performed in a style called juju that combines the sounds of several guitars, vocals, and talking drums; and the politically charged Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, whose music is characterized by short songs and extended instrumental pieces. Each musician organized a large band with a horn section, a variety of drummers, and many guitar players.
Soyinka, Wole [Credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images]Nigerian literature is known throughout the world. Wole Soyinka, who won the 1986 Nobel Prize for Literature, was the first black African to receive the award. Other Nigerian writers with a worldwide audience include Chinua Achebe, Buchi Emecheta, Flora Nwapa, and Amos Tutuola.