The University of Iowa University of Iowa






203,452,505 (July 2018 est.)


Tropical to arid


323.5 Naira = 1 USD (2017 est.)

Important Cities

Abuja, Lagos, Ibadan, Kano, Zaria, Ife, Abeokuta






Major Peoples

Benin Kingdom, Eket , Esie, Fulani , Hausa, Ibibio, Idoma, Igbira, Igbo, Igbo Ukwu, Ijo, Katana, Mambila, Mumuye, Nok, Oron, Owo, Tuareg, Urhobo, Wodaabe, Yoruba, Fon


Muslim 51.6%, Roman Catholic 11.2%, other Christian 35.7%, traditionalist .9%, unspecified .5% (2013 est.)



Principal Language

Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa, Fulani

Official Language



Head Of State

Muhammadu Buhari (since 29 May 2015)

Type of Government


Date of Independence

October 1, 1960

Major Exports

Petroleum and petroleum products, cocoa, rubber

Precolonial History

Nigeria emerged from an amalgam of ancient civilizations, kingdoms, and empires. Human habitation of the area dates back to 11,000 BCE, and the oldest archaeological evidence of metalworking was found at Taruga. The Nok culture, known for their terracotta sculptures, inhabited this site during the first millennium BCE. From the 11th century onwards, Hausa kingdoms and the Bornu Empire prospered in the north by trading slaves, ivory, and other commodities. Yoruba peoples dominated southwestern Nigeria by the 14th century and founded the Oyo Empire, which achieved a high level of political and cultural development. Edo peoples established the Benin Empire on the Nigerian coast during the mid-15th century. Portuguese explorers landed at Lagos in 1472. Portugal, Spain, Britain, and France built ports and engaged in the slave trade with Nigeria from the 16th to 18th centuries. In 1809, Fulani crusaders led by Usman dan Fodio conquered the northern Hausa states and founded a single Islamic state, the Sokoto caliphate. The Oyo Empire collapsed after a Fulani invasion in 1835—36. The Sokoto caliphate in turn fell to British military forces in 1903, and Britain officially proclaimed the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria in 1914.

Postcolonial History

Nationalist efforts intensified after World War II. Britain ceded control, and Nigeria declared independence in 1960. The new government’s multi-party system was sharply divided between Muslims, Christians, and the country’s dominant ethnic groups of Yoruba, Hausa, and Igbo peoples. Initially a constitutional monarchy, Nigeria remained a member of the British Commonwealth and adopted a constitution in 1963. Governor-General Nnamdi Azikiwe of the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) became Nigeria’s first president. He was overthrown in a coup d’état in 1966, followed by war with the eastern secessionist state of Biafra. Despite a brief return to democracy from 1979 to 1983, military rule ensued until 1998, when General Abdulsalami Abubakar held elections. The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Olusegun Obasanjo, won the presidency and was re-elected until 2007. His successor from the PDP, Umaru Yar’Adua, died of illness in 2010. Yar’Adua’s vice-president, Goodluck Jonathan,became head of state but was forced to deal with serious problems with Islamist terrorism in the north in recent years. In elections in March, 2015 Muhammadu Buhari was elected chief of state.

Recommended Sources:

African Studies Center, University of Pennsylvania, “Nigeria Page” (

Federal Republic of Nigeria, “History of Nigeria” (

Library of Congress, “A Country Study: Nigeria,” (