History of Nigeria


The history of Nigeria can be traced to settlers trading across the Middle East and Africa as early as 1100 BC. Numerous ancient African civilizations settled in the region that is known today as Nigeria, such as the Kingdom of Nri, the Benin Empire, and the Oyo Empire.

The geographical location known called Nigeria has existed ever since time began but as is the case with so many other modern African countries, the Nigeria of today is the creation of European imperialism.

Islam reached Nigeria through the Borno Empire between (1068 AD) and the Hausa States around (1385 AD) during the 11th century, while Christianity came to Nigeria in the 15th century through Augustinian and Capuchin monks from Portugal. The Songhai Empire also occupied part of the region.


The history of Nigeria has been crucially impacted by the Transatlantic Slave Trade, which started in Nigeria in the late 15th century. At first, Europeans captured people who lived along the coast. The first slave trading post used by the British and the Portuguese is Badagry, a coastal harbor. The chains where they tied up young and virile young people still stand today. Later, they used local brokers to provide them with slaves. This activity escalated conflicts among the different ethnic groups in the region and disrupted older trade patterns through the Trans-Saharan route.

Lagos was invaded by British forces in 1851 and formally annexed in 1865. Nigeria became a British protectorate in 1901 while her colonization lasted until 1960 when an independence movement succeeded in gaining her independence. Nigeria first became a republic in 1963 but succumbed to military rule three years later after a bloody coup d’état. A separatist movement later formed the Republic of Biafra in 1967, leading to the three-year Nigerian Civil War. Nigeria became a republic once again after a new constitution was written in 1979. However, the republic was short-lived, when the military seized power again for another four years. A new republic was planned to be established in 1993 but was aborted by General Sani Abacha. Abacha died in 1998 and a fourth republic was later established the following year, which ended three decades of intermittent 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 center 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 center 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 meters). 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 meters]) in the Gotel Mountains and Mount Dimlang (6,699 feet [2,042 meters]) in the Shebshi Mountains.

President: Muhammadu Buhari (2015)

Land area: 351,649 sq mi (910,771 sq km); total area: 356,667 sq mi (923,768 sq km)

Population (2014 est.): 177,155,754 (growth rate: 2.47%); birth rate: 38.03/1000; infant mortality rate: 74.09/1000; life expectancy: 52.62

Capital (2011 est.): Abuja, 2.153 million

Largest cities: Lagos (2011 est.), 11.223 million; Kano, 3.375 million; Ibadan, 2.949; Port Harcourt 1.894 million; Kaduna, 1.524 million

Monetary unit: Naira

Current government officials

Languages: English (official), Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo (Ibo), Fulani, over 500 additional indigenous languages

Ethnicity/race: More than 250 ethnic groups, including Hausa and Fulani 29%, Yoruba 21%, Ibo 18%, Ijaw 10%, Kanuri 4%, Ibibio 3.5%, Tiv 2.5%

Religions: Islam 50%, Christian 40%, indigenous beliefs 10%

National Holiday: Independence Day (National Day), October 1

Literacy rate: 61.3% (2010 est.)

Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2013 est.): $478.5 billion; per capita $2,800 Real growth rate: 6.2%. Inflation: 8.7%. Unemployment: 23.9%. Arable land: 38.97%. Agriculture: cocoa, peanuts, palm oil, corn, rice, sorghum, millet, cassava (tapioca), yams, rubber; cattle, sheep, goats, pigs; timber; fish. Labor force: 51.53 million; agriculture 70%, industry 10%, services 20% (1999 est.). Industries: crude oil, coal, tin, columbite; palm oil, peanuts, cotton, rubber, wood; hides and skins, textiles, cement, and other construction materials, food products, footwear, chemicals, fertilizer, printing, ceramics, steel, small commercial ship construction, and repair. Natural resources: natural gas, petroleum, tin, columbite, iron ore, coal, limestone, lead, zinc, arable land. Exports: $55.98 billion (2009 est.): petroleum and petroleum products 95%, cocoa, rubber. Imports: $55.98 billion (2013 est.): machinery, chemicals, transport equipment, manufactured goods, food, and live animals. Major trading partners: U.S., Brazil, Spain, China, UK, Netherlands, France, Germany (2012).

Member of Commonwealth of Nations

Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 418,000 (2012); mobile cellular: 112.78 million (2012). Broadcast media: nearly 70 federal government-controlled national and regional TV stations; all 36 states operate TV stations; several private TV stations operational; cable and satellite TV subscription services are available; the network of federal government-controlled national, regional, and state radio stations; roughly 40 state government-owned radio stations typically carry their own programs except for news broadcasts; about 20 private radio stations; transmissions of international broadcasters are available (2007). Internet hosts: 1,234 (2012). Internet users: 43.989 million (2009).

Transportation: Railways: total: 3,505 km (2008). Roadways: total: 193,200 km; paved: 28,980 km; unpaved: 164,220 km (2004 est.). Waterways: 8,600 km (Niger and Benue rivers and smaller rivers and creeks) (2011). Ports and harbors: Bonny Inshore Terminal, Calabar, Lagos. Airports: 54 (2013).

International disputes: Joint Border Commission with Cameroon reviewed the 2002 ICJ ruling on the entire boundary and bilaterally resolved differences, including the June 2006 Greentree Agreement that immediately cedes sovereignty of the Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroon with a phase-out of Nigerian control within two years while resolving patriation issues; the ICJ ruled on an equidistance settlement of Cameroon-Equatorial Guinea-Nigeria maritime boundary in the Gulf of Guinea, but imprecisely defined coordinates in the ICJ decision and a sovereignty dispute between Equatorial Guinea and Cameroon over an island at the mouth of the Ntem River all contribute to the delay in implementation; only Nigeria and Cameroon have heeded the Lake Chad Commission’s admonition to ratify the delimitation treaty which also includes the Chad-Niger and Niger-Nigeria boundaries; location of Benin-Niger-Nigeria tripoint is unresolved.

Some Past Nigerian Leaders since 1960 till date

Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa – He was born in 1912 and died on the 15th of January 1966. The first Nigerian Prime Minister as from October 1960 till January 15th, 1966.

Dr. Nnamdi Benjamin Azikiwe – The first Governor-General from 1960- 1963. He was born in 1904 in November and died on 11th May 1996.

General John Thomas Aguiyi Ironsi – The First Military Head of State from January 15th, 1966 – July 29th, 1966. He was born in 1924 in July and died on 29th July 1966.

General Yakubu Gowon – military Head of State from July 29th, 1966 to July 29th, 1975.

General Muritala Mohammed –  Military Head of State from July 29th, 1975 to February 13th, 1976. He was born in 1938 and he died 13th February 1976.

General Olusegun Aremu Obasanjo – Military Head of State from 14th February 1976 – October 1st, 1979. He was born in 1937

Alhaji Shehu Shagari – The First Executive President between October 1st, 1979 to 31st December 1983. He was born in 1925.

General Mohammadu Buhari – Military Head of State from 31st December to August 27th, 1985. He was born on 17th December 1942.

General Ibrahim Gbadamosi Babangida – Military Head of State from August 27th, 1985 to August 26th, 1993. He was born in the year 1941.

Chief Ernest Shonekan – Head of Interim Government from August 26th, 1993 to November 1993

General Sanni Abacha – Military Head of State from November 19th, 1993 to June 8th, 1998. He was born in 1943 and died on June 8th, 1998.

General Abdusalam Abubakar – Military Head of State from June 9th, 1998 to May 29th, 1999. He was born in 1942.

Chief Olusegun Aremu Obasanjo – National President from May 29th, 1999 to May 29th, 2007

Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’adua – The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria from May 29th, 2007 to  May 5th, 2010.

Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan – The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria from May 6th, 2010 to 29th May 2015.

General Muhammadu Buhari – The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria from May 29th, 2015 to date.

Some Notable Events

The 10th Century, Borno became an Islamic State

14th Century, The School of Islam was established in Kaduna, Kano, and Sokoto

15th Century, The Northern part of Nigeria commenced the practice of Islam

The 17th Century an organization was formed for the abolition of the slave trade in Nigeria

The 18th Century, Usman Dan Fodio launched Fulani Jihad

The 18th Century, Methodist church was established at Badagry, Lagos

1859 – The first Nigerian Secondary School was formed (CMS Grammar School Lagos)

1860 – Iwe Iroyin was established to be the first Nigerian Newspaper

1861 – Reverend Samuel Ajayi Crowder was ordained the first African Bishop

1895 – Sacred heart hospital was built as the first Nigerian hospital at Abeokuta

1899 – The first Government primary school was established at Badagry, Lagos

1901 – The first Nigerian Railway was constructed (From Lagos – Ibadan)

1905 – The first Nigerian Motor Road was constructed at Ibadan

1906 – Federal capital Territory was moved from Calabar to Lagos

1912 – Indirect Rule was established by Lord Luggard

1914 – Northern and Southern Nigeria were amalgamated

1918 – Paper currency became a legal tender in Nigeria

1920 – Apapa wharf was commissioned

January 27, 1968  – Biafra currency was introduced

January 13, 1970 – Biafra war ended

December 12, 1986 – Prof. Wole Soyinka became the first African to win the noble prize in literature

April 4, 1988 – The Nigerian police changed the uniform to Black and Black

August 12, 1989 – Sam Okparaji died in National stadium

December 12, 1991 – Abuja became the federal capital territory

June 12, 1993 – MKO Abiola won the presidential election against Tofa

June 4, 1996 – Kudirat Abiola was assassinated

August 4, 1996 – Nigeria won the under 23 Olympics Gold Medal in Atlanta

June 8, 1998 – General Sani Abacha died

July 7, 1998 – MKO Abiola died in prison

January 27, 2000 – Sharia Law was established in Zamfara State

June 5, 2000 – Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) was established

February 9, 2001 – GSM operation was commenced in Nigeria

September 11, 2001 – Osama Bin Ladin bombed World Trade Centre in the USA

January 27, 2002 – Bomb blast incident happened at Ikeja, Lagos

July 19, 2003 – Organisation of Africa Unity was changed to Africa Union

August 13, 2004 – Okija Shrine was demolished

January 17, 2005 – Tafa Balogun was removed from the Inspector General of Police office

April 2, 2005 – Pope John Paul II died

May 31, 2005 – Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) took the place of NEPA

March 29, 2006 – Total and partial eclipse of the sun took place in Nigeria

May 1, 2011 – Osama Bin Ladin was killed

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