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Full Report: Nigeria


1910: British colonial influence becomes more concentrated during the 19th century. Growing economic involvement, particularly in the export of palm oil, leads to the annexation of the port of Lagos in 1861. The Royal Niger Company establishes and expands political and economic administration until transferring authority to the crown in 1900. Protectorates are established in North, South, and East.

1911-1918: Britain formally establishes the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria in 1914 under the governorship of Sir Frederick Lugard. Separate administrative units are created to allow government through "indirect rule." The British interact with a select few indigenous rulers and institutions, and contact with the majority of the population is limited. Africans are barred from political power.

1919-1929: Indirect rule spawns a nationalist movement. Protesting the increased authority granted the traditional elite (kings and tribal chiefs) by the British, nationalists attempt to work within the colonial structure toward a variety of sociopolitical and economic goals. Nationalist positions include opposition to taxation and the establishment of municipal self-government.

1930-1939: Economic depression brings hardship, unemployment, and heightened nationalist consciousness. European entities such as the United Africa Company, which controls 40 percent of the import/export trade, stir discontent with colonial domination. Italy's 1935 invasion of Ethiopia and the rise in popularity of journalist and anticolonial nationalist Nnamdi Azikiwe help focus unrest on colonial rule.

1940-1947: The nationalist movement gains momentum during World War II as Nigerian soldiers are exposed to Allied propaganda that touts liberty, freedom, and equality. India's independence from Britain in 1947 intensifies the movement, and postwar restructuring increases pressure on the British to grant its colonies independence. The economic environment worsens after a wartime growth spurt.

1948-1958: Concessions by the colonial government pave the way for Nigerian independence. Maneuvering begins in earnest as ethnic and regional interests that determine loyalties and alliances dominate the political landscape. A British-sponsored 1953 conference in London brings together members of competing political parties and regions to determine the constitution for the soon-to-be independent nation.

1959-1962: After 15 years of gradual constitutional reforms and peaceful transfer of power, Nigeria gains independence on October 1, 1960. Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa is elected prime minister. His majority Northern People's Party governs in coalition with Herbert Macaulay's Nigerian National Council, which has the support of the Eastern Igbos. Presidential elections are set for 1963.

1963-1965: The Federal Republic of Nigeria is declared on October 1, 1963. Nnamdi Azikiwe is elected president. Brewing regional resentment over perceived Northern domination in the federal government prevents agreement on a long-range economic development plan. The nascent government inherits control of a highly centralized economy from its colonial predecessors.

1966: Gen. Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi assumes power in a military coup fueled by regional hostilities. He dissolves the legislature, suspends the constitution, and establishes a military government. Appointed military governors replace elected civilian representatives. Ironsi is soon killed in a countercoup mounted by Northern elements. Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon takes power.

1967-1970: Eastern regional leaders refuse to recognize Gowon's authority. Negotiations to resolve the North's ethnic violence and general conflict over economic policy and political administration are fruitless. In May 1967 the East declares the Independent Republic of Biafra. Gowon immediately attacks. By the time the fledgling republic surrenders in 1970, more than one million people have died.

1971-1974: Nigeria joins OPEC as the world's seventh largest petroleum-producing country, with crude oil exportation dominating the economy. Although the state controls the oil, it depends on foreign companies for extraction and maintains a role of granting licenses and collecting fees. Gowon's military regime continues to centralize power and reneges on promises to return the government to civilian rule.

1975-1978: Gowon's administration is overthrown in a bloodless coup in July 1975. Lt. Gen. Murtala Muhammad takes power, promising political and economic reforms and a return to civilian rule. Within a year, Muhammad is assassinated, and Lt. Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo replaces him, earning the respect of the people by continuing both his predecessor's reform programs and the transition to the Second Republic.

1979-1983: Alhaji Shehu Shagari is elected president in 1979. Decentralization of power continues as states receive more revenue allocation and the authority to collect taxes. But widespread corruption impedes development prospects. Despite falling oil prices, government spending continues and debt climbs. After bloody ethnic and religious clashes, two million illegal immigrants are expelled.

1984: A failing economy, widespread political corruption, and broad civil unrest contribute to the Second Republic's collapse. Muhammadu Buhari, brought to power by military coup, imposes draconian measures on Nigeria, punishing those associated with the civilian government, curtailing press freedom, subordinating the judiciary to the military, and failing to announce a planned return to civilian rule.

1985-1990: Gaining power in a 1985 coup, Ibrahim Babangida promises a return to civilian rule and policies designed to address economic woes and rampant corruption. While his regime uses tactics to stall the governmental transition, it also launches the Structural Adjustment Program (SAP), a comprehensive economic austerity package meant to deemphasize governmental control of economic interests.

1991-1993: Babangida's reign ends in disgrace when he annuls the 1993 elections, of which Moshood Abiola was the clear victor. SAP policies result in devaluation of Naira, unemployment, and a cost of living unbearable for most Nigerians. Babangida resigns, turning the government over to his handpicked transitional council. The council's leader, Ernest Shonekan, is promptly ousted by Gen. Sani Abacha.

1994-1997: Widely considered the most corrupt dictator of the post-colonial era, Abacha tramples human rights and brings the country to the brink of destruction while claiming to make plans for another return to civilian rule. Abacha abolishes all state and local governments, the federal legislature, and political activity. Abiola is jailed. Civil unrest builds.

1998: Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar replaces Abacha. Abubakar reaches out diplomatically to other African nations and the West in an effort to restore Nigeria's image. Human rights violations recede, but the continued expenditure of revenues on debt servicing, rather than on social services and basic necessities, prevents infrastructure improvements and stokes discontent.

1999-2001: Olusegun Obasanjo, forced from power almost 25 years earlier, wins the 1999 presidential election. Monetary policy, agricultural revitalization, political stability, a war on corruption, and privatization of parastatals are all announced as reform priorities, but holding the country together amid dramatic civil unrest and violent religious clashes quickly takes precedence.

2002: The adoption of sharia (Islamic law) in the Northern states, continued difficulties of economic management, the volatility of oil prices, and ongoing regional and local protest movements make governing Nigeria extremely difficult. Spending outpaces revenue, and President Obasanjo is under constant political pressure.

2003: Violence escalates in the Southern provinces during the weeks preceding national and regional elections. Ethnic and tribal tensions flare. As opposing political parties vie for control of Nigeria's richest oilfields, reports of election irregularities in that region are rife. Oil output drops. President Obasanjo wins a sweeping victory amid widespread accusations of election fraud.

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1910: Of Nigeria's many ethnic groups, the West's Yoruba, the Southeast's Igbo, and the North's Hausa represent the largest regional divisions. The three are divided by language, ethnicity, religious beliefs, and cultural traditions. British colonial administration encourages their deep cultural separation, which reinforces a natural impediment to national and political unity.

1911-1921: Governor-General Frederick Lugard implements a local format of indirect rule, borrowed from its perceived successful implementation in India and Sudan. The British colonial administration uses select local leaders to carry out colonial regulations and laws, thereby minimizing direct contact with the people and also opposition to the policies and intrusion of a foreign authority.

1922-1939: A nationalist movement led by such charismatic figures as Herbert Macaulay and Nnamdi Azikiwe gives voice to anticolonial dissent. Local legislative councils evolve under the hegemony of colonial rule and exchange ideas about nationalization and administrative participation with other councils. Though their demands are rebuffed, a lasting nationalist consciousness is born.

1940-1945: The Nigerian National Council is formed in 1944 in response to the colonial administration's refusal to consider nationalist demands. With Herbert Macaulay as president and Nnamdi Azikiwe as secretary general, the council opens membership to all Nigerians in an effort at unity. With a goal of self-governance, the council shuns its past passive willingness to work within the current administration.

1946-1950: The British begin to yield to Nigeria's nationalist movement and mounting postwar pressure to decolonize. Constitutional revisions in 1947 allow for the creation of a central legislative body. The following year, large-scale reforms are implemented. Steps are taken to "Nigerianize" the civil service, democratize the local legislatures, and expand social services.

1951-1958: The London Conference of 1953 yields a constitution for an independent Nigeria. It calls for the creation of a federation with a strong centralized government and regional administrations led by Nigerian-born premiers and ministers. But regional conflict dominates the political environment, and progress is thwarted by continual scrambling for position in anticipation of independence.

1959-1962: Even as Nigeria proclaims independence in 1960, regional conflicts worsen. Population-based regional representation at the federal level makes census-data collection and potential restructuring of geographical regions contentious. The populous North helps elect Prime Minister Balewa. His tenuous coalition government is unable to pursue unified national interests in a bitterly divided climate.

1963-1966: Nigeria's governmental structure is modeled on the British parliamentary system and includes three distinct branches -- legislative, judiciary, and executive -- which exist at both federal and regional levels. Newly elected President Nnamdi Azikiwe fails to end increasingly violent regional clashes that result in deadly rioting and the eventual overthrow of the civilian government.

1967-1970: Eastern leaders declare the Independent Republic of Biafra after thousands of Igbo settlers die in ethnic clashes in the Muslim-dominated North. The leaders demand greater autonomy and the authority to retain tax and oil revenues. Lt. Col. Gowon's offer to divide the country into 12 states to prevent political domination by the North is rejected, and a brutally divisive civil war begins.

1971-1974: Following the civil war, Gowon's military regime continues to centralize power in the federal government. In 1974 he announces that his efforts toward stabilizing the political system will delay a return to civilian rule. Gowon promises to draft a new constitution subject to approval of the people, but a widespread feeling of disillusionment with his regime envelops the country.

1975-1979: Murtala Muhammad and Olusegun Obasanjo's military regimes stress commitment to civilian rule. Each continues a four-year transition program to restructure federal government, draft a new constitution, create new states, and hold state and federal elections by 1979. Policy initiatives include decentralizing power, forming national political parties, and combating inflation by reducing money supply.

1980-1984: President Alhaji Shehu Shagari governs from minority status amid struggle with opposition leaders. His administration continues the corrupt practices of post-civil war governments, subordinating long-term social and economic development programs to projects that provide potential for personal profit. Despite the turmoil, Shagari wins a second term in controversial 1983 elections.

1985-1993: Ibrahim Babangida assumes power in 1985 with an empty promise to return Nigeria to civil rule. His decision to annul a 1993 election won by Moshood Abiola throws the country into a political crisis and forces his resignation. Violent clashes between Muslims and Christians increase dramatically when Nigeria registers as a member of the Organization of the Islamic Conference in 1986.

1994-1998: Gen. Sani Abacha reinforces military rule. In spite of claims that he is preparing for a return to civilian government, he replaces elected legislatures with military appointees. Abacha lifts the ban on political activity that he himself imposed, but he imprisons Abiola and obstructs the formation of legitimate political parties. Abacha's abrupt death is followed by Abiola's death in prison.

1999: Abdulsalami Abubakar guides the country into presidential elections; Olusegun Obasanjo, who led the 1976 military government, wins. Oil production and exportation become lightning rods for unrest as demonstrators use violent protests and strikes to underscore widespread socioeconomic inequalities, including a lack of access to basic resources, rampant unemployment, and environmental degradation.

2000-2003: The Northern states implement sharia, underscoring religious and regional differences and challenging the constitution, notably with death sentences for women convicted of adultery. Violent community protests over oil production and economic inequalities continue in the Niger Delta. President Obasanjo trounces his opponents in his bid for reelection, but charges of vote rigging abound.

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1910: The Royal Niger Company establishes stringent trade controls, including high tariffs on imports and exports and on foreign companies operating in the area. Large-scale processing enterprises spring up as focus shifts from food crops to cash crops in an export-oriented environment. Millions are put to work, migration is limited, and some Nigerian merchants begin to gain wealth, status, and power.

1911-1920: Emphasis on production of cash crops for export rather than food crops for sustenance benefits British colonial governors; local farmers, however, struggle to meet demand spurred by modernization of transportation and communication. Capital investment and long-term planning are ignored, as are Nigerian traditions. The South's socioeconomic development and modernization outpace the North's.

1921-1929: As Western markets boom, "developmental economics" policies become deeply rooted and centralized. They are embodied by the establishment of state-run marketing boards that artificially regulate the price farmers are paid for their crops. The colonial administration fails to develop a self-sustaining economic infrastructure or to create vehicles that equitably distribute wealth and social services.

1930-1939: The Great Depression reduces Britain's willingness to commit new money to the colony. The introduction of the pound sterling as the universal medium of exchange encourages export trade in tin, cotton, cocoa, groundnuts, and palm oil, but agricultural production continues to slide. Other than a handful of elite local businessmen, most Nigerians are excluded from economic participation.

1940-1947: Resource shortfalls in Europe brought on by the war effort temporarily increase the demand for raw materials, in particular tin and rubber. Prosperity is short-lived as artificially inflated demand ends with the war itself. Nigeria's strategic importance as a staging area and supply line during the war effort results in rapid development of airports and military bases, and roads to connect them.

1948-1957: The economy shows signs of life following a postwar lull. The colonial government's policy of "Nigerianization" opens jobs in the civil service and expands education. Reforms allow businesses to benefit from access to banks, loans, and government contracts. Exports increase dramatically, and new industries are established. Public spending on roads, energy, industry, and education grows.

1958-1959: Petroleum exports, firmly under state control, begin in 1958, two years after its discovery. Local officials work with foreign companies to produce and export what becomes the country's dominant economic resource. Nigeria realizes the enormous potential for revenue generation, but at the expense of the agricultural and manufacturing sectors. The Central Bank is created to monitor monetary policy.

1960-1961: Nigeria joins the IMF in 1961 and adheres to the Bretton Woods Agreement, which limits exchange restrictions and controls. A huge increase in government expenditure on administrative, social, and economic services and in revenue from taxes and loans follows. Inflationary pressures emerge as money supply increases by almost 30 percent and the cost of living rises at upwards of 5 percent a year.

1962-1965: The transition to the First Republic is difficult, largely because of an inherited colonial legacy that left an export-driven economy, a private sector dominated by foreign interests, and a widening gulf between a small elite class and a growing rural peasantry. Monetary restraint is implemented to curb inflation and stabilize the Naira, and imports are curtailed.

1966-1970: Economic focus is war-based, not long-term. Capital expenditure and manufacturing and agricultural sector growth rates fall. Crude oil accounts for 58 percent of total exports by 1970. Inflation continues to rise. Military rule turns a blind eye to abuses in the oil and manufacturing sectors as officials routinely engage in corrupt contract awards, kickbacks, and fraudulent joint enterprises.

1971-1974: Oil-generated revenues drive economic recovery and unprecedented budget surpluses. The government undertakes a Second National Development Plan to reconstruct facilities damaged during the war and to promote social and economic development. The economy is increasingly dependent on petroleum, which accounts for 81 percent of Nigeria's total exports by 1974 and is subject to wild price fluctuations.

1975-1978: Extreme government spending leads to a bloated money supply, which in turn spawns a food crisis, unemployment, swollen defense budget, and widespread inflation. A Third National Development Plan aims for greater control over oil production, processing, and distribution. A "Nigeria First" campaign encourages foreign business ventures to sell outright to Nigerians or to work as joint ventures.

1979-1982: The Second Republic's constitution calls for a mixed economy, but President Shagari helms an administration, like the colonial ones of the past, in which those in power maintain absolute control of all profitable sectors of the economy to ensure personal gain. Global recession, combined with a sharp drop in oil prices in 1981, puts further pressure on the economy. A period of stagflation follows.

1983-1984: Despite an economic downturn, public-sector government spending continues unabated as the budget deficit climbs. Significant domestic and external loans taken out to meet basic needs and the subsequent servicing of those loans further drain the economy. Military government leader Buhari fails to negotiate debt rescheduling, refusing IMF austerity measures which include devaluing the Naira.

1985-1990: The World Bank-sponsored Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) is launched, emphasizing economic discipline, deregulation, and austerity. SAP allows market forces, not government, to dictate the economic environment. Measures include devaluing the Naira, slashing public spending, stimulating exports and the private sector, removing import licenses, reducing tariffs, and selling parastatals.

1991-1993: SAP collapses under the weight of severe currency devaluation and dramatic surges in inflation and the cost of living. External debt skyrockets, and subsequent debt servicing results in public-expenditure cutbacks. Attempts at privatization allow wealthy individuals to gain ownership of previously state-run enterprises, intensifying the inequality of wealth distribution.

1994-1997: Oil dependence peaks under Abacha at more than 90 percent of total exports. Oil production and the accompanying environmental degradation devastates other economic sectors, particularly agriculture. Abacha officially abandons SAP and, in keeping with his autocratic regime, favors state control of foreign exchange, finance, and trade. Corruption is unchecked at all levels of the failing economy.

1998-1999: As the 1998 federal budget reveals a huge deficit, a devastated economy hits a 20-year low in both manufacturing and industrial output. Inflation is well into the double digits, and Nigeria ranks as the world's 13th poorest country. The Abubakar administration enacts policies aimed at privatizing state-run businesses, reducing government spending, and opening the country to foreign trade.

2000-2001: A legacy of mismanagement greets Obasanjo on his return to power, with external debt topping US$30 billion. Facing rising inflation and continued currency devaluation, he legislates macroeconomic programs to liberalize the economy. Most significantly, he promises a firm commitment to "guided deregulation," specifically privatization of state-owned industries, including energy and transportation.

2002-2003: Public spending exceeds revenues and results in suspension of foreign debt repayment. Failure to reach agreement with the IMF imperils new international support. As striking oil workers take hundreds hostage on foreign-owned offshore rigs, oil production plummets, wiping out hoped-for short-term gains from hikes in oil prices due to war in Iraq. Obasanjo's efforts finally free the hostages.

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Categories: Overview | Political | Economic
Graphs: Growth | Income | Inflation | Well-being | Trade Volume | Trade (CAB) | Debt | Spending

Related: LinksView all categories for years from to | See Full Report | Print