Nigeria Facts and Information

Basic Facts about Nigeria

••• Lagos Island, Nigeria. Yann Arthus-Bertrand/Getty Images

Nigeria is West Africa's economic giant and more of a business destination than a tourist attraction. Nigeria is Africa's most populated country and is very culturally diverse. Nigeria has a number of attractions for visitors, including interesting historical sights, colorful festivals and a vibrant nightlife. But it's Nigeria's oil that attracts most foreigners to the country and its reputation as a somewhat volatile and corrupt nation that keeps tourists away.

Location: Nigeria is located in West Africa bordering the Gulf of Guinea, between Benin and Cameroon.
Area: 923,768 sq km, (almost twice the size of California or Spain).
Capital City: Abuja
Population: Over 135 million people live in Nigeria
Language: English (the official language), Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo (Ibo), Fulani. French is also widely spoken especially among traders with Nigeria's neighbors.
Religion: Muslim 50%, Christian 40%, and indigenous beliefs 10%.
Climate: Nigeria's climate varies with equatorial weather in south, tropical in the center, and arid in north.

Rainy seasons vary within the regions: May - July in the south, September - October in the west, April - October in the east and July - August in the north.
When to Go: The best time to visit Nigeria is December to February.
Currency: The Naira

Nigeria's Top Attractions:

Unfortunately, Nigeria experiences violent flare in some of its regions, so check the official travel warnings before planning your trip.

  • Lagos - The commercial capital of West Africa, Lagos is a spirited, bustling place with a population of 10 million. The city has an excellent nightlife, many street markets, and a decent National Museum. If you take basic safety precautions you'll enjoy urban Africa at its most vibrant.
  • Yankari National Park - Nigeria's most popular national park is located in the savanna of the north-east. Yankari is a popular eco-destination, with lots of wildlife including elephants, and wonderful hot springs.
  • Jos - Recently wracked by violence, Jos is really a very pleasant city with an interesting museum and small wildlife park where pygmy hippos are the main attraction. The climate is nice and cool and who would miss a chance to visit a city
  • Kano - the main city in northern Nigeria has lots of interesting sights for visitors, including traditional Hausa homes, markets, mosques, the emir's palace, and original dye pits.

Travel to Nigeria

Nigeria's International Airports: Murtala Mohammed International Airport (Airport code: LOS) lies 14 miles (22km) northwest of the city of Lagos, and is the main entry point into Nigeria for foreign visitors. Nigeria has several other major airports, including Kano ( (in the North) and Abuja (the capital in Central Nigeria).
Getting to Nigeria: Most international flights into Nigeria come via Europe (London, Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam). Arik Air flies to Nigeria from the US. Regional flights are also available.

Bush taxis and long-distance buses travel to and from the neighboring countries of Ghana, Togo, Benin, and Niger.
Nigeria's Embassies/Visas: All visitors to Nigeria are required to have a visa unless you are a citizen of a West African country. Tourist visas are valid for 3 months from their date of issue. See Nigeria's embassy web sites for more information about visas.

Nigeria's Economy and Politics

Economy: Oil-rich Nigeria, long hobbled by political instability, corruption, inadequate infrastructure, and poor macroeconomic management, has undertaken several reforms over the past decade. Nigeria's former military rulers failed to diversify the economy away from its over-dependence on the capital-intensive oil sector, which provides 95% of foreign exchange earnings and about 80% of budgetary revenues. Since 2008 the government has begun showing the political will to implement the market-oriented reforms urged by the IMF, such as to modernize the banking system, to curb inflation by blocking excessive wage demands, and to resolve regional disputes over the distribution of earnings from the oil industry.

In November 2005, Abuja won Paris Club approval for a debt-relief deal that eliminated $18 billion of debt in exchange for $12 billion in payments - a total package worth $30 billion of Nigeria's total $37 billion external debt. The deal subjects Nigeria to stringent IMF reviews. Based largely on increased oil exports and high global crude prices, GDP rose strongly in 2007-09. President YAR'ADUA has pledged to continue the economic reforms of his predecessor with emphasis on infrastructure improvements.

Infrastructure is the main impediment to growth. The government is working toward developing stronger public-private partnerships for electricity and roads.

History/Politics: British influence and control over what would become Nigeria and Africa's most populous country grew through the 19th century. A series of constitutions after World War II granted Nigeria greater autonomy; independence came in 1960. Following nearly 16 years of military rule, a new constitution was adopted in 1999, and a peaceful transition to civilian government was completed. The government continues to face the daunting task of reforming a petroleum-based economy, whose revenues have been squandered through corruption and mismanagement and institutionalizing democracy.

In addition, Nigeria continues to experience longstanding ethnic and religious tensions. Although both the 2003 and 2007 presidential elections were marred by significant irregularities and violence, Nigeria is currently experiencing its longest period of civilian rule since independence. The general elections of April 2007 marked the first civilian-to-civilian transfer of power in the country's history. In January 2010, Nigeria assumed a ​non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council for the 2010-11 term.

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