Nigeria News

Nigeria, 50 years after independence

NIGERIA_INDEPENDENCE_DAY_CAKENigeria celebrated 50 years of independence from Britain on Friday. Following are five facts about Africa’s most populous nation and biggest oil producer:

* Estimates of Nigeria’s population vary wildly, although most experts agree it is somewhere between 140 and 155 million, comfortably above Africa’s second most-populous nation, Ethiopia.

Reasons for the uncertainty can be traced to a federal system under which states receive a slice of national oil revenue on the basis of their population, making census data highly political.

* Slightly bigger than France and Britain combined, Nigeria is home to 250 ethnic groups, broadly split under four banners — the Hausa and Fulani in the north, the Yoruba in the southwest and the Igbo in the southeast.

Tribal tensions are rife, and were one of the main causes of the 1967-1970 Biafran civil war in which a million people died.

Presently, the biggest source of ethno-religious tension is between the predominantly Christian south and Muslim north.

* Nigeria’s GDP stands at $214 billion in 2010, third in Africa behind South Africa and Egypt, according to the IMF.

Although oil accounts for 90 percent of foreign exchange earnings, it only represents 16 percent of GDP. Far and away the biggest sector is agriculture, at 42 percent of total output.

The government is projecting growth of 7 percent this year, making it one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies, and Finance Minister Olusegun Aganga said last month 10 percent expansion by the end of next year was “doable”.

The creeks of the Niger Delta and its offshore waters are home to Africa’s biggest oil and gas industry, with total reserves estimated at over 37 billion barrels of oil — ninth in the world.

Current production is around 2 million barrels of crude a day, making Nigeria the world’s seventh-largest oil exporter.

An amnesty brokered last year with rebel militias in the Delta has allowed repair of sabotaged pipes and storage facilities. If the shaky truce holds, analysts predict output rising to as much as 2.6 million barrels per day.

Despite this, Nigeria imports nearly all its gasoline and diesel because of a lack of working domestic refineries.

* Besides oil, Nigeria’s people are often cited as among its finest resources, although recipients of verbose emails from mysterious Lagos financiers promising untold riches in return for personal banking details might beg to differ.

Among a host of internationally acclaimed Nigerian artists are author Wole Soyinka, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986 — the first African to receive the accolade — and the late musician and ‘Afrobeat’ pioneer Fela Kuti.

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