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NIGERIA, AFRICA TRAVEL GUIDE

Crowds Gather in Front of Kano Mosque During Celebrations for Durbar Festival, Kano, Nigeria
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Nigeria by ProfEssays

Nigeria is a natural gas and oil rich country that is bordered by Benin on the west, Niger and Chad to the north, Cameroon to the east, and the Gulf of Guinea to its south. Abuja is its capital city located in the center of the country. There are two major rivers in the country, the Niger and the Benue. Nigeria is about twice the size of California. Nigeria's climate varies; equatorial in south, tropical in center, arid in north. Nigeria has very serious problems with soil degradation; rapid deforestation; urban air and water pollution; desertification; oil pollution - water, air, and soil; has suffered serious damage from oil spills; loss of arable land; rapid urbanization that effect its growing economy. 

Located in the West of Africa, Nigeria has a population of more than 120 million people. The most populous country in Africa, Nigeria houses one quarter of all the people in sub-Saharan Africa. It is rich in mineral resources and is the fifth-largest exporter of oil in the world. It has iron-ore deposits in the Northern Savanna region. Tin and columbite are found south of the savanna in the plateau region. Its vast deposits of oil and natural gas are located in the south-central delta region. It also has large reserves of coal. Nigeria has a complex collection of cultural, social and linguistic groups with over 250 ethnic groups. Nearly three-quarters of the people belong to one of four ethnic groups: the Hausa and Fulani peoples of the Muslim-dominated north, and the Yoruba and Ibo of the Christian dominated southwest and southeast respectively. The Yoruba are well-known for their arts and crafts and many of Nigeria's best-known artists and writers are Yoruba. Nigeria traditionally has been an agricultural country, providing it's own food needs and exporting large amounts of agricultural goods such as palm oil, cocoa beans, and rubber. But a new dependence on oil has caused great strains in Nigeria's economy. Greater economic opportunities have caused a migration to urban areas, bringing about a decrease in agricultural output. This has led to a greater dependence on oil in the national economy. 

By the early 1980's, 98 percent of export earnings and four-fifths of government revenues was from oil. A drop in oil prices in the early 1980's and years of corruption and mismanagement by military governments and left Nigeria with high unemployment and a large foreign debt. Originally a region of ethnically based kingdoms and states, the state of Nigeria was formed under British rule in 1906. It became an independent state in 1960. Following a period of ethnic fighting, a military dictatorship took over in 1966 and ruled until 1979. During the time from 1966 to 1970 people in the southeast brought about civil war with an attempt--which ultimately failed--to secede- and form independent state called Biafra. Power was briefly handed over to democratic rule in 1979 but a coup in 1983 brought the military back to power again. The country was ruled by General Babangida for eight years. In 1993 democratic elections were called again but the military leaders felt that that ethnic divisions were too great and that the country was too divided and they annulled the results. Rule was handed over to an interim government and then a military coup brought General Abachi to power in 1993. Abachi was a corrupt and hated general. To still criticism by the press, He shut down Nigeria's two main and most widely read newspapers and arrested their journalists (Encarta). The most populous country in Africa, Nigeria accounts for approximately one-quarter of West Africa's people. Although less than 25% of Nigerians are urban dwellers, at least 24 cities have populations of more than 100,000. The variety of customs, languages, and traditions among Nigeria's 250 ethnic groups gives the country a rich diversity. The dominant ethnic group in the northern two-thirds of the country is the Hausa-Fulani, most of whom are Muslim. 

Other major ethnic groups of the north are the Nupe, Tiv, and Kanuri. The Yoruba people are predominant in the southwest. The ethnicity of Nigeria is so varied that there is no definition of a Nigerian beyond that of someone who lives within the borders of the country. The boundaries of the former English colony were drawn to serve commercial interests, largely without regard for the territorial claims of the Nigerians. As a result, about three hundred ethnic groups comprise the population of Nigeria, and the country's unity has been consistently under siege. In 1999 Obasanjo, a Yoruba general from the Christian south, became president in an election that marked the end of 16 years of military-led regimes. His election campaign was financed by the previous military leadership largely because they could rely on him not to prosecute them. However, Obasanjo appears to be following the spirit of democracy and human rights have greatly improved in Nigeria. He appointed a commission to investigate past human rights violations under the generals but is unable or unwilling to force the generals to come before the court. Complicating matters is that the previous dynasty of generals all came from the Muslim north, while Obasanjo is from the Christian South. There has long been a tension and rivalry between the two groups which increases the perils of bringing the generals to justice. In any case, human rights have greatly improved under Obasanjo (Sacred Cows 24-26). A number of domestic and international human rights groups generally operate freely within the country and the government is generally cooperative with them. Some high-level government officials have stated that these organizations contribute to the development of democracy. 

The actions of past governments are widely criticized and aired in the media. Since Obasanjo took his oath of office in Nigeria's first democratic election in twenty years, the Nigerian people have had a new sense of hope in the future. But at the same time, they also have a fear that the backroom deals funding Obasanjo's candidacy will prevent them from examining the wrongdoings of the past and bringing the key players to justice. Another area of concern is the environmental destruction in the oil-producing Nigerian Delta region and the compensation for the people of the region. Saro-Wiwa, a writer who fought for the rights of the Ogoni people in the Delta Region was excecuted by Abacha's men in 1995 after a trumped up trial in which he was found guilty of the murder of four Ogoni chiefs. He had brought publicity to the plight of the people in the region and after his execution, there were demonstrations against Royal Dutch/Shell including in the United States where in some places dummies were hung in Shell gas stations (Delta Rights). In the book "Where Vultures Feast", Ike Okonta and Oronto Douglas investigated the environmental destruction of the region. In one region drilling was performed right in the middle of a village. They described how, oblivious to the dangers, the children had converted one of the waste pits into a swimming hole. They reported on drinking water conditions in five separate sites where Shell has installations, finding petroleum hydrocarbon (TPH) levels 250 to 37,500 times the legislated level for European Union States. A human rights worker from a NGO based in New York visited a village where a pipeline had burst spilling 800,000 barrels of oil into the surrounding creeks. Nigeria's official foreign debt is about $28.5 billion, about 75% of which is owed to Paris Club countries. A large chunk of this debt is interest and payment arrears. In August 2000 the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Nigeria signed a one-year Stand-by Arrangement (SBA), leading to a debt rescheduling agreement in December between Nigeria and its Paris Club creditors. By August 2001, despite continued dialogue with the IMF, Nigeria had been unable to implement many of the SBA conditions. 

The IMF consented to extend its SBA by a few months and seek out revised targets and conditions for a new agreement. As of September 2001, only a few of Nigeria's creditor governments had signed bilateral rescheduling agreements. Any long-term debt relief will require strong and sustained economic reforms over a number of years. Expanded government spending also has led to upward pressure on consumer prices. Inflation which had fallen to 0% in April 2000 reached 14.5% by the end of the year and 18.7% in August 2001. In 2000 high world oil prices resulted in government revenue of over $16 billion, about double the 1999 level. State and local governmental bodies demand access to this "windfall" revenue, creating a tug-of-war between the federal government, which seeks to control spending, and state governments desirous of augmented budgets preventing the government from making provision for periods of lower oil prices. Since undergoing severe distress in the mid-1990s, Nigeria's banking sector has witnessed significant growth over the last few years as new banks enter the financial market. Harsh monetary policies implemented by the Central Bank of Nigeria to absorb excess Naira liquidity in the economy has made life more difficult for banks, some of whom engage in currency arbitrage (round-tripping) activities that generally fall outside legal banking mechanisms. Private sector-led economic growth remains stymied by the high cost of doing business in Nigeria, including the need to duplicate essential infrastructure, the threat of crime and associated need for security counter measures, the lack of effective due process, and nontransparent economic decision-making, especially in government contracting. While corrupt practices are endemic, they are generally less flagrant than during military rule, and there are signs of improvement. Meanwhile, since 1999 the Nigerian Stock Exchange has enjoyed strong performance, although equity as a means to foster corporate growth remains underutilized by Nigeria's private sector. 

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