The Federal Republic of Nigeria, commonly referred to as Nigeria, is located in western Africa on the Gulf of Guinea and has a total area of 356,669 square miles (923,768 km²), making it the world’s 32nd-largest country (after Tanzania). It is comparable in size to Venezuela, and is about twice the size of the U.S. state of California. Nigeria lies between latitudes 4° and 14°N, and longitudes 2° and 15°E., bordering Benin in the west, Chad and Cameroon in the east, and Niger in the north. Its coast in the south lies on the Gulf of Guinea in the Atlantic Ocean. It comprises 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, where the capital, Abuja is located. Nigeria is officially a democratic secular country.
Modern-day Nigeria has been the site of numerous kingdoms and tribal states over the millennia. The modern state originated from British colonial rule beginning in the nineteenth century, and the merging of the Southern Nigeria Protectorate and Northern Nigeria Protectorate in 1914. The British set up administrative and legal structures whilst practicing indirect rule through traditional chiefdoms. Nigeria became a formally independent federation in 1960, and plunged into a civil war from 1967 to 1970. It has since alternated between democratically elected civilian governments and military dictatorships, until it achieved a stable democracy in 1999, with the 2011 presidential elections considered the first to be reasonably free and fair.
The highest point in Nigeria is Chappal Waddi at 7,936 feet (2,419 meters). The main rivers are the Niger and the Benue, which converge and empty into the Niger Delta. This is one of the world’s largest river deltas, and the location of a large area of Central African mangroves.
Nigeria has a varied landscape. The far south is defined by its tropical rainforest climate, where annual rainfall is 60 to 80 inches (1,500 to 2,000 mm) a year. In the southeast stands the Obudu Plateau. Coastal plains are found in both the southwest and the southeast. This forest zone’s most southerly portion is defined as “salt water swamp,” also known as a mangrove swamp because of the large amount of mangroves in the area. North of this is fresh water swamp, containing different vegetation from the salt water swamp, and north of that is rain forest.
Nigeria’s most expansive topographical region is that of the valleys of the Niger and Benue river valleys (which merge into each other and form a “y” shape). To the southwest of the Niger is “rugged” highland. To the southeast of the Benue are hills and mountains, which form the Mambilla Plateau, the highest plateau in Nigeria. This plateau extends through the border with Cameroon, where the montane land is part of the Bamenda Highlands of Cameroon.
The area near the border with Cameroon close to the coast is rich rainforest and part of the Cross-Sanaga-Bioko coastal forests ecoregion, an important center for biodiversity. It is habitat for the drill monkey, which is found in the wild only in this area and across the border in Cameroon. The areas surrounding Calabar, Cross River State, also in this forest, are believed to contain the world’s largest diversity of butterflies. The area of southern Nigeria between the Niger and the Cross Rivers has lost most of its forest because of development and harvesting by increased population, with it being replaced by grassland.
Everything in between the far south and the far north is savannah (insignificant tree cover, with grasses and flowers located between trees). The savannah zone’s three categories are Guinean forest-savanna mosaic, Sudan savannah, and Sahel savannah. Guinean forest-savanna mosaic is plains of tall grass interrupted by trees. Sudan savannah is similar but with shorter grasses and shorter trees. Sahel savannah consists of patches of grass and sand, found in the northeast. In the Sahel region, rain is less than 20 inches (500 mm) per year and the Sahara Desert is encroaching. In the dry north-east corner of the country lies Lake Chad, which Nigeria shares with Niger, Chad and Cameroon.
Nigeria is often referred to as the “Giant of Africa”, owing to its large population and economy. With approximately 184 million inhabitants, Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and the seventh most populous country in the world. Nigeria has one of the largest populations of youth in the world. The country is viewed as a multinational state, as it is inhabited by over 500 ethnic groups, of which the three largest are the Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba; these ethnic groups speak over 500 different languages, and are identified with wide variety of cultures. The official language is English. Nigeria is divided roughly in half between Christians, who live mostly in the southern part of the country, and Muslims in the northern part. A minority of the population practise religions indigenous to Nigeria, such as those native to the Igbo and Yoruba ethnicities.
As of 2015, Nigeria is the world’s 20th largest economy, worth more than $500 billion and $1 trillion in terms of nominal GDP and purchasing power parity respectively. It overtook South Africa to become Africa’s largest economy in 2014. The 2013 debt-to-GDP ratio was 11 percent. Nigeria is considered to be an emerging market by the World Bank; it has been identified as a regional power on the African continent, a middle power in international affairs, and has also been identified as an emerging global power. Nigeria is a member of the MINT group of countries, which are widely seen as the globe’s next “BRIC-like” economies. It is also listed among the “Next Eleven” economies set to become among the biggest in the world. Nigeria is a founding member of the African Union and a member of many other international organizations, including the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Nations and OPEC.
The name Nigeria was taken from the Niger River running through the country. This name was coined in the late nineteenth century by British journalist Flora Shaw, who later married Lord Lugard, a British colonial administrator. The origin of the name Niger, which originally applied only to the middle reaches of the Niger River, is uncertain. The word is likely an alteration of the Tuareg name egerew n-igerewen used by inhabitants along the middle reaches of the river around Timbuktu prior to nineteenth-century European colonialism.
On January 1, 1901, Nigeria became a British protectorate. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the independent kingdoms of what would become Nigeria fought a number of conflicts against the British Empire’s efforts to expand its territory. By war, the British conquered Benin in 1897, and, in the Anglo-Aro War (1901–1902), defeated other opponents. The restraint or conquest of these states opened up the Niger area to British rule.
In 1914, the British formally united the Niger area as the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria. Administratively, Nigeria remained divided into the Northern and Southern Protectorates and Lagos Colony. Inhabitants of the southern region sustained more interaction, economic and cultural, with the British and other Europeans owing to the coastal economy.
Following World War II, in response to the growth of Nigerian nationalism and demands for independence, successive constitutions legislated by the British government moved Nigeria toward self-government on a representative and increasingly federal basis. By the middle of the twentieth century, a great wave for independence was sweeping across Africa.
Nigeria gained independence from the United Kingdom as a Commonwealth Realm on October 1, 1960. Nigeria’s government was a coalition of conservative parties: the Nigerian People’s Congress (NPC), a party dominated by Northerners and those of the Islamic faith, and the Igbo and Christian-dominated National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) led by Nnamdi Azikiwe. Azikiwe became Nigeria’s maiden Governor-General in 1960. The opposition comprised the comparatively liberal Action Group (AG), which was largely dominated by the Yoruba and led by Obafemi Awolowo. The cultural and political differences between Nigeria’s dominant ethnic groups — the Hausa (‘Northerners’), Igbo (‘Easterners’) and Yoruba (‘Westerners’) — were sharp.
An imbalance was created in the polity by the result of the 1961 plebiscite. Southern Cameroon opted to join the Republic of Cameroon while Northern Cameroons chose to remain in Nigeria. The northern part of the country was now far larger than the southern part. In 1963, the nation established a Federal Republic, with Azikiwe as its first president. When elections were held in 1965, the Nigerian National Democratic Party came to power in Nigeria’s Western Region.
The disquilibrium and perceived corruption of the electoral and political process led, in 1966, to back-to-back military coups. The first coup was in January 1966 and was led by Igbo soldiers under Majors Emmanuel Ifeajuna and Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu. The coup plotters succeeded in murdering Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Premier Ahmadu Bello of the Northern Region and Premier Ladoke Akintola of the Western Region. But, the coup plotters struggled to form a central government. President Nwafor Orizu handed over government control to the Army, then under the command of another Igbo officer, General JTU Aguiyi-Ironsi.
Later, the counter-coup of 1966, supported primarily by Northern military officers, facilitated the rise of Lt. Colonel Yakubu Gowon to head of state. Tension rose between North and South; Igbos in Northern cities suffered persecution and many fled to the Eastern Region.
In May 1967, the Eastern Region declared independence as a state called the Republic of Biafra, under the leadership of Lt. Colonel Emeka Ojukwu. The Nigerian Civil War began as the official Nigerian government side (predominated by soldiers from the North and West) attacked Biafra (Southeastern) on 6 July 1967 at Garkem. The 30-month war, with a long siege of Biafra and its isolation from trade and supplies, ended in January 1970. Estimates of the number of dead in the former Eastern Region are between one and three million people, from warfare, disease, and starvation, during the 30-month civil war.
France, Egypt, the Soviet Union, Britain, Israel, and others were deeply involved in the civil war behind the scenes. Britain and the Soviet Union were the main military backers of the Nigerian government while France and others aided the Biafrans. Nigeria used Egyptian pilots for their air force.
During the oil boom of the 1970s, Nigeria joined OPEC and the huge oil revenues it was generating enriched the economy. Despite these revenues, the military government did little to improve the standard of living of the population, help small and medium businesses, or invest in infrastructure. As oil revenues fueled the rise of federal subsidies to states, the federal government became the center of political struggle and the threshold of power in the country. As oil production and revenue rose, the Nigerian government became increasingly dependent on oil revenues and on international commodity markets for budgetary and economic concerns. It did not develop alternate revenue sources in the economy for economic stability. That spelled doom to federalism in Nigeria.
Beginning in 1979, Nigerians participated in a return to democracy when Olusegun Obasanjo transferred power to the civilian regime of Shehu Shagari. The Shagari government became viewed as corrupt by virtually all sectors of Nigerian society. In 1983, the inspectors of the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) began to notice “the slow poisoning of the waters of this country.” The military coup of Muhammadu Buhari shortly after the regime’s re-election in 1984 was generally viewed as a positive development. Buhari promised major reforms, but his government fared little better than its predecessor. His regime was overthrown by another military coup in 1985.
The new head of state, Ibrahim Babangida, declared himself president and commander in chief of the armed forces and of the ruling Supreme Military Council. He set 1990 as the official deadline for a return to democratic governance. Babangida’s tenure was marked by a flurry of political activity: he instituted the International Monetary Fund’s Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) to aid in the repayment of the country’s crushing international debt. At the time most federal revenue was dedicated to servicing that debt. He enrolled Nigeria in the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, which aggravated religious tensions in the country.
Babangida survived an abortive coup, then postponed a promised return to democracy to 1992. Free and fair elections were finally held on June 12, 1993, the first since the military coup of 1983, with a presidential victory for Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola of the Social Democratic Party, who gained some 58% of the votes, defeating Bashir Tofa of the National Republican Convention. However, Babangida annulled the elections, leading to massive civilian protests which effectively shut down the country for weeks. Babangida finally kept his promise to relinquish office to a civilian government, but not before appointing Ernest Shonekan head of an interim government. Babangida’s regime has been considered the most corrupt, and responsible for creating a culture of corruption in Nigeria.
In late 1993, Shonekan’s caretaker regime was overwhelmed by the military coup of General Sani Abacha, who used military force on a wide scale to suppress the continuing civilian unrest. He shifted money to offshore accounts in western European banks and defeated coup plots by bribing army generals. In 1995, the government hanged environmentalist Ken Saro-Wiwa on trumped-up charges in the deaths of four Ogoni elders. Lawsuits under the American Alien Tort Statute against Royal Dutch Shell and Brian Anderson, the head of Shell’s Nigerian operation, settled out of court with Shell continuing to deny liability.
Several hundred million dollars in accounts traced to Abacha were discovered in 1999. The regime came to an end in 1998, when the dictator died in the villa. His successor, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, adopted a new constitution on May 5, 1999, which provided for multiparty elections. On May 29, 1999, Abubakar transferred power to the winner of the elections, Obasanjo, who had since retired from the military.
Nigeria regained democracy in 1999 when it elected Olusegun Obasanjo, the former military head of state, as the new President of Nigeria. This ended almost 33 years of military rule (from 1966 until 1999), excluding the short-lived second republic (between 1979 and 1983) by military dictators who seized power in coups d’état and counter-coups during the Nigerian military juntas of 1966–1979 and 1983–1998. Although the elections which brought Obasanjo to power in 1999 and again in 2003 were condemned as unfree and unfair, Nigeria has shown marked improvements in attempts to tackle government corruption and to hasten development.
Ethnic violence for control over the oil-producing Niger Delta region and inadequate infrastructures are some of the issues in the country. Umaru Yar’Adua of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) came into power in the general election of 2007. The international community has been observing Nigerian elections to encourage a free and fair process, and condemned this one as being severely flawed.
Yar’Adua died on May 5, 2010. Dr. Goodluck Jonathan was sworn in as Yar’Adua’s replacement on May 6, becoming Nigeria’s 14th Head of State, while his vice-president, Namadi Sambo, an architect and former Kaduna State governor, was chosen on May 18, by the National Assembly. His confirmation followed President Jonathan’s nomination of Sambo to that position.
Goodluck Jonathan served as Nigeria’s president until April 16, 2011, when a new presidential election in Nigeria was conducted. Jonathan of the PDP was declared the winner on April 19, having won the election with a total of 22,495,187 of the 39,469,484 votes cast, to stand ahead of Muhammadu Buhari from the main opposition party, the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), which won 12,214,853 of the total votes cast. The international media reported the elections as having run smoothly with relatively little violence or voter fraud, in contrast to previous elections.
In the March 2015 election, Muhammadu Buhari defeated Goodluck Jonathan by roughly 2 million votes. Observers generally praised the election as being fair. Jonathan was generally praised for conceding defeat and limiting the risk of unrest.
The first issue of independent Nigeria was issued on October 1, 1960, inscribed FEDERATION OF NIGERIA (Scott #97-100), following with a definitive set issued on January 1, 1961, with the stamps inscribed simply NIGERIA (Scott #101-113). In 1963, Nigeria became a Republic within the British Commonwealth with the first issue as such was a set released on September 1, 1963, commemorating the centennial of the International Red Cross (Scott #147-149a). and a new definitive set was issued on November 1, 1965 (Scott #184-197), inscribed REPUBLIQUE DU NIGER, the only stamps bearing this inscription. In 1969, nine values from the 1965 definitive set were overprinted F. G. N. / F. G. N. (Federal Government of Nigeria), but weren’t issued. Later, the Nigerian Philatelic Service sold copies of these, stating that they weren’t valid for postage.
Between 1960 and 1961 Nigerian definitives of 1953-1957 were overprinted CAMEROONS / U.K.T.T. for use in Southern Cameroons. This issue was also valid for use in Northern Cameroons until it joined Nigeria. In 1961, Southern Cameroons became part of Cameroon.
Between May 30, 1967, and January 15, 1970, the region of Biafra attempted to secede from Nigeria and banknotes and postage stamps in order to assert their claim to sovereignty. The Post Office in Biafra had continued to use Nigerian stamps until they ran out. A “postage paid” cachet was applied instead until the first stamps were issued on February 5, 1968. These consisted of three values to mark Biafran “independence”.
The postage stamps were used mainly on internal mail within the region but also on some external mail sent by air via Libreville in Gabon. The stamps are not recognized as legitimate by all stamp catalogues.
On April 1, 1968, thirteen stamps of Nigeria from the 1965 issue were issued overprinted with the Biafran coat of arms and the words SOVEREIGN BIAFRA. The ½ penny and 1 penny values from the same 1965 Nigeria series also exist surcharged with new values and overprinted BIAFRA-FRANCE FRIENDSHIP 1968 SOVEREIGN BIAFRA but these stamps are not believed to have been used for postage. A number of further stamps were issued in 1968 and 1969 inscribed BIAFRA or REPUBLIC OF BIAFRA, including miniature sheets, further overprints and stamps ostensibly issued to raise funds for charity.
Eventually, after a bloody civil war, Biafra rejoined Nigeria.
Scott #297 was released in 1973 as part of a new set of definitive stamps issued in new currency. The 10 kobo value depicts leopards in the Yankari Game Reserve. The stamp was printed by lithography and perforated 14; it bears the imprint N S P & M Co Ltd on the lower-left edge.
Yankari National Park is a large wildlife park located in the south-central part of Bauchi State, in northeastern Nigeria. It covers an area of about 866 square miles (2,244 square km²) and is home to several natural warm water springs, as well as a wide variety of flora and fauna. Its location in the heartland of the West African savanna makes it a unique way for tourists and holidaymakers to watch wildlife in its natural habitat. Yankari was originally created as a game reserve in 1956, but later designated Nigeria’s biggest national park in 1991. It is the most popular destination for tourists in Nigeria and, as such, plays a crucial role in the development and promotion of tourism and ecotourism in Nigeria. It is also one of the most popular eco-destinations in West Africa.
The open country and villages that surround Yankari National Park are populated by farmers and herders, but there has been no human settlement in the park for over a century. There is, however, evidence of earlier human habitation in the park, including old iron smelting sites and caves. In 1934, the Northern Regional Committee made a recommendation to the Executive Council to establish a pilot game reserve in the Bauchi Emirate. This was supported by Alhaji Muhammadu Ngeleruma, a minister in the former northern Nigeria Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Around this time, he had been impressed by a visit to a Sudanese game reserve while on a trip to East Africa. On returning, he encouraged the moves to establish something similar in Nigeria.
In 1956, the Northern Nigeria Government approved the plans for the creation of a Game Preservation area. Yankari was identified as a region in the south of what was then Bauchi Province where large numbers of wild animals existed naturally and could be protected. In 1957, a Game Preservation area was carved out and the area was constituted as a Bauchi Native Authority Forest Reserve. Yankari was first opened to the public as a premier game reserve on December 1, 1962. Since then, the Northern Eastern State Government and then the Bauchi State Government both managed the Yankari Game Reserve. The park is now managed by the Federal Government of Nigeria, through the National Park Service.
Yankari has rich wildlife resources. The park is an important refuge for over 50 species of mammal including African bush elephant, olive baboon, patas monkey, Tantalus monkey, roan antelope, western hartebeest, West African lion, African buffalo, waterbuck, bushbuck and hippopotamus. The Sudan cheetah may have been extirpated from the area. It also has a large and diverse freshwater ecosystem around its freshwater springs and the Raji River.
There are also over 350 species of bird found in the park. Of these, 130 are resident, 50 are Palearctic migrants and the rest are intra-African migrants that move locally within Nigeria. These birds include the saddle-billed stork, white-rumped vulture, guinea fowl, grey hornbill, and the cattle egret.
Yankari is recognized as having one of the largest populations of elephants in West Africa, estimated at more than 300 in 2005. The growth of the elephant population has become a problem for surrounding villages at times as the animals enter local farms during the rainy season. The elephants have also stripped the park of many of its baobab trees.
Due to underground geothermal activity, Yankari National Park also features four warm water springs. The camp is named after the most well known of these, the Wikki Spring, from the local Duguri language with “Wikki” meaning “where are you?”. The Wikki Warm Spring is the largest spring. The other warm water springs are Dimmil, Gwan, and Nawulgo springs. A fifth spring, Tungan Naliki, is the only cool spring in the park.
The leopard (Panthera pardus) is one of the five “big cats” in the genus Panthera. It is a member of the family Felidae with a wide range in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia. Fossil records suggest that in the Late Pleistocene it occurred in Europe and Japan. Compared to other members of Felidae, the leopard has relatively short legs and a long body with a large skull. It is similar in appearance to the jaguar, but has a smaller, lighter physique. Its fur is marked with rosettes similar to those of the jaguar, but the leopard’s rosettes are smaller and more densely packed, and do not usually have central spots as the jaguar’s do. Both leopards and jaguars that are melanistic are known as black panthers.
The leopard is distinguished by its well-camouflaged fur, opportunistic hunting behavior, broad diet, and strength (which it uses to move heavy carcasses into trees), as well as its ability to adapt to various habitats ranging from rainforest to steppe, including arid and montane areas, and its ability to run at speeds of up to 36 miles per hour (58 kilometers per hour).
The leopard is listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List because leopard populations are threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation, and are declining in large parts of the global range. In Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuwait, Syria, Libya, Tunisia and most likely in Morocco, leopards have already been extirpated. Leopards are hunted illegally, and their body parts are smuggled in the wildlife trade for medicinal practices and decoration.