Did you know: 

Chief Emeka Anyaoku of Nigeria was Commonwealth Secretary-General 1990–2000.

Wole Soyinka, born in Abeokuta in July 1934, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1986; and Nigerians have won 14 Commonwealth Writers’ Prizes.

The Seventh Pan-Commonwealth Forum on Open Learning was held in Abuja, 2–6 December 2013, with the theme of ‘Open Learning for Development’.

Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa with a population of some 170 million.

Key facts

Joined Commonwealth: 
1960 (suspended 1995–99)
173,615,000 (2013)
2.6% p.a. 1990–2013
world ranking 152
Official language: 
GMT plus 1hr
Naira (N)


923,768 sq km
Capital city: 
Population density (per sq. km): 

The Federal Republic of Nigeria lies on the Gulf of Guinea and has borders with Benin (west), Niger (north), Chad (north-east across Lake Chad) and Cameroon (east). It comprises the Abuja Federal Capital Territory and 36 states.

Main towns: 

Abuja (federal capital since 1991, pop. 2.71m in 2011), Lagos (commercial centre and former capital, Lagos State, 13.34m), Kano (Kano, 4.03m), Ibadan (Oyo, 3.06m), Port Harcourt (Rivers, 2.01m), Kaduna (Kaduna, 1.64m), Benin City (Edo, 1.45m), Ilorin (Kwara, 1.08m), Maiduguri (Borno, 1.03m), Aba (Abia, 1.01m), Warri (Edo, 933,800), Onitsha (Anambra, 910,800), Jos (Plateau, 900,000), Enugu (Enugu, 870,000), Zaria (Kaduna, 870,000), Akure (Ondo, 847,900), Abeokuta (Ogun, 801,300), Oshogbo (Osun, 795,000), Ife (Osun, 490,000), Ogbomosho (Oyo, 433,030), Oyo (Oyo, 369,894), Sokoto (Sokoto, 329,369), Okene (Kogi, 312,755), Calabar (Cross River, 310,389), Katsina (Katsina, 259,315), Bauchi (Bauchi, 206,537), Minna (Niger, 189,191), Gombe (Gombe, 163,604), Ado (Ekiti, 156,122), Makurdi (Benue, 151,515), Ondo (Ondo, 146,051), Owerri (Imo, 119,711), Gboko (Benue, 101,281), Nsukka (Enugu, 69,210), Jalingo (Taraba, 67,226), Birnin Kebbi (Kebbi, 63,147), Uyo (Akwa Ibom, 58,369), Yola (Adamawa, 54,810) and Asaba (Delta, 49,725).


193,200 km of roads, 15 per cent paved, link all main centres. Some secondary roads are impassable during the rains.

There are around 3,530 km of railway, the main routes running from Lagos to Kano, and from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri, with a branch line from Zaria to Gusau and Kaura Namoda. Much of the network is single-track, and the narrow gauge restricts speed and load-carrying capacity.

Main ports are at Apapa, Tin Can Island, Warri, Sapele, Port Harcourt and Calabar. Ferry services operate along the Niger and Benue rivers and along the coast.

Lagos international airport is 22 km north of Lagos; other main international airports are at Abuja (35 km from the city), Kano and Port Harcourt, and main domestic airports at Benin City, Calabar, Enugu, Jos, Kaduna, Lagos, Maiduguri, Sokoto and Yola.

International relations: 

Nigeria is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, African Union, Economic Community of West African States, Non-Aligned Movement, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, United Nations and World Trade Organization.

Nigeria hosts the headquarters of the Economic Community of West African States in Abuja.

The country is also a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.


Nigeria is a large country, 1,045 km long and 1,126 km wide. It has several important rivers, notably the Niger and its main tributary, the Benue, both of which are navigable. The Niger forms a delta some 100 km wide, running into the sea west of Port Harcourt. In the north-east rivers drain into Lake Chad. The coastal region is low-lying, with lagoons, sandy beaches and mangrove swamps. Inland the country rises to the central Jos Plateau at 1,800 metres. The Adamawa Massif, bordering Cameroon, rises to 2,042 metres at Dimlang (Vogel Peak).


Tropical; hot and humid on the coast, with greater extremes of temperature inland and cold nights in the north during December and January. The rainy season is generally March–November in the south and May–September in the north. In the dry season the harmattan wind blows from the Sahara.


The most significant environmental issues are rapid deforestation, soil degradation, and desertification.


Mangrove and freshwater swamps in coastal areas, merging into an area of rainforest, containing hardwoods and oil palms. Moving north, the savannah and plateau regions have grasslands and hardy trees such as the baobab and tamarind. There is semi-desert vegetation in the north-east. In the north, forest depletion has been caused by overgrazing, bush fires and the use of wood as fuel, but there has been government-sponsored planting in an attempt to arrest the southward advance of the Sahara. Oil palms occur naturally and, being valuable, are often spared when forests are cleared. Forest covers nine per cent of the land area, having declined at 3.2 per cent p.a. 1990–2010. Some 76 per cent of forest is savannah woodland, 20 per cent tropical rainforest and four per cent swamp forest. Arable land comprises 40 per cent and permanent cropland four per cent of the total land area.


The Yankari National Park is an important stopover for migrating birds (some 600 species call there), and also has an elephant population. The Okomo Sanctuary is home to the endangered white-throated monkey. On the grasslands of the savannah are camels, antelopes, hyenas and giraffes. An area of 30,100 sq km is protected (2003), or 3.3 per cent of the land area. In the country as a whole 26 mammal species and 15 bird species are thought to be endangered (2014).