Nigeria Overview Part II


With representatives of almost all the native races of Africa, Nigeria presents a great diversity of peoples and cultures. In the country, located at the confluence of the transcontinental migratory routes, there was a crossing between Sudanese and Bantu and Semibantian peoples, coming from the southwest and central Africa. Subsequently, smaller groups such as the Shuwas Arabs, the Tuaregs and the Fulani or Fulas, concentrated in the far north, entered successive waves across the Sahara.

The oldest inhabitants settled in the forests and in the Niger delta, fleeing invaders from the northern savannas. In the period of the slave trade, the social organization of coastal peoples and the Niger Delta was profoundly altered by forced migration and contact with European merchants. At the beginning of the colonial period, there was greater exchange between coastal cities, especially Calabar, Warri and Abonnema, where Syrian, Lebanese and European merchants settled.

According to, Nigeria’s inhabitants are almost entirely black, but there are profound differences between the more than 250 ethnic groups. Each group occupies a territory, which they consider to be their right to inherit and seniority in the occupation. Those who do not belong to the group, even though they have lived and worked for many decades in the place, remain in the condition of foreigners. In rural areas, foreigners cannot purchase property. Even so, there is a considerable migration of the members of one group to the territory of another, in search of land.

There are three main ethnic groups: hauçás, Yoruba-speaking peoples and Ibo-speaking peoples. The hauçás are the most numerous and live in the far north, integrated with the fulani, who conquered the hauçás region at the beginning of the 19th century. Although in the minority, the Fulas enjoy some privileges in relation to the Hausa majority: they can marry the Hausa or even members of another group, control the administration of the Hausa cities and speak their own Fula language, in preference to Hausa. Both Hausa and Fula are mostly Muslims.

The group of Yoruba-speaking peoples inhabits southwestern Nigeria. Like hauçás and fulas, they have ancestral links with the Middle East. Although farmers, they often live in large pre-industrial cities. Each group has a supreme chief, or obá, supported by a council of chiefs. Ife’s oni, who is the spiritual leader of the Yoruba, and Oyo’s alafin, who is their political leader, are the most powerful leaders; its influence is recognized in all Yoruba areas.

The third majority group, that of the Ibo-speaking peoples, lives in small dispersed settlements in the southeast. A small percentage of the Igbo, settled in the state of Bendel, live in large pre-industrial cities, and are culturally closer to the Edo, from neighboring Benin City, than to the Ibo of the lower Niger valley. Among the minority groups are the ibibios, who live near Ibo, with whom they have relations, and the edos of Benin City, whose culture is influenced by the Yoruba neighbors. In the central part of Nigerian territory there is the largest concentration of ethnic minority groups (more than 180), of which tives and nupes are the most populous. They are sedentary farmers, but while the nuptials ‘society is hierarchical, the tives’ society tends to be decentralized.

Until the 1970s, numerous emigrants flocked to cocoa plantations and rubber plantations in neighboring states. With faster economic development, migratory currents have reversed and the country has received workers from Benin, Niger and other countries. In the 1980s, the drop in oil prices led to the massive departure of immigrants. There are intense internal migrations and the southwestern states, more urbanized and industrialized, received many workers from the overpopulated southeast region.

Lagos, the country’s capital until 1991, is the center of Nigeria’s most populated and urbanized area. The country’s communications hub and industrial hub, it is a large and rapidly expanding city. In addition to the country’s current capital, Abuja, other important cities are: Ibadan, Ogbomosho and Ilorim in Yoruba territory; Benin City, former capital of a coastal kingdom; Enugu, the main city of the Ibo; and Port Harcourt, the largest port on the east coast, with oil and processing industries. In the north of the country, Kano is the former capital of a Hausa kingdom, where highways and railways converge. It is also the main market in a rich agricultural region.


Agriculture, livestock and fishing

Nigeria’s agricultural production, traditionally in surplus, allowed large quantities of cocoa, coffee, peanuts, bananas and palm oil to be exported, but it has not kept pace with population growth and Nigeria has become a food-importing country. In the north, peanuts, cotton, sugar cane, corn and sorghum are grown, and cattle are raised; the southwest, with a tradition of plantations for export (cocoa, heart of palm), is increasingly becoming a supplier to cities (yams, cassava, corn). The southeastern area produces rubber and wood, and the Niger Delta, rice. Fishing takes place mainly in coastal waters, in Lake Chad and in the temporary lakes that form in certain rivers during periods of drought. There are plans to establish fish breeding sites at the Kainji dam.

Nigeria Population