Nigeria is a country divided along ethnic and religious lines. Over 250 ethnic groups have distinct geographic, cultural, and political differences, making formation of a strong national identity difficult. The difference in ethnic heritage does, however, provide for rich and interesting cultural arts and traditions.
The former British colony is one of the world's largest oil producers. Years of military governments, corruption, political oppression, and economic mismanagement have hindered the country's development and left a wide gap between the rich and poor.
Lagos, the country's capital until 1991, is the largest city in Nigeria and indeed West Africa. This congested metropolis has a hot and humid climate. Abuja, the new national capital in the geographic center of the country, is still developing. Most government offices, foreign ministries, and support services were relocation from Lagos to Abuja.
A history of civil unrest, violent crime, ingenious business frauds, and commercial scams mean that safety is a major concern for visitors and expatriates alike.
Government and politics
Nigeria has been subject to military rule for most of its history as an independent republic. Governmental corruption and political harassment and violence have been commonplace. Following the return to elected civilian rule in May 1999, steps have been taken to improve the situation.
The president is both the chief of state and head of government. He is elected for a term of four years. Legislative power is vested in a popularly elected bicameral National Assembly consisting of a 360 member House of Representatives and a 109 member Senate.
President Olusegun Obasanjo won a second term in 2003, in Nigeria's first civilian-run presidential election for 20 years. His administration has made serious attempts at reform, but debilitating political strife, ethnic and economic divisions continue to plague the country.
The centrist People's Democratic Party (PDP) is the dominant party in both the House of Representatives and Senate, with majority control in both houses. President Obasanjo is also a PDP member. The All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) is a conservative party strong in the northern and Islamic areas of the country. The third-largest party is the Alliance for Democracy (AD), a progressive party which holds several seats in both houses. Other minor parties hold a small number of seats in the House of Representatives.
Nigeria is rich in natural resources including large reserves of oil and natural gas. It also has a talented population, well endowed with business and commercial acumen. Since the return to civilian control, Nigeria has been undertaking substantial economic reform for improving a weak infrastructure, addressing corruption, and poverty alleviation for the majority of its population.
The government is attempting to transform the country's oil-based economy into one that is more diversified and will help increase employment, personal income, and national development.
After struggling with challenges like poor infrastructure, corruption, and weak management, the Nigerian government in 2008 began to show a commitment to reforms outlilned by the IMP. GDP increased significantly in 2007 and 2008, and rose in 2009 as well.