Nigeria is in Western Africa, bordering the Gulf of Guinea, between Benin and Cameroon. It is the most strategically important country in Africa.
Southern lowlands merge into central hills and plateaus; there are high mountains in the southeast and plains in the north. The Niger enters the country in the northwest and flows southward through tropical rain forests and swamps to its delta in the Gulf of Guinea. Natural resources include natural gas, petroleum, tin, iron ore, coal, limestone, niobium, lead, zinc and arable land (38.97%). The climate varies; from equatorial in south to tropical in center or arid in north.
It is Africa’s most populous country, being the 7th in the World. It has longstanding ethnic and religious tensions, although many Nigerians claim that the real reason for the violence is not ethnic or religious differences but the scramble for land, scarce resources and political clout.
The country is home for more than 250 ethnic groups; Hausa and Fulani (29%), Yoruba (21%), and Igbo-Ibo (18%), just to mention the most populous and politically influential, each having established political systems that were distinct. Religiously, it is heterogenic as well, with a 50% of Muslims, 40% Christians and 10% indigenous beliefs. There are over 500 additional indigenous languages, apart from Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo (Ibo), Fulani and English, which is the official language.
Abuja is the capital of Nigeria, but Lagos (with 10.203 million people), Kano and Ibadan have more inhabitants. The country is divided into 36 states and 1 territory, the Federal Capital Territory. Nigerians pay their groceries with Nigerian naira.
On October the 1st 1960, Nigeria gained the Independence from the UK. Its constitution dates from May 1999. Its legal system consists on a mixed legal system of English Common Law, Islamic Law (in 12 northern states), and traditional law. It is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. The suffrage is universal, for all citizens who have 18 years of age.
The current President of Nigeria is Goodluck Jonathan, who was sworn into office in May 2010. The election results revealed a geographical divide, with Mr. Jonathan scoring well in the predominantly Christian south, and Gen Buhari sweeping many of the Muslim-dominated northern states.
People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has dominated since the return to civilian rule in 1999. Although it has strong opposition; the al-Qaeda-aligned Boko Haram (Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad) armed movement is conducting an insurrection in the, mainly Muslim, north. Separatist aspirations have also been growing, prompting reminders of the bitter civil war over the breakaway Biafran Republic in the late 1960s.
Nigeria has a deep involvement in African affairs, where it plays a prominent role.
It is involved in several frontier disputes. Perhaps the controversy with Cameroon over the oil-rich Bakassi peninsula solved by the International Court of Justice in 2002 and effectively handed over by Nigeria to Cameroon in 2008, is the most remarkable one.
The International Court of Justice ruled on an equidistance settlement of Cameroon- Equatorial Guinea- Nigeria maritime boundary in the Gulf of Guinea (GOG), but imprecisely defined coordinates in the ICJ decision and a sovereignty dispute between Equatorial Guinea and Cameroon over an island at the mouth of the Ntem River, all contributed to the delay in the implementation. Also, only Nigeria and Cameroon have so far heeded the Lake Chad Commission’s admonition to ratify the delimitation treaty which also includes the Chad- Niger and Niger- Nigeria boundaries. Finally, the location of Benin-Niger-Nigeria tripoint is an unresolved issue, being a point fixed by 1906 Anglo-French agreement.
There is also place to regional cooperation to solve some security issues. UN Security Council Resolutions 2018 and 2039 urged member states of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Economic Community of African States (ECAS) and the GOG Commission to take urgent actions to develop collective maritime strategies to prevent illicit maritime activities in the GOG. It has become now a new global route for the oil trade, but the coastline has increasingly become a haven for criminality.
As part of the ECOWAS, Nigeria promotes regional peace and security in the West African sub-region by contributing to UN peacekeeping operations (in Darfur, Chad, Namibia, etc), maritime security operations, mediation and fighting against cross-border criminal activities.
Other spheres of cooperation include combating the smuggling of small arms and light weapons (SALW), human trafficking or drug smuggling in Sahel, for instance, and since 1998, cooperating together with Niger and Chad in a multi-national joint force (MNJTF) to patrol areas prone to those attacks.
Concerns on the training of Al-Qaeda, including Boko Haram sect, in neighboring Mali, and the crackdown on Islamic insurgents (AQIM) by Maghreb and Sahel, which effect is the spread to Nigerian areas of these groups, explain the special interest taken in the ongoing operations in these countries and the efforts taken by the government together with the national leadership of the Muslim Ummah to reduce radicalization, as well as the participation, since 2005, in the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP).
Nigeria has been wracked by periodic episodes of violence for decades.
A list of internal conflicts include the North-Eastern Islamist militancy and insurgency (Boko Haram and Ansaru); Ethno-religious and kidnappings in North-central Nigeria; Oil theft, kidnapping (declined since the 2009 amnesty for militants) and piracy in the Niger Delta and kidnapping in the South-East (Abia state used to be known as the kidnapping capital of Nigeria, although the incidents have fallen since 2010).
Sectarian conflict erupted most profoundly in 1967, when three primarily Igbo eastern states seceded under the name Republic of Biafra, sparking a bloody three-year civil war. The attempt to break away ultimately failed, and Nigeria reintegrated the Igbo majority region in 1970.
Ethnic and religious cleavages play a major role in Nigeria. Jos, some 300 miles north of Nigeria’s largest city, Lagos, sits smack-dab in the center of Nigeria’s tumultuous “middle belt,” a so-called cultural fault line that divides the country’s Muslim north from the Christian south. The “middle belt” is a melting pot where the major ethnic groups of Nigeria, Hausa-Fulani Muslims and Yoruba and Igbo Christians, usually coexist peacefully, but sometimes collide.
One thing is to be taken into account. Whatever is at the root of such violence, extremism in Nigeria has emerged in a context of extreme conditions. Poverty, joblessness and corrupt politics drive extremists from both sides to commit horrendous atrocities. Although the nation rakes in billions of dollars in oil revenue annually, the majority of Nigerians scrape by on less than a dollar a day.
Some problems of militancy in the Niger Delta, as well as the radicalization in the north and criminal activity more generally cannot be understood without reference to lack of opportunity for Nigeria’s youth. Although there are regional differences in the consequences of youth unemployment and it is not possible to generalize.
Aside from (sadly) famous Boko Haram, there are several terrorist groups which are active in Nigeria. In 2010, the main rebel group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), announced it had lost patience with the delay and re-started its campaign of attacks on pipelines and installations and kidnappings of Western oil workers, declaring ceasefire from time to time.
Other conflicts include terrorism, internal fragilities, unregulated fishing, piracy, illegal trafficking, Islamic fundamentalism, oil theft and illegal oil bunkering and pipeline vandalism, which are difficult to classify crimes, as they have both a transnational nature and national impact.
The impact of oil
Nigeria is Africa’s leading oil producer; although more than half of its people live in poverty. The country is the fifthlargest oil producer in the World, and the second largest economy in Africa by GDP (nominal).
The Nigerian government is striving to boost the economy, which experienced an oil boom in the 1970s and is once again benefiting from high prices on the World market. But progress has been undermined by corruption and mismanagement. Insecurity centered on northern Nigeria is of growing international concern. As mentioned before, problems with oil theft and pipeline vandalism in the Niger Delta, as well as piracy within the maritime territory and the Gulf of Guinea, are important in Nigeria. The solution of securing the sea, seeing as Nigeria’s notoriously corrupt, crime-ridden fuel sector is intertwined with the piracy, may not happen any time soon.
The trade in stolen oil has fuelled violence and corruption in the Niger delta, home of the industry. Few Nigerians, including those in oil-producing areas, have benefited from the oil wealth. In 2004, Niger Delta activists demanding a greater share of oil income for locals began a campaign of violence against the oil infrastructure, threatening Nigeria’s most important economic lifeline.
Efforts to clean up the oil sector have failed largely because as long as the status quo continues, people with the right connections have been able to fill up their bank accounts.
Despite being Africa’s biggest oil producer, Nigeria imports almost all of its refined fuel. Rarely has there been anything as unifying as the fuel subsidy protests. When President Goodluck Jonathan removed a fuel subsidy on 1 January 2012, and as prices doubled, a strike was called, forcing head of the central bank, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, and Finance Minister Ngozi Okonji-Iweala to explain their actions like none of their predecessors. After two weeks, the government announced that part of this subsidy would be restored. In another way, many of the critics of the subsidy are aware of the corruption associated with it; they also know that a few individuals used the subsidy to milk the Nigerian treasury and amass huge wealth.
On another note, internet fraud is far from unique to Nigeria but the West African nation excels at these particular swindles. “419. This number might not mean much to you, but it is a verb, a noun, a way of life, a cliché and a curse in Nigeria. It refers to a section of the criminal code that proscribes seeking money for non-existent benefits.” (from Will Ferguson’s novel, 419).
Understanding models of reform and economic success in Nigeria
It is necessary that Nigeria reforms its petroleum-based economy. Improving support to the agriculture and mining sectors to diversify the economy are some measures the government wants to implement to achieve this goal.
Nigeria is keen to attract foreign investment but is hindered in this quest by security concerns as well as by a shaky infrastructure troubled by power cuts. Investors are attracted to Nigeria because of its resources and market potential, but they are concerned about contract sanctity, security and the lack infrastructure. There are some states with dynamic and reformist governments who wish to leave legacies of visible change and thriving economies. A broader and more nuanced understanding of the country’s diversity and complexities is needed so that opportunities can be identified and made the most of.
There are risks to doing business in Nigeria, and entry for newcomers may be difficult. The World Bank ranks Nigeria 133 out of 183 economies for ease of doing business. Political uncertainty and short-termist policy has created an attitude among many foreign businesses that they must operate on short time-horizons and seek to recoup their investments as quickly as possible.
People of Nigeria can do a lot to change this perception. During fuel subsidy protests, Christians formed symbolic shields around Muslims as they prayed. In Kano, Muslims visited churches on Sunday as a sign of solidarity. These were not the actions of a nation at peril, but of a disparate people clinging together, refusing to be divided. It is extremely important to notice that the policy response to the threat of terrorism in Nigeria is not only about security. It is a multifaceted challenge that must be addressed from multiple policy areas.
For its potential to be untapped, Nigeria’s population needs to be more than an impressive statistic: young people need genuine education and skills training, and ambitions need to be matched with opportunities (youth unemployment in Nigeria is at between 20 and 30 million). Nigeria’s economy will grow considerably, but unless federal and state reform agendas succeed now, progressive change will be stifled by future challenges stemming from demographic growth in an environment without the institutions to cope.
It is a priority in Nigeria to achieve domestic stability trough regional security, by way of combating terrorism and the rest of transnational crimes.
Other countries as well must not encourage the trafficking of stolen crude, patronizing only genuine crude, as the situation Nigeria finds itself is not different from the illegal trade of blood diamonds from Liberia and Sierra Leone, which fuelled civil wars in those countries, by financing armed conflict.
http://eienigeria.org/ Enough is Enough, Nigeria Coalition. EnoughisEnough Nigeria (EiE) is a coalition of individuals and youth-led organizations committed to instituting a culture of good governance and public accountability in Nigeria through advocacy, activism and the mobilization of the youth population as responsible citizens. Non-partisan, neither a platform for the actualization of any individual’s political ambitions.
http://www.yourbudgit.com/ BudgIT. National budget explained in a creative and accurate way.
http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2007/02/nigerian-oil/kashi-photography National Geographic. Find some amazing pictures of Nigeria, “Curse of the Black Gold: Hope and Betrayal in the Niger Delta”, by Ed Kashi.