Facts on Nigeria
Agricultural Activity in Nigeria
A Large and Divided Population. With a population of over 150 million people, Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa. It is home to one-sixth of the continent’s population, and to half of the people in ECOWAS. It is also one of the most urbanised countries in Africa, with at least twenty-four cities of over 100,000 residents.
Nigeria is highly diverse, with a large number of ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious groups. There are more than 250 ethnic groups in the country. The northern part of the country is inhabited mainly by people of the Hausa group, the majority of whom are Muslims. The Yoruba group is the dominant group in the south, more than half of whom are Christians and one-quarter Muslims. The south-eastern part of the country is dominated by the Igbo, mostly Christians. The country’s problems in building unity stem in part from this vast diversity.
Nigeria faces chronic inter-ethnic tensions that sometimes degenerate into outbreaks of violence. In November 2008, July 2009 and more recently in January 2010, the dissension between Christians and Muslims led to clashes in the city of Jos (Plateau state) in the centre of the country. One of the major political challenges is to maintain a balance between northern Nigeria where the population is primarily Muslim (Sharia law is officially in effect in twelve states) and the economy is declining, and the predominantly Christian South that provides most of the country’s resources.
The regimes that have successively governed the country since its independence in 1960 have sought to break the hold that the three major ethnic groups exercise in their respective regions (North, South-West, South-East) that made up the original federal state. To this end they have created more states in the federation, the number of which grew to twelve, then twenty-one, and then finally thirty-six states in 1996. The cohesion of the federation, which is particularly fragile, was jeopardised as early as 1967 with the war of secession in Biafra. Regional rivalries continue to this day. The subdivision into twenty-one and then thirty-six states has lowered the risk of ethnic conflict, however.
A Powerful Economy, Largely Dominated by Oil. Nigeria is the second largest economic power on the continent, after South Africa. Oil accounts for roughly 80% of its fiscal revenue and 97% of the country’s exports. Nigeria is the world’s eighth-largest oil exporter, and has been a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) since 1970. Paradoxically, the country often experiences fuel shortages and many refineries are running under capacity or not running at all. Insecurity in the Niger Delta zone and large-scale theft of oil cause a production shortfall that today reaches 1.8 million barrels a day, compared to full production capacity of 3 million barrels a day. Nigeria has even lost its position as top sub-Saharan oil producer to Angola. Oil and gas fields are being developed offshore, where major reserves are located and less exposed to insecurity.
Agriculture [[See the article on page 16 for more information on agriculture in Nigeria]] employs over 70% of the active population and is the major contributor to GDP (36.5% in 2009), followed by oil and gas (32.3%). Other main contributing sectors are wholesale and retail trade (15.9%) and services (8.2%). Manufacturing’s meagre contribution to GDP, only 2.4%, reflects the low level of industrialization in Nigeria’s economy. Industrial activity is concentrated in Lagos and, to a lesser extent, in the other big cities (Kano, Kaduna, Ibadan and Port Harcourt). Industrial production comprises essentially textiles, beverages, cigarettes, detergents and cement. The informal sector is highly developed in Nigeria.
At present, the country’s economic structure is insufficiently diversified. It is heavily dependent on a capital-intensive petroleum industry, whereas most of the population is employed in agriculture. The country would like to diversify its sources of revenue and free itself from its dependence on oil in order to bring in more money and protect its economy from fluctuations in oil prices. To achieve this, the government drafted the “2020 Vision” plan for Nigeria that aims to diversify the economy. Given the pace of roll-out, it seems doubtful that this programme will successfully place Nigeria among the top twenty economies in the world by 2020.
An Unstable Political Situation. Nigeria’s political history has been agitated since the country attained independence on 1 October 1960. Between 1967 and 1970, the Igbos of south-eastern Nigeria sought to secede and founded the Republic of Biafra. Biafra was reintegrated into Nigeria after a brutal war and unprecedented famine that claimed nearly one million lives.
Nigeria saw a succession of military dictatorships and coups over a period of more than twenty-eight years. General Babangida took power in 1985. When he resigned in 1993, General Abacha instituted an authoritarian regime. In 1995, the international community condemned Abacha for the murder of several political opponents, and Nigeria was excluded from the Commonwealth. In 1998, General Abubakar succeeded Abacha and pledged to transfer power to a civilian government.
Olusegun Obasanjo, a former military leader, was elected President of the Republic in 1999, and then re-elected in 2003. Barred from standing for a third term in office by the Nigerian constitution, Obasanjo nonetheless put all his weight into the nomination and election of the presidential “ticket” of his party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), in April 2007. The candidates on the ticket were Umaru Yar’adua, governor of the state of Katsina, in the North, and Goodluck Jonathan, governor of Bayelsa in the South. In addition to chaotic organization, this election was marred by widescale fraud and serious violence. The prolonged absence of Yar’adua, from his hospitalization in November 2009 until his death on 6 May 2010, compounded the political instability. Goodluck Jonathan was sworn in as acting president on 9 February 2010. Belying his reputation as a discreet man, he immediately took a series of strong measures. The next round of presidential, regional and local elections will take place in 2011.
Poverty, Inequality and Corruption Against a Backdrop of Oil Rents. Nigeria has relatively low human development indices despite abundant natural resources. In 2007, half the population was living below the poverty line, set at $1.25 per day. Furthermore Nigeria has fallen behind schedule for Millennium Development Goal (MDG) attainment, including the goal of halving poverty by 2015. The Global Hunger Index (GHI), composed of three indicators (access to sufficient quantities of food, infantile nutrition and the infantile mortality rate), ranks Nigeria among the countries with the most serious food security problems.
Nigeria is one of the few countries in the world with significant oil resources to have a budget deficit. It is also sadly well-known for record levels of corruption, which has greatly increased since the oil boom of the 1970s. In 2010, Transparency International ranked Nigeria as the twelfth the most corrupt country in the world. It is estimated that over 300 billion dollars worth of Nigerian oil have simply disappeared. Abacha and his family are suspected of having siphoned off more than $4 billion in public funds between 1993 and 1998. Facilitated by corruption and by the general opacity of the world financial system, the flows of funds drained by illicit financial practices are a major handicap for the country’s development.
Infrastructures, and particularly the electricity supply system, are generally in poor condition. Although rich in hydrocarbon resources, the country is facing an energy emergency. Electricity production capacity is less than 3,000 MW (in comparison, South Africa has a production capacity of 36,000 MW for a population of 48 million), and the natural gas flows associated with oil production are not optimized.
Poor transport infrastructures are one of the main hindrances to development. The state of the roads and the quality of port management and airport maintenance must all imperatively improve.
The Niger Delta Conflict: A Human, Environmental and Economic Tragedy. The conflict in the Niger Delta region poses a serious political and economic problem for Nigeria. Activists denounce the environmental pollution caused by oil companies and the widespread poverty among the local population. The oil companies’ practices in the region, and the complicity of the Nigerian government, have been severely criticised. The tension between local residents and the forces of law and order has engendered a number of assassinations and massacres. In the 1990s, the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) was created to fight Royal Dutch Shell’s activities using non-violent means. After five of its leaders were executed (including Ken Saro-Wiwa, on 10 November 1995), the movement gradually died out. In the following years, a more violent group—the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND)—came into being and is still active.
Common-law criminals also take advantage of the situation to kidnap foreign workers for ransom. This conflict has cut the country’s oil production by one-third, draining public revenues. Daily production has fallen, from 2.5 million barrels in 2006 to 1.7 million in mid- May of 2009.
The prospect of a lasting solution appeared on the horizon in 2009, when the government and the armed movements came to an agreement that could end the conflict. The main group, MEND, subsequently declared a cease-fire. Thousands of militants laid down their arms and joined a reintegration programme. However, as of this writing, peace has not yet returned to the Niger Delta. Ensuring that the funds allocated to the region are used to the benefit of those who are entitled to them but do not fuel corruption will be a major challenge.
A Major Regional Influence. In the field of foreign policy, Nigeria has established itself has a leading diplomatic player in West Africa and within the African Union. Nigeria helps promote ECOWAS, which has its headquarters in Abuja. In 2007, Nigeria used all its influence within this organization to make sure that it refused to sign the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU) according to the planned timetable. ECOWAS is a fundamental instrument for Nigeria’s influence in Africa and in its relationship with the EU.
Nigeria has also taken a great many initiatives to resolve conflicts. It was deeply involved in the end of the Liberian crisis, through its participation in the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG). It has conducted mediation and facilitation sessions in Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zimbabwe in recent years. Nigeria has joined many peace-keeping operations, including the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) and the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS).
In addition, the country has also broadened its horizons, acting to promote the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).
Finally, Nigeria has a significant impact on the surrounding region by virtue of its population size and large diaspora, in addition to the financial power of its banks and the reach of Nigeria’s film and television production (Nigeria is the world’s third-largest film producer).
This article is based on several sources of documentation, in particular:
– Atlas du Nigeria, Atlas de l’Afrique, Éditions J.A., 2003, 157 p.
– African Economic Outlook: Nigeria http://www.africaneconomicoutlook.org/en/countries/west-africa/nigeria/
– French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs website http://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/fr/pays-zones-geo_833/nigeria_353/ presentation-du-nigeria_1008/index.html
– Perspective Monde, Sherbrooke University http://perspective.usherbrooke.ca/bilan/servlet/BMPays?codePays=NGA
– U.S. Department of State http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2836.htm