State and politics
Nigeria is Africa's most populous state and, along with
South Africa, the continent's largest economy, thanks in
large part to rich natural resources in the form of oil and
natural gas. However, since independence, the country has
been largely characterized by political concerns, coups,
military dictatorships and widespread corruption.
According to the Constitution, Nigeria is a federal,
democratic presidential state. The president is elected for
four years in general elections and is head of state,
commander-in-chief and head of government. To be elected
president, a candidate must receive the majority of the
total number of votes and at least a quarter of the vote in
at least two-thirds of the states. All 36 states must be
represented by at least one government minister appointed by
the president. Also see AbbreviationFinder for abbreviation of NI and its meanings of Nigeria.
The National Assembly has the legislative power and
consists of two chambers: the Senate and the House of
Representatives. The Senate has 109 members, three from each
of the 36 states and one representing the metropolitan area.
The 360 members of the House of Representatives are
elected by majority vote in one-man constituencies. The term
of office of both chambers is four years.
The states are governed by a people-elected governor and
have a legislative chamber.
Political and military power has traditionally been
located in the north, while economic power has its center in
the south. Nigeria is an extremely heterogeneous country
with severe ethnic, religious and regional tensions, which
caused a devastating civil war in 1967-70 (see Biafra). In
addition, internal conflicts intensified during the 1980s
due to a stagnant economy. The lack of political stability
has led Nigeria to have been a military dictatorship for
most of the time after independence. Civilian,
democratically elected governments have had Nigerians
1960-66 and 1979-83 and since 1999.
Following the sudden death of dictator Sani Abacha in
1998, a military provisional government implemented a swift
transition to civilian rule. The result of the general
elections held under military rule in 1997 was canceled, the
parties approved by the military dissolved and other
militarily dominated political institutions were dissolved.
Since the reign of civilian government in 1999 and former
junta leader Olusegun Obasanjo was elected president,
Nigeria has had a number of difficult problems to contend
with. The ethnic and religious contradictions between the
south and the north, which were partially suppressed under
the military rule, have increased to a greater extent,
especially since several states of the north have introduced
sharia, Islamic law. Ethnic rivalry, usually linked to
competition for scarce financial resources, has led to
bloody conflicts in several states.
During the 2000s, a conflict with particularly serious
economic consequences occurred in the oil producing areas of
the Niger Delta. A large number of kidnappings by foreign
personnel and armed attacks on the oil companies' facilities
have periodically led to sharply reduced production.
In the 2010s, the militant Islamist group Boko Haram
committed a long series of bloody terrorist attacks, and the
2015 presidential election was postponed due to the group's
military success in the northeastern part of the country.
Widespread corruption and repeated gross election fraud have
eroded confidence in the democratic system. At the same
time, however, Nigeria, by virtue of its economic strength,
has been able to take a position as a language conduit for
the whole of Africa and has a prominent role as mediator in
conflicts around the continent.
Nigerian politics has been dominated by the People's
Democratic Party (PDP), which has been in office since
1999. In the 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011 elections, the party
gained a majority in both the Senate and the House of
Representatives. All three presidents in 1999–2015 also
represented the PDP. Obasanjo was re-elected in 2003 in a
choice where cheating occurred, although it was not
considered to affect the outcome. Prior to the 2007
elections, the Senate stopped attempts to change the
constitution so that Obasanjo could stand for a third term.
He was succeeded by Umaru Yar'Adua, who received just under
70 percent of the vote. This time too, the choice was
surrounded by suspicions of cheating.
Yar'Adua died in 2010 after a period of illness, during
which it was uncertain who really had the power. Vice
President Goodluck Jonathan eventually took over and he was
sworn in as president when Yar'Adua passed away. When
Jonathan announced before the 2011 elections that he
intended to stand, he withdrew the informal agreement within
the PDP that the presidential post should be held eight
years at a time by someone from Northern and Southern
Nigeria, respectively. Jonathan received 59 percent of the
vote already in the first round, defeating his toughest
competitor, former Major General Military dictator Muhammadu
Buhari, which in 1983-85 ruled Nigeria as a military
dictator. He had the strongest support in the Muslim
northern parts, while Jonathan had his power base in the
Christian south. Violent crows erupted in the north since
the election results were published.
In 2015, Buhari succeeded in his fourth attempt to be
elected president. He thus became the first in the country's
history to defeat a sitting president in an election. Buhari
is also the first president since the return to civilian
government in 1999 that does not represent the PDP, but the
All Progressives Congress (APC). The APC also took
over the majority in both chambers of the National Assembly.
The 2015 elections were postponed by six weeks, according
to the government and the army because security in the
northwest, where Boko Haram reached territorial success,
could not be guaranteed. Although some irregularities were
reported, the election was judged fair. A contributing
reason for this was that the country's electoral commission
implemented reforms that hamper electoral fraud. The fact
that a challenger to the incumbent president has been
declared a electoral winner, and that Goodluck Jonathan
accepted the election results, indicates that Nigeria has
taken significant steps in its democratic development.
In the 2019 elections, the PDP lined up with former Vice
President Atiku Abubakar (born 1946). However, he had to be
defeated by President Buhari, who captured 56 percent of the
vote against Abubakar's 41 percent. The election was
canceled at the last moment by the electoral authority,
which had difficulty getting material to all polling
stations, and was held a week later than was actually
intended. Election Day and the days before were violent in
many places with dozens of deaths.
Nigeria, along with South Africa, is Africa's most
influential country. It advocates for a Western foreign
policy and is a member of the UN, the Commonwealth
(suspended 1995–99), the African Union (AU), OPEC and the
West African Economic Cooperation Organization ECOWAS.
The legal system in Nigeria is still based on English
legal traditions, in combination with domestic legislation
and customary law. In each state there is a High Court,
whose decisions can be appealed to a federal appellate court
and further to the Supreme Court. In some parts of the
country, there are also Islamic courts and special courts of
customary law. The death penalty is punished for some
Nigeria is characterized by ethnic, religious and
regional conflicts, and since the fall of the military
dictatorship, conflicts based on religion and/or ethnicity
have increased. In many parts of the country there are
extensive riots with violent clashes between Muslims and
Christians with large groups of internal refugees as a
Poverty and corruption are widespread, especially in the
oil-rich Niger Delta. Police corruption is a serious problem
and reports show that the police routinely require bribes by
crime victims to investigate crimes and by suspects to shut
down investigations. The Nigerian police have also been
involved in repeated violations of human rights, including
extrajudicial executions, torture, arbitrary arrests and
Several regions have introduced sharia laws. Although the
regions claim that the law applies only to Muslims, the
non-Muslim population believes that they are also affected
by the law, partly by limiting women's right to move freely
in society. The Sharia-based criminal laws in the northern
regions criminalize the consent of homosexual behavior with
impunity, imprisonment or death by stoning. Throughout the
country, male homosexuality is prohibited and the punishment
is usually prison. The risk of reprisals and social stigma
means that homosexuals are forced to hide their attitudes.
The north-eastern parts of the country are also affected by
the Islamist terror group Boko Haram, which has destroyed
several villages and killed thousands of people.
Freedom of information and press freedom in Nigera is
limited, partly because of Boko Haram's ravages. The
government does not allow the media to report freely on
security issues, while using propaganda to make the
situation in the country seem less serious. In addition,
independent media are often exposed to threats and violence.
In Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index for 2015,
Nigeria is ranked 111 out of 180 countries surveyed.
Since 1999, there has been no nationwide welfare or
health care system. Many hospitals lack adequate medical
staff and medicines are a scarcity. The most difficult
situation is the rural situation.
Child labor is extensive despite prohibitions in law. The
sectors that children are utilized in are everything from
housework and street sales to mineral mining. It is also
common for children to be exploited for begging and sex
trafficking. Crimes such as abuse and sexual abuse of
children and women are major social problems but are rarely
reported due to prevailing social norms and the risk of
Heads of State
||Murtala Ramat Mohammed