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We look at the challenges facing Nigerians as they prepare to vote

We look at the challenges facing Nigerians as they prepare to vote
Election officials stand in front of ballot papers in Lagos on February 22, 2023   -  
Copyright © africanews
JOHN WESSELS/AFP or licensors


Nigeria, which will elect its new president on Saturday, is the most populous country in Africa and one of the most dynamic on the continent, but it's also plagued by growing insecurity and worsening poverty.

More than 200 million inhabitants

Located in West Africa on the Atlantic Ocean, Nigeria is the most populous country on the continent with some 216 million inhabitants according to the UN (2022).

Nearly one in two Nigerians lives below the poverty line, according to the government.

Most estimates predict that by 2100 Nigeria will be the second most populous country in the world behind India. Lagos, the economic capital, will become the most populous city in the world, according to most estimates.

Nigeria has a total of 250 ethnic and linguistic groups, including three major ethnic groups: the predominantly Muslim Hausa (north), the predominantly Christian Igbo (southeast) and the Yoruba (southwest).

Islamic law was introduced in 2000 in twelve northern states (out of 36 in the country), provoking violence between Christians and Muslims.


Independent from the United Kingdom in 1960, Nigeria experienced its first coup just six years later, in January 1966.

On May 30, 1967, the southeastern Igbo-dominated region seceded, triggering the Biafra war which in three years killed more than a million people, mainly from famine.

After decades of military dictatorships, Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999.

Outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari, a former putschist general, was elected in 2015, during the country's first democratic alternation. Re-elected in 2019, he is not seeking a third term, in accordance with the Constitution.

Boko Haram and criminal gangs

The rebellion of the jihadist group Boko Haram since 2009 in the northeast has left 40,000 dead and more than two million displaced according to the UN. In 2014, the whole world was moved by the kidnapping of 276 high school girls in Chibok. Over a hundred remain missing.

Born from a split with Boko Haram in 2016, Iswap, affiliated with the Islamic State organisation, has become the dominant jihadist group in the northeast.

In recent years, a new front has opened up: in the northwest and centre, criminal gangs, which thrive on the antagonism between herders and farmers, operate with impunity in rural areas, attacking villages and carrying out kidnappings for ransom.

Insecurity and mass kidnappings have forced the authorities to close more than 11,000 schools since the end of 2020, contributing to a sharp increase in the number of out-of-school children (18.5 million in 2022, 60% of them girls), according to the Unicef.

Major oil producer

Faced with the widespread theft of crude oil, Nigeria temporarily lost its place as Africa's leading oil producer in favour of Angola in the third quarter of 2022, before returning to the top according to the latest OPEC figures.

Its 2023 budget provides for a resumption of its production at 1.69 million barrels of crude per day, a level below the quota of 1.8 million barrels set by the Organization.

The Covid-19 pandemic plunged the economy of Africa's most populous country into recession in mid-2020, a first in four years. Nigeria is now suffering the fallout from the war in Ukraine, with inflation above 20% in particular.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasts GDP growth of 3.2% in 2023, after 3% in 2022.

Nigeria is plagued by corruption, ranked 154th out of 180 in this area by Transparency International (2021).

Nollywood and afropop

Nigeria is the cradle of a musical genre that ignites the planet, Afrobeats. Its stars, like Burna Boy or Wizkid, fill the biggest concert halls in the world.

The country has major authors, such as Wole Soyinka, the first African to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986, Chinua Achebe, author of the cult novel "The world is collapsing", who died in 2013, or the world icon of feminism Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

"Nollywood", the film industry, is quantitatively the second in the world, behind Bollywood, with a production of more than 2,000 films per year. It floods the African market with romantic comedies and brought in $660 million in revenue to the country in 2021, or 2.3% of GDP.

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