So much has been said and written about Nigeria’s economic state after 100 years of its existence; however this research intends to briefly highlight the key areas of progression and regression experienced during the period in review.

On the 1st of January 1914, Sir Lord Frederick Lugard merged the Northern and Southern Protectorates of Nigeria together as one political entity and ruled as the Governor General therein until the year 1919. Nigeria became a British Colony and was governed using indirect rule through the existing African rulers up until the 1st of October 1960.

At the time, Nigeria was rich in agricultural and natural resources such as rubber, cocoa, palm products, groundnut, cotton, rice, cassava, yam, guinea corn, maize, citrus fruits and solid minerals like coal, tin and columbite, iron, limestone etc. Cocoa, groundnut and palm products were of particular importance, and were exported to Europe. Palm products were used for the production of soap and as lubricants for machinery – this was before petroleum products were developed for that purpose. This amalgamation was to enable Britain exploit and control Nigeria’s vast resources for their economic interests and not for the economic development of Nigeria.

The discovery of crude oil at Oloibiri, Niger Delta in 1956, led to a shift of interest from agricultural raw materials and other natural resources to the heavy dependence on crude oil and its byproducts as the dominant source of exports.

National History

Nigeria gained its independence from Britain on the 1st of October 1960, and became a Federal Republic on the 1st of October 1963. However, the period following independence was wrought with political turbulence and struggle for power leading to the military intervention through a coup d’état in 1966. This led to a series of military coup and counter coup plots and finally the civil war.

In May 1967, Yakubu Gowon’s divided the 4 regions of Nigeria into 12 states by decree, without proper consultation, and the Eastern region under Lt. Col. Ojukwu decided to break away from the country by creating their own state ‘Biafra.’ After failing to resolve the problems between the Eastern region and the rest of the country, the government resolved to bring the region back by force – leading to the start of the civil war.

On the 6th of July 1967, the civil war began and lasted 30 months until the 15th of January 1970 with thousands of lives and properties lost. This war caused further division and tribalism to escalate between eastern Nigeria and the rest of the country.

Nigeria was under Military administration for 30 years (covering 8 regimes) beginning in 1966 with a return to civilian rule between the 4th and 5th regimes from 1st of October 1979 and 31st of December 1983. Military rule ended on the 29th of May 1999 and was replaced by a democratically elected government.

The table below lists the names of past leaders from 1914 till 2014:

Name Governing Period Designation
Sir Lord Frederick Lugard 1 Jan 1914 – 8 Aug 1919 Governor General
Sir Hugh Clifford 8 Aug 1919 – 13 Nov 1925 Governor
Sir Graeme Thomson 13 Nov 1925 – 17 Jun 1931 Governor
Sir Donald Charles Cameron 17 Jun 1931 – 1 Nov 1935 Governor
Sir Bernard Henry Bourdillon 1 Nov 1935 – 1 Jul 1940 Governor
Sir John Evelyn Shuckburgh 1 Jul 1940 – 1942 Governor
Sir Alan Cuthbert Maxwell Burns 1942 – 18 Dec 1943 Governor
Sir Arthur Frederick Richards 18 Dec 1943 – 5 Feb 1948 Governor
Sir John Stuart Macpherson 5 Feb 1948 – 1 Oct 1955 Governor General
Sir James Robertson 15 Jun 1955 – 1960 Governor General
Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa 30 Aug 1957 – 15 Jan 1966 Prime Minister
Nnamdi Azikiwe 1 Oct 1960 – 16 Jan 1963 President of the Republic
Johnson Thomas Umurakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi 16 Jan 1966 – 29 Jul 1966 Head of the Military Government
Yakubu Gowon 1 Aug 1966 – 29 Jul 1975 Head of the Military Government
Murtala Ramat Muhammed 29 Jul 1975 – 13 Feb 1976 Head of the Military Government
Olusegun Obasanjo 14 Feb 1976 – 1 Oct 1979 Head of the Military Government
Alhaji Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari 1 Oct 1979 – 31 Dec 1983 President of the Republic
Muhammadu Buhari 31 Dec 1983 – 27 Aug 1985 Head of the Federal Military Government
Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida 27 Aug 1985 – 4 Jan 1993 Chairman of the Armed Forces Ruling Council. Chairman of the National Defence and Security Council
Ernest Shonekan 26 Aug 1993 – 17 Nov 1993 Head of the Interim National Government
Sani Abacha 17 Nov 1993 – 8 Jun 1998 Chairman of the Provisional Ruling Council
Abdulsalam Abubakar 9 Jun 1998 – 29 May 1999 Chairman of the Provisional Ruling Council
Olusegun Obasanjo 29 May 1999 – 29 May 2007


President of the Republic
Umaru Musa Yar’Adua 29 May 2007 – 5 May 2010 President of the Republic
Goodluck Jonathan 6 May 2010 till present date President of the Republic


Highlights of successful, failed and attempted coup plots are shown in the table below:

Year Coup
15 Jan 1966 First military coup by Maj Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu
29 July 1966 Counter coup by Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon
July 1975 Murtala Muhammed topples Gowon in military coup
13 Feb1976 Murtala Muhammed killed in a failed military coup led by Lt-Col Bukur Suka Dimka
31 Dec 1983 Gen. Muhammadu Buhari topples Shagari in a coup
27 Aug 1985 Gen. Ibrahim Babangida ousts Buhari in military coup
1986/7 Failed military coup led by Maj. Gen Mamman Vatsa
22 Apr 1990 Failed military coup led by Maj. Gideon Orkar
1993 Gen Sani Abacha seizes power from Shonekan
1995 Government announces aborted ‘coup’ against Abacha

Challenges to Economic Development

Numerous challenges to progress exist but the government can set Nigeria on the path of development by:

Reviving the Agricultural Sector:  Pre amalgamation and up until the discovery of oil in 1956 by Shell BP, agriculture was the highest contributor to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product and the highest employer of labor. However, since the discovery of crude oil, this sector was neglected and left to be managed by few subsistence farmers. The youth no longer saw working in the rural areas as lucrative and migrated to the urban areas in search of white-collar jobs. This led to an increase in unemployment and the underdevelopment of the agricultural sector. The government can boost revenues and job creation in the agricultural sector by providing farmers with loan facilities, assist with environmental problems (such as erosion, land degradation, water supply and the use of fertilizers), education on new technologies and improved processing and storage for raw materials, mechanization etc.

Encouraging New Industries and Local Manufacturing: We are overly dependent on imported consumer goods because the few industries available are either under-utilized or producing substandard items. The government can encourage home grown ‘local’ industries by creating loan facilities and ensuring a steady supply of electricity and water for production purposes. With an abundance of natural resources and solid minerals, Nigeria needs to take advantage of their availability and work towards exporting more products than it imports. This will also translate to a reduction in the rate of unemployment as skilled people will be absorbed into the new industries.

Providing Infrastructural Facilities: A vast majority of the infrastructures built during the military regime were badly maintained and left to dilapidate. The condition of our state owned hospitals are appalling; and over the years, this has led to our trained doctors and nurses relocating abroad in search of greener pastures. We need to invest in new testing and diagnostic equipment, and ensure our doctors and medical practitioners are well trained and paid appropriate wages to discourage incessant strike actions and encourage the use of local hospitals as opposed to expensive overseas medical facilities.

Most of our roads are badly maintained and make it difficult to move raw materials from the rural farmlands to the urban sector; thereby discouraging the creation of industries in the rural sector. Accidents have also been on the rise. Rail network also needs to be developed to reduce the congestion on the roads and provide an alternative means of transporting raw materials and processed goods.

The tariffs set for communication are still on the high side and need to be reduced especially for local calls. The use of our water-ways for transportation can be greatly encouraged by investing in new vessels and boats while ensuring that safe practices are carried out to reduce loss of lives. Air travel is another area that needs significant work done. Other than being expensive, most of our aircrafts are old and should be scrapped. The aviation sector needs to be reviewed to ensure safety for the people.

Education: Our universities and colleges do not focus on teaching skill-based courses and as a result, a lot of graduates come into the labor market with no clear direction or career path. Even with unemployment on the rise, most graduates are unable to embark on skill acquisition and the creation of small businesses without financial backing or the availability of resources. Also with incessant strike actions disrupting the academic calendar and the exorbitant fees charged by the private universities; it is no wonder that most of our teenagers and youth relocate abroad for proper education with very few returning back to the country. The Universal Basic Education Act which compels free and compulsory primary education must be enforced.

Poverty Eradication: The standard of living for all Nigerians can be improved as well as poverty eradicated because the country has enough wealth and natural resources to combat poverty if properly distributed/allocated. As earlier stated, an improvement in the creation of local industries as well as a boost in the agricultural sector can greatly encourage the creation of small and medium scale enterprises. With steady power supply, water supply, improved education and availability of short to long term loans – poverty can be a thing of the past.

Production of Steady Electricity: Recent developments saw the privatization of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria on the 1st of November 2013. With an explosion in population growth, we see that the demand for electricity in Nigeria exceeds its supply and as a result, the country experiences blackouts on a daily basis. The government needs to research and invest in alternative sources of generating electricity (renewable energy) such as solar power (solar panels used to convert the sun‛s energy into electricity), wind (wind turbines – used to turn windmills to grind wheat into flour), micro-hydro (use of running water – building dams across lakes or rivers in a valley to generate electricity) etc. Big businesses struggle to break even when the bulk of their profit is used in purchasing diesel and petrol for generating electricity. This struggle is doubled for small businesses and results in the closure of many businesses. The country can hardly attract foreign investors when power supply is below average. Strong consideration should be given to the use of renewable energy for generating electricity in the country.

Petroleum Resources: With a maximum crude oil production capacity of 2.5 million barrels per day, Nigeria ranks as Africa’s largest producer of oil and the sixth largest oil producing country in the world. However, the wealth derived from petroleum resources has been badly mismanaged to the detriment of the Nigerian people. More than 200,000 barrels of oil is lost daily due to pipeline vandalism, crude oil theft and spillage. Drilling companies are not held 100% accountable for their bad practices and as a result, the people and the land suffer. The oil and gas sector accounts for about 35% of gross domestic product and about 70% of total exports revenue, yet the income generated from the sale of oil has not led to significant growth in the country.

To encourage growth in the economy, revenue from the sale of oil should be invested back in the land. Most of our refineries are performing below capacity majorly due to corruption and the use of less than efficient refining methods. We need to stop refining our oil abroad and build new refineries across the country. The long term benefit would be retaining all the revenue locally as compared to heavy charges paid in sending the crude oil abroad and bringing the processed oil back. Oil wealth should be used to develop and diversify the economy and not used for personal gain.

Corruption and Corrupt Practices: This has been the norm from colonial era till date. Corruption in Nigeria revolves around oil export and generated revenue. To experience true unity as a state, the government needs to revamp and set up binding anti-corruption laws and tribunals to checkmate corrupt practices especially within the government. Until this has been done we will never experience true federalism.

Security: Post independence, Nigeria has experienced an increase in armed robberies, violence as a result of the misuse of land and resources in oil producing areas, communal violence between majority and minority tribes, religious riots, political violence etc. An insecure country will not attract foreign investors. The government needs to put advanced measures in place to tackle the security challenge as the police no longer have the capacity to tackle insecurity on their own. National insecurity can lead to the disintegration of the country and should be taken seriously. Development and proper investment by the government to the growth of the country can greatly alleviate most of the problems resulting in violence.

Prospects: Looking to the Future

History has shown that the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates never truly united us as a people; rather it created barriers to unity, rivalry, encouraged division, fostered tribalism and led to disparity in development.

Unity can only be truly achieved when people come together with a common goal and strive to improve on their circumstances and practices. Tribalism and religious fights have to stop. The issues affecting the educational sector have to be resolved. Agriculture has to be revived. Dependence on imported goods has to be curbed in order to encourage locally produced goods.

The government can encourage local industries and create an enabling environment for foreign direct investment by boosting the state of the economy. When basic infrastructure like roads and hospitals, availability of constant electricity, improved ease of doing business, efficient management of resources etc. it would also encourage investors to make use of Nigeria’s abundant natural resources and available manpower.

After 100 years as an administrative entity and 54 years as an independent country, Nigeria still has room for growth and development despite all the setbacks it experienced since amalgamation. The government and its citizens can work together to establish long lasting change if they truly come together as one – united through the good and the bad.