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A Look at Nigeria: History, Health Care, and the People

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Nigeria is a country in sub-Sahara Africa (south of the Sahara), located next to the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa and bordered by the countries of Chad, Cameroon, Niger, and The Republic of Benin (Infoplease.com, 2008 & Wikipedia, 2010). Composed of thirty-six states, Nigeria can be compared to twice the size of California. With a population of approximately 140 million people, it is the most populated country in Africa and the tenth most populous country in the world (Westoff & Bankole, 2002).

Nigeria has a varied landscape: a 500 mile coastline of sandy beaches on the Gulf of Guinea with lagoons and mangrove swamps lined behind it, a tropical rainforest climate in the south contrasted by a desert-like climate in the far north, rugged highland with mountains and valleys in the southwest, and savannahs (flat grassland) between the far south and far north. The name Nigeria originates from the Niger River, which runs through the entire country.

The British discovered oil in the Niger Delta region in the 1950s, which is now the largest industry in Nigeria and brings the government 80% of its revenues and 90% of its foreign exchange earnings. However, political instability, ethnic conflicts, and corruption have been associated with Nigerian oil since its discovery (discussed later) (Wikipedia, 2010).

Before 1500 and up to the1800s, what is now Nigeria (and extending into other parts of Africa) consisted of four different empires ruled by monarchies: Northern Empire, Calabar Kingdom, Oduduwa Empire, and Benin Empire. In the 1800's the British began residing in parts of these empires and in 1914, Nigeria was formed into 4 colonial provinces and formally became a British protectorate. Not until the middle 1950's did a constitution form that elevated the four provinces into three self -governing regions; and in 1960, Nigeria gained independence from Britain, became a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, and joined the United Nations as its 99th member. By 1964, Nigeria had formed army units but unrest in the military resulted in 2 coups. In 1966, the Igbo ethnic group from southeast Nigeria, led by General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, overthrew the central and regional governments, killed the prime minister, took control of the federal system and replaced it with Igbo advisors as a central government. In the same year, a northern military government was formed that revolted against the new government and the military army chief of staff, General Yakubu Gowon was appointed head of the new military regime. General Gowon split the four regions of Nigeria into 12 states; the Eastern Region military revolted and declared the Eastern Region an independent republic called Biafra. A civil war broke out in 1967 between all of Nigeria and Biafra due to ethnic, cultural, economic, and religious tensions, with over 1 million people dying by 1970 when Biafra finally surrendered. In 1991, the capital of Nigeria was officially moved from Lagos to Abuja and the rest of the 36 Nigerian states were formed.

Since the civil war, Nigeria has experienced continuous discord due to land, ethnic and religious differences. In 1992, over 3000 people were killed in clashes between Christians and Muslims in the north. In the areas where the oil is plentiful, many environmental and economic feuds took place between large oil companies, the Nigerian government, and Nigerian local citizens predominantly in the mid-late 1900's, resulting in leadership takeovers, mass violence and executions.

Nigeria has continued to suffer from continuous struggles over

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