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Nigeria, republic in western Africa, with a coast along the Atlantic Ocean on the Gulf of Guinea. Most of Nigeria consists of a low plateau cut by rivers, especially the Niger and its largest tributary, the Benue. The country takes its name from its chief river. Until 1991, the capital was the largest city, Lagos, on the southwestern coast; at that time, the city of Abuja, in the country’s interior, became capital. Nigeria is by far the most populated of Africa’s countries, with more than one-seventh of the continent’s people. The people belong to many different ethnic groups.

Nigeria has a federal form of government and is divided into 36 states and a federal capital territory. The country’s official name is the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Lagos, along the coast, is the largest city and the country’s economic and cultural center, but Abuja, a city in the interior planned and built during the 1970s and 1980s, is the capital. The government moved from Lagos to Abuja in 1991 in the hope of creating a national capital where none of the country’s ethnic groups would be dominant.

Nigeria long had an agricultural economy but now depends almost entirely on the production of petroleum, which lies in large reserves below the Niger Delta. While oil wealth has financed major investments in the country’s infrastructure, Nigeria remains among the world’s poorest countries in terms of per capita income.

INDEPENDENCE:Nigeria achieved independence in 1960 but has since been plagued by unequal distribution of wealth and ineffective, often corrupt governments.

POPULATION: There are 138,283,240 people living in Nigeria.