Meaning of NIGERIA, FLAG OF in English

vertically striped green-white-green national flag. Its width-to-length ratio is 1 to 2. From the late 17th century in what is today Nigeria, the British carried on slave trade with native states and eventually acquired protectorates over many of them. These states did not have national flags, and the diversity of ethnic groups and religions meant that there were no common symbols for the area. When the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria was established in 1914, its first governor-general, F.D. Lugard, chose an emblem to appear on various colonial flags. On a red disk he placed a green six-pointed star, which he referred to as the Seal of Solomon. The royal crown and the name Nigeria appeared within the star. Work toward independence led to the establishment of a national planning committee, which in 1958 called for a competition to select a national flag. Almost 3,000 designs were submitted, many of great complexity. The winning design was by Michael Taiwo Akinkunmi, a Nigerian student in London. In his flag of equal green-white-green vertical stripes, green stood for agriculture and white for unity and peace. The original design also included a red quarter sun on the white stripe as a symbol of divine protection and guidance, but this was omitted by the committee. The new national flag became official on independence day, October 1, 1960. It is typical that Nigeria, like many other culturally diverse countries, chose a simple flag design. A more complex design might have explicitly honoured some ethnic and religious groups while excluding others. Whitney Smith History Early Nigerian cultures The Nok culture Evidence of human occupation in Nigeria dates back thousands of years. The oldest skeleton found by archaeologists in the southwestern area of Iwo Eleru, near Akure, has dated to about 9000 BC. There are isolated collections of ancient tools and artifacts of different periods of the Stone Age, but the oldest recognizable evidence of an organized society belongs to the Nok culture (c. 500 BCc. AD 200). A series of accidental finds of fine terra-cotta figurines by tin miners on the Jos Plateau has revealed an ancient culture named for the village of Nok, where some of them were found. Initially Neolithic, the Nok culture made the transition to the Iron Age. Its people raised crops and cattle and seem to have paid particular attention to personal adornment, especially of the hair. Distinctive features of Nok art include naturalism; stylized treatment of the mouth and eyes; relative proportions of the human head, body, and feet; distortions of the human facial features; and the treatment of animal forms. The spread of Nok-type figures in a wide area south of the Jos Plateau, covering southern Kaduna state southeastward to Katsina Ala, south of the Benue River, suggests a well-established culture that left traces still identifiable in the lives of the Numan and other peoples of the area today. Many of the distinctive features of Nok art can also be traced in later developments of Nigerian art produced in such places as Igbo Ukwu, Ife, Esie, and Benin City. Igbo Ukwu The bronzes found at Igbo Ukwu, which have been dated to about AD 900, reveal not only a high artistic tradition but also a well-structured society with wide-ranging economic relationships. Of particular interest is the source of the copper and lead used to make the bronzes, which may have been Tadmekka in the Sahara, and of the coloured glass beads, which may have come from Venice. It is believed that the bronzes were part of the furniture in the burial chamber of a high personage, a priest-king, probably a forerunner of the Eze Nri, the king of Nri, a highly ritualistic monarchy that still survives in northern Igbo territory. Nri may have been influenced by the Igala and seems in turn to have exercised considerable influence in earlier times not only on the Igbo but also on the Igala and other peoples around the Niger-Benue confluence. The economy The Nigerian economy is one of the largest in Africa. Since the late 1960s, it has been based primarily on the petroleum industry. A series of world oil price increases from 1973 produced rapid economic growth in transportation, construction, manufacturing, and government services. Because this led to a great influx of rural people into the larger urban centres, agricultural production stagnated to such an extent that cash crops like palm oil, peanuts (groundnuts), and cotton were no longer significant export commodities; in addition, from about 1975 Nigeria was forced to import such basic commodities as rice and cassava for domestic consumption. This system worked well as long as revenues from petroleum remained constant, but since the late 1970s the agricultural sector has been in continuing crisis because of the fluctuating world oil market. Although much of the population remained engaged in farming, too little food was produced, requiring increasingly costly imports. The various governments (most of them military-run) have dealt with this problem by banning agricultural imports and by focusing, albeit briefly, on various agricultural and indigenization plans. In the late 1990s the government shifted its policy toward privatizing many state-run enterprisesespecially in communication, power, and transportationin order to enhance the quality of service and reduce dependence on the government. At the end of the 20th century, Nigeria continued to face an unsteady flow, which the government attempted to counter by borrowing from international sources, introducing various austerity measures, or doing both at the same time. As a result, an ever increasing share of the national budget was needed for debt repayment, which, with corruption dominating government operations, meant that very little of Nigeria's income was being spent on the people and their needs. Resources Nigeria has a variety of both renewable and nonrenewable resources, some of which have not yet been effectively tapped. Solar energy, probably the most extensive of the underutilized renewable resources, is likely to remain untapped for some time, and the vast reserves of natural gas produced with crude oil have yet to be fully exploited. Hydroelectricity from Nigeria's many rivers is not fully developed but provides nearly half of the country's power. The main sources of hydroelectric power are the Kainji, Shiroro, and Jebba dams. Thermal plants fired with natural gas and coal are at Igbin, Afam, Sapele, Lagos, and on the Oji River. Demand, however, always exceeds supply. Nigeria has no shortage of arable land, but there is an extreme shortage of farmland in the most densely settled districts of the southeastern states and around Kano, Katsina, and Sokoto. This has forced large numbers of land-hungry Igbo, Ibibio, and Hausa people to migrate to other parts of the country. Often, however, cultural traditions, such as the prohibition against selling family land, have restricted access to farmland in some localities that appear to have abundant cultivable land, and, in the far north, desertification has severely limited the land area available for cultivation. The most economically valuable minerals are crude oil, natural gas, coal, tin, and columbite (an iron-bearing mineral that accompanies tin). Petroleum, first discovered in 1956, is the most important source of government revenue and foreign exchange. Most of the oil output comes from onshore fields in the Niger delta, although an increasing proportion of the crude is produced at offshore locations. There are vast reserves of natural gas, but most of the gas produced is a by-product of crude oil; in the past this was burned off, as there was no market, but efforts have been made to utilize more of this commodity. Since 1984, oil companies have been required to reinject into the ground some of the natural gas produced in the course of pumping crude oil. Production has often been interrupted by protests, as the inhabitants of the oil-producing regions have demanded a larger share of the revenues. Coal and tin were the first minerals extracted, dating from the early colonial period. Coal mining declined after the late 1950s with the discovery of oil, but its production subsequently increased. Substantial coal reserves of varying quality can be found in south-central states in a band that stretches from Benin to Cameroon. Tin and columbite are found in the Jos Plateau; there are iron-ore deposits in the Lokoja area, which is close to the Ajaokuta steel complex in the lower Niger valley; and limestone occurs in many areas, where it is widely exploited for manufacturing cement and for use in the steel industry. The land Relief In general, the topography of Nigeria consists of plains in the north and south interrupted by plateaus and hills in the centre of the country. The Sokoto Plains are in the northwestern corner of the country, while the Borno Plains in the northeastern corner surround the Lake Chad region. The Lake Chad basin and the coastal areas, including the Niger River delta and the western parts of the Sokoto region in the far northwest, are underlain by soft, geologically young sedimentary rocks. Gently undulating plains, which become waterlogged during the rainy season, are found in these areas. The characteristic landforms of the plateaus are high plains with broad, shallow valleys dotted with numerous hills or isolated mountains; the underlying rocks are crystalline, although sandstones appear in river areas. The Jos Plateau rises almost in the centre of the country; it consists of extensive lava surfaces dotted with numerous extinct volcanoes and contains the peak of Shere Hill, which rises to an elevation of 5,843 feet (1,781 metres). Other eroded surfaces, such as the Udi-Nsukka escarpment, rise abruptly above the plains at elevations of at least 1,000 feet (300 metres). The most mountainous area exists along the southeastern border with Cameroon where the Cameroon Highlands produce the highest point in the country, Mount Dimlang, at 6,695 feet (2,042 metres). Drainage The major drainage areas in Nigeria consist of the Niger-Benue basin, the Lake Chad basin, and the South Atlantic or Gulf of Guinea basin. The Niger River, for which the country is named, and the Benue, its largest tributary, are the principal rivers. The Niger has many rapids and waterfalls, but the Benue is not interrupted by either and is navigable throughout its length except during the dry season. Rivers draining the area north of the Niger-Benue trough include the Sokoto, the Kaduna, the Gongola, and the rivers draining into Lake Chad. The coastal areas are drained by short rivers that flow into the Gulf of Guinea. River basin development projects have created many large man-made lakes, including Lake Kainji on the Niger and Lake Bakolori on the Rima. The Niger delta is a vast low-lying region through which the waters of the Niger River drain into the Gulf of Guinea. Oxbow lakes, river meander belts, and prominent levees are characteristic landforms in this region. Large freshwater swamps give way to brackish mangrove thickets near the seacoast. The people Ethnic composition There are an estimated 250 ethnic groups in Nigeria. Each group occupies a territory that it considers to be its own by right of first occupancy and inheritance. Individuals who are not members of a given group but who have lived and worked for several decades in the territory of the group are still considered to be aliens. In most rural areas, such aliens may not acquire outright title to land; yet considerable numbers of people have migrated from one ethnic territory to another in search of farmland. There are three major ethnic groups in the country: the Hausa-Fulani, the Yoruba, and the Igbo. The northern-dwelling Hausa, the most numerous group in the country, have become integrated with the smaller Fulani group, whose members conquered Hausaland in the early 19th century; the great majority of both groups are Muslims. Although town-dwelling Fulani intermarry freely with the Hausa and other groups, they continue to control the administration of the Hausa towns. The cattle-herding Fulani, who generally do not intermarry, speak the Fulani language of Fula rather than Hausa. Nearly as large and politically important as the Hausa are the Yoruba of southwestern Nigeria. They regard the city of Ile-Ife as their ancestral home, and the deity Oduduwa as their progenitor. Most Yoruba are urban farmers. Each Yoruba subgroup is ruled by a paramount chief, or oba, who is usually supported by a council of chiefs. The oni of Ife, who is the spiritual leader of the Yoruba, and the alafin of Oyo, who is their traditional political leader, are the most powerful rulers, and their influence is still acknowledged throughout the Yoruba areas. The third major ethnic group is the Igbo of southeastern Nigeria, of whose members live in small, decentralized and democratic settlements. The largest political unit is the village, which is ruled by a council of elders (chosen by merit and not heredity) rather than by a chief. A smaller proportion live in large towns and are culturally much closer to the Edo of neighbouring Benin City (in Edo state) than to the Igbo east of the lower Niger valley. Less numerous groups include the Ibibio, who live near the Igbo and share many of their cultural traits, and the Edo of Benin City, who, though influenced to a small degree by their Yoruba neighbours, created the important precolonial kingdom of Benin. In the middle belt, where the greatest concentration of ethnic groups (more than 180) occurs, the Tiv and the Nupe are the largest groups. Both are settled cultivators, but, while Nupe society is hierarchical, that of the Tiv tends to be decentralized. Linguistic composition The languages of Nigeria are classified into the three broad linguistic groups: Niger-Congo, Nilo-Saharan, and Afro-Asiatic. The huge Niger-Congo group is further subdivided into the Kwa subgroup, which is the largest and includes such languages as Yoruba, Edo, Ijo, Igbo, Igala, Idoma, Nupe, and Gwari; the West Atlantic subgroup, consisting most notably of Fula; the Benue-Congo subgroup, which includes Tiv, Jukun, and several languages of the Cross River basin such as Efik, Ibibio, Anang, Ekoi; and Adamawa, which includes Awak, Waja, Waka, and Tula. The Nilo-Saharan group is represented in Nigeria principally by Kanuri, although speakers of Bagirmi and Zerma are also present in the country. Afro-Asiatic is a much larger linguistic group and includes Hausa, Margi, and Bade, among others. Some peoples (such as the Fulani and the Tiv) are relatively recent immigrants, but based on modern linguistic research it is thought that the great majority of Nigerian languagesand specifically the Kwa subgrouphave been spoken in roughly the same locations for some 4,000 years. Hausa is the most widely spoken language in Nigeria because in 195167 it was an official language of the northern states, and the Hausa-Fulani have continued to dominate Nigerian politics. English is widely spoken, and Hausa and Pidgin are the most significant lingua francas. Many of the languages also exist in written form.

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