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Think Nigeria is all about traffic jams, internet scams and Boko Haram? Wrong! This fascinating and diverse country is so much more than that. The following tidbits about Nigeria’s history, wildlife, people, and places might raise your eyebrows and make you reconsider what you thought you knew about the country.

The floating shantytown of Makoko, near Lagos, Nigeria (Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung / Flickr)

1. One-Fifth of Sub-Saharan Africa’s Population Lives There

Of the estimated one billion people that live in sub-Saharan Africa, 168 million of them are in Nigeria. And it’s rapidly growing. By the year 2050, researchers estimate that the population will reach a whopping 440 million. 50% of Nigerians live in cities, most notably greater Lagos, which has between 17 and 20 million residents.

A Hesperus Swallowtail butterfly on a 1982 Nigerian stamp (Boris15 / Shutterstock)

2. It’s Famous for Butterflies

The area around Calabar, one of Nigeria’s regional hubs, contains the world’s largest diversity of butterflies. A good way to see them is to tour Cross River National Park, where over 300 species live, including the gorgeous Papilio monachus, the unusual blue Iolaus iasis, and the newly-discovered Tetrahanis okwangwo.

Films from Nigeria (Paul Keller / Flickr)

Films from Nigeria (Paul Keller / Flickr)

3. Nollywood is HUGE

Nigeria’s film industry is the second-largest in the world. Only India’s film industry(known as “Bollywood”) is larger. Nollywood is even larger in output than Hollywood, with over 100 releases every year.

Hausa-language Bible (Shutterstock)


4. Diversity of  Languages

With over 500 languages, Nigeria is home to seven percent (7%) of the all languages spoken on earth. Taraba state alone has more languages than 30 other African countries combined. The most common native languages are Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba, Ibibio, Edo, Fulfulde, and Kanuri, while the most common non-native language is English. English is widely spoken in urban areas and by educated elites, but in rural parts of the country it is not spoken, or “pidgin” English (a blend of English and native languages) is spoken.

The Walls of Benin City (www.abovetopsecret.com)

5. The Walls of Benin

Depending on which source you cite, the ancient Walls of Benin are the largest or second-largest man-made structure on earth (after the Great Wall of China). Located in present day Benin City (in Edo State), this series of stone walls, earthen ramparts, and deep moats is 16,000 km long and spread over an area of 6500 sq km. It was built between 800 and 1400 AD to protect the royal precinct of the Oba (king).

National Mosque, Abuja (Photo by Kipp Jones, Wikimedia Commons)

6. The country is half Muslim and half Christian

Islam is practiced by 48.8% of the population, while Christians constitute 50.8%. The majority of Muslims are in the north and east, and Christians tend to be in the south and west. Among Christians, 24.8% are Catholic, 74.1% are Protestant, and 0.9% belong to other denominations.

The Third Mainland Bridge, Lagos, Nigeria (Zouzou Wizman, flickr)

7. It’s Got Africa’s Longest Bridge

The 11.8km (5-mile) long Third Mainland Bridge connects Lagos Island to the mainland. It starts at Oworonshoki on the Lagos mainland, and ends at Adeniji-Adele interchange on Lagos Island.


8. You Might Have a Hard Time With “Pidgin” English And Local Slang

Many people speak English in Nigeria, but you may not understand it. Pidgin English uses English as its base, but it has lots of colloquialisms and local slang woven through it. For example, the term “010” means to skip breakfast and dinner but eat lunch, while “101” means to skip lunch but to eat breakfast and dinner.



9. Twins are Everywhere

If you find yourself doing double-takes every few minutes in Nigeria, don’t worry, you’re not seeing things. Nigeria, and in particular the Yoruba community, has a higher incidence of twin births than anywhere else in the world (5% of all deliveries). Scientists are not entirely sure why, but one theory is that yams, which are a dietary staple in Yoruba culture, boost estrogen production and thus increase fertility.


10. Nigerians Love Champagne

Bubbly is seriously popular in Nigeria: in 2013 the beverage retailer Shoprite reportedly sold more Moet & Chandon champagne in its seven Nigerian branches than it did in its 600 South African stores combined. This is most likely due to Nigeria’s growing wealth: a recent survey ranked Lagos third in Africa (after Johannesburg and Cairo) in terms of number of millionaires per capita. These nouveau rich love to spend their money on cars, clothes, and, apparently, booze.

Niger River (wikimedia commons)

Niger River (wikimedia commons)

11. Longest River

Although the river itself rises in the highlands of Guinea before skirting through Mali and Niger, Nigeria is home to most of the Niger River, which is the longest river in West Africa at 4,180km (and the third longest in Africa). It empties into the Gulf of Guinea after spreading its rich soil through the Niger Delta (where it joins up with the Benue River).



12. Some of the oldest humans

Archaeological evidence indicates that humans lived in Nigeria as far back as 9000 BC, making it one of the oldest spots on earth for human settlement. The Nok civilisation (500 BC – 200 AD) is the oldest known civilisation in Nigeria.

Port Harcourt port with Oil Tanker (wikipedia)

Port Harcourt port with Oil Tanker (wikipedia)

13. Oil rich/poor

Nigeria is the 12th largest crude oil producer in the world (and the largest in Africa), and the 18th largest exporter. Export of petroleum accounts for around 85% of the government’s revenue. Oil was only discovered in 1956, and today Port Harcourt is at the forefront of the oil industry in Nigeria. You would think this would make for a fabulously wealthy nation, like Saudi Arabia, but sadly the oil wealth has not trickled down to the average Nigerian and the inhabitants of the Niger Delta are some of the poorest in the country.

Wikimedia Commons


14. What’s in a name?

Nigeria takes its name from the River Niger, which flows through the country. Its official name is the Federal Republic of Nigeria.


business man cell phone


15. Mobile phone love affair

There are over 120 million mobile phone subscribers in Nigeria, although many people will have two or three subscriptions to deal with the terrible service. At any rate, this number puts if far ahead of any other country in Africa (Egypt has 93 million). Dare we say Nigerians love to talk?

Nigerian-Wedding-Songs-FAB-Magazine (7)

16. Party! Party! Party!

If you’ve never been to a Nigerian party…you should probably add that to your bucket list! The first step would be getting a Nigerian friend (we’re everywhere…shouldn’t be too difficult). Until you’ve experienced what it’s like to begin a party at 6pm (scheduled for 4pm) till you the venue forces you to leave….you haven’t lived! Nigerians take pride in their culture, and the fellowship (party) that takes place after church, a wedding, or just a get together is truly remarkable. Bring your dancing shoes, and be prepared to meet a lot of “Aunties & Uncles”


17. Happy People

According to research done every year, Nigerians consistently rank high as some of the worlds happiest, most optimistic and hopeful people! The country is certainly no disneyland, however, after seeing and living through some of life’s worst…hope is what keeps them moving forward. Not sure what Forbes was thinking….but good thing they aren’t considered people experts…stick to numbers! Now see below!

18. Billionaires

Of the 9 black billionaires in the 2014 Forbes list, 4 are Nigerian.

*A painting by Nigerian born Bimbo Adenuga

19. Everything Else

* Ebola Free – That’s right! The World Health Organization has declared Nigeria free of the virus.

* Music Industry – Nigeria is the dominant voice in African entertainment.

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