Nigeria, commonly known as the giant of Africa with more than 150 million people is the most populous country in Africa. With one of the biggest democracies in the world and a presidential system of government, it has a dual economy, based on its rich natural resources, traditional agriculture and the trade sector. It not only shows high potential in human resources but also is endowed with rich natural resources such as oil, gas and minerals. The country aims to develop other productive sectors, boosted by the size of its population and economy, it is a regional powerhouse.
The country has a rich land of diverse cultural heritage, with more than 250 ethnic groups, a wide array of religions and sophisticated visual arts. The talent, creativity found in its festivals, music, sculptures, literature and films are well known all over the world.
Nigeria Location in Africa
Nigeria is located at the extreme inner corner of the Gulf of Guinea on the west coast of Africa and lies between latitudes 3°15’ to 13°30’ N and longitudes 2°59’ to 15°00’ E. On the south, it is bordered by Gulf of Guinea, on the west and north, it is bordered by the Republics of Benin and Niger respectively, and on the east, it adjoins the Cameroon Republic. Nigeria has a land area of 923, 768 km2 in which land comprises 910, 768 km2 and water accounts for 13, 000 km2. Its greatest length from North to South is 1, 046 km, and its maximum breadth from East to West is 1,127 km with a total boundary length of 4,900 km, of which 853 km is coastline. Comparatively, the area occupied by Nigeria is slightly more than twice the size of the state of California in the United States of America and almost twice that of France.
Nigeria Weather and Climate
Nigeria has a tropical climate with variable rainy and dry seasons, depending on location. It is hot and wet most of the year in the southeast but dry in the southwest and farther inland. A savanna climate, with marked wet and dry seasons, prevails in the north and west, while a steppe climate with little precipitation is found in the far north. In general, the length of the rainy season decreases from south to north. In the south, the rainy season lasts from March to November, whereas in the far north it lasts only from mid- May to September. A marked interruption in the rains occurs during August in the south, resulting in a short dry season often referred to as the “August break.” Precipitation is heavier in the south, especially in the southeast, which receives more than 120 inches (3,000 mm) of rain a year, compared with about 70 inches (1,800 mm) in the southwest. Rainfall decreases progressively away from the coast; the far north receives no more than 20 inches (500 mm) a year.
Nigeria Temperatures and Humidity
Temperature and humidity remain relatively constant throughout the year in the south, while the seasons vary considerably in the north; during the northern dry season, the daily temperature range becomes great as well. On the coast, the mean monthly maxi- mum temperatures are steady throughout the year, remaining about 90 °F (32 °C) at Lagos and about 91 °F (33 °C) at Port Harcourt; the mean monthly minimum temperatures are approximately 72 °F (22 °C) for Lagos and 68 °F (20 °C) for Port Harcourt. In general, mean maximum temperatures are higher in the north, while mean minimum temperatures are lower. In the northeastern city of Maiduguri, for example, the mean monthly maximum temperature may exceed 100 °F (38 °C) during the hot months of April and May, while in the same season frosts may occur at night. The humidity generally is high in the north, but it falls during the harmattan (the hot, dry northeast trade wind), which blows for more than three months in the north but rarely for more than two weeks along the coast.
In Nigeria, vegetation closely follows the pattern of rainfall. The main vegetation patterns run in broad east-west belts, parallel to the Equator. Forests and grasslands are the major vegetation types. Forests are found to the south where rain- fall is high and also along river courses in the north – called gallery forests. Three major types of forests are recognisable. The mangrove swamp forest is found within the Niger Delta and in the Cross River Delta. The mangrove forests of Nigeria are the most extensive forests of this type in the world. The environment of this forest is brackish while the most common tree is the red mangrove which grows to a height of about 20 m. Immediately after mangrove swamp forest the ground rises slightly and is clothed with freshwater swamp forest. Moisture-loving plants and various palms, yielding piassava fibre and materials for thatching flourish here. A short way inland, the freshwater swamp forest gives way to dense tropical rainforests. Economically valuable, the oil palm grows wild and is usually preserved when forest is cleared for cultivation. In the more densely populated parts of the southeast, the original forest vegetation has been replaced by open palm bush. In the southwest large areas of forest have been replaced by cacao and rubber plantations.
Towards the north, as rainfall decreases and dry season lengthens, the rain forests pass gradually into tropical grassland known as savannas. Tropical grassland occupies the area north of the forest belt and extends over almost three fifths of the country. The characteristic vegetation of the savannas consists of grassland with scattered trees of no great height either growing singly or in groups and sometimes occurring as woodlands. The area is studded with baobab, tamarind, and locust bean trees. Like its forest counter- part, the savanna could be broadly divided into three from south to north: Guinea, Sudan and Sahel.
The Guinea Savanna has the greatest amount of rainfall among the savanna types and a shorter dry period. Consequently, it has more trees than other types. The grass here is rather coarse. It occupies half of the country coinciding roughly with the middle belt. It can be referred to as a transitional climate and vegetation between the north and the south because it stands as a zone of mixed culture in which food crops of the south are cultivated side by side with those of the far north. In Sudan Savanna annual rainfall averages about 560- 1020 mm. Most trees in the Sudan Savanna have small leaves to prevent excessive transpiration, though there are few broad leaved ones. As one proceeds northward through the zone it give way to trees and thorns.
The Sahel Savanna occurs in the extreme north-east of Nigeria, and it has at least eight dry months. This zone is characterised with light foliage and thorns. Grasses are short, discontinuous, wiry and tussock. They are much used by cattle and sheep. There is no real gallery or fringing forests but only riparian woodland of certain acacias. Semi-desert conditions exist in the Lake Chad region, where various species of acacia and the doum species of palm are common. In the far northern areas the nearly total disappearance of plant life has facilitated a gradual southward advance of the Sahara.
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Camels, antelopes, hyenas, lions, baboons, and giraffes once inhabited the entire savanna region, and red river hogs, forest elephants, and chimpanzees lived in the rainforest belt. Animals found in both forest and savanna included leopards, golden cats, monkeys, gorillas, and wild pigs. Today these animals can be found only in such protected places as the Yankari National Park in Bauchi State, Gashaka Gumti National Park in Taraba State, Kainji Lake National Park in Niger State (see Kainji Lake), and Cross River National Park in Cross River State. Rodents such as squirrels, porcupines, and cane rats constitute the largest family of mammals. The northern savanna abounds in guinea fowl. Other common birds include quail, vultures, kites, bustards, and gray parrots. The rivers contain crocodiles, hippopotamuses, and a great variety of fishes.