Nigeria, known as ‘the Giant of Africa’ owing to its vast land and diversity of peoples, is the most populous country in Africa. It is situated on the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa; its neighbours are Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Benin. Nigeria is a tropical country, though the climate varies greatly from region to region. In coastal areas, the temperature tends to remain beneath 32ºC yet the nights are sultry and humidity is high. Inland, the wet season lasts from April to October, while the dry season goes from November to March. Midday temperatures can soar to over 38ºC, though nights are pleasantly cool, sometimes with temperatures as low as 12ºC. Nigeria is subject to the searing hot winds from the Sahara, which carry dust from the desert; the winds from the south, meanwhile, bring cloudy, rainy days.
Nigeria is famous for being a country in which at least 250 languages are spoken. It is also renowned for its musical and artistic works, which take their inspiration from the works of tribal ancestors. The majority of Nigerians live in poverty owing to conflicts and the inequitable distribution of oil wealth. Nigeria is Africa’s largest oil producer and the 12thmost potent producer in the world. It is known for the bustling city of Lagos, a cosmopolitan city which is home to African, Asian and European people, as well as many Lebanese expatriates who do business both in and out of the country. Nigeria has a burgeoning film industry, and has been hailed for its musical productions and collaborations on an international scale.
The Nok people flourished from 500 B.C. to 200 A.D., producing clay figurines which are still considered of great value. The first European settlers in Nigeria were the Portuguese, who began calling the country home in the late 15th century. By the 1800s, the Muslim Fulani empire governed the region. In 1903, the British took control, indirectly ruling the area through local rulers. In 1914, the British united the northern and southern regions, creating the colony of Nigeria. In 1960, Nigeria achieved independence and joined the United Nations, now with its own government and constitution.
The southern mountains of Nigeria are covered by lush rain forests, filed with the lively colour of flowers, birds and butterflies. In these mountains, a variety of beautiful trees grow, including the African mahogany, African walnut, iroko, and obeche. The coast is peppered with mangrove trees, while inland, freshwater forest is home to various trees, including the mahogany, abura, and an array of palm varieties. In the rainforest, large animals such as gorillas and chimpanzees are still present, though in decreasing numbers. Baboons and monkeys can also be spotted, as can crocodiles and various reptiles. Very few hippopotami, elephants, leopards and giraffes remain, though the country abounds with colourful birds, including the yellow-casqued hornbill, the bateleur, and the grey-necked picathartes. Nigeria’s bird list includes over 900 birds though this number increases every year, largely since the opening of the A. P. Leventis Ornithological Research Institute in Jos, Plateau State, which has contributed greatly to a new interest in Nigerian bird species.
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