Nigeria has the largest population of any country in Africa (186,053,386), and the greatest diversity of cultures, ways of life, cities and terrain.
Nigeria covers a total area of 923,768 sq km, making it the 14th largest country in Africa. It borders the Gulf of Guinea between Benin and Cameroun with a coastline that stretches 853km. It has a total land boundary of 4,477km distributed among its neighbouring countries-Benin 809 km, Cameroon 1,975 km, Chad 85 km and Niger 1,608 km and lies between the geographic coordinates of10 00 N, 8 00 E. Until 1989 the capital was Lagos but the government moved the capital to Abujain December 1991.
The broad, mostly level valleys of the Niger and Benue rivers, form Nigeria’s largest physical region. The Niger enters the country from the Northwest, the Benue from the Northeast; the two rivers join in Lokoja in the South central region and continue south, where they empty into the Atlantic at the Niger Delta. Together, they form the shape of a Y.
Population densities and agricultural development are generally lower in the Niger and Benue valleys than in other areas. North of the Niger Valley are the high plains of Hausaland, an area of relatively level topography averaging about 800 m above sea level, with isolated granite out-cropping.
The Jos Plateau, located close to Nigeria’s geographic centre, rises steeply above the surrounding plains to an average elevation of about 1,300 m. The area to the Northeast is characterised by somewhat lower elevations, level terrain, and sandy soils. To the Northwest, the high plains descend into the Sokoto lowland.
Southwest of the Niger Valley (on the left side of the Y) lies the comparatively rugged terrain of the Yoruba highlands. Between the highlands and the ocean runs a coastal plain averaging 80 km in width from the border of Benin to the Niger Delta.
The delta, which lies at the base of the Y and separates the southwestern coast from the southeastern coast, is 36,000 sq km of low-lying, swampy terrain and multiple channels through which the waters of the great river empty into the ocean. Several of the delta’s channels and some of the inshore lagoons can be navigated.
Southeastern coastal Nigeria (to the right of the Y) consists of low sedimentary plains that are essentially an extension of the Southwestern coastal plains. In all, the Atlantic coastline extends for 850 km. It is marked by a series of sandbars, backed by lagoons of brackish water that support the growth of mangroves. Large parts of Africa’s Bight of Benin and Bight of Biafra fall along the coast.
Because of the Guinea Current, which transports and deposits large amounts of sand, the coastline is quite straight and has few good natural harbours. The harbours that do exist must be constantly dredged to remove deposited sand.Inlands, from the Southeastern coast, are progressively higher regions. In some areas, such as the Udi Hills Northwest of Enugu, escarpments have been formed by dipping rock strata.
Farther east, along Nigeria’s border with Cameroon, lie the eastern highlands, made of several distinct ranges and plateaus, including the Mandara Mountains, the Shebeshi Mountains, the Alantika Mountains, and the Mambila Mountains. In the Shebeshi is Dimlang (Vogel Peak), which at 2,042m is Nigeria’s highest point.
Climate and Weather
Nigeria lies entirely within the tropics yet there are wide climactic variations. In general, there are two seasons, dry and wet, throughout Nigeria. Near the coast, the seasons are less sharply defined. Temperatures of over 90°F are common in the north, but near the coast, where the humidity is higher, temperatures seldom climb above that mark.
Inland, around the two great rivers, the wet season lasts from April-October and the dry season from November -March. Temperatures are highest from February -April in the south and March-June in the north; they’re lowest in July and August over most of the country.
According to the 2012 environmental estimates, about 78% of Nigeria’s land is agriculturally viable of which 37.8% are arable land, 7.4% for permanent crops, 33.3% permanent pasture and 9.5% is forest. In line with the rainfall distribution, a wetter south and a drier northern half, there are two broad vegetation types: Forests and Savanna. There are three variants of each, running as near parallel bands east to west across the country namely; Forests Savanna Saline water swamp, Guinea Savanna Fresh water swamp, Sudan Savanna, Tropical (high) evergreen Sahel Savanna Rainforest.
There is also the mountain vegetation of the isolated high plateau regions on the far eastern extremes of the country (Jos, Mambilla, Obudu).
The savanna, especially Guinea and Sudan, are the major grains, grasses, tubers, vegetable and cotton growing regions.
The Tropical evergreen rain forest belt bears timber production and forest development, production of cassava; and plantation growing of fruit trees – citrus, oil palm, cocoa, and rubber, among others.