The first inhabitants of Nigeria were thought to have been the Nok people (500 BC - AD 200). The Kanuri, Hausa, and Fulani peoples subsequently migrated there. Islam was introduced in the 13th century.
The Fulani empire ruled from the beginning of the 19th century until the British annexed Lagos in 1851. It formally became the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria in 1914. On October 1, 1960, Nigeria gained independence, becoming a member of the Commonwealth of Nations and joining the United Nations.
Rioting broke out in 1966, and military leaders seized control. In July, a second military coup put Col. Yakubu Gowon in power. Also in 1966, the Muslim Hausas in the north massacred the predominantly Christian Ibos in the east. Thousands of Ibos took refuge in the eastern region, which declared its independence as the Republic of Biafra on May 30, 1967. Civil war broke out. In January 1970, Biafra surrendered to the federal government.
Gowon's rule ended in 1975 in a bloodless coup that made Army Brigadier Muritala Rufai Mohammed the new chief of state. The return of civilian leadership was established with the election of Alhaji Shehu Shagari as president in 1979.
The military seized power in 1984, followed by another military coup in 1985. Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Babangida announced that the country would be returned to civilian rule, but after the presidential election of June 12, 1993, he voided the results. Babangida did resign as president in August. In November, the military, headed by defense minister Sani Abacha, seized power again.
A UN fact-finding mission in 1996 reported that Nigeria's "problems of human rights are terrible and the political problems are terrifying." During the 1970s, Nigeria had the 33rd highest per capita income in the world, but by 1997 it had dropped to the 13th poorest.
Abacha died of a heart attack in 1998 and was succeeded by another military ruler, Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar, who pledged to step aside for an elected leader by May 1999. In February 1999, free presidential elections led to an overwhelming victory for Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, a former member of the military elite who was imprisoned for three years for criticizing the military rule. In April 2003, Obasanjo was re-elected.
Nigeria's stability has been repeatedly threatened by fighting between fundamentalist Muslims and Christians over the spread of Sharia Law across the heavily Muslim north.
The general elections of April 2007 marked the first civilian-to-civilian transfer of power in the country's history. The elections were marred by allegations of fraud, ballot stuffing, violence, and chaos. Days before the election, the Supreme Court ruled that the election commission's decision to remove Vice President Atiku Abubakar from the ballot was illegal. Ballots were reprinted, but only showed party symbols instead of the candidate's names. Umaru Yar'Adua won the election in a landslide, taking more than 24.6 million votes. Second-place candidate Muhammadu Buhari tallied about 6 million votes. The chief observer for the European Union said the results "cannot be considered to have been credible." An election tribunal ruled in February 2008 that although the election was flawed, the evidence of rigging was not substantial enough to overturn the election results.
Deadly violence broke out in July 2009 in northeastern Nigeria between government troops and an obscure sect, Boko Haram, which is opposed to Western education and seeks to have Sharia law implemented throughout Nigeria. The fighting began after militants attacked police stations. The police, followed by the army, retaliated and unleashed a five-day assault against the sect. The group's leader, Mohammed Yusuf, was killed in the campaign.
President Umaru Yar'Adua took ill in November 2009 and traveled to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment. Vice President Goodluck Jonathan took over as acting president in February 2010. President Yar'Adua died in May, and Jonathan assumed the presidency.
Sectarian violence broke out in the city of Jos in January 2010. At least 325 people, mostly Muslims, were killed in the fighting. Another round of violence occurred in Jos in March. The victims were mostly Christians who were hacked to death in their sleep.
Jonathan prevailed in presidential elections in April 2011. He defeated Muhammadu Buhari. International observers deemed the elections fair, but Buhari's supporters in the north violently protested the results.
Boko Haram launched deadly attacks in 2011, including one on the UN headquarters in August in Abuja that killed 24 people. On Christmas Day, the sect claimed responsibility for a series of bombings near churches.
In January 2012, President Jonathan eliminated the country's fuel subsidy. The move caused fuel and food prices to double. Street protests broke out all over the country. Jonathan relented and partially reinstated the subsidy.
Fighting in April 2013 in Baga left nearly 200 civilians dead and 2,275 homes destroyed. In May, the government declared a state of emergency in the states of Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe, where Boko Haram launched attacks.
In January 2014, President Jonathan signed the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act into law. The United Nations human rights chief denounced the law as "draconian."
Boko Haram was responsible for the deaths of more than 400 people in and around Maiduguri in February and early March 2014. The victims included children watching a soccer match and dozens of male students at a public college in Yobe State.
In April 2014, Boko Haram kidnapped girls from a school with the intention of making them sex slaves. The mass kidnapping sparked international outrage and protests. In early May, Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram, said the group planned to sell the abducted girls and threatened to "give their hands in marriage because they are our slaves. We would marry them out at the age of 9. We would marry them out at the age of 12."
In May 2014, over 100 people were killed by two bombs in Jos. In late June, a bomb attack killed 21 in Abuja near a busy shopping district.
An outbreak of Ebola hit Nigeria in the summer of 2014. It was the worst outbreak since the virus was first identified.
In August 2014, Boko Haram proclaimed an Islamic caliphate in the predominantly Christian northeast town of Gwoza, following the killing of more than 100 residents. The government dismissed the declaration.
In November 2014, the government announced it began to negotiate a cease-fire agreement with Boko Haram. The group's leader, Abubakar Shekau, denied the claim and said the girls were converted to Islam and "married off."
In January 2015, Boko Haram took over Baga, burned the city to the ground, and massacred thousands in one of the group's deadliest assaults.
In February 2015, Nigeria's election commission postponed the presidential elections after the military said it could not protect voters from Boko Haram.
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