Nigeria; key historical events
Page last modified 5/1/2021
For events in North Africa relating to the Islamic World and Arab Spring see also Islam & Middle East
See also Africa
9/11/2014, Islamic terrorists dressed in school uniforms set off suicide bombs at a school assembly.
14/4/2014, Islamic terrorists set off a bomb in Abuja, Nigeria, killing 70.
2001, Bauchi became the 10th State to declare Sharia Law; divisions between the Muslim North and the Christian South were deepening.
2000, Ethnic violence in Nigeria was growing.
2/1999, Free Presidential elections took place in Nigeria, possible due to the death by a stroke of Abacha. They were won by a retired General, Olusegun Obasanjo.
1998, Under foreign pressure, Abacha agreed to ‘elections’. He authorised five ‘opposition’ parties, and funded them once they expressed support for his Presidency. Real political opponemts were imprisoned, some 7,000 in number, of whom some were shot by firing squads.
18/10/1998, 700 people died in a fire in southern Nigeria as they scavenged oil leaking from a pipeline.
10/11/1995, The Nigerian military government hanged the dissident Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other activists. They had been protesting against the exploitation of the Ogoni people and their lands by large oil companies. In particular, an oil leak from an old pipeline in August 1995 had polluted Ogoni lands. Oil and gas had been discovered in the Niger delta in 1957 and commercial exploitation began a year later. In 1995 oil accounted for 80% of Nigerian government earnings and 90% of foreign exchange earnings.
1993, Sani Abacha seized power in an army coup. He proceeded to crush all dissent.
9/5/1987, Abufemi Awolowo, Nigerian politician, died.
27/8/1985, President Buhari of Nigeria was overthrown in a coup, and replaced by Major General Babangida.
1/1/1984, In Nigeria, a 19-member Supreme Military Council assumed power.
1983, Military coup; Major General Mohammed Buhari headed the Supreme Military Council.
30/1/1983, Nigeria expelled 2 million foreigners from its territory. The country’s oil boom of the 1970s had diverted much infrastructure into the oil sector, with much migration into the cities. Basic infrastructure collapsed and debt and poverty were major problems. Nigerian President Shehu Shagari made foreigners the scapegoats for Nigeria’s problems.
1979, Nigerian elections won by Alhaji Shehu Shagari of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN). Returen to civilian government.
31/7/1979, Nigeria seized British oil installations, in a bid to persuade Mrs Thatcher to take a harder line on Apartheid.
1978, Nigeria legalised political Parties, on condition that they represented national, not tribal, interests.
29/7/1975, A military coup in Nigeria.
12/1/1970. Nigeria’s civil war ended when the Biafran Army surrendered. The expected massacre of Biafrans by Nigerian soldiers never occurred; Gowon pursued a policy or reconciliation, with the line that Biafra had been ‘led astray’ by Ojukwu.
10/1/1970, At the last meeting of the Biafran Cabinet, General Ojukwu handed command to his Chief of Staff, General Effiong, and fled to Cote D’Ivoire. Morale in the Biafran Army finally cracked, with soldiers discarding their uniforms and mingling with refugees.
30/6/1969, The Nigerian Government seized control of all relief for Biafra. Two weeks later Nigeria decided to allow medical aid into Biafra but still banned food aid from entering.
27/3/1969, Harold Wilson arrived in Nigeria for talks with General Gowon.
2/7/1968, Britain offered famine relief to both Nigeria and Biafra. Biafra refused it whilst the UK was still supplying arms to Nigeria.
31/5/1968, Nigerian – Biafran peace talks in Kampala, Uganda, broke down.
19/5/1968. Nigerian forces captured Port Harcourt in the civil war against the breakaway region of Biafra.
7/7/1967. Nigerian troops invaded the breakaway region of Biafra, see 30/5/1967. The Biafrans had, initially, the main oil reserves and the refinery at Port Harcourt, so were able to secure help and weapons from abroad. However they faced an overwhelmingly larger Federal Nigerian Army. The ruler of Nigeria, Gowon, faced the threat of regional secession and was determined to maintain the unity of his country.
30/5/1967. Biafra, 44,000 square miles, seceded from Nigeria under the military commander of the Eastern Ibo region, Odumegwu Ojukwu, starting a civil war. See 7/7/1967, 19/5/1968, and 12/1/1970. Nigeria at independence in 1960 had a population of around 50 million, consisting mainly of Muslim Hausa and Fulani in the north, Catholic Ibos in the east, and Muslim Yorubas in the west. There was considerable enmity between the Ibos and the Muslims. The Ibos had been priveliged over the northern Muslims under British rule, and enjoyed a higher standard of education.
In January 1966 a coup by Major-General Johnson Ironsi, an Ibo, replaced the civilian post-independence government, This coup provoked a massacre of Ibos in the northern Muslim regions. At end July 1966 a second coup, by northern Army officers, deposed Ironsi, who was then tortured and murdered. General Yakubu Gowon, a Christian from a minority tribe, now came to power. He tried to reassure the Ibos but hundreds of thousands of them fled to the eastern Ibo region for safety. Gowon planned to institute a 12-region federal structure for Nigeria, but the military Governor of the eastern region, Colonel Chukwuemeka Ojukwu, refused to accept this. Ojukwu was a wealthy Ibo, Oxford-educated, who declared the oil-rich Eastern Region independent on 30/5/1967 as Biafra, hoping for support from the oil multinationals. However Nigerian troops overran Biafra, over an extended time period, making Biafra a byword for mass starvation.
Biafran-controlled territory shrank, by September 1968, to a landlocked enclave 100km by 50 km. Ojukwu hired a Swiss public relations firm, Markpress, to plead his cause to the world. Markpress played the religious factor, painting (to the West) Ojukwu as a Christian under Muslim threat; Gowon countered that many on the Nigerian side, including Gowon himself, were also Christian. From August 1968 aid agencies began sending food aid to the starving Biafrans. France backed the Biafran side and sent military aid via Gabon and Cote D’Ivoire. Britain and Russia both backed the Nigerian side. Mercenaries under Colonel Rolf Steiner arrived to bolster the Biafran forces; this held back the Nogerian forces, however only prolonging the suffering of the Biafran people. Nigeria, unable to overcome Steiner’s men, settled upon bombing raids and blockade. Gowon blocked food aid, arguing it was being used as a cover for arms shipments.
29/7/1966, General Yakubu Gowon succeeded General Ironsi as ruler of Nigeria, after an army mutiny.
21/1/1966, General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi proclaimed himself the President of Nigeria.
1/10/1963. Nigeria became a republic within the Commonwealth.
1/6/1961. Northern Cameroon joined the Federation of Nigeria.
1/10/1960. Nigeria became independent from Britain.
27/10/1959, The Queen’s Speech promised independence for Nigeria.
1937, Shell-BP began prospecting for oil in Nigeria. Oil was discovered during World War Two, and commercial exploitation began in 1946.
1914, The Protectorates of Northern and Southern Nigeria were joined to form Nigeria.
1906, Lagos was incorporated into the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria.
1904, Nmandi Azikiwe, member of the Ibo community, the first President of independent Nigeria, was born at Zungeri in northern Nigeria. He was principal director of the African Continental Bank, becoming Governor General of independent Nigeria in 1960, and President when Nigeria became a Republic in 1963. He was overthrown by an army coup in 1966; the army officers were also mostly Ibo, and dod not harm Azikiwe but forced him into private retirement.
16/11/1904, Nnamdi Azikiwe, 1st President of Nigeria (1963-66), was born in Zungeru, (died 1996)
15/3/1903. The British completed the conquest of northern Nigeria.
3/2/1903, The British captured Kano from Nigerian rebels.
1/1/1900. Nigeria became a British protectorate. Previously the area had been under control of the Royal Niger Company, which was compensated by a payment of £865,000. Frederick Legard became High Commissioner of the territory.
1897, Hostilities broke out between the Royal Niger Company and the Islamic states of Nupe and Ilorin. The Moslems were subdued, but this increased the imperative for full British State control of Nigeria, see 1/1/1900.
1890, Britain concluded an agreement with France over the northern frontier of Nigeria with Niger. However this did not stop attempted French incursion into British-controlled Nigeria from Dahomey (Benin).
7/1890, Britain concluded the Heligoland Agreement with Germany. Previously, through the 1880s, Prince Bismarck of Germany had made considerable efforts to secure German control (through the German Colonial Society) of a wide area from Cameroon and Lake Chad westwards into areas valuable to the British Royal Niger Company. However when Bismarck lost power in 3/1890, Lord Salisbury of Britain was able to secure German consent to British control of these areas, and the Nigeria-Cameroon frontier was fixed. Britain arranged to concede to Germany a strip of territory running north from Adamawa to Lake Chad, to which Germany had no strong claim, in order to create a buffer between British-controlled Nigerian territory and French expsnsion westwards from Chad.
7/1886, The Royal Niger Company (formerly the National African Company) were given official responsibility for the British area of influence along the Niger and Benue Rivers. British armed forces coerced local rulers into accepting British rule.
1885, French interests and trading stations/forts on the lower Niger had been bought out by the British, consolidating their control over the region.
1879, Under Sir George Goldie, all British commercial interests in the middle and lower Niger Valler were combined under the United African Company.
1861, Britain annexed Lagos, and the creation of a British colony of Nigeria began.
20/5/1846, Sir George Goldie, who played a major role in the creation of the British colony of Nigeria, was born. See 1879.
1700s, The slave trade from Nigeria was resulting in the export of 15,000 slaves a year from the Bight of Benin, also a further 15,000 annually from the Bight of Biafra. The British were the main slave traders here.
1500s, The Songhai Empire ruled what is now northern Nigeria, until conquered by Morocco in 1591.
1400s, The Oyo and Benin States flourished in what is now southern Nigeria. Ife State was situated in the west, with Igbo villages in the south-east. European contact began at this time with visits by the Portuguese.
999, Baguda became King of Kanem (now in Nigeria). The Kanem State grew rich on trans-Saharan caravan trade
950, The Igbo-Ukwu culture began flourishing in eastern Nigeria.
800 BCE, The Nok culture developed in Nigeria.