One of the official languages in Nigeria is English. However, while this may sound reassuring, only upper and middle-class people in the largest cities actually speak it, though most citizens have a good understanding of English. The national lingua franca is Nigerian pidgin, an English-based creole language spoken by 75 million people as a second language and by 3-5 million people as a native language, mostly in the Niger Delta. Nigerian pidgin is highly intelligible to an English-speaker to a certain degree, but it will take time to get accustomed to it. However, Nigerian pidgin will not hinder day to day communications. The easiest way to overcome any initial language block is to ask questions. They will not hesitate to ask you to clarify what you mean, or admit that they do not understand an outsider's particular manner of phrasing. Do not assume that a Nigerian's inability to answer you indicates ignorance.
Southern lowlands merge into central hills and plateaus; mountains in the southeast, plains in the north. The Niger river enters the country in the northwest and flows southward through tropical rain forests and swamps to its delta in the Gulf of Guinea. The highest point is Chappal Waddi at 2,419m.
In the northern part of the country, Kano and Katsina have a recorded history which dates back to around 999 CE.
The kingdoms of Ifẹ and Oyo in the western block of Nigeria became prominent about 700–900 and 1400 respectively. The Yoruba mythology believes that Ile-Ife is the source of the human race and that it predates any other civilization. Another prominent kingdom in south western Nigeria was the Kingdom of Benin whose power lasted between the 15th and 19th century. Their dominance reached as far as the well known city of Eko, later named Lagos by the Portuguese.
In southeastern Nigeria the Kingdom of Nri of the Igbo people flourished from the controversial date of around the 10th century until 1911 and the city of Nri is considered to be the foundation of Igbo culture.
In addition, Tiv culture in the North central region of Nigeria dates to 6 B.C.. Some of the famous bronze terracotta sculpture heads from this culture have been shown around the world.
In 1885 British claims to a West African sphere of influence received international recognition and in the following year the Royal Niger Company was chartered. In 1900 the company's territory came under the control of the British government, which moved to consolidate its hold over the area of modern Nigeria. On January 1, 1901 Nigeria became a British protectorate northern and southern protectorates and part of the British Empire. In 1914 the northern protecorate and the southern protectorate under the colonial rule were merged forming one single entity named "Nigeria" (meaning: Niger[river niger] area. The name "nigeria" was given by the wife of the British Governor-General in charge of the country - Sir Lord Lugard.
Following World War II, in response to the growth of Nigerian nationalism and demands for independence, successive constitutions legislated by the British Government moved Nigeria toward self-government on a representative and increasingly federal basis. By the middle of the 20th century, the great wave for independence was sweeping across Africa.
On 1 October 1960, Nigeria gained its independence from the United Kingdom. As was the habit of colonialists during that era, no attention was paid to the fact that the "protectorates" suddenly and quite chaotically merged together hundreds of distinct and autonomous ethnicities, or to the fact that some communities were ripped apart by the sudden construction of boundaries that never existed before. There was never a truly developed sense of singular Nigerian identity. In part, it was this disequilibrium which set the stage in 1966 to several successive military coups.
The Northern coup, which was mostly motivated by ethnic and religious reasons, was a bloodbath of both military officers and civilians, especially those of Igbo extraction. The violence against the Igbo increased their desire for autonomy and protection from the military's wrath. By May 1967, the Eastern Region had declared itself an independent state called the Republic of Biafra and the 30 month Nigerian Civil War began. More than one million people died, many of them starving to death.
During the oil boom of the 1970s, Nigeria joined OPEC and billions of dollars generated by production in the oil-rich Niger Delta flowed into the coffers of the Nigerian state. However, increasing corruption and graft at all levels of government squandered most of these earnings. Nigeria re-achieved democracy in 1999 and although the elections which brought Obasanjo to power in 1999 and again in 2003 were condemned as unfree and unfair, Nigeria has shown marked improvements in attempts to tackle government corruption and to hasten development. Ethnic violence over the oil producing Niger Delta region and inadequate infrastructures are some of the current issues in the country.