1.1   Background of the Study

Nigeria lies between latitudes 40N and 140N and Longitudes 20 east and 150 east of the Greenwich Meridian. This is an area of 922,200 square kilometers (356,000 square miles). To travel from the west to the east is a distance of 1,120 kilometers (700 miles) from the south to north of the country about 1,040 kilometers (650 miles). It is bounded in the north by the Sahara Desert and in the south by the Gulf of Guinea, an arm of the Atlantic Ocean.
Seen on a map, Nigeria can best be described as an approximately square expanse of vast territory divided into three unequal parts by a rough letter Y, which is formed by the confluence of that majestic African river, the Niger, with its chief tributary, the Benue, on its coastward journey to the Atlantic Ocean, into which it merges in the mangrove forests that line the intricate network of the Niger Delta.2 Nigeria, being the most populous country in Africa, has been described as “the giant of Africa, benevolent hegemony”, etc. Nigeria with a population of approximately 150 million divided among three hundred and fifty ethnic groups practicing the two dominant monotheistic religions of Islam and Christianity and with a few still devoted to their African gods.

Nigeria is also phenomenally endowed country with billions of barrels of crude petroleum and huge gas deposits, one of the largest in the world, abundant agricultural land and sunshine, untapped solid mineral of all kinds, coal rivers that are harnessed for hydro-electricity and above al, a virile and highly sophisticated and educated people. Nigeria is indeed a land inhabited by a people of varied ethnic origin and culture, whose ancestors settled in the area that is now known as Nigeria in successive waves over many centuries. Among the chief ethnic groups that occupy Nigeria are the Hausa, Yoruba, Ibo, Kanuri, Fulani, Ibibio, Tiv, Ijaw, Edo, Efik, Nupe, Urhobo, Ekoi, Borgu and a host of other smaller groups each with its own tongue and specific cultural practices. However, underlying the diversity of the various group/peoples of Nigeria, is the deep current of cultural unity characteristic of all black Africa. At the north, east and west borders of Nigeria are Nigeria, Cameroon/Chad and Benin Republic respectively.

Aggressive coastal erosion and flooding of the coastal villages and towns, a ravaging gully and bad land erosion of the eastern region characterized the land mass. There is aggressive desert encroachment from the north due to climatic changes and human activities (such as deforestation from fuel wood and overgrazing). There is frequent flooding when rivers overflow their banks. Reservoir flooding is also a common occurrence. Besides, Nigeria gained independence in October 1st 1960. Since the first coup d’ et al in 1966, the country has been unstable, with so many coups. However, Nigeria was divided into four main geographical zones: Zone 1 is along the coast where rainfall mostly of swamps. The area is served by many rivers and creeks. Rainfall is high and spread over about eight (8) months in the year; Zone 2 is the forest region where rainfall is also heavy and the vegetation is made up mostly of the thick forest; Zone 3 is the semi-Savanna Zone which lies between the forest Zone and; Zone 4 the true Savanna Zone, in the north. Here the main geographical features are grassland and the low incidence of rainfall. The Sahara desert is not far away.

It is important to note at this juncture, however, the special position which the River Niger has held in the country. It is not surprising that the country has taken its name from the river. We must note that the river is unlikely to have taken its name from the colour, black or niger, used to describe Simeon of the period of the Apostles (Acts 13:1), or from the Afro-Americans carried across the Atlantic as human cargoes. It was once suggested that the river had been called Nigeir or Nigir from the second century and derived from the Latin word “black”. Other suggestions have been that Nijer was the name given by an African community to the river, or that the Greek word for river is Naghar. Whatever the root of the word “Niger”, it is sufficient for us to note that the word Nigeria was first used to describe the country by a British Lady, Flora Shaw.

Needless to say, the peoples of Nigeria have a history which stretches far back into the past; in the Savannah Lands and plains north and west of the river Nigeri, the Kanuri, Hausa, Fulani, Borgu, Nupe, Jukun and Yoruba people evolved well organized states of varying size, while the powerful Benin state lay in the forest lands immediately west of the Niger, and the Ibos, the Efiks and the people of the Niger Delta occupied the eastern bank of the Niger in political units of varied nature and size.