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U.S. Department of State

Department Seal Nigeria: The Challenging Transition to Democracy
Fact Sheet Released by the Office of the Press Secretary
The White House, August 26, 2000

  • Since taking office in May 1999, President Obasanjo has consolidated civilian rule, following nearly sixteen years of military dictatorship. Military regimes have ruled Nigeria for all but eleven years since independence from Britain in 1960.

  • Nigeria's National Assembly, elected in 1999, represents the country's first elected parliament since 1983.

  • Through decades of military mis-rule, economic disparities between regions have worsened, the income gap between rich and poor has increased, and a neglected infrastructure has deteriorated significantly. With a debt burden of more than $30 billion, an estimated population of 110 million, and fewer than 5 telephones per 1,000 people, Nigeria must revive the education, health and agricultural sectors and rebuild the country's infrastructure.

  • Late military dictator Sani Abacha and his supporters may have stolen as much as $6 billion in official funds from Nigeria over his five-year reign. President Obasanjo is leading an aggressive international effort to reclaim these assets. So far, $1.8 billion of assets has been frozen in banks around the world.

  • Nigeria has only about one police officer for every 1,400 Nigerians and fewer than 3,000 police vehicles.

  • Potentially one of Africa's wealthiest nations, Nigeria's social indicators are no better than the continent's poorest countries. More than 60 percent of Nigeria's population lives on less than $1 per day, according to some estimates.

  • More than 3,000 Nigerians have died in ethnic and religious violence over the past year.

  • Nigeria has been quick to defend elected governments in the diplomatic arena and has supported twenty-seven peacekeeping operations in West Africa and abroad.

  • The U.S. and Nigeria also cooperate in regional conflict resolution and peacekeeping, including the U.S. initiative to train and equip West African battalions for peacekeeping in Sierra Leone.

  • Nigeria's economic growth rate for 2000 is likely to reach 4 percent, and the budget contains a significant increase in social and infrastructure spending.

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