|Official Country Name:||Federal Republic of Nigeria|
|Region (Map name):||Africa|
|Language(s):||English (official),Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo,Fulani|
|Area:||923,768 sq km|
|GDP:||41,085 (US$ millions)|
|Number of Television Stations:||2|
|Number of Television Sets:||6,900,000|
|Television Sets per 1,000:||54.5|
|Number of Radio Stations:||128|
|Number of Radio Receivers:||23,500,000|
|Radio Receivers per 1,000:||185.6|
|Number of Individuals with Computers:||750,000|
|Computers per 1,000:||5.9|
|Number of Individuals with Internet Access:||200,000|
|Internet Access per 1,000:||1.6|
Background & General Characteristics
A multiplicity of media voices can be found in Nigeria largely because of the diversity of the population of the country and the history preceding its independence. The nation remains unsettled and its constitution is not enforced in all regions equally. This has led to confusion, frustration, and violence resulting in numerous deaths in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Reports of deaths from Islamic fundamentalists are commonplace in media reports particularly in the northern states of Nigeria.
The British reporter Flora Shaw coined the term "Nigeria" which was to become the name of the country. In the 1890s she took the term from the Niger River to apply it to the region during the era of colonial rule.
Like other segments of society, media reflects the population of the people. Nigeria has over 250 different ethnic groups. It is nearly twice the size of California, and with a population of approximately 110 million, is the most densely populated country in Africa. Other estimates have the population even higher. One source reports that because tribalism is so sensitive an issue population estimates based on pre-independence data are intentionally inexact so as not to ignite controversy. Hundreds of thousands of Nigerians live in the United States, and nearly 200,000 of them have attained U.S. citizenship. English is the official language of Nigeria. Broadcast stations and print media provide content to audiences in English. Other dominant languages spoken are Hausa, Yoruba, Ibo, and Fulani. Hausa and Fulani are primarily in the north. Yoruba is in the southwest, while Ibos are located in the southeast.
The country has had varying degrees of freedom of the press over its tumultuous history. There has generally been a diversity of voices in the media; however, as the government changed hands frequently and in violent circumstances, the media voices that were in support of a leader would find themselves without a voice as a replacement emerged. At some points, newspapers and magazines were proscribed entirely due to their criticism of government authorities.
Examples of this form of silencing the press are found in the late 1970s and mid 1980s. Although newspapers and magazines were privately owned, the government prohibited them from expressing their editorial opinions. In 1977 Newbreed was closed down. In 1984 the government closed down the Tribune and four years later in 1988 Newswatch was a victim of government censorship. Also during this time period, government leaders harassed individual journalists. In 1971 Minere Amakiri, a reporter for the Nigerian Observer , was detained and had his hair shaved. Numerous other journalists experienced similar assaults.
The cause of violence in the country is sometimes difficult to determine because ethnic and religious differences both enter the mix. The largest religious group is Muslim, making up about 50 percent of the population. Christians account for about 40 percent, while the remaining 10 percent of the people follow traditional beliefs or some combination of the two major groups.
Rivalries between various ethnic groups within Nigeria can be traced back for as far as these groups have existed. Tensions flare for a period, then a temporary peace follows. During the waning days of the colonial period these ancestral rivalries played a role in the country's evolution to independence. In January 1956, Queen Elizabeth II visited Nigeria for a ceremonial tour, which was in part a reaction to anti-colonialism that had taken place in other African nations such as the Mau-Mau uprising in Kenya. The concern in the United Kingdom was that Moslems in northern Nigeria would stir passions of revolt. Two years earlier Nigeria had been granted a degree of autonomy with the aim of solidifying British loyalty, according to a report in the Chronicle of the twentieth Century .
The internal conflict has taken its toll on life expectancy. The nation has the 15th highest infant mortality rate in the world, 87 deaths per 1,000 live births. Life expectancy in Nigeria is 56 years, compared to 76 years in the United States. Steps are being taken to improve the plight of the Nigerian people, however. The United States has initiated a series of actions to help provide some stability to the emerging democracy. In 2000 a $19.9 million agreement was signed by USAID to assist Nigeria in reforming its educational policies. The goal was to encourage civic participation on a broad basis. Under the plan six Community Resource Centers would be built that would provide increased Internet access to every region of the nation. The U.S. Education for Development and Democracy Initiative (EDDI) provided $4.5 million to establish the centers. Local educators would receive training at the centers, which would also be used to support distance education to Nigerian universities, provide computer, and targeted vocational educational training to local communities, and support adult literacy and AIDS education. An additional part of the initiative is $500,000 which allowed girls who would otherwise not have access to educational opportunities to attend school from the primary to university level.
Although the press was intended to be a "watchdog" for the country, similar to its role in free countries such as the United Kingdom or the United States, it has had difficulty fulfilling that role due to the demands of the various competing special interest groups. The large number of different voices created something of a marketplace of ideas although some of the ideas resulted in violence.
At the end of the twentieth century Nigeria had more than thirty national and provincial newspapers. There were more than twenty general interest magazines and journals in circulation, along with more than twenty television and radio stations. Just because media fare was available, that does not necessarily mean the people were reached with its content. In spite of the relatively large number of newspapers and magazines nearly one third of men and half the women are illiterate.
One of the country's most respected philosophers, Chinua Achebe, described the tragedy facing the press by writing "listen to Nigerian leaders and you will frequently hear the phrase 'this great country of ours.' Nigeria is not a great country. It is one of the most disorderly nations in the world. It is one of the most corrupt, insensitive, inefficient places under the sun. It is dirty, callous, noisy, ostentatious, dishonest and vulgar. In short it is among the most unpleasant places on earth" (Hudgens and Trillo 914).
Nigeria is governed under a constitution that was adopted in 1999. It is largely based on an earlier constitution that was written in 1979. Over the course of those two decades violence and turmoil has remained constant. Besides high rates of illiteracy, another one of the many problems faced by media personnel seeking to serve in a watchdog capacity is the constant turnover of the government. Cordelia C. Nwagwu points out that since achieving independence in 1960, Nigeria has experienced a turnover in the government averaging every 3.5 years. Nwagwu describes the havoc this has on an integral part of any society such as the educational system. With the vast majority of the short-term governments being military regimes the consideration for public approval was ignored.
There is some indication that some of the earlier restrictions on freedom, which resulted when the constitution was ignored may ending. The Times of India reports that the attorney general declared strict Islamic law unconstitutional in that it discriminates against Nigerians on the basis of religion and sex as it applies only to Muslims, and in some cases, only to women.
In its 2000 annual report the United States Department of State expressed concern over the constitutional liberties lost due to the implementation of Sharia law in the northern states of Nigeria. The report said "although Christians were exempt from the law, the societal ramifications of expanded Sharia law infringed upon the rights of non-Muslims in the north to live in society governed by secular laws." The report went on to add "plans to implement expanded Sharia laws in Kaduna state, which has a large Christian population, sparked violence in February 2000 that lasted for several days and resulted in an estimated 1,000 to 1,500 deaths."
Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was elected president of Nigeria in 1999. He had previously been head of state between 1976 and 79, but voluntarily resigned and handed the reigns of power over to the democratically elected Aljaji Shehu Shagari. The web page of the Consulate General of Nigeria in Atlanta reports that Obasanjo was born in former Western Nigeria, a part of what is now Ogun State in 1937. He was educated in military academies in Nigeria, India, the United Kingdom, and the United States. He reluctantly became the head of state after his military forces defeated Biafran forces in January 1970. He was an outspoken critic of military rule during this time in the nation's history.
Not only is the press faced with political instability and uncertainty, but the infrastructure of the nation is lacking in many basic services too. The internal infrastructure of Nigeria has not been maintained over the years. Portions of the government are not fully functional. Due to political corruption, including bribes and payoffs, oil-rich Nigeria does not have the basic services available to its citizens that other nations provide which have fewer natural resources, but are better managed.
It is interesting to note the career track Nigerian journalists have taken historically. In the early 1980s John Merrill noted that newspapers in Nigeria attempted to recruit former broadcast journalists. This runs counter to the career path in many other countries where electronic media managers have sought to recruit print journalists.
Nigeria is a nation of many mineral resources, but the political uncertainty of the country is such that the assets of the region are not realized by the population. Oil-rich Nigeria has been held back by years of political instability, corruption, mismanagement, and lack of direction. The various military leaders neglected to diversify the nation's economy and as a result the country has found itself in a situation of overdependence on the capital-intensive oil sector. Petroleum products provide about 20 percent of the Gross Domestic Product.
Agriculture in Nigeria has failed to keep up with the rapid population growth. At one time in its history, Nigeria exported agricultural products, now it is an importer. In August 2000, following the signing of an IMF standby agreement, Nigeria received a debt-restructuring deal from the Paris Club. Additionally the nation was granted a $1 billion loan from the IMF. Both the restructuring and the loan were contingent on economic reforms.
Increases in foreign investment and oil production enhanced economic for the country for a while. Nigeria remains vulnerable to world oil prices. This is one factor over which leadership has no control.
Press Laws & Censorship
Adigun A. B. Agbaje explains the reason the press laws of Nigeria are so difficult to describe is because of the complexity of the ever-changing society in which they are found. He describes myriad competing influences on how the press constructs legitimacy for the Nigerian people. Agbaje describes it as a "battlefield of representations."
Engaged in this battlefield are such segments of society as the educational system, the work environment, popular culture, the mass media, the languages of the various groups, sports, and other competing forms of entertainment. Agbaje goes on to describe the problem being exacerbated by the colonial heritage and non-Africans trying to explain the realities of the nation's complex social structure.
The lack of enforced freedom of press laws is in part due to the competing power bases. Various cultural, religious, and tribal groups continue to be at odds over how the country should be governed. Even reaching an agreed upon political philosophy is a significant challenge to the various groups within the country.
This ongoing battle of ideas can be seen throughout Nigeria's history. For example, in debating a constitutional draft in the late 1970s, then Head of State, General Muhammed said of ideology:
Since the inception of this Administration, and particularly since the announcement of your appointment as members of the Constitution Drafting Committee, there has been a lively debate in the Press urging the introduction of one form of political ideology or another. Past events have, however, shown that we cannot build a future for this country on a rigid political ideology. Such an approach would be unrealistic. The evolution of a doctrinal concept is usually predicated upon the general acceptance by the people of a national political, philosophy and, consequently, until all our people, or a large majority of them, have acknowledged a common ideological motivation, it would be fruitless to proclaim any particular philosophy or ideology in our constitution.
In spite of the framework that has been set in place for press freedom, Nigeria continues to fight to be able to publish opinions freely.
Censorship is a recurring problem in Nigeria regardless of the supposed freedoms expressed in the constitution. Both during periods of civilian rule and military dictatorships, the nation has never experienced a complete assurance of a free press. Government philosophy and documents may state press freedoms exist, but in the day to day affairs of life such freedoms fluctuate widely.
Among the newspapers and magazines that have been proscribed are: Newbreed in 1977, the Tribune in 1984, and Newswatch in 1988.
Four years after Nigerian gained independence from Britain, the Nigerian Federal House of Parliament passed a controversial newspaper law. The Newspapers (Amendment) Act of 1964 imposed restrictions on the press in the new nation's early development stage. The act stated:
(a) Any person who authorises for publication, publishes, reproduces or circulates for sale in a newspaper any statement, rumour or report knowing or having reason to believe that such statement, rumour or report is false shall be guilty of an offense and liable on conviction to a fine of two hundred pounds or to imprisonment for a term of one year. (b) It shall be no defence to a charge under this section that he did not know or did not have reason to believe that the statement, rumour or report was false unless he proves that prior to publication, he took reasonable measures to verify the accuracy of such statement, rumour or report.
Nigerian scholar Luke Uka Uche points out the irony of this act, adopted by the leaders of the nation so soon after gaining independence. He notes, "if the colonial government had stringently imposed such sanctions, it would have been very doubtful that Nigerian nationalism would have seen light of day through the pages of newspapers. Ironically, we have just seen how Azikiwe, who later became the first Nigerian President, fought a 1948 newspaper ordinance that merely sought for the payment of cash as part of a security deposit prior to the publication of a newspaper."
Due to the instability of the various governments over the years the relationship between the state and the press has fluctuated, depending upon a number of factors. At times there have been some moderate consideration given to press freedoms, while other times the crackdown on journalists disagreeing with the government has been blatant and violent.
In reviewing the history of the nation, the long-term trend has been that of the repression of a free press. The constitutional privileges that are in writing have simply not been experienced in the real world of daily Nigerian life. On the surface it appears there is much diversity of expression due to the large number of media outlets in the nation. However when a closer observation is made, the complex political and social systems of the nation are the context in which these media organizations operate and it is discovered that the "societal watchdog" function of the press does not operate in reality in Nigeria as it does in more free and open societies.
The Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York based nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that monitors press freedoms globally, reported serious reservations about Nigeria's government-press relations following the election of President Obasanjo. CPJ noted that "although a new constitution was promulgated on May 5 (1999), it was modeled largely after the 1979 constitution and offered the media no specific protection."
About 20 anti-media decrees were identified by CPJ in the revised Nigeria constitution. One of the measures was repealed, the one that called for newspapers and magazines to register with the government. Later it was surreptitiously introduced as the Nigerian Press Council (Amendment) Decree Number 60 of 1999.
While press attacks decreased significantly after the transition from military to civilian rule, there remained reported abuses. CPJ reported that shortly after the election, police raided the editorial offices of the independent Lagos newspaper, The News and arrested several employees. Around the same time, Lanre Arogundade, chairman of the Lagos Council of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), was arrested on charges that seemed to be politically motivated. Even government owned media employees experienced harassment. Two reporters for the state-owned newspaper The Observer were suspended for publishing statements considered to be critical of the election process made by international observers.
Attitude toward Foreign Media
Nigerians want to interact with foreign news agencies, but they do not want to lose control of the way their nation is presented in the global marketplace of ideas. They generally advocate limited involvement with foreign media.
The U.S. Department of State warned of Nigeria: "permission is required to take photographs of government buildings, airports, bridges or official-looking buildings. these sites are not always clearly marked, and application of these restrictions is subject to interpretation. Permission may be obtained from Nigerian security personnel. Penalties may include confiscation or breaking of the camera, exposure of the film, a demand for payment of a fine or bribe, or a roughing-up."
There are no domestic news agencies in Nigeria. Some news bureaus are maintained by news agencies from other countries in Nigeria. The BBC and CNN are two Western media organizations that continually monitor developments in the nation.
Due to the volatile nature of Nigerian politics there is no predictability in the way laws granting free speech will be interpreted at any given time. Broadcasters are vulnerable in such a climate. Violence is one component that has never left Nigeria's history regardless of the persons in the top elected offices.
There were 2 government controlled television broadcast stations in Nigeria in 1999 and 14 licenses to operate private television stations. The nation has 82 AM radio stations and 35 FM stations. There are 11 short-wave stations in Nigeria. Throughout the country there are 23.5 million radios and 6.9 million television sets.
In 1992 the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) was founded to monitor and regulate broadcasting
Additionally, the agency has the role of arbitrator between the industry and other areas of the government. Education is also a component of the organization's work. It is charged with ensuring the development of trained personnel through accredited curricula and programs that offer courses in mass communication and broadcasting. And the final mandate is to guarantee the liberty and protection of the broadcasting industry under the constitution.
Nigeria's president appoints the Board of Commission for the NBC based on the advice of the Minister of Information. The Commission consists of a Chairman, the Director-General. Ten other members are also on the board representing law, business, culture, education, social science, broadcasting, public affairs, engineering, and state security service. Members serve on the board on a part-time basis. The Director-General, who occupies the role of chief executive, conducts day-to-day oversight. That position is assisted by the Secretary to the Commission and the Board of Management, which includes the Heads of Directorate and Departments. On July 26, 1999, Mallam Nasir Danladi Bako was named the Director-General.
Electronic News Media
Nigerians are active in Internet technology. The Internet country code for Nigeria is.ng. Eleven Internet Service Providers (ISPs) operate in the nation. An estimated 100,000 Nigerians are Internet users. Numerous media
All Nigeria.com is an Internet source for a broader audience. It contains daily news updates, viewpoints, feature articles and essays on Nigeria, Africa and the world at large from a Nigerian perspective. Nigeria Infonet is a site on the Internet that provides a listing of numerous news and media sources available to anyone interested in either niche or general interest publications.
An example of international media outlets providing news analysis on Nigeria's political situation can be found on the websites of both American and British media outlets. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and Cable News Network (CNN) both maintain special websites on events and personalities related to the 1999 election.
Nigeriaworld is an example of a state of the art newspaper online. Its URL is www.nigeriaworld.com . The Daily Times is another Nigerian newspaper found online. It serves as a contrast to Nigeriaworld in that it lacks both the content and distribution advantages of its competitor. It is not updated on a consistent basis and it does not have the stable of writers found in the pages of Nigeriaworld. Nigeria Daily is between the other two newspapers in terms of quality. It updates its web page on a consistent basis, yet it does not have the resources Nigeriaworld has to provide content from such a wide number of credentialed sources.
The international nature of news flow on the Internet makes it more difficult for the government to control content distributed through this means. Some of the Nigerian newspapers that have daily updated Internet sites have columnists and editorial writers based in the United States and Europe. Many of these people have been educated in American and British institutions of higher learning. A significant number have graduate degrees.
Education & Training
Nigeria has a long history of interacting with other nations in the pursuit of education and training. Not only are many Nigerian reporters educated in the U.S. and the U.K., but seminars by educators from these countries provide refresher courses for decision makers in Nigerian media organizations.
The largest academic department for acquiring a degree in media studies in west Africa is the University of Jos in Nigeria. Over 500 students are enrolled in the program. Although the title of the department is the Theatre and Communication Arts Department, there is a heavy emphasis on mass communication in the curriculum.
A student can study a wide range of media related topics. Both undergraduate and graduate programs are available. In addition to journalism courses, students have the option of taking courses in media management or public relations.
Among the problems encountered in Nigeria's educational systems were: poor funding, inadequate facilities, admission and certificate racketeering, personnel problems, examination malpractice, frequent strikes, lack of discipline, the emergence of secret cults, and a general abandonment of academic standards. Nwagwu sees the solutions as: dedicated teachers, adequate facilities, staff and support personnel in sufficient number, and a democratically elected government.
Nigeria seems to always be in a state of transition. The constitutional framework for an open society is in place. Educational systems encourage the tradition of free speech, as experienced in the U.S. and western Europe. The freedom of the press will be greatly increased when the many ethnic and other conflicts raging in Nigeria are able to be resolved.
"2000 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom: Nigeria." U. S. Department of State. 16 February 2002. Available from www.state.gov/global/human_rights/irf/irf_rpt/irf_nigeria.html .
Agbaje, Adigun A. B. The Nigerian Press, Hegemony, and the Social Construction of Legitimacy: 1960-1983 .Lewiston, NY: The Edwin Mellon Press, 1992.
Constitutional Rights Project. 31 March 2002. Available from www.crp.org/ng/main.htm
Daniel, Clifton, Ed. Chronicle of the Twentieth Century . Mount Kisco, NY: Chronicle Publications, 1987.
Eribo, Festus. "Global News Flow in Africa: Nigeria Media Coverage of International News, 1979-1995". The Western Journal of Black Studies 23: 154-163. 1999.
Frederick, Howard H. Global Communication & International Relations . Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1993.
Hudgens, Jim, and Richard Trillo. West Africa: The Rough Guide . 3rd ed. London: Rough Guides Ltd., 1999.
Ihenacho, David Asonye. "Sharia's Late Nullification A Timely Fight." Nigeriaworld . 24 March 2002. Available from www.nigeriaworld.com .
Lamb, David. The Africans . New York: Vintage Books, 1987.
Merrill, John C. Global Journalism: A Survey of the World's Mass Media . White Plains, NY: Longman, 1983.
"News and Media." Nigeria Infonet. 23 March 2002. Available from www.nigeriainfonet.com/Directory/news_media.htm .
"Nigeria Declares Islamic Law Unconstitutional." The Times of India . 22 March 2002. Available from www.timesofindia.com .
"Nigeria-Consular Information Sheet." 19 January 2001. Available from www.travel.state.gov/nigeria/html .
"Nigerian Broadcasters Benefit from a Sales and Management Training Program in the U.S." U.S. Embassy Nigeria. 30 March 2002. Available from www.usembassy.state.gov/nigeria/wwwhdec7.html .
"Nigeria's Heads of Government: 1960 to Present." Consulate General of Nigeria, Atlanta . 23 March 2002. Available from www.nigeria-consulate-atl.org/leaders.htm .
Nwagwu, Cordelia C. "The Environment of Crises in the Nigerian Educational System." Comparative Education 33 (1997): 87-96.
Onadipe, Abiodun. "Nigeria and Democracy: Third Time Lucky?" Contemporary Review Company Ltd. 30 March 2002. Available from www.findarticles.com .
Soyinka, Wole. The Open Sore of A Continent: A Personal Narrative of the Nigerian Crisis . New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.
"Top Blacks: Profiles of People of Color." 22 March 2002. Available from www.topblacks.com .
"This is NBC." 30 March 2002. Available from www.nbc-org/nbc-ng/org.html .
Uche, Luke Uka. Mass Media, People and Politics in Nigeria . New Delhi: Concept Publishing Company, 1989.
"Villagers Kidnap American, Nine Others in Nigeria." Las Vegas Sun . 4 April 2002. Sec. 9A.
William Covington , Jr.