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20 Historical Facts About Nigeria You Should Know

20 Historical Facts About Nigeria

Nigeria is the most populous Black nation in the world today, with an estimated population of 204 million people. This country is marked by the emergence of various epochs of civilisations, states, kingdoms and empires, as well as a caliphate and colonial rule.

Here are the top 20 historical facts about Nigeria that you should know as a regular Nigerian or history enthusiast.

20 Historical Facts About Nigeria

1. The British came to Nigeria in 1851, annexed Lagos in 1861 and established the Oil River Protectorate in 1884.

2. Flora Louisa Shaw, a British journalist, novelist and wife of Lord Frederick Lugard suggested the Name “Nigeria” for the British Protectorate on the Niger in “The Times of London magazine” on the 8th of January, 1897.

3. Zungeru, in Northern Nigeria, was the first Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria. This was from 1900 to 1914.

4. Nnamdi Azikiwe was the first and last indigenous Governor-General of Nigeria (16 November 1960-October 1 1963).

5. The Nigerian National flag, designed by Micheal Taiwo Akinkumi in 1959, originally had a red quarter sun on the white part as a symbol of divine protection and guidance. It was removed by the independence committee.

6. Nigeria gained independence on the 1st of October, 1960 and became a republican state on the 1st of October, 1963.

7. The first military coup in Nigeria was staged on the 15th of Jan. 1966 and was led by Major Kaduna Nzeogwu. Prime minister Tafawa Balewa, S.L Akintola, Ahmadu Bello, Okotie Eboh and some others were killed in the coup.

8. The Nigerian civil war, also known as the Biafran war lasted for exactly 2 years, 6 months, 1 week and 2 days (6th of July, 1967 to 15th of January, 1970).

Biafran soldiers seen here inspecting a bomb during the Biafran conflict, 11th June 1968. (Photo by Ron Burton/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)
Biafran soldiers seen here inspecting a bomb during the Biafran conflict, 11th June 1968. (Photo by Ron Burton/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)

9. The National Youth Service Corps was established by decree No. 24 of 22nd May 1973, during the military regime of General Yakubu Gowon.

10. Nigeria changed from the British West African pound to her own currency, Nigerian Pound, in 1958, and then to Naira on January 1st 1973.

11. Wole Soyinka was the first African to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1986, and he is also a well-known social commentator and political activist.

12. On October 1st, 1961, Southern Cameroon ceased to be a part of Nigeria and became a part of Cameroun, following the UN-organised plebiscite of February 11, 1961.

13. Sungbo’s Eredo in Ogun state (6°49′N, 3°56′E) is a 100-mile system of walls and trenches up to 70 feet deep that surrounds Ijebu-Ode. Its Queen, Bilkisu Sungbo, is said to be the Biblical Queen Sheeba (Queen Bilkis in the Quran).

14. Rivers State-born model and beauty queen, Agbani Darego, was the first African woman to win the Miss World pageant. This was in 2001. The Miss World pageant sparked riots in Nigeria in 2002 claiming about 250 lives.

15. Malam Umaru Altine, a northern Fulani man, was the first elected Mayor of Enugu, in the east in 1952, and was even re-elected for a second term.

16. In 1918, 30,000 Abeokuta Ebga warriors led a great rebellion against the colonial authorities over colonisation, taxation, and slave labour. A British soldier was killed, and railway and telegraph cables were wrecked. This is known in history as the Adubi war.

17. Travel Visa was not required to travel to the United Kingdom till 1984.

18. Nigeria took its first loan from the World Bank in 1977.

19. Nigeria’s North and North Central areas are home to West Africa’s earliest civilization, the Nok, which existed between 1000 BC and 300 BC. 

20. Nigeria’s most successful Olympic appearance was in 1996 when the men’s football team won gold, and Chioma Ajunwa clutched a gold medal in the women’s long jump event.

Thanks for reading the top 20 historical facts about Nigeria on OldNaija.


  1. The Treaty Between Britain and Lagos on January 1, 1852 – OldNaija. (2015, October 11). OldNaija;
  2. History of Nigeria | nigerianembmexico. (n.d.). Nigerianembmexico;
  3. How and Why Flora Shaw, Lord Lugard’s Wife, Coined the name Nigeria in 1897 – OldNaija. (2020, March 16). OldNaija;
  4. Nigeria | History, Population, Flag, Map, Languages, Capital, & Facts. (n.d.). Encyclopedia Britannica;
Cite this article as: Teslim Omipidan. (June 26, 2022). 20 Historical Facts About Nigeria You Should Know. OldNaija. Retrieved from


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