History Of Nigeria Economic Development

See History Of Nigeria Economic Development Below….

The current economic problem in our nation is often lamented and cursed as unendurable, as if it is peculiar to the nation alone. Similarly, the fiscal measures introduced by the government are looked upon as hindrances or impediments, which a few may consider as irrelevant and unnecessary impositions. Yet, to look back at our growing up problems as if they are burdens, which we must cast off immediately, or run away from, is to be superficial and incapable of understanding ourselves, an offshoot of our character. The Nigerian economy, whether advancing or otherwise, is the weight that we must bear in our growth towards maturity, and in coming into full being as adults and as a nation. A mother does not complain of the weight of the child she carries on her back. The child is part of the process – the route towards her self-fulfillment.

Conversely, Nigeria has witnessed significant and laudable economic progression from her amalgamation till date. The indicators to buttress this fact are untold and can be gleaned from our advancement in different sectors including but not limited to the economic development in agriculture, manufacturing, transportation, foreign trade and investment, urbanization, communication and information technology and of course oil and gas. This paper seeks to unearth the progression of economic development of Nigeria from 1914 to 2014.

The emancipation of the Nigerian economy from the 1914 regions of Nigeria

Nigeria has always played a major economic role in the world. Being referred to as the largest black nation, The Nigerian economy is one of the most developed economies in Africa.

In 1914, the British formally united the Niger area as the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria. Administratively, Nigeria remained divided into the northern and southern provinces and Lagos Colony. The people of the South, with more interaction with the British and other Europeans due to the coastal economy, adopted Western education and developed a modern economy more rapidly than in the north. The regional differences in economy continued to be expressed in Nigeria’s political life as well. For instance, northern Nigeria did not outlaw slavery until 1936.

Before the country was colonized by Britain, during the second half of the 19th century, the various nationality groups that currently make up Nigeria were largely an agricultural people. They were food self-sufficient and produced a variety of commodities that were exported overseas. During the 19th century, the abolition of the slave trade cleared the way for expansion of trade in agricultural produce from Africa to Europe, particularly palm oil from the West African coastal areas. The coastal enclave of Lagos became a British colony in 1861, a center for expansion of British trade, missions, and political influence. Late 19th century and early 20th century Lagos was also a center for educated West African elites who were to play prominent roles in the development of Pan-Africanism as well as Nigerian nationalism.

In northern Nigeria, Muslim reformer and empire builder Uthman dan Fodio established the Sokoto Caliphate in the early 19th century over the Hausa trading states. A predominantly Fulani aristocracy ruled over the majority of Hausa-speaking commoners, including both merchants and peasants. Expansion of agriculture, trade, and crafts made this area probably the most prosperous in tropical Africa in the 19th century, engaged in trade both to the coast and through the traditional routes over the desert to North Africa.

At the end of the 19th century, Britain began aggressive military expansion in the region, in part to counter competition from other Western countries and to break down monopolies which local traders had established in commodities such as palm-oil, cocoa, and peanuts. Britain declared a protectorate in the Niger delta in 1885 and sponsored creation of the Royal Niger Company in 1886. A protectorate was declared over northern Nigeria in 1900. Despite the loss of sovereignty, however, the strong political and cultural traditions of these societies initially enabled many to accommodate nominal British rule with little change in their way of life.

British colonial administrator joined together the nationality groups in 1914 into a larger economy for the benefit of British industrial classes. Under colonial rule, Nigeria remained an agricultural country, exporting raw materials to Britain and importing from it finished goods. Therein lay the argument to the origins of the dependence of Nigerian economy on commodity markets of the industrialized Western world for its foreign exchange. While the industrialization of the country was discouraged, rudimentary foundations for a modern Nigerian economy, however, were laid. Colonial economic policies shaped future independent Nigeria’s economy, particularly in marketing, labor supply, and investment.

Starting in 1949, when Nigerian’s recently emergent Labour, commercial, and professional elites were first consulted by the British as part of a constitutional review, the peoples of Nigeria engaged in ongoing debate over the pressure of decolonization, independence, and modernization. Between 1951 and 1959, the major political parties played leading roles in unifying and locally mobilizing the economic elites.

The period of the colonial administration in Nigeria was punctuated by rather ad hoc attention to agricultural development. During the era, considerable emphasis was placed on research and extension services. The first notable activity of the era was the establishment of a botanical research station in Lagos by Sir Claude Mcdonald in 1893. This was followed by the acquisition of 10.4 kilometers of land in 1899 by the British Cotton Growing Association (BCGA) for experimental work on cotton and named the experimental area Moor Plantation in lbadan. In 1912, a Department of Agriculture was established in each of the then Southern and Northern Nigeria, but the activities of the Department were virtually suspended between 1913 and 1921 as a result of the First World War and its aftermath. From the early 1920s to the mid-1930s, there was a resurgence of activities and this period has been called the ‘Faulkner Strip Layout’ era in honour of the Director of Agriculture, Mr. 0.T. Faulkner, who devised a statistical design for experimental trials in green manuring, fertilizer projects, rotational cropping systems and livestock feeding. From the late 1930s to the mid-1940s, there were significant intensification and expansion of research activities, and extension and training programmes of the Agricultural Departments. Additional facilities for training of junior staff in agriculture were provided, as well as scholarships for agricultural students in Yaba Higher College and Imperial College of Tropical Agriculture in Trinidad.


The intensification of hostilities during the Second World War (1939-45) led to the slowing down of agricultural activities and the call to Departments of Agriculture to play increasing roles in the production of food for the army and civilians in the country and the Empire. Production of export crops like palm products and rubber which could not be obtained from Malaysia as a result of Japanese war activities in South-East Asia, and such food items as sugar, wheat, milk, eggs, vegetables, Irish potatoes and rice whose importation was prevented by naval blockade of the high seas increased. A special production section of the Department of Agriculture was set up to deal with the situation. On the research side, attention was devoted largely to the possibilities of evolving permanent systems of agriculture that were capable of replacing rotational bush-fallowing systems prevalent in the country and realizing the promises of mixed farming in the north. During this period, the WAIFOR (West African Institute for Oil Palm Research) in Benin was started and the research on cocoa was intensified at Moor Plantation, Owena near Ondo and at Onigambari near lbadan. Achievements of the period include the development of ‘Alien Cotton’ in the south; rice cultivation in Sokoto, Niger, llorin, Abeokuta Colony and Ondo provinces; the introduction of wheat cultivation in the more northern parts of the northern provinces; the expansion of production of such export crops as cocoa, oil palm and groundnut; development of agricultural implements as well as designing farm buildings; intensification of horticultural activities; the development of a marketing section of the Department; the extension of the Produce Inspection Service to cover all principal export crops; investigations into the possibilities for organized land settlement schemes; and investigations into the possibilities of irrigation in northern Nigeria.


The period of Internal Self Government from 1951 to 1960 began with the constitutional developments, which led to independence of the Regional Departments of Agriculture. The Federal Department of Agricultural Research was retained since constitutional provisions placed agricultural research on the concurrent legislative list, while extension work remained a regional responsibility. The research findings of the Federal Research Stations were to be transmitted through Regional ministries responsible for agriculture and natural resources. There was also the setting up, in 1955, of a Technical Committee of the Council of Natural Resources made up of Federal and Regional Ministers and officials for the formulation of national research programmes as well as the coordination of Federal and Regional research activities.

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 and Nigeria became independent in 1960.

The advancement of the Nigerian Economy after the 1960 Independence

The process of colonial rule and formal economic exploitation ended in 1960 but left Nigeria a relatively strong but undiversified economy. Thereafter, Nigerians were poised to remedy this defect and to build a self-sustaining Nigerian economy comprising agricultural, industrial, and service sectors.

From independence in 1960, the state took up the direction and planning of economic growth and development. Education was progressively expanded at all levels to reduce the rate of illiteracy and to provide the requisite skills and labor force for development. Infrastructure of roads and communication networks were constructed far beyond what was inherited from colonial rule. Hydroelectric dams were built to generate electricity. Secondary industries and automobile assembly plants were established to create more employment opportunities. Because of the paucity of native or local private capital, these activities were undertaken and financed by the government, often with foreign assistance from such countries as Britain and the United States.The problem of food shortages and imports was addressed in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In the late 1970s the military government of Olusegun Obasanjo embarked upon “Operation Feed the Nation.” His civilian successor, President Shehu Shagari, continued the program as the “Green Revolution.” Both programs encouraged Nigerians to grow more food, and urged unemployed urban dwellers to return to the rural areas to grow food crops. The government provided farmers with fertilizers and loans from the World Bank. The food situation stabilized, although Nigeria still imported food.

Another relevant feature of the Nigerian economy was a series of abrupt changes in the government’s share of expenditures. As a percentage of Gross Domestic Product, national government expenditures rose from 9 percent in 1962 to 44 percent in 1979, but fell to 17 percent in 1988. The economic collapse in the late 1970s and early 1980s contributed to substantial discontent and conflict between ethnic communities and nationalities, adding to the political pressure to expel more than 2 million illegal workers in early 1983 and May 1985.

The lower spending of the 1980s was partly the result of the Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) in effect from 1986 to 1990, first mooted by the International Monetary Fund and carried out under the auspices of the World Bank, which emphasized privatization, market prices, and reduced government expenditures. This program was based on the principle that, as GDP per capita falls; people demand relatively fewer social goods and relatively more private goods, which tend to be essential items such as food, clothing, and shelter.

From 1980, about 70% of the total working population was engaged in agriculture, producing yam, cassava, plantains, rice, beans, sugarcane, and citrus fruits for food, and cocoa, oil palm and kernel, groundnuts, rubber, cotton and timber as raw materials for local industries and for export.

The agricultural policy of both the Federal and State governments was to increase agricultural output substantially as a weapon against malnutrition and a means of improving the standard of living of every Nigerian. Much money was therefore spent in providing farmers with fertilizers, pesticides and other agricultural inputs at heavily subsidized prices. In addition, tractor hire services and land development schemes were expanded at government expense as an additional contribution to agricultural production.

The Nigerian Agricultural and Co-operative Bank, with headquarters in Kaduna, established grant loans (both directly and indirectly) to farmers. Priority was given to food crops, coastal-water fishery, poultry, beef, piggery and diary in various parts of the country. The new scheme, the Green Revolution, was launched for the promotion of agriculture. A National Council on Green Revolution was established in April 1980 to coordinate the activities of all ministries and organizations involved in agricultural production, processing, marketing and research. The Council is also charged with the responsibility of finding new ways that will facilitate the application of science to agricultural production in Nigeria so that the country can achieve self-sufficiency in agricultural production in the shortest possible time.

The establishment of the iron and steel industry received priority attention in the nation’s bold march towards industrialization. About One Billion Naira at that time was allocated to this sector in the 3rd National Development Plan.Considering the increasing demand for steel, the availability of iron ore and coal in the country, and the importance of the steel industry as a leading factor in rapid industrialization, the Federal Government decided to accelerate the establishment of suitable iron ore and steel plants in the country. In April 1971, a steel development authority was created amongst other things, to plan and develop iron projects in the country.

In order to ensure the effective implementation of the projects, the steel authority was further reorganized. Three other organizations – the National Steel Council, the Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited and the Associated Ores Mining Company Limited was created. In addition, the Delta Steel Company was established to operate the Aladja (Warri) direct reduction plant. Contracts were signed for the establishment of three rolling mills at Oshogbo, Jos and Katsina. The foundation stone for the Delta steel project was laid on March 30, 1979 while construction work was intensified on the infrastructural requirements for the Ajaokuta blast furnace steel plant. The plant went into full production by June 1983. Heavy investment was planned in steel production. With Soviet assistance, a steel mill was developed at Ajaokuta in Kwara State, not far from Abuja. The most significant negative sign was the decline of industry associated with agriculture, but large scale irrigation projects were launched in the states of Borno, Kano, Sokoto, and Bauchi under World Bank auspices.


Great effort was also directed to liquefied natural gas, fertilizer and other petrochemical industries. Industrial development in other areas made steady progress. The manufacturing industry moved away from production of light consumer goods such as beer, soft drinks, cigarettes, shoes and textiles, to the substitution of a wide range of other formerly imported goods like salt, plastics, aluminum goods, garments, sugar, shoes, paper and cement.

In the aspect of the economic development of Nigeria’s Industrial finance, the Federal Government in the bid to provide additional finance to industries in the country, established banks and financial institutions. An example of such financial establishments is the Nigerian Industrial Development Bank. Nigeria gave rise to the NIDB on January 22, 1964. The primary role of the NIDB is to produce medium and long term loans and sometimes equity investments to new and expanding industries. The minimum loan investment in any project by the NIDB was N50, 000. The bank’s resources stood at N275.4 Million as at December 31, 1980. Also at that date, the bank had sanctioned more than 451 investments amounting to over N360.5 million. There was also established, the Nigerian Bank for Commerce and Industry (NBCI).

Industrialization, which had grown slowly after World War II through the civil war, boomed in the 1970s, despite many infrastructure constraints. Growth was particularly pronounced in the production and assembly of consumer goods, including vehicle assembly and the manufacture of soap and detergents, soft drinks, pharmaceuticals, beer, paint, and building materials. Furthermore, there was extensive investment in infrastructure from 1975 to 1980, and the number of parastatals jointly government and privately owned companies proliferated. The Nigerian Enterprises Promotion decrees of 1972 and 1977 further encouraged the growth of an indigenous middle class.

Mining played an increasing important role in the country’s economy. Among the minerals mined are iron, tin, columbite, limestone, coal and oil. The Nigerian Mining Corporation controls the mining of solid minerals in the country.

Education also expanded rapidly. At the start of the civil war, there were only five universities, but by 1975 the number had increased to thirteen, with seven more established over the next several years. In 1975 there were 53,000 university students. There were similar advances in primary and secondary school education, particularly in those northern states that had lagged behind.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.