Facts about Nigeria, which is voting for president

AP News
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Posted: Apr 16, 2011 5:11 AM
Facts about Nigeria, which is voting for president

Facts about oil-rich Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, as it holds its presidential election Saturday:

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GEOGRAPHY: Nigeria is twice the size of California, with an area of nearly 360,000 square miles (579,000 square kilometers). It is set on the Gulf of Guinea on the West African coast and borders Benin, Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

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PEOPLE: Nigeria is home to an estimated 150 million people, making it Africa's most populous nation. Of more than 250 ethnic groups, the population is split between a predominantly Christian south and Muslim north. A small percentage practices indigenous beliefs. Twelve northern states have implemented Shariah law, an Islamic code of conduct, though the governments remain secular.

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LANGUAGE: English is Nigeria's official language; more than 500 local languages and dialects are widely spoken. The main three language groups are Yoruba, Hausa and Ibo.

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ECONOMY: Crude oil drives Nigeria's economy, accounting for about 80 of all government spending. Statistics suggest that 80 percent of Nigerians live on $2 or less a day. Despite endemic corruption, more foreign firms are looking to invest in Nigeria and consider it a growing frontier market.

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THE ELECTION: President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian who came to power after the death of the country's elected Muslim leader in May 2010, remains the front-runner in the presidential election. However, Muslim candidates like former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari have gained support in a dissatisfied north. If no clear winner emerges in the presidential poll, a runoff will be held.

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HISTORY: Nigeria gained independence from Britain in 1960. In 1967, the oil-rich eastern region tried to gain independence in a 30-month civil war that left more than 1 million dead. Peace and an oil boom in the 1970s brought in billions of dollars, but corruption undermined prosperity. After decades of coups and military rule, Nigeria became a democracy in 1999.