Major Events and Dates in Nigeria’s History

If you are looking for past events that happened in Nigeria from the colonial era till date, Below are major events in the history of Nigeria that occurred with their dates. These are the political events that occurred since the history of Nigeria began till date.

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Major Historical Events with Dates Before 1960 in Nigeria

Early History of Nigeria

1851: Royal Navy warship bombards Lagos. Oba of Lagos (Oba Kosoko) is wounded and flees to Epe. On board the ship was Lt. Labulo Davies, probably the first Nigerian to be commissioned in a naval force.

1862: Lagos Island is annexed as a colony of Britain

1862: Mr H.S Freeman is appointed as the first Governor of Lagos Colony.

1877: George Taubman Goldie arrived in the Niger Delta in 1877

1885: Oil Rivers Protectorate proclaimed by the British after they had defeated of King Jaja of Opobo, the Oba of Benin and subdued all prominent oil merchants of the Niger Delta.

1892: At the Battle of the (sacred) Yemoja River the British wreaks havoc amongst the Ijebu infantry with a British Maxim (capable of firing 2000 rounds in three minutes).

1893: Oil Rivers Protectorate renamed Niger Coast Protectorate with its capital at Calabar.

1890’s: British Journalist Flora Shaw, later wife of Lord Frederick Lugard, suggests the name “Nigeria” after the great Niger River.

1897: The British overthrow Oba Ovonramwen of Benin. One of the last independent West African kings.

1900: Niger Coast Protectorate was merged with the colony and protectorate of Lagos and renamed Protectorate of Southern Nigeria

1914: Formation of Nigeria under Governor Frederick Lugard

1929: (Aba Women’s Riot). Women in Aba demonstrate against high taxes and low prices of Nigerian exports.

1954: The position of Governor was created in each region after the Federal System of Government is adopted.

1958: Nigerian Armed Forces came under Federal control. The Nigerian Navy is created.

1959: The new Nigerian currency is introduced

1959: Northern Peoples Congress(NPC)and Niger Delta Congress(NDC) go into alliance to contest parliamentary elections. The alliance earned the Brass Division a seat in the Federal Parliament for the first time.

1960: Sir Adesoji Aderemi becomes 1st Nigerian and 1st African to be appointed Governor in the Commonwealth. He became Governor before Nigeria got independence.

1960: Nigeria’s Independence Day: Nnamdi Azikiwe (“Zik”) becomes 1st indigenous Governor General. At independence, the Nigerian government consisted of three ethnic states united in a federation. Each state was controlled by a single dominant ethnic-based party.

Major Historical Events with Dates from 1960-1969 in Nigeria

1960: Independence. Nnamdi Azikiwe (“Zik”) becomes 1st indigenous Governor General.

1960-1966: First Republic of Nigeria under a British parliamentary system.

1960: Nigeria’s joins with Liberia and Togo in the “Monrovia Group” which advocated an extremely loose organization of African states.

1961: People of Northern and Southern Cameroon went to the polls to decide on joining independent Nigeria or the French territory of Cameroon. The south voted to leave Nigeria and the North decided to join Nigeria.

1961: Northern Cameroon becomes Sarduana Province of Nigeria, the thirteenth province of Northern Nigeria.

1961: Southern Cameroon ceases to be a part of Nigeria

1962: By this time, the northern Northern People’s Congress (NPC) controlled the federal government, while violence in the western region forced the dominant party there, the Yoruba “Action Group” (AG), to split in two.

1963: Nigeria proclaimed Republic. Nnamdi Azikiwe becomes its first President.

1964: The Northern Peoples Congress(NPC) aligns with a breakaway faction of the Action Group (AG) led by Chief Ladoke Akintola, the Nigerian National Democratic Party(NNDP),to form the Nigerian National Alliance (NNA) to contest elections. At the same time, the main Action Group led by Chief Obafemi Awolowo forms alliance with the United Middle-Belt Congress(UMBC)and Alhaji Aminu Kano’s Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU) and Borno Youth Movement to form the UPGA (United Progressive Grand Alliance).

1965: Elections triggered violence in the western region, where Igbo civil servants of the Hausa- dominated federal government represented authority to the Yoruba population. .

1966: The Nigerian army staged its first coup.

1966: Massive rioting starts in the major towns of Northern Nigeria against the Igbo minority in the north and nearly 30,000 died.

1966: A group of Northern officers and men storm the Government house Ibadan where General Aguiyi Ironsi was staying with his host, Lt. Col Adekunle Fajuyi. The men are arested and killed.

1966: Lt. Col Yakubu Gowon announces a take-over of the government to the nation

1967: Nigeria’s military leaders travel to Aburi near Acrra, Ghana to find a solution problems facing the country.

1967: Eastern leadership announces Republic of Biafra

1967: First shots are fired that formally start of about thirty months of the Biafran war.

Major Historical Events with Dates from 1970-1979 in Nigeria

1970-1979: Military rulers like Gowon (1967-1975), Murtala Muhamed and Olusegun Obasanjo ran Nigeria and altered the constitution again, creating 19 federal states.

1970: The Biafran War came to an end, leaving nearly two million people dead.

1971: Nigeria changed from driving on the right hand side of the road to the left.

1973: Government establishes the National Youth Service Corps Scheme and introduces compulsory one year service for all graduates of Nigerian universities.

1974: General Gowon reneged on a promise to restore civilian rule in 1976.

1974: Gowon announces indefinite delay in trasition plan.

1975: Gowon was overthrown in a coup, on the anniversary of his ninth year in office, by General Murtala Mohammed. Murtala rolls out transition plan to civil rule due to terminate in 1979.

1976: Murtala Mohammed was gunned down, in an abortive coup attempt, on his way to work from his residence.

1976: General Murtala Mohammed was succeeded by General Olusegun Obasanjo. Obasanjo pledges to keep to Murtala’s transition agenda.

1976: The Universal Primary Education Scheme (UPE) is introduced. This was to make education free and compulsory in the country.

1978: Ban on political parties was lifted

1979: General Obasanjo handed over to Alhaji Shehu Aliyu Shagari (Excutive President of Nigeria). Five parties competed for the presidency, and Shehu Shagari of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) won.

1979 -1983: Second Republic of Nigeria under Shehu Shagari of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN).

Major Historical Events with Dates from 1980-1989 in Nigeria

1980: The National Party of Nigeria(NPN) forms an accord with the Nigeria People’s Party(NPP)to get a majority in parliament.

1981: The end of the oil price boom led to a general strike and the expulsion of more than one million foreign (non-Nigerian) African workers.

1981: The end of the oil price boom led to a general strike and the expulsion of more than one million foreign (non-Nigerian) African workers.

1982: Governors of the opposition parties, NPP, UPN, GNPP and PRP form the Progressive Alliance to checkmate the ruling party, NPN, especially after the crash of NPN/NPP accord at the national level.

1983: Elections are marred by widespread cheating.

1983: In Nigeria’s second national elections, Shehu Shagari was re-elected president of Nigeria in 1983.

1983: Major-General Muhammed Buhari led another military coup and overthrew the government of Shehu Shagari. Buhari suspended the 1979 constitution and arrested Shagari and other civilian politicians.

1983-1985: Buhari’s “War Against Indiscipline (WAI)” uncovered corruption in the ranks of government and society.

1985: General Ibrahim Babangida takes over power in a bloodless coup.

1986: General Babangida promises to restore civilian rule in 1990.

1987: Babangida postpones the date of return to civilian rule from March 1990 to March 1992.

1988: The government reduced fuel price subsidies as part of its austerity program. In response, transporters raised their prices 50-100% and the rest of the population, especially students, went on strike. Fuel prices were lowered again, making Nigeria a source of smuggled fuel to neighboring countries.

1988: The government increased the number of states in Nigeria to 21 (from 19). Later on, a further increase brought the number to 30.

1989: Babangida’s government refused to legalize 13 independent political parties. Instead, the government founded the SDP (Center-left) and the NRC (Center- right) as the only legal political parties.

Major Historical Events with Dates from 1990-2000 in Nigeria

1991: Administrative reform produced 9 new states and 140 additional local government areas. The date for transition to civilian rule was pushed back again, to March 2, 1993.

1991: The government reversed itself and allowed “old breed” politicians to take part in presidential politics.

1991: Elections for state governors were dominated by new breed politicians, but the presidential campaigns featured new and old breed politicians.

1992: Babangida shifs handover date again to 1993.

1992: Census figures show that Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country, with 88.5 million people (Egypt is second with 52 million). Nigeria’s GDP is second in Africa ($35 million to South Africa’s $90 million), but per capita income is only $395.

1992: Presidential primaries marked by corruption, boycotts, violence, and illegality.

1992: Babangida cancelled the presidential primaries, banned leaders of both parties, and pushed the date of the presidential election back to mid 1993.

1993: New primaries yield Abiola and Tofa as presidential candidates. Primaries were marked by corruption.

1993: Presidential elections are held and businessman Moshood Abiola of the SDP takes unexpected lead in early returns.

1993: Babangida came on air to give reasons for annulling the results of the Presidential election. At least 100 people killed in riots in the southwest, Abiola’s home area.

1993: Scheduled second round of presidential elections were not held.

1993: Babangida keeps his promise to step down by naming an interim government of his own choice, headed by Ernest A. Shonekan.

1993: The youthful group Movement for the Advancement of Democracy hijacked a Nigerian airliner to Niger in order to protest official corruption.

1993: General Sani Abacha, defence minister in the interim government and most senior officer, seizes power abolishes the constitution and promises a short tenure.

1993: The senate impeached their president, SDP member Iyorchia Ayu, a strong opponent of the interim government.

1993: Abacha decided to keep the state governorships in military hands, in order to use them as patronage.

1994: Abiola proclaims himself president, is arrested and charged with treason. Army suppressed riots and strikes.

1994: Abacha organizes the election of a Constitutional Conference.

1994: The Nigerian government established the “Petroleum Trust fund” to disburse profits from the oil industry for public works and social intervention.

1995: To celebrate the completion of a Draft Constitution by the Constitutional Conference, General Abacha re-allows political parties and political activity whithout “ruthless or provocative expressions”. He does not, however, announce relief for political prisoners nor a deadline for elections

1995: Former President Obasanjo is sentenced to 25 years in prison by a secret military tribunal for alleged participation in an attempt to overthrow the government.

1995: Abacha gives way to international pressure by reprieving alleged coup plotters who have been sentenced to death.

1995: Independence day; set date for the Provisional Ruling Council’s proofreading of the Draft Constitution.

1995: Writer Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight members of his Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People are hanged for murder. Commonwealth suspends Nigeria. Arms and visa restrictions are imposed by the United States, European Union and South Africa impose . Abacha announces plan to restore civilian rule on March 1, 1998.

1996: Nnamdi Azikiwe, Nigeria’s first president, died.

1996: Kudirat Abiola, wife of Moshood Abiola, was shot by unknown gunmen.

1997: Price of petrol is raised by 338 percent by the the Nigerian government, to reduce inflation and combat corruption. The governemt also introduces a five percent value-added tax (VAT), and devalued the currency by 386 percent.

1997: Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, a former vice-president and political opponent of Abacha, died in prison, leading to charges that he was poisoned.

1998: All five legal political parties adopt General Sani Abacha as their candidate for March 1 presidential elections.

1998: General Sani Abacha died unexpectedly of a heart attack as he is poised to stand as the sole candidate in the March presidential elections.

1998: Abubakar sworn in as Nigeria’s eighth military ruler,by the “Provisional Ruling Council” (29 military officers). He promises to restore civilian rule.

1998: Moshood Abiola died in detention of a heart disease before he could be released in a general amnesty for political prisoners. Rioting in Lagos led to over 60 deaths.

1998: Abubakar promises to relinquish power on March 29, 1999.

1998: People’s Democratic Party becomes first major party to launch itself.

1998: Release of draft constitution.

1998: Obasanjo declares his intention to run for the presidency.

1999: Elections to elect governors and legislators for Nigeria’s 36 states.

1999: Former finance minister Olu Falae selected by Alliance for Democracy (AD) as presidential candidate.

1999: The executive of All Peoples Party announces choice of little known Ogbonnaya Onu its presidential candidate.

1999: Former military ruler Obasanjo wins the presidential nomination of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

1999: Falae named joint candidate of the alliance of All Peoples Party and Alliance for Democracy. Ogbonnaya Onu refuses to stand down for Falae.

1999: Electoral commission clears Obasanjo and Falae for presidential elections.

1999: A new Constitution adopted. It is based on the 1979 Constitution.

1999: Former Military Head of State, Olusegun Obasanjo, is sworn in as Nigeria’s democratically elected civilian President.

1999: Scandal breaks out in the Federal House of Representatives over the qualifications of the speaker, Ibrahim Salisu Buhari.

1999: Ibrahim Salisu Buhari resigns as the Speakerof the Fedral House of Representatives.

1999: Zamfara State adopts Sharia Law.

2003: Obasanjo won election for second term as president

2007: 24 candidates were approved by INEC to contest for presidential election. Umaru Yar’Adua was elected president under the umbrella of PDP.

2009: Musa Yar’Adua was declared dead.

2010: Nigeria became 50 years old.

2011: Goodluck Jonathan was elected president

2015: Muhammadu Buhari became president under the umbrella of APC.

2023: Bola Ahmed Tinubu becomes President under the APC

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Oluchi Chukwu

Oluchi is a seasoned Information blogger, content developer and the editor of Nigerian Queries. She is a tech enthusiast who loves reading, writing and research

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