Fifty Years of Post-Independence Development in Nigeria: A Critical Review

IDEP Discussion Paper Series, No. 1. 2011

39 Pages Posted: 19 Apr 2016

See all articles by Aderibigbe Stephen Olomola

Aderibigbe Stephen Olomola

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)

Date Written: September 1, 2010


Since independence in 1960, the development efforts and outcomes in Nigeria varied from time to time just as the development paradigms and influences nationally and externally. This paper reviews the scenarios at critical stages in the development process illuminating the salient political and economic policy landmarks and anti-development syndromes such as poor leadership, widespread corruption, political cultism, dominant external influence, high cost of governance and security challenges. A characterization of Nigeria’s development trajectory at various sub-periods from 1960 to 2010 is made including a comparison of some economic, social and other relevant development indicators among the 17 African countries that gained independence in 1960 as well as other comparator countries.

Although the country is politically independent it has not been free to galvanize the resources in the interest of the citizens to achieve the desired level of development. In general, the correlation between available resources and development outcomes in Nigeria has been perverse. The market fundamentalists pressurized the country to abandon its planning strategy while at the same time discouraging the necessary capital investment to ensure sustainable growth and development. The situation is exacerbated by military intervention which aggravated political instability and stymied democratic governance. Since 1999 when the aberration was put in abeyance together with its stressful and corruption-ridden neo-liberal economic management system, opportunities have been created for economic emancipation and sustained growth. The outcome was an emerging economy with relatively stable exchange rate, fairly predictable macroeconomic environment and good prospects for growth. The GDP growth rate which was only 1.1 percent in 1999 recorded an average growth of 5.4 percent between 2000 and 2004 and rose to 6.9 percent in 2005. Value added in manufacturing grew at an average of 8.8 percent between 2000 and 2004. Capacity utilisation rose from about 34 percent in 1999 to over 53 percent in 2007. Furthermore, corruption is being vigorously tackled with an intensity never witnessed before now; although it still remains endemic in the country.

The first 10 years in the 21st century stand out in terms of the spirited and innovative attempts to develop the economy. The incidence of poverty decreased from 65.6 percent in 1996 to 54.4 percent in 2004. It is already known that in Sub-Saharan Africa Nigeria’s GDP is second only to that of South Africa but during the decade it experienced dramatic change from US$45.98 billion in 2000 to US$207.12 billion in 2008 and ranks among the highest growing economies during the year. The GDP growth rate increased from 5.4% in 2000 to 6.0% in 2008. Of the 17 countries that gained independence in 1960 Nigeria ranks 9th in terms of per capita income in 2000 but its position improved to 3rd in 2008. However, when compared to other African countries that gained independence in 1960 and other countries such as South Africa, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Korea Democratic Republic, Hong Kong and Belgium, Nigeria ranks among the countries with the lowest life expectancy rate both in 2000 and 2008. Whereas many countries of the world have a single digit of under-5 mortality, Nigeria has triple digit. Thus, the score card is far more impressive in terms of the economic indicators over the last one decade than the human and social indicators. It is therefore, imperative to suggest that all ‘killer’ policies should henceforth be placed in a ‘cooler’ to be reviewed and given a human face.

Keywords: economic development, post-independence, reform, policy vistas, Nigeria

JEL Classification: 011, 012, E66, F63

Suggested Citation

Olomola, Aderibigbe Stephen, Fifty Years of Post-Independence Development in Nigeria: A Critical Review (September 1, 2010). IDEP Discussion Paper Series, No. 1. 2011, Available at SSRN:

Aderibigbe Stephen Olomola (Contact Author)

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) ( email )

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Washington, DC 20006-1002
Washington, DC, DC
United States

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