World

Things to know about Nigeria as new president is elected in Africa's most populous country

  • Residents celebrate the anticipated victory of Presidential candidate Muhammadu Buhari  in Kaduna,  Nigeria Tuesday, March 31, 2015. Former military dictator Muhammadu Buhari has won Nigeria’s presidential election but fears his victory could be stolen by “tricks” from the government, his spokesman, Garba Shehu, told The Associated Press on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

    Residents celebrate the anticipated victory of Presidential candidate Muhammadu Buhari in Kaduna, Nigeria Tuesday, March 31, 2015. Former military dictator Muhammadu Buhari has won Nigeria’s presidential election but fears his victory could be stolen by “tricks” from the government, his spokesman, Garba Shehu, told The Associated Press on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)  (The Associated Press)

  • Residents celebrate the anticipated victory of Presidential candidate Muhammadu Buhari in Kaduna,  Nigeria Tuesday, March 31, 2015. The spokesman for retired Gen. Muhammadu Buhari says the former military dictator has won Nigeria’s bitterly contested presidential election but fears “tricks” from the government. Garba Shehu tells The Associated Press that their polling agents across the country tell them they have succeeded in defeated President Goodluck Jonathan. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

    Residents celebrate the anticipated victory of Presidential candidate Muhammadu Buhari in Kaduna, Nigeria Tuesday, March 31, 2015. The spokesman for retired Gen. Muhammadu Buhari says the former military dictator has won Nigeria’s bitterly contested presidential election but fears “tricks” from the government. Garba Shehu tells The Associated Press that their polling agents across the country tell them they have succeeded in defeated President Goodluck Jonathan. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)  (The Associated Press)

Nigeria's election has achieved the first democratic handover of power from one party to another. Here's a look at Africa's most populous country and biggest economy.

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 West Africa's Atlantic coast and borders Benin, Cameroon, Chad and Niger. Its topography ranges from mangrove swamps in the southern Niger Delta to semi-arid desert in the north.

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PEOPLE: Nigeria is home to an estimated 170 million people. 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 Africa's biggest economy, funding an estimated 80 percent of all government spending. Statistics suggest that 70 percent of Nigerians live in poverty on $2 or less a day. Despite endemic corruption, Nigeria is Africa's top destination for direct foreign investment and is a leading frontier market.

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THE ELECTION: Former military dictator Muhammadu Buhari, backed by a coalition of opposition parties, has defeated President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian who came to power after the death of the country's elected Muslim leader in May 2010. This is the first time in Nigeria's history that an opposition party has democratically taken control of the country from the ruling party — a sign of the West African nation's maturing young democracy. Jonathan's party had governed since decades of military dictatorship ended in 1999.

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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 has undermined Nigeria's prosperity and development. The country has been marked by decades of coups and military rule.