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By Ruby Bell-Gam, David Uru Iyam

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Like the network of major roads in the country, it was initiated in the early 1900s for commercial and colonial administrative transportation. Road and railway maintenance have often been neglected in times of economic hardship, especially in the south where they are most needed due to heavy rains and associated flooding and landslides. In the late 1990s the railways Page xxi have not fully recovered from the staff downsizing and subsequent prolonged strikes in the late 1980s that led to the loss of customers to road transport.

The Ogun and Oshun rivers in the southwest, and the Imo and Cross rivers in the southeast all find different routes to the sea. Scores of smaller rivers crisscross the country, providing natural irrigation for farming, fishing resources, and a means of transport. Nigeria is the most populous African country, with about 110 million people, half of which are fifteen years of age or younger. The last national population census of November 1991 recorded 88,514,501. 8 million. By some estimates the country has the tenth largest population in the world.

Former military head of state, Olusegun Obasanjo, who had become a civilian statesman and independent farmer, came out of political imprisonment to win the 1999 presidential election. He was inaugurated as President on 29 May 1999, in what is commonly termed the third republic. The long years of military dictatorship and the disappointments of the past civilian governments had created disillusionment for many Nigerians and others with a healthy interest in the country. By contrast, there is growing optimism as the new millennium approaches.

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