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Australia's relationship with Nigeria is based on Nigeria's position as a leading African nation and important member of the Commonwealth. Diplomatic relations were established in 1960 and Australia opened a High Commission in Lagos in the same year. The mission was relocated to Abuja in 2003. Nigeria maintains a High Commission in Canberra.
Nigeria is a federal republic with an executive president and a bicameral national legislature. Both the president and members of parliament are directly elected for terms of four years.
With a diverse population of 140 million, Nigeria is Africa's most populous nation. It gained independence from Britain in 1960 and, from 1966, was ruled by succession of military governments. A civil war between the federal government and the breakaway republic of Biafra claimed an estimated one million lives between 1967 and 1970. In May 1999, the elected government of President Olusegun Obasanjo assumed power and was re-elected for a second term in May 2003. General elections in April 2007 were considered flawed by Nigerian and international observers, although they marked the first civilian-to-civilian transfer of power in the country's history and extended Nigeria's longest period of civilian rule since independence. President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua took office on 29 May 2007.
Nigeria's economic development has been uneven. Despite the country's substantial oil wealth, corruption remains a problem and poverty is widespread. Nigeria has the second highest GDP in Africa (US$166.78 billion in 2007), but it ranks poorly on the United Nations' Human Development Index, which measures countries' levels of development (Nigeria is ranked 158 out of 177 in the world, and 32 out of 51 African countries). However, macro-economic reforms have produced some positive results. GDP growth will be driven by the oil and gas sector for the foreseeable future, however increasing instability in the Niger Delta region, and trade in stolen oil have disrupted Nigeria's economic progress.
Australia's bilateral relationship with Nigeria is friendly, and underpinned by a history of cooperation in international fora such as the Commonwealth. Nigeria and Australia have shared interests in areas such as United Nations peacekeeping in Sudan, where a Nigerian force commander is appointed to head the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur. Australia is contributing nine military officers to this mission.
Australian trade with Nigeria was valued at A$34 million in 2007. This was dominated by Australian exports to Nigeria of which the main items were plastics, dairy products, animal oils and fats, medicinal products and wine. No significant imports were recorded from Nigeria during the same period. While Australian investment in Nigeria remains modest, some companies are now showing interest in the growing minerals and petroleum resources sectors. In June 2008, an Austrade-led business mission visited Nigeria, aimed at exploring opportunities for future cooperation on the trade front.
Australia's aid to Nigeria is provided through the African Regional Small Activities Scheme, the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP), the United Nations and Commonwealth. The Small Activities Scheme supports community -based activities implemented by NGOs promoting sustainable economic and social development. The scheme has funded the construction of latrines in 30 communities, the purchase of medical equipment for a mobile surgery and laboratory, rehabilitation of a health care centre and construction of boreholes to supply safe drinking water.
The ANCP has provided funding to the Christian Blind Mission Australia to support a hospital, rehabilitation services for people with disabilities and the Right to Sight support program. The ANCP also funded the Leprosy Mission for a leprosy control and technical support project.
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