British influence and control over what would become Nigeria and Africa's most populous country grew through the 19th century. A series of constitutions after World War II granted Nigeria greater autonomy. After independence in 1960, politics were marked by coups and mostly military rule, until the death of a military head of state in 1998 allowed for a political transition. In 1999, a new constitution was adopted and a peaceful transition to civilian government was completed. The government continues to face the daunting task of institutionalizing democracy and reforming a petroleum-based economy, whose revenues have been squandered through corruption and mismanagement. In addition, Nigeria continues to experience longstanding ethnic and religious tensions. Although both the 2003 and 2007 presidential elections were marred by significant irregularities and violence, Nigeria is currently experiencing its longest period of civilian rule since independence. The general elections of April 2007 marked the first civilian-to-civilian transfer of power in the country's history and the elections of 2011 were generally regarded as credible. The 2015 election is considered the most well run in Nigeria since the return to civilian rule, with the umbrella opposition party, the All Progressives Congress, defeating the long-ruling People's Democratic Party that had governed since 1999.
1472 – Portuguese navigators reach Nigerian coast.
16-18th centuries – Slave trade: Millions of Nigerians are forcibly sent to the Americas.
1809 – Single Islamic state – Sokoto caliphate – is founded in north.
1830s-1886 – Civil wars plague Yorubaland, in the south.
1850s – British establish presence around Lagos.
1861-1914 – Britain consolidates its hold over what it calls the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria, governs by “indirect rule” through local leaders.
1922 – Part of former German colony Kamerun is added to Nigeria under League of Nations mandate.
1960 – Independence, with Prime Minister Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa leading a coalition government.
1962-63 – Controversial census fuels regional and ethnic tensions.
1966 January – Balewa killed in coup. Major-General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi heads up military administration.
1966 July – Ironsi killed in counter-coup, replaced by Lieutenant-Colonel Yakubu Gowon.
1967 – Three eastern states secede as the Republic of Biafra, sparking bloody civil war.
1970 – Biafran leaders surrender, former Biafran regions reintegrated into country.
1975 – Gowon overthrown, flees to Britain, replaced by Brigadier Murtala Ramat Mohammed, who begins process of moving federal capital to Abuja.
Obasanjo – First Time Round
1976 – Mohammed assassinated in failed coup attempt. Replaced by his deputy, Lieutenant-General Olusegun Obasanjo, who helps introduce American-style presidential constitution.
1979 – Elections bring Alhaji Shehu Shagari to power.
1983 January – The government expels more than one million foreigners, mostly Ghanaians, saying they had overstayed their visas and were taking jobs from Nigerians. The move is condemned abroad but proves popular in Nigeria.
1983 August, September – Shagari re-elected amid accusations of irregularities.
1983 December – Major-General Muhammad Buhari seizes power in bloodless coup.
1985 – Ibrahim Babangida seizes power in bloodless coup, curtails political activity.
1993 June – Military annuls elections when preliminary results show victory by Chief Moshood Abiola.
1993 August – Power transferred to Interim National Government.
1993 November – General Sani Abacha seizes power, suppresses opposition.
1994 – Abiola arrested after proclaiming himself president.
1995 – Ken Saro-Wiwa, writer and campaigner against oil industry damage to his Ogoni homeland, is executed following a hasty trial. In protest, European Union imposes sanctions until 1998, Commonwealth suspends Nigeria’s membership until 1998.
1998 08 June – Abacha dies, succeeded by Major-General Abdulsalami Abubakar. Chief Abiola dies in custody a month later.
1999 – Parliamentary and presidential elections. Olusegun Obasanjo sworn in as president.
2000 – Adoption of Islamic, or Sharia, law by several northern states in the face of opposition from Christians. Tension over the issue results in hundreds of deaths in clashes between Christians and Muslims.
2001 – Tribal war in Benue state, in eastern-central Nigeria, displaces thousands of people.
In October, army soldiers sent to quash the fighting kill more than 200 unarmed civilians, apparently in retaliation for the abduction and murder of 19 soldiers.
2001 October – Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, South African President Mbeki and Algerian President Bouteflika launch New Partnership for African Development, or Nepad, which aims to foster development and open government and end wars in return for aid, foreign investment and the lifting of trade barriers to African exports.
2002 February – Some 100 people are killed in Lagos in clashes between Hausas from mainly-Islamic north and ethnic Yorubas from predominantly-Christian southwest.
2002 November – More than 200 people die in four days of rioting stoked by Muslim fury over the planned Miss World beauty pageant in Kaduna in December. The event is relocated to Britain.
2003 12 April – First legislative elections since end of military rule in 1999. Polling marked by delays, allegations of ballot-rigging. President Obasanjo’s People’s Democratic Party wins parliamentary majority.
2003 19 April – First civilian-run presidential elections since end of military rule. Olusegun Obasanjo elected for second term with more than 60% of vote. Opposition parties reject result. EU poll observers cite “serious irregularities”.
2003 July – Nationwide general strike called off after nine days after government agrees to lower recently-increased fuel prices.
2003 August – Inter-communal violence in the Niger Delta town of Warri kills about 100 people, injures 1,000.
2003 September – Nigeria’s first satellite, NigeriaSat-1, launched by Russian rocket.
2004 January – UN brokers talks between Nigeria and Cameroon about disputed border. Both sides agree to joint security patrols.
2004 May – State of emergency is declared in the central Plateau State after more than 200 Muslims are killed in Yelwa in attacks by Christian militia; revenge attacks are launched by Muslim youths in Kano.
Trouble in the South
2004 August-September – Deadly clashes between gangs in oil city of Port Harcourt prompts strong crackdown by troops. Rights group Amnesty International cites death toll of 500, authorities say about 20 died.
2005 July – Paris Club of rich lenders agrees to write off two-thirds of Nigeria’s $30bn foreign debt.
2006 January onwards – Militants in the Niger Delta attack pipelines and other oil facilities and kidnap foreign oil workers. The rebels demand more control over the region’s oil wealth.
2006 February – More than 100 people are killed when religious violence flares in mainly-Muslim towns in the north and in the southern city of Onitsha.
2006 April – Helped by record oil prices, Nigeria becomes the first African nation to pay off its debt to the Paris Club of rich lenders.
2006 May – The Senate rejects proposed changes to the constitution which would have allowed President Obasanjo to stand for a third term in 2007.
2006 August – Nigeria cedes sovereignty over the disputed Bakassi peninsula to neighbouring Cameroon under the terms of a 2002 International Court of Justice ruling. A special transitional arrangement for the Nigerian civilian administration will be in place for five years.
2006 October – Spiritual leader of Nigeria’s millions of Muslims, the Sultan of Sokoto, is killed in a plane crash, the country’s third major civilian air disaster in a year.
2007 April – Umaru Yar’Adua of the ruling People’s Democratic Party is proclaimed winner of the presidential election.
2007 September – The rebel Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend) threatens to end a self-imposed ceasefire and to launch fresh attacks on oil facilities and abductions of foreign workers.
2007 November – Suspected Nigerian militants kill 21 Cameroon soldiers in Bakassi peninsula.
Nigerian senate rejects Nigeria-Cameroon agreement for hand-over of Bakassi peninsula to Cameroon.
2007 December – Anti-corruption chief Nuhu Ribadu is sidelined, but a high-profile graft-related arrest follows soon after.
Oil Prices Soar
2008 January – Oil trades at $100 a barrel for the first time, with violence in oil producing countries such as Nigeria and Algeria helping to drive up prices.
2008 February – Mend leaders Henry Okah and Edward Atata extradited from Angola on suspicion of involvement in attacks on oil companies. Report that Okah was subsequently killed in custody proved to be untrue.
Tribunal upholds election of Umaru Yar’Adua as president following challenge by rivals who wanted the vote annulled because of vote rigging.
2008 April – Two former health ministers and a daughter of President Olusegun Obasanjo are among 12 top health officials charged with embezzling around 470m naira (4m dollars) of public health funds.
Oil production cut by about half as a result of strike action and attacks on pipelines by militants; problems in Nigeria help keep world oil prices at record highs.
2008 August – Following agreement reached in March, Nigeria finally hands over the Bakassi peninsula to Cameroon, ending a long-standing dispute.
Iran agrees to share nuclear technology with Nigeria to help it increase its generation of electricity.
2008 September – Militants in the Niger Delta step up their attacks on oil installations, in response to what they describe as unprovoked attacks by the military on their bases.
Oil Prices Fall
2008 October – The government announces major budget cuts following steep falls in the price of oil.
2008 November – At least 200 people are killed during clashes between Christians and Muslims in the central Nigerian town of Jos.
2009 January – The main militant group in Niger Delta, Mend, calls off four-month cease-fire after army attacks camp of an allied group.
2009 March – Nineteen opposition parties unite to form a “mega-party” to compete against the governing People’s Democratic Party in elections due in 2011.
2009 May – Niger Delta militant group Mend rejects government offer of amnesty and declares offensive against Nigerian military.
2009 July – Hundreds die in northeastern Nigeria after the Boko Haram Islamist movement launches a campaign of violence in a bid to have Sharia law imposed on the entire country. Security forces storm Boko Haram’s stronghold and kill the movement’s leader.
Government frees the leader of the Niger Delta militant group Mend, Henry Okah, after he accepts an amnesty offer.
2009 August – Two-month offer of a government amnesty for Niger Delta militants comes into force.
2009 November – President Yar’Adua travels to Saudi Arabia to be treated for a heart condition. His extended absence triggers a constitutional crisis and leads to calls for him to step down.
2010 January – At least 149 people are killed during two days of violence between Christian and Muslim gangs in the central city of Jos.
2010 March – More than 120 people are killed in clashes between Muslims and Christians in the flashpoint city of Jos.
2010 May – President Umaru Yar’Adua dies after a long illness. Vice-president Goodluck Jonathan, already acting in Yar’Adua’s stead, succeeds him.
2010 October – Nigeria marks 50 years of independence. Celebrations in Abuja marred by deadly bomb blasts.
2010 November – Nigeria intercepts arms shipment from Iran, reports find to UN Security Council.
2010 December – Christmas Eve bomb attacks near central city of Jos kill at least 80 people. Attacks claimed by Islamist sect Boko Haram spark clashes between Christians and Muslims. Some 200 killed in reprisal attacks.
2011 March – Goodluck Jonathan wins presidential elections.
2011 July – President Jonathan says he will ask parliament to amend the constitution so that presidents will serve a single, longer term in office.
Government says it wants to start negotiating with the Boko Haram Islamist group blamed for a series of recent attacks across northern Nigeria.
2011 August – Suicide bomb attack on UN headquarters in Abuja kills 23 people. Radical Islamist group Boko Haram claims responsibility.
2011 November – At least 63 people are killed in bomb and gun attacks in north-eastern town of Damaturu. Boko Haram claims responsibility.
President Jonathan sacks the head of Nigeria’s anti-corruption agency, saying that the body has failed to get to grips with graft during her tenure.
Christmas Day attacks
2011 December – Nearly 70 people are killed in days of fighting between security forces and Boko Haram militants in north-eastern states of Yobe and Borno.
Christmas Day bomb attacks kill about 40 people. Boko Haram claims responsibility.
President Jonathan declares state of emergency to contain violence by Boko Haram.
2012 January – Fuel price strike causes major disruption. Unions suspend action when government reverses decision to drop fuel subsidies.
More than 100 killed in single day of co-ordinated bombings and shootings in Kano, shortly after Boko Haram tells Christians to quit the north.
2012 April – Chadian President Idriss Deby calls on countries neighbouring northern Nigeria to set up a joint military force to tackle Boko Haram militants as they continue their attacks. He warns of the danger of the Islamist group destabilising the whole Lake Chad basin area.
2012 June – Boko Haram claims responsibility for attacks on two churches in Jos city and Borno state, in which one person died and dozens of others were injured. An angry crowd kills six Muslims in Jos in retaliation.
2012 July – Nigeria signs a preliminary $4.5bn deal with US-based Vulcan Petroleum to build six oil refineries. Nigeria lacks refinery capacity and has to import most of its fuel needs, despite being a major oil producer.
2012 August – The army kills 20 Boko Haram fighters in a shootout in the northeastern city of Maiduguri. The government says it has started informal talks through “backroom channels” with Boko Haram to try to end attacks. Boko Haram ruled out peace talks shortly beforehand.
2012 October – Boko Haram bomb army bases in Maiduguri. The army says it kills 24 Boko Haram fighters in subsequent clashes.
2012 November – At least 100 people are charged with treason after a march supporting independence for Biafra in the region’s main town, Enugu.
2012 December – At least 20 Christians are killed in attacks by suspected Islamist militants in the northern states of Yobe and Borno over the Christmas/New Year period.
2013 May – Government declares state of emergency in three northern states of Yobe, Borno and Adamawa and sends in troops to combat the Boko Haram Islamist militants.
2013 July – Secondary schools close in Yobe state after a massacre of 22 pupils at a boarding school, which the government attributes to Boko Haram. The Islamist group has burned down several schools since 2010.
2013 September – Boko Haram Islamists murder more than 150 people in roadside attacks in the northeast. Separately, security forces fight Boko Haram armed insurgents in the capital Abuja.
2013 November – Six state governors defect from the governing People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and merge with main opposition All Progressives Congress, leaving the PDP with fewer governors supporting it than the opposition.
2014 April – Boko Haram kidnaps more than 200 girls from a boarding school. The US and Britain sends planes to help search for them and West African leaders agree to co-operate to fight the Islamists.
2014 July – Nigeria and neighbours agree to form a joint military force to combat the growing regional threat posed by Boko Haram.
2014 August – Boko Haram proclaims a caliphate – an Islamic state – in the territory it controls in the northeast, a declaration dismissed by the government.
2014 October – Nigeria’s military says it has agreed a ceasefire with Islamist militants Boko Haram, and that the schoolgirls the group abducted will be released. The group denies it has agreed a ceasefire and says the girls have been married off.
President Goodluck Jonathan says he will seek a second term in office in elections, but these are postponed from February 2015 because of the Boko Haram insurgency.
2014 November – Boko Haram launches a series of attacks in northeastern Nigeria, capturing several towns near Lake Chad and running raids into neighbouring Chad and Cameroon in early 2015. Hundreds of people in the north-east are killed and thousands more displaced.
2015 February-March – Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger form military coalition against Boko Haram, claim successes in pushing it back in all these countries.
Nigerian army captures Gwoza, which it believes is Boko Haram’s main stronghold, in late March, leaving the armed group with only two towns under its control.
2015 March – Muhammadu Buhari wins the presidential election, becoming the first opposition candidate to so in Nigeria’s history.
2015 June – Nigeria assumes command of a regional military force to counter Boku Haram, to include troops from Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Benin.
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