Nigeria exports primarily petroleum and other raw materials such as cocoa, rubber, palm kernels, organic oils, and fats. It imports secondary products such as chemicals, machinery, transport equipment, manufactured goods, food, and animals. The dependence on oil and a few other commodities for export caused Nigeria to become especially vulnerable to world oil price fluctuations.
During the colonial years, Britain was Nigeria's leading trading partner. After independence, Nigeria diversified its trading partners. It now trades worldwide with about 100 countries. The United States replaced Britain as the primary trading partner in the 1970s. However, Britain remains Nigeria's leading vendor, selling the former colony more than 14 percent of its imports in the 1990s. Other major trading partners are Germany, France, the Netherlands, Canada, Japan, Italy, and Spain. Nigeria's meager trade with Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union declined even further after the collapse of Euro- Communism and the breakup of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. Nigeria's trade with sister African countries—mainly with other West African members of the Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS,
|Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Nigeria|
|SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.|
created in 1975)—was only about 4 percent of its total trade in 1990.
Prior to 1966, Nigeria had a persistent trade deficit . The rapid growth of petroleum as an export commodity reversed the trend between 1966 and 1977. Sluggish international demand for Nigerian crude oil renewed the trade deficit from 1978 to 1983. Severe import restrictions and an economic structural adjustment program (ESAP) adopted to address the economic breakdown brought about trade surpluses from 1984 to 1986, and again in 1990. Monies sent home by Nigerian residents overseas helped to cushion the drastic effects of the deficit and the ESAP-induced decreased government spending on the population.