The main waterways are the Niger and Benue rivers and a system of navigable creeks and lagoons in the southern part of the country. The Niger is navigable to Onitsha by large riverboat and to Lokoja by barge throughout the year. Ports farther upstream on the Niger and Benue can be reached in the high-water season.
Inland waterways total about 8,575 km (5,328 mi). Lagos remains Nigeria's principal port, handling more than 75% of the country's general cargo. Other ports are Port Harcourt, Calabar, and the delta port complex of Warri, Sapele, Koko, Burutu, Bonny, and Alesa Eleme. The Merchant Marine operated a fleet of 43 ships totaling 331,094 GRT in 2002. A 1987 decree requires 40% of total cargo generated by trade with Nigeria to be carried on Nigerian shipping.
The Nigerian railway system, operated by the statutory Nigerian Railway Corp., consists of 3,557 km (2,210 mi) of single track and is the fifth largest in Africa. The greater part of the system consists of two generally north-south lines, originating in Lagos and Port Harcourt. The western line runs northeast from Lagos through Ibadan, Ilorin, and Kaduna to Kano; the eastern line runs from Port Harcourt through Enugu and Makurdi, and joins the western line at Kaduna. Extensions carry the former north to Nguru and the latter north to Kaura-Namoda. Three branch lines connect other industrial and commercial centers to the main system. A 645-km (400-mi) extension of the Port Harcourt line from Kafanchan to Maiduguri, linking the main system with the northeastern corner of the country, was completed in 1964. Years of neglect have seriously reduced the capacity and utility of the railway system; a project to restore it was underway in 1999.
Nigeria in 2002 had an estimated 193,200 km (120,054 mi) of roads, of which 59,892 km (37,216 mi) were paved, including 1,194 km (742 mi) of expressways. In 2000, some 694,600 vehicles were registered, including 501,300 passenger cars and 193,300 commercial vehicles.
Air traffic has been growing steadily. In 2001 there were an estimated 70 airports, 36 of which had paved runways. International service is provided from Lagos (Murtala Muhammed), Port Harcourt, and Kano airports by more than two dozen international airlines; a new cargo-oriented international airport in Abuja was operational in 1987. Nigeria Airways, which operates internal Nigerian services and participates in international services, became a wholly Nigerianowned company in 1961. Its regularly scheduled flights link Lagos and 15 of the 19 state capitals. Nigeria Airways also flies to many West African destinations, to Nairobi, Kenya, and Jiddah, Sa'udi Arabia, and to New York, London, Amsterdam, and Rome. In 2001, 529,400 domestic and international passengers were carried on scheduled flights.