Beginning in the 11th cent. seven independent Hausa city-states were founded in North Nigeria: Biram, Daura, Gobir, Kano, Katsina, Rano, and Zaria. In southwest Nigeria two states - Oyo and Benin - had developed by the 14th cent.; the rulers of both states traced their origins to Ife.
Benin was the leading state in the 15th cent. but began to decline in the 17th cent., and by the 18th century Oyo controlled Yorubaland and also Dahomey. The Igbo people in the southeast lived in small village communities.
In the late 15th cent. Portuguese navigators became the first Europeans to visit Nigeria. They soon began to purchase slaves and agricultural produce from coastal middlemen; the slaves had been captured further inland by the middlemen. The Portuguese were followed by British, French, and Dutch traders. Among the Igbo and Ibibio a number of city-states were established by individuals who had become wealthy by engaging in the slave trade.
There were major internal changes in Nigeria in the 19th cent. In 1804, Usuman dan Fodio (1754–1817), a Fulani and a pious Muslim, began a holy war to reform the practice of Islam in the north. He soon conquered most of the Hausa city-states. In 1817, Usuman dan Fodio's son, Muhammad Bello (d.1837) established a state centered at Sokoto, which controlled most of North Nigeria until the coming of the British (1900–1906).
In 1817 a long series of civil wars began in the Oyo Empire; they lasted until 1893 (when Britain intervened), by which time the empire had disintegrated completely.
In order to stop the slave trade there, Britain annexed Lagos in 1861. In 1879, Sir George Goldie gained control of all the British firms trading on the Niger, and in the 1880s he took over two French companies active there and signed treaties with numerous African leaders. Largely because of Goldie's efforts, Great Britain was able to claim South Nigeria at the Conference of Berlin held in 1884–85.
In the following years, the British established their rule in Southwest Nigeria, partly by signing treaties (as in the Lagos hinterland) and partly by using force (as at Benin in 1897). Goldie's firm, given a British royal charter in 1886 as the Royal Niger Company, was to administer the Niger River and North Nigeria, but it was not sufficiently powerful to gain effective control over North Nigeria, which was also sought by the French.
In 1900 the Royal Niger Company's charter was revoked and British forces under Frederick Lugard began to conquer the north, taking Sokoto in 1903. By 1906, Britain controlled Nigeria, which was divided into the Colony (i.e., Lagos) and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria and the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria. In 1914 the two regions were amalgamated and the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria was established.
In 1939 Southern Nigeria was split up in Western Nigeria and Eastern Nigeria.
In 1947, Great Britain promulgated a constitution that gave the traditional authorities a greater voice in national affairs. The constitution proved unworkable by 1952, and a new one, solidifying the division of Nigeria into three regions (Eastern, Western, and Northern) plus the Federal Territory of Lagos, came into force in 1954. In 1956 the Eastern and Western regions became internally self-governing, and the Northern region achieved this status in 1959.
With Nigerian independence scheduled for 1960, elections were held in 1959.
Nigeria attained independence on Oct. 1, 1960, with Abubakar Tafawa Balewa as prime minister and Azikiwe as governor-general; when Nigeria became a republic in 1963, Azikiwe was made president.
The First Years
In Jan., 1966, Igbo army officers staged a successful coup. Maj. Gen. Aguiyi-Ironsi, an Igbo, became head of a military government and suspended the national and regional constitutions; this met with a violent reaction in the north. In July, 1966, Hausa army officers killed Ironsi and placed Lt. Col. Gowon at the head of a new military regime.
Gowon attempted to start Nigeria along the road to civilian government but met determined resistance from the Igbo, who were becoming increasingly fearful of their position within Nigeria. In May, 1967, the Eastern parliament gave Lt. Col. Ojukwu, the region's leader, authority to declare the region an independent republic. Gowon proclaimed a state of emergency, and, as a gesture to the Igbos, redivided Nigeria into 12 states (including one, the East-Central state, that comprised most of the Igbo people). However, on May 30, Ojukwu proclaimed the independent Republic of Biafra, and in July fighting broke out between Biafra and Nigeria.
After much suffering, Biafra capitulated on Jan. 15, 1970, and the secession ended.
In 1976, seven new states were created, making
19 altogether; the Federal Capital Territory (now called Abuja) was
In 1987 two new states were established,
followed by another 9 in 1991, bringing the total to 30. The latest change,
in 1996, resulted in the present number of 36 states.
Nigeria is currently categorized into 36 states
and Abuja, the federal capital territory. The states are further divided into
774 Local Government Areas.
As the pre-colonial states in Nigeria were administrativley well developed, we may suppose that there was also something like state-symbolism and symbolism of the armed forces we may call heraldry. Of this we may detect in particular the heraldry in the Kingdom of Benin, the Hausa and Yoruba heraldry being almost completely hidden from view.
Modern heraldry was certainly introduced by the British invaders who adopted badges for the flags for the different administrative units.
The idea was developed in the last years of colonialism and the first years of independence when the then existing regions and states were provided with full-grown achievements consisting of arms, crest, supporters and motto, all in good British College of Arms tradition.
After the seccessionist wars all of these achievements were abolished for obvious reasons and replaced by the national coat of arms.
Because many of the achievements were used only for a short time, those of the states only for the period of 1967 until 1970, they are very badly documented.
Most of them can only be found on flag-sites because they were displayed in the white stripe of the national flag. The problem is that the size of the pictures is very small so that the details are not very well discernible, the mottoes unreadable. A review of the Nigerian achievements can be obtained from Karl-Heinz Hesmer who collected them in his Enzyklopädie der staatlichen Wappen und Flaggen. 
For the Protectorates of Southern Nigeria and Northern Nigeria amalgamated into the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria a badge was introduced, placed on the blue ensign. It consisted of a red disc charged with a green hexagram or Salomons’ Seal, enclosing the imperial state crown with the title NIGERIA below.
An explanation of the emblem can be found in one of the 1949 editions of a magazine called Nigeria, which had an extract from a letter written in April 1940 by Lord Lugard. It reads:
design of the interlaced triangles is I think commonly called Solomon's Seal.
I do not know if and when it was adopted as the seal of Islam but it was
found on the lid of a very handsome goblet or jug of brass and copper covered
with designs, which was captured by the troops when the Emir of Kontagora,
the principle slave-raider in Northern Nigeria was defeated. I thought it an
appropriate badge for Northern Nigeria and as far as I can remember it was my
own suggestion. On amalgamation of North and South it was adopted as the
emblem of united Nigeria.” 
Dealtry Lugard, 1st Baron Lugard († 1945), was the first Governor General of
Nigeria, 1914 - 1918.
The Salomons’ Seal however was already introduced in 1906 on coins for Nigeria and British West Africa and was only abandoned on Nigerian coins in 1961. Thus the contribution of Sir Lugard consisted only in the crown and the title.
An achievement for Nigeria was granted by Queen Elizabeth by Royal Warrant of 20 May 1960, four months before Independence. It is:
Arms: Sable, a pall wavy Argent.
Crest: On a wreath Argent and Vert, an eagle rising Gules
Supporters: Two horses Argent.
Motto: UNITY AND FAITH.
A grassy ground strewn with Cocti Spectabilis all proper.
The pall wavy symbolizes the confluence of the rivers Benue and Niger, dividing the country in the Northern, Western and Eastern Regions. The wreath is in the colors of the flag and the red eagle is a symbol of power and resoluteness. The two horses symbolize the dignity of the people. They are standing on a grassy ground strewn with the national flower, symbolizing the territory of Nigeria.
According to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1979, Chapter II, 15 - 1 “The motto of the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be Unity and Faith, Peace and Progress”.
ð See illustration in the head of this essay.
The national achievement is borne by the High Institutions of State: The President and the Vice-President, the Senate and the House of Representatives.  The Presidential Seal is the successor of the former British Royal Achievement of colonial times.
The presidential seal, recently (2007) published on internet, shows the achievement with the motto of 1979 within 47 green stars and the legend: SEAL OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA. The number of stars cannot be explained as symbolizing the states as there are currently only 36 states.
The Presidential flag formerly showed the National achievement in the white stripe of the national flag. Today the Presiential flag is red with a white-rimmed green shield, charged with another shield of the arms of Nigeria with the title PRESIDENT above, and FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA below in yelleow lettering on black ribbons. The arms on the green shield are the successor of the royal arms of colonial times. Both presidential seal and presidential flag can be seen as a consequence of the fact that Nigeria is constitutionally a presidential republic.
Armed Forces Head Quarters
© Hubert de Vries 2009.03.26