Prior to independence in 1960, the British Directorate of Overseas Surveys (DOS) (now Ordnance Survey International (OSI)) and the Federal Survey Department (FSD), Lagos (founded in 1900) had carried out mapping activities in Nigeria, and partial coverage had been achieved at scales of 1:50,000 and 1:100,000. FSD now has responsibility for maintaining and improving the geodetic control of the country, for topographic mapping at the basic scales of 1:25,000 and 1:50,000, and for smaller scale mapping. It is also undertaking township mapping of all the state capitals and other strategic cities.

Most of the map base now dates from after independence, and the basic scales are 1:50,000, extending the work done by the DOS in the 1950s, and 1:25,000, introduced as a new National Basic Topographic Map in the 1980s. Progress of the latter series stalled however, and only about 5 percent of the country has been mapped at this scale.

The 1:50,000 scale series began as part of a complementary series to 1:100,000 scale mapping, and shares the sheet numbering of the latter with the addition of a compass point. There are 1,352 sheets in the series, each normally covering a quarter-degree. The projection was originally a modified Transverse Mercator, Clarke 1880 ellipsoid (modified), but has recently changed to UTM. Metrication of the contours, originally at 25 ft or 50 ft intervals, has been in progress since 1982. Completion of the series has been aided by Canada; some sheets are in photomap or planimetric form but most are in a regular, five-color edition. Nineteen sheets of the Lake Chad Basin Commission photomap series also fall within Nigeria.

The 1:100,000 scale series was initiated by DOS in the 1950s and extended by FSD during the 1960s and 1970s to provide substantial cover in five-color, half-degree sheets with 100 ft contours. There is also a 1:250,000 scale series, derived from the larger-scale topographic maps; sheets cover one degree and have 100 ft contours. A 1:500,000 scale series in 33 sheets was completed in the 1960s, followed by new editions.

Over the last decade, Nigeria has improved and densified geodetic control with the aid of GPS, and has established a gravity network. The use of SPOT satellite imagery to update 1:50,000 scale mapping has been investigated, and the National Population Commission has used imagery to produce line maps for the 1991 census. Fast developing areas were mapped in the 1980s at 1:25,000 scale. Digital conversion of 1:25,000 scale maps was carried out in a pilot study in 1994, and the revision and metrication program of the 1:50,000 scale will include digital conversion of all these maps.

Topographic mapping made good progress during pre-independence and continued to the mid-1970s with the oil boom. This was followed by a hiatus due to the severe turndown in the country’s economy at that time. Many overseas mapping contracts had to be cancelled, and there were no funds to reprint existing maps. Notwithstanding the recent progress described above, the topographic series have remained very difficult to obtain, and some have also been restricted by the FSD.

Soviet military topographic mapping of Nigeria is available at the following scales: 1:1,000,000 (9 sheets, complete coverage, published 1983-1986); 1:500,000 (21 sheets, complete coverage, published 1980-1985); 1:200,000 (144 sheets, complete coverage, published 1979-1982) and city (1:10,000) topographic maps of Kaduna, Kano, Maiduguri and Oshogbo published between 1977 and 1983. These products are available in print, digital raster and digital vector GIS formats from East View Geospatial.

Large scale charts of Nigerian port approaches are published by the Nigerian Naval Hydrographic Office.

Earth science mapping is the responsibility of the Geological Survey of Nigeria (GSN), founded in 1919. A 1:250,000 scale series in 85 sheets was started in 1957. Many sheets were prepared by the Shell-BP Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria. About 30 sheets with accompanying bulletins have been published. A series at 1:100,000 scale was also started and some sheets published in the British DOS (Geol) 1121 series. Several 1:2,000,000 scale earth science maps were published in the 1980s. An atlas of structural landforms (1985) was prepared for educational use and is published as Occasional Paper No 9 of the Department of Geography, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.

Located at Jos is the National Centre for Remote Sensing, which has undertaken the monitoring of land cover and land use dynamics, and of evidence of desertification.

In the early 1970s, an extensive survey of soils and vegetation was carried out as part of a Central Nigerian Land and Resources Project. Interpretation was from air photographs and the two-color, 1:100,000 scale maps were accompanied by Miscellaneous reports published by the British Land Resources Division (now Natural Resources Institute (NRI)). Subsequently, an application of Side-Looking Airborne Radar (SLAR) imagery flown in 1976-8 resulted in publication of a full-color 69-sheet vegetation map of the country. Cloud penetrating radar allowed the accurate depiction of vegetation formations and sub-formations on to 1:250,000 scale JOG base maps. The maps were compiled for the Federal Forestry Department in a joint project between the American Motorola Company and the British Hunting Surveys with the primary purpose of assessing forestry cover and timber resources. These sheets have recently been revised from satellite imagery by Geomatics International Inc. of Canada.

A number of resource surveys were carried out in the 1960s and some full colour soil maps were published at scales of 1:250,000 and 1:100,000 by DOS in the Land Resource series. In the 1980s an ambitious Soil Map of Nigeria Project was established under the coordination of the Federal Department of Agriculture (FDA), and using surveyors trained in Britain and The Netherlands. Field data was plotted at 1:250,000 scale for compilation at 1:500,000. Since 1993, FDA has also produced maps of soil acidity, organic matter distribution, NPK range, and a draft agricultural potential map. Existing maps are being digitized by FDA, and there are plans to produce bioclimatic and agro-ecological region maps, and maps of soil moisture, growing season and temperature.

Thematic maps produced by FDS include administrative maps at 1:1,000,000 scale, the latest showing the new 36 state structure, and a road map published in its 10th edition in 1996.

The first edition of a national atlas was published by FSD in 1978 and contains numerous full-page thematic maps at 1:3,000,000 scale with text on facing pages, besides other more and less detailed maps. There have been plans for a second edition, but these appear to have been abandoned. A gazetteer of place names in two volumes was published by FSD in 1965. A third edition in three volumes was in preparation in the late 1980s.

The Nigerian federal states have their own survey offices. Cadastral surveying and the mapping of towns, other than the state capitals, have devolved to these organizations, who also have produced a number of simple administrative and educational maps of their jurisdiction. Some have also cooperated with FSD in the basic topographic survey. The Department of Topographic Science, School of Geodesy and Land Administration, Kaduna Polytechnic Institute has also undertaken some mapping.

There are few significant commercial map publishers in Nigeria. The Nigerian Mapping Co was founded as a joint venture between a group of Nigerians and the Government of Hungary and has undertaken contract work for the Nigerian state surveys. It has also published a number of street maps of Nigerian towns. Unique Cartographers has published a small administrative map. Although the federal capital moved to Abuja in 1991, Lagos remains the principal city in terms of size and economic activity. A street map is published by West African Book Publishers, and a street atlas of Lagos has been published by Macmillan Nigeria Publishers. Another good general map is published by HarperCollins.

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