Africa’s economic giant Nigeria is celebrating 59 years of independence to commemorate its freedom from British colonial rule on October 1, 1960.

The country was invaded by British forces in 1851 and formally annexed in 1861. It became a colony of Great Britain when, in 1914, the latter combined the Southern Nigeria Protectorate with the Northern Nigeria Protectorate to form the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria.

After World War I, in response to growing nationalism and demands for independence, the British government legislated successive constitutions which moved Nigeria towards “self-government on a representative and increasingly federal basis.” The colony became an autonomous Federation of Nigeria on October 1,1954. In the middle of the 20th century, the wave of nationalism and decolonization was sweeping through the continent, and the Federation’s clamor for independence became more intense.

The Federation of Nigeria was finally granted full independence on October 1, 1960, but under a constitution that provided for a parliamentary system of government and a degree of self-rule for the country’s three major regions.

The country is now divided into 36 states, each administered by an executive governor. Overall, Nigeria’s political system is one of “a federal, presidential, representative democratic republic.”  Executive power is exercised by the president while legislative power rests in the two chambers of the legislature, namely the House of Representatives and the Senate, which together forms the National Assembly.

Nigeria has grown steadily to become an emerging market and a middle-income country with an ever-expanding financial, manufacturing, technology, communications and entertainment industries. It is the largest economy in Africa and ranks as the 27th largest economy in the world in terms of nominal GDP, and 22nd in terms of purchasing power parity.

In celebrating its independence, festivals and parades are staged across the country, and flag raising ceremonies are held to honour the nation.