Demographics of Nigeria

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: African Geography

Population density
Population density
Total population
Total population

The most populous country in Africa, Nigeria accounts for approximately one-quarter of West Africa's people. Although fewer than 25% of Nigerians are urban dwellers, at least 24 cities have populations of more than 100,000. The variety of customs, languages, and traditions among Nigeria's 389 ethnic groups gives the country a rich diversity. It is impossible to state demographic figures on Nigeria authoritatively, as national census results have been contested. All data in this article should therefore be viewed with caution.

Census figures are used to determine regional funding and representation of ethnic and religious groups in government service. This provides an incentive for inflating local populations. On the other hand, some academics believe the figures given below by the Food and Agriculture Organisation ( FAO) are a serious under-estimate.

Professor JG Ottong, a social scientist at the University of Calabar, explained that population has been a sensitive and controversial issue "because of its implications for shaping regional, state and ethnic relations and balance of power". In the past, census figures were believed to have been manipulated for political advantage.


The most numerous ethnic group in the northern two-thirds of the country is the Hausa-Fulani, the overwhelming majority of whom are Muslim. Other major ethnic groups of the north are the Nupe, Tiv, and Kanuri. The Yoruba people are the most numerous in the southwest. Over half of the Yorubas are Christian and about a quarter are Muslim, with the remainder following mostly traditional beliefs. The predominantly Christian Igbo are the largest ethnic group in the southeast. Roman Catholics are the largest denomination, but Pentecostal and other Evangelical denominations are also strong. The Efik, Ibibio, and Ijaw (the country's fourth-largest ethnic group) communities also comprise a substantial segment of the population in that area. Persons of different language backgrounds most commonly communicate in English, although knowledge of two or more Nigerian languages is widespread. Hausa, Yoruba, and Igbo are the most widely used Nigerian languages.


Demographics of Nigeria, Data of FAO, year 2005 ; Number of inhabitants in thousands.
Demographics of Nigeria, Data of FAO, year 2005 ; Number of inhabitants in thousands.


The United Nations estimates that the population in 2004 was at 131,530,000

note: estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality and death rates, lower population and growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected (July 2000 est.) The population of Nigeria is expected to reach 356 million by 2050 and 602 million by 2100, overtaking the USA as the 3rd most populous country in the world. Nigeria has just recently gone underway a population explosion due to higher fertility rates and population growth.

Age structure

0-14 years: 44% (male 27,181,020; female 26,872,317)
15-64 years: 53% (male 33,495,794; female 32,337,193)
65 years and over: 3% (male 1,729,149; female 1,722,349) (2000 est.)

Vital statistics

Population growth rate: 2.67% (2000 est.)

Birth rate: 40.16 births/1,000 population (2000 est.)

Death rate: 13.72 deaths/1,000 population (2000 est.)

Net migration rate: 0.28 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2000 est.)

Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 1 male(s)/female
total population: 1.02 male(s)/female (2000 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 74.18 deaths/1,000 live births (2000 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 51.56 years
male: 51.58 years
female: 51.55 years (2000 est.)

Total fertility rate: 5.66 children born/woman (2000 est.)

Ethnic groups

Nigeria, which is Africa's most populous country, is composed of more than 250 ethnic groups; the following are the most populous and politically influential: Hausa and Fulani 29%, Yoruba 21%, Igbo (Ibo) 17%, Ijaw 10%, Kanuri 4%, Ibibio 3.5%, Tiv 2.5% These percentages are estimates, based on the number of settlements, including the number of towns, villages, hamlets and cities, with information supplied by the Nigeria postal service.

In the absence of an up to date census, other population figures do not follow scientic procedures. Only these are scientifically backed by settlement figures provided by the government.

Religions (2000 estimate)

NOTE: The figures below are controversial, and come from a Christian source (Operation World, 2000, by Patrick Johnstone and Jason Mandryk). For political reasons, no religious question has been included in any census since 1963, the results of which were widely disputed. Muslims and Christians both claim to be in the majority.

The U.S. State Department, however, estimates that Muslims outnumber Christians, comprising approximately half of the country's population, while Christians make up 40 percent, with the remainder following traditional indigenous religions or no religion. Many people combine elements of Christianity or Islam with elements of indigenous faiths. The predominant form of Islam in the country is Sunni. The Christian population includes Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, and a growing number of Evangelical and Pentecostal Christians. Catholics constitute the largest Christian denomination.

It should also be noted that an estimated 8 million Nigerians belong to more than one Christian denomination, and unrecorded transferal of membership between diverse Protestant and "African Christian" bodies is widespread. Accordingly, the denominational membership totals add up to considerably more than the total number of Christians in Nigeria.

The Operation World estimates are stated below. Their inclusion is because of their detail, and does not necessarily constitute an endorsement of their attempt to show that Nigeria has a Christian majority. What they do likely show is the approximate strength of the different denominations relative to one another, but their overall accuracy is unprovable.

  • Christian: 52.6% (Mostly in the South and in the so-called Middle Belt)
    • Protestant: 26%
      • Pentecostal: 10.9%
      • Anglican: 10.1%
      • Evangelical Church of West Africa: 4.1% (outgrowth of the Sudan Interior Mission)
      • TEKAN: 2.8% (outgrowth of the Sudan United Mission)
      • Baptist: 1.6%
      • Methodist: 1.5%
      • Other Protestant: 2.7%
    • African Christian: 18.25% (Denominations with no Western ties)
      • Christ Apostolic Church: 1.8%
      • Church of God Mission International: 1.25%
      • The Church of the Lord (Aladura): 1.1%
      • Cherubim and Seraphim: 0.7%
      • Deeper Life Bible Church: 0.7%
      • Other African Christian: 12.7% (more than 4200 denominations)
    • Roman Catholic: 13.45%
    • Marginal Christian/Unaffiliated Christian 2.1%
      • Jehovah's Witnesses: 0.5%
      • Other Marginal Christian: 1.6%
  • Muslim: 41%. Almost all Sunni (Predominantly in the North; about 25 percent of the population in the South West)
  • Indigenous beliefs: 6%
  • Non-religious/Other: 0.4% (Mostly urban intellectuals)

According to

  • Christianity: 61,437,208 (47.16%)
  • Islam: 54,665,801 (41.97%)
  • Ethnoreligionists: 13,642,132 (10.47%)
  • Non Religious: 378,006 (0.29%)
  • Atheism: 47,350 (0.04%)
  • Baha'i Faith: 33,366 (0.03%)
  • Neoreligionists: 19,646 (0.02%)
  • Buddhism: 6,953 (0.01%)
  • Chinese Universists: 3,843 (0.00%)
  • Judaism: 938 (0.00%)

Religious Affiliation Among Major Ethnic Groups


  • Yoruba: 22,921,473 (Christians 60.00%, Muslims 36.38%, Animists 3.00%, Non Religious 0.50%, Baha'is 0.07%, Atheists 0.05%)
  • Hausa: 19,900,527 (Muslims 99.90%, Christians 0.10%)
  • Igbo: 17,321,340 (Christians 97.00%, Animists 2.00%, Non Religious 0.80%, Atheists 0.10%, Baha'is 0.10%)
  • Fulani, Toroobe: 6,381,546 (Muslims 99.70%, Christians 0.30%)
  • Yerwa Kanuri: 4,037,305 (Muslims 99.99%, Christians 0.01%)
  • Ibibio: 3,907,096 (Christians 99.00%, Animists 1.00%)
  • Egba: 3,800,276 (Christians 86.00%, Muslims 11.00%, Animists 3.00%)
  • Tiv: 3,349,830 (Christians 94.60%, Animists 4.40%, Non Religious 1.00%)
  • Fulani, Haabe: 2,214,006 (Muslims 99.60%, Christians (0.40%)
  • Fulani, Sokoto: 2,214,006 (Muslims 99.90%, Christians 0.10%)
  • Fulani, Bororo: 1,953,535 (Muslims 99.95%, Christians 0.05%)
  • Ijaw, Central-Western: 1,536,781 (Christians 95.00%, Animists 5.00%)
  • Ebira: 1,395,332 (Muslims 50.00%, Animists 26.00%, Christians 24.00%)
  • Ibibio, Western: 1,354,451 (Christians 96.00%, Animists 4.00%)
  • Edo: 1,277,989 (Christians 80.00%, Animists 20.00%)
  • Nupe: 1,197,139 (Muslims 92.00%, Animists 5.20%, Christians 2.80%)
  • Igala: 1,022,389 (Christians 57.50%, Animists 32.00%, Muslims 10.50%)
  • Fulani, Adamawa: 1,003,322 (Muslims 97.00%, Christians 3.00%)


English (official), Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo (Ibo), Fulani, and others.


definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 57.1%
male: 67.3%
female: 49.6% (1995 est.)

See also : Nigeria
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