Nigeria Population and Religion

Country Overview

Nigeria is a presidential Federal Republic in West Africa with the capital Abuja in the interior. By far the largest city not only in Nigeria but in the whole of Africa is the fourteen million metropolis of Lagos on the Bay of Benin. With the exception of the hot and humid coastal lowlands, Nigeria is occupied by plateaus and hill countries that culminate in the Josplateau in the northern region. From the dense tropical vegetation on the coast, the land changes northwards with decreasing rainfall into the thorn savannahs of the Sahel zone. Nigeria is by far the most populous country in Africa. Of the approximately 400 different peoples are the Yoruba, the Ibo, the Fulbe and the Hausa the largest and most politically influential. Ethnic-cultural, social and religious tensions are a burden on the multi-ethnic state, which is divided into an Islamic north and a Christian south. After developing the rich oil reserves in the 1960s, Nigeria experienced rapid economic growth, from which the political elites in particular benefited, while the majority of the population had no share in it. Since gaining independence from British colonial power in 1960, Nigeria has endeavored to find economic and political stability. Despite the constitutionally guaranteed separation of powers, the President has great powers as commander-in-chief of the politically influential armed forces. The religious division Boko Haram will not let Nigeria calm down. In terms of foreign policy, the up-and-coming emerging country with its wealth of raw materials is an important player in West Africa and a member of many international organizations, despite numerous domestic political challenges.


Nigeria is the most populous state in Africa with over 400 ethnically, linguistically and religiously different peoples and tribes. The largest groups are the Hausa and Fulbe (together 32%) in the north, the Yoruba (21%) in the southwest and the Ibo(18%) in the southeast.

In between live the Edo, in the central southeast the Tiv and the southern minority peoples in the Niger Delta (including Ijo, Ibibio and Ogoni). The official language is English; regional lingua franca are Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba and Pidgin. – There is sometimes strong rivalry between the peoples, which has both religious and social causes: Islam is predominant in the north, while Christians live in the south. For a long time, political power lay in the hands of the north, but economic preponderance was in the south.

The population density is 210 residents per km 2. The strong population growth and rapid economic development in the 1970s resulted in great migration from the countryside to the cities. The proportion of the urban population is now 49% (2017). The largest urban centers are the megacities of Lagos and Ibadan in the densely populated Yorubaland. Other metropolitan areas are the Ibo area and the region around Kano in the north of the country.

The biggest cities in Nigeria

The biggest cities in Nigeria (inh. 2016) *)
Lagos 13 745 000
Kano 4,155,000
Ibadan 3,160,000
Abuja 2,940,000
Port Harcourt 2,075,000
*) Calculations

Social: Despite the income from the oil business, half of the population continues to live in extreme poverty. Many Nigerians are leaving the country because of high unemployment, the politically insecure situation and the lack of prospects for the future. In addition to the (2017) 216,000 refugees, there are around 1.7 million internally displaced persons, most of whom were displaced by the terrorist organization Boko Haram.

Rural areas in particular are affected by inadequate medical care and poor access to clean drinking water. The rate of people infected with HIV (among adults between 15 and 49 years of age) is 2.8% (2017). One in four women in Nigeria is affected by genital mutilation, which was only officially banned in 2015 but is still widespread, especially in the south-west of the country. Male homosexuality is forbidden and punished with imprisonment.


The constitution (Article 38) guarantees religious freedom and expressly excludes the establishment of a state religion (Article 10). All religious communities are legally equal. Leading Islamic personalities, however, exert a not inconsiderable political influence.

According to diverging estimates by remzfamily, over 45–50% of the population are Christians. The number of Muslims is roughly the same. Indigenous African religious practices are practiced by around 8 to around 10% of the population (partly in overlap with Christian or Islamic beliefs, which arithmetically leads to values ​​of more than 100%).

The Muslims are Sunni of the Maliki school of law. Islam is strongly influenced by Sufi brotherhoods who strive for a comprehensive Islamization of the north, its main area of ​​distribution. The religious head of Nigerian Muslims is the Sultan of Sokoto.

Christianity is the dominant religion in the south and central Nigeria. The Christian population is divided as follows: 12-13% Anglicans (“Church of Nigeria” with 14 ecclesiastical provinces), 11-13% Catholics (nine archdioceses with 45 suffragan dioceses; the Catholic Church is probably the largest Christian denomination in the country today), about 10% Protestants (Baptists [3–4%], Pentecostals [2–3%], Presbyterians [2–3%], Methodists, Lutherans, Adventists, etc.), over 15% followers of independent churches (several hundred denominations). In terms of ethnic groups, Islam is particularly widespread among the Fulbe, Hausa, Kanuri and Yoruba, while Christianity is particularly widespread among the Ibo. Followers of indigenous African religions can be found especially among the Yoruba.

Nigeria Population and Religion