Population Distribution in Nigeria

It is no longer news that there are close to 200 million people currently living in Nigeria. However, one question that is often asked is, how is this population distributed across the 36 states?

For example, we know that Lagos and Kano are the cities with the highest number of residents.

But statistics regarding the population distribution in terms of age, ethnicity, religion, literacy etc isn’t well known to many.

In this post, you’ll learn all you need to know about the demographic aspect of the country’s population.

population distribution in Nigeria

Population distribution in Nigeria: Rural/urban population

Approximately 50% of Nigerians live in the urban areas with at least 100,000 Nigerians living in the 24 cities spread across the country.

The population of Nigerians in the major cities have been highlighted below:

  • Lagos:      13.123 million
  • Kano:        3.587 million
  • Ibadan:       3.16 million
  • Abuja:         2.44 million
  • Port Harcourt:  2.343 million
  • Benin City:      1.496 million

Population distribution in Nigeria: Ethnicity

The country has over 389 ethnic groups which makes Nigeria a highly culturally diverse nation. The Yoruba people are the largest single ethnic group with 21% of Nigerians being Yorubas. The Hausas and the Fulanis make up 29% of the Nigerian populace while the Igbo people comprise 18% of the population.

The Yoruba people live primarily in the South West. You’ll also find Yorubas in the North-Central part of the country. On the other hand, the Hausas and Fulanis are found predominantly in the Northern part of the country.

Other popular ethnic groups include the Ijaws 10%, Kanuris 4%, Ibibios 3.5% and the Tivs 2.5%.

Population distribution in Nigeria: Religion

Although Christianity seems quite popular in Nigeria, half of the Nigerian populace identify as Muslims.

Based on the Pew survey which was done in 2009, 45% of Nigeria’s population comprises Muslims but a later survey in 2011 puts the Christian population at 56.8% while Muslims comprised 41.1%. Other religions make up 1.4% of the population.

Population distribution in Nigeria: Age

The Nigerian populace is relatively a young one with over 40% of Nigerians being within the ages of 0 to 14 years. The second most populated age groups are those between the ages of 25 and 54 years old.

Below is the age profile of the Nigerian population based on statistics from 2016.

  • 0-14 years: 42.79% (male 40,744,956/female 38,870,303)
  • 15-24 years: 19.48% (male 18,514,466/female 17,729,351)
  • 25-54 years: 30.65% (male 29,259,621/female 27,768,368)
  • 55-64 years: 3.96% (male 3,595,293/female 3,769,986)
  • 65 years and over: 3.12% (male 2,754,040/female 3,047,002)

The overall median age is 18.3 with the median age for males being 18.2 and that of females being 18.4.

Population distribution in Nigeria: Dependency

There is a large percentage of youth still dependent on their family for support. Based on a 2015 population data, youth dependency ratio is 82.6 while elderly dependency ratio is 5.1.

Life expectancy

Every baby born in Nigeria is expected to live to at least 50 years old with the life expectancy at birth in Nigerian being estimated at 53.4 years. According to a survey in 2016, the male life expectancty is 52.4 years while the female expectancy is 54.5 years


There are over 3 million people in Nigeria living with HIV/AIDS with the prevalence rate as at 2014 being 3.17%. Benue State has the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the country.

A 2014 survey indicated that there are 3,391,600 Nigerians living with HIV/AIDS and the deaths due to this disease is 174,300.

Drinking water and sanitation     

Most Nigerians have access to drinking water. Here’s the breakdown according to a 2015 survey:

  • Urban: 80.8% of population
  • Rural: 57.3% of population
  • Total: 68.5% of population

On the other hand, the percentage of Nigerians with no access to potable drinking water based on the same survey:

  • Urban: 19.2% of population
  • Rural: 42.7% of population
  • Total: 31.5% of population

Also, access to sanitation facility is generally poor in the country. Here’s the breakdown

  • Urban: 32.8% of population
  • Rural: 25.4% of population
  • Total: 29% of population

This means 67.2% of the urban populations and 74.6% of the rural population have little or no access to sanitation facilities.


Data from 2015 indicates that 59.6% of Nigeria over the age of 15 can read and write. According to this statistics, 69.2% of males can read and write while 49.7% of females can do likewise.

Child labor

Child labor is a major problem in Nigeria with 11,396,823 children within the age of 5 to 14 being involved.

Maternal age/mortality rate

The average age of the Nigerian mother at first birth is 20.3 years while the infant mortality rate is 71.2 deaths per 1,000 live births.

Below is the breakdown based on gender survey in 2016:

  • Male: 76 deaths/1,000 live births

Female: 66.2 deaths/1,000 live births

Additionally, a 2015 survey revealed that an estimated 814 mothers die per 100,000 live births.

Fertility rate

The Nigerian population is rapidly growing with more children being born each year while less people are dying. The average growth rate per year is 2.44%.

The contraceptive prevalence rate is one of the factors responsible for this rapid growth. As at 2013, the rate was 15.1%.

Below is the statistics on birth, death and fertility rate based on a survey in 2016

  • Birth rate: 37.3 births/1,000 population
  • Death rate: 12.7 deaths/1,000 population
  • Total fertility rate:    5.13 children born/woman


Obesity is a growing trend in Nigeria with the adult prevalence rate being 9.7% as of 2014.

Nigerians in the Diaspora

There are millions of Nigerians living in different countries across the world. Below is a highlight of estimated Nigerian population in the diaspora:

  • United Kingdom:  500,000-3,000,000
  • United States:    600,000-1,000,000
  • Others include South Africa, Gambia, and Canada respectively. There are also Nigerians in Ireland and Portugal.

Wrapping up

Overall, it is expected that the country’s population will grow from the current estimates of 186 million people in 2016 to 392 million by 2050.

The population of the country by 2050 will make Nigeria the world’s third most populous country after India and China.

1 thought on “Population Distribution in Nigeria”

  1. You are dreaming some of these figures up. where did you get information of Yoruba being the largest single ethnic group? Use any of the censuses in Nigerian history and project using the population growth rate. Further you say Christianity is the largest religion, a clear fallacy. Christians in Nigeria constitute about 40% of the population. Please don’t misinform the world

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