Population of Nigeria: How It Changed Over the Years


The 2006 census figures puts the population of Nigeria at 140,431,790 people.

However 2014 estimations put the country’s population at 174,507,539 people.

With a population of around 175 million people, Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and the 7th most populous in the world.

The country is inhabited by over 500 ethnic groups, of which the largest three are Yoruba, Hausa, and Igbo.

The Nigerian population is roughly divided in half between Muslims, concentrated mostly in the North and South-west, and Christians, concentrated mostly in the Southern and Central parts of the country.

Population of Nigeria and how it has changed over the years

Nigeria is one of the fastest growing countries in the world and the rapid growth rate seems to have remained a constant phenomenon in the last 50 years. In fact, it is said to be increasing at a much quicker rate with each passing day.

In this post, we’ll take a quick look at the population of Nigeria over the years. But before we proceed, let’s delve into some quick facts about the Nigerian populace.

  • The Nigerian population is quite literate with over 80% been able to read and write.
  • Beyond the Nigerians living in the country, there are Nigerians spread across the globe. The majority of these Nigerians are primarily in Britain and U.S.A while other are found in countries like Canada, South Africa and Gambia.
  • Approximately 50% of Nigerians are urban dwellers and there are 24 cities with a population of at least 100 000 persons.
  • The state with the highest population in Nigeria is Lagos State. With an estimated population of 17.5 million but there seems to be disputes with this figure. The National Population Commission puts the figure at 21 million as at 2017.
  • Bayelsa State which is the least populated state with approximately 1.7 million residents as at 2017.

As far back as 1950, the population of Nigeria was already in tens of million precisely 37.8 million. And one peculiar feature about the Nigerian populace since the 1950s has been the higher number of individuals between the ages of 15 and 64 years. The percentage in this age range has always oscillated between 52 and 55%.

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On the other hand, the country has had a percentage of aging populace in single digit with the figure hovering around 3.0. One reason to this is the life expectancy which is at an average of 53.

Between 1950 and 1955, there were over 1.8 million births each year, with an annual death rate of a little over 1 million.

By 1955 up till 1965, the live birth grew to an average of 2 million births per year and between 1955 and 1965, the population of the country had risen from 41 million to 45 million.

However by 1965, the population had grown by 11 million from 45 million to 56 million.

The first census in Nigeria dates back to pre independence. It was carried out by the British in 1866. This was long before the Northen and Southern regions were amalgamated.

Another pre-independence census was done between 1952 and 1953. This enumeration started in Lagos and a total of 272 000 people were counted. In May, June and July of 1952, when the population census was carried out in Northern Nigeria, 10.8 million persons were counted.

This was followed by an enumeration in December 1952 and January 1953 in western Nigeria. The figure was approximately 6.1 million persons.

And this was followed by a census in eastern Nigeria between May to August 1953 with 7.2 million people being counted. The total population from the census between 1952 and 1953 was 30.42 million.

There was an attempt to evaluate the country’s population in 1962 but there were disputes over the inflation of the figures and the result was cancelled.

However, a proper population census would be carried out a year later. It was the first post independence census and it was held in 1963

This census recorded a population of 55.6 million although this count wasn’t without its critics. As a matter of fact, the handling of the census was challenged in court but the Federal Supreme Court ruled in favour of the Federal Government.

By 1970, the population was estimated to be at 56 million and in 1975; the estimated population was approximately 63.5 million. From 1975 on wards, the growth rate every 5 years was between 10 to 12 million.

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Another census was carried out in 1991 and this was successfully conducted over a period of 4 days. The figure at this point was approximately 88.9 million with the number of males being 44.5 million while that of women was 44.4 million.

To an extent, there was a balance in the ratio of males to females. It was estimated that for every 10,000 females, there are over 10,015 males.

However, this value only holds true at the general population count. When you take a look at the individual states, the ratio isn’t necessarily as close as we think. In fact, some places like the Federal Capital Territory seem to have much more males than females with the value been 123 males to every 100 females.

By the turn of the 21st century, the growth rate had doubled with over 20 million persons being added every 5 years and in 2000, another census was already expected, however it took 5 years for the Federal Government to sanction it and this eventually took place over a period of 5 days from the 21st to the 25th of March 2006.

At the end of the census, the estimated population was given at 140 million. As at the time of this writing, another census is due to take place and the government is considering 2018.

Nonetheless, there have been estimates with regards to the Nigerian populace in the last 10 years. The population as at 2010 was approximately 160 million and the current figure as at 2017 seems to be close to 200 million.

As a matter of fact, the UN estimates that there are 186.9 million people living in Nigeria and with the rate of growth of the country it is expected that Nigeria will be the 3rd most populous nation in the world by 2050.

Currently, Nigeria is ranked the seventh most populous nation in the world and number one in Africa and one of the reasons for the exponential growth in the country is the birth rate which is expected double in the next few years.

This observation is particularly interesting, because there have been reports in Nigeria that the fertility rate in the country has dipped.


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