Which State Has The Highest Population in Nigeria?

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Although the figures posted after the last population census in 2006 revealed that the state with the highest population in Nigeria is Kano, reports from the Lagos State Government and the United Nations say otherwise.

Which State Has The Highest Population in Nigeria?

which state has the highest population in nigeria

Current estimates indicate that Lagos state is the state with the highest population with residents in excess of 20 million. In fact, based on the UN-Habitat and international development agencies’ estimates, Lagos State was said to have about 24.6 million inhabitants in 2015.

But before we delve into the basis of this population figure, let’s take a look at some quick facts about the state.

  • Lagos state has the largest market in Sub-Saharan Africa due to its high population of over 20 million inhabitants.
  • Lagos state is the home of the Nigerian Capital and Money Market with over 200 financial institutions.
  • The state is also home to Nigeria’s Chief Ports – Apapa & Tin Can Island which accounts for 70% of the total National cargo freight
  • Lagos is the media hub and international telecommunication gangway with over 50% of Nigeria’s PTO/GSM subscribers
  • The busiest international/regional aviation hub – Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Ikeja with [over 70.61% of international and 58.30 % of domestic traffic is located in Lagos
  • Lagos is home to 70% of the country’s total industrial investment and 65% of its commercial activities.

Also, here’s a brief history and profile of Lagos state.

Lagos State was established on May 27, 1967 by virtue of States [Creation and Transitional Provisions] Decree No. 14 of 1967 which restructured Nigeria’s Federation into 12 States. Prior to this, the Lagos Municipality was administered as a Federal Territory by the Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Lagos Affairs as the regional authority, while the Lagos City Council governed the City of Lagos.

Lagos Island used to be the political capital of Nigeria. The region served the dual role of being the State and Federal Capital respectively as far back as 1968. The administrative capital later became Abuja but this was eventually moved to Abuja in 1991.

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Lagos State is bounded in the North and East by Ogun State of Nigeria, in the West by Republic of Benin, and stretches over 180 kilometers along the Guinea Coast of the Bight of Benin on the Atlantic Ocean.

The four administrative divisions of Lagos are Ikeja, Ikorodu, Epe and Badagry collectively referred to as IBILE and covering an area of 358,862 hectares or 3,577 sq. km. and representing 0.4% of Nigeria’s territorial land mass of 923,773 sq. km.

Now that we know a bit about Lagos state, let’s take a look at the state’s population and how it all started.

According to UN Habitat, Lagos state is the smallest state in Nigeria as well as the most populated with a population that makes up 27.4 % of the national estimate

Of this population, Metropolitan Lagos accounts for over 85% on an area that is 37% of the land area of the State. Also, it is said that the Lagos population is growing 10 times faster than that of New York and Los Angeles, and more than the population of 32 African nations combined. In fact, the state population is expected to hit the 35 million mark in 2020.

As far back as 1970, the number of inhabitants in Lagos was 1.4 million. Lagos attained megacity status in 1995 when its population hit the 10 million mark. By 2000, the population of the state was in excess of 13 million.

Lagos state is primarily a Yoruba state and it is inhabited by the Yoruba sub-groups of the Aworis and Ogus in the Ikeja and Badagry Divisions respectively. The Ogus are mainly found in Badagry and the Awori forming the indigenous population of Lagos.

Immigrant settlers include Edos, Saros, Brazilians, Kannike/Tapa, etc and they are collectively called Lagosians but more appropriately referred to as the Ekos.

In the Ikorodu and Epe Divisions of Lagos, the local populations are mainly the Remos and Ijebus with pockets of Eko-Awori settlers along the entire State coastland and riverine areas.

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You can also include the large number of ex-slaves of Afro-Brazilian and Afro-Cuban descent and people from Sierra Leone made groups in Lagos, alongside ex-slaves from the Americas in the mid-nineteenth century.

Beyond the Yoruba groups and the immigrant settlers, Lagos state is predominantly a global socio-cultural melting pot attracting Nigerians, Africans and foreigners alike. There are small minorities of American, East Indian, Chinese, white Zimbabwean, Greek, Lebanese and Japanese are additionally present in the city.

Overall, there are over 250 ethnic gatherings represented in the city, which incorporates the ethnic groups of Africa like the Hausa and Fulani. This is due to certain attributes like the economic strength of the state, the strategic maritime location as well as the socio-political importance of the state which has led to a high rate of migration to the State.

With regards to Nigeria, Lagos state is extremely important to the country’s economy. The state is said to be the financial and economic capital of the state. In fact, the Gross Domestic Product [GDP] of Lagos accounts for 26.7% of Nigeria’s total GDP and more than 50% of non-oil GDP.

The growth of Lagos state has been stimulated by Public-Private investments. Also, the diversified economy of the state is certainly a leading contributor to Nigeria GDP.

Additionally, the state has been using its tax base to fuel its development and it is estimated that at least 70% of the state’s annual revenues comes from taxes.

In conclusion, let’s take a look at the population of Lagos in the last 5 years.

  1. 2013 – 14.9 Million
  2. 2014 – 17.03 Million
  3. 2015 – 20.09 Million
  4. 2016 – 21 Million
  5. 2017 – 22 Million

With the rate at which the population is growing, by the year 2050, the population is expected to have doubled which will make it the third biggest city on the planet however with less foundation than some other extensive urban communities of the world.


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