Nigerian news All categories All tags
Ethnic groups in Nigeria

Ethnic groups in Nigeria

Nigeria is a country located on the west coast of Africa. The population of the country is leading on the continent as the Nigerian people make up approximately one-eighth of all the inhabitants of the continent.

For many centuries, the present territory of the country fall under the endless invasions of neighboring peoples and has experienced numerous periods of migration. Therefore, modern Nigeria has a large number of different ethnic and linguistic groups. Do you know how many ethnical groups does our country have?

States in Nigeria

Today, the number ethnic groups in Nigeria counts 250, who preserved their languages and culture. Approximately 80% of the population makes a list of 10 groups, which have a numerical superiority in some states: Hausa and Fulani in Sokoto State; Kaduna, Bauchi, Yobe, Katsina, Jigawa and Kano, Kanuri - in Borno State; Tiv - in the Benue and Plateau; Yoruba - in Oyo; Ogun, Ondo, Ekiti in Lagos; Edo or Bini - in Edo; Ibo or Igbo - in Imo and Anambra; Ibibio-Efik - in Cross River and Ijo - in Bayelsa. Hausa, Yoruba, and Ibo account for approx. 60% of Nigerians.

Fulani, Tiv, Hausa, Kanuri

Fulani, Tiv, Hausa and Kanuri - the most numerous peoples of Nigeria living in its northern regions. Most of them, except Tiv, are Muslims. Due to the militancy of Hausa and the extension of trade relations, their language expanded on the territory of West Africa, and now it is the predominant ethnic language in the northern regions of the country. Their conservative social relations distinguish Fulani people.

The main population of the Borno State - Kanuri, nationality, whose whole life is governed by the rules of Islam. Tiv living in the states of Plateau and Benue are Christians and hold sacred, and all religious traditions.



Three main ethnic groups living in the east of Nigeria speak Igbo. Ibo live essentially in the states of Anambra and Imo. The people of Ibibio-Efik predominates in the state of Cross River and Ijaw - populated Bayelsa State. All of them are characterized by life in small villages.

A prominent place in the pantheon of gods belonged to the goddess Ala, and the priests of her cult often carried out judicial and other governmental functions. The art is characterized by a high degree of expression. From the crowded eastern areas, Ibo migrated to other parts of the country. The only exception was during the civil war 1967-1970. Ibibio traditionally lived in the villages, where the power functions performed secular and religious leaders.

Each village had a large degree of autonomy, but groups of villages united into clans basing on blood relations and common beliefs, and were managed by secular and religious leaders, and a council of elders.

Ijaw peoples are divided into several groups, and their culture and linguistic community are the same. Most of the people belonging to this ethnicity professed Christianity.

Igbo - ethnic group


On the territory situated on the southwest of the Niger River, the Yoruba people represent the largest part of the population. A common language, culture, and traditions unite them.

READ ALSO: Importance of culture in Nigeria

Yoruba created several powerful cities-states. The power of some of the rulers of these countries was not confined only to the borders of their possessions. The ruler Ife was considered the religious head of all the Yoruba and alafin (the ruler Oyo) was nominally considered the first among the equal Yoruba rulers. In traditional Yoruba beliefs, there are several major cults, each associated with a particular god, such as Shango, god of thunder. Yoruba religious beliefs, poetry and music, imported to the New World, had an impact on the culture of Brazil and some Caribbean countries.

The most significant contribution of the Yoruba to the art of West Africa is the sculpture. From 1938 on the territory of Ife during archaeological excavations were found several bronze and terracotta heads and figures. The oldest of them were made of approx. 800 years ago. Yoruba sculptures are among the world's masterpieces. In recent years, the art of the Yoruba inherent expressiveness finds vivid expression in a wooden sculpture.



About 35% of Nigerians are Christians, about 48% are Muslims. Christian missions were active on the territory of the southern Nigeria. The positions of the Catholic Church is the strongest among the population of the eastern part of the country, and the Methodist and Anglican - in the west. Other Protestant churches are also active. There are also a number of local African Christian churches that have arisen on the basis of separatist movements because of dissatisfaction with the domination of the population in the church hierarchy of foreign missionaries and their negative attitude towards polygamy. The overwhelming majority of the Yoruba are Muslims. Thanks to the activity of missionaries in the southern Nigeria Christianity and western education has spread, while the population of the North remains committed to Islam.

Religious conflict in Nigeria

Ethnic and religious conflicts

The main causes of ethnic and cross-cultural (religious) conflict is a struggle for political supremacy among the major ethnic groups (Hausa, Yoruba and Ibo) and for access to natural resources (mainly oil), as well as the lack of representation of interests of non-dominant ethnic groups.

The struggle for power and the right to dispose of oil revenues against the other two dominant ethnic groups in the 1960s led to discrimination and for the war of independence of Biafra 1967-1970 (the so-called civil war in Nigeria). After the war, the role fell to the political control. At present, the conflict has taken the form of sluggish, but the problem remains.


MASSOB, the armed Ibo group, for the past few years made itself felt twice during the arrest of the movement leader Ralph Uwazurike in November 2005, and in 2006, during the census. Now, the struggle for dominance between Hausa and Yoruba took the form of religious conflict between the north (Muslim – Hausa) and the south (Christians - Yoruba), gaining momentum since the beginning of the 2000s in connection with the adoption of sharia law in 12 states in the north in the 1999 year, and the growth of the Christian-Muslim conflict in the world as a whole.

In 2004, in Kano (in the north) the Muslims attacked the Christian minority living in the city. After a few days, the Christian armed groups attacked the Muslim town Yelva (in the north), as a result more than 600 people were killed.

In early 2006, the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in a Danish newspaper led to the escalation of violence in the country: in the north of Nigeria have been anti-Christian speeches, and in the south - counter anti-Muslim. As a result, the mutual attacks more than 100 people were killed, destroyed several churches and mosques.

Religious opposition has spread to the area with a mixed Christian-Muslim "Middd Belt", situated in the central part of Nigeria, where there are small in the number of peoples. For example, since 2001, clashes broke out in the state of Plateau, where the trend towards confrontation is observed. In 2004, the president was forced to enter a time in the state of emergency because of the ongoing clashes.

Conflicts in Nigeria

The reason for the conflict are economic problems, the struggle for natural resources (water, pastureland, minerals, etc.) Between the age-old resident farmers (Christian) and foreign nomadic peoples (Muslims).

The activities of foreign oil companies have led to the deterioration of the ecological and economic situation in the Niger Delta, which has led to intra-regional conflicts. Since 1993, clashes between the Ijaw and Urhobo ethnic groups on the one hand, and Itseriki - on the other do not stop. The cause of the collision was the struggle for power and influence in the state of Delta (for natural resources - water, land, food sources, the first right to employment, representation in local political structures).

Ijaw and Urhobo accuse the government in favoritism towards their opponents. As long as the authorities' attempts to solve the problem by force led to an escalation of tensions.

Now the conflict is not hardened, but still it is, and nobody knows when to total piece will seat on a throne.

READ ALSO: Effects of population growth in Nigeria

Subscribe to watch new videos


Mailfire view pixel