Nigeria is made up of three large ethnic groups – the Hausa-Fulani, Yoruba, and Igbo-who represent 70 percent of the population. Another 10 percent comprises of several other groups numbering more than 1 million members each, including the Kanuri, Tiv, and Ibibio. More than 300 smaller ethnic groups account for the remaining 20 percent of the population. However, the similarity between these groups melts all the boundaries making them into a huge group. Most Nigerians speak more than one language. The country’s official language English, is widely spoken especially among educated people. Apart from English, 400 native Nigeria languages are also spoken, out of which some are being threatened with extinction.
Nigeria happens to be the most populous country in Africa. As a matter of fact, the Nigerian people comprise a population with the highest density in the world. People in Nigeria give great importance to religion. 45% of the population is Christian, 45% Muslim and the remaining 10% is a mixture of quite a few indigenous religions. However, as Nigerian culture is multi-ethnic, there used to exist quite a few religions and deities.
The Nigerian people traditionally used to worship inanimate objects. Ancestral worship was also largely practiced by many tribal groups in Nigeria. Among the numerous ethnic groups in Nigeria are the Ibos or Igbos, Yorubas, and Hausa-Fulanis. The Yoruba people occupy mostly the southern-western parts of Nigeria. The Ibo or Igbo group in the South-Eastern States of Nigeria and the Hausa-Fulani in northern Nigeria.
The birth rate among the Nigerian people is about 43.26 per 1000 people, while the death rate is 12.01 per 1000 people. The life expectancy for the total population of the Nigerian people is 55.98 years, with 54.69 years for males and 57.3 years for females. The fertility rate is about 6.31 children born per woman. The population growth rate is 3.16%. Although ethnically diverse, the unity among the Nigerian people is very unique.
In 2002, the estimated population of Nigeria was 129, 934,911, yielding an average density of 141 persons per sq km (364 per sq mi). During the last census in 1991, the population totaled 88.5 million. The accuracy of the 1991 census was however highly controversial like previous censuses, notably the annulled 1962 and 1973 censuses and the hotly disputed 1963 census. This was as a result of the fact that before the 1991 census, the number of registered voters indicated that the Nigerian population was probably between 115 and 125 million – about 30 percent more than indicated in the census.
With a birth rate of 39.2 per 1000 and a death rate of 14.1 per 1000, the Nigerian population is growing at an average of 3 percent annually, a rapid pace, and little change from the 1970s. The average Nigerian woman gives birth six times in her lifetime although, among more educated women, the rate is somewhat lower. Nearly half of Nigerians are younger than 15 years. By 2025 the population is projected to grow to 204 million, almost double the current size.
The highest population densities are in the Igbo heartland in south-eastern Nigeria, despite poor soils and heavy emigration. The intensively farmed zones around, including several major Hausa cities, especially Kano, Sokoto, and Zaria in the north are also packed with people. Other areas of high density include: Yorubaland in the south-west, the Central Jos Plateau, and the Tiv homeland in Benue State in the South Central Region. Densities are relatively low in the dry North-East and in most parts of the Middle-belt. Ecological factors including the prevalence of diseases such as sleeping sickness, carried by the tsetse fly and historical factors, especially the legacy of pre-colonial slave raiding, help to explain these low densities.