The Largest Ethnic Groups In Nigeria

The Largest Ethnic Groups In Nigeria
The Largest Ethnic Groups In Nigeria

Nigeria is a country located in West Africa with over 250 ethnic groups. The largest of these groups are the Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo people. The Largest Ethnic Groups In Nigeria make up roughly 79% of Nigeria’s population. We will focus on the history and culture of each group and their impact on Nigerian society today.

The Yorubas are descendants of the first settlers in Nigeria who may have come from Ghana or the Benin Republic. They became one of the most powerful African empires with their capital city at Ile-Ife, one of the holiest cities for Muslims and Christians alike before it fell into ruins after an invasion by Fulani warriors during the 1837-1840s period.


The Largest Ethnic Groups In Nigeria



The Hausa are Nigeria’s largest ethnic group. Hausa people make up about 25% of Nigeria’s population, around 68 million. The Hausa culture is homogenized, which is highly similar across Nigeria. Hausas are recognized for their cattle and other livestock and farming and trading. The Hausa are also known for following Islam as their primary religion. Hausa, Nigeria’s largest ethnic community, has always been a critical player in Nigerian politics since the country’s independence from the United Kingdom in 1960.

Fulani and Hausa together make up approximately 33% of the population of Nigeria. Fulani adopted Islam early, and a large section of the Fulani people are recognized as excellent Islamic clerics. Along with the Hausa, Fulani people have also been a dominant presence in Nigerian politics since independence in 1960.



Yoruba people account for around 25% of Nigeria’s population, making them the second-largest ethnic group. Although many Yoruba still adhere to traditional components of their ancestors’ religious practices and beliefs, they are commonly categorized as Christian or Muslim.

Many cultural traditions are upheld by this ethnic community, including music and culture festivals, traditional Yoruba art, and traditional architecture. Historically, the Yoruba culture has relied on vast numbers in a central place, as well as an Oba (King).



Nigeria’s Igbo people make up about 20.9% of the country’s population. With most Igbo identifying as Christians, they have traditionally been opposed to Sharia rule in Nigeria. Unlike the Hausa and Yoruba, Igbo society is not hierarchical and does not rely on a centralized government.

In Nigeria’s southeastern region, the Igbo constitute a critical element of the oil trade. Igbo people fought alongside the Nigerian government to gain independence in 1967. This was a two-and-a-half-year conflict in which Igbo people were forced to atrocious conditions, with many of them starved to death. Since the war, Igbo have been reintegrated into Nigerian culture, although many Igbo still feel marginalized by the Nigerian status quo.



The Ijaw dwells in Nigeria’s Niger River Delta and makes up around 10% of the country’s population. The Ijaw have long had a tense relationship with the rest of Nigeria’s people. The Ijaw live because they are particularly oil-rich. This is a bittersweet situation for the Ijaw people, as oil development has jeopardized their land.

Mismanagement of oil earnings has prevented a significant portion of the riches from returning to the Ijaw people. Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria’s Prime Minister from 2010 to 2015, is an Ijaw, and his election to the country’s highest office was a proud occasion for the Ijaw people.



The Kanuri are a Nigerian ethnic group who live in northeastern Nigeria. Their population is around 4% of Nigeria’s total 8,245,583. Kanuri dwells in remote areas that are difficult to access for others. Sunni Muslims make up the majority of the Kanuri population.

Boko Haram, an Islamist rebel group in Nigeria’s north, is primarily Kanuri. This organization aims to express several Kanuri issues against the Nigerian government. Despite the Kanuri culture’s rich past, Boko Haram has used their territories as a base of operations, subjecting innocent Kanuri people to violence and Sharia law.



The Ibibio, who live primarily in southern Nigeria, have a rich oral history that has been passed down through the years. These people have resided in this portion of Nigeria for hundreds of years. This ethnic group has about 7.2 million people or 3.5 percent of Nigeria’s population.

The Ibibio people of the region also approached the British Crown about forming their sovereign nation within Nigeria (pre-independence). Today, the majority of Ibibio people identify as Christians. Ibibio is famed for its remarkable artistic tradition, most known for its beautiful wooden masks and carvings.



The Tiv ethnic group is well-known for its agricultural products and its trade. This is one of the group’s only sources of income. The Tiv people may all trace their roots back to Tiv’s ancient man, who had two sons. Only a tiny percentage of Tivs identify as Christians and even as Muslims.

The old Tiv religion, based on the management of forces by humans entrusted by a creator God, is still strong within the Tiv population. However, Tiv makes up only 3.5 percent of Nigeria’s population, making them one of its minor ethnic groupings.


Other Ethnic Groups

Nigeria’s remaining ethnic groups account for 12% of the country’s population. To mention a few, these groups are Ebira, Edo, Gwari, Jukun, and Igala. Nigeria’s middle belt is noted for its diversity, with many remaining ethnic groups. However, despite Nigeria’s broad ethnicity, many above groups live in isolation.

In Nigeria, most ethnic groups have organized illegal vigilante or militia groups to safeguard their interests from other ethnic groups.


The Largest Ethnic Groups In Nigeria 2021

RankEthnic Groups Population Population %
1Hausa / Fulani 68,000,00033%
3Igbo 43,000,00020.9%
4Ijaw 20,613,95810%