Top 10 Most Populated Tribes in Nigeria (2024)

Which country in Africa has the most ethnic groups? Nigeria, with over 250 different tribes! But which 10 tribes make up the largest number of people?

Based on new 2024 population data, the biggest Nigerian tribes are the Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo, Fulani, Ibibio-Efik, Kanuri, Urhobo-Isoko, Ijaw, Edo, and Nupe tribes respectively. Where do they live in Nigeria? What languages and religions do they have?

Read below to find out more about Nigeria’s 10 most populous tribal groups!

populated tribes in Nigeria

TOP 10 MOST POPULATED TRIBES IN NIGERIA (2024)

With an abundance of unique and diverse ethnic groups, Nigeria stands out as a country rich in cultural heritage.

Based on recent 2024 population data, the ten largest tribal groups in the country are examined below.

THE HAUSA TRIBE

As home to over 62 million people in Nigeria alone, the Hausa tribe can rightly claim the title of the country’s largest ethnic group.

Their home communities are concentrated primarily across states in northern Nigeria like Sokoto, Zamfara, Kebbi, Kano, and Kaduna.

Important Hausa cities include ancient trading posts like Kano and Zaria that were linked to major Saharan and sub-Saharan trade routes for centuries. SEE: HAUSA STATES IN NIGERIA.

From city-dwelling musicians to rural village farmers, all Hausa cultural practices revolve around the Islamic faith brought to the region by Arab traders and clerics dating back to the 14th century.

THE YORUBA TRIBE

Coming in a close second with around 50 million members in Nigeria are the culturally dynamic Yoruba people.

Based predominantly in the southwest, Yoruba subgroups like the Ijebu, Egba, Ekiti, and Oyo populate Lagos and other southern Nigerian states in Yoruba land.

One of precolonial Africa’s most urbanized groups, the Yoruba operated influential city-states centered around politics, academics, commerce, and religion.

To this day, Yoruba communities emphasize progress through modern education, business activities, and technological innovation.

THE IGBO TRIBE

With current population figures indicating about 40 million members, the Igbo represent one of Nigeria’s three major ethnic identities alongside the Hausa and Yoruba.

Igbo territory lies chiefly in Nigeria’s southeast, where subgroups populate areas of Enugu, Imo, Anambra, Ebonyi, and Abia states. SEE IGBO STATES IN NIGERIA

Traditional Igbo society is decidedly egalitarian and democratic, with extended familial clan groups forming the broadest political unit.

Known for achieving extraordinary business success within Nigeria, Igbos increasingly take on white-collar jobs across global metropoles like Houston, London, and Hong Kong.

THE FULANI TRIBE

Numbering well over 25 million in Nigeria alone, the somewhat insular Fulani people occupy various territories across West and Central Africa.

Their largest Nigerian population center lies in the northern Sahel, specifically Adamawa, Katsina, Kaduna, and Sokoto States. ALSO SEE: TOP 10 MOST POPULATED STATES IN NIGERIA (2024)

Historically the Fulani established temporary settlements as they traversed the grasslands between Nigeria and Senegal in search of grazing lands for their vast cattle herds.

While urban Fulanis have adopted more modernized lifestyles in recent decades, most remain committed to the ethnic group’s pastoral identity and reputations as patient livestock farmers.

THE IBIBIO-EFIK TRIBE

The Efik and Ibibio are two closely related subgroups located in southeastern Nigeria’s Akwa Ibom and Cross River States. They together number around 8 million members as of 2024.

Along with other Southeastern groups like the Ijaw, these fifth largest Nigerian tribes were somewhat isolated historically from the major Hausa, Yoruba, and Igbo spheres of cultural influence.

Traditional Efik and Ibibio societies revolved around secret societies, divine kingship rituals, and local trading networks which brought them into contact with early European traders arriving on the Atlantic coast as early as the 1500s.

THE KANURI TRIBE

An estimated 7 million Kanuri people populate northeastern Nigerian states like Yobe, Borno, Adamawa, and Bauchi. They represent the largest single ethnic group in this distinct cultural region.

The Kanuris emerged from the power vacuum left after the decline of the unified Bornu Empire which dominated areas around Lake Chad for nearly a millennium until the 1800s.

Scholars speculate that Kanem-Bornu at its peak may have been the largest nation state in Africa during the Middle Ages.

Modern Kanuris still communicate using the standardized Kanuri language first spread under their medieval kings and overlords.

THE URHOBO-ISOKO TRIBE

The Urhobo and Isoko ethnic subgroups jointly account for southern Nigeria’s largest tribal community outside of the better known Yoruba bloc.

Current population figures place their combined numbers at around 6.5 million, predominantly occupying Delta State and neighboring areas.

Both the Urhobo and Isoko communicate using the Edoid language group, along with other southern minorities like the Esan and Afemai.

However clear cultural differences led to distinctive Urhobo and Isoko identities historically which remain salient in tribal disputes over land and resources in present-day Delta State.

THE IJAW TRIBE

As one of the more vocal ethnic minorities in Nigeria, the oil-rich Ijaw number approximately 5 million people inhabiting the swampy coastal areas of Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta, and Edo States.

Despite ongoing environmental degradation of their fragile freshwater and mangrove habitats from decades of petroleum operations, most Ijaws still rely on fishing and simple agriculture to support their village families and clans.

Due to long-term military occupation and oil company dominance of their homelands, feelings of marginalization and unrest still trouble Nigeria’s Ijaw youths.

THE EDO TRIBE

The ancient Edo kingdom centered around the famous Benin City represented one of West Africa’s outstanding civilizations during the second millennium A.D.

Today, around 4.5 million Edo speakers occupy Edo State, speaking closely related languages linked to neighboring Delta-Edo subgroups like the Isoko.

While the cultural sophistication of monumental architecture and exquisite bronze sculptures seen during Benin City’s golden age declined after its sacking by British invaders in 1897, modern Edo communities from city planners to rural farmers continue adapting traditional lifeways to contemporary Nigeria.

THE NUPE TRIBE

Based in the traditional emirates system of the central Niger and Benue River valleys, the rural Nupe people represent Nigeria’s tenth largest ethnic group with an estimated population around 4 million.

Dominated historically by the nearby Hausa, the Nupe adopted Islam and its accompanying education and literacy centuries ago.

This allowed the Nupe to fill administrative positions like scribes and clerks in royal Hausa courts.

While functioning practically as junior partners in the patchwork of subgroups occupying Nigeria’s central belt, Nupe communities retained distinct cultural practices seen in local architecture, food ways, music, and tribal leadership structure.

CONCLUSION

So which Nigerian tribe has the most people? The Hausa in the far north lead with over 62 million people. Who comes next in population size?

The Yoruba of the southwest have about 50 million members. And in third place are the Igbo with around 40 million, living mainly in the southeast. Smaller tribes can still have millions of members too – like the cattle-herding Fulani, the coastal Ijaw, and city-dwelling Edo.

What ties all these colorful tribes together into one country? Their shared future in Nigeria, Africa’s exciting mega-diverse homeland which shows how many different cultures can thrive side-by-side!

join us on telegram join our whatsapp channel

Oluchi Chukwu

Oluchi is a seasoned Information blogger, content developer and the editor of Nigerian Queries. She is a tech enthusiast who loves reading, writing and research

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Discover more from Nigerian Queries

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading