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What are the biggest languages in Nigeria?

Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa with an estimated population of 200 million people. Nigerians consist of people from different tribes who speak different languages and dialects. 

English is Nigeria’s official language following colonization by the British. Nevertheless, the officially recognized major languages are Hausa, Yoruba, and Igbo. There are other Nigerian languages with millions of speakers. 

In this article, we look at the biggest languages in Nigeria according to the number of speakers. Check them out below: 

1. Hausa 

Hausa is Nigeria’s most widely spoken language, with around 50 million native speakers living in Kano, Sokoto, Kaduna, Zamfara, Katsina, Kebbi, and Jigawa. In addition, Hausa is spoken as a second language in numerous states in north-central and northeastern Nigeria. 

The number of persons who speak Hausa as a second language is estimated to be around 60 million. As a result, almost 90 million people speak Hausa as a first language or as a second language. 

2. Yoruba 

Yoruba is Nigeria’s second most widely spoken language. It is indigenous to around 50 million Nigerians, the majority of whom live in the country’s southern states. Oyo, Ondo, Osun, Lagos, Ogun, and Ekiti are among those states. 

Apart from the southwestern states, native Yoruba speakers can be found in the north-central states of Kogi and Kwara. They are said to be descendants of Oduduwa, Olodumare’s son, according to legend. 

3. Igbo

Igbo is Nigeria’s third most prevalent language, with around 42 million native speakers mostly in the states of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, and Imo. The Igbos are also found in the states of Delta. 

Apart from that, they can be found in almost every one of Nigeria’s 774 Local Government Areas, as they are primarily merchants looking for good locations for their companies. Unlike Hausa, Igbo is not spoken as a second language throughout the southern region. 

4. Fulfulde 

Fulfulde is the native language of around 15 million Fulani people in Nigeria. Many people in Nigeria confuse the Hausa and Fulani languages since most Fulanis speak Hausa. That, however, is inaccurate. Fulfulde is the Fulanis’ native language. 

They number around 40 million people in the Sahel and Western African regions combined. Nigeria, Chad, Mali, Guinea, and Guinea-Bissau are among the countries where Fulanis live in great numbers. 

5. Gbagyi

The ethnic group Gbagyi or Gbari is primarily located in the North Central geopolitical zone. In fact, they are the most populous ethnic group in the middle-belt, with over 15 million people registered in 2006. Gbagyi/Gbari is the name of their language, which is divided into two dialects: Gbagyi and Gbari.

6. Ibibio

The Ibibio people live in Nigeria’s southernmost region. The Ibibio people speak one of Nigeria’s most widely spoken languages, with approximately 8 million native speakers. 

Total number of Ibibio speakers including non-native speakers is over 10 million. Furthermore, the Anaang and Efik, who also live in southern Nigeria, are closely connected to the Ibibios. 

7. Ijaw

In Nigeria, the Ijaw tribe has roughly 18 million native speakers. However, it isn’t actually a language but instead different languages. The Ijaw tribe speaks nine Niger–Congo languages that are all related and belong to the Ijoid branch of the Niger–Congo tree.

Izon, which is spoken in Eastern Ijaw, is the most widely spoken, with over 5 million native speakers. The Ijaws live in a region of Nigeria that is rich in oil. 

8. Tiv

Tiv is the native language of around 7.5 million people in Nigeria’s Benue state. It is also a small section of Cameroon. They arrived in their current position from the southeast, according to their own accounts. 

They had traveled across southern, south-central, and west-central Africa before landing in West African Sudan’s savannah regions through the Congo River and the Cameroon Mountains. 

The Tiv language belongs to the Benue–Congo phylum, which is ultimately part of the Niger–Congo phylum. Tivs are also a minority in Nasarawa and Taraba states, in addition to Benue. 

9. Kanuri

Kanuri is a member of the Nilo-Saharan language family, which is spoken primarily in Chad, Cameroon, and Nigeria. Those who are referred to as Kanuri comprise a variety of subgroups and dialects, some of whom consider themselves to be distinct from the Kanuri. 

Kanuri is one of the most widely spoken languages in Nigeria, with an estimated population of about 7 million native speakers. 

10. Nupe

Nupe is one of Nigeria’s most widely spoken languages, with approximately 3.5 million native speakers dispersed over the country’s central belt. Usman dan Fodio captured much of Nupe country in the 18th century, but they kept a few fundamental traditional practices. 

The favored use of Etsu Nupe in referring to their king rather than the Emir utilized by most Fulani conquered territories is notable among their cultural customs. The Nupe people are often referred to as Tapa by the Yorubas, who live close by. 

Bonus – Nigerian Pidgin 

Nigerian Pidgin is perhaps the country’s second lingua franca, behind British English. It is the only language spoken by the Hausas, Yorubas, Igbos, Ibibios, and every other tribe in Nigeria, except for English. 

Using the correct facts, it’s not unreasonable to conclude that Nigerian pidgin is the second most popular language after English. A total of 5 million people in the Niger Delta region speak Pidgin English as their first language.

Bottom Line 

Now you know the biggest languages in Nigeria. Which language do you speak? Let us know in the comments section.