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Nigeria at a Glance
Living in Nigeria
Due to the high birth rate and incentives for
foreign workers, the number of people living in
Nigeria is steadily growing, making it Africa’s
most populous nation. This InterNations Guide
informs you about people, transportation,
safety, and how to get the best out of life in
Nigeria: Demographics
It is a matter of debate just how many people
currently live in Nigeria; numbers vary rather wildly,
but it’s estimated there are about 175 million people
living in Nigeria. At the time of the last census, there
were approximately 250 different ethnic groups in
Nigeria, with many different languages, customs, and
religions. Due to this rich ethnic diversity, the
Nigerian identity is very heterogeneous.
The three largest ethnicities are Hausa and Fulani,
Yoruba, and Igbo. These groups account for a total of
68% of all people living in the country. As far as
religions go, a rule of thumb is that most people in
the North are Muslims (with some regions having
instated Sharia law), whereas the South is mostly
Christian. The numbers are split up almost evenly,
with 50% and 40% of the people living in Nigeria
being Muslim and Christian, respectively.
Nigerian Languages
The variety of languages exceeds the ethnic diversity
by far: More than 500 languages are estimated to
exist in Nigeria. The three main indigenous
languages, like the ethnicities, are Hausa, Yoruba,
and Igbo. However, many ethnic groups speak more
than one language. Although English is the official
language of Nigeria, one cannot expect fluency from
every Nigerian local. However, expats in Nigeria’s
larger cities, such as Lagos or Abuja, should have no
problem when speaking English with the local
The Expatriate Population in Nigeria
As the nation is home to many international
corporations, particularly those in the oil industry,
people of countless different nationalities opt for
expat life there. There are large expat communities
of Britons, US-Americans, East Indians, Japanese, and
Greeks; people hailing from Arab countries such as
Syria and Lebanon are numerously represented as
well; and many Chinese expats help improve
everyday life in Nigeria by advancing the nation’s
railway connections.
Infrastructural Challenges for Nigeria
Life in Nigeria is strongly shaped by the many
infrastructural challenges of the country. Expats have
to get used to frequent power outages during their
time in Nigeria. Only about half of all Nigerian
households (48%) have access to electricity, and
even then, often only for a few hours a day. Even in
the most prestigious areas in Lagos and Abuja, diesel
generators are a common sight. Telephone – and
subsequently, internet – connections are very patchy.
This is why cellphones are hugely popular amongst
the Nigerian populace (73 cellular subscriptions per
100 people).
Existential Problems of the Nigerian People
There are, however, even more pressing issues for
many people living in Nigeria, such as the
inadequate supply of safe water and the high prices
of many consumer goods. For the 70% of the
population living below the poverty line, the
imported food Nigeria depends on is simply too
expensive. Across the country, only about three in
five households (64%) have access to clean fresh
water, making life in Nigeria a struggle at times.
Even in cities, this figure only rises to four in five
Nigeria is a country full of extremes, and, as is often
the case in developing economies, the immense
wealth of a minority comes at the expense of the
masses, particularly in the countryside. The many
infrastructural problems, including the quality of
roads (see page 2 of this article), are a huge burden
on the nation’s economic potential. Ultimately, they
also affect the cost and quality of life in Nigeria.
Cost of Living in Nigeria
The 2014 Mercer Cost of Living survey ranks Lagos
and Abuja as the 25th and 36th most expensive
cities in the world for expatriates. On InterNations’
own Expat Insider Survey, Nigeria is rated as the
most expensive country for expats (out of 61
If you want a western standard of living, you have to
pay for it. Rent, food, and imported goods tend to be
the most expensive items, while petrol, local beer,
and cigarettes are some of the cheapest. Domestic
help is also inexpensive, as are utilities, just don’t
expect an uninterrupted power or water supply.
Given the cost of living in Nigeria, income inequality
in the country is high. As mentioned above, seven in
ten Nigerians live off no more than USD 1.25 per day.
Poverty is probably the biggest challenge to face
Africa’s second-largest economy.
Got something to add?
We do our best to keep this article up to date.
However, if you spot any inaccurate info, don’t
hesitate to contact us.
All Country & City Guides
Expat Guide Nigeria
Working in Nigeria
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