Language is an integral part of any community. There are multi-language countries. So, how many languages in Nigeria?

How many languages in Nigeria?

  • Igbo language 



Igbo languages

  • Yoruba language 

Yoruba languages

  • Hausa language 

The Hausa language is most spoken language in Nigeria. Hausa native speakers can be found in the Northern States of the country like Kaduna, Sokoto, Kano, Katsina, Jigawa, Bauchi, Kebbi, Zamfara, and the Gombe States. As per 20th electronic edition of Ethologue data – 1991 SIL, 18,500,000 in Nigeria speak Hausa as the first language and for 15 million it is the second language. Wikipedia gives a bit different figures, as per it’s data for 2016, Hausa is native language for 70 million people, 50 million speak this language as the second. Even some foreigners in the South West of Africa speak this language. What is more, is that the Hausa language is highly respected by foreigners to the extent that it is given significance in international radio station like BBC

  • Fulfulde language

As for Fulfulde language, it is the language of Sahel cattle pastoralists. This language is usually spoken in the Northern parts of Nigeria. For more than 11.5 million Nigerian people, this language is native (Ethnologue data as per 2000). The representatives of this language can be found in Bororo, Sokoto, Jos plateau, Maiduguri, Kano, Zaria, and Katsina. Fulfulde language can be found in Fulani diaspora all over the world. Also, it is one of the most spoken languages for immigrants in Nigeria. It also happens to be one of the most popular languages for Nigerian culture and music.

  • Kanuri language

Kanuri language is also one of the most spoken languages in the country with over 3 million of native speakers, which are mainly located in states like Yobe, Jigawa, and Borno. There are more than 500 000 people who can say that Kanuri is their second language (Gunnemark and Kenrick 1985). It is also spoken in countries like Niger, Cameroon, and Chad. As for the small minorities of this language, they can be traced to Sudan and Libya. This language is usually associated with Kane and Bornu Empires, which were dominated in Lake Chad many years ago. Actually, it is a written language, which uses Ajai Arabic script. It has now become firmly associated with Latin script.

  • Tiv language

Tiv language is spoken by more than 2.2 million of Nigerian people (as per 1991). Some Tiv language speakers are in Cameroon, but in Benue State, you can find the majority of Nigerian Tiv speakers. You can also hear this language in states like Nasarawa, Cross River, Plateau, and FCT Abuja. Moreover, this language is a part of Niger-Congo family. That is why the Tiv speakers are mostly located in the South Eastern parts of Nigeria.

  • Ibibio language

The next one is the Ibibio language, which is spoken as the first language by more than 1.5 million Nigerian people (1998, B. Connell). For about 4.5 million it is the second language (2013 SIL). Almost all of them are located in Akwa Ibom State. Not so long ago, Ibibio people even asked for the confession of their nation from the British. Actually, there are over 6 million Ibibio native speakers in the world and almost all of them are located in Nigeria. But you can also meet them in Equatorial Guinea, Trinidad and Tobago, Ghana, and Cameroon.

These people are have culture and individual views similar to Ekid, Anna, Oron, and Ibeno. #11. Edo language Edo is thought to be a native language for more than 1 million Nigerian people (1999). Almost all of them are located in Edo State. It happens to be the primary language of the Edo people of Igodomigodo kingdom. This kingdom was recalled Edo by Oba Eweka, as a result of which the Edos refer to themselves as Oviedo (‘child of Edo’). Nowadays, a lot of people prefer to speak Pidgin English or just English in Edo State. What is more, some Edos do not speak their mother tongue on the streets and even at homes.

Nigerian Top 20 Languages

Nigeria has over 250 ethnic languages with some (those bordering other African nations) extending beyond the borders of the country.  The table below contains the top 20 languages (top 3 rankings are accurate, the other rankings are disputable at best) based on the population of the primary speakers of the language.  Most of the speakers of the other languages understand and/or speak one or more of the 20 languages below which further complicates the rankings.


States with Most Speakers

HausaBauchi,Gombe,Kaduna,Kano,Katsina,Kebbi,Niger,and Others
Igbo(Ibo)Abia,Anambra,Ebonyi,Enugu,Imo,Delta,Rivers,Akwa Ibom
FulaniAdamawa,Borno,Nassarawa,Taraba,Yobe,Sokoto,Zamfara,and Others
IbibioAkwa Ibom
Ijaw(Ijo)Bayelsa,Delta,Rivers,Ondo,Akwa Ibom
EfikCross River
Gun-gbeLagos(Badagry area)
AnaangAkwa Ibom