Living in Nigeria?

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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.
Beautiful sights are to be found even near the larger cities, such as Zuma Rock, which is 55km west of Abuja.

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 residents.

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 (79%).

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 countries).

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.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

Paul Zimmerer

"InterNations is a fantastic community for expats and a must for anyone preparing to move abroad. I recommend it to all my fellow Germans overseas."

Stella Munúa

"This site is just what I was looking for when I moved to Lagos. Thanks for all the advice and support that helped us to settle in Nigeria."

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