Top 10 Largest Cities In Nigeria

  | 16 min read
Top 10 Largest Cities In Nigeria

Largest Cities in Nigeria by Population and Land Mass

Nigeria, often referred to as the “Giant of Africa,” is a nation teeming with vibrant cultures, diverse landscapes, and a rich history that spans millennia. As the most populous country in Africa, Nigeria is home to bustling metropolises and sprawling urban centers, each with its unique charm and significance. From the dynamic commercial hubs to the cultural heartlands, the largest cities in Nigeria offer a glimpse into the nation’s soul, reflecting its economic prowess, cultural diversity, and dynamic lifestyle.

In this blog post, we embark on a journey through Nigeria’s ten largest cities. We’ll explore their historical backgrounds, economic significance, and the unique attributes that make each city a vital part of the country’s identity. Whether you’re planning a visit, looking to understand Nigeria better, or simply curious about urban life in this fascinating country, our guide to Nigeria’s largest cities will provide you with a comprehensive overview. So, let’s dive into the heart of Nigeria and discover the urban giants that shape this remarkable nation.

Top 10 Largest Cities In Nigeria

1. Lagos City

Nestled along the western coastline of Nigeria, where the land meets the roaring Atlantic Ocean, lies Lagos – a city that epitomizes vibrancy and dynamism. Widely regarded as the face of Nigeria, Lagos is the nation’s beating heart and the economic capital of West Africa, drawing investors from across the globe with its boundless opportunities.

Home to over 21 million people, Lagos is a city of staggering growth and relentless energy. Its diverse markets thrive on sectors ranging from entertainment and lifestyle to cutting-edge technology, and it proudly hosts the headquarters of numerous multinational corporations.

Fun fact: When people think of Nigeria, Lagos is often the first place that comes to mind.

Lagos is a melting pot of ethnicities, shaped by both local and international migrations. While the Yoruba people form the predominant ethnic group, the city’s cultural landscape is a rich tapestry woven with influences from all over the world. However, like many bustling metropolises, Lagos grapples with challenges such as traffic congestion and pollution. Despite its economic prowess, the city is marked by stark economic disparities, with an estimated 66% of its residents living in informal settlements.

In essence, Lagos is a city of contrasts – where immense wealth and vibrant innovation coexist with significant socio-economic challenges. Yet, its spirit of resilience and constant reinvention makes it a place unlike any other.

SEE ALSO: Properties for sale in Lagos

One of the most astonishing aspects of Lagos is Makoko, often referred to as the “Venice of Africa.” This floating slum is a unique and resilient community built on stilts over the Lagos Lagoon. Despite the challenging living conditions, Makoko is a testament to human ingenuity and adaptability. The community thrives with its own schools, markets, and vibrant social life, all set against the backdrop of a sprawling aquatic landscape. Makoko symbolizes the incredible resourcefulness of Lagosians and offers a striking contrast to the city’s modern skyscrapers and bustling urban centers.

2. Kano City

Kano, the capital of Kano State, is a city that embodies the rich cultural tapestry and historical depth of northern Nigeria. Established over a millennium ago, Kano has grown into a bustling metropolis, seamlessly blending ancient traditions with modern advancements. It is not just one of Nigeria’s largest cities but also a vital economic, cultural, and educational hub.

Kano’s history dates back to around 1000 AD, making it one of the oldest cities in West Africa. The city was a prominent center of the trans-Saharan trade, linking sub-Saharan Africa to North Africa and the Mediterranean. This history is still palpable in Kano’s old city, surrounded by ancient city walls and gates, and home to the famous Kurmi Market, one of the largest and oldest markets in Africa.

Today, Kano stands as a major commercial and industrial center in Nigeria. The city’s economy is diverse, with significant contributions from agriculture, manufacturing, and trade. Kano’s bustling markets, such as the Dawanau Market (West Africa’s largest grain market), highlight its role as a crucial trade nexus. The city is also known for its textile industry, leather works, and food processing.

Kano City is a remarkable blend of ancient history and modern dynamism. From its roots as a crucial trade center in ancient times to its current status as a major economic and cultural hub, Kano represents the enduring spirit and adaptability of northern Nigeria. Whether you’re drawn to its historical sites, bustling markets, or vibrant cultural scene, Kano offers a unique and enriching experience that captures the essence of Nigeria’s diverse heritage.

SEE ALSO: Properties for Sale in Kano

3. Ibadan

Ibadan, the capital of Oyo State, is a city steeped in history and cultural heritage. With a population exceeding three million, Ibadan is a vibrant metropolis that has maintained its significance since its founding in the 18th century by the Yoruba community, who continue to be the predominant ethnic group.

Located in southwestern Nigeria, Ibadan sits about 119 kilometers (74 miles) northeast of Lagos and 120 kilometers (75 miles) east of Nigeria’s international border with the Republic of Benin. Its strategic location has long made it a key city in the region.

During British colonial rule, Ibadan flourished as a hub of commercial and trade activities. The city became known for its thriving industries, including cigarette manufacturing, food processing, and the production of agricultural commodities such as cacao and cotton. These industries were pivotal to the city’s economy and helped cement its status as a major economic center.

Ibadan is also renowned as a major educational center in Nigeria. It is home to the University of Ibadan, the country’s first university, which has played a crucial role in shaping Nigeria’s academic landscape. The university continues to be a leading institution in higher education, contributing significantly to research and intellectual development in the region.

Before and shortly after Nigeria’s independence in 1960, Ibadan was the largest and most populous city in the country. It was even regarded as the second most populous city in Africa, following Cairo, Egypt. This historical prominence highlights Ibadan’s role as a key urban center in Nigeria’s development.

In recent years, Ibadan has seen a steady increase in population and migration, though not to the same extent as Lagos. This means that Ibadan offers a relatively less congested and more serene environment compared to Nigeria’s bustling commercial capital. Residents and visitors alike appreciate the city’s calmer atmosphere and the ease of movement within its bounds.

4. Abuja

Abuja, the capital city of Nigeria, is a testament to modern urban planning and architectural brilliance. Established in the 1980s, Abuja was strategically developed to replace Lagos as the capital, aiming to provide a more centrally located and politically neutral city. Today, Abuja stands as one of the largest and most significant cities in Nigeria, embodying the nation’s aspirations for growth, unity, and progress.

Located in the heart of Nigeria, Abuja was meticulously planned to address the challenges of overcrowding and congestion that plagued Lagos. The city was designed with wide avenues, expansive parks, and well-organized residential and commercial zones. Its central location was chosen to ensure equal accessibility from all parts of the country, fostering national integration.

As the seat of Nigeria’s federal government, Abuja is the center of political activities in the country. It houses the Presidential Villa (Aso Rock), the National Assembly, and various government ministries and agencies. This concentration of political power makes Abuja a key city for policy-making and governance.

Economically, Abuja is rapidly growing, attracting businesses and investors with its stable infrastructure and strategic location. The city is home to numerous international embassies, multinational corporations, and financial institutions, cementing its role as an economic powerhouse.

Abuja is home to some of Nigeria’s top educational institutions and healthcare facilities. Universities, research centers, and international schools offer high-quality education, attracting students from across the country. Additionally, the city’s hospitals and clinics are equipped with modern medical facilities, providing top-notch healthcare services.

Like any rapidly growing city, Abuja faces challenges such as urban sprawl, traffic congestion, and housing shortages. However, ongoing infrastructural projects and urban development plans aim to address these issues, ensuring sustainable growth and improving the quality of life for its residents.

5. Port Harcourt

Founded in 1912 by Frederick Lugard, Port Harcourt is a bustling city with a population exceeding 1.5 million people. Known as Nigeria’s oil capital, the city’s primary industry is petroleum, which has driven its growth and development. The discovery of crude oil in Oloibiri in 1956 marked the beginning of an era that would see Port Harcourt flourish with modern infrastructure, including overpasses, city blocks, and substantial buildings.

Port Harcourt is home to numerous oil firms such as Royal Dutch Shell and Chevron, reflecting its central role in the Nigerian petroleum industry. The presence of these multinational companies underscores the city’s economic importance and global connectivity.

Fun Fact: Port Harcourt is known for its high cost of living, making it one of the more expensive cities in Nigeria.

The city boasts several tertiary institutions, predominantly government-owned, which contribute to its reputation as an educational hub. Notable institutions include:

  • Rivers State University of Science and Technology
  • University of Port Harcourt
  • Rivers State College of Arts and Science
  • Rivers State College of Health Science and Technology

These institutions offer a wide range of programs and play a crucial role in the intellectual and professional development of the region.

Port Harcourt’s primary airport, Port Harcourt International Airport, is located on the outskirts of the city, providing crucial connectivity for both domestic and international travel. This airport facilitates the movement of people and goods, reinforcing the city’s status as a key logistical and commercial center.

6. Benin City

Benin City, one of Nigeria’s oldest cities and earliest kingdoms, stands as the capital of Edo State, renowned for its rich culture and historical significance. With a population exceeding 1.3 million, it ranks as the sixth largest city in Nigeria.

Historically, Benin City flourished due to its early trade activities during the 16th and 17th centuries. The city was among the first in Nigeria to establish contact with Europeans, facilitating a thriving trade relationship that contributed to its wealth and prominence. These interactions helped Benin City grow into one of the most famous empires in the country.

Benin City is renowned for its exceptional artistry, particularly in bronze casting and other metalworks. These artworks, some of which have found their way to distant shores, continue to be a testament to the city’s rich artistic heritage. The enduring legacy of Benin’s art and history makes it a significant tourist attraction.

Tourist Attractions

Visitors to Benin City can explore several notable landmarks that reflect its cultural and historical importance:

The Palace of the Oba of Benin: A symbol of the city’s royal heritage and traditional authority.
The National Museum: Showcasing a collection of artifacts and artworks that narrate the city’s storied past.
King’s Square: A central point in the city that holds historical and cultural significance.

7. Jos

Nestled in the cool, picturesque highlands of Plateau State, Jos is a city that charms visitors with its unique blend of natural beauty, cultural diversity, and historical significance. Known for its temperate climate and scenic landscapes, Jos stands out as a major tourist and agricultural center in Nigeria.

Founded as a tin mining town in the early 20th century, Jos quickly grew into an important economic hub. The city’s history is closely tied to the tin mining industry, which attracted settlers from various parts of Nigeria and beyond. This influx of diverse groups has contributed to Jos’s rich cultural tapestry, making it a melting pot of ethnicities and traditions.

Natural Beauty and Tourist Attractions

Jos is renowned for its stunning natural attractions and serene environment. Some of the city’s most popular tourist destinations include:

  • Jos Wildlife Park: Home to a variety of wildlife species, this park offers a glimpse into Nigeria’s rich fauna.
  • Shere Hills: These majestic hills provide excellent opportunities for hiking and rock climbing, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding landscapes.
  • Jos Museum: One of the oldest museums in Nigeria, it houses an extensive collection of artifacts that showcase the region’s history and cultural heritage.
  • Kurra Falls: A beautiful waterfall that serves as a perfect spot for picnics and relaxation.

Jos is a city that captivates with its natural splendor, cultural richness, and historical depth. From its origins as a tin mining town to its current status as a major tourist and agricultural center, Jos offers a unique and enriching experience for residents and visitors alike. Its scenic landscapes, diverse cultural heritage, and vibrant social life make Jos a true gem in the heart of Nigeria’s Plateau State.

8. Warri

Situated in the heart of Nigeria’s oil-rich Delta State, Warri is a city pulsating with energy, resilience, and a vibrant cultural heritage. From its humble beginnings as a trading post to its current status as a major urban center, Warri has played a pivotal role in the economic and cultural landscape of the region.

Warri’s history is intertwined with the emergence of trade along the Niger River. Initially established as a trading post for European merchants in the 15th century, the city grew rapidly due to its strategic location and the abundance of natural resources in the surrounding areas. Over the centuries, Warri evolved into a melting pot of cultures, with influences from various ethnic groups across Nigeria and beyond.

As the largest city in Delta State, Warri serves as a key economic hub, particularly in the oil and gas sector. The city is home to several oil refineries, petrochemical plants, and industrial facilities, making it a vital contributor to Nigeria’s energy industry. Additionally, Warri’s bustling port facilitates the transportation of goods and commodities, further enhancing its economic significance.

Warri’s cultural landscape is as diverse as its population. The city is home to people from various ethnic backgrounds, including the Urhobo, Itsekiri, Ijaw, and Isoko, among others. This diversity is reflected in Warri’s vibrant music, dance, cuisine, and festivals, which celebrate the rich cultural heritage of the region. Traditional ceremonies, such as the Iria festival of the Itsekiri people and the Ekombi dance of the Urhobo people, add color and vibrancy to the city’s social fabric.

9. Zaria

Nestled in the heartland of Nigeria’s northern region, Zaria stands as a city steeped in history, culture, and academic excellence. With roots dating back centuries, Zaria has evolved into a vibrant urban center, renowned for its rich heritage, bustling markets, and prestigious educational institutions.

Zaria is home to a diverse population, comprising various ethnic groups such as the Hausa, Fulani, and Gwari, among others. This diversity is reflected in the city’s vibrant cultural scene, characterized by colorful festivals, traditional music, and exquisite craftsmanship. Visitors to Zaria are often captivated by the bustling atmosphere of its markets, where artisans showcase their skills in weaving, pottery, and metalwork.

One of Zaria’s most notable features is its role as a center of learning and intellectual pursuit. The city is home to Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), one of Nigeria’s largest and most prestigious universities. ABU, named after the Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello, offers a wide range of academic programs and has produced generations of leaders, scholars, and professionals who have made significant contributions to Nigerian society and beyond.

Zaria’s economy is diverse, with agriculture, trade, and services playing significant roles. The city’s strategic location along major transportation routes makes it a thriving commercial center, attracting traders and merchants from neighboring regions. Zaria’s markets are renowned for their variety of goods, including grains, textiles, and traditional crafts, making them popular destinations for locals and visitors alike.

10. Aba

Nestled in the southeastern part of Nigeria – Abia state, Aba stands as a bustling city renowned for its industrial prowess, entrepreneurial spirit, and vibrant cultural heritage. Often referred to as the “Japan of Africa” due to its thriving manufacturing sector, Aba is a hub of innovation and creativity, attracting visitors from across Nigeria and beyond.

Aba’s industrial landscape is characterized by its numerous small and medium-scale enterprises, specializing in a wide range of products including textiles, leather goods, plastics, and machinery. The city is famous for its “Aba-made” products, which are known for their quality and affordability. From shoes and clothing to household items and auto parts, Aba’s manufacturers cater to diverse markets both domestically and internationally.

At the heart of Aba’s success lies the entrepreneurial spirit of its residents. The city is home to a vast network of artisans, craftsmen, and traders who have built thriving businesses through hard work, innovation, and resilience. Aba’s markets, such as Ariaria International Market, serve as vibrant trading hubs where goods are bought and sold, fostering economic growth and prosperity for the community.

Beyond its industrial prowess, Aba is rich in cultural heritage and traditions. The city is home to various ethnic groups, including the Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba, and others, contributing to its diverse cultural tapestry. Visitors to Aba can explore its cultural landmarks, participate in traditional festivals, and sample local cuisine, experiencing firsthand the warmth and hospitality of its people.

Which city has the largest land mass in Nigeria?

Ibadan, the capital of Oyo State, is recognized as the city with the largest land mass in Nigeria. Covering approximately 3,080 square kilometers, Ibadan is not only significant for its size but also for its historical importance as one of the foremost centers of administration and education in Nigeria.

What are the three most populated cities in Nigeria?

The three most populated cities in Nigeria are:

Lagos: Often dubbed the economic powerhouse of Nigeria, Lagos is the most populous city in the country, with a population exceeding 20 million people. Its status as a major financial center and port city contributes to its significant population density.

Kano: As the largest city in northern Nigeria, Kano boasts a population of over 4 million people. It is a key commercial and industrial hub, known for its vibrant markets and historical sites.

Ibadan: With a population of around 3.5 million, Ibadan ranks as the third most populous city in Nigeria. It is an important cultural and academic center, housing several universities and research institutions.

Which is the most developed city in Nigeria?

Lagos is widely regarded as the most developed city in Nigeria. It serves as the country’s primary financial, commercial, and industrial hub, hosting the headquarters of numerous multinational corporations and Nigerian companies. The city boasts modern infrastructure, including extensive road networks, high-rise buildings, and a busy international airport. Additionally, Lagos is known for its vibrant arts scene, thriving entertainment industry, and a wide array of amenities that contribute to its status as Nigeria’s most developed urban center.

Christian Nduaguba