6 Geopolitical Zones in Nigeria (States & Ethnic Groups)

Geopolitical Zones in Nigeria; States, Cities, Ethnic Groups, and Economic Strength.
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Geopolitical Zones in Nigeria; States, Cities, Ethnic Groups, and Economic Strength.

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The Geopolitical Zones in Nigeria; States, Cities, Ethnic Groups, and Economic Activities – An Introduction

Nigeria is a country that lies within the west coast of Africa.

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The country stretches from the outskirts of Sahara Desert in the north to the Gulf of Guinea right on the Atlantic Ocean.

The West African country occupies a landmass of about 923,768 square kilometers and has two geographical characterizations in landforms; the lowlands and the highlands.

While the highlands mostly cover locations in the Southeast, Cross Rivers State, core north, and north-central, the lowlands cover areas in the northwest, northeast, and most places in the south.

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Historical background of the Geopolitical Zones in Nigeria

Nigeria was formed with the amalgamation of the northern and southern protectorates in 1914, by the then colonial government, headed by Lord Luggard.

The entity grew in all facets, while the nationals earnestly sought for independence.

Mr. Bernard Bourdillon, the then Governor-General, started the concept of federalism in Nigeria, as he divided the country into three provinces in 1939. 

In the year 1960, Nigeria gained independence from British colonial rule.

By this time, Nigeria, as a Federal State had three regions; East, West, and North.

Following independence in 1960, there were a series of military coups, rulers, and administrations, and one of the most popular of the leaders is General Sani Abacha.

Nigeria was divided into six geo political zones in 1993, during the General Abacha-led military regime. 

Reasons for the Creation of the 6 Geopolitical Zones

The nation’s resources were to be allocated according to these zones with the quota system.

The zones are believed not to be entirely based on geographic positions; the individual states’ predominant ethnic groups were also considered.

The zones’ formation was also aimed at properly distributing the various states, based on their geopolitical divisions.

For the six geopolitical zones in Nigeria and states under them, here we go…

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6 Nigeria Geopolitical Zones; States, Predominant Ethnic Groups, and Resources

Nigeria is made up of thirty-six states and six geopolitical zones.

North Central Geopolitical Zone

This zone is also called the Middle Belt.

It is a region that stretches longitudinally through Nigeria’s central part, constituting a movement zone between its southern and northern parts. 

This is one of the smallest geopolitical zones in Nigeria and is characterized by a diversity of ethnic groups, with none being the dominant group.

States in the North Central Geopolitical Zone

States in the Middle Belt include;

  1. Kogi  
  2. Kwara 
  3. Benue 
  4. Niger 
  5. Plateau 
  6. Nassarawa

Popular Cities in the North Central Geopolitical Zone

The famous cities in this zone include;

  1. Abuja
  2. Jos
  3. Lafia
  4. Lokoja
  5. Makurdi
  6. Ilorin and 
  7. Minna. 

Ethnic Groups in North Central (Middle Belt)

Though this region has no dominant ethnic group, it has different ethnic groups including; 

  1. Yoruba
  2. Gbagy
  3. Mangu
  4. Berom
  5. Tiv
  6. Nupe
  7. Igala
  8. Idoma
  9. Mada-Eggon, and 
  10. Gwandara.

North East Geopolitical Zone

Before the creation of the zones, there was an area called the North-Eastern State.

The area occupies almost one-third of the nation’s total landmass and has most of the mountains in Nigeria.

However, on the 3rd day of February 1976, the North-Eastern State was broken down to Borno, Gongola, and Bauchi states.

In the preceding years, there were more divisions, which then gave rise to the six states that currently make up the country’s north-east geopolitical zone. 

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States in the North-East

The states in North East are:

  1. Bauchi  
  2. Borno
  3. Gombe
  4. Yobe
  5. Taraba
  6. Adamawa

Ethnic Groups in North East

Unlike many other zones with several ethnic groups, the North East is dominated by two ethnic groups; 

  1. Kanuri and 
  2. Fulani. 

Other ethnic groups in the geopolitical zone include; 

  1. Babur
  2. Fulfulde
  3. Tiv
  4. Mumuye
  5. Balewa and 
  6. Tangalawaja.

The Cities in North East

The cities within the North-East zone include: 

  1. Damaturu
  2. Potiskum
  3. Bauchi
  4. Jalingo
  5. Gombe
  6. Yola and 
  7. Maiduguri.

North West Geopolitical Zone

The northwest zone is arguably the largest and most populated geopolitical zone.

As of 2020, all the Nigerian past and present presidents from the north are from this geo political zone. 

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States in North West

The states that make up this zone are;

  1. Kano
  2. Kaduna
  3. Katsina
  4. Kebbi
  5. Sokoto
  6. Jigawa
  7. Zamfara

Cities in North West

The popular cities in the northwest include but not restricted to the following

  1. Kano
  2. Katsina
  3. Dutse
  4. Gusau
  5. Kaduna
  6. Zaria
  7. Birnin-Kebbi and 
  8. Sokoto. 

Tribes and Religions in North West

The northwest geopolitical zone is a highly religious zone, with the indigenes being mainly Muslims. However, there are a few Christians and folks with other religious affiliations. 

The Hausas and Fulani dominate the area with other ethnic groups being; 

  1. Zara
  2. Baju
  3. Jabba
  4. Zuru
  5. Maguzawa and 
  6. Gbayi.

South West Geopolitical Zone

The South West is one of the six geopolitical zones in Nigeria.

The South West is home for the Yoruba people and is blessed with a rich cultural heritage.

Even though the people from this zone are mostly bilingual, with most of them speaking the English language, they are native Yoruba-speaking with various dialects. 

States in the South West

The South West states include; 

  1. Lagos 
  2. Ogun
  3. Ekiti
  4. Oyo
  5. Osun
  6. Ondo

Popular Cities in the South West

The South West has lots of large cities, some of which are popular all over the country and beyond.

The top cities in the southwest include;

  1. Lagos
  2. Ikeja
  3. Ado-Ekiti
  4. Osogbo
  5. Ogbomoso
  6. Abeokuta
  7. Akure
  8. Ibadan. 

South East Geopolitical Zone

This geopolitical zone was created through the instrumentality of Chief Alex Ekwueme, the first Vice President of Nigeria.

It was initially known as Eastern Nigeria when the country was split into three regions in the 1950s. 

The current southeast geopolitical zone has a total landmass of about 41,440 km2 and is home to the Igbos, which are among the top three largest ethnic groups in Nigeria.

Even though there are native Igbos found in other regions of the country, they are mostly found in the South East. 

People of this region are Igbo-speaking, with countless dialects and distinct historical heritage. 

Read: Richest state in Igboland.

States in the Southeast

The five states in the southeast zone are as follows:

  1. Imo 
  2. Abia
  3. Anambra
  4. Enugu
  5. Ebonyi

Popular Cities in the South East Region

The popular southeast cities include; 

  1. Owerri
  2. Orlu
  3. Aba
  4. Umuahia
  5. Abakiliki
  6. Enugu
  7. Awka
  8. Onitsha.

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South-South Geopolitical Zone

The south-south geopolitical zone is often seen as the zone that keeps the country running because Nigeria’s major export, crude oil, is found in large quantities in this area. 

Most states in the Niger Delta area are found in this zone.

Crude oil was discovered in commercial quantity in Nigeria, in a place called Oloibiri, in Bayelsa State, one of the states in the geopolitical zone. 

With an estimated population of seventeen million (17 million), this region is one of Nigeria’s least populated areas

Read: Oil producing states in Nigeria, refineries, and history.

Ethnic Groups in South-South

The zone has an assortment of ethnic groups, among which are: 

  1. Ijaw
  2. Ikwerre
  3. Urhobo
  4. Itsekiri
  5. Esan
  6. Bini
  7. Efik
  8. Ibibio
  9. Ejagham
  10. Annang
  11. Nembe. 

These different tribes speak varieties of languages and dialects. 

Related: Oil Producing States in Nigeria & Barrels per Day, History and Refineries

States in South-South

The states that make up this zone are:

  1. Rivers
  2. Delta
  3. Akwa Ibom
  4. Cross Rivers
  5. Bayelsa
  6. Edo.

Popular Cities in South-South

Some of the popular cities in the geopolitical zone include;

  1. Port Harcourt
  2. Oyibo
  3. Uyo
  4. Eket
  5. Ikot Ekpene
  6. Calabar
  7. Obudu
  8. Yenogoa
  9. Asaba
  10. Warri
  11. Abraka
  12. Benin
  13. Auchi

Economic Activities of the Six Geopolitical Zones in Nigeria (Natural Resources)

Nigeria was in the early 1990s divided into these six geopolitical zones.

This division, among other things, is based on geographical location.

Each of the zones has economic strengths for which they are known, even though each zone has bits of what other zones have.

But then, it is the magnitude of the economic identities that differentiate one from another. 

While some of the economic identities were developed from scratch, some were simply harnessed from natural deposits.

Economic Activities and Natural Resources in the South-South Region

The South-South geopolitical zone comprises six states, which include the top oil-producing states in Nigeria.

The states also make up a bulk of the Niger Delta region. 

While most states are so deep into oil exploration, some others are also blessed with other natural resources.

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For example, Edo State is known for limestone mining, and Delta state is known for iron-ore mining. 

Aside from oil exploration, the South-South region is known for the commercial farming of economic crops like kola, oil palm, and cocoa.

Being a region surrounded by water bodies, this zone is known to have viable port activities, and fishing business thrives in the area.

Related: Top Seaports in Nigeria

Economic Activities and Natural Resources in the South East Region

The South-East is known for producing crops like kola, yam, vegetable, cassava, rice, and palm oil production, all of which add to the country’s revenue generation. 

People of this zone are also widely known for their success in trading and business.

They travel to different parts of the world to do business and grow in finances.

In cities like Aba and Onitsha, there are vast markets, including Ariaria Market (Aba) and Main Market (Onitsha), which are evidence of the zone’s love for doing business.

These markets are known all over the country and are visited by buyers from Nigeria and beyond.

Besides agriculture and trading, the zone does well in local manufacturing and has some states amongst the oil-producing states in Nigeria.

Economic Activities and Natural Resources in the South West Region

The South-West zone is one of the most cosmopolitan geopolitical zones in the country.

Therein are Lagos and Ogun States, which are amongst the commercial hubs of the country

In these states you’ll find many companies including;

Besides the internally generated revenue garnered by the states’ commercialization, the states are also into mining and agriculture.

Limestone mining is done in Ogun State, and a large part of the states produce farm produce like kola, cocoa, fish, and rubber.

Related: Top 13 Most Lucrative Jobs in Lagos State, Nigeria

Economic Activities and Natural Resources in the North West Zone

The North-West zone is majorly into crops and livestock production.

There are also commercial mining activities in some selected states.

Economic Activities and Natural Resources in the North Central Region

The North Central zone is majorly into commercial farming and produces a bulk of the country’s farm produce.

Besides agriculture, states in the zone are also into mining and commercialization.

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Economic Activities and Natural Resources in the North East Region

The North-East geopolitical zone is widely known for farming ranging from livestock production to food and cash crop production.

With a few deposits of some natural resources, the people also carry out some mining activities.

Generally, the northern states in Nigeria are providers of crops like tomatoes, potatoes, groundnut, watermelon, kola, among other things. 

On the other hand, the southern states in Nigeria provide resources like crude oil, coal, limestone, etc.

Frequently Asked Questions on the Geopolitical Zones in Nigeria

What are the Six Geopolitical Zones and there States?

The six geopolitical zones in Nigeria are; 

  1. North-East (NE)
  2. North-West (NW)
  3. North-Central/Middle Belt (NC/MB)
  4. South-South (SS)
  5. South-East (SE)
  6. South-West (SW).

This also answers the questions – what are the geopolitical zones in Nigeria and how many geopolitical zone is in Nigeria.

Who Named Nigeria?

Flora Louise Shaw, a British writer, and Journalist who later became the wife of Lord Lugard named Nigeria when she used the name “Nigeria” in an 1897 London Times article.

She coined the name using two words, “Niger” and “Area” referring to the area around the River Niger.

How Many States Are In Southwest Nigeria?

There are six states in southwest Nigeria.

How Many States Are In Each Of The Geopolitical Zones?

  1. South West (Six States)
  2. South East (Five States)
  3. South-South (Six States)
  4. North East (Six States)
  5. The North West (Seven States)
  6. North Central/ Middle Belt (Six States).

What Is The Oldest State In Nigeria?

Going by their dates of creation, the following states were created on the 27th day of August 1967 and are considered the oldest states in Nigeria

The states include; 

  1. Kano
  2. Kwara
  3. Rivers
  4. Cross River
  5. Lagos and 
  6. Kaduna.

What Is The Smallest State In Nigeria?

Lagos State is the smallest state in Nigeria, with a landmass of about 3,345 km2.

How Many States Are In The Niger Delta?

There are nine states in Niger Delta. The Niger Delta states include;

  1. Rivers
  2. Cross River
  3. Delta
  4. Akwa Ibom
  5. Edo
  6. Bayelsa
  7. Abia
  8. Imo and 
  9. Ondo.

Read: All to Know about States in the Niger Delta

What Was Nigeria Called Before?

Before amalgamation, on the 1st day of January 1900, the British Empire formed the Northern Nigeria and Southern Nigeria Protectorates, which were amalgamated in 1914 to form the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria. 

Concluding Words on the Geopolitical Zones in Nigeria

There you have it, the 6 geopolitical zones in Nigeria. 

  • Which of these zones have you visited?
  • How was your experience?
  • If you have the chance to visit, which zone will you visit?

Let us know in the comment section. 

We hope you found this article on the geopolitical zones in Nigeria resourceful.

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2 thoughts on “6 Geopolitical Zones in Nigeria (States & Ethnic Groups)”

  1. Oh wow! Very nice!
    Indeed, it’s an information to know. I just derived acronyms for the six geopolitical zones in Nigeria for quick remembrance. That way, I won’t forget that they are North Central, North East, North West, South South, South West, South East. Please, keep sharing forever valid contents like this. God keep you.

    1. Hi Austina

      We’re glad you found this information to know helpful.

      Do share with us the acronym you derived for the six geopolitical zones in Nigeria, so other readers can learn too.

      We will keep sharing valid content.

      Thanks for the good wishes.

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