A Guide to the Indigenous People of Nigeria

| Love reading Culture Trip? How about travelling with us! Our Culture Trips are small-group tours that truly immerse you in a destination through authentic travel experiences. You can also embrace slow travel and the joys of journeying by train on our eco-friendly Rail Trips.

Nigeria, located in West Africa, is a nation of remarkable diversity, home to approximately 197 million people. This remarkable population size makes it the most populous nation in Africa. With over 300 ethnic tribes, Nigeria has a rich tapestry of cultures and traditions that contribute to its unique and vibrant identity. To truly appreciate the cultural diversity, it’s essential to delve into the rich history of Nigeria, which has shaped the various indigenous peoples that call this country home.

Love reading Culture Trip? How about travelling with us! Our Culture Trips are small-group tours that truly immerse you in a destination through authentic travel experiences. You can also embrace slow travel and the joys of journeying by train on our eco-friendly Rail Trips.

Brief history

Nigeria as a nation has a rich and complex history which can be traced to when it first became a British protectorate in 1901. As a colony, it was initially divided into the Southern Nigeria Protectorate and Northern Nigeria Protectorate. The southwest has always been dominated by the Yoruba people, descendants of the Oyo Empire, while the southeast has always been dominated by the Igbo people from the Nri Kingdom. Most of the north is inhabited by the Hausa and Fulani people who are descendants of the Hausa Kingdom, Fulani Empire and Songhai Empire.


The Hausa people are the largest tribe in Nigeria, making up approximately 25% of the population. Hausaland is concentrated in northern Nigeria, situated between the River Niger and Lake Chad.

The Hausa practise a very homogenised culture, keeping their traditions and way of life during and after colonisation. Islam is the main religion of Hausas and is said to have been brought by traders from Mali and Guinea during their trade exchanges, which they quickly adapted. Aside from English, they primarily speak the Hausa language.


The Yoruba people make up the second largest tribe, constituting an estimated 21% of the population. The Yoruba states are located in southwest and north central regions of Nigeria. However, Yoruba speakers can also be found in parts of nearby countries, such as Benin Republic and Togo.

The Yoruba people practise Christianity and Islam, while a minority still follow ancestral traditional beliefs. They are people of many cultural traditions, and Ile Ife which in Yoruba mythology is where life began is held as the spiritual centre of the Yoruba tribe.



The Igbo people are descendants of the Nri Kingdom, the oldest in Nigeria. They have many customs and traditions and can be found in southeast Nigeria, consisting of about 18% of the population. This tribe differs from the others in that there is no hierarchical system of governance. Instead, a traditional republican system exists with a consultative assembly of people, which guarantees equality to citizens.

The Igbo people also had their traditional beliefs, but after colonisation, the majority (more than 90%) converted to practise Christianity, with a large number becoming Catholic.

The Igbo people also play an important part in the Nigerian oil trade since most of this natural resource is found within Igbo land.


The Ijaw people make up about 10% of Nigerian population and are situated in the delta of the Niger River. Their community is made up of 50 kinship clans who mostly work as fishermen and farmers. Some 70% of Ijaws practise Christianity.

Ijaw land is very rich in oil which has led to their communities undergoing extensive oil exploration, effects of which has caused ecological vulnerability. Also, tensions have arisen in the past between the community and the government and oil companies due to the mismanagement of revenue generated from oil. It is argued that a substantial amount of the wealth derived from this natural resource has not made its way to benefitting local communities.


Also referred to as the Edo tribe, the Bini people (derived from Benin), can be found in Edo State in the south of Nigeria, although they can also be found spread across the Delta, Ondo, and Rivers states. They are descendants of the Benin Empire and speak Edo language, including several other dialects.

The name Benin was derived from “Ubinu” which was used to describe the capital of the kingdom. But was then mispronounced by the Portuguese as “Bini” and then further to Benin around 1485 when the Portuguese began trade relations with Oba Ewuare who was the traditional ruler at the time.

Many Binis are Christians or Muslims. It is important to note that according to historical sources, the Bini people today are the descendants of the Yoruba Prince Oranmiyan of Ife who was invited to rule them after they were dissatisfied with their then King. Also, modern-day Lagos was found by the Bini army in the 16th century while they were out on a hunt. At the time Lagos was a forest with no inhabitants. The Bini army settled there and began developing the area which in the local language is known as Eko, even till today.


It is estimated that the Kanuri people make up 4% of the Nigerian population. This tribe can be found in the northeast of Nigeria.

The Kanuri people are mostly Sunni Muslims. Unfortunately, the extremist group, Boko Haram have used Kanuri lands as a base for operations, subjecting Kanuri people to violence and Sharia law.


The Ibibio people make up about 3.5% of the population of Nigeria. They’re a minority group located mostly in the southeast region of the country.

They’ve retained a rich oral history which is passed down through generations. Before Nigeria’s independence, the tribe had made some efforts to create their own sovereign state within Nigeria, even entering into talks with the British Crown.

The Ibibio people mostly identify as Christians and are known for their artistry, such as creating intricate wooden masks and carvings.

landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

Edit article