Nigeria is currently the seventh most populated country on earth, with more than 200 million people living within its borders. Of this number, more than half live in urban areas.
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The cities are alive with the sights and sounds of humanity and the contrasting scenes of commerce and private residences. Very often, both worlds meld into each other, creating scenes that are almost unique to this patch of the world.
The bigger cities attract a steady stream of people from the rural countryside, people who come in search of a better life. They, as well as those born in the cities, contribute to a swelling of the urban population. This can be both a blessing and an immense challenge.
Here are Nigeria’s ten most populated cities, according to the United Nations’ report, ‘The World’s Cities In 2018’. They are discussed in ascending order of population size.
Uyo is the capital of Akwa Ibom State in Nigeria’s Niger Delta region. It assumed that status in 1987 after Akwa Ibom was carved out of the old Cross River state in 1987. As of 2018, the population of Uyo city proper and the adjoining districts was estimated to be just over 1 million.
Aba, the commercial nerve centre of Abia State, is known for its trade and industry. Its markets attract visitors from elsewhere in Nigeria and beyond the country’s borders. It also hosts pharmaceutical, textile, and footwear manufacturers. The United Nations’ report on global cities says more than 1.02 million people live in the city.
In terms of commerce, Kaduna is Northern Nigeria’s second most important city, just behind Kano. It is also the administrative capital of Kaduna state. The city, which takes its name from the Hausa word for crocodile, is famous for its industries, including cotton textile, plastics, ceramics, and pharmaceuticals. Kaduna is home to over 1.08 million people.
Just like Aba, Onitsha is a commercial powerhouse for South Eastern Nigeria. Located on the banks of the Niger, the city has grown over the years to become a major industrial city serving a vast region. It is home to West Africa’s largest market. Recent population projections suggest that about 1.3 million people live there.
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This city boasts a rich history going back several hundred years. Today, it’s the seat of government for Edo State. There are several processing plants in Benin City; the rubber, palm oil, and furniture trades are thriving too. About 1.63 million inhabit the city and its urban agglomeration.
Capital of the oil-rich Rivers State, Port Harcourt is at the centre of Nigeria’s petroleum industry. Paint, tin, plastic, aluminium products, and cement are all produced there as well. Estimates from 2018 put the population of Port Harcourt at about 2.7 million.
Abuja is Nigeria’s capital city. So it’s no surprise that its population has risen rapidly since it assumed that status in 1991, edging close to the 4 million mark as of 2018. The main city itself accounts for just a small fraction of this number. Most residents live in the adjoining districts and satellite towns.
For a while, Ibadan was Nigeria’s largest city by land size and most populous too. That title has since been usurped by Lagos, another South Western city. But Ibadan remains important. It is the capital of Oyo State, home to the historic University of Ibadan, and a bustling commercial area. The city’s population exceeds 3.4 million.
Kano is the second most populous city in Nigeria and the commercial nerve centre of Northern Nigeria. It boasts a rich past and lively present. West Africa’s largest textile and grain markets are located there. Agriculture, commerce and industry, and transportation are among its biggest economic sectors. Kano’s population hovers around the 4 million mark.
Lagos isn’t just Nigeria’s foremost centre for commerce. It holds that title for all of West Africa. The city hosts the headquarters of many of Nigeria’s business and industrial concerns and is the home of the country’s tech ecosystem. It is also the centre of Nigeria’s entertainment sector. There’s no single agreed-upon figure for the population of Lagos. Estimates range from 13 million to 21 million persons.
Every city in Nigeria has a culture that’s unique to it. And they’re usually worth celebrating. Hopefully, they can all surmount the challenges they face, and grow into a future that meets them better managed and reaching for new heights of achievement.
Featured Image Source: World Atlas
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