The 6 Geopolitical Zones in Nigeria, Their States & Population Per State

Nigeria prides itself in the ethnic and cultural diversity of its people. The six (6) geopolitical zones in Nigeria represent the political ties that have been artificially created in order to make for easier governance of this vast and varied people. In most cases, the geopolitical zones represent ethnic groups that share common interests, and so act in accordance to their needs.

These geopolitical zones are a type of administrative structure; and their creation is attributed to General Sani Abacha. Since then, the geopolitical groups have become a kind of sub-identity; and people proudly mention their geopolitical zone as a way of identifying beyond the narrow confines of their languages and ethnic groups.

In this article, we will be looking at the 6 geo-political zones in Nigeria, the various states under the 6 geo political zones and the population per state.

The 6 Geopolitical Zones in Nigeria, Their States & Population Per State 1

Map of the 6 Geo-Political Zones in Nigeria

The 6 Geopolitical Zones In Nigeria, Their States and Population

1. North Central

States in the Geopolitical Zone:

Plateau state4,400,974
FCT Abuja2,702,443

The North Central is a region that is roughly in the geographical center of Nigeria. It is therefore quite aptly known as the Middle Belt. The North Central comprises six states – Benue, Kogi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger, and Plateau. Also included in that mix is the Federal Capital Territory; Abuja.

The North Central stretches opposite borders with Cameroon and Benin. The environment is dominated by Guinean forest–savanna and even the towns and villages have some of the most fertile lands in the whole country. Not surprisingly, the area has been historically involved in the cultivation of food crops, and continues to dominate the agricultural scene of the country. Benue State is known as the Food Basket of the Nation.

Agriculture is also practiced in great degrees in the other states of Kogi, Plateau, Kwara and Niger States.

Some of the major tribes making up this region include Vergam, Ankwei, Angas, Jawara, Birom, Mango, Fulani, Hausa, Eggen, Nupe, Amwamwa, Bassa, Egbira, Gade, Ganagana, Gbagyi, Gbari, Gwandara and Koro.

2. North East

States in the Geopolitical Zone:


The North East, as the name implies is located to the North East of the country; that is when you locate the North Central on the map, you just look towards your top right.

This region is made up of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba, and Yobe States. By land area this is the largest geopolitical zone in the nation; it comprises of nearly one-third of Nigeria’s total area. Unfortunately, however, much of that land is desert land. The region is divided between the semi-desert Sahel savanna and the tropical West Sudan savanna environmental classifications.

The Northeast has a population of about 26 million people, and some of the most popular cities include Maiduguri and Bauchi. Some of the popular languages are Tiv, Kanuri, Bade, Bata, Cibak, Bole, Bura, Dadiya, Daka, Fulfulde, Gera and Hausa.

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3. North West

States in the Geopolitical Zone:


The North West is a region in the top left hand corner of the Nigerian map. It comprises seven states; Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto, and Zamfara.

As for environmental classification, most of the land is tropical West Sudan Savanna. Culturally, the majority of the region comprises of Hausaland. The Hausa are the largest ethnic group in this region, and they were once even more spread out than they are now. Next to the Hausa people, it is the Fulani people that make up the largest ethnic group.

The region has a population of 49 million people, which is about 23% of the total population of Nigeria. Most of the population lives in the few cities like Kano, Zaria, Sokoto and so on.

The economy of this area is mostly sustained by commerce in the big cities, of which Kano is the most significant. Key economic activities in the North West geopolitical zone of Nigeria include animal husbandry; especially cattle, sheep, and goats. The majority of the produce are then shipped to the southern parts of the country where they are sold.

Poverty and hunger are important problems needing resolution in this region, and there is also the problem of insecurity to deal with. This insecurity has been cited as a major reason for the lack of development in the region.

4. South East Geopolitical Zone


The South East is one of the geopolitical zones in Nigeria, albeit incorrectly named. The South East stretches from the River Niger on the west, down to Cross River on the East. It is therefore more accurately described as the South South, while the South South in today’s parlance should be the South East.

Nevertheless, it comprises of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, and Imo States. Most of the land is classified as Guinean Savanna forest land, and it is quite fertile. Interestingly, agriculture plays a very important role in the life of the people of the South East. Across the region there is almost complete cultural unison; most of the people identify as Igbo, and they share similar cultural attributes.

The people of the South East are known across the country for their entrepreneurial spirit; only a small percentage of them work in paid employment. There are vast, but largely untapped oil reserves in the region, but the pace of industrialization is also remarkable.

Some important points to mention regarding the South East is that they have some interesting traditions such as the New Yam Festival, Igbo Apprenticeship Program, and the fact that the Igbos tend to travel to other regions in the country and beyond, in order to set up businesses. In December of every year they usually return en-masse to their region; and the roads leading to the South East are usually crowded during this period.

5. South South

States in the Geopolitical Zone:

Akwa Ibom4,780,581
Cross River4,175,020
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The South South is the one of the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria. It comprises of the Southernmost and Easternmost regions of Nigeria. The states that make up this geographical zone include Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, and Rivers. Much of this land is coastline; from the Atlantic seaboard at the Bight of Benin coast in the west, down to the Bight of Bonny coastline in the east.

That coastline covers the area known as the Niger Delta, which is very lowland much of which is waterlogged, comprising a series of creeks, rivers, and lakes. However, the South South is made up of Central African mangroves (especially in coastal areas), as well as Coastal Forests, Transition Forests, Swamp Forests, and Lowland Forests.

Although small in size, the South South is the biggest contributor to the Nigerian economy because of the vast oil and gas reserves, which make up the country’s largest exports. Some key economic activities in this region include fishing, farming, trading, craft making, and so on.

The South South has a population of about 26 million people, around 12% of the total population of the country. It is made up of a conglomeration of peoples such as Bini, Owan, Esan, Efik, the Ejagham, Yakurr, Bahumono, Bette, Yala, Igede, Ukelle and the Bekwarra, Ijaw, Urhobo, alabari, Ndoki, Ndoni, Okrika, Ogoni, Engenni, Etche, Ibani, Ikwerre, Ogba, Odua, and Abayon.

6. South West

States in the Geopolitical Zone:


The South West is the one of the six geopolitical zones in Nigeria. On the map it is the region on the bottom left of Nigeria, and it comprises the states of Ekiti, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, and Oyo.

A sizable portion of Nigeria’s South West is coastal land; the coastline stretches from the international border with Benin Republic, down to the meeting point of the Delta State coastline down in the South South. The regions’ north also meets the North Central region of Nigeria.

As for the environmental classification, the South West is has more of the Central African mangroves in the southern part, while the major inland parts of the region are mostly made up of lowland forests in the south and east, and then there is the Guinean forest–savanna in the drier areas of the northwest.

Culturally, the south west region is Yorubaland; the coastal areas also have specs of minority tribes; same as those who live in the coastal areas of the South South. The key economic activities in the South West include crop farming, animal husbandry, craft making, wood working, and so many other such things.

The South West is one of the most important parts of Nigeria; it has a population of about 47 million people, making up about 22% of the total population of the country. As for the economy, the South West is one of the biggest contributors especially in the area of commerce.

The South West is the most developed part of Nigeria; everything from infrastructure, real estate, transportation, technology to the social aspect of life is of a far superior quality in this part of the country, although it must be stated that most of the development is in the urban areas, while the rural areas tend to lag behind.

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Effects of The Creation of The 6 Geopolitical Zones

As mentioned above, these geopolitical zones were conceived and implemented by the administration of General Sani Abacha. Apparently his government wanted to make the country easier to control. Smaller groups of people are easier to control than larger groups.

This divide and rule system worked for a time because most of the country was pacified, and the military was able to secure the regions and to avoid any breakdown in law and order. Furthermore, the government then used these geopolitical classifications to distribute the resources intended for development of nation. Infrastructure projects were then spread throughout the country based on geographical divisions.

However, this infrastructure was not evenly divided among the regions; and that led to a fresh problem because the geopolitical zones that did not receive development started to feel marginalized, and to start agitation.

The late 90’s and early 2000’s saw a lot of agitation from the South South which saw the emergence of various militant groups who gave their mission statements as different things including the lack of development of their region, environmental degradation caused by the activities of oil exploration companies, and so on.

Almost concurrently, but more towards the period of 2010 to date, a resurrection of a secessionist movement has arisen in the South East. That movement has been fueled by feelings of disaffection caused by the perceived marginalization of the region by successive governments.

Outlook of The Geopolitical Zones

Based on the two examples cited above it seems that the creation of the 6 geopolitical zones in Nigeria have worsened the state of disunity in the country. This is because it has created another sub-national identity aside from the tribal or ethnic identity. Most people now believe that they owe loyalty to their Geopolitical zones rather than the country; and that they must fight for the interests of their kinsmen first; making national interests a secondary consideration.

The electoral process has also suffered greatly as a result of these geopolitical creations; most people now vote solely on the basis of geopolitics, keeping aside more important considerations such as the track records and antecedents of the candidates. Political parties now have strong-holds along geopolitical lines: APC in the South West, PDP in the South East and South South, and so on.

While it is not openly stated, the implication is that when any of these parties comes to power, they may concentrate on the development of their key areas where their followers are, and where they can bank on getting votes.

Nigeria is a country with over 400 languages and ethnic identities. Prior to the creation of 6 geopolitical zones Nigeria was divided into the Northern Region, Western Region, and Eastern Region. This created challenges in administering these areas, and the idea of breaking them down into smaller regions must have seemed like a good idea at the time. The problem comes from the lack of equal distribution of resources to aid in development.