The Gap

All you need to know about the 6 geopolitical zones in Nigeria

All you need to know about the 6 geopolitical zones in Nigeria


No matter how united, every country must have some issues that cause diverging views and opinions. Nigeria, unfortunately, has more than a few, with politics being one of the leading ones. Along with religion and tribe, these are the Trinity. The Big Three. The Triumvirate. And with 2023 approaching, politics has taken the chairman’s mantle, which means that many significant events will bear their stamp in the coming months.

But why is it so important, you ask? Well, as you can see above, the once unified map has become divided into six parts called geopolitical zones… oh, you were probably expecting just four, like the cardinal points, right? Well, sorry to disappoint you, but you’re in Nigeria. Nothing is ever that easy here.

What Are Geopolitical Zones?

a.k.a. zones, a sort of administrative division created in 1995 during the Sani Abacha regime that groups the country’s states not based on geographic location but rather according to similar ethnic groups and/or common political history. With over 400 ethnic groups and 450 languages, the government needed to merge similar groups for effective resource allocation.

Has it worked? Well, don’t ask me; take a look at the country for yourself. But let’s gear up, and let’s take a trip around our fatherland and see who doesn’t like who enough to vote for them, even at the cost of their benefit.

The Six Geopolitical Zones

The North-West

If this was Westeros, the North-West would be Winterfell in more ways than one, including the invading horde and all. Comprising seven states:

  • Jigawa
  • Kaduna
  • Kano
  • Katsina
  • Kebbi
  • Sokoto
  • Zamfara

This zone is geographically almost entirely within tropical West Sudan.

Culturally, a large part of the North-West falls within Hausaland and is the indigenous cultural homeland of the Hausas; this group makes up the major ethnic percentile of the northwestern population. There are also sizable minorities of Fulani people and other groups who dwell on the fringes of the zone.

In terms of economics, urban areas in the North-West, like the city of Kano, provide a large boost to Nigeria’s economy; however, the majority of the rural areas lag due to government neglect, insecurity, and low rate of education. The population of this zone sits around 49 million people, which accounts for about 23% of the entire country’s population. The top cities of the North-West include:

  • Kano
  • Birnin-Kebbi
  • Kaduna
  • Zaria
  • Sokoto

Ethnic diversity is represented by:

  • Hausa
  • Fulani
  • Kanuri
  • Zara,
  • Baju
  • Gbagyi.

The North-Central

You must have heard about the Middle Belt region… welcome to it. Consisting of six states:

  • Benue
  • Kwara
  • Kogi
  • Nassarawa
  • Niger
  • Plateau

the term belt is used to describe this region because it stretches longitudinally across central Nigeria and forms a transition zone between the Northern and Southern regions of the country. The southern half of the extinct Northern Region of Nigeria dwells in this area, characterised by a lack of a prevalent majority ethnic group. It is also the location of the Federal Capital Territory.

The presence of this large number of minority groups constitutes, to some degree, an ethnolinguistic barrier in the country… relax! That’s just a fancy word for language barrier; my literature classes cannot just go to waste like that. Yes, as I was saying, this plethora of groups also separates the predominantly Muslim North and the principally Christian South.

The Middle Belt is a confluence of these cultural and diverse ethnolinguistic domains, with its top cities including:

  • Abuja
  • Lokoja
  • Ilorin
  • Jos
  • Makurdi.

Ethnic groups present in this zone include:

  • Mangu
  • Nupe
  • Yoruba
  • Igala
  • Tiv
  • Idoma.

The North-East

Comprising of six states:

  • Adamawa
  • Bauchi
  • Borno
  • Gombe
  • Yobe
  • Taraba

The North-East is, geographically speaking, Nigeria’s largest geopolitical zone, covering nearly one-third of the country’s total area with about 12% of the country’s total population. Oh, you thought that politicians just like to brownnose the Northern leaders for fun during election periods? Votes, not good intentions, win elections, and if I had almost 50% of the country’s population under my thumb, I’d ask you to get on your knees and bow down also.

Environmentally, this region is divided primarily between the tropical West Sudanian savanna ecoregions and the semi-desert Sahelian savanna. Bauchi and Maiduguri are the most populous cities and the seventeenth and fifteenth-most populous in Nigeria, respectively, with others including:

  • Yola
  • Jalingo
  • Gombe
  • Mubi

Ethnic groups include:

  • Babur
  • Tiv
  • Fulani
  • Kanuri, among others.

The South-West

The South-West geopolitical zone is represented by six states:

  • Ekiti
  • Ogun
  • Ondo
  • Osun
  • Oyo
  • Lagos.

Populated mainly by Yorubas, its urban areas – chiefly the cities of Ibadan and Lagos – contribute immensely to the nation’s economy, while rural areas lag. The zone stretches along the Atlantic seaboard from the South-South in the east to the international border with the Benin Republic in the west and the North-Central in the North.

Culturally, the South-West’s vast majority falls within Yorubaland – the indigenous cultural motherland of the Yoruba people, who make up the largest ethnic percentage of the southwestern population. The region has a population of about 47 million people, around 22% of the country’s total population, with Lagos its most populous city; it is also the most populous city in Nigeria and the second-most populous in Africa. The metropolis and its inner suburbs, collectively known as the Lagos Metropolis Area, form the eighth-largest metropolitan area in the world, with about 21 million people.

Other large southwestern cities include:

  • Ife
  • Ibadan
  • Ado-Ekiti
  • Sagamu
  • Badagry
  • Ikorodu, among others.

The South-South

Also known as the Niger-Delta region, this zone comprises six states:

  • Akwa Ibom
  • Bayelsa
  • Cross River
  • Delta
  • Edo
  • Rivers

This zone was created from both Western and Eastern regions by General Yakubu Gowon in 1967. It stretches along the Atlantic seaboard from the Bight of Bonny coast in the east to the Bight of Benin in the west and represents both a political and geographical region of the country’s eastern coast.

While the South-South represents only approximately 5% of Nigerian territory, it contributes significantly to the country’s economy due to its extensive oil and natural gas reserves. It encloses much of the Niger Delta, which is instrumental in the environment and economic development of the region. The region has a population of approximately 26 million people, which is about 12% of the country’s total population.

Benin City and Port Harcourt are the South-South’s most populous cities, as well as the fifth and fourth-most populous in Nigeria, respectively. Port Harcourt and its suburbs, collectively called Greater Port Harcourt, constitute the area’s largest metropolitan area with about 3 million people, while other large cities include:

  • Warri
  • Calabar
  • Saba
  • Sapele
  • Uyo
  • Ikot Ekpene, among others.

Ethnic groups include:

  • Urhobo
  • Efik
  • Ogoni
  • Ijaw
  • Ibibio
  • Bini

The South-East

While the South-East is Nigeria’s smallest geopolitical zone, its oil and natural gas reserves, coupled with a growing industrialized economy, nevertheless contribute immensely to the country’s economy. Comprising five states

  • Abia
  • Anambra
  • Ebonyi
  • Enugu
  • Imo

The vast majority of the zone falls culturally within Igboland – the indigenous cultural motherland of the Igbo people, who constitute about 90% of the southeastern population.

The South-East zone is bordered by the riverine Niger Delta on the south, the flat North Central to the North, the River Niger on the west, the riverine Niger Delta on the south, and the Cross River on the east. It has a population of about 22 million people, which accounts for about 10% of the country’s total population. The most populous cities in the South-East are Aba and Enugu, which are the tenth and fourteenth most populous cities in Nigeria. Other large southeastern cities include:

  • Awka
  • Abakaliki
  • Umuahia
  • Onitsha
  • Owerri.
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A couple of unexpected turns in life found Jimmy with a metaphorical pen in hand, churning out content and living in his head so much that he knighted himself the Pen Dragon. He is also an avid reader, gamer, drummer, full-blown metalhead, and all-round fun gi
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