Geopolitical Zones in Nigeria and Their States


There are six geopolitical divisions within the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which are frequently referred to as zones. They are a form of administrative division that was created during the regime of deceased military dictator, General Sani Abacha, to group the nation’s states. Resources in Nigeria’s economy, politics, and education are frequently divided within the zones.

The six zones were not wholly divided based on geography; rather, states with comparable ethnic populations and/or shared political histories were grouped together. There are about 400 ethnic groups and 450 languages in Nigeria. For efficient resource distribution, the government needed to combine comparable groups.

Geopolitical Zones in Nigeria and Their States

Nigeria’s geopolitical zones are sometimes referred to as ‘regions’ or ‘zones’ and while they do not exactly comply or honour geography upon closer look or study, they are often used to recognize where Nigerian states are categorized or grouped.

The concept of regions or zones are so important that most Nigerians easily use them as substitution for personal, political and religious identities. Here are the geopolitical zones in Nigeria and the states under them.

1. North Central

One of Nigeria’s six geopolitical zones, the North Central (sometimes hyphenated as the North-Central), comprises the majority of the Middle Belt of the country.

From the border with Cameroon to the border with Benin, the North Central region spans the whole width of the nation. The Guinean forest-savanna mosaic predominates in terms of the ecosystem, with the western portion falling under the West Sudanian savanna ecoregion. The Jos Plateau, which is located in the zone’s east-central region, is also the source of the state’s name. The six states that fall under the North Central zone include:

  • Benue
  • Kogi
  • Kwara
  • Nasarawa
  • Niger
  • Plateau, and the
  • Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria.

2. North West

One of Nigeria’s six geopolitical zones, the North West (sometimes hyphenated as the North-West), is a political and geographical representation of the northwest of the country. Seven states make up the North West region of Nigeria, namely:

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

Geographically, the zone is almost entirely contained within the ecoregion of the tropical West Sudanian savanna. However, there are sizeable minorities of Fulani and other groups, mostly on the zone’s periphery. The majority of the zone is culturally located within Hausaland, the indigenous cultural homeland of the Hausa people, the group that makes up the largest ethnic percentage of the northwestern population.

3. North East

One of Nigeria’s six geopolitical zones, the North East (sometimes hyphenated as the North-East) is a political and geographical representation of the northwest of the country.  With roughly a third of Nigeria’s total land, the North East is the country’s largest geopolitical region. The Sahelian savanna, which is semi-desert, and the West Sudanian savanna, which is tropical, make up the majority of the zone’s ecoregions.

Six states in Nigeria make up the North East region, they are:

  • Adamawa
  • Bauchi
  • Borno
  • Gombe
  • Taraba, and
  • Yobe.

A little under 12% of the nation’s population, or around 26 million people, live in the region. The two most populated cities in the North East are Maiduguri and Bauchi, which are also Nigeria’s fifteenth and seventeenth most populous cities, respectively.

4. South East

One of Nigeria’s six geopolitical zones, the South East (sometimes hyphenated as the South-East), represents the country’s inland southeast both geographically and politically. It is home to the Igbo ethnic group.

The zone is bordered on the west by the River Niger, on the south by the riverine Niger Delta, on the north by the level North Central, and on the east by the Cross River. It is separated between the Guinean forest-savanna mosaic in the dry north and the Cross-Niger transition forests ecoregions in the south. Culturally, the vast bulk of the zone is located in Igboland, which is the native cultural homeland of the Igbo people, the largest ethnic group in the southeastern region, accounting for over 90% of the region’s population. The South East region has only five states, namely:

  • Abia
  • Anambra
  • Ebonyi
  • Enugu
  • Imo.

Despite being the smallest geographical region, Nigeria’s economy largely benefits from the South East’s oil and natural gas reserves as well as its expanding industrialized sector. About 22 million people live in the region, which accounts for nearly 10% of the nation’s total population. The two most populated cities in the South East region are Aba and Enugu. Other significant cities in the southeast include Onitsha, Umuahia, Owerri, Nnewi, Awka, and Abakaliki (in order of population).

Alex Ekwueme’s recommendations led to the creation of the South East, which was originally known as Eastern Nigeria or simply East when the country was split into three regions in the 1950s. It was divided into three by the Gowon Administration in 1967. (1967-1975). More states, notably Imo and Anambra, started to form in 1976.

5. South South

One of Nigeria’s six geopolitical zones, the South South (sometimes hyphenated as the South-South), is a political and geographical territory along the country’s eastern coast.

The zone spans from the coast of the Bight of Benin in the west to the coast of the Bight of Bonny in the east along the Atlantic coastline. It encompasses a large portion of the Niger Delta, which is essential to the region’s environmental and economic development. Geographically, the zone is separated into four major inland ecoregions: the Cross-Sanaga-Bioko coastal forests, Cross-Niger transition forests, Niger Delta swamp forests, and Nigerian lowland forests. The Central African mangroves are located in the coastal extreme south of the zone.

The South South region of Nigeria consists of six states, namely:

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

Despite making up only about 5% of Nigeria’s total area, the South South makes a significant economic contribution thanks to its vast oil and natural gas deposits. A little under 12% of the nation’s population, or around 26 million people, live in the region. The most populous cities in the South South and the fourth and fifth most populated cities in Nigeria respectively are Port Harcourt and Benin City. With a population of about 3 million, Greater Port Harcourt, which includes Port Harcourt and its surrounding areas, is the largest metropolitan area in the zone. Other significant South-South cities include Warri, Calabar, Uyo, Ikot Ekpene, Ugep, Sapele, Buguma, Uromi, Ughelli, Ikom, and Asaba (in order of population).

The South South Region was created from both the Western and Eastern regions of Nigeria in 1997 through the recommendation of Alex Ekwueme panel, by the regime of General Sani Abacha. Edo and Delta states formerly Bendel state from the Western region, while Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Cross river states from the Eastern region.

5. South West

One of Nigeria’s six geopolitical zones, the South West (sometimes hyphenated as the South-West), is a political and geographical representation of the southwest of the country.

From the international border with the Benin Republic in the west to the South South in the east and the North Central in the north, the zone runs the length of the Atlantic coast. The major inland ecoregions in the South West are the Nigerian lowland forests ecoregion in the south and east as well as the Guinean forest-savanna mosaic ecoregion in the drier northwest.

The South West region of Nigeria has six states, namely:

  • Ekiti
  • Lagos
  • Ogun
  • Ondo
  • Osun, and
  • Oyo

The South West’s urban areas, particularly the metropolis of Lagos and Ibadan, provide significant economic contributions to Nigeria while rural areas lag behind. The region has about 47 million residents, or about 22% of the nation’s overall population. In addition to being the most populous city in Nigeria and the second most populated city in Africa, Lagos is also the most populous city in the South West. With about 21 million residents, the city and its surrounding suburbs, collectively known as the Lagos Metropolis Area, rank as the eighth-largest metropolitan area in the world.

Geopolitical Zones in Nigeria Fun Fact

  • The South East is the smallest geopolitical zone in Nigeria by land area.
  • The North East is the largest geopolitical zone in Nigeria by land area.
  • The South West is the most populated Geopolitical zone in Nigeria.
  • The South South has the largest concentration of oil and natural gas deposit in Nigeria.
  • The South East has the least number of states (just five).
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