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Overpopulation in Nigeria: A Ticking Time Bomb – Chukwuma Ikeanyichukwu

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Written by Chukwuma Ikeanyichukwu

While many regions of the world are looking at controlling their population, Africa, particularly Nigeria’s population grows exponentially on a yearly basis. This rapid population growth poses a lot of challenges for any nation, more so, for a developing nation.

Depletion of natural resources are at an all-time high, as a larger population consumes these resources at a greater rate than they are produced. Resources such as oil take years to produce, but billions of barrels are used everyday. Deforestation has also become more regular as trees cannot be replaced as fast as they are being used.

According to Lynden S. Williams of Ohio University, overpopulation can be defined as an imbalance between the available resources under existing social and technological constraints, and the resources needed to provide some minimal or optimal life style to the population in question.

Overpopulation also refers to a condition where a population exceeds its sustainability due to an exhaustion or decline of resources within a particular environment. It can also be further defined simply as a condition where an area holds more people than in which the area can function properly.

Overpopulation has been precipitated by technological advancements which have brought about improvement in public health and medical facilities evidenced by increased fertility rate and a general reduction in mortality worldwide.

Reports from the International Programs Center, US Bureau of Census estimated the total population of the world to be at 6.4 billion as at September 2005. According to the current estimates, the world population reached 7 billion in 2012 and the new projections indicate that in 2025, the 8 billion mark will be reached. It has also been estimated that between 2000 and 2030, nearly 100% of this growth will occur in the less developed countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia.

Africa currently has a population of 1.3 billion, of which 42.3% of its population, live below $1.9 dollar per day. Nigeria, being the most populous African nation, with a population estimated at 198 million, is ranked as the 7th most populous nation in the world according to the United Nations.

Experts claim that by 2050, Nigeria may become the 3rd most populous country in the world. These estimations pose a bleak prospect for Nigeria going forward. Nigeria’s impending population explosion by 2050 poses a threat not only to itself, but to the world at large, if available resources are not harnessed effectively to cater for the populace.

The number of children per woman in the world was very high decades ago, but over the last 50 years, global fertility rate has halved. Factors such as economic advancements, women empowerment and education, and the need for management of nations’ resources brought about this reduction.

It is however, important to note that the major reduction in fertility rate came from countries outside Africa. This is not to imply that having a high fertility rate in itself is harmful, but considering the existential and enduring problems of Nigeria, a lot should be considered regarding the issue.

Nigeria’s lack of population control is as a result of various factors of which the most important are:

Preference for the male child

In many cultures in Nigeria, male children are considered more valuable than the female offspring because of the prospect of carrying on the family name, continuing certain tribal and cultural traditions and inheritance succession. It is not uncommon for some couples who might have four or five daughters to keep procreating in search of a son, this in spite of the economic situation of the family.


The Islamic religion for instance, encourages polygamy, early marriages and large families. Statistics confirm that of the ten most populous cities in Nigeria, five of them are from the northern region, which is predominantly Islam.


Low level of education
With a considerable low literacy level and little sex education, population education and lack of family planning, population growth is bound to remain unchecked.


Improvement in medical care
Modern medicine provides drugs, vaccines and treatment that reduces mortality rate, help in recovery from sickness and ensure longer life expectancy.

In a nation which has yet to get the basics right, overpopulation will lead to an elevation in crime rate as people trying to survive in a country that depends majorly on the ever volatile sale of  the depleting crude oil, will result to all manner of vices.  An example of this is the fact that Nigeria also ranks high in the ignominious list of countries with the most internet fraudsters.

Lynden S. W (2014) also stated in his report, The Overpopulation Concept and the Latin Americanist Geographer,  that there are at least three factors that are widely accepted as indicative of overpopulation: “low per-capita incomes (poverty), rapid use or spoilage of non-renewable resources, especially pollution, and small amounts of per-capita living space.” The first two indicators are an unfortunate reality in Nigeria.

A report by Brookings Institution in 2018 stated that Nigeria has now become the poverty capital of the world, overtaking India. It states that about 87 million people live in extreme poverty in Nigeria with a growing rate of six persons per minute.

Also, Nigeria’s over-reliance on crude oil has brought socioeconomic strains. National income rises and falls as oil price fluctuates. The scramble for oil has brought unbearable tensions to the Niger-Delta region, Nigeria’s oil-producing hub. Intolerable conditions such as environmental pollution as a result of oil spillage on the lands and rivers, volatility and the resultant militancy and violence in the region. The aftermath of these leave the people agitated and belligerent, and without work and income as the “South-South” or Niger-Delta region is a riverine area, and its inhabitants’ major source of income is from fishing.

The correlation between overpopulation and insecurity in Nigeria cannot be ignored. It is not out of order to state that one of the reasons for the continuous carnage wrecked by the Boko Haram Islamic sect is as a result of uncontrolled procreation. Boko Haram have their base of operations in the Northern region, Borno state precisely.

As earlier highlighted, the Northern region of Nigeria, which is predominantly Islam, is the most densely populated area in Nigeria. This, as earlier stated, is because Islam encourages large families. Unfortunately, this region also has the lowest literacy level and highest poverty rate in Nigeria. This presents a situation where recruitment of susceptible young boys and girls, who are not in school, but on the streets, becomes easy.

Corruption and political instability still bedevil Nigeria. The few at the helm of affairs, control disproportionately, the nation’s resources, with the overpopulated masses having to jostle for whatever is left. This is a major reason for the agitations and militancy in the Niger-Delta region where most of the nation’s crude oil is produced.

The issue of population control can be quite dilemmatic; people’s freedom and choice to conceive how they deem fit seems like such a basic right that telling them otherwise seems like a form of control. The key to addressing the issue is by striking a balance. This balance can be struck by considering the following solutions:

Nigeria is filled with ample arable lands, but has failed to capitalize on its agricultural opportunities. The hitherto neglect of the agricultural sector has denied wandering and wasting youths gainful employment. By promoting agriculture and making it viable and enticing, especially to the youths who have the energy needed in the sector, it helps solve the issue of unemployment while concurrently preserving the environment and replenishing lost resources through afforestation and plant and animal husbandry.

Education and sensitization of the people:
People need to be sensitized on the need for family planning, especially the rural and illiterate populace as they constitute the percentage of people with high birth rate.  Age-appropriate sex education, lessons on environment and population, topics which are not common in Nigeria, should be introduced to school curricula.

Knowing full well, that children cannot be kept entirely from misleading information online, teaching kids about the dangers of teenage sex in a safe and organized environment helps curb misinformation from the internet or from friends. An increase in general education, especially at the rural areas in Nigeria, will bring about greater opportunities for nationwide growth, development and national stability.

A rising population, with Nigeria’s current unstable socio-economic state largely unattended to, would push it further into dire straits, leaving the unborn generations with far more complications.


 Oramah , I. T (2006).  The Effects of Population Growth in Nigeria
Journal of Applied Sciences, 6: 1332-1337
Retrieved February 4, 2019  from
    (June 25 2018).  Nigeria overtakes India as world’s poverty capital
Retrieved February 4, 2019 from
   Lynden, S. W (2014). The Overpopulation Concept and
    the Latin Americanist Geographer [PDF file}
Retrieved February 6, 2019 from

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