What Are Some Nigerian Traditions?

Nigeria is home to numerous ethnic groups.
Nigeria is home to numerous ethnic groups. (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Nigeria is a country located in in the western portion of Africa. Located on the Gulf of Guinea, Nigeria borders the countries of Benin, Niger, Chad and Cameroon. More than 250 tribes of people live in Nigeria, including the Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo, each with their own traditions. The country, created by British colonialists, is still very diverse with a lack of a national Nigerian culture.

Religious Traditions

About half of Nigeria's population is Muslim while 40 percent is Christian and the rest practice indigenous faiths. However, most Muslims and Christians also take part in local religious practices. For example, the Aladura Church uses a Christian doctrine but mixes it with ancestor worship and uses charms to ward off evil spirits and witchcraft. Many indigenous rituals involve paying respects to gods and spirits. For example, Igbo people believe it bad luck to eat yams until the annual Yam Festival while others designate and honor specific lakes or rivers as homes to water spirits.


Although many Nigerians that live in the cities eat both traditional and Western food, most rural Nigerians still eat in a traditional manner. It is traditional for Nigerians to eat by hand and not use utensils. However, eating with the left hand is considered rude. Food is often the centerpiece at celebrations and it is considered rude not to invite guests to eat when they visit. Traditional foods include yams and corn in the south and a porridge made of millet, corn and sorghum. Nigerians also eat stews made of meats and vegetables.


Women in Nigeria are responsible for working and providing income for their families. However, they rarely have powerful or high-paying jobs. Instead, they make their money by farming and selling homemade goods at markets. Nigeria is considered a patriarchal society where men are superior and women have many fewer rights. Men are even allowed to beat their women if no permanent damage is caused, under Nigerian law.


Nigerians can take part in a religious, traditional or civil marriage, or even all of these. Christians are allowed one wife while Muslim men can marry up to four women. Most ethnic groups allow multiple wives and the ceremony is held in the house of the bride. The woman also comes with a "bride price" in the form of some material compensation such as money or cattle. Traditional weddings are festive and filled with music and dancing. Most women marry when very young, and often to older men. Marriages are traditionally arranged in Nigeria, but that practice is on the decline. While Nigeria ratified the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women in 1985, the international document has been slow to change the country's traditional cultural practices.

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