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There Are Over 500 Native Languages Spoken In Nigeria

Photo Credit: Cinema Axis 2 mins read

CLAIM: Actress Genevieve Nnaji claimed that Nigeria has about 500+ spoken languages with English as its official language.

There are over 500 native languages spoken in Nigeria with English as the official language.

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Recently, the Lionheart movie got disqualified from the Oscars. This was as per the requirements of the International Feature Film category. This hit hard on a lot of people including the movie Director- Genevieve Nnaji. As it turns out, the category required “a predominantly non-English dialogue track”. This was not the case with the movie which only featured 11 minutes of Igbo dialogue.

The disqualification stirred up a debate about the use of English in the category. Film writer, Genevieve referred to the English dominance in the fim “as a bridge.” She added that, this bridge was the common thread in a country with over 500 native languages.


Genevieve Nnaji wrote and directed the movie Lionheart, released on December 21, 2018. Co-signed by Netflix, the film was well received by audiences. In fact, it had an outstanding 100% on Rotten Tomatoes! And to top it all off, it became Nigeria’s first-ever Oscar submission. Sadly, it got disqualified on the grounds of having “too much English”. The movie director clapped back, and here we are- verifying her statement.

What is the Actual Number of Languages Spoken in Nigeria?

An internet search did not show any unified or official figure for the number of spoken languages in Nigeria; a country of about 202 million people.

According to Wikipedia, there are over 500 native languages spoken in Nigeria. The major native languages with respect to population, are:

  • Hausa with over 63 million;
  • Igbo has over 50 million;
  • Yoruba over 40 million;
  • Fulfulde 15 million;
  • Ibibio with 10 million;
  • Kanuri with 8 million;
  • Tiv with 4 million;
  • Approximately 2 to 3 million each in Edo, Igala, Nupe, Izon and Berom… 

Additionally, worldatlas referred to Nigeria as a multilingual nation with over 520 languages. It also added that there are many more languages which are yet to be classified.


While, there are over 500 native languages spoken in Nigeria, English is the official language. And while Nigeria has over 500 languages, it is pertinent to say that there are three major ones namely: Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba. These in turn have different dialects.

This fact-check was done by a Dubawa Fact-checking Fellow in collaboration with The News Agency of Nigeria, a news reporting agency owned and run by the Federal Government of Nigeria with substantial reach and mobility across the 36 states of the country.

Ebere Agozie is a Senior Correspondent with the News Agency of Nigeria(NAN) with a staff strength of about 880, Joined in 2014 as a correspondent. Currently covering Agriculture and Environment beats from the headquarters of the Agency in Abuja. She had covered other beats including Culture and Entertainment, and Science and Technology, with reportage on different themes. Her works were aired on multiple networks through the NAN platform. She is also the winner of the 2018 COORDINATOR'S OPEN FORUM FOR AGRICULTURAL BIOTECHNOLOGY(OFAB) MEDIA AWARD FOR BEST PRINT REPORTER". Prior to joining NAN, she was the Operations Manager, AULIC Nigeria Limited, the concessionaire of the Lagos International Trade Fair Complex - 2012; Head, Public Relations and Corporate Affairs, Aulic Nigeria Limited from 2009 to 2012. She rose from the position of the Public Relations Officer to Head of Public Affairs at FABER Expressions, a Radio/Television Production firm – 2000-2009. She is a graduate of Mass Communications from the Institute of Management and Technology(IMT), Enugu, (HND) -1998. And holds a Master of Business Administration(MBA) from the Lagos State University (LASU) - 2007.

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