In the past, Nigerians were free to trust whatever was most dear to their tribes and themselves. It was a confidence in nature and animism that projected itself giving strength and value to this worshiper. Indigenous religions quickly became an important tradition in Nigerian society and maintained moral order. This traditional worship was done by an intermediary who only gave thanks after a blood sacrifice.
The arrival of Muslims in Nigeria put an end to these sacrifices and Islam established itself firmly in northern Nigeria. The introduction of Christianity began with the arrival of British missionaries in the central and southern regions of Nigeria. Today, while almost all Nigerians are Christians or Muslims, many continue to mix these beliefs with indigenous beliefs. This mixture of religious practices is the result of Nigerians’ traditional belief in freedom of worship.
Religion in Nigeria today
According to a 2010 survey conducted by the Pew Forum, the Nigerian population has both Christians and Muslims almost equally, with a small percentage of the population following other religious beliefs such as indigenous faiths and no affiliation. at all. Muslims make up 48.8% of the country’s population while Christians total 49.3%. The remaining 1.9% are either adherents of indigenous religions or have no affiliation.
A recent report established that followers of Sunni Islam number around 42.5% of Nigerians as members. Other reports conclude that there are nearly 60 million Sunni Muslims in the country. The majority belong to the Maliki school of jurisprudence while a minority belong to Madhhab Shafi. The Sufi brotherhoods also have a significant number of Sunni Muslims among their members.
Protestant Christianity is flourishing in Nigeria, counting around 32.3% of the population among its adherents. Protestants are concentrated mainly in Yoruba belonging to several denominational churches. The Nigerian Baptist Convention has nearly 6 million members. The Presbyterian Church of Nigeria has approximately 3.8 million members while the Evangelical Church in West Africa has nearly 5 million members.
Roman Catholic Christianity
Although Christians in Nigeria are traditionally Protestant, converts to Roman Catholic Christianity have increased by around 10.9% and are mostly concentrated in Igboland. Nigeria also has the largest number of Catholic priests in all of Africa. The country also has churches of Catholic traditionalism in the form of the Fraternity of Saint Pius X and the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter. Seminaries and universities also exist in Nigeria under Catholic supervision.
Nigeria’s Sokoto State is where Shia Islam flourishes, with nearly 6.0% of the country’s total population as adherents. This estimate varies, however, and there are believed to be between 2 and 4 million Nigerian members of the Shia faith. Ibrahim Zakzaky, a Muslim cleric and leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, was responsible for bringing Shia Islam to the country in 1979 as a student. As a militant type cleric, Zakzaky has been arrested several times for civil disobedience.
Ahmadi Islam is also present in Nigeria, with around 1.5% of the Nigerian population as adherents. Leader of the Nigerian Youth Movement, Alhaji Jibril Martin introduced Ahmadi Islam to Nigeria in the 1940s. Although local Muslim leaders denounced the Ahmadiyya movement as a heretic. Later, the movement split in two due to differences. The second group goes with Sunni Islam.
Role of indigenous beliefs in contemporary Nigeria
Traditional religions still exist and play a role in the lives of people in Nigeria today. Those who practice only these indigenous religions, as well as those with other beliefs, atheists and non-believers, make up about 6.8% of the country’s total population. Traditional religions are often affiliated with the seat of the king of native Nigeria. It is an affirmation of the legitimacy of the king’s reign over the communities of the country’s hinterland that influences morality and ethics. As a way of life, it is linked to the fertility of men and of the earth. Its economic link is also important in tourism with seasonal carnivals that attract tourists to Nigeria.
Religious beliefs in Nigeria
|Rank||Belief system||Share of Nigerian population|
|3||Roman Catholic Christianity||10.9%|
|*||Other or no belief||6.8%|