Which Religion First Came to Nigeria?

Nigeria is one of the most religious countries in the world. This fact can be attested to by the predominant percentage of its citizens who belong to one religion or the other – though there is an insignificant number of atheists and agnostics in Nigeria.

Unlike some countries with more religions, only three major religions are practiced in Nigeria. These religions are Christianity, Islam, and African Traditional Religions. With these being the major religions, which one first came to Nigeria? This is a question many people in Nigeria want to get an answer to. In this article, a detailed answer will be provided to this question.

Which Religion First Came to Nigeria?

Islam is the religion that first came to Nigeria. The Islamic religion was first brought into Nigeria in the 11th century before Christianity was introduced.

Documented history has it that Islam came into Nigeria in the 11th century and it first entered through modern-day Borno in the northeast of Nigeria. Thereafter, Islam was introduced to more northern and north-central parts of Nigeria after this period. By the 16th century, Islam became well established in the major capitals of the regions, subsequently spreading into the countryside and toward the Middle Belt uplands.

The spread of Islam was essentially a peaceful process initiated by Muslim clerics and traders, until the Fulani jihad of 1804 which was organized and led by Usman dan Fodio. The subsequent defeat the jihadists suffered at the hands of the British did not stop the spread of Islam. After Nigeria gained independence from the British, a new impetus to the spread of Islam was given by Ahmadu Bello – who was the premier of the Northern Region. Although his plan for the total Islamization of Nigeria proved abortive and was brought to an abrupt end by the military coup of 1966.

In the years after the coup, Islam continues to spread and gain ground in some other parts of Nigeria, especially the southwestern region of Nigeria.

In 2021, according to the CIA World Factbook, it is estimated that 53.5% of Nigeria’s population are Muslims. This means slightly more than half of Nigeria’s population are adherents of Islam.

When did Christianity come to Nigeria?

Christianity came into Nigeria in the 15th century. It came in through Portuguese missionaries who were Augustinian and Capuchin monks. Though the Portuguese missionaries brought Christianity to Nigeria, documented history has it that they didn’t establish any particular church in Nigeria before leaving. The first mission of the Church of England was only established in 1842 by Henry Townsend in Badagry.

Which religion was in Nigeria before Christianity?

Before the advent of Christianity and Islam, almost all of Nigeria’s ethnic groups practice African Traditional Religion (ATR). They believe there’s a Supreme Being under whom there are gods or deities which they worship.

Where did Islam start in Nigeria?

Bornu is the place where Islam first started in Nigeria.

The advent of Islam in Nigeria dates back to the 11th century when it was first accepted in Borno which is located in the northeastern part of the country. Later Islam spread to other parts of Hausaland in the northwest and its influence was evident in Kano, Sokoto and Katsina.

Which church first came to Nigeria?

The cathedral church of St. Peters, Ake, Abeokuta is the first church in Nigeria. The foundation of the church would be laid in Ake, Abeokuta, by Rev. Andrew Desalu Wilhelm – years after the mission of Rev. Henry Townsend. St. Peter’s, Nigeria’s first church, was completed in 1898.


Nigeria is a religious country and one of the most religious in the world. A much larger percentage of its population are adherents of Christianity and Islam. The latter (i.e. Islam) is the first religion in Nigeria as it came to Nigeria in the 11th century while the former came in around the 15th century.

Leave a Comment