Nigeria’s disturbing high fertility rate, causes, impacts and solutions


July 26, 2018 | 1:00 am
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One of the most serious problems facing many developing countries especially Nigeria is the rapid and uncontrollable increase in their population. This is attributed to bearing of many children by women especially in the rural areas because of lack of education and awareness, poverty, marriage at early ages. Consequently, their family sizes increase and population grows rapidly.

Currently the country’s population is growing Nigeria at a rate of 2.6 percent annually, lower than the growth rate of 1.95 percent .

“Currently we are growing at 1.95 percent with a population growing at 2.6 percent annually. Our growth rate does not exceed the population growth rate. So as we progress, Our standard of living will be impacted significally,” Ayodeji Ebo, MD, of Lagos-based financial advisory, Afrinvest securities limited said.

The population in Nigeria is increasing by the minute and high fertility rate is one of its major determinants, especially in the northern part of the country. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Out of the 36 states in Nigeria, Jigawa recorded the highest level of fertility rate in 2016.Followed by while Kano and Kebbi state

And also according to a statistical survey, Nigeria is among the top 20 countries in the world with a high fertility rate of 5.13 in 2016

Fertility, as a demographic indicator is referred to as the actual reproduction performance in a population based on the number of live birth that occurs in a population. It indicates the actual number of children born alive. Child bearing, by itself, is dependent on so many factors including social circumstances such as culture, tradition, education and the overall level of development of a society or community. Also, the age of entry into a union and the availability of contraception are two key proximate determinants of fertility.

High fertility is defined as a total fertility rate (TFR) of 5.0 or higher while a lower fertility rate is below 5.0

The most commonly used measure or indicator of fertility is the total fertility rate (TFR), which is, the number of children that a woman bears over her entire childbearing years, provided at each age during the childbearing years. She also experiences the age-specific fertility rate (ASFR). The fertility age bracket for women is between ages 15 to 49 years. Age specific fertility rate, in turn, is the number of births given to by women of a specific age group per 1,000 women in that age group.

In 2015, total fertility rate was 5.5 births per woman but increased in 2016 to 5.8 based on the NBS report

It has been a normal tread in the northern parts of the country where teen girls once they see their menstrual period they have become women and are ripe for marriage and can bear as much children as they want to not minding the negative impacts.

Fertility rate, total (births per woman) in Nigeria was reported at 5.526 in 2016, according to the World Bank collection of development indicators, compiled from officially recognized sources.

“Northern states usually have the highest fertility rate in the country. By tradition once a girl sees her menstrual cycle the family or parents of the lady will just marry her out. They hardly use contraceptives because it is against their Islamic believe,” Okechukwu Ekemezie, a medical doctor, Dangote oil and refinery said on phone

Even while walking in the streets of Lagos, you would see the bike riders who are usually northerners of very young age already married with children .The large population of beggars in the streets are the children from the north. You would see mothers as young as 13 years old begging in the streets with their children having no means to feed them themselves

How it began

Historically, Fertility norms, usually reflected by the demand for children, are most often measured by the number of children desired under prevailing social and economic conditions. Although it is sometimes influenced by the number of living children, patterns of changes and differentials in desired fertility sometimes provide valuable insight into probable future course of fertility.

Fertility rate, total (births per woman) in Nigeria was reported at 5.53 in 2016, according to the World Bank collection of development indicators, compiled from officially recognized sources. Uncontrollable fertility is one of the determinants of population growth in Nigeria. Causes of high fertility rate

Causes of high fertility rate

The following are the factors that causes high fertility rate in Nigeria

Motivational Factors

In pre-industrial societies and in agricultural social groups, there is emphasis on cooperative activities, joint families, joint occupations and community living. These are the basic motives for high fertility rate. In agricultural societies children are valued due to economic, social, religious and cultural factors. Economically they start earning and helping the parents at very young age. Several wives having dozens of children are assets to a male in backward societies.

In most of the primitive societies, the bigger families leads to higher social status and manpower. Wars also motivate higher birth rate. Another motivating factor is the fatalistic attitude, that children are gifts of god. The countries professing Hinduism, Islam and Judaism religion has motivated high fertility and encourage high birth rates in the developing countries

Economic Factors

Poverty leads to illiteracy, low standard of living and promote fertility rate. The children in lower economic group very soon start helping their parents in earning their living. So, increase in number of children leads to increase in income. It means the low economic status leads to high fertility.

Social Factors

Social factors encourage fertility which include joint family, caste system, and lack of social mobility, lower status of women, community life and joint occupation. So, the above factors are responsible for high birth rate in the developing countries. The government and other private agencies have launched family planning programmes to control the high birth rates in these developing countries. However, most of the developing countries particularly the Islamic countries, are still showing high fertility rates.

Consequences of high fertility rate

High fertility and birth rate contributes positively to high population growth while further findings revealed that high population growth rate in Nigeria exerts negative consequences on the Nigeria’s economy. These negative consequences can be appreciated by high poverty, inadequate housing, poor sanitation, low standard of living, high unemployment rate and inflation, high pressures on existing infrastructural facilities etc.

According to a world bank study, nearly 70 percent of the world’s population live in just five countries, those of whom are subsisting on less than $1.25 a day and are concentrated in five areas which are India, China, Nigeria, Bangladesh and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

These countries have similar characteristics in terms of their rising population but based on world poverty clock, a non-governmental organisation in Vienna that shows real-time poverty estimates of different countries and their policies, countries like China, India and Bangladesh are on track of ending extreme poverty.

“The difference is that if you look at china and India, these countries are doing a lot to pull people out of poverty. For instance, china within the last 30 years has pulled more than 500 million people out of poverty. India in the past ten years has a lot to reduce the incidence of poverty in their country,” Johnson Chukwu, CEO of Lagos-based financial advisory firm, Cowry Assets, said.

“Unfortunately both Nigeria and Congo are on the opposite side of development in the sense that their poverty levels is worsen. We are seeing poverty level in Nigeria decrease as GDP per capita is detetorating,” Chukwu told BusinessDay on phone.


The current growth rate of Nigeria population is now a significant burden to human well being.

The use of contraceptives which is a birth control method is not encouraged in some parts of Nigeria;  statistic  shows that only about 38 percent of those that reside in the South West use  contraceptives and 3 percent in the North East. Contraceptive use in urban areas is three times that of rural areas. because of their level of education.

According to the demographic report from NBS, 86.6 percent of Nigerian women who are currently married or in a union are not using any contraceptive method to prevent unwanted pregnancy. A break down of this figure  shows that Ebonyi State had the highest 97.0 percent of women who are married and are not using any contraceptive methods to space their child while Oyo state had the least 65.7 percent

In 2011, the Federal Ministry of Health in her efforts to achieve the millennium development goals which is now sustainable developmental goals distributed free contraceptives to states to enhance child spacing.

This free distribution of contraceptives has continued to achieve the current sustainable development goals for all women in the reproductive age in Nigeria to space their children for healthy living. However the attitude of people towards this modern method of contraceptive is still poor

The poor attitude of people towards contraceptive and the current explosive population growth affects the ability as a country to plan for adequate resources to meet the needs of every Nigerian. For the health sector, it is incredibly problematic, especially in light of the paucity of current resources .      

Doctors have suggested that improving access to education and family planning methods will contribute positively to lowering fertility rates and hence managing population growth in the near future.

According to the National Population Commission(NPC), Nigeria as at 2017 has an estimated population of over 198 million.  The United Nations (UN) World Population Prospects (2017) said that the country’s population could be the third most populated in the world reaching 410 million by 2050.




July 26, 2018 | 1:00 am
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