National and Official Languages in Nigeria: Reflections on Linguistic Interference and the Impact of Language Policy and Politics on Minority Languages

Abstract:

Known for its “extreme linguistic diversity” (Elugbe 1994), Nigeria is home to languages numbering about 400. Although its land mass is less than 7 per cent of the total area of the African continent, most scholars concur that about 20 per cent of Africa’s more than 2,000 languages are spoken in Nigeria. Official language policies have variously been enunciated in documents such as the National Policy on Education (1977, revised in 1981), and the 1979 Constitution. Two other less cited documents exist, to wit the 1989 Constitution and the 1987 Political Bureau report. Such policies testify to the attention supposedly devoted to education, unity and independence.