The Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, on Wednesday in Kano said Nigeria has about 60 million illiterate youth and adults.
With an estimated population of 180 million Nigerians, this roughly translates to about one in three Nigerians.
Mr Adamu, who was represented by Prinzo James, Deputy Director, Basic and Secondary Education, Ministry of Education, said this at the 2018 International Literacy Day celebration.
He said out of this figure, females accounted for nearly 60 per cent of the population, with 11 million children out of school.
According to him, the increasing low level of literacy skills achieved by the millions of learners who completed some formal school education made the situation more complicated.
Mr Adamu said the present state of affairs called for urgent attention as the country strives to ensure the attainment of SDGs by 2030.
"With these unwholesome statistics in our hands, it becomes evident that concerted efforts are required in order to accelerate the processes for combating illiteracy among children, youths and adults," he said. "Therefore, every effort aimed at bringing together multiple stakeholders should be committed to advancing literacy and lifelong learning, and will receive the support of the ministry of education."
He said the ministerial strategic plan for education sector has considered the importance of youth and adult literacy and given the sector a prime position in the document.
"I would like to assure you that preparations are underway by the federal government to launch a national mass literacy campaign with a view to addressing the high rate of youth and adult illiteracy in the country," he said.
The minister said that the theme of the 2018 Literacy Day "Literacy and Skills Development " was apt, as the global trend was on skill development for youths and adults.
He said literacy must be taken beyond the cognitive domain to the critical level "that imbues the citizen with thinking skills and functional literacy".
The UNESCO representative, Stephen Onyekwelu, said UNESCO was impressed with the passion the Kano State Government has shown in the area of literacy and non-formal education.
Mr Onyekwelu said the new international skills acquisition centre which has 22 different skills, was a practical example of literacy and skills acquisition.
He urged various states to take a cue from what the Kano State government did in the area of skills development.
Mr Onyekwelu said the challenge of literacy was not only in Nigeria but a global problem.
He called for stakeholders support in the fight against illiteracy.
Garba Abari, Director-General, National Orientation Agency (NOA), said literacy could do much more in Nigeria than any other message anyone could preach.
Represented by Metto Edekobi, Director, State Operations, he said that "to counter insurgency, literacy must strive and ignorance must die."
Mr Abari said NOA was available to support programmes aimed at increasing literacy.
He advocated the introduction of civic education in literacy centres, and called for support for the government.
The International Literacy Day is celebrated on September 8 every year as declared by UNESCO.
This year marks the 52nd anniversary of Literacy Day.