Population-based cancer registries (PBCRs) are important sources of data on cancer burden in a defined population. They are a cornerstone for establishing, implementing and monitoring and evaluating a rational cancer control programme. Despite the long history of PBCRs in more developed countries of the world, PBCRs in sub-Saharan Africa are still poorly developed and cancer control is poor. Compared to PBCRs in Europe and the United States, cancer registries in sub-Saharan Africa are still functioning at a basic level. Only a few cancer registries in sub-Saharan Africa contribute data regularly to the International Agency for Cancer Registries’ (IACR) GLOBOCAN and Cancer in Five Continents’ publication series. In Nigeria, there have been efforts at strengthening existing PBCRs and creating new ones, and implementing national cancer control programmes. It is however unclear how successful these efforts have been. It is therefore necessary to reflect on documented activities so far in order to identify gaps and proffer solutions.