Improvement in nitrogen-use efficiency (NUE) on maize is among the best strategies to mitigate the problems of poor soil fertility in tropical conditions. The objectives of this study were: i) to quantify the genetic variability for NUE-components and agronomic traits in a set of tropical maize inbred lines; ii) to study the genetic divergence among tropical maize inbred lines under contrasting nitrogen (N) levels; iii) to identify the secondary traits associated with NUE in tropical maize inbred lines; and iv) to identify maize inbred lines efficient in NUE and its components. Sixty-four tropical maize inbred lines were evaluated in the field under low- and high-N conditions for NUE-components and agronomic traits. Genetic variability for NUE-components and agronomic traits was found; lines in eight different groups for each N condition were allocated, and N-efficient inbred lines were identified in different groups. Furthermore, we suggest flowering time traits and kernel number as great secondary traits for selecting tropical maize inbred lines for NUE under both N conditions, and chlorophyll content for selecting for NUE under N stress.