Populations at Risk Serious Concern


Increasing inter-communal violence in Nigeria's "middle belt" region, as well as sporadic attacks by Boko Haram, constitute a serious threat to civilians.
Attacks by the armed extremist group Boko Haram, as well recurring violence in Nigeria's "middle belt," leaves civilians at risk of mass atrocity crimes. According to research by Amnesty International, at least 1,800 people have been killed since January 2018 in herder-farmer violence, inter-communal violence, banditry and Boko Haram attacks.

Clashes between semi-nomadic herdsmen and settled farming communities have escalated in Nigeria's "middle belt." Fighting over land in Benue and Taraba states led to nearly 100 deaths and 80,000 people displaced between December and January. At least 104 people were also killed in Plateau and Adamawa states following clashes that started on 21 June. More than 50 homes were also burned down in several villages during violence between Fulani herdsmen and ethnic Berom farmers.

Recurring conflict in Nigeria's "middle belt" region is often rooted in historical grievances over land use and resource allocation. These disputes have been exacerbated by growing desertification in the north of Nigeria, which has driven many ethnic Fulani herdsmen, who are mainly Muslim, southward into areas traditionally farmed by settled communities that are predominately Christian. The competition for resources has resulted in increasing violence and has sharpened religious and ethnic tensions.

Meanwhile, although Boko Haram has been seriously weakened by the government's counter-insurgency campaign, smaller attacks, particularly suicide bombings, continue. Despite losing all the territory it once held in northeastern Nigeria, during May and June Boko Haram killed at least 45 people and destroyed mosques and markets during attacks on several villages in Borno and Adamawa states.

The ongoing effects of climate change, including drought and desertification, will likely increase the competition for resources between nomadic and settled communities, putting civilians at ongoing risk of inter-communal violence. Large-scale displacement and insecurity have increased unemployment and poverty in northeast Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin region.

Although the Nigerian government officially declared victory over Boko Haram more than two years ago, insecurity in the north of the country leaves civilians at continued risk of violence.

The government of Nigeria continues to struggle to uphold its Responsibility to Protect and needs ongoing support from the international community.

A regional Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) has been leading efforts to combat Boko Haram since 2015.

During the 25 June UN General Assembly formal debate on the Responsibility to Protect, the Nigerian delegation acknowledged its ongoing domestic security challenges and pledged to uphold its Responsibility to Protect all vulnerable civilians.

It is essential that the government of Nigeria addresses the root causes of recurring inter-communal conflict, especially in the "middle belt" region, through socio-economic initiatives and political reforms that tackle land rights and poor governance, as well as access to employment and educational opportunities. Utilizing the Early Warning System of the Economic Community of West African States, the Nigerian government should work with local civil society to help identify, monitor and ameliorate long-standing grievances between the Fulani and settled communities.

The government should also expand efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change, including by accelerating regional initiatives aimed at restoring environments affected by drought and desertification.

The Nigerian government should intensify programs that strengthen local security and bolster the rule of law. Such efforts should include comprehensive security sector reform.

Last Updated: 16 July 2018

The five most recent issues of R2P Monitor and Atrocity Alert are available in the side-bar. To see previous assessments of this country, please see R2P Monitor and Atrocity Alert on our Publications page. Nigeria was previously featured in the R2P Monitor from July 2012 through January 2017.