Populations at Risk Serious Concern


Inter-communal violence in Nigeria's "middle belt" region, as well as sporadic attacks by Boko Haram, constitute an ongoing threat to civilians.
Attacks by the armed extremist group Boko Haram, as well as recurring inter-communal violence in Nigeria's "middle belt" and northwest, leaves civilians at risk of mass atrocity crimes.

Clashes between semi-nomadic herdsmen and settled farming communities have escalated in Nigeria's "middle belt." According to the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel, during the first half of 2018 the conflict increased "in frequency, intensity, complexity and geographic scope" across the Sahel region, but especially in Nigeria. During this period an estimated 300,000 were displaced and more than 1,300 people were killed due to violence between nomadic herders and farmers, according to International Crisis Group. Another 34 people were killed in herder-farmer related violence in July, and 29 during August.

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 herder-farmer violence and has exacerbated religious and ethnic tensions.

Meanwhile, although Boko Haram and the so-called Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA) have been seriously weakened by the government's counter-insurgency campaign, attacks on security personnel and civilians also continue in Nigeria's northeast. On 18 and 19 August alone 67 people were killed in two separate attacks in Borno state. The first took place near Ali Goshe village outside of Maiduguri and the second in the Guzamala region. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 1.8 million people remain internally displaced in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states as a result of ongoing insecurity.

Large-scale displacement and insecurity have increased unemployment and poverty, affecting millions of people, particularly in northeast Nigeria. The 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.

Sporadic attacks by Boko Haram and ISWA leave civilians at continued risk of terrorist attacks and other forms of violence.

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

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

The UN Secretary-General condemned the killings in Borno state on 19 August and called for "the international community to increase support to regional efforts in the fight against Boko Haram in the Lake Chad Basin."

It is essential that the government of Nigeria address the root causes of inter-communal violence in the middle-belt through socio-economic initiatives and political reforms that tackle land rights and poor governance. 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 herding 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 continue to support programs that strengthen local security and bolster the rule of law in areas where sporadic Boko Haram attacks continue. Such efforts should include comprehensive security sector reform.

Last Updated: 15 September 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.