Security situation Conflict in many parts of the country

Pronounced social inequality and the lack of opportunities are causing tensions within society and have contributed to the recurrent violent conflicts that Nigeria has been experiencing.

Internally displaced persons who fled from Boko Haram in the eastern Nigerian city of Yola

Internally displaced persons who fled from Boko Haram in the eastern Nigerian city of Yola

Internally displaced persons who fled from Boko Haram in the eastern Nigerian city of Yola

Often, social and economic conflict is used as a pretext for pitting ethnic or religious groups against each other. Nigeria is home to more than 250 ethnic groups. The country's north is mostly inhabited by Muslims, while the south is mainly Christian.

The humanitarian and security situation in north-eastern Nigeria has deteriorated continuously since 2018. In the Nigeria/Cameroon/Niger/Chad border region, Islamist groups (Boko Haram and ISWAP, Islamic State's West Africa Province) regularly carry out terrorist attacks. The military has so far been unable to guarantee security in the region and protect local people from attacks.

According to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the number of internally displaced persons in Nigeria at the end of October 2021 was nearly 2.2 million. More than 320,000 Nigerians have sought refuge in neighbouring countries. According to figures published by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 8.7 million people were in need of humanitarian assistance in the north-eastern states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe (as at October 2021). In the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, the situation has further deteriorated, as supply chains have been disrupted and food supplies have become unreliable.

Conflicts over resources

Conflicts between pastoralists and farmers in central Nigeria have expanded to further regions. Nomadic pastoralists traditionally move south from the northern part of the country to graze their cattle and bring meat to the slaughterhouses in the south. However, the old grazing corridors no longer exist. The land has either been built up or is being used for farming.

The conflict over land and resources might lead to a rift between ethnic and religious groups, as the parties involved are mainly Muslim pastoralists and Christian farmers. Increasing desertification in northern Nigeria, high population growth and economic difficulties are exacerbating the conflict.

High risk of escalation

Experts consider gang crime (cattle theft, raids, kidnappings) in north-western Nigeria as a critical threat to the general security situation. The gangs are increasingly being infiltrated by Islamist organisations, so that the boundary between crime and terrorism is increasingly fading.

The situation also remains tense in the oil field region in the Niger Delta. In that region, militias are fighting for giving local people a greater share in the benefits from the region's resources. Another security challenge is piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. Nigeria's navy only has limited capacity to protect vessels and their crews from raids and kidnappings.

Another simmering conflict can be found in the south-eastern part of the country, where separatist groups are fighting for an independent Biafra. Similar moves in the late 1960s had led to a civil war that lasted nearly three years.