Security situation Conflict in many parts of the country

Pronounced social inequality and the lack of opportunities are causing tensions within society and contribute 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 deteriorated again in 2018. In the Nigeria/Cameroon/Niger/Chad border region, the terrorist Islamist group "Boko Haram" continues to attack government institutions, markets, schools, churches and mosques. While an international mission was able to drive the group from large parts of Nigeria, the military has so far been unable to guarantee security in the region and protect the people from attacks.

According to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the number of internally displaced persons in Nigeria at the end of November 2020 was almost 2.7 million. Aid agencies say that in Borno State, parts of which are no longer controlled by the government, 85 per cent of the people are dependent on humanitarian aid.

Conflict over resources

More recently, conflicts between pastoralists and farmers in central Nigeria have expanded to further regions. Nomad 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. Several hundred people have already been killed in the fighting.

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, population growth and economic difficulties are exacerbating the conflict.

High risk of escalation

The situation also remains tense in the oil field region in the Niger Delta. For many years, the region was the scene of fighting between various armed local groups, paramilitary criminal gangs and security forces. The situation only calmed down after the government launched an amnesty programme in 2009 which provided, among other things, for public transfer payments to former insurgents. A cease-fire was agreed in 2016. However, violent militias continue to be active in the region. Experts are warning that fighting might erupt again if visible progress on economic development in the region and on cleaning up the environmental damage caused by oil production fails to materialise.

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.