The rise of deadly extremism in Nigeria

1 November 2019

Violence has been rife in Nigeria for over 30 years. However the combination of a growing population and a mix of weather related factors has lead to a significant increase in ethnoreligious attacks in the last decade. Northern Nigeria and the middle-belt have been sieged as Hausa ethnicity dominated regions and heavily dominated by groups such as Boko Haram and other militant Islam groups.


Herdsmen v Farmer

Remains of a village destroyed by Fulani Herdsmen

The Fulani herdsmen are an Islamic migratory group traditionally located in the northern Sahel region of Nigeria. However due to severe drought, the group have been forced out of this area in order to find resources including food and water to graze cattle on. This lack of resources has led to the gradual southwards movement of the group outside of their traditional migratory paths to grazing cattle. The groups now predominantly reside in Nigeria’s middle-belt. This middle-belt is home to majority non-Hausa Christian farmers who make up 75% of the population who legally claimed the land under the Land Use Act of 1978. Herder-farmer violence and genocide are a constant reality and threat for those residing in the middle belt areas including Benue, Taraba and Plateau states, where contests for this land have resulted in over 10,000 deaths and thousands more displaced. In 2018 the Global Terrorism Index named Fulani militants as the fourth deadliest terrorist group in the world.

Nothing puts the impact of these attacks into perspective more than the shear increase in frequency and scale of attacks in recent years, with 80 civilians being killed from 2010-13, and 3,461 from 2015-18.


Education under attack

Education in Nigeria, in areas such as Benue, Yobe and Borno States, has been systematically targeted by groups like Boko Haram who’s moniker literally translates in English to “Western education is forbidden”. In Benue State alone 102,000 children, 60 percent of the 169,922 people displaced by the conflict, have been forced out of school. The majority of these Internally Displaced People (80%), are located in Borno State with the primary cause of their displacement being insurgency. Boko Haram has prevented children from continuing their education in Borno and Yobe states. For this reason OCHA reported in 2017 that approximately 3 million children were in desperate need of education after years of relentless attacks, with an estimated 1,697 schools destroyed or closed in 2017.


What is the government doing to help?

The government’s action to tackle the issue of militant violence can be characterised as ineffective and superficial at best. In May 2015 Nigeria endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration which aims for the protection and continuation of education during conflict. After this there were fewer reported attacks on schools between late 2015-17. However this can mostly be accredited to the fact that most of the school in the north east of Nigeria had already been closed or destroyed. The government of President Muhammadu Buhari has promised to end the violence and hold those responsible to account but has so far failed to do so. Community leaders, such as former defence minister General Theophilus Danjumaha, have taken it upon themselves to promote self-help defensive efforts rather than depend on government security forces. These efforts have been denounced by the Nigerian government as an “invitation to anarchy”. However it has stimulated the Nigerian police force to announce the deployment of a Special Intervention force to restore peace and security in the area.



By Clelia Vercueil


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