Violence in Nigeria in its various forms has evolved over the decades; from use of traditional weapons, charms and hamlets, violence in Nigeria has taken sophisticated dimension. Political, electoral, religious, ethnic/tribal, cultism and other forms of violence are dominant in the Nigerian society, at varying degrees. Each region in Nigeria has its peculiar form of violence; in northern Nigeria, religious violence and extremist attacks is peculiar, in the South-South, militancy is popular and like extremist attacks in northern Nigeria, it has received global attention. In the South-East, cultism ferocity and robbery attacks are common forms of violence, while in the South West, political violence and thuggery are intrinsic. However, this doesn’t mean other forms of violence such as gender based violence (rape, abuse, intimidation), tribal clash among others still exist across the regions of Nigeria.
Over and over, violence has threatened Nigeria’s peace, stability and unity. Even as the current administration is winning the war against terror in North East Nigeria, militants in Niger-Delta (South-South) have announced their resumption to violent attacks on crude oil facilities. Since February 2016, militants have continued to issue threats, vowing to blow up more pipelines and damage more crude oil facilities in the region. On 16th of February 2016, The Guardian Newspaper published that Niger Delta militants held five foreigners ransom after hijacking a chemical tanker off the coast of Nigeria. Similarly, Fulani herdsmen have launched brutal attacks on rural farmers and dwellers in North Central Nigeria; in an attack in Benue state in February 2016, 40 people were killed, scores seriously injured, over 7000 persons displaced and properties worth millions lost. On 21st of April 2016, the Nigeria Police and the Department of State Security have declared the “Shiite Islamic Movement” as a threat to Nigeria’s security; this is coming amidst on-going trial of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, whose movement is fighting for secession from Nigeria.
At the same time in the regions of Nigeria, different forms of major violent threats are rising. Nigeria’s socio-political landscape has been infested by terrific violence; the government is reactive to violence instead of been proactive. For the country to end the unending trend of violence, it’s important to assess and address the causes of violence, its effect and proffer sustainable solutions beyond use of security forces.
Poor Economy and Unemployment: The escalating state of violence in Nigeria has been incessantly linked to poor economy and high level of youth unemployment. Nigeria’s economy has been marred by corruption and thorough mismanagement of public funds. This has led to widespread of unemployment, frustration and restiveness among the youths which makes them susceptible to violence. Nigeria’s unemployment rate is above the sub region’s average that increased to 23.9% in 2011 compared to 21.1% in 2010 and 19.7% in 2009 (National Bureau of Statistics, 2012). Unemployment rate has been on the increase in Nigeria, the youth constitute 60% of the country’s population, and majority of them are unemployed and underemployed. Since they are idle and frustrated, they become susceptible to violence, societies with strong economies and low unemployment rates record low percentage of violence.
Lack of Equality and Justice: Nigeria is a rich country with alarming number of poor people. The country is vast in natural resources and oil wealth which is controlled by the political class. While a lawmaker earns bogus salaries and allowances, a classroom teacher is paid meager amount which is usually delayed, sometimes for a few months. Civil servants earn far less salaries and the salaries are delayed. More also, government tax citizens yet the infrastructural deficit in the country is depressing; intra and inter states roads are extremely poor, power supply is a mirage, public healthcare is lagging behind, fuel/gas scarcity is incessant among others. Inequality and injustice in Nigeria has instigated provocations and led to violence many times. Violence has become an instrument to seek equality and justice.
Religious/Ethic Sentiments: Nigerians are overwhelmingly obsessed about religious and ethnic identities; sadly, religious and ethnic identities play more important roles in election, appointments, employment and admission into public institutions in Nigeria. The thick cloud of religious and ethnic sentiments has given birth to violence; this has brought global attention and scrutiny to Nigerian. Religious and ethnic sentiments have triggered major violence in Nigeria.
Political Instability: Nigeria is a long standing victim of political instability. When I was teaching “Political Violence: A Socio-Religio Solution” in one of Nigeria’s leading Universities, each time I held classes with the students, the direction of comments and questions from the students depicted that they do not believe in the Nigerian government because of government failure over the years. Nigeria’s political terrain is characterized clash of interests, mismanagement, and corruption.
Loss of Lives and Properties: Violence of various types has claimed the lives and properties of many Nigerians. The recent attack on Agatu people of Benue state by Fulani herdsmen left 40 people dead and over 7000 displaced. Over 2 million Nigerians in north east have been displaced by Boko Haram attacks, including over 800,000 children while thousands of lives have been lost, government, corporate and private properties lost in billions of Naira. This has come with the task of rebuilding the affected communities in a post Boko Haram era.
Socio-Economic Stagnation: For states affected by Boko Haram attacks in North East Nigeria, social and economic activities were paralyzed for several months; schools were shut down and pupils withdrawn, businesses were shut down and economic movement in the region became extremely difficult. The violence has stagnated socio-economic activities, peace is paramount to economic growth.
Social Tension: Violence breeds tension in the society. For example, if an Igbo man is killed in northern Nigeria by an Hausa man, it creates immediate tension, not only for Igbos in northern Nigeria but also Hausas in Eastern Nigeria due to reprisal attack. Often, state of emergency/curfew is declared in violent ridden areas of the nation while the government is working to restore peace.
Job Creation and Economic Growth: Unemployment must be addressed, inflation must be addressed, infrastructure must be put in place to create conducive environment for businesses to strive. Nigeria must keep her citizens gainfully engaged in various economically viable activities. If unemployment is reduced, violence will be reduced, when the economy grows and infrastructure is put in place for businesses to strive, violence is reduced and peace is restored.
Judicial Reform: Nigeria’s judiciary is undeniably weak. In many cases, it victimizes the poor and acquits the rich. Nigeria needs to strengthen the judiciary and make it a strong institution which is not controlled by the rich. The growing inequality and injustice in the country can be reduced by a strong and committed judiciary. Corrupt judges and lawyers should be restricted from the justice system, obsolete laws should be reviewed, treaties ratified by Nigeria that protects human rights should be domesticated and coherent judicial policies should be made.
Educational Reform: The Nigerian education system has descended from the sky of excellence. Violence among other social issues confronting Nigeria reflects in the crumbling education system. Education is pertinent to development, it is the bedrock of progress, and no nation can develop beyond its level of education. Nigeria needs to make educational reforms in curriculum; the curriculum must accommodate thematic topics such as history, Nigeria languages and cultures, peace and development, peace and economic growth, religious understanding and race relation. These topics must also be made practical in relation to the Nigerian society. Today in many Nigeria schools, history, culture e.t.c are not offered as subjects. Since some are ignorant or under-educated, they become vulnerable to sentiments that can trigger violence.
Beyond use of military or police force in ending violence, Nigeria must implement sustainable solutions as listed above. Nigeria needs to give a different approach to ending violence, military is good, however, with well educated population, strong judiciary and glowing economy, violence will be minimized.
B.A, M.A Ilorin, DELF Paris.
“You don’t struggle to grow, grow the grass and the sheep will come, nurture it and they will never. Increase in quality not in quantity”
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