Nigeria has one of the highest rates of internal violence in the world, only unlike others with similar levels of bloodshed such as Colombia or Chechnya, there is not a civil war going on. Between 1999 and 2006 alone, over 50,000 were killed in ethno-religious violence and over 80,000 displaced. In the north, an explosive growth of strident Christianity confronted an upsurge of puritanical, reformist Islam. In the Middle Belt, the mainly Christian local farmers collided with predominantly Muslim settler herdsmen in Plateau State, requiring the president to declare a state of emergency. In the Niger Delta, new rebel groups escalated their attacks on government and multinational installations, including the use of car bombings.
With an estimated 175 million people [as of 2013], Nigeria is Africa's most populous nation. It is also the United States' fifth largest oil supplier. Although Nigeria potentially could offer investors a low-cost labor pool, abundant natural resources, and the largest domestic market in sub-Saharan Africa, its economy remains stagnant, its market potential unrealized. The country suffers from collapsing infrastructure, possesses an inconsistent regulatory environment, and enjoys a well-deserved reputation for endemic crime and corruption. Following decades of misrule, Nigeria's transportation, communications, health and power public services are a mess. Once a breadbasket, Nigeria has witnessed a severe deterioration of its agricultural sector. Social, religious, and ethnic unrest, and a lack of effective due process, further complicate business ventures in Nigeria. Moreover, the government remains highly over-reliant on oil exports for its revenue and thus subject to the vagaries of the world price for petroleum. Investors must carefully research any business opportunity and avoid those opportunities that appear "too good to be true."
Nigeria has, over the past four decades, earned a reputation for corruption on a grand scale. Modest requests for dash early in the country's history grew by leaps and bounds, with the exploitation of centrally controlled oil resources from the 1960s onward, into truly massive transfers of public funds from government coffers to private accounts. The military by no means started the system-allegations of corruption figured heavily in the first ("January") coup in 1966-but men such as Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha certainly escalated the scale of corruption to astounding levels.
Public monies are viewed as open access goods; anyone who fails to grab as much as he can as fast as he can is a fool, stupidly stinting himself and his relatives and friends so that others may benefit. This concept has become entrenched in Nigerian thinking about public affairs. A latter-day Hausa political adage-In na gwamnati ne, ba na kowa ba ("If it belongs to the Government, it belongs to no one")-encapsulates the idea that public funds are fair game for anyone who can capture them. The majority of office holders at all levels of public secular government seemingly prefer to risk jail for embezzlement of public funds entrusted to their care rather than risk opprobrium in their home areas for failing to enrich themselves and their communities during their time at the public trough.
Nigeria experiences civil unrest, violence and strikes. The causes and locations vary. Locations where outbreaks of violence have occurred include the Lagos area, Southwestern Nigeria, the oil-producing states in the southeast, and Kaduna State. There has been an increase in the number of unauthorized automobile checkpoints. These checkpoints are operated by armed bands of police, soldiers, or bandits posing as or operating with police or soldiers. Many incidents, including murder, illustrate the increasing risks of road travel in Nigeria. Reports of threats against firms and foreign workers in the petroleum sector recur from time to time. Chadian troop incursions have occurred at the border area in the far northeast, near Lake Chad. Incidents also occur in the southeast in the disputed Bakassi Peninsula at the border area between Nigeria and Cameroon.
While General Sani Abacha ruled, the Government continued to suppress harshly demands for greater local autonomy by members of ethnic minorities in the oil-producing Niger River delta region, including the Ogoni minority. In June 1998 Abacha died and was succeeded by General Aboulsalami Abubakar, who launched a program intended to restore decentralized constitutional democracy in the form of a federal republic. After Abubakar consolidated his authority in the armed forces the largely ceased to use lethal force to repress nonviolent political activities. The Government acted to mitigate ethnic and regional discrimination and tensions by restoring a federal system of government with substantial local and regional autonomy.
President Jonathan’s term tenure since his April 2011 election has largely been defined by political, religious, and ethnic violence that affect Northern Nigeria and Abuja. Boko Haram (formally known as “Jama’tu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad”) has waged a terrorist campaign across a growing number of northern states, calling for the institution of Shari’a law across Northern Nigeria. Such attacks have resulted in nearly three thousand deaths since 2009. Attacks on churches continued to catalyze religious and ethnic-based reprisals, resulting in death tolls often under-reported in the media. President Jonathan’s January 2012 appointment of Mohammed Abubakar, a northerner from Zamfara state, as the new Inspector General of Police and his June 2012 appointment of Colonel (retired) Sambo Dasuki, a former military officer from Sokoto state, as his new National Security Advisor brought fresh perspective to Government of Nigeria efforts to contain Boko Haram.
Attacks in Northern states and Abuja have become increasingly lethal and sophisticated. Boko Haram has targeted churches, mosques, government installations, educational institutions, and leisure sites with Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and Suicide Vehicle-borne IEDS across nine Northern states and in Abuja. In 2011, Boko Haram claimed responsibility for a bombing at the National Police Force headquarters and a suicide car bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Abuja. Due to challenging security dynamics in the North, the Mission has significantly limited official travel north of Abuja. Such trips occur only with security measures designed to mitigate the threats of car-bomb attacks and abductions.
Since 2010, Nigeria has deployed a Joint Task Force (JTF), comprised of military and police personnel, as part of Operation “Restore Order” to combat Boko Haram. Security force efforts to counter Boko Haram in Borno and Yobe States have elicited public allegations of the use of excessive force and human rights abuses against both innocent civilians and suspected Boko Haram members. In 2012, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch published reports noting the alleged commission of crimes against humanity by Boko Haram members and detailing credible instances of systematic human rights abuses committed by JTF forces. The Government of Nigeria has publicly denounced the reports as biased and based on unreliable witness accounts, while noting frequent, deadly attacks perpetrated by Boko Haram elements against innocent civilians.
During the year 2012 Joint Task Forces (JTFs), composed of elements of the military, police, and other security services, conducted raids on militant groups and criminal suspects in Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Kano, Kaduna, Kogi, Niger, Plateau, Sokoto, and Yobe states, resulting in numerous deaths and injuries to alleged criminals, militants, and civilians. According to credible eyewitness accounts, JTF members committed illegal killings during attempts to apprehend members of the extremist group Boko Haram in several states, including Borno, Kano, Kaduna, and Yobe states and surrounding areas. Local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), international human rights groups, and political and traditional leaders from the affected states accused the security services of indiscriminate and extrajudicial killings, illegal detention, inhumane treatment of detainees, and torture during the year.
Political violence often erupts during Nigerian elections. Some candidates hire young people to engage in violent acts, including intimidation of their opponents’ supporters or of voters believed to support opponents. Violence can also occur during the polling process, with the theft of ballot boxes and clashes at or near polling stations. The murder of political opponents and the kidnapping of family members of political opponents have also taken place.
There are growing ecological and demographic pressures in the rural areas of Nigeria. A series of brutal attacks and kidnappings in 2016 stretched from Nigeria's southern Niger Delta to its northwest corner and were blamed on herdsmen from the Fulani ethnic group. Politicians and newspapers railed against the nomadic herdsmen as a creeping national security threat.
President Muhammadu Buhari, himself a Fulani who declared cattle among his possessions after taking office in 2015, put out a statement vowing to deal with “rampaging herdsmen.” But there was no common cause to these attacks and that most farmers and herdsmen coexist peacefully. When relations do sour and turn violent, it’s usually due to local disputes that go unresolved, along with competition for increasingly scarce land and resources.
A report published in 2015 by aid agency Mercy Corps said Nigeria could save $13.7 billion annually if clashes between farmers and herdsmen stopped in several states. The bloodiest violence happened in 2009 and 2010 under the previous administration of Goodluck Jonathan.
In theory, herdsmen and farmers play complementary roles. Herds can graze on crop remnants, while cows can add manure to fallow fields. But that symbiosis is breaking down. Cattle can trample crops, enraging farmers. The problem will get worse in coming years as climate change and desertification push more migrant herders farther south.
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