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SOCIAL VIOLENCE IN NIGERIA GEO-POLITICAL ZONES


INTRODUCTION

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.
Major Causes
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.
Major Effects of social violence.
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.
Addressing social violence in Nigeria
Solutions

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.

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