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Nigeria's Pernicious Drivers of Ethno-Religious Conflict

Nigeria's Pernicious Drivers of Ethno-Religious Conflict

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Published by Davin O'Regan
Nigeria's statutory framework incentivizes the exploitation of identity, thereby feeding conflict. For (forthcoming) versions in French and Portuguese and other publications: http://africacenter.org/acss-publications/security-briefs/
Nigeria's statutory framework incentivizes the exploitation of identity, thereby feeding conflict. For (forthcoming) versions in French and Portuguese and other publications: http://africacenter.org/acss-publications/security-briefs/

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Published by: Davin O'Regan on Jun 29, 2011
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Nigeria’s Pernicious Drivers oEthno-Religious Conict
 Nigeria’s statutory ramework grants local oicials the authority to extend or deny basic rights tocitizens in their jurisdictions, thereby creating incentives or the politicization o ethnicity and escalatingintercommunal violence. 
 Ineective state responses to repeated ethnic clashes have highlighted a lack o political will to addressthis violence. 
 While currently concentrated in central Nigeria, the systemic drivers to identity conlict have the potentialto spread elsewhere in the country and will require undamental institutional reorms to resolve.
NO. 14 / JULY 2011
victims were killed or seized by Muslim or Christianyouth gangs at impromptu roadside checkpoints andtaxi and bus stations, their bodies later ound in nearbyshallow graves.
Several major attacks in 2010 saw new, increas-ingly lethal tactics. During 4 days o ghting in Janu-ary, up to 500 people were killed and some 18,000displaced, many into neighboring states. Local or-ganizations collected over 150 text messages circu-lated prior to the violence, revealing an orchestratedCommunal clashes across ethnic and religiousaultlines in and around the city o Jos in central Ni-geria have claimed thousands o lives, displaced hun-dreds o thousands o others, and ostered a climate o instability throughout the surrounding region.While large-scale violence has occurred periodi-cally over the past decade, in recent years attacks havebecome more requent, widespread, and ecient. Over200 people were killed and nearly 100 more went miss-ing during near daily attacks in January 2011. Many
In extreme cases, rival communities may perceive that their security, perhaps their very survival, can be ensuredonly through control o state power. Confict in such cases becomes virtually inevitable.
—“The Causes o Confict and the Promotion o Durable Peace and Sustainable Development in Arica,”Report o the United Nations Secretary-General, 1998
2eort to stoke tensions. In March, a single attack letanother 300 to 500 dead. In August, ve men werearrested while attempting to smuggle rocket launch-ers, grenades, AK–47s, and large quantities o cashinto Plateau State, o which Jos is the capital. OnChristmas day, twin car bombs in Jos killed nearly 80and wounded more than 100. Signaling a dangerousnew turn to this confict, the violent Islamist groupBoko Haram claimed responsibility or the explo-sions. The group had previously only been active innorthern Nigeria.The conlict in Jos is oten characterized asinter-religious or inter-ethnic, mainly between theChristian-dominated ethnic groups o the Anaguta,Azere, and Berom, and the predominantly MuslimHausa and Fulani groups. But, as is oten the casewith identity conficts in Arica, these are sociallyconstructed stereotypes that are manipulated to trig-ger and drive violence in Jos.
They veil deeper insti-tutional actors within Nigerian law that are abusedand exploited to deny citizens access to resources,basic rights, and participation in political processes—actors that, let unaddressed, have the potential totrigger violence across the country.Government responses to the confict are widelyperceived as ineective. At least 16 public commis-sions have been launched to examine the confictand identiy solutions, and many other studies havebeen conducted by independent groups. But thereis little political will to act on these ndings. Rec-ommendations go largely unheeded. Nor have orga-nizers and perpetrators o attacks been prosecuted.Federal and state governments have regularly workedat cross-purposes. While civil society groups have be-come increasingly engaged, this has had a polarizingeect in some cases.
Situated on the northern edge o the so-calledmiddle belt in central Nigeria where the country’spredominantly Muslim northern hal blends with thegenerally Christian south (see map), Jos is a relativelynew city. It was established as a mining transportationcamp in 1915 because o its proximity to nearby tinand columbite deposits. With a mild climate, highquality soil, abundant water resources, extensive graz-ing lands, and economic opportunities, it attractedmigrants rom around Nigeria and currently has apopulation o nearly 1 million. The city remains akey supplier and commercial center in the nationallivestock trade and is the site o the National Vet-erinary Research Institute. Beore being destroyedduring communal clashes in 2002, the Jos CentralMarket was one o West Arica’s biggest on accounto its proximity to a high-trac rail juncture betweennorthern and southern Nigeria. The city’s diversepopulation once exemplied the Plateau State slogan,“the home o peace and tourism.” Schools were otenintermixed, and business was conducted regardless o religious or ethnic aliation.
This began to change in the early 1990s ollowingan adjustment in the distribution o indigeneship cer-ticates. In Nigeria,
are “original” inhabitantso a local government area, or members o those ethnicgroups that trace their lineage back to the area. Allothers are considered “settlers,” or migrants. The dis-tinction was initially intended to allay concerns amongminority groups who eared that their traditional cus-toms and authority structures would be overwhelmedand eroded by the expansion o larger ethnic and re-ligious groups. However, in practice, the classicationhas oten been used to determine who “belongs” to aparticular locality, which in turn determines whethercitizens can participate in politics, own land, obtain ajob, or attend school.
Accordingly, the indigeneshipcerticate is now a dening document in the day-to-day lives o many Nigerians.
Chris Kwaja is a Lecturer and Researcher in the Centreor Conict Management at the University o Jos, Nigeria.
“the ethnic or religiousdimensions o the conicthave subsequently beenmisconstrued as the primarydriver o violence when, in act,disenranchisement, inequality,and other practical ears are theroot causes”
3Such dierentiations are grounded in nationallaw. The Nigerian constitution, adopted in 1999,and the Federal Character Commission, a statutorybody established to ensure equity in the distribu-tion o resources and political power in the country,recognize the validity o indigene certicates. Thesebodies also accept the authority o local oicialsto issue the certicates to constituents whom o-cials deem qualied—a practice that rst originatedin the 1960s. This authority dramatically elevatesthe importance o and competition over districtingand local elections. Elected ocials, in turn, have astrong incentive to use the certicates as a tool toconsolidate local ethnic majorities. Indeed, manyare accused o stirring tensions, supporting violentactors, and perpetuating the selective distributiono indigene certicates, including the Governor o Plateau State, Jonah Jang, whose political campaignshave seemed to viliy Muslims and certain Christianethnic groups.
This has resulted in sharp dierencesin intergroup inequality, intercommunal animosity,and social ragmentation.Deining indigeneship is extraordinarily arbi-trary. For instance, a Hausa, Igbo, or Yoruba—groupsthat tend not to be originally rom Jos—could le-gally be deemed a settler and denied a certicate eventhough his amily has lived in Jos or generations.Were this same individual to return to areas wherehis ethnic group predominates, local ocials couldsimilarly deny certiicates on account o his birthand connections in Jos. Children o inter-ethnic andinter-religious parents ace similar double-standards.But or many years, this was not a problem.Certicates were generally easy to obtain or Plateau
: Ulrich Lamm. Modied by author.
: Ulrich Lamm. Modied by author.

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