Nigeria’s next government needs to have the political will to act decisively against the Boko Haram extremist group, said Pastor Esther Abimiku Ibanga ahead of the country’s March 28 presidential election. Ibanga, a civil society leader from northern Nigeria’s Plateau state, was recently awarded the prestigious Niwano Peace Prize, which honors significant contributions to inter-religious cooperation, for her efforts to promote women’s empowerment and peace.

Pastor Ibanga and Susie Hayward

Pastor Ibanga, a Christian, is the founder and president of the Women Without Walls Initiative, which brings together women from diverse religions and ethnicities to advocate for peace. Ibanga and the initiative have pressured the government of Nigeria to take a more committed, effective and proactive approach to combatting Boko Haram. They also coordinate with police services to improve community security and work with youth to help them resist extremist influences.

In this interview with Susan Hayward, the interim director of USIP’s Religion and Peacebuilding center, Ibanga says religious leaders should “step out into the dark arenas” where extremism thrives. She also discusses the challenges facing female clergy, why engaging with young people is the greatest part of her ministry, the top priorities for Nigeria’s next government, and what she has learned from other women leaders who are also working to counter violent extremism.

Ibanga has participated in USIP’s Women Preventing Extremist Violence project for the last two years, and was at the institute as part of a three-day symposium for the program in March.

Related Publications

Nigeria Needs Justice, Not Payoffs, to Build Peace

Nigeria Needs Justice, Not Payoffs, to Build Peace

Thursday, March 18, 2021

By: Oge Onubogu

When gunmen stormed a Nigerian government high school last week, kidnapping dozens of students for ransom, this fourth mass kidnapping in three months underscored that Nigeria’s response so far is not reducing the violence and insecurity spreading across the country’s north. That response has been largely ad hoc, a mix of federal military actions, state officials negotiating with the criminal gangs and, allegedly, the payment of ransoms. A more effective response will require better coordination among federal and state authorities, the inclusion of civil society in a broad strategy, and support from the international community.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Justice, Security & Rule of Law

Months After Protests, Nigeria Needs Police Accountability

Months After Protests, Nigeria Needs Police Accountability

Thursday, February 25, 2021

By: Emily Cole

In Nigeria and more than a dozen nations—the United States, Brazil and Japan are others—public protests erupted in the past year against police brutality. Across the globe, police violence traumatizes the marginalized, spares the powerful and remains unaddressed until the abuse is illuminated to broad public view. While brutality is typically rooted among a minority of officers, it persists because weak systems of police accountability offer impunity, even to repeat offenders. In Nigeria, as in other countries, the solution will require building strong accountability mechanisms—both within police agencies and externally, in the communities they serve.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Justice, Security & Rule of Law; Democracy & Governance

Nigeria's Security Failures: The Link Between EndSARS and Boko Haram

Nigeria's Security Failures: The Link Between EndSARS and Boko Haram

Thursday, December 17, 2020

By: Aly Verjee; Chris Kwaja

At first glance, the October state-led killings of protesters in Nigeria’s largest city, Lagos, seem to have little in common with the November Boko Haram massacre of at least 43 farmers in Nigeria’s northeast, or the December 11 abduction of hundreds of school students in Katsina State. With vastly different circumstances, motivations, and perpetrators—and separated by hundreds of miles—all three episodes could easily be recorded as just further tragic installments in Nigeria’s long history of violence. However, these incidents underscore the wider failure of the state to provide security for its citizens, only deepening the trust deficit felt by Nigerians.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Violent Extremism; Fragility & Resilience

When the World Moves On: What’s Next for Nigeria’s EndSARS Movement?

When the World Moves On: What’s Next for Nigeria’s EndSARS Movement?

Thursday, December 10, 2020

By: Jonathan Pinckney; Erin Zamora

This week, protesters once again filled the streets of several Nigerian cities as activists called for “Phase II” of the #EndSARS protests that rocked the country in October. While the protesters’ initial grievances focused on police violence by the country’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), many in the movement have since expanded its aims, criticizing government corruption, with some calling for the resignation of President Muhammadu Buhari. While the initial protests seemed to have faded after the army opened fire on peaceful protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate plaza in Lagos, the underlying grievances of the protesters remain unresolved.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Nonviolent Action

View All Publications