The Network of Nigerian Facilitators (NNF) is a group of professional peace mediators trained and advised by USIP to mitigate and resolve local conflicts through nonviolent means in Nigeria. Since 2018, USIP has supported the NNF with the aim of preventing conflicts from escalating beyond the community level by piloting dialogue-based approaches and connecting local peacebuilders with policymakers to inform government responses to conflicts.
In recent years, unresolved local conflicts have led to escalation of violence across Nigeria. Once low-level conflicts, such as those between farming and pastoralist communities in the Middle Belt or banditry in the northwest, have spiraled into deadly crises that inflame religious and ethnic hostilities locally and nationally.
A common thread underlying many of Nigeria’s security threats is a failure of governance. In some of the country’s most insecure parts like the northeast, prolonged deployments of security forces have undermined or replaced civilian-led rule LINK. This disconnect between government and citizens can result in volatile breakdowns LINK, as illustrated by the End SARS protests of 2020 and Nigeria’s history of election violence LINK. Heading into the 2023 elections, this is a significant concern.
Approach and Principles
In 2018, a USIP assessment of the peacebuilding and conflict prevention capacity of state governments in Nigeria highlighted two major gaps: 1) weak ability to facilitate community-based conflict prevention dialogues, and 2) poor connections with those who may have the capacity but are not feeding into or being informed of state policy approaches.
These identified gaps informed USIP’s establishment of the NNF with the objective of supporting a network of community facilitators to manage and respond to emerging threats in their communities by piloting local dialogue-based approaches and providing recommendations and lessons learned to state-level policymakers.
The NNF does not just operate at the community level; rather it has been activated as part of the state government peacebuilding architecture. As a result, the local dialogue processes that the facilitators implement are directly connected to decision-makers, thus further helping to bridge the gap between government and citizens.
As of 2022, the NNF is comprised of 26 civic leaders and community activists from Adamawa, Benue, Borno, Imo, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Nasarawa, Plateau, Rivers and Yobe states. Members of the network complete courses in dialogue facilitation, project design and other skills needed to implement peacebuilding projects in their communities. USIP provides mentorship and guidance to the NNF members throughout the implementation of their projects.
Each NNF member selects their project focus based on the needs in their community. As a result, projects have tackled a range of different issues that include, but are not limited to, addressing pastoralist-farmer disputes, improving civilian-military relations, mitigating banditry, preventing electoral violence and resolving intercommunal conflicts.
While most of these community projects center around a dialogue-based approach, many integrate other peacebuilding methods including mediation, reconciliation and nonviolent action. Members of the NNF work with USIP to develop and implement a project design that is most appropriate for the problem and context.
Progress to Date
Across the 11 states where the network is active, NNF members rely on their understanding of the local context and their relationships with local stakeholders to create spaces for community members to build trust, discuss shared issues and explore potential solutions. Most dialogues have improved relations between conflict parties while others have led to peace agreements or peace processes designed to resolve a diverse set of grievances among community members.
In 2019, the NNF was called upon by the Plateau State Peacebuilding Agency (PPBA) and the Kaduna State Peace Commission (KSPC) to help resolve a longstanding recurring ethno-religious, cross-border violent conflict between the Aten, Takad and Fulani communities in Riyom and Kaura Local Government Areas of Plateau and Kaduna states.
A USIP-supported dialogue series to address the cross-border violence concluded in December 2020 with a peace agreement between the conflict parties, which NNF members helped facilitate. The peace agreement signified the communities’ commitment to cease fighting and begin to work towards a peace process that would include expanded dialogues, developing a conflict prevention plan and mediation.