David Smock, vice president of USIP's Center for Mediation and Conflict Resolution, discusses religious tensions and recent events in Nigeria, and examines the outlook for Africa's most populous nation.

On Christmas, an explosion ruined a church in Jos in Plateau State, Nigeria. A total of 38 people were killed in the Jos vicinity over the Christmas holidays. This is but the latest chapter of fighting between Christians and Muslims in Plateau State. Many other factors besides religion lie behind the fighting, but the fault line between Christians and Muslims is a recurring source of tension.

USIP has been supporting mediation between Christian and Muslim leaders in Plateau State since 2004 through its partnership with the Inter-Faith Mediation Centre. In 2004-2005, this mediation ended conflict in one part of Plateau State where the fighting, up to that time, had been the most intense. USIP sponsored a film on this effort entitled “The Imam and the Pastor.”

In the Niger Delta, rebels reduced the level of sabotage and kidnapping when the Nigerian government declared an amnesty for rebels in 2009.  Working with the Africa Center for Corporate Responsibility, USIP is helping to reintegrate rebels in the Niger Delta back into their home communities. But the amnesty has had only limited success and the level of violence has increased recently, including attacks by Nigeria’s army on rebel strongholds.

All of Nigeria is focused on the national and state elections scheduled for April 2011. Past elections have lacked credibility but the federal government has given assurances that the 2011 elections will be different. Violence relating to elections is always a threat in Nigeria. USIP recently published a Special Report entitled “Breaking the Cycle of Electoral Violence in Nigeria” to assess this threat.

Explore Further

Related Publications

Protests Test Nigeria’s Democracy and its Leadership in Africa

Protests Test Nigeria’s Democracy and its Leadership in Africa

Thursday, October 22, 2020

By: Oge Onubogu

Nigeria’s protests against police brutality already were the largest in the country’s history before security forces opened fire on a crowd in Lagos on October 20. The protest and bloodshed have only heightened the need for the government in Africa’s most populous country to end the pattern of violence by security forces against civilians. Leaders must finally acknowledge that this brutality has fueled violent extremism. How the Nigerian government will respond to citizens’ insistent demand for accountable governance will influence similar struggles—for democracy, accountability, nonviolence and stability—across much of Africa.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Violent Extremism; Democracy & Governance; Nonviolent Action

Is Insecurity Undermining the Coronavirus Response? Evidence from Nigeria

Is Insecurity Undermining the Coronavirus Response? Evidence from Nigeria

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

By: Aly Verjee

In the United States, there is no shortage of public opinion data on nearly every question imaginable. But in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, such data is more scarce and policymakers often lack detailed insights into citizen perceptions and concerns. Now, new evidence from USIP-commissioned surveys conducted in May and July 2020 of more than 10,000 Nigerians has found new relationships between violent conflict and the coronavirus response. The data shows that victims of violence are more likely to distrust the Nigerian government’s response to coronavirus.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Global Health

COVID-19 and Conflict: Nigeria

COVID-19 and Conflict: Nigeria

Thursday, May 28, 2020

By: Oge Onubogu

As Africa’s most populous democracy and largest economy, Nigeria’s ability to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus within its own borders has broader implications for the entire continent. Meanwhile, the virus threatens to exacerbate the country’s existing security challenges, which in turn make an effective pandemic response more difficult. In this #COVIDandConflict video, our Oge Onubogu looks at how the Nigerian government has addressed the virus and what potential takeaways the response to COVID-19 could have for tackling the country’s epidemic of violence.

Type: Blog

Global Health

Nigeria: The Response to Coronavirus is an Opportunity for Reform

Nigeria: The Response to Coronavirus is an Opportunity for Reform

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

By: Nigeria Working Group on Peacebuilding and Governance

Well before the coronavirus emerged, a large majority of Nigerians felt their country was “going in the wrong direction.” Polling shows Nigerians feel the government has struggled to improve the living standards of the poor and is managing the economy badly. Today, while the public health response to head off the pandemic dominates attention, calls from prominent members of Nigerian civil society have renewed debates over wider questions of economic, social, and political reform. In this article, members of the Nigeria Working Group on Peacebuilding and Governance express both their hopes and concerns—in the context of the coronavirus—for Africa’s most populous country.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & Governance; Global Health

View All Publications