As Africa’s most populous country, largest economy and most notable democracy, Nigeria is a bellwether for the continent. A weakening economy, rising insecurity and violent conflicts threaten progress made in its democratic development. Amid deepening distrust in government and institutions, Nigeria has significant work to do in improving national, state and local security and governance ahead of national and state elections in 2023.

Nigeria’s federal system gives governors great responsibilities in addressing the issues driving the country’s multiple conflicts, including farmer-herder violence, deepening regional divides, armed banditry and the Boko Haram insurgency. USIP brings together state governors, national policymakers and civic leaders to design and implement inclusive policies that mitigate violence and strengthen community-oriented security. The Institute engages a variety of influential figures, empowers citizens and uses its expertise and convening power to inform Nigeria policy in the United States, the region and around the world. Recent work includes:

Nigeria Working Group on Peacebuilding and Governance

Since 2016, this working group has fostered relationships between citizens, policymakers and national and international figures to ensure that a diverse array of voices impact decision-making processes. These relationships allow the working group to turn expert analysis into tangible, actionable policy advice. For instance, recommendations for addressing the country’s current security and political challenges — informed by a 2021 convening with religious and civic leaders from the National Peace Committee and the Inter-Faith Initiative for Peace — were published in leading Nigerian newspapers. In 2021, amid deepening public mistrust, the working group harnessed its collective experience and relationships to advance high-level dialogue between major civic groups working for peace across the country and the Nigerian government. The working group is regularly invited by state and national policymakers to provide recommendations on a range of issues, from inclusive governance and electoral violence to communal conflicts between pastoralists and farming communities. 

Network of Nigerian Facilitators (NNF)

The NNF is a group of professional peace mediators trained by USIP to resolve local conflicts through nonviolent means across several states throughout the country. NNF dialogues focus on strengthening community-security sector relationships and mitigating intercommunal, pastoralist-farmer and election-related violence. Since 2019, the NNF has collaborated with state peacebuilding institutions to address conflicts and support local peace processes. In 2021, the NNF helped conduct USIP research to better understand the drivers and dynamics of communal conflicts across Nigeria.

Working with State Governments and Peacebuilding Institutions

USIP helps governors and state peacebuilding institutions to establish inclusive, cooperative strategies that prevent and resolve violent conflicts; ensure that policies focus on citizens’ needs; stem the potential for all forms of violence; and allow communities to play meaningful roles in the transition process.

Strengthening Local Security

Through USIP’s ongoing Justice and Security Dialogue project, citizens at the local level collectively identify security challenges and organize dialogues that bring together internally displaced communities and police in Northeast Nigeria to develop practical and concrete solutions to address security concerns, build trust and foster accountability.

Informing Policy through Research

USIP conducts research on governance and security to better advise Nigerian policymakers in their response to these challenges. A 2020 public opinion survey found new linkages between COVID-19, instability and conflict. These survey findings informed policy discussions with senior U.S. and Nigerian policymakers, including Nigerian President Buhari and state governors. USIP also published research mapping state peacebuilding institutions; assessing election-related violence risks; and outlining pathways to civilian-led governance amid the Boko Haram insurgency in Northeast Nigeria. 

Convening Stakeholders

USIP convenes government officials, partners and civic leaders at its U.S. headquarters and Nigeria country office for candid conversations that foster collaboration and inform policy and program priorities. USIP hosted discussions in 2020 with the Nigerian ministers of foreign affairs and humanitarian affairs and senior U.S. policymakers. Throughout the pandemic, USIP convened a series of virtual roundtables with Nigerian federal and state policymakers and key stakeholders to examine COVID-19’s impact on security and governance. In 2019, USIP hosted eminent U.S. and Nigerian civic leaders and government officials for a roundtable to explore the state of Nigerian governance 20 years into its democratic transition.

Expanding the Institute’s Field Work

In 2020, USIP officially established a country office in Abuja. This accomplishment allows the Institute to continue its impactful operations, broaden its regional scope and sustain its direct action for peace in Nigeria.


Network of Nigerian Facilitators (NNF)

In 2019, the Network of Nigerian Facilitators (NNF) helped Kaduna and Plateau state peacebuilding institutions orchestrate a peace agreement to resolve a long-standing, cross-border violent conflict between Aten, Fulani and Takad communities in both states. The resulting peace agreement, signed in December 2020, signified their commitment to begin a peace process guided by the state peacebuilding institutions with support from the NNF and USIP.


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Amid Nigeria’s Turmoil, an Election Could Alter its Democracy

Amid Nigeria’s Turmoil, an Election Could Alter its Democracy

Thursday, July 28, 2022

By: Oge Onubogu

In mid-summer 2022, Nigeria is just seven months away from elections that could strengthen, or set back, its democracy. Good news includes a surge in voter registrations and a wave of civic engagement among young Nigerians who in recent years have often despaired of better governance through elections. Yet dangers loom: risks of electoral violence or disputed election results in a country where political and criminal violence has reached new levels. To help Africa’s most populous nation pivot toward stability — and to indirectly bolster democratization across the continent — the United States and other international partners should provide diplomatic, political and technical support for Nigeria’s electoral authority.

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Amid Nigeria’s Violence, a Local Peace Process Advances

Amid Nigeria’s Violence, a Local Peace Process Advances

Thursday, February 10, 2022

By: Matthew Reitman;  Terfa Hemen

Next week opens a high-stakes season of risk for Africa’s demographic giant, Nigeria: the one-year countdown to a presidential election to be held amid the upheavals that have killed or displaced hundreds of thousands of people over the past decade. Nigeria’s escalated regional and local conflicts risk fueling a similar escalation in the country’s pattern of election-related violence. But hope for reducing this combined risk is visible in the work of still-young peacebuilding agencies established by several of Nigeria’s state governments. In one region, these agencies have achieved a peace accord to halt a communal conflict that burned down villages and uprooted thousands of people.

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It’s Time to End ‘Business as Usual’ With Nigeria

It’s Time to End ‘Business as Usual’ With Nigeria

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

By: Oge Onubogu

Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit this week to Nigeria is timely, for Africa’s demographic giant is shuddering with its most dangerous instability in 50 years: insurgencies, uncontrolled criminality and constrictions of freedom of expression. Nigeria is failing to fulfill basic tasks of a nation-state, and its partners need to halt “business as usual” to open an honest dialogue about the current failings. For the United States, this means dropping some old practices in the way America engages Nigerians. U.S. engagements must center more on Nigeria’s citizenry, notably the 70 percent who are younger than 35, and with Nigeria’s 36 disparate states. 

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