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 pastoralist-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.


Related Publications

Six Alternative Ways to Measure Peace in Nigeria

Six Alternative Ways to Measure Peace in Nigeria

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

By: Yagana Bukar; Aly Verjee; Chris Kwaja

When measured by the death toll, Nigeria seems beset by violence. By some accounts, the COVID-19 pandemic has made experiences of violence even more common — notably, Nigeria recorded a 169% increase in abductions between 2019 and 2020. While quantifying violence is relatively straightforward, defining what peace means to ordinary Nigerians has been largely overlooked, even if such definitions may be more meaningful. By exploring more nuanced understandings of peace, how these vary between and across communities, and finding which indicators of peace are most valued, peace might be better pursued. We went in search of how people in the states of Bauchi, Kaduna, Nasarawa and Plateau define peace. Here are six of our most important findings.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & Prevention; Fragility & Resilience

How Mass Kidnappings of Students Hinder Nigeria’s Future

How Mass Kidnappings of Students Hinder Nigeria’s Future

Thursday, July 8, 2021

By: MaryAnne Iwara

This week’s latest mass kidnapping of Nigerian schoolchildren underscores that the crumbling of human security in Africa’s most populous nation is worsening a deeper impairment, hollowing out Nigeria’s education system to create a “lost generation” of youth across much of the country. Alarmingly, one in five of the world’s out-of-school children is Nigerian. As Nigerian and international policymakers focus on the immediate crises—of kidnappings, Boko Haram’s extremist violence, and conflict between farming and herding communities—they must urgently rescue and buttress the country’s damaged education system. Reducing violence and achieving development in Africa will depend on an effective strategy for doing so.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Human Rights; Youth

How to calm violent crises? Nigeria has an idea.

How to calm violent crises? Nigeria has an idea.

Friday, June 4, 2021

By: Darren Kew

If U.S. and international policymakers hope to see Africa stabilize amid the world’s crises of violence, record human displacement and the COVID pandemic, Nigeria must be center stage. This demographic giant, home to one in five sub-Saharan Africans, now faces a perfect storm of violent conflicts that pose an existential challenge. Yet Nigeria also offers its own solutions for stabilization—including a low-cost innovation worthy of international support: peacebuilding agencies operated by governments in three of the country’s 36 states. This timely model offers localized approaches to the roots of violence and is relevant to nations worldwide.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Global Policy; Mediation, Negotiation & Dialogue

Nigeria’s State Peacebuilding Institutions: Early Success and Continuing Challenges

Nigeria’s State Peacebuilding Institutions: Early Success and Continuing Challenges

Friday, June 4, 2021

By: Darren Kew

Three states in Nigeria's conflict-prone Middle Belt—Plateau, Kaduna, and Adamawa—have established peace institutions in recent years. Although the young agencies have made strides toward organizing improved initiatives to quell religious, ethnic, and farmer-herder conflicts in the region, all three face daunting funding and structural challenges. This report provides recommendations for increasing the agencies’ financial stability and organizational independence, helping them build peace in their own states and serve as a model for other states to launch their own peace institutes.

Type: Special Report

Mediation, Negotiation & Dialogue

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