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The Alarming Rise Of Violent Killings In Nigeria

On the 20th of July, 2020, Nigerian research group, SBM Intelligence, published a report on media reported killings in Nigeria between the months of April and June 2020, recording violent incidents including attacks from Boko Haram, militia herdsmen, abductions, gang clashes and bandits which draws attention to the alarmingly increasing rates of violent killings in Nigeria and the need for reforms.

Nigeria has a long history of violent killings including political conflicts like the Biafran civil war which led to the death of over 5000 people, religious crises like the 2000 Kaduna riots which led to the deaths of not less than 2000 people and ethnic conflicts like the 2018 herder-farmer conflicts which led to over 80 deaths.

According to the SBM report, the media reported at least 2,732 deaths between the months of April and June 2020, including 1,053 civilians and 221 security personnel. Earlier in April, a similar report was published for the months of January to March, reporting at least 979 deaths. 

It is, therefore, evident that violent attacks in Nigeria have either political, ethnic or religious undertones. Since independence, politics in Nigeria has been a violent affair. Characterised by corruption, inadequate security and lack of internal democracy, democratic culture, adequate voter education and a host of other vices, it is a major reason for periodical bloodshed.

In a place where politics is seen as a do-or-die affair, contestants are desperate. Therefore, elections and other political affairs will be, no doubt, violent. Contestants for public offices often resort to electoral malpractices which do not exclude harming their opponents and whoever supports them.

This is further worsened by the inadequate voter education among the masses and the poor standard of security in the country. If Nigeria is to make any headway with political conflicts, civil society groups, non-governmental organisations and even political parties should provide more avenues to ensure adequate voter education for the voting population. Nigerians must learn to stop practising politics as a do-or-die affair. The Nigerian government must also be pressured into improving the country’s security standards. 

Communal conflicts in Nigeria, on the other hand, can be explained under two broad subheadings: Ethno-religious conflicts, mainly attributed to actors who are primarily divided by cultural, ethnic and religious identities and Herder-farmer conflicts which typically involve disputes over land, cattle or both between herders and farmers.

Ethno-religious and Herder-farmer conflicts are predominant among the Hausa, Igbo, Tiv, Tarok, Berom, Adara, Muslim and Christian people of northern and middle belt Nigeria. Divided by their various cultural, ethnic and religious differences, these conflicts occur as a result of the fear of domination, lack of security, education and ethnoreligious awareness among these people.

In the wake of these unabated killings in the country, Nigeria currently ranks 131 on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business 2020 index. The index is an annual ranking that assesses the business environment in 190 countries using various indicators including paying taxes, trading across borders, starting a business and protecting minority investors.

The country moved up 15 places from its 2019 spot to be adjudged one of the most improved economies in the world for running businesses. But with the spate of safety and security challenges bedevilling the country, it looks bleaker running a business effectively in some parts of the country.

According to a Global Peace Index report, Nigeria occupies 40th position out of the 44 countries assessed for their peacefulness in sub-Saharan Africa, four places above war-torn South Sudan which is the least peaceful country in the region.

The report attributed Nigeria’s position to the activities of Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East, which it said led to the killing of 640 civilians in 2019. This has a huge impact on unregistered household enterprises which account for about 65 per cent of Nigeria’s GDP, according to the Bank of Industry

Many of these daily income earners who live from hand-to-mouth have been displaced by various forms of violent attacks across the country. Their housing, access to infrastructure, education, health and social life, security and environment changes often degrades. They, oftentimes, are unable to pursue their former work, leading to unemployment, underemployment or informal work, and a significant drop in income. This adds a considerable strain to the economy of the host communities.

To put an end to these various communal conflicts, the federal government should set up a task force which will, in turn, set up dialogues between the various conflicting communities to reach a common ground and promote peace and unity among them. Civil society groups and non-governmental organisations should also take steps to improve the ethnoreligious awareness by reaching out to people at the grassroots.

The sharp increase in the rates of violent killings in Nigeria between April and June is very alarming and calls for urgent reform. The federal government should make reforms to implement a complete change in the security system of the country to protect her citizens from all forms of violent attacks. Also, civil society organizations should promote political and ethnoreligious awareness to help reduce the rate of political and communal violence.

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