AOAV: all our reportsExplosive violence by Boko HaramExplosive violence in Nigeria

The Violent Road: Nigeria’s North West

Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara

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Politics in Northern Nigeria are often framed in terms of binary narratives that pitch the country’s North against South, or its Muslim population against its Christian community. These narratives mask much more complex dynamics. In the North West, violence has often accompanied key political junctures such as electoral cycles. All states in the North West were won by the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, the current President’s strongest rival in the most recent 2011 general elections.224 In the days following the election, unrest broke out in many Northern states, with rioters attacking supporters and officials of the PDP. Distrust of the veracity of the election results, high levels of poverty, religious tensions and crowd manipulation by political figures all played a role in the causes of this violence. Among those targeted were officials and members of the traditional Muslim leadership in the North – figures such as the Sultan of Sokoto, and the Emirs of Kano and Zaria – who were perceived as being supported by the PDP.225 These dynamics point to the complex interactions between politics and religious and regional identities in Northern Nigeria.


Across a range of poverty measures, the North West performs very poorly. The North West region has an infant mortality rate of 91 (compared to a national average of 87).226 The North West has the second highest rate in the country of male respondents who reported having no educational attainment whatsoever (at 48.8%) and the highest rates of female respondents reporting they had no educational attainment (at 67.5%).227 Jigawa and Sokoto states in the North West have the two highest rates of absolute poverty in the country (at 88.5 and 86.1 respectively).228 Many factories in the region (particularly in Kano) are either closed down or operating at loss – a result partly of inadequate power supplies that leave many youths unemployed and vulnerable to violence.

Demographics and geography

The population of the North West region is estimated at 41.8 million people.229 The region’s population is predominantly Muslim,230 and members of the Hausa-Fulani ethnic group, who make up approximately 29%, are dominant in the area, alongside a number of smaller ethnic groups in highly diverse areas bordering the North Central region.231 The city of Kano in the North West is Nigeria’s second-largest city by population, following Lagos, and a commercial hub and historical cultural centre in the wider Northern region.

Armed violence

The North West region experiences lower levels of violence than neighbouring states in the North East, with just under 450 political violence events recorded in the region between 1999 and June 2013.232 Of this conflict, Kano and Kaduna witness the highest levels of political armed violence.

Armed violence has taken several forms. As with states in the North Central region, the issue of indigeneity has been central to recurring violence in the region. Violence of this kind has centred on issues of land control and access to economic and political resources, frequently occurring during key political junctures such as electoral cycles. Violent attacks by Boko Haram have also occurred in Kaduna and Kano since 2012, with attacks by the group roughly evenly split between attacks on unarmed civilians and those involving security forces.233

A January, 2012, bomb attack in Kano and subsequent gun battles attributed to Boko Haram claimed 186 lives.234 Armed violence in states across Nigeria, but in Kano in particular, cannot be assessed in isolation from other states: among the most devastating spikes in armed violence and inter-communal conflict in Kano occurred in apparent retaliation for attacks on Muslim communities in the state of Plateau in 2004.235 In 2004, a campaign of inter-communal violence – primarily pitting Muslims and Christians against one another – claimed as many as 200 lives in Kano before the military intervened.236

Civil society in the North West: Sokoto, Kaduna and Kano

This research focused on Kano, Kaduna and Sokoto. 76 organisations, including 32 civil society organisations, were mapped.

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Number of actors mapped

Civil society in the North West is composed of more faith-based organisations than other zones. Faith-based organisations are crucial in the North West in two ways: First, more of them were identified than in other zones. Second, while overall civil society budgetary and staff capacities correspond more or less to the national average, faith-based organisations tend to dispose of more resources and staff than regular NGOs.

It also seems to implement the least work on weapons among all zones. Only 3 – 8% of the organisations interviewed implement projects aiming to control weapons. The ones who do target weapons say they work against abuse of sharp or edged weapons and other objects used to cause harm, more than small arms and light weapons. This makes it the region with the least initiatives targeting firearms specifically.


Screen Shot 2013-12-12 at 02.31.34Kaduna State

Kaduna state is situated in the North West of Nigeria.237 It is the political nerve centre of Northern Nigeria, with a population of about 6,113,503 as of the 2006 census. The state was created in 1967, and modified by the subtraction of Katsina State in 1987.

Kaduna State has a political significance as the former administrative headquarters of the North during the colonial era. It shares boundaries with Niger State to the west, Zamfara, Katsina and Kano states to the north, Bauchi and Plateau States to the east and FCT Abuja and Nassarawa state to the south.

Kaduna has a roughly equal population of Muslims and Christians, and many tribal groups including the Jaba, Gbagyi, Kataf, Kagoro, Hausa-Fulani, Moroa, Ninzom, Koro, Bajju and Ikulu people. Agriculture is the mainstay of the economy of Kaduna State with about 80% of the people actively engaged in farming. The state’s economy is also heavily reliant upon extractive industries and tourism.238

Since the early 1960s, the political leadership of Kaduna State has been in the hands of the Northern Muslims to the disaffection of the Southern Christians. Combined with the state’s high population density and many competing ethnic groups, this situation has caused much tension and at times escalated to armed violence. Kaduna has the unenviable record of having witnessed the most destructive crises in both lives and property in the history of Nigeria since the end of the civil war in the late 1960s.

Overview of armed violence in the state

The state experiences a moderate level of armed violence: the Nigeria Security Tracker recorded 454 violence-related deaths in Kaduna between May 2011 and August 2013, while the ACLED political violence research project recorded 140 separate explicitly political incidents of armed violence in the state between 1997 and August 2013.239

Armed violence in Kaduna has taken several forms. The issue of ‘indigene’ and ‘settler’ status has been central to recurring violence in a state almost equally split between Christian and Muslim populations. Communal militia along those lines make up a significant share of conflict actors in Kaduna.240 Violence of this kind has centred on issues of land control and access to economic and political resources, frequently occurring during key political junctures such as electoral cycles. Violent attacks by Boko Haram have also occurred in the state since 2012, with attacks by the group roughly evenly split between attacks on unarmed civilians and those involving security forces.241

Kaduna State has been under overlapping tensions from population growth and political aspirations by various religious and ethnic groups. It is sometimes argued that tensions between the Hausa-Fulani and Southern Kaduna ethnic groups are the cause of conflict, but this is an oversimplified view which obscures the historical context and heterogeneity of those groups.

One proposed solution has been to create a new state in northern Kaduna, especially following the extensive violence around the April 2011 presidential election. But the state government’s Judicial Panel of Inquiry, which examined the question as part of its investigation into ongoing violence in Kaduna, ultimately decided that a division would not eliminate the tribal, ethnic and religious rivalries plaguing the state.242

Kaduna has seen a number of violent crises in recent history. In 1987, a religious conflict broke out after a Christian cleric was accused of quoting from the Quran at the College of Education Kafanchan, resulting in widespread destruction of places of worship and hundreds of casualties. 1992 saw a violent land dispute between Hausa and Kataf populations in Zangon-Kataf which killed over 1000 people.

People gather at the site of an explosio

People gather at the site of a car bomb explosion outside a church in Kaduna, April 8, 2012 (AFP/Getty Images).

In 2000, demonstrations by Christian and Muslim residents around a legal debate over Sharia turned violent, resulting in two thousand deaths and massive property damage and displacement. Another clash between Christians and Muslims occurred in 2001 in Gwantu resulting in 11 deaths.

In 2011, Nigeria held what were widely hailed as its fairest elections, but they were accompanied by high levels of violence. This violence was particularly pronounced in Kaduna, where three days of riots killed more than 800 people. Finally, in June 2012, Boko Haram carried out three coordinated bomb attacks on churches, killing 48. Following the blasts, retaliatory and counter-retaliatory attacks spread rapidly throughout the state, killing many more.

Perpetrators of armed violence

The main forms of armed violence in Kaduna State are political, economic, socio-cultural and ethno-religious. The ethno-religious and cultural affinity within the Hausa and Fulani groups has been the source of some crises and conflicts between the two major groups. The creation of Local Governments, Senatorial Zones and Districts has sharpened the issues of ethnic affinity, obligations and loyalty and thereby breeds competitive and rival politics. While the violence related to the 2011 election has abated, the underlying issues which caused it have not been resolved. Organised violence occurs thanks to the high number of groups competing for state and natural resources, along with a high level of poverty and unemployment which provides a large number of recruits.

Most of the perpetrators of armed violence in Kaduna State are men and youths. In the majority of the violence, youths make up over 80 percent of active participants. Perpetrators can be members of political or religious extremist groups, or simply paid off to do violence.


A local carries a bundle of straw along the streets of Northern Nigeria (Juju Films).

Victims of armed violence

While the negative effects of armed violence are universal, the plight of women and children is particularly pronounced in Kaduna. There has been an increase in vulnerable children losing their parents or guardians, as well as an increase in destitute elderly women living without carers.

Women are frequently the target of sexual violence, leading to direct harm as well as stigma and social exclusion. In cases where men are direct victims, women are rendered economically vulnerable as single heads of households or they may have to take care of survivors.

Weapons used
The weapons used in the various incidents of armed violence in Kaduna include machetes, local cutlasses (known as gariyos, asake or barandamai), knives, spears, bows and arrows, assault rifles, locally produced pistols, double barrelled shotguns and various types of improvised melee weapons.

Institutional response

The stakeholders that are working directly or indirectly with victims and perpetrators of armed violence in Kaduna include paramilitary agencies, the Nigeria Police Force, the State Security Services, traditional institutions, civil society organisations, faith-based organisations, community based organisations, the judiciary, international organisations and media organisations.

Of these, civil society and faith based organisations are generally the most effective at addressing armed violence. Their work includes alternative dispute resolution, non-violent conflict resolution, community policing capacity building, curricula for violence prevention in schools, social inclusion, peacebuilding, reintegration of perpetrators into the society, rehabilitation services, and trauma counselling. Their effectiveness draws from the fact that they work at the local level and in response to local needs.

AOAV identified more faith-based organisations in Kaduna than in any other zone, and these groups tended to have more resources and staff at their disposal towards the goal of reducing armed violence than non-faith based NGOs.243

Success and challenges

Accessing information from the Nigerian Police, the military, the security agencies or the State Ministry of Health is practically impossible due to high level of under reporting and lack of resources and training for those in charge of data collection.

The welfare of the police is a high priority for reform. The level of illiteracy amongst officers needs to be looked into while the National Youth Service Corps scheme should be made a feeder project to the police force and other security agencies. Community-based and preventive approaches should be prioritised by the government rather than its current strategy of heavily armed response.

Furthermore, the government should increase its efforts towards recognising the rights of victims of armed violence, providing assistance to them and putting in place effective measuring and monitoring systems. Ultimately, good governance and economic welfare are among measure solutions to violence in Kaduna.

Some of the shortcomings of NGOs in preventing and reducing armed violence in Kaduna State can be overcome by building their capacity to mediate and mitigate in community conflicts. Increasing their ability to intervene with young members and potential members of groups such as Boko Haram is especially critical.

The single most important issue in Kaduna is good governance. Improving the quality of state governance allows armed violence to be addressed preventively rather than reactively. Good governance should be characterised by an unquestionable ability to maintain law and order, provide social amenities, open opportunities for economic development and material well-being of the citizenry, lead accountably and transparently, engender fairness and equality in the distribution of opportunities and privileges, provide due process and the rule of law, and adhere to the principles of democracy such as checks and balances and the separation of powers.

Kaduna state: view from the ground

When researchers visited in the wake of the July, 2013, suicide-bomb attack on a bus station in a pre- dominantly Christian area of nearby Kano, killing 41 passengers and injuring dozens more, Kaduna state had beefed up an already ubiquitous armed state presence: military checkpoints that had been closed suddenly resurfaced, with more security personnel brought out to the streets. People had become even more cautious, and the roads of the state were deserted at night.

“It is unfortunate that one can no longer freely walk about at night in Kaduna,” one resident, Abdullahi Tanko, told our researchers. “It is as if one is in a prison in his own town. When you are driving, security people will be stopping you at intervals, asking you for identification [and] your destination, and they will be searching your vehicle as if you are carrying bombs.”

According to many residents, the blockades and checkpoints have not prevented violence from recurring, and localised bombings continue at intervals.

Boko Haram

Compounding difficulties in the region is the reported recent (since 2012) influx into Kaduna of Boko Haram, the militant Islamist group. Besides the security forces, Boko Haram has targeted Kaduna’s so-called “soft targets” – religious institutions, public buildings, shopping malls, and other densely populated areas.

Churches have begun building barricades around their buildings, and stationing security personnel to screen worshippers as they enter. “It is embarrassing when you go to church and security men stop you at the gate to frisk you,” said one resident. “It is something we cannot help at the moment, so we have to continue to tolerate it until the security situation improves.”

Besides religion-related violence, common criminality – street gangs, drug-related crime and armed robbery – is also a concern to many in Kaduna, particularly in rural areas. Armed violence is also a common response to communal strife over control of land – so common that, at the time of our researchers’ visits in 2013, a statewide curfew was in effect to attempt to quell this violence. Another response has been the establishment of armed vigilante groups (see above) in many communities – the state government even officially recognized these groups as of June, 2013.

Media and openness

One important result of the prevalence of armed violence in Kaduna state is the chilling effect it has had on the media and general population alike “Now we don’t know what to report and what not to report when there is a violent attack,” a journalist, who begged for anonymity, told our researcher. “You can get attacked or targeted by insurgents if you write [anything] termed negative.”

Beyond journalism, AOAV researchers noted that average citizens have a similar hesitation about discussing violence in Kaduna state in any public place. Many of those engaged in conversation back off once issues of security and armed violence are mentioned. Such chilling effects may contribute to a societal rumour-mill that, often incorrectly, assigns a religious motive to just about any violent attack, attributing each violent act to Muslim or Christian actors depending on the attack’s location.


Screen Shot 2013-12-12 at 02.31.45Kano State

Kano is northern Nigeria’s commercial hub and historical cultural capital.244 It is located in the North West of the country, bordered by Katsina State to the northwest, Jigawa to the northeast, and Bauchi and Kaduna states to the south. Created in 1967, it had a population of 9,383,682 people as of the 2006 census, spread over 44 local government areas.

Kano’s economy was heavily agricultural until the 1960s, when the region’s oil boom led to a major change of emphasis towards extractive industry. Today, Kano is one of the largest and most important commercial centres in Nigeria, and the country’s second largest industrial centre.

Only 27.8% of the adult population of the state is literate, according to the National Literacy Survey of 2010. 75% of the state’s people live in rural areas. The population of the state is largely Muslim.

Overview of armed violence in the state

Kano experiences moderate levels of armed violence overall, although this has been interspersed with sporadic periods of extremely high levels of violence and conflict-related fatalities. The Nigeria Security Tracker recorded 709 violence-related deaths in Kano between May 2011 and August 2013, while the ACLED political violence research project recorded 179 separate explicitly political incidents of armed violence in the state between 1997 and August 2013.245

In addition to persistent low levels of violence, Kano has also witnessed sporadic high-profile and devastating attacks. In January 2012, a bomb attack and sub-sequent gun battles attributed to Boko Haram claimed 186 lives.246 Armed violence in states across Nigeria, but in Kano in particular, cannot be assessed in isolation from other states: among the most devastating spikes in armed violence and inter-communal conflict in Kano occurred in apparent retaliation for attacks on Muslim communities in the state of Plateau in 2004.247

Government actions have at times served to exacerbate and escalate the violence. In 2004, a campaign of inter-communal violence – primarily pitting Muslims and Christians against one another – claimed as many as 200 lives in Kano before the military intervened.248

A mosque is set on fire by protesters after the release of the presidential elections results in Kano

A mosque is set on fire by protesters after the release of the presidential elections results in Kano, April 2011 (Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde).

When security forces did intervene, some engaged in extrajudicial killings, rather than protection of vulnerable communities and systematic investigation and arrest of perpetrators. In doing so, they contributed further to the cycle of violence and undermining the accountability and credibility of the security apparatus.

Other political and economic issues have also proved divisive, volatile and prone to outbreaks of violence in Kano: in 2012, labour unions suspended protests over the fuel price subsidy which raged elsewhere in the country, as a result of the outbreak of violence at demonstrations.249

Recent years have seen an increase in the level of violence in Kano, not only in terms of the actual crime rate also in the grievousness of the crimes. Kidnapping and terrorism, once rare, have become commonplace. Understanding the trends and patterns of crime in the state is necessary for the design and implementation of effective countermeasures.

Historical legacy
Kano State has witnessed series of ethno-religious crises in recent history. In 1980, followers of an Islamic preacher named Mohammed Marwan became embroiled in conflicts with local authorities. These protests, which arose from growing frustration with decreasing economic fortunes in the north of the state, continued for months and resulted in hundreds of casualties and massive property damage.

In 1991, German evangelical preacher Reinhard Bonnke visited Kano. Controversy about his views of Islam resulted in fatal clashes between Christians and Muslims. Violence between Christians and Muslims also occurred in 2003 and 2005 over the sale of alcohol, resulting in deaths and the destruction of places of worship.

The underlying political, religious and ethnic tensions in Kano are great enough that small incidents can trigger large-scale clashes. In May, 1995, in Sabon Gari marketplace, an argument between an Igbo trader and a Fulani security guard led to clashes between members of the two groups which ultimately claimed more than 30 lives. In October, 2001, protests against the American bombing of Afghanistan turned violent. And in May, 2004, religious conflict spilled over from Yelwan-Shendam in Plateau state, with over 200 deaths occurring in Kano.

In 2011, following the national elections, violence broke out across much of Nigeria, including Kano. Christian residents were displaced from their homes, while the state government imposed a curfew to attempt to control the situation.

The Islamic extremist group Boko Haram has also been active in Kano, causing numerous casualties and extensive property damage as well as curtailing the state’s economic potential. However, the state’s recent attempts to contain the group seem to be succeeding.


Policemen gather at the site of an explosion after a series of bombings, Kano, January 2012 (Pan-African News Wire).

Weapons used
The various kinds of weapons used include knives, steel rods, bats, razor blades, pump-action shotguns, sub-machine guns, AK-47s and others.

Victims of armed violence

Armed violence mostly affects civilians, especially women, children and the elderly. A majority of the refugees are women and children, and the women are subjected to rape, sexual abuse, and economic and physical violence. The indirect effects of violence are also considerable, including the economic harm coming to families that lose their breadwinners and the psychological after-effects on communities affected by violence.

Institutional response

To achieve the objective of reducing armed violence in Kano, there must be a joint effort between government, civil society and individuals. The weapons which enable this violence change hands many times throughout their life cycles. As a result, no single individual, group or institution can hope to control them. A combination of NGOs, CBOs, security agencies, judiciary institutions, international organisations, media, academia, traditional institutions, religious institutions and other stakeholders is necessary to address the fundamental inequities which cause the violence.


Gunshot injuries are a leading cause of death amongst the youth of Kano. The exact numbers are difficult to estimate, as some victims are buried before any official recording has taken place, and other incidents may not be reported to the police out of fear.250 Many of these deaths can be prevented by addressing the root causes of violence: poverty, unemployment, income inequality and substance abuse.251 Doing so has been superficially presented as part of broader economic development blueprints, but the role of youths as social agents has only recently become recognized.

In order to arrest the related and negative trends of electoral violence and youth restiveness, a specialised agency with the necessary legal backing independent from the government should be established at the national, state and local government levels, particularly for the task of empowering the youth.

Kano state: view from the ground

The commercial nerve centre of Northern Nigeria, Kano appeared to have transitioned into relative peace in recent months. But when researchers arrived in Kano, the state was reeling from a new rash of bomb attacks by suspected members of the militant Islamist group Boko Haram. Checkpoints had resurfaced. Several roads were cordoned off and heavily armed security personnel patrolled Kano and its adjoining cities. But while a heavily militarized presence, with communities playing a key role in reporting any suspicious activities, seemed to quell the attacks in these areas, this action has left remote areas with little police presence, and in those areas killings continue.

Boko Haram

Sectarian strife has been the major cause of violence, with recent attacks by Boko Haram targeting both Christians and less hardline Muslims. It is believed most attackers are the ethnic group Kanuris, who infiltrate Kano from Borno State. Some attackers are also suspected to be crossing the border from the Niger Republic.

Boko Haram’s goal of Sharia law means mainstream Muslim clerics are as at risk as Christians. Churches and mosques no longer openly preach and pray against Boko Haram out of fear; many that have done so in the past have been attacked, religious leaders killed, and some churches and mosques razed. Opposition to the insurgents might still be discussed in private, but not from the pulpit. As one Muslim cleric told our researcher, “Once you preach against Boko Haram, you are in trouble. They have infiltrated our mosques and one has to be careful or you will be killed like other clerics.” According to our researcher’s sources, the insurgents send out warnings through leaflets delivered after-hours to religious centres, warning against preaching against Boko Haram.

Attacks have been largely conducted as drive-by shootings by men on motorbikes, prompting a ban on motorcycles. But this has only led to a change in tactics: our researcher was told Boko Haram attackers now have concealable weapons and often employ rapid, hit-and-run tactics.

Weapons employed by Boko Haram include AK-47s, IEDs and more professionally built explosives. In the use of explosives, Boko Haram generally aims to attack people, rather than destroy property.

Smoke rises from the police headquarters as people run for safety in Nigeria's northern city of Kano

Smoke rises from the police headquarters as people run for safety in Nigeria’s northern city of Kano, January 2012. (Reuters).


The state’s security challenge continues to dominate the media. With six private media houses in Kano, as well as state and federal media, there is no lack of coverage, and most attacks are reported – even those occurring in rural areas. That does not mean, however, that information flows freely to Kano’s media. While the JTF holds weekly security press briefings, very little information is actually given out. Likewise, the police forces are notoriously tight with information.

Kano’s government has other ways, besides control of information, to keep a leash on the region’s media. As spokesman for the national broadcasting commission Awwal Salihu pointed out to Premium Times newspaper, “Section 3.9.1 of the national broadcasting code stipulates that language or scenes likely to encourage or incite crime, or lead to disorder, shall not be broadcast.”

This has had consequences. In February, 2013, Kano’s radio station Wazobia FM’s broadcast content allegedly encouraged people to reject the federal immunization programme. Soon afterwards there was an attack on polio vaccinators in which nine people were shot dead by unknown gunmen at two health centres in Kano state. Wazobia FM’s operating license was withdrawn until further notice, and as of the time of our researcher’s visit to Kano, the station was not back on the air.

Government response

The security forces in Kano often come under direct attack by Boko Haram. Sometimes these attacks extend to anyone in uniform, including private guards and road-transport union officials. A resident of Sabon Gari told our researcher that: “We have witnessed many killings of innocent security guards wearing uniforms. These Boko Haram boys just shoot anyone in uniform. I feel they are illiterates and don’t know the difference between security agency uniforms and ordinary guards.”

Our researchers were told by anonymous sources the state security service has been infiltrated by Boko Haram, leading to the murder of some officers.

This has fostered distrust amongst the police and a severely reserved attitude towards the sharing of information. Our attempts to interview security chiefs in Kano were consistently turned down.

Kano only has at most 8,000 policemen. Given the huge population to secure, the state’s parliament has seen fit to deputize 15,000 residents into an officially recognized vigilante group called ‘Kato Da Gora’ to assist with security assignments. Initially charged with community watch, Kato Da Gora is now empowered to act as auxiliary police.

Other responses by the government and security forces include the establishment of a distress-call system, with its phone numbers displayed on security vehicles. Not only the police, but the militia-like Joint Task Force (JTF) is known to respond to these calls.

Much like western “see something, say something” programmes, this allows residents to monitor and report the influx of visitors in their communities. The ban on motorcycles led to attackers using tricycles (enclosed motorized three-wheel scooters), which are now registered and numbered. In the wake of the most recent bombings, while our researcher was in the state, a curfew was put in place between midnight – 6 a.m.

In addition to the above, the government also organised a series of security awareness workshops for various civil society stakeholders (for instance, inviting civil defence corps, Hisba groups, members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers). The participants of these meetings were given special phone numbers of the Police and Security Services to help with intelligence gathering. The Kano Civil Society Forum also proved a constant and vigilant observer of the JTF and any human rights abuses committed by them.


Screen Shot 2013-12-12 at 02.32.01Sokoto state overview

Sokoto state in its present form came into being in October 1996, after Niger State was carved out in 1976, Kebbi State in 1991 and Zamfara State in 1996.252 253 The state is in the far North West region of the country. Sokoto State is bordered by Niger in the north, Kebbi State to the south and west, and Zamfara State to the east. There are 23 Local Government Areas (LGAs) in the state.

Sokoto has an estimated population of 4.3million people.254 The majority of the population in the state are Muslims; however there are also communities which are predominantly Christian.255 Sokoto is an important historical, cultural and religious centre for Muslims in Nigeria. Islam reached the area in the 15th century. Three centuries later there were many Muslims but non-Islamic traditions were still being followed both by the ruler and by many of subjects. A powerful reform movement emerged in the mid-18th century seeking to reform the practice of Islam, led by Shehu Usmanu Fodio and many other scholars. All of them sought to achieve their aims through preaching Islam and calling on rulers to govern according to Islamic principles.

By 1809, most of the Hausa Kingdoms had been toppled and replaced with an Islamic government under a single administration with headquarters
at Sokoto. What was later known as the Sokoto “Caliphate’’ was established, covering a very large territory of present day northern Nigeria extending to the kingdoms of Mali, Kenem-Bornu, Burkina Faso, Niger, northern Cameroon and some parts of the old Oyo kingdom of Nigeria. This continued until the arrival of the British in 1903, when the emirates of the former Sokoto Caliphate were reconstructed as administrative units independent of the Sultan whose authority was only recognised in the Sokoto Province. However, the Sultan of Sokoto, and title of Sarkin Musulmi (Sultan) continues to this today to be a spiri- tual leader of all Nigerian Muslims, and an extremely influential traditional ruler in northern Nigeria.256

Communities in Sokoto today include Zamfarawa, living mostly in areas bordering Zamfara State; Gobirawa, found mostly in Sabon-Birni, Goronyo and Isa areas bordering Niger; and Kabawa, usually found in Kebbe and Silame areas bordering Kebbi State.

All these groups are indigenous Hausas and speak Hausa-Fulani. Tuaregs are a minor group that speak dialects of their own and have a distinct culture. They are mostly found in Gada and Illela areas bordering Niger, residing mostly in the Sahara area and reliant on driving camels for their livelihoods. The Zabarmawa are another minority group which has its own dialect and distinct culture, mostly found in Kware area and some parts of Gudu bordering Niger. Other tribes such as Yoruba, Igbo, Tiv, Idoma, Igala, and Ibira are found in small numbers in the state. The language spoken in the state is mainly Hausa.257

The common mineral resources found in the state include silica sand, clay, salt, limestone, phosphate, gypsum, kaolin, laterite, potash, and granite.258 The majority of the population are subsistence farmers: over half of the male population (57.9%) lists agriculture as their main occupation.259 With the presence of Goronyo and Shagari dams, most of the population residing around those areas are dry season farmers. Economically, Sokoto is one of the poorest states in the country: an estimated 86.% of the population lives in absolute poverty.260The state also has a high rate of illiteracy, particularly among the youth. Over 60% of the state population is illiterate and cannot read or write with understanding in English.261 The state is prone to armed violence because violence, poverty and illiteracy are closely related.

Overview of armed violence in the state

Sokoto state has recorded relatively few incidents of armed violence in recent years. Records of armed violence in the state are very limited where they exist at all. Therefore, donor agencies should support documenting these events, as well as supporting studies on the extent of the damage associated with armed violence, who is most affected, who are the primary perpetrators, and what its economic impact in the state is. It is important to share these findings with relevant stakeholders.

In recent years, Sokoto has witnessed sporadic outbreaks of sectarian violence between members of the Sunni and Shia communities there. Armed violence of this kind has involved gangs of youths blocking entry to mosques in the state, engaging in rioting, looting and the burning and destruction of properties. In 2005, sectarian clashes reportedly led to two deaths and 35 injuries.262 In 2007 there was again a sectarian crisis as a result of armed violence involving the Sunni majority and Shia communities in which three people were killed, many were injured and several properties destroyed.263 Violence of this kind flared again in 2010 when three people were wounded in sectarian clashes in the city of Sokoto.264

In recent years, there have also been instances of politicians mobilizing illiterate and redundant youth for campaigns of violence, especially during the 2007 general election. Politicians engaging youths in this way supported them with drugs and weapons to attack political opponents. However there was a decrease in the levels of political violence during the subsequent 2011 general election. At this time, a postelection crisis was recorded after the general election in the country. In Sokoto, as in many northern states, there were instances of rioting and violence. However, the violence was less intense than in previous electoral cycles as properties were destroyed but no lives were recorded lost. The 2012 re-run gubernatorial election was also relatively peaceful. There is no history of communal clashes among different ethnic communities or different settlers in the state.265

Since 2012, a small number of attacks involving the North East-based group, Boko Haram, have taken place in Sokoto. These include twin bomb blasts which occurred in the city of Sokoto in July 2012 which were attributed to the group and result in four deaths and several people wounded.266 Responses to Boko Haram activities have also involved armed violence: a raid in July 2013 on a suspected Boko Haram hideout by security forces resulted in the death of one suspected militant.267

Perpetrators of armed violence

Most perpetrators of armed violence are youths, politicians and some religious leaders. Youths probably engage in armed violence because of their ignorance, shallow reasoning, redundancy and religious fanaticism, while politicians may be involved because of certain hidden motives or to achieve selfish political interests. Some religious leaders promote violence because of extremism and a poor understanding or a racial interpretation of religious laws.268

In outbreaks of armed violence, small weapons which are mostly locally made are used. These include axes, machetes, knives, swords and sticks.

Sokoto Market

A market in Sokoto (Andrew Buck).

Victims of armed violence

Among the victims of armed violence, women are most affected due to the culture and belief system of the area. The population most affected by armed violence are women who become widows and lose belongings, become the head of households and shoulder responsibilities for which they are not prepared. Also affected are children who lose their parents; professionals at an early age; youths that lose their lives or become permanently disfigured; and the society in general that loses properties and potential achievers.269

Institutional response

Generally, the Nigerian police, Nigerian military forces, civil defence corps, and state security services are the institutions of government that combat armed violence in the state. The role of non-governmental institutions such as religious aid groups in combating armed violence is not clear in Sokoto. Likewise because of the relatively low incidence of violence in the state, there are no known institutions of government, NGOs or development partners that deal directly with the issue of armed violence in the state, according to the informant. Intervention from donor agencies or development partners on armed violence in the state is not pronounced.


Overviews of armed violence per geopolitical region:

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224  Nigeria Elections Coalition, Nigeria Presidential Elections – 2011,
225  BBC News, Nigeria Election: Riots over Goodluck Jonathan Win, 18 April 2011,
226  National Population Commission, Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey 2008, November 2009, p. 121.
227  National Population Commission, Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey 2008, November 2009, pp. 15, 16.
228  National Bureau of Statistics, Nigeria Statistical Data Portal, ‘Revised Absolute Poverty 2009/10 (per capita methodology),
229  National Bureau of Statistics, Social Statistics in Nigeria Part III: Health, Employment, Public Safety, Population and Vital Registration, 2012, p. 71.
230  Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, Tolerance and Tension: Islam and Christianity in Sub-Saharan Africa, April 2010, p. ii.
231  Chris Kwaja, Nigeria’s Pernicious Drivers of Ethno-Religious Conflict, Africa Security Brief No. 14, July 2011, p. 3, citing Ulrich Lamm.
232  Armed Conflict Location & Event Dataset (ACLED),, violent conflict events (excluding non-violent actors: civilians and non-violent protesters) from January 1999 – June 2013.

233  Armed Conflict Location & Event Dataset (ACLED),, violent conflict events (excluding non-violent actors: civilians and non-violent protesters) from January 1999 – June 2013.
234  Africa Confidential, ‘How Terror Came to Kano,’ Vol 53, No 3, 3 February 2012.
235  Human Rights Watch, Revenge in the Name of Religion: The Cyle of Violence in Plateau and Kano States, May 2005.
236  Human Rights Watch, Revenge in the Name of Religion: The Cyle of Violence in Plateau and Kano States, May 2005.
237  The information in this section is taken from:
237 Aliyu, S. 2001. The Gwantu religious crisis of November 2001. Thesis presented to the faculty of the U.S. army command and general staff college, Kaduna.
237 Eme, O.I. 2009. Ethno-religious identities in Nigeria: implications for good governance in Nigeria. Paper submitted to the editor-in-chief of a book project on Islam and governance in Nigeria.
237 Musa, I. 2012. White Paper on 2011 Post-Election Violence: Divide Kaduna State for Peace to Reign.
237 OECD. 2011. Preventing and Reducing Armed Violence in Urban Violence: Programming Note. Conflict and Fragility, OECD Publishing.
237 Okechukwu, E and Onyishi, A. 2011. The challenges of insecurity in Nigeria: a thematic exposition. Interdisciplinary Journal of Contemporary Research in Business. Institute of interdisciplinary research. 3(8).
237 Oxpanachi, E. 2012. Ethno-Religious Identity and Conflict in Northern Nigeria. [Online]. [Accessed 2012]. Available from:
237 WREP. 2011. Report on The One Day Civil Society Meeting. [Online]. [Accessed 2012]. Available from:
237  Wuye, J.M. 2010. Presentation on violence crisis and under-development in Kaduna State.
238  Mohammed Haruna A. People & Politics (Brief) History of Kaduna: the City of Crocodiles
239  Council on Foreign Relations Nigeria Security Tracker: Mapping Violence in Nigeria, ‘Map: Deaths by State,’ p29483?cid=otr-marketing_u se-nigeria_security_tracker; Armed Conflict Location & Event Dataset,
240  Armed Conflict Location & Event Dataset (ACLED),
241  Armed Conflict Location & Event Dataset (ACLED),
242  Musa, Ibraheem, “White Paper On 2011 Post-Election Violence: Divide Kaduna state for peace to reign,” June 11, 2012
243 National Working Group on Armed Violence and Action on Armed Violence, Mapping Efforts against Armed Violence in Nigeria: Interim Report, 2013, p. 19.
244 The information in this section is taken from:
244 Abubakar, S.M. 2004. The Impact of Conflict on the Economy: The Case of Plateau State Nigeria. Overseas Development Institute.
244 Best, S.G. and Von Kemedi, D. 2005. Armed Groups and Conflict in Rivers and Plateau States, Nigeria. In: Florquin, N and Berman E.G (eds). Armed and Aimless: Armed Groups, Guns, and Human Security in the ECOWAS Region. Geneva: Small Arms Survey, pp 13-45.
244 Human Rights Watch. 2005. Revenge in the Name of Religion: The Cycle of Violence in Plateau and Kano States. Human Rights Watch. 17 (8).
244 Women Environmental Programme. 2009. Conflict in the Middlebelt Region of Nigeria: Engendering Peace in Agila Community. Abuja: WEP.
244 World Bank, UNDP and DFID-JEWEL. 2003. Access Rights and Conflict over Common Pool Resources on the Jos Plateau. [Online]. [Accessed August 2012]. Available from: 20only.pdf
244 Babangida, I. 2002. Ethnic Nationalities and the Nigerian state excerpts from a lecture delivered at NIPSS.
244 Blueprint. 2012. Tracking crime trends in Nigeria. [Online]. [Accessed 6 October 2012]. Available from: in-nigeria
244 Business Community Platform. 2011. Post-election violence reported. post-election-violence-reported-updated-732pm.
244 Ezeibe, C.C. -Religious Conflicts and Crisis of Development In Nigeria: Who Benefits? [Online]. [Accessed 219 October 2012]. Available from: religious_conflicts.html
244 Mohammed, Z et al. 2005. Epidemiology of gunshot injuries in Kano. Epidemiology of gunshot injuries in Kano, Nigeria. [Online]. [Accessed 21 October 2012].
244 Sahara Reporters. 2012. Boko Haram: Why We Struck In Kano. [Online]. [Accessed 8 October 2012]. Available from: we-struck-kano
244 Yau, Y. 2000. The Youth, Economic Crisis and Identity Transformation: The Case of Yandaba in Kano. In: Jega, A. ed. 2000. Identity Transformation and Identity Politics under Structural Adjustment in Nigeria. Stockholm: Elanders Gotab.
245 Council on Foreign Relations Nigeria Security Tracker: Mapping Violence in Nigeria, ‘Map: Deaths by State,’ p29483?cid=otr-marketing_use-nigeria_security_tracker; Armed Conflict Location & Event Dataset,
246 Africa Confidential, ‘How Terror Came to Kano,’ Vol 53, No 3, 3 February 2012.
247 Human Rights Watch, Revenge in the Name of Religion: The Cycle of Violence in Plateau and Kano States, May 2005.
248 Human Rights Watch, Revenge in the Name of Religion: The Cycle of Violence in Plateau and Kano States, May 2005. 249 African Arguments, ‘Nigeria: Tensions as Jonathan Accedes to Fuel Protestors’ Demands,’ 16 January 2012.
250 Ya’u, Yunusa Zarkari, “The Youth, Economic Crisis and Identity Transformation: The Case of the Yandaba in Kano,” in Jega, Attahiru, Identity Transformation and Identity Politics under Structural Adjustment in Nigeria, Nordiska Afrikainstitutet, Uppsala, 2000.
251 Mohamed, A.Z., et al, “Epidemiology of gunshot injuries in Kano, Nigeria,” Nigerian Journal of Surgical Research, Volume 7, No 3-4., pp. 296-299 (2005).
252 The information in this section is taken from:
252 Idris, M.B. 2010. An insight to the seat of the caliphate-a brief history, culture, traditions, tourism sites and occupation of Sokoto and its people. Kuru: National institute of policy and strategic studies.
252 Kamba, B.J. 2011. A term paper presented at course GED 705, Gender and Environment. Usmanu Danfodiyo University. Sokoto: Unpublished, pp. 5-7.
252 Maishanu, I. 2011. Youth, violence and challenges of development. Sokoto: Unpublished, p.5.
252  Shamaki, M. 2011. Lecture note on GED 709 Gender and Development Policy Usmanu Danfodiyo University. Sokoto: Unpublished.’253  Muhammad Bello Idris, 2010, An insight to the seat of the caliphate-a brief history, culture, traditions, tourism sites and occupation of Sokoto and its people, a paper presented to participant of study tour of the senior executive course (SEC) no. 32, National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru.

254  National Bureau of Statistics, Social Statistics in Nigeria 2012 Part III: Health, Employment, Public Safety, Population and Vital Registration, p. 71.
255  Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, Tolerance and Tension: Islam and Christianity in Sub-Saharan Africa, April 2010, p. ii.
256  Muhammad Bello Idris, 2010, An insight to the seat of the caliphate-a brief history, culture, traditions, tourism sites and occupation of Sokoto and its people, a paper presented to participant of study tour of the senior executive course (SEC) no. 32, National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru.
257  Muhammad Bello Idris, 2010, An insight to the seat of the caliphate-a brief history, culture, traditions, tourism sites and occupation of Sokoto and its people, a paper presented to participant of study tour of the senior executive course (SEC) no. 32, National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru. pp. 2-5, unpublished.
258  Senator Ike Ekweremadu, 2012, A paper presented at the first presidential retreat with civil society and professional associations, pp. 30-42, Abuja.
259  National Population Commission, Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey 2008, November 2009, p. 343.
260  National Bureau of Statistics, Revised Absolute Poverty 2004 and 2010, Revised Absolute Poverty 2009/10 (Per Capita Methodology).
261  World Bank Report, 2012, Report Presented to Public by Honourable Minister of Education on Celebration of World Literacy Day, Abuja.
262  Agence France Presse, ‘Nigerian Police Arrest 43 in Sunni-Shia Clashes,’ 15 May 2005.
263  Daily Trust, ‘Shiites, Sunnis Clash again in Sokoto,’ 22 October 2007.
264  Agence France Presse, ‘Rival Muslim Groups Clash in Northern Nigeria,’ 20 July 2010.
265  Balkisu Jibril Kamba, 2011 A term paper presented at course GED 705 Gender and Environment, Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, pp. 5-7, unpublished.
266  This Day Live, ‘Four Killed in First Boko Haram Attack on Sokoto,’ 31 July 2012.
267  This Day Live, ‘Terrorists’ Hideout, Kill One, Capture 12 in Sokoto,’ 12 July 2013.
268  Isah Maishanu, 2011, A paper presented on the celebration of World Human Right Day titled Youth, Violence and Challenges of Development Sokoto, unpublished, p.5.
269  Muazu Shamaki, 2011, Lecture note on GED 709 Gender and Development Policy, Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, unpublished.

This report is a draft and may be subject to change.