Nigeria

un-nigeriaIn June 2011, AOAV supported the organisation of a regional seminar on Armed Violence Prevention and Reduction (AVPR) in Nigeria. This seminar offered the opportunity to gather civil society representatives from different states in Nigeria and to promote and discuss the armed violence agenda. The event saw the launch of theNigeria Working Group on Armed Violence (NWGAV), a network that includes local organisations committed to the disarmament and armed violence agenda.

Past and recent violence in Nigeria have led to growing interest in and increased efforts to address armed violence. AOAV and the NWGAV are conducting a mapping project that will provide evidence on these ongoing AVPR initiatives, and thus lay the basis for future integrated responses to the problem of armed violence.

Background

With a large and ethnically diverse population, a legacy of violence, tremendous oil wealth and staggering inequalities, Nigeria is one of the most complex and volatile countries in West Africa. Armed violence caused by a large range of factors including political, religious, ethnic and resource-based tensions has manifested itself in different forms across the country.

In the oil-rich Niger Delta, the security situation is grim due to the presence of armed groups, organised violence and criminality, militancy and the uncontrolled proliferation of weapons. An amnesty implemented in 2009, which offered cash to all militants who surrendered their weapons, reduced the number of attacks but left the victims and their families in need of justice.

Kidnappings for ransom and piracy off the coasts of Nigeria continue to contribute to a climate of insecurity in the Niger Delta and the south-western region.

In the north-east, widespread poverty and unemployment have created an environment prone to the emergence of radical groups. Attacks and bombings by Boko Haram, a militant jihadist organisation whose name translates as “Western education is a sin”, have increased sharply since 2010.

Inter-communal violence also ravages the country, especially in Nigeria’s ‘middle-belt’ region, where several thousand people have died in the past years.

Security forces have also been criticised for routinely arresting people and detaining them without charge or trial. Disproportionate use of force and extrajudicial killings of suspects affiliated with armed groups are frequently reported, resulting in retaliation against the government forces, and thus sustaining a circle of violence.

With all these factors and contexts of armed violence present in Nigeria, a large number of initiatives to address such issues are already underway. However, there is currently no apparent overview of, or structured coordination among the different actors involved in Armed Violence Prevention and Reduction (AVPR) activities. In an effort to address this gap, the Nigeria Working Group on Armed Violence (NWGAV) was created in collaboration with AOAV.