Last Updated: Monday, 24 November 2014, 14:33 GMT

State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2010 - Nigeria

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 1 July 2010
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2010 - Nigeria, 1 July 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c33310c5a.html [accessed 24 November 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Nigeria is a diverse country of 250 ethnic groups. Managing these complex differences, which are often reinforced by religious divisions, is a significant challenge to the state. Social and political grievances have abounded since independence from Britain in 1960, often leading to serious conflicts.

In May 2009, clashes between the Joint Task Force (JTF) set up by the Nigerian government to combat kidnappings by armed groups in Delta State, in the south-west of Nigeria, led to two weeks of fighting between the JTF and militia groups. AI reported land and air strikes by the JTF on militia camps and communities across the Warri South and South-west local government areas in Delta State, including the Ogoni minority community, leading to a virtual occupation of the area by the JTF for several months. 'When residents were finally able to return in August 2009, most found their houses destroyed, worsening their already imperiled living conditions, but also raising questions on the proportionality of the government offensive against the militia groups,' the report said. These large-scale forced evictions were carried out despite previous government assurances that no evictions would take place. There were reports that some state officials asked for bribes to protect villagers' property from demolitions. The compensation paid has similarly been criticized as inadequate or non-existent, according to AI.

Nigeria's 140 million people are nearly evenly divided between Christians, who predominate in the south, and Muslims, primarily in the north. In July 2009, four days of rioting was ignited by Boko Haram, an Islamic sect opposed to Western education, medicine and values in Borno, Kano and Yobe, in northern Nigeria; 800 people (mainly Boko Haram supporters and three Christian pastors) were confirmed killed. The rioting, which initially targeted police and government bases, also led to extensive property losses, including the destruction of government installations, according to a July report by the BBC.

Sharia (Islamic law) is already in force for Muslims in 12 northern states, but the sect is fighting to have it enforced more broadly in those states and to impose it throughout Nigeria, the BBC said. Twenty churches, police stations and prisons were burned before police captured Boko Haram's leader, Mohammed Yusuf. He was killed in detention. According to news agency Al-Jazeera, the attacks had been in alleged retaliation for the burning of two mosques by Christian groups.

The disproportionate use of force by the Nigerian military police against Boko Haram has been criticized, however. This conflict came on the heels of another religious conflict in Jos ignited by political differences. In November 2008, more than 700 people were killed in Jos, the capital of Plateau State, when a political feud over a local election degenerated into bloody confrontation between Christians and Muslims. Violence erupted again in early 2010.

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