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State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2012 - Nigeria

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 28 June 2012
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2012 - Nigeria, 28 June 2012, available at: [accessed 21 March 2018]
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.

The year 2011 can be described as the 'Year of Minorities' in Nigeria because the country elected its first civilian president from a minority ethnic group. Dr Goodluck Jonathan, an Ijaw from the Niger Delta region, was sworn in as president following the death of President Umaru Yar'Adua in 2010. In the April 2011 general elections, Jonathan defeated General Muhammadu Buhari, former military head of state and candidate of the opposition Congress for Progressive Change (CPP), which drew most of its support from the Hausa and Fulani ethnic groups in the north.

However, apart from its symbolism, the electoral victory of Jonathan has not changed the fortunes of minorities in the country. Although the amnesty for Niger Delta militants which came into force in 2009 held for much of 2011, Niger Delta minority communities – including Etche, Ijaw, Kalibari and Ogoni – continued to experience environmental devastation due to oil spills and gas flares. Decades of oils spills from multinational oil company operations, sabotage of pipelines and widespread gas flaring have left the Niger Delta heavily polluted. Oil spills from dilapidated infrastructure were aggravated by spillage caused by the activities of oil thieves. Throughout the year, authorities of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) repeatedly acknowledged that 150,000 barrels of oil were being lost to illegal oil bunkering every day.

A 2011 report published by United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) found that oil contamination in Ogoniland is widespread and severely affecting the environment. Cleaning up oil pollution in the Ogoniland region may require US$ 1 billion and take up to 30 years. The UN report found that oil contamination had migrated into the groundwater in at least eight spill sites that the Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell had claimed they had cleaned up, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW). The Ogoni forced Shell to stop exploration and production activities in their land after the Nigerian government ordered Ogoni environmental rights activists, including Ken Saro-Wiwa, to be killed in 1995. At the end of February 2012, the US Supreme Court heard whether or not corporations can be held liable for complicity in human rights abuses outside the country. The case specifically concerns the alleged involvement of Shell in the torture and killing of Ogoni activists.

In the north-central region of the country, inhabited mostly by ethnic minorities, several communities continued to witness violent clashes between local farmers and migrant herders. Clashes are linked to increasing desertification, which has forced pastoralists to move southwards in search of pasture for their cattle. Pressures on land arising from an increase in population and land grabbing by commercial farmers have undermined existing regulations on resource use as encroachment on pastoral corridors and grazing reserves forces pastoralists to graze on farmlands. Estimates of casualties vary. HRW reported that 200 people were killed in Plateau State between January and April 2011.

Between January and June 2011, 100 people were killed in clashes between Tiv farmers and Fulani herdsmen in Benue State, and over 20,000 persons displaced and scores of communities destroyed. Towards the end of the year, another 5,000 people were displaced in Benue and Nasarawa States as Fulani herdsmen clashed with farmers. Up to 10 people were killed in the attacks. The perennial tensions between herders and farmers over land and water use have become more complicated as the two occupational groups are on opposite sides of the ethno-religious faultlines. Attacks perpetrated by suspected members of the Boko Haram Islamist group, which launched several suicide attacks in Nigeria, including the August bombing of the UN office in Abuja, have increasingly targeted farming communities in dispute with pastoralists. The ethnic and religious dimensions of the conflict appear to be overshadowing the underlying basis, which is competition over natural resources. The government has focused on so-called anti-terrorism campaigns while failing to address resource depletion and ethnic conflict in the country, particularly between minority groups.

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