International Crisis Group report on Northern Nigeria

“There goes my morning.”  This was my thought upon seeing Crisis Group’s first-ever report on Northern Nigeria in my inbox this morning.  The report looks at pre-colonial, colonial, and post-colonial causes of violence in the far north of Nigeria.

Some highlights are below.  This is not a summary, but rather some things I found interesting.  At several points I copy text directly from the report.

  • When the British made Kaduna the capital of Northern Nigeria, this detracted power from the Sokoto Caliphate and made it harder for the north to unify itself.  The British further sowed the seeds for intra-north divisions by introducing a Roman script for Hausa, which diminished the status of many clerics who did not know English.
  • By discouraging southern migration into core Muslim areas of northern cities, the British contributed to the creation of strangers’ quarters (i.e. enclaves of southerners).
  • Human rights abuses committed by hisbah, the Islamic law enforcement agency, have reduced in recent years. 
  • Some complain that Sharia’s punitive provisions are applied only to the poor.
  • Many social mechanisms exist to defuse or manage conflicts between different groups in the north.  When they are ineffective, it is often because the meetings of community groups focus on religious doctrine debates, rather than questions of violence, or because the government marginalizes these groups.
  • Sometimes violence erupts after months of divisive discourse, other times it is more carefully planned by political sponsors.
  • External support to local religious organizations, seeking the allegiance of Africa’s largest Muslim and Christian communities, has intensified Christian-Muslim rivalries.
  • Nation-building strategies like the National Youth Service (which sends young people to work in far-flung aras of the country) have had limited succes not because of the programs themselves, but because they are undermined by corrupt governance and unequal distribution of resources.

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