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Nigeria: Conflict profile

International interest in Nigerian conflict issues usually focuses on the group commonly called Boko Haram, whose activity has gained significant attention. But the largest economy in Africa has a variety of complex problems. Poverty, inequality and corruption, as well disputes over income from oil and a fiercely competitive, winner-takes-all political scene, pose significant challenges.

With high levels of poverty, economic inequality is significant both geographically and between different social levels and groups. The alleged marginalisation of the predominantly Muslim north compared with the largely Christian south has created tension, and is a common topic in Nigerian political debate.

Corruption is another major challenge. The abuse of power for personal and financial gain is widespread, including in the security forces. Both the police and the armed forces are also accused of serious human rights abuses.

Because of the close ties between the political and economic spheres in Nigeria, together with the prevalence of political patronage and corruption, political appointments are commonly seen as a pathway to economic success. Elections have often been accompanied by vote buying, violence and threats, although there is some hope for the future after the spring 2015 election saw the first peaceful transition of power.

The crisis linked to Boko Haram has resulted in thousands of deaths and massive displacement. Since the government declared a state of emergency in the north-eastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe in May 2013, more than 1.5 million people have been internally displaced and over 150,000 have fled to neighbouring countries.

The Niger Delta area, home to the Nigerian oil industry, was also the scene of serious violence between 2006 and 2009, when a general amnesty was accepted by militants. While the region is now calmer, it still suffers from politically motivated violence, kidnappings and criminality.

Last updated: January 2015

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