Northern Nigeria

The potential of Nigeria’s tremendous human and entrepreneurial strengths is yet to be fully realised. Instability continues to undermine the country’s potential for prosperity. The state’s weaknesses in effectively addressing these sources of instability perpetuates a cycle of reoccurring violent conflicts in communities across the country, more often in Northern Nigeria.


The current state of Nigeria reflects a hotbed of internal conflicts that threaten the sovereignty and legitimacy of the nation-state. The Biafra agitations in the South-East, rising communal violence across the country, the Boko Haram crisis raging in the North-East, and the surge in armed robbery and kidnappings, are telltale signs of fragility within the security apparatus of the country.

The drivers of these varying conflicts differ in nature, but find their remedy in the constitutional responsibility of the state i.e. the protection of lives and property, provision of education; in short, creating an enabling environment that safeguards the flourishing of citizens and those within its borders.

The Senior Working Group is made up of 11 Nigerians from civic, religious, academic, business, and other relevant sectors, working to support a strategic approach to addressing the sources of violent conflicts in the country.

The potential of Nigeria’s tremendous human and entrepreneurial strengths is yet to be fully realised. Instability continues to undermine the country’s potential for prosperity. The state’s weaknesses in effectively addressing these sources of instability perpetuates a cycle of reoccurring violent conflicts in communities across the country, more often in Northern Nigeria.

The fragility of the North, particularly the North-East, in terms of the measure of its human development manifests around issues such as high illiteracy, high unemployment rates, and above all, the highest levels of inequality and poverty.

Although inequality persist across Nigeria, it presents a significant challenge in the North because this region contains 19 of Nigeria’s 36 states, occupies almost 70 percent of the landmass of the country, and is home to different ethnic and religious communities. This growing gap between the rich and poor, beyond poverty itself, generates anti-government sentiments that are easily manipulated to fuel civil unrest, and drive wedges between communities that have coexisted in the region for decades.

The cascading problems facing the North share a common thread that runs through all the 19 states. However, this common problem provides an opportunity for common solutions that re-imagine inter-state cooperation and collaboration…


This, of course, indicates the lapses of the government over time in living up to its responsibilities, which have opened the floodgates for those challenging the legitimacy of the state to offer their own alternatives on how to ‘save the people’. The underlining narrative of Boko Haram is the offer of an alternative state that not only postulates to be theologically legitimate, but also seeks out the forgotten welfare of the people.

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The cascading problems facing the North share a common thread that runs through all the 19 states. However, this common problem provides an opportunity for common solutions that re-imagine inter-state cooperation and collaboration that identify failing public goods in order to provide joint solutions and offer the people greater alternatives to competing narratives.

The North must work together to solve its common problems for the greater good of Nigeria. State governors, particularly, must be willing to reach out to neighbouring governors and begin to deliberate on common policies that address common setbacks. They must also institutionalise early warning mechanisms in collaboration with civic actors and community based organisations that can flag potential conflicts. In addition, these organisations can adequately inform government so they can prepare to respond, and in some cases, prevent conflict.

Joint ventures should be encouraged and already existing organisations, networks and institution, such as the Arewa Research and Development Project (ARDP) and the New Nigeria Development Company (NNDC), owned by the 19 Northern states and with the mission to promote socio-economic transformation, should be welcomed, reinvigorated and strengthened because they seek to foster solutions for the wellbeing of all Nigerians.

Signed:

Amirul Mumineen Sultan Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III (Sultan of Sokoto)
Cardinal John Onaiyekan
General Martin Luther Agwai (rt.)
Amb. Fatima Balla
Dr. Usman Bugaje
Amb. Ibrahim Gambari
Dr. Nguyan Feese
Dr. Jibrin Ibrahim
Mrs. Aisha Murtala Muhammed Oyebode
Dr. Chris Kwaja
Dr. Attahiru Jega