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Northern Nigeria - Background to Conflict

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NORTHERN NIGERIA: BACKGROUND TO CONFLICT
Africa Report N°168 – 20 December 2010

TABLE OF CONTENTS
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY ...................................................................................................... i I.  INTRODUCTION ............................................................................................................. 1  II.  COMMUNITIES, ISLAM AND COLONIAL RULE ................................................... 2  A.  THE PRE-COLONIAL ERA..............................................................................................................2  1.  The people of northern Nigeria and the early spread of Islam .....................................................2  2.  The Sokoto Caliphate ...................................................................................................................3  B.  THE COLONIAL ERA.....................................................................................................................4 

III. THE NORTH SINCE INDEPENDENCE I: POLITICS AND ECONOMY............... 7  A.  POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS: WHAT PLACE FOR THE NORTH IN THE NIGERIAN NATION? .............7  1.  1960-1966: first republic, the Sardauna and the NPC..................................................................7  2.  1966-1999: the military era ..........................................................................................................8  3.  1999- : the return to civilian rule ..................................................................................................8  B.  ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL TRANSFORMATIONS: OIL BOOM, STAGNATION AND SOCIAL MALAISE ..9 

IV. THE NORTH SINCE INDEPENDENCE II: RELIGION .......................................... 11  A.  CHRISTIAN-MUSLIM TENSIONS ..................................................................................................12  B.  DEBATES WITHIN ISLAM ............................................................................................................13  1.  Sufis and reformists ...................................................................................................................13  2.  Sharia and hisbah .......................................................................................................................15  3.  The radical fringe .......................................................................................................................18 

V.  CONFLICT DYNAMICS AND POLICY RESPONSES ............................................ 20  A.  DYNAMICS OF CONFLICTS..........................................................................................................20  1.  Patterns, actors, instruments ......................................................................................................20  2.  Factors fuelling the conflicts ......................................................................................................21  B.  RESPONSES AND POLICY OPTIONS .............................................................................................23  1.  A limited policy response ..........................................................................................................24  2.  Toward better conflict prevention and management ..................................................................25 

VI. CONCLUSION ................................................................................................................ 27  APPENDICES
A. MAP OF NIGERIA .............................................................................................................................28 B. MAP OF NIGERIAN ADMINISTRATIVE BORDERS ..............................................................................29 C. GLOSSARY .......................................................................................................................................30 D. TIMELINE OF MAJOR EVENTS AND MASS VIOLENCE (EXCLUDING NIGER DELTA) ...........................31 E. TWO CASE STUDIES OF CONFLICT ...................................................................................................34 F. ABOUT THE INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP ....................................................................................39 G. CRISIS GROUP REPORTS AND BRIEFINGS ON AFRICA SINCE 2007 .....................................................40 H. CRISIS GROUP BOARD OF TRUSTEES ................................................................................................42

Africa Report N°168

20 December 2010

NORTHERN NIGERIA: BACKGROUND TO CONFLICT
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Violence in northern Nigeria has flared up periodically
over the last 30 years. Mainly in the form of urban riots,
it has pitted Muslims against Christians and has seen confrontations between different Islamic sects. Although there have been some successes in conflict management in the
last decade, the 2009 and 2010 troubles in Bauchi, Borno
and Yobe states involving the radical Boko Haram sect
show that violence still may flare up at any moment. If
the situation were to deteriorate significantly, especially
on Christian-Muslim lines, it could have serious repercussions for national cohesion in the build up to national elections in April 2011. To deal with the risks, communitylevel initiatives need to be reinforced, a more subtle security response should be formulated and the management of public resources must be improved. While some in the

West panic at what they see as growing Islamic radicalism
in the region, the roots of the problem are more complex
and lie in Nigeria’s history and contemporary politics.
The far north, if taken to comprise the twelve states that
reintroduced Sharia (Islamic law) for criminal cases at the
beginning of the century, is home to 53 million people.
The large majority are Muslim, but there is a substantial
Christian minority, both indigenous to the area and the
product of migration from the south of the country. The
Sokoto Caliphate, formed in 1804-1808, is a reference
point for many in the region. As West Africa’s most powerful pre-colonial state, it is a source of great pride. But for some, its defeat by the British in 1903 and subsequent
dealings with colonial and post-colonial states mean the
caliphate is tarnished with the corrupting influence of
secular political power. The impact of colonial rule was
paradoxical. While policies of indirect rule allowed traditional authorities, principally the Sultan of Sokoto, to continue to expand their power, that power was also circumscribed by the British. In the first decades of independence, which were marked

by frequent violent conflict between the regions for control of state resources, the north saw the military as a route to power and influence. But following the disastrous rule of northern General Sani Abacha (1993-1998), the return to democracy in 1999 was viewed as a chance

for the north to seek political and moral renewal. This

lead to the reintroduction of Sharia in twelve states between 1999 and 2002, although only two have applied it seriously. Sharia caused controversy over its compatibility with international human rights standards and the constitution and regarding the position of Christians in those states. It also exacerbated recurrent conflicts between

Muslims and Christians. But it was supported by many
Muslims, and some Christians, who had lost faith in secular law enforcement authorities, and it also stimulated much open and democratic debate over the rule of law.
Tensions over the issue have declined in recent years.
Debates among Muslims in the region tend to divide those
who respect the established religious and secular authorities and their two-century-old Sufi heritage from those who take a “reformist” view. The latter cover a very wide range of opinion, from Salafist-type anti-Sufism to Iranian-inspired Shiite movements, and combine anger at the establishment’s corruption with a promise of a more individualistic religious experience. Typically, some end up being co-opted by both religious and secular authorities,

largely due to the latter’s control over public resources. But others maintain a hostile or rejectionist stance that in some isolated cases turns into violent rejection of public
authority. As in the south, religion provides a sense of
community and security and is increasingly public and
political. In combination with more polarised communal
politics, this has led to clashes over doctrine and political and spiritual authority.
Violent conflict, whether riots or fighting between insurrectional groups and the police, tends to occur at specific flashpoints. Examples are the cities of Kaduna and Zaria,
whose populations are religiously and ethnically very
mixed, and the very poor states of the far north east, where anti-establishment groups have emerged. Many factors
fuelling these conflicts are common across Nigeria: in
particular, the political manipulation of religion and ethnicity and disputes between supposed local groups and “settlers” over distribution of public resources. The failure of the state to assure public order, to contribute to dispute settlement and to implement post-conflict peacebuilding measures is also a factor. Economic decline and absence of employment opportunities, especially as ine-

Northern Nigeria: Background to Conflict
Crisis Group Africa Report N°168, 20 December 2010

quality grows, likewise drives conflict. As elsewhere in
Nigeria, the north suffers from a potent mix of economic
malaise and contentious, community-based distribution of
public resources.
But there is also a specifically northern element. A thread
of rejectionist thinking runs through northern Nigerian
history, according to which collaboration with secular authorities is illegitimate. While calls for an “Islamic state” in Nigeria should not be taken too seriously, despite media hyperbole, they do demonstrate that many in the far north express political and social dissatisfaction through

greater adherence to Islam and increasingly look to the
religious canon for solutions to multiple problems in their
lives.
Much local-level conflict prevention and resolution does
occur. For a vast region beset with social and economic
problems, the absence of widespread conflict is as notable
as the pockets of violence. Some state authorities have
done good work on community relations, but the record is
uneven. At the federal level, clumsy and heavy-handed
security responses are likely to exacerbate conflicts in the future. More fundamentally, preventing and resolving conflict in the far north will require far better management of public resources, an end to their distribution according to

ethnic identity and job-creating economic revival.
Northern Nigeria is little understood by those in the south, still less by the international community. Too often it is
viewed as part of bigger rivalries in a putative West-Islam
divide. All – from Iran to Christian evangelical preachers – need to be more careful of what they say and whom they
support. Officials in the West need to put some of their
fears about radical Islam into a much more Nigerian perspective. Reformist movements – highly diverse and fragmented – have contributed in many positive ways to debates over governance, corruption and rule of law. While some harbour real hostility to the West, for others criticising the U.S. is really a way of expressing frustration with Nigeria’s secular state and its multiple problems.

Dakar/Brussels, 20 December 2010

Page ii

Africa Report N°168

20 December 2010

NORTHERN NIGERIA: BACKGROUND TO CONFLICT
I. INTRODUCTION
This report looks at violent conflict in the far north of
Nigeria. The area considered is the twelve states that expanded the scope of Sharia between 1999 and 2002.1 The region has experienced recurrent violent conflicts, particularly since the early 1980s.2 These are the product of several complex and inter-locking factors, including a volatile mix of historical grievances, political manipulation and

ethnic and religious rivalries. However, the region has historically shown much capacity for peaceful coexistence between its ethnic and religious communities. Local conflicts are sometimes taken to represent the whole of north-

1

The twelve states are Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna,
Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Niger, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara. The
history of Nigeria’s regions and states is complex and can be confusing. Nigerians frequently use the term the “North” to designate the old Northern Region, inherited from colonial powers and in place until the creation of new states in 1967 (for the situation just prior to this, see map in Appendix B, showing the delineation of the Northern Region). This region covered over half the country, going as far south as the current capital, Abuja. The term no longer has any official use. The southern part of the defunct region, including Jos and Abuja, has long been referred to as the “middle belt”. In other circumstances, Nigerians may refer to six “geo-political zones”: the north west; north east; north central; south west; south east; and south south. Although these terms do not refer to any administrative entity, they do form the basis of the geo-political zoning of the country that applies in allocation of federal employment. The concentration on the twelve states of the far north is simply Crisis Group’s choice for the scope of this report. In some respects, the conflict risks in this area are unique, but in other respects, such as Christian-Muslim tensions and/or tensions over land use, they are similar to other parts of the country, such as the Jos plateau. Problems in the Jos plateau have been well documented elsewhere, for example in Human Rights Watch reports, “Revenge in the Name of Religion; The Cycle of Violence in Plateau and Kano States”, May 2005; and “Arbitrary Killings by Security Forces Submission to the Investigative Bodies on the November 28-29, 2008 Violence in Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria”, 20 July 2009.

2
Broad background can be found in Crisis Group Africa Report
N°113, Nigeria: Want in the Midst of Plenty, 19 July 2006.
Comprehensive (although now somewhat outdated) coverage is
in Toyin Falola, Violence in Nigeria: The Crisis of Religious Politics and Secular Ideologies (Rochester, 1998).

ern Nigerian society, particularly by outside observers,
which is far from the case. Traditions of peaceful coexistence show that conflict is not inevitable, and the right mix of social and political measures can alleviate the risks.
The most prominent conflicts have been between Muslims
and Christians. Adherents of these religions generally live
peacefully together in many parts of the region. But longexisting tensions, especially between Pentecostal Christians and Islamic groups, were aggravated by the reintroduction of Sharia and came to a head in Kaduna, where hundreds if not thousands of people were killed in February and March 2000.3 There have also been conflicts between opposing Islamic sects; between anti-establishment Islamic groups and the Nigerian state; and between longestablished indigenous communities and the more recent “settler” groups. These latter conflicts, fuelled by competition for communally-distributed public resources, are common across the country.

The starting point of efforts to resolve these conflicts
must be a better understanding of the historical, cultural
and other contexts in which they take place. This report,
Crisis Group’s first on the region, seeks to provide that
background. Based on around 100 interviews with people
from all walks of life, many conducted in the local Hausa
language, it explains the context of the conflicts, then focuses on the first three of the main categories (conflicts between indigenous and settler groups are not considered
in this report). It concludes by examining the strategies by which stakeholders, including Nigerian governments and
security agencies, civil society organisations and the international community, have sought to manage these conflicts and the limited results they have had.4

3

Figures for casualties resulting from violence in northern Nigeria, as elsewhere, are highly unreliable. Official and unofficial estimates sometimes exaggerate, but more often underplay them. 4
See Appendix E for detailed case studies of violence in Kaduna and recent violence in the far north east.

Northern Nigeria: Background to Conflict
Crisis Group Africa Report N°168, 20 December 2010

II. COMMUNITIES, ISLAM AND
COLONIAL RULE
To better deal with conflicts in northern Nigeria, it is vital to understand the histories of the region’s ethnic and religious communities. In particular the “centre-periphery” model of the Sokoto Caliphate has had a profound impact

on community relations and debates on the position of
religion in the region’s politics.

A. THE PRE-COLONIAL ERA
1. The people of northern Nigeria and the early
spread of Islam
The far north is home to numerous ethnic groups and religious communities.5 Largely rural, it also includes historically important urban centres such as Kano, Sokoto, Zaria, Maiduguri and Kaduna. These cities have been famous centres of learning in the Islamic world for centuries.6 The predominant groups are the Hausa, Fulani and Kanuri, but there are also about 160 smaller groups. The

three largest are predominantly Muslim, while many of
the smaller are Christian or animist. Muslims are the majority in most of the far northern states, in some cases (Sokoto, Borno) overwhelmingly so, while states such as
Kaduna are more mixed. Since British colonisation in the
early 1900s, these have crystallised into what are commonly referred to as “majority groups” and “minorities”, with further complexity added by the arrival of substantial numbers of mainly Christian immigrants from the country’s south.

Across much of the region, but not all (especially not the
north east, where the Kanuri dominate) the Hausa and Fulani are considered the majority group or groups, which is a reflection of political hegemony as much as pure numbers. Neither the Hausa nor the Fulani is a rigid lineage group – one can become Hausa by adoption or conversion

to Islam, although in doing so one enters at the bottom
rung of a highly stratified society. As large Islamised ethnic groups closely associated with the nineteenth-century

Page 2

Sokoto Caliphate, the Hausa and Fulani are often seen as
dominant in the region and grouped together as a single
Hausa-Fulani group. This is encouraged by Nigeria’s
politics of communal rivalry and to some degree reflects
their own political strategies. However, Hausa and Fulani
are distinguishable in terms of names and languages and
consider themselves distinct. While nearly all Fulani in
the region speak Hausa, the region’s lingua franca, not all Hausa speak Fulani.
The earliest peoples in the region consisted of many
smaller groups, organised in autonomous or communitybased polities. Most had only rudimentary state structures, no imperial rulers and apparently no expansionist ambitions.7 The Hausa, who partly came from migrations and partly formed in-situ, became an identifiable (and selfidentifying) group in roughly the twelfth century. Internal rivalries inhibited the formation of a unified empire, but

they established seven major city-states and seven other
associated-states – collectively now known as Hausaland
– extending into what is the present-day Niger Republic.
By the thirteenth century, these states had gained control
over much of the region, incorporating some smaller groups
into multi-ethnic, Hausa-speaking polities.8 Initially surrounded by the Bornu Empire to the east and the Songhai Empire to the west, it was not until the seventeenth century that the Hausa Empire flourished, by gaining control of significant trans-Saharan trade in salt, gold and slaves. The Kanuri originated from the Kanem Empire that

emerged by the ninth century in what is now south-western
Chad. Internal instability forced them westward across
Lake Chad. Subduing the local people, they established the
Borno Kingdom, distinct from the Hausa states, in around
the eleventh century. Assimilating and inter-marrying with
local ethnic groups, they became the largest ethnic group
in the north east.
Fulani migrated from present-day Senegal, through the
Mali and Songhai empires, to Hausaland in the thirteenth
century and Borno in the fifteenth. Though mostly nomadic
herdsmen, the scholars among them found appointments

7

5

This region covers about 469,000 sq km, 51 per cent of Nigeria’s land mass, and its 53 million people account for 38 per cent of the country’s total population. Located mainly in the Sahelian belt south of the Sahara desert, most of the region is arid, with a low population density of 113 inhabitants per sq km. Figures from the 2006 national population census, available on Wikipedia.

6
Background on the city of Kano can be found in Bawuro
Barkindo “Growing Islamism in Kano City since 1970”, in Louis Brenner (ed.), Muslim Identity and Social Change in SubSaharan Africa (Indiana, 1993). For more general context, see Catherine Coquery-Vidrovitch, Histoire des Villes en Afrique noire (Paris, 1993), Chapter IV, “Les Villes de l’Islam”.

On the ancient history and ethnic composition of the area, see J. F. Jemkur, Aspects of Nok Culture (Zaria, 1992), pp. 1-20. The largest of these smaller ethnic groups are the Gbagyi, Bajju, Bakulu, Atyap, Ham, Ninzo, Kagoro and Karama.

8
For general background on the concomitant emergence of
Hausa identity and the beginnings of Islam in the region, see Mervyn Hiskett, The Development of Islam in West Africa
(London, 1984); Toyin Falola and Mathew Heaton, A History
of Nigeria (Cambridge, 2008), chapters 1 and 2. These seven
Hausa states were Biram, Daura, Kano, Katsina, Gobir, Rano
and Zazzau (or Zaria). The seven other associated states, Zamfara, Kebbi, Yauri, Gwari, Nupe, Kwararafa and Ilorin, were referred to as Banza Bokwai, a somewhat derogatory term
meaning not perfectly Hausa.

Northern Nigeria: Background to Conflict
Crisis Group Africa Report N°168, 20 December 2010

in Hausa royal houses, as advisers, scribes, judges and tax
collectors, and gradually gained great influence among
Hausa nobles.
Beyond migrations and early settlements, the initial interactions were also shaped by wars, slavery, commerce and the spread of Islam. Many states waged wars to expand
territorial claims and acquire slaves for working feudal
plantations or export to North Africa. The Hausa states
allied intermittently but occasionally fought each other;
they also suffered invasions, notably by the Borno king,
Idris Alooma, in the late sixteenth century.
Commercial transactions created other links. For instance,
as Hausa merchants travelled southward, they established
mid-way bases that later became permanent Hausa settlements amid other peoples. This led to the establishment of Hausa towns that often became the focal points of economic, political and administrative life in their respective areas. Moreover, as the capitals of the Hausa states and of

the Borno Empire were major southern entrepots of transSaharan trade, they served as conduits for spreading North African and Arab ideas and culture in the region.
The most significant interactions, however, were forged
by the spread of Islam, which occurred in two broad
phases. Between the eleventh and seventeenth centuries,
Islam was introduced largely peacefully, by clerics and
merchants (often the same individuals) from North Africa
and the Arab world, and from across West Africa. The
rulers of the Borno Empire were the first to convert, in
the eleventh century. With the coming of Wangarawa
traders and scholars from Mali at the end of the fourteenth
century and increase in trade with the Songhai Empire in
the fifteenth, Hausa kings followed suit. Already by the
fourteenth century, Muslim scholars from Mali occupied
important administrative posts in the Hausa city-states.9
The second phase started as a revivalist revolution at the
dawn of the nineteenth century: a Fulani preacher, Shehu
Usman dan Fodio, led a jihad initially aimed at purifying
Islamic practices in the region and ultimately at installing a new righteous leadership. With support from the nomadic Fulani and disgruntled Hausa peasantry, who had all suffered under the despotism and corruption of the

Hausa kings, the jihad overran the by-then fourteen Hausa
states between 1804 and 1808 and replaced their chiefs
with Fulani emirs. Only Borno, conquered for a limited
period (1808-1812), was never fully subdued by the new
regime, the Sokoto Caliphate.

9

On this period, see Roman Loimeier, Islamic Reform and Political Change in Nigeria (Evanston, 1997); M.G. Smith, Government in Kano (Boulder, 1997); and John N. Paden, Religion and Political Culture in Kano (Berkeley, 1973).

Page 3

2. The Sokoto Caliphate
The new empire derived cohesion from Islam but consisted
of autonomous emirates, each with its emir and administration. At the apex was the caliph, based in Sokoto, who doubled as both political leader and spiritual guide. The
caliphate retained the pre-jihad feudal system, replacing
the Hausa aristocracy with royal Fulani families. Communities paid tithes to the emirs, who in turn paid tribute to the caliph. Between the capitals of the emirates, trade
flourished, transport routes were relatively secure, and the cities attained considerable wealth.10
The Fulani rulers entrenched Islamic values and practices
in most of the region.11 Although this was sometimes met
with passive resistance from sections of the population,
it was crucial to fostering a common culture that transcended ethnicity and held the caliphate together. Sharia was applied “more widely, and in some respects more rigidly ... than anywhere else outside Saudi Arabia”,12 and indigenous religious practices, such as traditional Hausa

ceremonies (Bori), were suppressed, or at least became
less visible. However, the Fulani rulers also assimilated
many elements of Hausa culture, thus creating the basis
for what some see as a progressively homogeneous HausaFulani identity. A prominent scholar observed that the caliphate also promoted a culture of “knowledge and intellectualism”, such that “education became the yardstick for all opportunities in the state and knowledge a ladder

for climbing heights of respect and dignity”.13
Yet, the caliphate was not an ideal kingdom. Resistance
to Fulani rule, including resistance from Fulani nobles
who felt excluded from emerging power structures, and
more general insecurity, especially along its periphery,
continued throughout the nineteenth century. While Islam
helped to consolidate political rule, it also inspired re-

10

On the Sokoto Caliphate, see H.A.S. Johnston, The Fulani
Empire of Sokoto (London, 1967); A M Kani and K A Gandi
(eds.), State and Society in the Sokoto Caliphate (Sokoto,
1990); and Johannes Harnischfeger, Democratisation and Islamic Law (Frankfurt, 2008). 11
An example of how Islam was used as part of the construction of the caliphate is that the Islamic notion of charity (zakat) was employed for tax collecting. See Steven Pierce, “Looking like a State: Colonialism and the Discourse of Anticorruption in Northern Nigeria”, Comparative Studies in History and Society, 2006, p. 902.

12
J.N.D. Anderson, Islamic Law in Africa (London, 1955), cited in Philip Ostien and Sati Fwatshak, “Historical Background”, in Philip Ostien (ed.), Sharia Implementation in Northern Nigeria 1999-2006: A Sourcebook (Ibadan, 2007), also available online at www.sharia-in-africa.net, p. 3.

13
Muktar Umar Bunza, “The Sokoto Caliphate after 200 years:
A Reflection”, conference paper, Usman dan Fodio University, Sokoto, 2004.

Northern Nigeria: Background to Conflict
Crisis Group Africa Report N°168, 20 December 2010

volts, particularly where people suffered more intensive
taxation. Toward the end of the nineteenth century, many
communities, especially at the eastern margins of the
caliphate, had been devastated by revolts inspired both by
economic grievances and differences over religious doctrine. As the caliphate’s prosperity was based in part on plantation labour, warriors from the emirates constantly
raided and looted peripheral regions, regarded as heathen
territory, to capture slaves.14 Memories of that era still
haunt relations, especially between the Fulani and the
smaller groups the raiders plundered.
The late years of the caliphate were marked by increasing
tensions between the two major Sufi brotherhoods (Tariqa)
– the Qadiriyya and the Tijaniyya. The Qadiriyya, present
in the region from the fifteenth century, became the dominant (and official) order of the caliphate. However, in the nineteenth century, the Tijaniyya, whose social base was
among the newly rich traders and bureaucratic classes,
became more popular and over time associated with resistance to the ruling aristocracies of the region, and of Sokoto in particular.15
In the late nineteenth century the British government established its control of southern Nigeria as a protectorate (with Lagos as a colony). In 1900, it began extending its
holding northward, proclaiming that region also a protectorate. Frederick Lugard, appointed High Commissioner of Northern Nigeria, slowly negotiated with the emirs to
accept colonial rule. Most cooperated, their kingdoms
already weakened by internal dissent following the end of
the once-lucrative Atlantic slave trade. Those who resisted
were defeated, from Bida in 1901 to Sokoto in 1903. The
killing of the fleeing Caliph Attahiru I, in July 1903,
marked the end of the caliphate as a sovereign political
formation.
The Sokoto Caliphate occupies an important, but ambivalent, position in the consciousness of Muslims in northern Nigeria. Its history is a source of pride, and its legacy
gives a sense of community and cohesion. This includes,
unusually for West Africa, an indigenous African written
text, Hausa, which is still widely used. It has also left behind a structure of traditional governance, centred on the caliphate emirs and their inheritors. This pride is rein14

Exact figures for slave numbers are hard to verify, but scholar Paul Lovejoy claims that at the end of the nineteenth century, slaves accounted for between 25-50 per cent of the caliphate’s total population, making it the second largest slave society in modern history after the U.S. “Problems of Slave Control in the Sokoto Caliphate”, in Philip D. Curtin and Paul E. Lovejoy (eds.), Africans in Bondage: Studies in Slavery and the Slave Trade: Essays in Honour of Philip D. Curtin (Wisconsin, 1986), p. 236; also see Paul E. Lovejoy, Transformations in Slavery: A History of Slavery in Africa (Cambridge, 1983), p. 195.

15
Roman Loimeier, op. cit., pp. 19-25.

Page 4

forced by the fact the caliph did not surrender to British
rule, but fought to the death.
However, that very defeat was traumatic for the region.16
The fact that the caliphate continued to exist under British sovereignty for nearly 60 years has given its heritage
much ambivalence. Equally, attitudes to the caliphate and
its heritage differ greatly in different locations, following the centre-periphery structure of the entity itself. Over the decades, it has become, in the eyes of many, the locus of
a northern Muslim “establishment” that is vulnerable to
accusations of selling out to non-Muslim outside powers
and, more generally, of moral or material corruption.

B. THE COLONIAL ERA
From the colonial proclamation of 1900 to independence
in 1960, the British controlled Nigeria through indirect
rule. This practice, already well tested in other parts of the empire, involved restructuring local traditional authorities and deposing those office holders who resisted, so as to
create a compliant local power base that furthered British
interests. Local rulers were used to control the populace
and raise revenue but were supervised by British officials
who could veto their decisions. Although they restructured many emirate authorities, seeking more compliant office holders, the British also sought to avoid any direct
disruption of the region’s social structures, including its dominant religion and culture (slave owning was only
finally abolished in 1936). Yet, colonial rule introduced
significant political, judicial and cultural changes.
Politically, the defeat of the caliph and establishment of
Kaduna as the region’s new capital diminished the authority and influence of the sultan in Sokoto. He retained spiritual leadership of all Muslims in the region, but a partial transfer of power from the aristocracy to a new political

class had begun. Several decades later, in preparation for
independence, the colonial administration, seeking to separate judicial from traditional powers, introduced reforms that further reduced the influence of traditional authorities. In 1959, for example, the British governor announced that

the sultan and the emirs would thenceforth be subject to
ministerial decrees. They were thus stripped of the power
to appoint and discipline Islamic judges.17
While colonial policy curtailed the powers of the emirs,
it paradoxically relied on them for indirect rule. This had
important consequences. Indirect rule worked in the emir16

The defeat of the caliphate by a British force composed mainly of southern Nigerian colonial troops was also the starting point for the common association of southern Nigerians with foreign Christian powers that remains an important aspect of northern Nigerian thought today.

17
Johannes Harnischfeger, op. cit.

Northern Nigeria: Background to Conflict
Crisis Group Africa Report N°168, 20 December 2010

ates that already had fairly well-established administrative systems, but not so effectively in other areas where emirate administration had never penetrated successfully, largely due to resistance by minority groups. As indirect

rule in some ways reinforced emirate administration,
many minority areas were further subordinated to emirate
power with little regard for their own distinct identities.
Conversions to Christianity, often in reaction to the perceived power of the emirate administration, were common among the minority (ie, non-Hausa-Fulani) groups. These smaller groups expressed fears of domination in a

post-colonial Nigeria, but a 1958 commission largely dismissed their concerns.18 Nevertheless, colonial rule facilitated the domination of Hausa and Fulani elites, especially in areas that minority groups had historically considered

their exclusive domains, and sowed the seeds for conflicting claims to political space, economic rights and societal values.
The British retained the Islamic law established by the
caliphate but over time limited it to civil cases. They restricted the application of punishments such as lashings and subsequently scaled down enforcement of Sharia to
the jurisdiction of local-level native courts. Throughout
the colonial period, a somewhat vague division of labour
operated between the emirate legal councils, which applied common law principles to issues such as commercial property, and the Islamic judges (locally called Alkali), who ruled on family issues. Islamic principles of compensation for violence and murder were frequently applied.19 In the final period of colonial rule, in 1959, the British expunged Sharia content on the grounds that some of its provisions were incompatible with the rights of all citizens in a religiously plural society. Under pressure from the

colonial government,20 and in a context where the Alkali
had become somewhat discredited by playing an increasingly political role against the new pro-independence parties, the Northern Region’s government accepted a compromise code (called the “Penal Code”) that established a Sharia court of appeal with jurisdiction only for Muslim

personal law. Many northern Muslim leaders viewed those

Page 5

changes as elevating Christian jurisprudence over their
own Islamic judicial heritage.21
Culturally, the colonial administration generally discouraged Western innovations. It allowed Christian missionaries and their schools only in the non-Muslim fringes of the defunct caliphate. Even so, it introduced Roman script

to replace ajami for writing the Hausa language and established a European-style education system alongside the Islamic system. All this jeopardised much pre-existing
scholarship and diminished the status of clerics and others
unlettered in English.22 With time, these educational and
cultural policies sharpened the older cleavages between
Muslim Hausa and Fulani and smaller groups.
Colonial developments also altered the region’s economy
and demography. The construction of railway lines from
Lagos to Kano, between 1898 and 1912, and amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Nigeria protectorates, in 1914, attracted an influx of southern migrants responding to the emerging economic opportunities in Kano, Kaduna and Zaria. In many respects, interaction between the resulting plurality of ethnic groups has been productive

and peaceful. The railway, for example, gave a great boost
to agriculture, especially the production of cash crops.
However, this migration did not lead to greater interethnic integration in all cases. This was partly because the ruling aristocracies from the caliphate era were territorial and not willing to let “strangers” into their areas. It was also partly a result of the British policy of preserving the north’s Islamic identity and avoiding potential inter-group tensions. Thus, the British discouraged the movement of

non-Muslim migrants into the core Muslim areas of some
of the region’s cities, pushing them instead into the sabon gari (strangers’ quarters).
Over time, the distinction between locals (“indigenes”)
and strangers emerged as a key feature of Nigerian social
and political life. These multiple and overlapping mechanisms of communal identification, or “associational ethnicity”, provide support networks that are especially important for new immigrants.23 But, combined with segregation, they have sharpened ethno-religious identities and reinforced discriminatory practices that continue to influence relationships between the Hausa and the Fulani and other urban dwellers.

18

See “Nigeria: Report of The Commission Appointed to Enquire into the Fears of Minorities and the Means of Allaying Them”, Colonial Office, London, July 1958, pp. 52-73.
19
See Allan Christelow “Islamic Law and Judicial Practice in Nigeria: An Historical Perspective”, Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, vol. 22, 2002. See also Philip Ostien, op. cit.; M. Sani Umar, Islam and Colonialism: Intellectual Responses of Muslims of Northern Nigeria to British Colonial Rule (Leiden, 2005). 20

Ahmadu Bello later said he was told in very clear terms that the region would never be able to attract the foreign investment it needed for development, unless it amended its laws in accordance with Western principles of justice.

21

Crisis Group interview, former history lecturer now publisher, Kaduna, 15 July 2009. 22
Ibrahim Ahmad Aliyu, “Shariah Implementation So Far”, The Journal of Islamic and Comparative Law, vol. 23, Centre for
Islamic Legal Studies, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, 2002, p. 35.
23
Chiamaka Jacinta Nwaka, “Dynamism of Conflict in Kano,
Response to a Threatened Identity”, Conference paper, Berlin, June 2008.

Northern Nigeria: Background to Conflict
Crisis Group Africa Report N°168, 20 December 2010

The period leading to independence witnessed the initial
major instances of inter-ethnic violence. For instance, in
1953, the Hausa and Igbo migrants clashed in Kano over
the attempts by southern parties to hold anti-colonial and
pro-independence rallies. That riot, which officially left at least 36 people dead (21 Igbo) and more than 200 injured,
reflected the opposition to independence of northern politicians, who feared that an end to British rule would mean domination of the north by the more developed south.24 It
also demonstrated local resentment of Igbo economic
domination, for example in petty commerce.
The colonial era was likewise marked by religious tensions, even conflicts. In the eyes of the authorities, the greatest threat came from “Mahdism”, a trans-Saharan,
Muslim-based anti-colonial movement that originated in a
messianic doctrine according to which a Mahdi would
emerge at the turn of each century, with the powers to attract a large following, strengthen Islam and make justice triumph. While Mahdists undoubtedly had an anti-colonial
influence,25 and clashes occurred, their importance was
often exaggerated by panicked colonial officials. However, an important consequence was to drive the British and the indigenous ruling classes closer together in the
face of a common threat.
The later years of the colonial era also saw the deepening
of tensions between the Qadiriyya and Tijaniyya brotherhoods. As the ruling aristocracy in Sokoto (predominantly Qadiriyya) aligned with the colonial rulers, its members
were increasingly accused of collaboration, amassing
power and wealth and condoning decadent Western influences. In reaction, leaders in different parts of the region began to align with Tijaniyya, attracted by the brotherhood’s apparent anti-colonial and anti-Western stance.26 Initially the tensions between the two orders were confined to scholars and the political elite. However, by the early 1940s, as Ibrahim Niass, the highly influential

Senegalese Tijaniyya leader, and his ally, Emir Muhammad Sanusi of Kano, began to transform Tijaniyya into a more influential mass movement with extensive political
and economic networks, the conflict grew into direct confrontation.

Page 6

The 1951 election greatly increased the political importance of both orders, as two political parties, the Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU) and the Northern
People’s Congress (NPC), competed for their allegiance.
As the bargaining power of the orders grew, being seen to
have religious authority began to carry political implications. In Sokoto, where the Qadiriyya felt particularly challenged by what they saw as an aggressive Tijaniyya
presence, the two clashed several times in the mid-1950s.
In spite of these developments, caliphate influence remained strong. In the run-up to independence, the main political
party, the NPC, was a predominantly Hausa-Fulani elite
organisation led by Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna
(the commonly used name for Sultan) of Sokoto and a
descendant of Usman dan Fodio.27 Although the party’s
younger and more radical elements, seeking to free the
talakawa (commoners) from the oppressive hold of the
sarauta (aristocracy), broke away to form the NEPU, it
was the NPC that led the region when the country gained
independence in 1960.
As in other parts of Africa, colonial rule in northern Nigeria led to population movements, new cities and new economic opportunities. It reinforced some existing identities while stimulating new ones, in some respects setting the

stage for long-lasting and violent identity conflicts. Links with the broader Islamic community were strongly reinforced. In the far north, with its tradition of religiously informed public authority, there remains a strong feeling

that colonial rule was an alien domination that disrupted
or eroded the region’s legal, political and cultural values. The ambivalent views among Muslims concerning public
authority in the far north – mistrusted in its relations with secular or Christian “others” (external powers, neighbours or compatriots) – continued after independence. The experience of non-Muslims under colonial rule was equally varied and ambivalent, among both the indigenous Christian groups and immigrants from the south. Some took advantage of educational opportunities, sometimes to the

chagrin of Muslim counterparts, while others suffered
from what they perceived as the reinforced powers of the
Sokoto establishment.

24

For an account of the xenophobic tone by which the northern
elite mobilised the masses against southern migrants, see A. Feinstein, African Revolutionary: The Life and Times of Nigeria’s Aminu Kano (Boulder, 1987), p. 159. 25
See Paul E. Lovejoy and J. S. Hogendorn, “Revolutionary
Mahdism and Resistance to Colonial Rule in the Sokoto Caliphate, 1905-1906”, Journal of African History, vol. 31, no. 2 (1990), pp. 217-244.
26
The Tijaniyya initially spread across West Africa under the
influence of the nineteenth century jihadist leader Umar Tall, as detailed in David Robinson, The Holy War of Umar Tall: The
Western Sudan in the Mid-Nineteenth Century (Oxford, 1975).
For subsequent developments, see Paden, op. cit. (1973).

27

For the detailed life story of Sir Ahmadu Bello, see his autobiography, My Life (Cambridge, 1962); John N. Paden, Ahmadu Bello, Sardauna of Sokoto: Values and Leadership in Nigeria
(London, 1986).

Northern Nigeria: Background to Conflict
Crisis Group Africa Report N°168, 20 December 2010

III. THE NORTH SINCE
INDEPENDENCE I: POLITICS AND
ECONOMY
A. POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS:
WHAT PLACE FOR THE NORTH IN
THE NIGERIAN NATION?
1. 1960-1966: first republic, the Sardauna
and the NPC
Independence in 1960 marked a fresh beginning in all
parts of the country. The NPC, led by Sardauna Ahmadu
Bello, ruled the Northern Region (one of three regions,
the others being Western and Eastern) and was the dominant force in the coalition running the Nigerian federation.28 The first republic was characterised by squabbling and intense competition between regions.29 Northerners

wished to enhance their influence relative to the more developed south and preserve their religious and cultural identity, inherited from the caliphate era but disrupted by
colonial rule. Thus, the Sardauna and the NPC aimed both
to unify the peoples of the region as a single bloc that
would maintain a dominant influence on national affairs
and to restore the north’s religious heritage and cultural identity.30
Proclaiming a principle of “One North, One Destiny”,
Ahmadu Bello pursued a “northernisation” policy favouring northerners (of all religious persuasions) in employment in regional and local administrations. This policy, which dated back to 1954, was informed by fears that migrants from the south, with the advantage of their Western education, would continue to establish themselves in the administration and the economy. It “worked to replace non-northern employees in the regional and provincial civil services with northerners”.31 To achieve this, he

28

The position of the NPC at the national level was reinforced by the fact that the Northern Region left behind by the British was larger and more populous than the other two regions combined. 29
See Falola and Heaton, op. cit., pp. 164-172.
30
Philip Ostien, op. cit.
31
Umar I. Kurfi, “Beyond Remembering the Legacies of the
Sardauna (1)”, Leadership, Abuja, 8 January 2010. In fact, the goals of that policy went beyond public administration. As the Sardauna articulated it, “the Northernisation policy does not only apply to clerks, administrative officers, doctors and others. We do not want to go to Lake Chad and meet strangers [ie,

southern Nigerians] catching our fish in the water, and taking them away to leave us with nothing. We do not want to go to Sokoto and find a carpenter who is a stranger nailing our houses”. See House of Chiefs Debates (mimeo), 19 March 1965, p. 55,

quoted in Isaac O. Albert, “The Sociocultural Politics of Ethnic and Religious Conflicts”, in Ernest E. Uwazie, Isaac Olawale

Page 7

introduced crash training programs to equip northern civil
servants with the qualifications to assume greater control
of their government, at regional and federal levels.
This policy was designed to foster solidarity among all
peoples across the region. As the mostly-Christian minority groups benefited from it very widely due to their high level of missionary school education, it gave them a sense
of belonging. Many people now see the 1960s as a period
of great northern unity, when religious differences were
minimised. However, the Sardauna did not undertake
any major administrative reforms to respond to the longstanding fears of the region’s minorities and their demands for local autonomy from emirate rule. Instead, the suppression of the opposition parties that served as rallying points for the minority groups, such as the Middle Zone

League (MZL) and subsequently the United Middle Belt
Congress (UMBC), undermined the sense of regional
unity that the ruling party and aristocracies were seeking
to sustain.
The second priority of Ahmadu Bello and northern leaders was to promote Islam, both as a unifying instrument and as a means of preserving the region’s cultural identity. In 1962, Bello established Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI,

“Victory for Islam”) as an umbrella body to unite the
Muslim sects, propagate Islam and provide an ideological
base for the NPC. However, in terms of forging Muslim
unity, his efforts achieved limited results. Violent confrontations between adherents of rival Sufi orders continued. More successful were the campaigns intended to convert
“pagan” minority groups to Islam. Supported by state resources and sometimes led by Bello himself, these led to the conversion of over 100,000 non-Muslims, particularly
in Zaria and Niger provinces. Bello was also a frequent
participant in collective pilgrimages to Mecca and used
the networks of the region’s Sufi orders to bolster his
power. Predictably, these efforts at boosting the dar alIslam (House of Islam) drew strong support from the Muslim majority; but among non-Muslim minorities and
Christian migrants from the south, Bello’s campaign –
and his election as vice president of the World Muslim
League in 1963 – raised fears of Islamic hegemony. This
alarm, whether reality or merely perception, affected
community relations and contributed to the first military
coup against the Northern Region-dominated federal government, in January 1966.

Albert and G. N. Uzoigwe (eds.), Inter-Ethnic and Religious
Conflict Resolution in Nigeria (Ibadan, 1999), p. 73. This analysis has also been informed by Crisis Group interviews, community leader, Maiduguri, August 2009; politician, Kaduna, June 2009.

Northern Nigeria: Background to Conflict
Crisis Group Africa Report N°168, 20 December 2010

2. 1966-1999: the military era
The January 1966 coup, led by Christian Igbo officers
from the Eastern Region, and in which Ahmadu Bello and
several northern political and military leaders were killed, was partly a revolt against the perceived religious and
political agenda of the ruling NPC.32 It elicited mixed reactions across the region. It was clearly a setback for the northern elite, as it abruptly terminated the efforts of Bello to forge greater northern unity and restore the heritage of

the caliphate. Non-Muslim minorities were partly relieved
at what initially appeared a liberation from the NPC’s
stranglehold, and there were reports of jubilation in some
minority areas; but that relief soon gave way to outrage,
following revelations that their own senior military officers were also eliminated. The shared anger over the killings and the common fear
of southern domination led to a rare closing of ranks between the Hausa, Fulani and minorities; their officers jointly staged a counter-coup in July 1966. The installation of Lieutenant Colonel Yakubu Gowon, a Christian from the middle belt (then still part of the Northern Region), as Nigeria’s new leader, was part of a compromise by Muslim leaders to retain the solidarity of the nonMuslim minorities in a united Northern Region. The January killings did grave damage to the northern

perception of southern migrants. Many northern leaders,
like Sheikh Abubakar Gumi, saw the coup as having exposed “the deep-seated hostility held by people in the south against the north”.33 Between July and October 1966, northern mobs killed thousands of southerners, mostly

Igbos, across the region, forcing hundreds of thousands to
flee back to safety in the south.
Partly in reaction to those killings, the Igbo-dominated
Eastern Region seceded from Nigeria on 30 May 1967,
declaring itself the Republic of Biafra. The federal government’s efforts to prevent this led to civil war from 1967 to 1970. Though it was fought far away in the south
east, it had long-term impacts on inter-group relations. In
particular, many northern youth enlisted in the army, which

Page 8

expanded from 10,000 in 1967 to 250,000 in 1970. This
reinforced the perception of the military as a means for
maintaining the north’s dominance in the federation.
However, many recruits and new officers were from the
northern minority groups. Two decades later, many had
become very senior officers. On retiring from service,
many of them, searching for new relevance and no longer
accepting Hausa-Fulani leadership, became leaders of
their ethno-religious groups.
Politically, the expansion of federal administrative units
by successive military administrations, to 36 states by
1996, altered relations between majority and minority
groups all over the country, especially by fracturing the
regional platforms of the major ethnic groups and thus
eroding their domination over minority groups. The breakup of the Northern Region, initially into six states (of twelve nationwide) in 1967 and eventually into nineteen
(of 36) in 1996, undercut the Hausa-Fulani vision of regional unity. In the far north, this process did not fully lead to the emergence of a minority group as the majority
in any state; but in Kaduna, in particular, it reduced Hausa and Fulani power over the minority populations.34 Elsewhere, state creation led to the emergence of new elites from both majority and minority groups.

For most of the period of military rule, the federal government was dominated by northerners, whose historic strength in the army was seen as a as way of compensating for their disadvantages in Western education. However, the population of the far north was well aware that it was seeing few of the benefits of federal power. The division of spoils created tensions, as many northern minority groups and Christian communities felt that they were losing out in the allocation of jobs to well-connected but less well-educated Hausa or Fulani. Other political disputes

and clumsily implemented policies raised communal
temperatures. These often involved international issues,
such as the 1986 decision to become a full member of the
Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) and the 1992
decision to recognise Israel, or disputes over subsidies for pilgrimages.35

3. 1999- : the return to civilian rule
32

One of the Sardauna’s closest advisers, Abubakar Gumi, recalls that the first question coup leader Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu asked him when he (Gumi) was summoned after the killings, was about the Sardauna’s religious intentions. In Sheik Abubakar Gumi, Where I Stand (Ibadan, 1992), chapter seven. Competing accounts of the 1966 coup abound, including N. J. Miners, The Nigerian Army 1956-1966 (London, 1971);

and Robin Luckham, The Nigerian Military, A Sociological
Analysis of Authority and Revolt, 1960-1967 (Cambridge, 1970). This analysis is also informed by several Crisis Group interviews, including Alhaji Umaru Dikko, northern politician and former federal transport minister, Kaduna, June 2009.

33
Gumi, op. cit., chapter seven.

From 1966 to 1999, Nigeria was ruled by military governments, with an unstable period of civilian rule only from 1979 to 1983 that was cut short by the coup of General
Buhari. Each military government promised a more or
less rapid return to democracy, only for the transition to

34

Katsina state, created in 1987, incorporated part of northern Kaduna, where many Hausa and Fulani lived, and thus lowered
the proportion of Hausa and Fulani still in Kaduna state.
35
Debate about joining the OIC was particularly acrimonious
and protracted. See Falola, op. cit., pp. 95-102.

Northern Nigeria: Background to Conflict
Crisis Group Africa Report N°168, 20 December 2010

be thwarted or cut short. The actual return of democracy
in 1999 was celebrated in most parts of the country but
was a sobering experience for some in the far north. For
the first time since 1979, and despite new President
Obasanjo’s close ties with its elite, the region had lost
control of political power at the centre and was faced with
the challenge of designing new strategies for regional
self-assertion in the federation. It was within this context that the Zamfara state governor initiated the campaign for
restoration of Sharia (see below).
The return to democracy had further transformative effects on the region. Democratic government has produced a new generation of political elite all over the country. In the far north, there are twelve (out of a national total of

36) very powerful state governors, 36 senators (of 108 nationally), 134 (of 365 nationally) members of the House of Representatives and hundreds of state-level legislators,
as well as local government chairs and councillors. There
are now many more people with government authority in
the region, commanding considerable financial resources.
These new leaders may not enjoy the allegiance that the
traditional rulers and religious authorities once did, but
their control of funds has challenged and eroded traditional rulers’ authority and increased the layers of bureaucracy that ordinary people have to confront (and often bribe) on a daily basis. The advantages conferred by access to state machinery and its resources have also created new tensions between ethnic and religious groups. The growing perception, especially among the youth, is

that politics now provides the principal avenue for upward social mobility. By the end of the 1990s, the far north had become politically fractured. Fragmented by the creation of new states, the Hausa-Fulani bloc found itself challenged by increasingly assertive minorities. Torn by controversies over the country’s religious identity, there was a rise in tensions between Muslims and Christians. Economic malaise,

growing corruption in government, the perversion and
decline of social institutions and the rise of criminality all created a sense of disillusionment.
However, democratic rule has had different effects in different places. In some respects it has calmed tensions, by allowing freer expression, but communal competition for
resources has, if anything, intensified.36 Practice differs
between states. While some have managed to provide a
sense of inclusion for all communities in the new democ-

36

One analyst said, “some people, in pressing for their rights, are overstepping the boundaries, by being lawless and disorderly, taking advantage of civilian rule”. Crisis Group interview, professor of law, Ahmadu Bello University, June 2009.

Page 9

ratic structures, in others, many feel left out.37 In the context of the region’s Islamic revival (see below), religious leaders, and more generally religious thinking, have increasing influence over politics. Muslim clerics are less and less reticent to speak out on political issues, proffering a range of views, from encouraging people to vote to urging quietism in the face of electoral fraud. In some

cases, clerics have become closely involved in party politics and clearly taken sides.38 The return of formal democracy has opened up public
space and undoubtedly generated possibilities for conflict
prevention and peacebuilding. Nevertheless, Nigeria continues to suffer from a debilitating communal polarisation, and public figures and the media are all too ready to escalate social tensions into a dangerous game of them and us.39 The democratic dispensations are still relatively new, however, and it remains to be seen how they will affect

the far north in the longer term. If democracy comes to be
associated with both the south and incompetent governance, it risks being rejected by many. This is especially so in light of the decline of the All Nigerian People’s Party (ANPP), once very popular there, but now only powerful

in a few locations, and the creation, nation-wide, of a virtual one-party state under the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). The intense debate following the death of President Yar’Adua in May 2010 over the informal “zoning” arrangement, wherein presidential power is swapped between north and south, shows that ethno-regional politics is alive and well at the national level. The far north is thus still a single unit in the country’s power politics.

B. ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL
TRANSFORMATIONS: OIL BOOM,
STAGNATION AND SOCIAL MALAISE
The economic transformations of the 1970s and 1980s had
far-reaching impacts on economic and social relations in
the region. As the national economy shifted from agriculture to heavy dependence on oil, services and importation of finished products, cash-crop production, which had
been the region’s mainstay, declined. For instance, across the cotton-producing states (eleven of the thirteen are in
37

Kano is one state with the reputation for having managed this well, not least by incorporating minority representatives on its governing council (although only three of around 50 councillors). Crisis Group interviews, community leader, Yobe state, August 2009; radio station manager, Kano, July 2009; community activists, Kano, October 2010. 38

See Haruna Wakili, “Islam and the Political Arena in Nigeria: The Ulama and the 2007 Elections”, Buffett Centre working
paper, March 2009. Political involvement likely lies behind the April 2007 assassination of prominent cleric Sheikh Adam
Ja’afar in Kano.
39
See Section V.A.2 below.

Northern Nigeria: Background to Conflict
Crisis Group Africa Report N°168, 20 December 2010

the far north), the decline of cotton production led to mass closures in the textile sector, collapse of rural economies, massive unemployment and increased rural-urban migration.40 Kano, once the centre of a thriving textile industry, has been particularly badly hit and now has acres of disused factory space. The federal government’s Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP), inaugurated in 1986, and

other economic policies through the 1990s, including import liberalisation and lack of protection for local industries, aggravated agricultural ruin and rural impoverishment. 41 The acute dearth of electrical energy continually impedes industrial development.

Regional poverty, always widespread, became even more
severe.42 In July 2008, the then governor of the Central
Bank of Nigeria, Chukwuma Soludo, observed that persistently high levels of poverty in the country had become “a northern phenomenon”: of the ten states with the highest incidence of poverty, eight were in the far northern zone. Jigawa topped the list, with 95 per cent of its people classified as living in poverty.43 A more recent study found that as many as 76 per cent of northerners are “earning a

daily income of less than the equivalent of one American
dollar”.44 Unemployment for agricultural workers is often
seasonal, leading to frequent movements of people and a
fluid urban population.45 With virtually no modern industries, there is a high dependence on government as the sole source of largesse and dispenser of patronage, intensifying the contests between ethnic and religious groups for control of public office.

The region’s economy is particularly affected by lack of
skilled manpower. In terms of Western education, it still
has the worst indicators in Nigeria, with literacy levels,
enrolment rates and success levels in national examinations decreasing as one advances farther north. Female literacy is as low as 21 per cent in the north east and north

40

Semshak Gompil, “The Textile Industry in Nigeria/Africa – What Hope for Sustainability”, Journal of Agriculture and
Food Science, vol. 2, no. 2 (October 2004).
41
Crisis Group interview, Hassan Hassan Suleiman, lecturer,
Department of Economics, Bayero University, Kano, 23 June
2009.
42
“Draft Report: Strategic Assessment of Social Sector Activities in Northern Nigeria”, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), March 2003. 43
Jigawa State was followed by Kebbi, 89.7 per cent; Kogi,
88.6 per cent; Bauchi, 86.3 per cent; Kwara, 85.2 per cent;
Yobe, 83.3 per cent; Zamfara, 80.9 per cent; Gombe, 77 per
cent; Sokoto, 76.8 per cent; and Adamawa, 71.7 per cent. See Emeka Mamah, “High Poverty is Northern Phenomenon –
Soludo”, Vanguard, 19 July 2008.
44
Shehu Sani, Poverty in Northern Nigeria (Spectrum Books
Limited, 2009), p. 3.
45
Crisis Group interview, lecturer in economics, Bayero University, Kano, July 2009.

Page 10

west.46 Under-funded by federal and state governments,
dilapidated educational institutions are producing graduates who are virtually unemployable. A growing number of young people, unable to find jobs, face a bleak future.
The troubles of the educational system are reflected in the
region’s Quranic schools.47 Many parents have long preferred such institutions, which include a moral content lacking in the Western-style public schools. In Kano state,
for instance, over 80 per cent of the 3.7 million persons
between 5 and 21 years are estimated to attend some form
of Islamic school, either exclusively or in addition to a
state school.48
Many of these neither live up to parents’ moral expectations nor impart the skill necessary for developing the region. With urbanisation, more and more children are sent to schools far from their families, and millions of Almajiri children are required to beg for alms (almajiranchi) to

pay for their upkeep.49 While this system is ostensibly designed to prepare them for some of the hardships they may encounter later in life, in a context of urbanisation
and increasing poverty, it is open to abuse and may foster
criminality.50 In cities like Kano and Kaduna, many of the
alms-begging street children have graduated into Yandaba, adolescent groups that once served to socialise teenagers into adulthood but have now, in many cases, transformed into gangs. In 2005, the National Council for the Welfare of the Destitute estimated there were 7 million

Almajirai children in northern Nigeria, mostly in the far
northern states.51

46

Data obtained from National Bureau of Statistics, Abuja.
Quranic schools have been a medium of early childhood Islamic education in northern Nigeria since the eleventh century but have been especially important since the consolidation of Islam in the early nineteenth century. Sally N. Bolujoko, “Education and Human Capital Development in Northern Nigeria”, paper presented at Conference of Northern States Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (CONSIMA),

Abuja, 7 October 2008; Crisis Group interview, NGO leader
working on child rights, Kaduna, June 2009. See also M. Sani Umar, “Profiles of New Islamic Schools in Northern Nigeria”, The Maghreb Review, vol. 28, 2003.
48
“Education Sector Analysis”, education ministry, Kano state government, Kano, 2008.
49
Almajiri comes from the Arabic for someone who leaves their
home in search of knowledge of the Islamic religion. The plural is Almajirai.
50
Murray Last, “Adolescents in a Muslim City: The Cultural
Context of Danger and Risk”, Kano Studies, special issue,
Bayero University, Kano, 1991, p. 19.
51
Cited in Moses T. Aluaigba, “Circumventing or Superimposing Poverty on the African Child? The Almajiri Syndrome in Northern Nigeria”, Childhood In Africa, vol. 1, no. 1, The Institute for the African Child, Ohio University, 2009, p. 21. See also Yunusa Zakari Ya’u, “The Youth, Economic Crisis and 47

Northern Nigeria: Background to Conflict
Crisis Group Africa Report N°168, 20 December 2010

In recent years however, there have been considerable efforts in some states to correct some of the failings of the Quranic schooling system, for example by introducing a
dual curriculum (as in Kano) and paying the teachers’
salaries, hence, in theory at least, relieving the pupils of the obligation to beg for their upkeep.52
Since 1999, through the monthly federal allocations to its
twelve states and numerous local governments, the region
has attracted more federal revenue (in absolute terms)
than any decade in its history, due largely to favourable
oil prices. While many in the region had expected infrastructure to develop as a result, they have seen little benefit. Instead, economic stagnation is deepening. The general decline in agriculture and unfavourable international markets since the late 1980s has put an end to the groundnut and cotton products for which the region was once famous. In the absence of foreign investments, and with

domestic investments concentrated in the south, there are
no new industries.
The failure of rural economies has led to large-scale drift
of youth from rural to urban areas, part of population
movements that also include the arrival of many people
from the landlocked and drought-affected countries to the
north (Niger and Chad). This exodus has destabilised
community life in villages, as many are now left mostly
with the very young, the very old and the infirm. In the
cities to which the youth are flocking, urbanisation has
brought together people of diverse backgrounds. While
this has generated much positive social interaction, the
crowded environment, with little or no economic infrastructure or social amenities, also produces frequent tensions. Most of the growing urban slums, as new settlements, lack both formal and informal authorities that can regulate public conduct, mediate conflicts and guarantee

security.
Tensions have been exacerbated by policies favouring indigenous groups. In all parts of Nigeria, those who can claim to be original inhabitants have a disproportionate
share of public resources, an exclusive right to buy and
sell land and various other privileges. This generates a
huge number of disputes and often violent conflicts over
competing claims, as well as over the validity of the “indigeneity certificates” issued by local government authorities, especially in the context of internal migrations.53

Identity Transformation: The Case of the Yandaba in Kano”, in Attahiru Jega (ed.), Identity Transformation and Identity Politics under Structural Adjustment in Nigeria (Uppsala, 2000). 52
Crisis Group interviews, leader of Muslim Women’s association, Yobe state, August 2009; community leader, Kano, July 2009.
53
This issue was raised in several Crisis Group interviews, for example with the head of the Igbo Community Association,

Page 11

IV. THE NORTH SINCE
INDEPENDENCE II: RELIGION
Many of the conflicts in northern Nigeria are at least ostensibly between religious groups. Although religion may be only one factor in these conflicts in combination with
other political and economic issues, it is, nevertheless, a
major motivating and legitimising aspect of violence.
The majority of Nigeria’s Muslims are Sunni, estimated
at 95 per cent, and belong to the Qadiriyya and Tijaniyya
Sufi orders. These orders are represented by a number of
organisations that have been important actors in the region. Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI), based in Kaduna and established in 1961, is the largest umbrella Islamic organisation in the country,54 supporting a network of activists across the region. It is closely associated with the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), headed by

the Sultan of Sokoto, and with the Supreme Council for
Sharia in Nigeria. A small but growing Shiite minority is
estimated at just less than 5 per cent of the Muslim population, though in some cases the label Shiite refers as much to a radical political attitude, and particularly admiration for the Iranian revolution, as to doctrinal differences.55

Due to the high concentration of Muslims, as well as historical ties with the Arab world, the dominant world view in northern Nigeria is pan-Islamic. Much thought is given
by the population to its place in the global Islamic community. Most Muslims in the region have a strong sense of solidarity with co-religionists’ causes, from Iraq to Afghanistan.56 There is wide support for Arab positions on Israel and the Palestinian demand for a state.57 During the

Borno state, July 2009. While one interlocutor said that the local state governor was dealing with the issue well and allowing equal access to education, this was a rare view. Far more typical was that minorities of all kinds are losing out unfairly due to these policies.

54
Crisis Group interview, officials of Jama’atu Nasril Islam, Kaduna, June 2009.
55
The doctrinal divergence between Sunni and Shiite stems
from disagreements among the followers on whom to follow
after the Prophet’s death. Further details can be found in standard guides to the Islamic religion, and in Crisis Group Middle East/North Africa Report N°37, Understanding Islamism, 2
March 2005.
56
Crisis Group interviews, several common people, Kaduna,
Kano, Zaria and Maiduguri, June and July 2009.
57
In September 2000, at a two-day rally of Muslim youth supporting the Palestinian intifada, a Kaduna-based cleric, Sheikh Abdullahi Tureta, claimed that over 7 million volunteers had registered to fight on the Palestinian side. Such claims cannot be authenticated, but they are indications of strong antiWestern and anti-Israeli sentiments. At the rally, Ahmed Sani Yerima, then Zamfara state governor, offered to lead Nigerian youth ready to fight for the Palestinian struggle; he donated five

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Crisis Group Africa Report N°168, 20 December 2010

Israeli blockade and bombardment of Gaza city in December 2008, hundreds of protesters marched through Kano, calling on the Nigerian government to sever ties
with the Jewish state.58
Links between Muslims in the region and the wider Islamic
world date back to early trade and missionary activities.
They have been reinforced by Nigeria’s solidarity with
the Arab world on several international issues, its membership of the OIC and numerous pilgrimage visits to Saudi Arabia. Equally, Islamic education and scholarship,
which confers considerable status, is often associated
with time spent at a centre of Islamic learning abroad.
Much informed discussion takes place about the political
systems of Islamic countries.
There is some degree of admiration for Western technology and wide reliance on radio in general, and the Hausa services of the BBC and Voice of America (VOA) in particular, as reliable sources of information. Equally, some profess admiration for how Western countries manage religious diversity.59 Alongside that, however, the majority of Muslims in the far north view international affairs in terms of a subtle but continuous conflict between a Judeo-Christian West and an Arab-centred Islamic world.60 There is also

constant apprehension that exposure to Western culture
(for example through films) and more broadly Western
values, often seen as “moral deviance”, is a threat to Islam. In other words, some are ready to embrace technological
advancement and modernisation, but on condition that
those transformations are achievable in an Islamic framework that excludes broader “Westernisation”. Some go further and believe that the West, with Israel, is
in a conspiracy against the Islamic world. The 11 September 2001 attacks on New York and Washington stimulated debate across Nigeria. Initially, attitudes were divided,
with some showing sympathy for the U.S., but many
stopping short of condemning the action. A radical Islamic preacher, Abubakar Mujahid, put it as follows: “Before we condemn this attack on America, we have to
see who carried it out and see their reasons .... Most of the people here [in northern Nigeria] are happy with the attacks because of what America stands for and what it does, in its attitude to the Palestinians, for example. The

cowboy way of blazing two guns to get Osama bin Laden

months’ salary for the purchase of arms for Palestine and urged all civil servants in the state, and Muslims across the country, to do the same. See Bola Badmus, “Gov Ahmed and Palestinian cause”, Nigerian Tribune, 26 December 2000.

58
Jaafar Jaafar, “Shiites in Kano protest Gaza blockade”, Daily Trust, 16 December 2008, p. 2.
59
Crisis Group interview, Islamic cleric, Kaduna, June 2009.
60
Crisis Group interview, Ismaila Mohammed, history department, Usman Dan Fodiyo University, Sokoto, 15 May 2010.

Page 12

‘dead or alive’ ... will definitely lead to a confrontation between America and the Islamic world”.61
The subsequent U.S. “war on terror” was thus seen by many as part of a long Christian-Western campaign against
Islam, and some are quick to see the hand of America behind all sorts of conflicts in Africa and beyond.62 The West is often cited as a useful scapegoat for the world’s
ills, especially by more radically inclined preachers. By
extension, many Muslims look upon local Christians as
“moral collaborators” in the war-on-terror campaign. Thus, while relationships between Muslim and Christian leaders
appear cordial in many areas, events far outside Nigeria
often fuel undercurrents of mutual suspicion between the
two groups that sometimes degenerate into violence.

A. CHRISTIAN-MUSLIM TENSIONS
Just as the Muslim community has created bodies to support its interest, so have Christians, the most prominent being the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), formed
in 1976. This is an umbrella organisation with a strong
national network, representing the common concerns of
all churches nationwide.63 CAN and its members engage in
a variety of different roles, in many cases reaching out to
Muslim organisations and doing grassroots peacebuilding.
However, in the mid-1980s, the CAN started to take a
more militant and political stance. It has since become
more active in contentious issues, such as planning permission for churches. In many ways it now buys into a simplistic vision of “them” and “us”, for example by actively monitoring the religious balance in government appointments. It portrays itself as the defender of a besieged Christian community against an increasingly dominant

Islam, often within a framework of a call for moral “revival”. This reflects a wider belief among Christians in the north that they are under threat from militant Islam.64

61

“Nigeria’s firebrand Muslim leaders”, BBC News online, 1 October 2001.
62
Crisis Group interviews, Muslim student leader, Kaduna, August 2009; journalist, Kaduna, July 2009. 63
Crisis Group interviews, members of CAN in Kaduna, Yobe
and Borno states, July and August 2009; Samuel Salifu, CAN
general secretary, Abuja, July 2009. See also Falola, op. cit., chapter 4.
64
Crisis Group interviews with Christians across the region
highlighted that many feel they are victims of unfavourable
treatment by authorities, or in some cases victims of violence, for example during riots, for which they rarely receive rightful compensation. They at times, therefore, feel the need to be
militant in defence of their faith. Crisis Group interviews, secretary general, CAN, Kaduna State chapter, July 2009; and chairman, CAN Yobe state chapter, Damaturu, August 2009.
See also Ibrahim and Muazzam, “Religious Identity in the Con-

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The CAN’s more prominent public and political role comes
in a general context of religious revivalism. Evangelical
Christianity has flourished across the country in recent
decades, including in the north. As inter-denominational
Christian groups, such as the Scripture Union, Students
Christian Movement and the Fellowship of Christian Students, campaigned to convert non-Christians (including Muslims), numerous Pentecostal churches, like the Deeper
Life Christian Ministry, Redeemed Christian Church of
God and Living Faith Church (also known as Winners’
Chapel), developed extensive branch networks, including
to areas where missionaries had been barred since colonial times.65 With religion increasingly informing public debate, the
risk of polarisation has increased. Some Christian preachers openly portray Islam in a negative light. This includes detailed refutations of the Quran and denigration of specific practices. Some Muslims have replied in kind, for example through detailed analysis designed to show the

errors of the Bible, leading to highly dangerous and protracted tit for tat polemics.66 The use of converts in large public preaching sessions (generally called “crusades” by the Christians) is particularly inflammatory. They are presented as having been “saved” from the other religion and invited to provide a detailed renunciation. Religious

choice is generally seen as fluid and biddable, leading to
a sense of confrontation as each faith seeks to expand its
numbers.
Unsurprisingly, such polarisation has frequently led to
violence. In 1982, after the visiting Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie, laid the foundation stone of an Anglican church in Kano, 44 people were killed in the
course of a violent protest by the Muslim Student’s Socitext of Structural Adjustment in Nigeria”, in Attahiru Jega, op. cit., p. 76
65
The Deeper Life Christian Ministry, for instance, has over
6,000 branches in Nigeria. There are no estimates of how much money foreign Christian missions have spent in the country
over the years, but one event is probably some indication: in May 2005, U.S. televangelist Benny Hinn left Nigeria complaining that $4 million his ministry spent on a three-day crusade in Lagos was “money down the drain”, as the turnout had fallen far short of the 6 million people he had expected.

“HOLY ANGER: American evangelist, Benny Hinn leaves Nigeria in annoyance, saying $4 million went down the drain in 3day crusade”, Daily Sun, Lagos, 9 May 2005. A recent analysis of this phenomenon is Ruth Marshall, Political Spiritualities: The Pentecostal Revolution in Nigeria (Chicago, 2009).

66
See Falola, op. cit., p. 259 for an analysis of two particularly polemical works: I K Sani and D K Amoo, “Why you should
never be a Christian”, (undated, but released in the early 1990s in the form, common in the markets of northern Nigeria, of a widely available pamphlet, with no formal publisher); and
G.J.O Moshay, “Who is this Allah?”, (similarly an informally published pamphlet, available from 1990).

Page 13

ety (MSS). A now notorious incident occurred in October
1991, when the CAN invited the German revivalist, Reinhard Bonnke, to hold a “crusade” in Kano. Rioting Muslims killed more than 200 mostly southern Christians and burnt over twenty churches.
However, it is Kaduna state, with its religiously mixed
population, that has suffered most.67 In 1987, a dispute
between trainee teachers in Kafanchan over the terms of a
Christian sermon descended into violence that spread, as
rumours of what had happened reached other towns, and
the injured or dead were taken back to their homes. After
several days of intense violence that also engulfed Kano,
the security forces restored order by imposing de facto
martial law. Further violence occurred in Kaduna state in
1992, as a dispute over the location of a market again polarised overlapping ethnic and religious identities, leaving several dozen dead.
Kaduna experienced its most serious violence in 2000,
when Christian protests at plans to reintroduce Sharia criminal law (see below) ignited several days of very widespread trouble. Thousands died, property was destroyed and whole communities were displaced. The repercussions

are still evident, and despite a decade of peacebuilding
activities in the state, communities remain polarised and
physically separated.
These incidents must be put in a perspective of widespread
respect and collaboration between people of Islamic and
Christian background in all walks of life in Nigeria that,
of course, attracts none of the publicity that riots and violence receive. However, violence does have very detrimental repercussions on community relations nationwide, feeding on and fuelling longstanding mistrust and stereotypes, for example that the “Christian south” is pro-West and that the “Muslim north” is backward and conservative. Violence encourages both sides to take a defensive stance and portray their community as under attack.

B. DEBATES WITHIN ISLAM
1.

Sufis and reformists

Since the late 1970s, there has been a surge of Islamic reformist groups in the region. In spite of their differences, they share broadly common stated goals of promoting a
purist vision of Islam based on Sharia; eradicating heretical innovations; and, for many, establishing an Islamic state. They have profoundly influenced the debate over

67

For more details and analysis of violence in Kaduna, see Appendix D below; for an analysis of the patterns and actors of such violence, see Section V.A.2 below. See also Falola, op. cit., chapter 6.

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religion and politics in northern Nigeria, generally in favour of legalistic textual interpretations of religion. Although the Sufi orders remain predominant, the Izala
movement in particular has contributed to a general religious revivalism and much greater public and political role for Islam.68 Founded in 1978 by Sheikh Ismaila Idris
in Jos, Plateau state, but officially registered in 1985,69 it is essentially anti-Sufi, opposed to what it terms bidaa
(innovation) practiced by the brotherhoods, such as pilgrimage to, or intercession at the tombs of saints, recital of praise-songs to the Prophet, a range of local customs
and traditions and submission of the faithful to the authority of Sufi sheikhs. It is motivated by the political and religious ideologies of Abubakar Gumi, the Grand Kadi
(judge) of northern Nigeria from 1962 to his death in 1992,
and propagator of reformist Islamic ideas. In his early career, Gumi was close to the Sardauna and the established Sufi orders. But after Ahmadu Bello’s assassination, he
started to distance himself from traditional authorities.
With his political career blocked by resistance from Christian politicians, especially those from the north, to introduction of a federal Sharia court of appeal he had hoped to lead, he adopted a new strategy, establishing a mass

movement through which to advance his ideology.
The Izala movement became particularly strong and outspoken in the 1980s. Well before it became official, Gumi had been preaching the reform of Islam and emphasising
political unity among all Muslims in northern Nigeria.
Under his leadership, it stressed the importance of the
Quran and the Sunna as the only foundations of the faith.
The movement contends that Sufi sectarianism undermines Muslim unity and therefore that elimination of the brotherhoods would be the most important step toward
achieving that unity. Gumi also took overtly political positions, in particular in favour of Islamic government. Following tours by Gumi and other influential leaders,
Izala rapidly grew in numbers. With the ban on political
parties following the January 1966 coup in place until
1978, many were attracted to it as a forum where they
could express their dissatisfaction with both the political

68

See Susan M. O’Brien, “La charia contestée: démocratie, débat et diversité musulmane dans les ‘États charia’ du Nigeria”, Politique Africaine, no. 106, June 2007.
69
The full name of the movement is Jamaat Izalat al-Bida wa
Iqamat al-Sunnah (Society for the Eradication of Evil Innovations and the Re-establishment of the Sunna). It is also known as JIBWIS for short or as Yan Izala in Hausa. The best study of it is Ibrahima Kane, Muslim Modernity in Post Colonial Nigeria (Leiden, 2003). See also M. Sani Umar, “Changing Islamic Identity in Nigeria from the 1960s to the 1980s, from Sufism to Anti-Sufism”, in Louis Brenner (ed.), op. cit.; Roman Loimeier, op. cit. Insights to its ideology can be gleaned from Sheikh Abubakar Gumi, op. cit.

Page 14

and religious leaders of the far north. Others were drawn
to the possibility of more individualistic religious experiences, free of the hierarchies of Sufi orders. Sensing they were being undermined, those orders organised their riposte. 70 Sufi scholars (from both orders) published a pamphlet accusing Gumi of various forms of corruption,

including fashioning his practice of tafsir (interpretation) on his own personal views rather than on the Sunna. In
April 1977, they challenged him to a public debate. Amid
accusations of bad faith, it never happened, and the conflict threatened to turn violent. As Izala began to challenge the
orders more openly, it instigated conflicts, especially with the Tijaniyya, that continued until the late 1980s.70
However, Izala suffered two serious setbacks in the early
1990s. In 1991, it split into two groups after one of its
leaders was accused of embezzling funds and excluded
from the organisation. Gumi’s death in September 1992
left it without a charismatic leader, a void still not filled. Since this time, Izala can no longer be considered a structured movement, but as a set of ideas, it retains a profound influence over northern Nigeria, as well as among Muslims in the south and in neighbouring countries. With

a general revival of public religiosity, its reformist ideas have a considerable hold on many sections of society, and
its adherents have gained positions of power and influence in many states. Another reform movement, the Muslim Students Society
of Nigeria (MSS), based in universities, was established
in 1954 to protect the interests of those attending Christian missionary schools; its aims and membership have expanded significantly over the years.71 It began its religious activism by campaigning against alcohol consumption on university campuses in the far north, sometimes burning student union bars. It has been involved in several violent incidents and is widely regarded as a breeding ground for young radical preachers.

The Islamic Movement of Nigeria, better known as the
Muslim Brotherhood, emerged in the early 1980s, as a
more radical offshoot of the MSS. Its leader, El-Zakzaky,
had been a member of MSS while studying at Ahmadu
Bello University, Zaria. However, he was not satisfied
with what he considered its lack of political orientation.
“He strongly felt that the society must have a definite and concrete political goal ... geared towards the practical and revolutionary transformation of the country along the lines
of Islam. That meant the preparation of Muslims for the

70

On the conflicts between Sufi orders and the Izala movement
in the 1980s, see Falola, op. cit., pp. 237-246.
71
Crisis Group interview, Mallam Yusuf Yakubu Arrigasiyu,
director of media and publicity, Muslim Students Society,
northern states headquarters, Kaduna, August 2009.

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inevitable clash with Kufr (ie, non-Muslims)”.72 Inspired, as many were in the region, by the Iranian revolution of
1979 (he visited Tehran shortly afterwards), El-Zakzaky
split with the MSS to form the new group.
The Islamic Movement campaigns for an Islamic government in Nigeria and stricter adherence to Islamic law.73 Guided by the slogan, “Islam Only”, it dismisses the Nigerian state, its flag, national anthem and other symbols as expressions of thought that must be shunned by all true

Muslims.74 It may in some respects, therefore, be considered more a revolutionary than a reformist movement. Many Muslims in the region regard it as a Shiite organisation, because some of its observances are more akin to Shiite traditions, but most members do not accept that

label.75 El-Zakzaky’s teachings blend Sunni and Shiite
ideas, and the movement fundamentally believes and proclaims that “there is no government except that of Islam”. For many poor youths in the region, joining it has become
an act of rebellion against the corruption of the traditional religious and political establishment.
The movement professes to reject violence and is indeed
seen by many as a peaceful and legitimate Islamic reform
movement.76 But some of its criticisms of the established
order and its refusal to recognise the legitimacy of secular authorities have brought it into conflict with the state.77
This was particularly so under the military governments
of Generals Babangida and Abacha. Between 1981 and
1999, the government arrested El-Zakzaky at least four
times, and he spent nine of those eighteen years in prison.
Confrontation reached a peak in the last years of military
rule. Between 1996 and 1998, a number of conflicts broke
out between supporters demanding his release from prison
and the authorities, leading to several deaths.78

72

Mohammed Dahiru Sulaiman, “Islamic Fundamentalism: The
Shi’a in Katsina”, in Ismaila A. Tsiga and Abdalla U. Adamu (eds.), Islam and the History of Learning in Katsina (Ibadan, Nigeria, 1997), p. 57.
73
Crisis Group interview, Mallam Ibrahim Yinusa, editor, Almizan newspaper, published by the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, Kaduna, June 2009. 74
Crisis Group interview, Mohammed Dahiru Sulaiman, academic, Kano, May 2010. 75
Crisis Group interview, Mallam Ibrahim Yinusa, media editor, Kaduna, May 2010. 76
Crisis Group interviews, journalist, Kaduna, June 2009;
Christian leader (who explained his peaceful interaction with El-Zakzaky’s group), Kaduna, July 2009.
77
Such rejection should not in itself be taken to constitute Islamic radicalism, as Nigerian federal authorities have very often lacked legitimacy, and many of the movement’s criticisms of military rule echoed those of other civil society groups nationwide. 78

For example, on 30 January 1998, security forces in Kaduna
broke up a demonstration demanding his release, killing three

Page 15

In subsequent years conflicts have erupted between Shiites (not necessarily linked to El-Zakzaky) and Sunnis. These have centred around doctrinal disputes and provocative preaching, for example in Sokoto between February and April 2005, when several people were killed in clashes. These incidents soured relations already strained

due to Shiite reluctance to accept the authority of the Sultan of Sokoto. Tensions rose again in 2007, when the murder of two Sunni clerics was blamed on the Shiites,
leading to mob violence. However, many observers say
El-Zakzaky’s preaching no longer has the fiery edge of
earlier years. The impatience of some younger Muslims
with his more sober approach to the quest for an Islamic
state may have contributed to the recent emergence of
more militant anti-establishment movements (discussed
below).79

2. Sharia and hisbah
A prominent scholar has observed: “Until the present day,
politicians of the north, the religious scholars and modern
Muslim intellectuals claim the legacy of Usman dan Fodio for themselves in order to legitimise their political strategies and programs”.80 In that context, debates over
Sharia (which dan Fodio first introduced), and its relationship to customary, colonial or national law, have been a permanent feature of politics in the region for 200 years.
As discussed above, British colonial authorities left in
place many elements of Sharia but gradually reduced its
scope as they introduced common law codes. On the eve
of independence they further limited its scope, and it was
formally excluded from the legal system of independent
Nigeria when the Islamic court of appeal was abolished in
1967. However, aspects of Sharia continued to be used,
as part of “area” or customary law (practised at village level).81 In 1978, the issue again came to the fore, in the
context of drafting a new civilian constitution. Heated
debates focused on using the word “secular” to describe
the state and on the proposed creation of a federal-level

demonstrators. On 17 April, they arrested one of his wives, Hajia Zeinet Ibrahim, in Kaduna, for participating in a demonstration demanding his release. The day after, eight pro-El-Zakzaky demonstrators died in a clash with the police. On 18 September, the police fired on another group of his followers, killing five. 79

On this sectarian violence, Crisis Group interviews, Sunni
cleric, Sokoto, July 2009; see “Shiite, Sunni clash reported in Nigeria”, United Press International, 21 April 2005. The two murdered clerics were Sheikh Adam Ja’afar, April 2007 in
Kano, and Dan-Maishiyya, July 2007 in Sokoto. They were
likely killed because of political in-fighting, not Sunni-Shiite tensions. Crisis Group interviews, Kano, October 2010.
80
Roman Loimeier, op. cit., pp. 3-4.
81
See H B Yusuf, “Managing Muslim-Christian Conflicts in
Northern Nigeria: A Case Study of Kaduna State”, in Islam and Christian Muslim Relations, no. 18 (2007); Christelow, op. cit.

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Page 16

Sharia court of appeal. Eventually the matter was settled
through compromise. The court was not created, and the
new constitution prohibited the adoption of any single religion by the state, but the word “secular” was dropped.82

their own court systems. Obasanjo, avoiding a confrontation with the pro-Sharia states in order not to inflame religious passions, merely called for moderation in Sharia’s application.

The return to civilian rule in 1999 was seen by some in
the far north as a challenge to their authority, by others as an opportunity for religious and cultural renewal. The
loss of power to a Christian southerner was considered a
reversal of political fortunes. The new beginning called
for moral and religious revival. It was in the quest for political legitimacy, as much as for religious purity, that the Zamfara state governor, Ahmed Yerima, started the campaign to restore (or more accurately enlarge) Sharia in 1999. That initiative, however, instantly found wide resonance with many Muslims.83

International debate on Sharia in northern Nigeria has
been distorted by such headline grabbing events as the
sentencing to death by stoning of Amina Lawal for adultery in 2002, though Lawal’s conviction was ultimately overturned on the basis of arguments made within Islamic
law. Such extreme punitive measures are very rare, and
most serious crimes continue to be dealt with by normal
secular law courts. However, Sharia does signify a more
prominent role for religion in public affairs in general and greater policing of “public morals”.

For the clerics, it was an opportunity to restore a religious and moral heritage (and position of social power) suppressed after colonial conquest.84 Common people saw Sharia as an instrument for achieving a just, safe, compassionate and less corrupt society.85 For the political elite, having lost its hold on the federal government, Sharia was

potentially an instrument for regional self-assertion and
putting pressure on President Obasanjo. The Sardauna of
Sokoto was initially sceptical but did not want to be seen
as obstructive. Thus the Zamfara government’s lead had a
bandwagon effect on other states, whose governors followed with varying degrees of enthusiasm.86 The federal government declared Sharia incompatible
with the constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion,
but the far northern governors argued that the same constitution vested in states concurrent powers to establish 82

The issue, which seems to come up at points of political transition (or hoped-for transition) was raised again the 1980s, but with no significant change. See Falola, op. cit., pp. 77-93. 83
For an early view, see Murray Last, “La charia dans le NordNigeria”, in Politique Africaine, no. 79, 2000. He pointed out that many ordinary people saw parallels between the 1999 extension of Sharia and the lost glory of the caliphate era. 84

Crisis Group interview, Imam Mohammed Sani Isa, Kaduna,
12 June 2009. See also Wakili, op. cit.
85
Crisis Group Interview, Aminu Mohammed Dukku, lecturer,
sociology department, Bayero University, Kano. 23 June 2009. Several Crisis Group interlocutors stressed that they saw Sharia as a response to social immorality and associated low-level
criminality.
86
On Sharia’s relations to democracy, the Kano state governor, Ibrahim Shekarau, said, “implementation of Sharia has always been the major aspiration of the Muslim electorate in all the Muslim majority states[,] and ... democracy is all about responding to the yearnings of the electorate”. See Shekarau, “The Implementation of Sharia in a Democracy: The Nigerian Experience”, keynote address, International Conference on the Implementation of Sharia in Democracy: The Nigerian Experience, Abuja, July 2004.

The views of the north’s non-Muslims vary. Initially the
issue strained the already fragile relations between Christians and Muslims, culminating in riots in Kaduna and Kano in 2000. In many areas, minority Christian populations still consider Sharia restrictive of their rights (in terms, for example, of public music and alcohol consumption), and fears remain that Christians may be subjected to it against their will. However, over the years, attitudes have calmed, as state governments have been restrained

in applying the harsher punishments. The exact effect of
Sharia on non-Muslims varies across the region, as it has
not been widely applied in some states. Where it has,
Christians tend to be free to drink alcohol if they do so in private, and to use secular courts if they wish. In many
cases, authorities have made efforts to underline the common benefits that may derive from Sharia (especially as many people, including Christians, have little faith in the
state’s justice system) and to build bridges with Christian communities.87
In some states, implementation of Sharia has been driven
by hisbah (Islamic law enforcement) organisations. These
uniformed enforcement groups, composed mainly of locally-recruited young men, have been most active in Kano and Zamfara states, much less so elsewhere. Their role is
to ensure observance of Sharia and report breaches to the
police. In some respects, their introduction follows a similar logic to the emergence of vigilante groups or nonofficial security providers in other parts of the country, namely the deep public distrust of the federal police and a

desire to seek other means of justice.

87

Crisis Group interviews, head of the Supreme Council of
Sharia in Nigeria, Kaduna, June 2009; Christian leader, Kaduna July 2009. One person pointed out that, in Kano, Christians
tend to accept Sharia because they know they are in a small minority, while this is not the case in Kaduna, for example. Crisis Group interview, community activist, Kano, October 2010. On
this issue, see Phillip Ostien, op. cit.; and H B Yusuf, op. cit., for a range of Christian views.

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The hisbah groups operate with the consent and support
of state governments, although the exact nature of that
support, as well as mechanisms for accountability, vary
from one state to another.88 In some, the government pays
a small salary and provides uniforms, vehicles and offices
at both the state capital and local levels. In others they are less organised and unpaid. Kano has the most developed
organisation, due to the push of Governor Shekarau. It
has 9,000 members (most paid a small stipend), an active
censorship board and committees to look at public morality issues. In some states, new members undergo a training program with a brief outline of their duties and the limits of their powers.
Introduction of the hisbah has raised controversies. In
February 2006, the federal government accused the Kano
state government of seeking foreign funding to turn it into
a parallel police force. Kano hisbah officials rejected that accusation and maintain that “there is a distinction between hisbah and the police. Hisbah preaches, while the police do not. Hisbah apprehends offenders, hands them

over to the police, but does not prosecute, because it is
not empowered to do so”.89 However, as the Nigeria Police Force is the only police force permitted under the federal constitution, there have been tensions and occasional clashes between it and hisbah groups. In the early years of operation, there were reports of hisbah violence, as operatives sometimes assaulted women they judged to be inappropriately dressed, destroyed alcohol merchants’ shops and dealt severe punishment on anyone alleged to have insulted Islam. However, there

were no reports of extrajudicial killings. With time, both
the enthusiasm and the human rights abuses of the early
years have declined. Controversies have centred on more
prosaic issues, such as whether men and women can mix
in public transport. The Kano hisbah tried to stop this
(following a state law banning women from riding motorbike taxis), but failed to consider that people are forced to share transport due to cost. The state government has
since introduced rickshaw motorbikes, so that male drivers can transport female passengers, but, in reality, the Sharia restrictions have been quietly dropped.90

Page 17

Hisbah operatives are now most likely to describe their
work in terms of social mediation. They encourage (or
impose) out-of-court settlement of land, marriage and inheritance disputes and facilitate reconciliation of family issues. In this way, they have reduced the need for local
people to resort to the police and the courts to settle disputes. They encourage forgiveness and reconciliation, based on Islamic principles, assist the Nigeria Police Force, even serving as traffic wardens, help regulate markets and

aid in the Hajj. In some cases, they have the authority to
make arrests, but they generally relinquish suspects to the
police (who may then bring the suspect before a Sharia
court). Hisbah officials consider the flexibility of this approach, and Sharia’s openness to forgiveness and financial restitution to victims to be advantages. While some locals and observers may object to such moral policing, it

has undoubtedly achieved some success at this level.
However, there are several critical voices of Sharia and
the hisbah from within the Islamic community. The initial
expectations that Sharia would curb corruption in government, enhance socio-economic welfare, reduce grassrootslevel crime and ensure more efficient dispensation of justice have not been realised. Crime statistics in Nigeria are very unreliable, but there is little evidence that Sharia has reduced overall criminality in the twelve Sharia states.

Equally, Sharia has done little to stem corruption in government.91 There are muted but continuing protests that Sharia’s punitive provisions are applied only to the poor. Some take the position that Sharia was implemented without the

necessary moral education being in place. The Federation
of Muslim Women’s Associations in Nigeria expressed
early concern that the criminal aspects of Sharia were being carried out, while the injunctions to create a more just society were being ignored.92 However, despite the shortcomings, many see these very discussions as part of what

91

88

Analysis of the hisbah is based on Crisis Group interviews,
members of hisbah boards and ordinary hisbah officials, Kano and Kaduna, May and October 2010; academic, Kano, October
2010; head of the Supreme Council of Sharia in Nigeria, Kaduna, June 2009. See also O’Brien, op. cit.; and Fatima L. Adamu, “Gender, Hisba and the Enforcement of Morality in
Northern Nigeria”, Africa, no. 78 (2008).
89
Crisis Group interview, Dr Saidu Ahmed Dukawa, director
general of hisbah in Kano State, May 2010.
90
Similar tensions occurred in Gusau, in Zamfara; see Murray
Last, op. cit. (2000).

In Kano state, a probe instituted by the government in December 2004 indicted the former governor, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, and ordered him to refund almost a billion naira
(about $6.6 million). Similarly, in November 2009, a commission of inquiry ordered the former governor of Bauchi state, Adamu Mu’azu, to refund naira 1.6 billion (about $10.3 million), which he allegedly misappropriated. See “Ex-governor, others to refund N18bn”, The Nation, 13 November 2009. The former governors of Jigawa state, Saminu Turaki, and Sokoto

state, Attahiru Bafarawa, are being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on charges of corruption involving N36 billion ($240 million) and N15 billion ($100 million), respectively. Figures made available to Crisis Group by legal department of EFCC, Abuja, May 2010.

92
In H B Yusuf, op. cit., p. 251.

Northern Nigeria: Background to Conflict
Crisis Group Africa Report N°168, 20 December 2010

Sharia has brought and consider that it has stimulated
much debate over the rule of law and equality.93
The uneven extension of Sharia and the hisbah and the
fluctuations in their popularity need to be seen as part of
widespread popular dissatisfaction with the Nigerian state
and with general moral decline, as well as of the search for solutions within religious canon. In this sense, Sharia can
be understood as an extension of other less prominent forms
of civilian protest – for example, the Islamic anti-corruption organisation the Muslim League for Accountability.94
The introduction of Sharia and the activities of the hisbah
have raised the question of women’s rights in the region.95 At one level, it is clear that Sharia does not treat men and women equally and that the intrusion of the hisbah into
family matters gives religion a very prominent role in settling disputes that may sit uncomfortably with notions of legal and other forms of equality. Many involved in elaborating Sharia strongly object to women playing a prominent role in public life, and the region has few elected female politicians.96 Many in the south and abroad, and

some in the region, object to this attitude. However, most
Crisis Group interlocutors, including women working in
human rights areas, offered a more nuanced view. For them,
women’s rights can be pursued and developed within the
Islamic canon, by challenging narrow interpretations and
drawing on the diversity of Islamic traditions. A number
of NGOs have been set up to forward this agenda. Although this attitude is largely limited to those with resources and education, it points to emerging possibilities for seeking gender equity within a Sharia context.97

93

See O’Brien, op. cit.; Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, “Politics and Sharia in Northern Nigeria”, in Benjamin Soares and Rene
Otayek (eds.), Islam and Muslim Politics in Africa (New York, 2007).
94
This small organisation campaigns for better use of public
resources, for election campaigns to be run on issues rather than religious or ethnic lines and for women to exercise their right to vote. Crisis Group interview, head of the Muslim League for
Accountability, Kaduna, August 2009.
95
Hisbah groups frequently include women (around 1,500 of
Kano’s 9,000-strong corps or 17 per cent), who tend to limit their policing to family matters.
96
There are four elected politicians at federal level from the twelve Sharia states: three in the House of Representatives
(from Kaduna, Kebbi and Yobe states) and one in the Senate,
(from Niger state). This is out of a total of 26 women in the 365-strong House of Representatives and eight women in the
108-strong Senate. (The Sharia states constitute around a third of the country’s population.)
97
Crisis Group interview, prominent women’s rights activist, Kano, October 2010. See also Adamu, op. cit.; M. Sani Umar,
“Gender Issues in Application of Islamic Law in Nigeria”, AlJami’ah, vol. 45, 2007.

Page 18

3. The radical fringe
At around the same time as the emergence of the Izala
movement, a smaller, far more radical group emerged. A
young preacher from northern Cameroon, commonly
known as Marwa, started gathering a significant following in Kano, much to the consternation of the city’s established religious elite. He presented himself as an epochal liberator and took an aggressive stance against Western

influence, refusing to accept the legitimacy of secular authorities. As the ranks of his followers swelled during the 1970s with unemployed urban youth, relations with the
police deteriorated, and the group became increasingly
ready to use violence. In December 1980 a confrontation
with police at an open-air rally sparked massive rioting,
causing destructive chaos in Kano for several weeks,
leaving many hundred dead and spreading to other states.
Despite Marwa’s death in the initial riots, pockets of violence continued for several years.98 Marwa’s movement, the Maitatsine, was for some time
seen as a one-off, variously interpreted as a revolution of
the underclass or a reoccurrence of Mahdist-type millenarian Islam. However, in the early 2000s, a similar group emerged in north-eastern Nigeria. Generally referred to as
the “Nigerian Taliban”, it also rejected all secular authority. Over time, its position hardened, until it entered into a seemingly inevitable clash with the police in Borno state,
in 2004, resulting in dozens of deaths.
The group then re-emerged, this time commonly known
as Boko Haram (“Western Education is Forbidden”).99
Centred around the radical young preacher Mohammed
Yusuf, it gradually built support among unemployed youth
in Maiduguri, the state capital. In a strikingly similar way to the Maitatsine, its relations with the police deteriorated, and it took an increasingly violent and radical stance
against all secular authorities. The seemingly inevitable
(and for the group prepared) clash took place in July
2009, leaving hundreds dead in Maiduguri. Despite Yusuf’s death at the hands of the security forces, the group has since re-formed. In September 2010, it conducted a
spectacular prison break in Bauchi, freeing over 700 prisoners, including 150 of its members. It is currently behind a series of targeted killings in Maiduguri.
As with the Maitatsine, interpretations of the motivations
and worldview of the Boko Haram movement differ. Some,
including members of the sect, point to disgust with the
corruption of secular authorities. Others see its violent rejectionist ideology as coming from a religiously informed

98

See Falola, op. cit., pp. 137-162.
Details of the Taliban and Boko Haram movements are drawn
from extensive Crisis Group fieldwork in 2009-2010. For further detail see Appendix E below. 99

Northern Nigeria: Background to Conflict
Crisis Group Africa Report N°168, 20 December 2010

world view.100 While the comparison with the Maitatsine
is persuasive in many respects, the Boko Haram has
emerged at a different historical point, and it is clear that it draws considerable inspiration from al-Qaeda, with
which it has concrete links.101 Several individuals have,
since 2006, been charged by the Nigerian state with having links to international terrorist organisations and having received training from the North African and Sahelian
branch of al-Qaeda, though to date no convictions appear
to have resulted from these cases.102
As with many jihadi movements, Boko Haram needs to
be understood in both its Nigerian and international aspects. Links with al-Qaeda may provide the means to sustain the group for far longer than the Maitatsine. The highly violent reaction of the security forces in 2009, the

group’s ability to find refuge in both urban centres in Nigeria and bordering countries and indications of evolving tactics all point to a serious and persistent problem.
The attempted bombing of a passenger jet in the U.S. in
December 2009 by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a young
man from a rich family in Kaduna, again focused attention on this extreme radical fringe. However, it would be mistaken to draw too direct parallels between this case
and the more long-standing problem of radical rejectionism in the north. Although some see the anti-Western discourse common in northern Nigeria as a contributory factor in his radicalisation, Abdulmutallab was radicalised principally in Yemen and appears to fit the profile of

100

Crisis Group interviews, two religious affairs specialists,
Kano, October 2010.
101
Crisis Group interviews, security specialists, Abuja and
Europe, September and October 2010.
102
In 2006, the government charged Mallam Mohamed Ashafa,
alleged leader of an organisation called al-Qaeda Network, with five counts of receiving and distributing funds for terrorist activities in the country. The case was adjourned several times until March 2008, when the court granted Ashafa bail on medical grounds. On 16 January 2007, Mohammed Bello Ilyas Damagun, director of the Abuja-based Media Trust Limited,

was charged on three counts of receiving funds from al-Qaeda, and collaborating with the Nigerian Taliban for terrorist purposes. The charges also alleged that Damagun had sent fourteen young men for terrorist and other combat training at a camp in Mauritania, run by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

In December 2006, Mohamed Yusuf, who subsequently emerged
as the leader of Boko Haram, was arraigned on a five-count
charge of maintaining ties with, and receiving funds from, extremists known to be al-Qaeda agents in Pakistan; he was freed on bail and the charges subsequently dropped. Also, in November 2007, the authorities arraigned five Islamist militants with suspected links to al-Qaeda in an Abuja court, charging them with plotting attacks on government establishments and U.S.

interests in the country. Three of them were also charged with training with a terrorist organisation in Algeria between 2005 and August 2007.

Page 19

young men who drift into violent extremism during long
periods away from their area of origin. No links are known
between Abdulmatallab and Boko Haram.

Northern Nigeria: Background to Conflict
Crisis Group Africa Report N°168, 20 December 2010

V. CONFLICT DYNAMICS AND
POLICY RESPONSES
A. DYNAMICS OF CONFLICTS
Northern Nigeria is a vast area with millions of people of
various backgrounds living alongside each other, in a
country with a poor record of managing community relations. In many ways the absence of sustained conflict in the area is remarkable. Many social mechanisms exist to
defuse or manage conflicts, including between religious
groups. Crisis Group gathered many accounts of consultations and joint calls for tolerance on the part of Christian and Muslim leaders. A specific example was the swift reaction by some Christian leaders to distance themselves from the provocative Danish cartoons of the Prophet in

2005, a move that may have helped avoid much communal violence.103 Nevertheless, conflict does flare up, and escalate, in various locations and under specific conditions. Understanding exactly how is important in order to better deal with the risks.

1. Patterns, actors, instruments
For the first two decades after independence, tensions and
conflicts between the diverse religious groups in the region were often managed and resolved peacefully, rarely degenerating into major violence. In Kano, for instance,
only three of eleven incidents of large-scale violence recorded between 1953 and 2004 occurred during the first half of that period.104 Such trouble has become recurrent
only since the Maitatsine riots of 1980.
Conflicts between Muslims and Christians, or between
ethnic groups strongly marked as either one or the other,
have been the “most violent instances of inter-group crisis in Nigeria”.105 Such violence is, of course, a major feature of the country’s “middle belt”, and especially Jos. In the region under consideration in this report, it has occurred

more frequently in the central zone, at the convergence of
Hausa-Fulani Muslims and non-Muslim groups, and almost entirely in urban centres (especially Kaduna, but also Kano and Bauchi) with large migrant populations.106 The

Page 20

area around Kaduna has been described as a “dangerous
convergence of religious and ethnic fears and animosities
… [in which it] is often difficult to differentiate between religious and ethnic conflicts, as the dividing line between the two is very thin”.107 This convergence involves several tensions and pressures, historical and contemporary, including some clashes over religious “truths” and practices, but also over such issues as citizenship, group and individual

rights and communal distribution of public resources.
The second dimension involves confrontations within the
Islamic fold. An early manifestation of this was the conflict between the Izala movement and the Sufi brotherhoods in the 1980s. The more recurrent manifestation of intra-Muslim violence has been the clashes between Sunnis and Shiites, especially in Sokoto state and Zaria, since the mid-1990s. The third major dimension of conflicts in

the region is the revolt against the secular state and even
orthodox religious authorities by radical, anti-establishment groups such as the “Nigerian Taliban” and Boko Haram. Intra-Muslim and anti-establishment conflicts tend
to occur more frequently in areas more homogeneously
Muslim, notably Sokoto, Kano and Maiduguri.
The major perpetrators of the violence have been young
men, of whom current or former Almajirai constitute a major category; but even the employed or under-employed, such as commercial motorcycle operators, have been frequently involved in mass violence. In addition, violence has frequently started between students on university campuses, as in Kaduna in the 1980s.108 Sparks for violence often come from disputes over preaching or the locations

of religious buildings. It is then sustained by group mentalities, which give cover for perpetrators and opportunities for leadership. The mass media has also contributed: sensational newspaper headlines have provoked or aggravated violence on several occasions. The circulation of rumour, whether

through media or more informally, frequently serves to
spread and sustain violence. A notable example occurred
on the eve of Nigeria’s hosting of the Miss World beauty
pageant in November 2002, when Thisday made what were
considered insulting remarks linking the Prophet Mohammed to the event. Over 200 people were killed in subsequent rioting in Kaduna. In other cases, the media have

103

Crisis Group interviews, Yoruba community leader, Damaturu, August 2009; Christian leader, Kaduna, July 2009; academic, Zaria, July 2009; politician, Kano, July 2009. 104
Haruna Wakili, “Youth and Rioting in Kano, 1991-2004”,
Faculty of Arts and Islamic Studies, Bayero University, Kano, Journal of Humanities, vol. 3, no. 3 (2005), p. 45.
105
Eghosa E. Osaghae and Rotimi T. Suberu, A History of Identities, Violence, and Stability in Nigeria, Centre for Research on Inequality, Human Security and Ethnicity, Oxford University, Working Paper, 6 January 2005, p. 19.

106
Major instances include the Kafanchan-Kaduna crises (1987
and 1999), Zangon-Kataf riots (1992), Tafawa Balewa clashes

(1991, 1995 and 2001), Kaduna Sharia riots (2000) and the
Miss World riots, Kaduna (2002). See Shehu Sani, The Killing Fields, Religious Violence in Northern Nigeria (Ibadan, 2007). 107
“Nigeria: Continuing Dialogue(s) for Nation Building?”, International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA), Stockholm, 2000, p. 296.
108
See Ibrahim Mu’azzam and Jibrin Ibrahim, in Attahiru Jega
(ed.), op. cit.

Northern Nigeria: Background to Conflict
Crisis Group Africa Report N°168, 20 December 2010

carried outright hate speech directed at religious groups.109 Traditionally, communications in preparation for violence
have originated from Friday mosque services or been
passed around the neighbourhoods involved. More recently, with the introduction of cell phones, SMS text messages have become a significant means of disseminating information, for both mobilisation and resistance.110 The conflicts are waged largely with machetes, swords,

spears, bows and arrows, iron rods and incendiary or inflammable material for setting property ablaze. More recently, guns have come increasingly into use, but this
is still under-reported by the mass media, which often
assumes that all gun-related deaths result from police
“shoot on sight” orders.111 Assailants consistently focus on the places of worship and business premises of the
opposing group. Thus, churches, mosques, shops, warehouses and hotels have been most frequently targeted. The choice is intended not only to destroy the buildings
but also to deliver an unambiguous message about “who
owns the land”.112
Those directly involved in mob violence are largely underemployed young men. However, the role of ringleaders and sponsors is relatively poorly understood. In some instances, violence erupts after months of divisive discourse around mosques and churches. In other cases, it is more

carefully planned, including by political sponsors. Targeted killings that appear to have both religious and political
motivations have also occurred in recent years, including
the murders of the two prominent imams in 2007.113

2. Factors fuelling the conflicts
Many observers have attributed conflicts in the far north
to religious differences. Such differences, intolerance or
even hatred are important; religion provides a simple instrument for stereotyping and demonising opponents, and exhortations to violence acquire greater potency once
framed in religious terms. Religion provides a legitimising framework for violence that would otherwise be considered unacceptable.114 Given the desire of some to im-

Page 21

pose their faith on others or to fight any perceived imposition or discrimination, each group reacts to actions by the other with suspicions of hidden agendas and a sense
of insecurity. For instance, while most Muslims regard
Sharia as a legitimate application of their religious faith
to their daily lives, many Christians read it as part of a
plan to transform Nigeria into an Islamic state, in which
they would be reduced to second-class status, with consequences, for example, concerning access to land to build churches.115
As has been noted, doctrinal debates between Islamic
groups have sometimes degenerated into violence. The conflicts and clashes between the Izala and the Sufi brotherhoods in the 1980s were directly the result of doctrinal disputes. Similarly, the Maitatsine uprising in 1980 was

essentially a conflict within Islam. It is common to hear,
when discussing such conflict in the region, that the main
cause is “ignorance” – of the peaceful precepts of different faiths, of the culture of a different community and so forth. It is widely believed, therefore, that better education, including religious and moral education, would reduce the number of people who can be manipulated to take part in violence.116

Others argue that religion is a cover for or a surface aspect of deeper antagonisms and that the factors causing and driving the conflicts transcend it to include a complex
mix of history, political, economic, ethnic and other factors. It is a common refrain in discussing conflicts in the region that apparently religious tensions are in fact political, whether due to the restriction of political freedoms under military rule or the scheming of politicians since

1999. People feel that politicians are responsible for violence, either by using gangs of young men for political thuggery or by stirring up trouble in order to seek a payoff from federal authorities. The following is a typical view: “These elite only raise

their voices when they lose out in the game of sharing
power and resources among themselves. During President

115

109

See A. Bashir, “Religious Intolerance, Harmony and Nation
Building”, in E.T. Jolayemi et al. (eds.), Leading Issues in General Studies, Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Ilorin, Nigeria (2002); Falola, op. cit., chapter 9.
110
Crisis Group interview, Ibrahim Yusuf, mass communication
department, University of Maiduguri, Maiduguri, 23 May 2010. 111
Ime A. John, Aminu Z. Mohammed, Andrew D. Pinto and
Celestine A. Nkanta, “Gun Violence in Nigeria: A Focus on
Ethno-Religious Conflict in Kano”, Journal of Public Health Policy, no. 28 (2007).
112
Crisis Group interview, Aminu Z. Mohammed, businessman
whose hotel was burnt down during the Kaduna riots, 2000.
113
On the killing of the imams, see Section IV.B.1 above.
114
Falola, op. cit., Epilogue.

There is an enormous amount of literature in Nigeria in
which one side of the Christian-Muslim divide offers its views on the other. Much but not all of it is polemical. Many texts sit somewhere between the two, combining a stated desire to build better dialogue with elements of abuse or intolerance. A fairly moderate view can be found in Joseph Kenny, “The Challenge of Islam in Nigeria”, West African Journal of Ecclesial Studies, no. 4 (1992), available at www.diafrica.org.

116
The comments of an NGO leader in Kaduna are typical:
“The main cause of conflict is ignorance from both secular and religious perspectives. It is better to understand your differences and to manage them rather than to pretend that differences do not exist or try to suppress others who are different. You can understand your differences only through education”. Crisis Group interview, July 2009.

Northern Nigeria: Background to Conflict
Crisis Group Africa Report N°168, 20 December 2010

Obasanjo’s regime, if a northerner was sent packing from
government, he quickly rushed home to hoodwink and
manipulate youths to stage an armed conflict so that he
could negotiate for yet another position in government”.117 An interlocutor argued that his state governor was creating trouble in order to shift public resources into a “security fund” so he did not have to account for their use.118 Tensions and conflicts stirred up by politicians often take

on religious or associated ethnic dimensions simply because these are society’s most visible lines of division.119 It is also important to consider not only the factors leading to conflict, but also those that contribute to escalation or continuation. These include irresponsible media reporting,120 defensive and fearful attitudes towards other communities and the use of religious or ethnic conflict as a cover for criminality and looting. In addition, there is a

reprisal cycle between communities, often in reaction to
news of killings elsewhere.121 Equally, the cycle of violence is maintained by the failure of authorities to implement necessary measures, including providing promised compensation to victims.
Some scholars have noted underlying tensions within
Hausa-Fulani society, for example over control of land
and taxes.122 These are difficult to identify, given the reluctance of that community to expose any divisions to the outside world, but it is reasonable to suppose that they may be a contributing factor in the radicalisation of some youth, who feel marginalised within Hausa-Fulani society.

There are also long-running animosities between the dominant Hausa-Fulani and numerous minority groups. Grievances date back to slave raids under the Sokoto Caliphate, colonial indirect rule and continuing perceptions of marginalisation among Christian minorities, exacerbated by an intensification of ethno-religious consciousness and

117

Crisis Group interview, political activist, Kano, July 2009. Crisis Group interview, NGO leader, Kaduna, June 2009.
119
Murray Last pointed out that churches and mosques may be
easy targets for anger, even if that anger is not fundamentally about religious practice, “Muslims and Christians in Nigeria: An Economy of Political Panic”, The Round Table, October
2007.
120
In some cases, ignorance of events elsewhere that carries
many dangers of escalation is due not to poor media reporting but to its absence. A community leader described how during
the violence instigated by the “Taliban” group in Yobe in 2004, his area was without electricity and therefore without television news for three months. Crisis Group interview, Damaturu, July 2009.

121
Crisis Group interviews, academic, Zaria, July 2009; riot
victim, Kaduna, June 2009.
122
See Pierce, op. cit.
118

Page 22

identity in Nigeria since the late 1970s.123 These tensions
have also been influenced by uneven policies of predominantly Muslim state and local authorities, some of which Christian minorities consider as discriminatory. State bias
in favour of the majority may have emboldened Muslim
youths to engage in acts of violence without fear of state
sanctions124 and driven minorities to disregard the rule of
law and judicial institutions that they consider biased
against them.
Environmental, demographic and economic factors also
underlie these conflicts. The Sahelian drought of the
1970s-1980s and subsequent desertification have diminished grazing lands, ruined pastoral livelihoods and aggravated food and other insecurities, displacing many from the far north and from neighbouring countries such as

Chad and Niger into a precarious existence in urban slums.
These processes, accompanied by economic crisis since
the 1980s, have swollen urban populations. Kano’s, estimated at 261,000 in 1964, was 3.6 million in 2009, a fourteen-fold increase over 45 years.125 This predominantly poor and youthful population is prone to lawlessness and violence. Politics and religion have always been inextricably linked

in the north, and recent political developments have affected religious coexistence. The expansion of the country’s political structure from three regions in 1960 to 36 states in 1996 undermined regionalism and reconfigured

state-level coalitions. The smaller, predominantly Christian, ethnic groups began emerging as more significant political actors within their states. Threatened by this development, the ruling classes in the region began to explore new strategies for retaining their influence and control. In the far north, they fell back increasingly on religion “as a tool to forge a new hegemonic coalition”, and it became a major instrument for mobilising constituencies,

sometimes violently.126
Growing disillusionment, especially among Muslim youth,
with the “deception” and “insincerity”127 that have characterised implementation of Sharia is also feeding into conflicts. Sharia was meant to herald a corruption-free and

123

A. R. Mustapha, “Ethnicity and Democratisation in Nigeria: A Case Study of Zangon Kataf”, Mimeo, 1994.
124
Crisis Group interviews, several Christian leaders, JuneAugust 2009. 125
Taken from B.A.W Trevallion, “Metropolitan Kano: Report
of the Twenty-Year Development Plan, 1963-1983”, Greater
Kano Planning Authority, 1966 and 2006 Census, National
Population Commission, Abuja.
126
Jibrin Ibrahim, “The Politics of Religion in Nigeria: The Parameters of the 1987 Crisis in Kaduna State”, Review of African Political Economy (1989), p. 81.
127
Crisis Group interviews, Muslim youth leaders, Kaduna,
Kano and Zaria, July 2009.

Northern Nigeria: Background to Conflict
Crisis Group Africa Report N°168, 20 December 2010

more compassionate state, but many in the region now
believe that the political establishment has become even
more corrupt and uncaring than it was during the earlier
era. Many youths conclude that the promises of Sharia
will never be truly realised until it is implemented by religious rather than political authorities – in other words, after the installation of an Islamic state. This frequently
leads them into conflict with established authorities.
External support to local religious organisations, seeking
the allegiance of Africa’s largest Muslim and largest
Christian communities, has intensified Christian-Muslim
rivalries. Christian missions in the U.S. have invested
considerably in evangelical work in Nigeria, including the
far north. While leading U.S. evangelists have not recently been allowed to conduct revival programs there, they have offered training to local missionaries and sponsored the establishment of new churches. Saudi Arabia, Sudan, other Arab states and Iran, along with Islamic

charities based in those countries,128 have also contributed substantial resources for propagating Islam in the region,
or sometimes for empowering particular sects. The vast
majority of this money is intended for normal charitable
work or to cement the ties of Islamic brotherhood. However, its use is poorly monitored, and some has clearly found its way to people who preach division and intolerance. Some in the region are suspected of fostering and exaggerating differences between sects in order to keep

international funds flowing.
The prominent Hausa-language Islamist magazine Sakon
Islam is sponsored by Muslim organisations in Iran.129
After the 1979 revolution, that country’s Shiite leadership sponsored many members of MSS, including El-Zakzaky,
to travel there for religious training and offered the organisation financial support.130 In 1987, the Saudi government awarded the King Faisal International Prize to Gumi for
his “services to Islam”.131
Actual links with international networks that propagate
violence on the basis of religion are likely to be very few, and their importance is often exaggerated in both the southern Nigerian and international media. But international links and expressions of solidarity with groups engaged in

conflicts elsewhere do fan the flames and are used by ex128

Funding organisations have included the Muslim World
League, World Assembly of Muslim Youth, International Islamic Relief Organisation, al-Haramain Islamic Foundation and al-Muntada al-Islami, a London-based agency associated with
the official Saudi state charity and daawa (religious mission) institutions.
129
Crisis Group interview, Muslim leader, Kaduna, July 2009.
130
John Paden, “Islam and Democratic Federalism in Nigeria”, Africa Notes, Center for Strategic and International Studies, March 2002, no. 8, p. 4.
131
Loimeier, op. cit., p. 156.

Page 23

tremists to mobilise support. In the wake of the January
2010 clashes around Jos, the West African branch of alQaeda (AQIM), offered training and arms to Nigerian Muslims to help them fight the enemy.132
As discussed above, disillusionment with the implementation of Sharia is widespread. This has strengthened the lure of Islamic revolution, further encouraged by the influence of more radical Islamist doctrines from the Middle East. These had been gaining ground since the Iranian revolution but have attracted an even greater following

since the U.S. government’s “war on terror”. In spite of the fact that Nigeria has been governed for most of its
history by Muslims, many view it as aligned to the Western world and unable to advance Islamic interests.133 For them, the government represents jahiliyya (ignorance)
that will never allow for an Islamic state and therefore
should be fought in the same way that Usman dan Fodio
waged the jihad against the Hausa kings. This sentiment
is contributing significantly to the emergence of antiestablishment groups inclined to violence.134

B. RESPONSES AND POLICY OPTIONS
Communal or religiously-motivated violence in the far
north has to some degree abated in the last ten years.135 The possible causes for this vary from place to place. Peacebuilding strategies of state governors and civil society groups have likely played a role. It is also possible that

the return to civilian rule and a very imperfect form of
democracy led political and religious actors to use violence in an early game of positioning that has settled over time.
However, there are clearly on-going risks. These span the
range of different conflict types identified in this report. Few of the underlying causes described in the preceding
section have been properly or lastingly dealt with. At a
minimum, the region faces the prospect of periodic outbursts of violence. If the situation were to deteriorate significantly, especially on Muslim-Christian lines, it could further undermine Nigeria’s fragile nation-building project, particularly to the extent that events in the north are

132

See “AQIM Offers To Train And Arm Nigerian Muslims:
SITE”, RTTnews online, 3 February 2010.
133
Crisis Group focus group discussions, Muslim youth leaders,
Kaduna, June 2009.
134
Crisis Group interview, Ismaila Mohammed, history department, Usman Dan Fodiyo University, Sokoto, May 2010. 135
This is certainly not the case as regards the Jos area, which is outside the scope of this report, but whose volatility, pitting “indigenous” Christian ethnic groups against nomadic or “settler” Islamic groups, shares many features of violence in Kaduna state between 2000 and 2002.

Northern Nigeria: Background to Conflict
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Page 24

read in the south as having a direct negative impact on
relations between the country’s communities.136

group and dealing with planning issues for new mosques
and churches.138

1. A limited policy response

These bodies are complemented by a range of civil society
and faith-based initiatives. The Kaduna Peace declaration
of 2002 is a prominent example. Signed by 22 prominent
religious leaders, it denounced communal violence and
endorsed sanctions against those who create trouble. A
more permanent body that has gained a degree of national
and international prominence is the Interfaith Mediation
Centre (IMC), also in Kaduna. It was founded by James
Wuye, a Pentecostal pastor, and Muhammad Ashafa, an
imam, who once led opposing community militias but
reconciled and now work together for peace.139 It aims to
re-establish relationships damaged by violence, minimise
the likelihood of reoccurrence and organise projects that
involve both Christians and Muslims, such as cultural
events and workshops.

The public policy responses used to counter violence in
the region can be grouped into two categories: community-level initiatives and security and legal responses. At the community level, a series of bodies exist to further
dialogue, both between Muslims and between Muslims
and Christians. In the former case, the main bodies are the
NSCIA and the linked JNI. They provide a forum for
leaders of the main doctrinal groups to meet and iron out
differences. Some of their leaders have played an important role in defusing violence. The NSCIA, for example, recently reconstituted a committee for dialogue between
Sufi and Izala groups.
At the level of Muslim-Christian relations, various bodies
have been set up over the years, but many have floundered, unable to overcome religious polarisation. For example, President Babangida established the National Advisory Council on Religious Affairs (NACRA) in 1987, but it was so divided that it never even appointed a chair.

A new body was set up at the end of military rule in 1999,
the Nigerian Inter-Religious Council (NIREC), with 50
members, evenly comprised of Christian and Muslims. Its
stated aims are to serve as a “permanent and sustainable
channel of communication and interaction ... between
Christians and Muslims in Nigeria” and to “create fora
and channels for peaceful resolution of any friction or
misunderstanding that may arise from time to time”.137
In the north, all twelve Sharia states have a minister for
religious affairs, tasked with community relations, and
other bodies such as licensing panels for imams and preachers. In conjunction with the Corporate Affairs Commission in the federal capital, Abuja, they are tasked with regulating religious life, including registering religious

136

Reacting to the 2000 violence in Kaduna, the governors of
the five south-eastern states (Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu
and Imo) jointly warned that “any further attack on easterners (in the north) will compel us to reassess our faith in the continued existence of Nigeria as a corporate entity”, New Nigerian, Kaduna, 3 February 2002, p. 1. More recently, Ralph Uwazuruike, leader of the separatist Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), has threatened

that “as security is not guaranteed (for southerners in northern Nigeria), there must be Biafra”. “There’ll be no peace until Nigeria Divides”, Nigerian Newsworld, Abuja, 15 September 2008, p. 47. See Falola, op. cit., Epilogue, for a more detailed discussion of the problems of religion and national identity in Nigeria.

137
“Constitution of the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council”, 19 September 2001.

These prominent examples are among inter-faith initiatives in the region far too numerous to mention in detail. Although many are recent, they can be understood in light
of the older “tolerance” doctrine for managing communal
relations, according to which patient dialogue and greater
knowledge of the other side’s point of view will translate into more peaceful cohabitation. This doctrine has been
very popular with the country’s leaders, military and civilian alike. However, it has clear limits. In particular, strongly-held religious and identity beliefs are often impervious to calls for tolerance. The risk, therefore, is that the civil society and inter-faith bodies become talking

shops for like-minded people, creating what one analyst
called an “economy” of self-serving civil society initiatives.140 There is also the risk that some of these bodies become detached from the reality on the ground.141

138

Crisis Group interview, Alhaji Musa Muhammed, public relations officer, Yobe State Islamic Centre, Damaturu, Yobe state, August 2009.
139
A documentary film, “The Imam and the Pastor”, highlights the partnership between the two men and their communities
and has been shown in many inter-faith forums in Nigeria. See Bunmi Akpata-Ohohe, “The Imam and the Pastor”, Africa Today, 29 December 2006; also, “A Documentary from the Heart of Nigeria”, FLTfilms.org.uk.

140
Murray Last, op. cit. (2007). For the history of the “tolerance doctrine”, see Falola op. cit., chapter 10.
141
The following criticism was made by Bilikisu Yusuf, the director of the Federation of Muslim Women’s Association of Nigeria (FOMWAN): “The group [NSCIA] is ... not as effective as they ought to be .... All they do is just meet and discuss the sighting of the moon for the month of Ramadan and the start of Eid el-Fitr, and when to break your fast ... that is about it”. In discussion with Thomas Bohnett during the World Faiths Development Dialogue/United States Institute of Peace Berkley Center Symposium on Women, Religion and Peace, 8 July 2010.

Northern Nigeria: Background to Conflict
Crisis Group Africa Report N°168, 20 December 2010

It should finally be noted that many community-level initiatives are framed in highly religious language. Calls for tolerance for other points of view may, therefore, often be
accompanied by calls for both communities to cleanse
themselves of their sins, with the implication that violence and disorder is due to deviation from correct moral behaviour.
This is often extrapolated to the belief that Nigeria itself needs to escape from its sinful state if it is to solve its
multiple problems. Again, polarised religious identities
can lend a polemic edge to this religiously-informed view
of conflict. For some, purification and dealing with sin
means ridding the country of the opposing religion, after
which peace can finally be attained.
At the security level, the response of public authorities is habitually too late and far too heavy handed. Typically,
the police initially keep out of communal riots, worried
about their limited ability to manage crowds and about
potential hostility toward them. As things deteriorate, and
calls for a response grow, police and army are thrown at
the problem. They frequently arrest many hundreds of
rioters (or just members of the public they can round up),
who may spend several weeks in appalling prison conditions before being released. Very few if any are formally prosecuted. These responses generally clear the immediate trouble but at the expense of longer-term management of the issues.

A heavy-handed response is particularly ill-suited to deal
with the radical fringe problem. The killing of Mohammed Yusuf in 2009, along with several others linked to his organisation, has provided those who took over the
group with a valuable recruitment tool. In the words of an
observer, Yusuf’s killing “has now made his followers to see him as a martyr of Islam .... Many of them now look
forward to dying in similar manner as their leader, and
this may heighten insecurity in the society”.142 Members
of Boko Haram said they would avenge the extrajudicial
killing of their leader “even if it takes one hundred
years”.143
The Boko Haram violence of 2009-2010, when the radical Islamic sect took over large parts of Maiduguri before violently confronting the police, points to major failings
in the state’s security apparatus. Sources indicated clearly that state security structures had informed their superiors
several times of the imminent threat. Despite the clear

Page 25

precedent of the “Nigerian Taliban”, very little was done.144 This was due to poor coordination between security agencies and also to a desire on the part of local politicians – worried by its potential local support – to co-opt the group.

2. Toward better conflict prevention
and management
The recent reduction in communal violence in the North
has shallow roots. To further manage and, most importantly, prevent conflict, better strategies are required both at community and security levels. At the community level,
the vast majority of religious and civil society groups need to be pushed out of their comfort zone. They need to indicate their openness to dialogue with those whose instinct is to reject contact with public authority. While direct dialogue may not be possible with the small very radical fringe, a much more inclusive dialogue is needed to reduce its

recruiting pool.
As well as reaching out to these more recalcitrant elements, religious and civil society groups need to be far more representative of society as a whole and develop far
greater traction at the grassroots. The balance of NIREC,
with just three women out of 50 members, is simply unacceptable and points to a failure to build on some of the peacebuilding possibilities presented by different gender
perspectives.
Finally, consideration needs to be given to the content of
inter- and intra-community dialogues. This will naturally
evolve if the main bodies become more representative.
But efforts need to be made to steer it toward the questions of violence and, in particular, preventative actions, building on some fragmentary successes that have been
recorded in the region. The temptation to use such forums
to debate issues of religious doctrine, in the mistaken belief that the other side suffers from “ignorance” of some kind, should be avoided. Such doctrinal issues are in any
case endlessly debated on widely-circulated radio and
audio cassettes.
At the security level, a new approach is needed that focuses on better intelligence and prevention measures and avoids heavy-handed reactive responses. The police suffer
from poor internal coordination and poor gathering and

144

142

Crisis Group interviews, Mallam Yusuf Yakubu Arrigasiyu,
director of media and publicity, MSS; and executive director, Muslim League for Accountability (MULAC), Kaduna, August
2009.
143
Crisis Group interviews, members of Boko Haram, Bauchi,
June 2010.

The police and security service commands in the north eastern states had apparently submitted at least fourteen reports on the growth and activities of the group, including to the national security adviser (NSA); director general of the State Security Service (SSS); inspector general of police (IGP); secretary to the federation government (SGF); and the chief security officer (CSO) to the president. Crisis Group interview, senior officer of a security agency, October 2009.

Northern Nigeria: Background to Conflict
Crisis Group Africa Report N°168, 20 December 2010

use of intelligence.145 Furthermore, particularly in collecting intelligence on potential conflicts, they receive little cooperation from citizens. Emmanuel Ojukwu, the police
public relations officer, attributes this to the persistence of “a ‘we and them’ dichotomy between the force and the public”,146 partly resulting from the long history of abuse and distrust in police-citizen relations. The protection of

sources is often inadequate, with the result that few members of the public feel safe cooperating with the police.147 Some positive steps are currently being taken in this respect, and fuller programs on intelligence-led policing are being introduced. However, far greater efforts are needed,

including specific training for police officers deployed in
hotspots such as Maiduguri on how to deal with young men
who are drawn to violent radicalism. More broadly, basic
human rights of all those in the custody of security forces
must be respected, so as to avoid fuelling the at times bitter personal grievances that can drive radicalisation. These problems of intelligence gathering and inter-service
coordination are hardly unique to Nigeria. However, further efforts must be made if the security sector is to move from reaction to prevention. It is vital that the police make additional efforts to build alliances on the ground. The

fact that all police are under federal control, and those
serving in the far north may come from any part of the
country, has made community relations difficult. However, if mistrust can be overcome and bridges built, potentially fruitful alliances to improve intelligence gathering could be created with, for example, the hisbah groups. Further, given that many militants of hardcore rejectionist

groups find refuge in neighbouring countries, regional
coordination needs to be stepped up a gear. In order for

145

One reason for this is that the police intelligence capacity was greatly whittled down by military regimes, especially from the late 1970s. In 2006, the report of the Presidential Committee on Reform of the Nigeria Police Force noted that in recent years, the detection of crimes, including organised violence, “has been based virtually on luck, instead of the application of scientific facts and the use of reliable criminal intelligence”. See “Motions Without Movement: Report of Presidential Committees on Police Reform in Nigeria”, Centre for Law Enforcement Education Foundation, Lagos, 2008, p. 82; Crisis Group interview, senior police officer, Abuja, 11 June 2010.

146
Crisis Group interview, Emmanuel Ojukwu, commissioner
of police and force public relations officer, Nigeria Police Force Headquarters, Abuja, 5 June 2010.
147
This issue was raised by Okechukwu Nwanguma, “Boko
Haram Crisis: A Consequence of the Irresponsiveness and Irresponsibility of the Federal and Police Authorities in Borno State”, Network on Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN), 26
April 2010. He cited the example of an imam whose report to
the police about a problem his followers had with members of Boko Haram, was promptly leaked to the Boko Haram leader,
Yusuf.

Page 26

this to become effective, linguistic barriers will need to be overcome and historic rivalries between Nigeria and its
francophone neighbours be put aside in the face of what
is undoubtedly a common threat.
In terms of response, a fundamental shift is needed from
mass beatings, killings and arrests that very rarely result
in prosecution to investigation and prosecution of ringleaders. Incitement to violence needs to be taken far more seriously than participation in a riot that is likely only the final consequence of a long chain of polarisation between

communities. The tolerance of inflammatory discourse
and outright hate speech shown by authorities needs to
fundamentally change. Strong messages must be sent that
such speech is unacceptable, including through prosecution of key culprits. Dealing with the radical and violent fringe will need a
combination of better intelligence and sophisticated deradicalisation strategies. Intelligence should be coordinated carefully with neighbouring countries, where Boko Haram members are finding refuge. And political sensitivities must be overcome, recognising the fact that these violent groups could, if their tactics evolved, pose a serious threat to national security. In some countries intensive religious instruction has been used with a degree of success, especially among prison populations, alongside

other inducements such as vocational training 148 This approach could be usefully explored with identified militants of these extreme groups and should be accompanied by more general prison reform, as prison conditions are

often identified as a key obstacle to deradicalisation in
such settings.

148

Prison deradicalisation programs in a number of countries
have enjoyed varying degrees of success. In Indonesia, where Crisis Group has worked extensively, prominent militant prisoners with reservations about the use of violence against civilians were given access to other detainees to discuss their approach to jihad. Although the success of the initiative is difficult to evaluate, it did bring round some key militants to cooperate with the police. See Crisis Group Asia Report N°142, “Deradicalisation” and Indonesian Prisons, 19 November 2007. In general, deradicalisation programs vary widely and take

place in very different settings, but some common features and indications of possible best practices have emerged. Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Singapore are among other countries that have pursued programs aimed at individual deradicalisation and disengagement of militants in prisons. Perhaps the most prominent example of collective deradicalisation in a prison setting is the Egyptian Islamic Group. For these, see “Prisons and Terrorism. Radicalisation and De-radicalisation in 15 Countries”, The International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence, 2010; and Angel Rabasa, Stacie L. Pettyjohn, Jeremy J. Ghez and Christopher Boucek, Deradicalizing Islamist Extremists (Santa Monica: RAND, 2010).

Northern Nigeria: Background to Conflict
Crisis Group Africa Report N°168, 20 December 2010

In the final reckoning, communal violence in northern
Nigeria is about the place of different communities in the
country and the religious aspects of that debate. 50 years
after independence, it is clear that the nation-building
strategies of successive governments have had only limited impact in terms of national cohesion. This is not necessarily a fault of their programs, such as the National Youth Service that sends young people to work in farflung areas of the country and is remembered by many adults as an important part of their “Nigerian” upbringing. Rather, such strategies have been constantly undermined

by two factors. First, insincere and corrupt governance
has constantly reduced respect for public authority, making peacebuilding strategies extremely hard to implement. Secondly, the formal and informal distribution of resources through community groups has a polarising effect nationwide. Reducing violence in the far north is also dependent on dealing with these hard issues.

Page 27

VI. CONCLUSION
The apparent relative calm that much of northern Nigeria
had enjoyed for several years was broken by the violent
emergence of Boko Haram in 2009. That amply demonstrated the on-going risks of violent flare-ups, exacerbated by clumsy security response. In the build-up to the national elections of 2011, the risk is that violence with very local roots can have a polarising effect on the wider country. Nigeria has seen this before, with disastrous results in the civil war of the 1960s. To avoid such a scenario,

communal polarisation needs to be fought at every level –
local, regional and national.

Dakar/Brussels, 20 December 2010

Northern Nigeria: Background to Conflict
Crisis Group Africa Report N°168, 20 December 2010

APPENDIX A
MAP OF NIGERIA

Page 28

Northern Nigeria: Background to Conflict
Crisis Group Africa Report N°168, 20 December 2010

APPENDIX B
MAP OF NIGERIAN ADMINISTRATIVE BORDERS

Page 29

Northern Nigeria: Background to Conflict
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Page 30

APPENDIX C
GLOSSARY

ANPP

All Nigerian People’s Party

AQ

Al-Qaeda

AQIM

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb

CAN

Christian Association of Nigeria

IMC

Interfaith Mediation Centre

JNI

Arabic acronym for Jama’atu Nasril Islam (Victory for Islam)

MSS

Muslim Students Society

MZL

Middle Zone League

NACRA

National Advisory Council on Religious Affairs

NEPU

Northern Elements Progressive Union

NGO

Non-Governmental Organisation

NIREC

Nigerian Inter-Religious Council

NPC

Northern People’s Congress

NSCIA

Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs

OIC

Organisation of Islamic Conference

PDP

People’s Democratic Party

SAP

Structural Adjustment Programme

UMBC

United Middle Belt Congress

VOA

Voice of America

Northern Nigeria: Background to Conflict
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APPENDIX D
TIMELINE OF MAJOR EVENTS AND VIOLENCE (EXCLUDING NIGER DELTA)

1960

In October, independence from the UK amid pronounced cultural and political differences among its dominant ethnicities (Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba). Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa heads a coalition government.

1962-1963

Controversial census fuels regional and ethnic tensions.

1963

Becomes a federal republic with Nnamdi Azikiwe as its first president. Fear of Islamic hegemony contributes to first military coup in January, against the northern-dominated federal government. Successive coups heighten ethnic tensions and lead to over 30 years of military rule.

1966
Between July and October, northern mobs kill thousands of southerners, mostly Igbos, forcing hundreds of thousands to flee back to safety in the south.
1967

The Eastern Region secedes as the Republic of Biafra, on 30 May, sparking a brutal three-year civil war.

1970

Biafra surrenders and is reintegrated.

1979

Lt. Gen. Obasanjo transfers power to the civilian regime of Shehu Shagari.

1980

In December, confrontation between Maitatsine (a fundamentalist Muslim group) and police at a rally in Kano sparks massive, weeks-long rioting, leaving many hundreds dead and spreading to other states. Despite leader’s death in the initial riots, sporadic violence continues for several years.

1982

The Archbishop of Canterbury lays the foundation stone of an Anglican church in Kano. 44 people are killed following violent protests by Muslim Students Society.

1983

Shagari government (viewed as corrupt and incompetent) overthrown in military coup by Mohammadu Buhari.

1985

Buhari government overthrown in military coup, by Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Babangida. He sets 1990 as the official deadline for a return to democratic governance, a date he changes to 1992 after surviving a coup attempt.

1987

Dispute between trainee teachers in Kafanchan over a Christian sermon descends into violence.

1991

In October, pending visit of German revivalist Reinhard Bonnke at behest of Christian Association of Nigeria triggers rioting in which Muslims kill more than 200 mostly southern Christians and burn over twenty churches.

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1993

In June, Babangida cancels election results showing a presidential victory for Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, leading to mass violence. In August, he hands over power to a civilian-led transitional regime headed by Ernest Shonekan.

1993

In November, General Sani Abacha seizes power.

1998

In June, Abacha dies in mysterious circumstances. Abiola dies in prison a month later.

1999

Controversial election of former military leader Olusegun Obasanjo as president marks return to democracy.

1999-2002

Sharia (Islamic law) adopted by twelve northern states.

2000

Christian opposition to Sharia leads to Christian-Muslim clashes, mainly in Kaduna and Kano, that cause hundreds of deaths.

2001

In September, religious violence after Muslim prayers in Jos kills at least 1,000.

2002

In February, some 100 people are killed in Lagos in clashes between Hausas from mainly Islamic north and ethnic Yorubas from predominantly Christian south west.

2002

In November, more than 200 people die in four days of rioting, mainly in Kaduna, stoked by Muslim fury over the Miss World beauty pageant planned for December. The event is relocated to the UK. Clash between “Nigerian Taliban” and police in Borno state results in dozens of deaths.

2004
In May, state of emergency is declared in the central Plateau state after more than 200 Muslims are killed in Yelwa in attacks by Christian militia; revenge attacks are launched by Muslim youths in Kano.

2006

In February, more than 100 people are killed when a Muslim protest against Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad runs out of control. Violence begins in Maiduguri and retaliatory attacks in southern city of Onitsha.

2007

Following tensions over Obasanjo’s attempts at manipulating constitution to allow a third term, Umaru Yar'Adua becomes president in an election condemned by the international community as massively flawed.

2008

In November, at least 200 people are killed during clashes between Christians and Muslims in the town of Jos over disputed local government election.
In July, hundreds die in Maiduguri, after Boko Haram Islamist movement launches a campaign of violence. Security forces storm its stronghold and kill the movement’s leader on 30 July. More than 50 killed and over 100 arrested in operation.

2009
In December, at least 40 people are killed in clashes between security forces and members of an Islamic sect armed with machetes in the northern city of Bauchi.

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That same month, attempted bombing of U.S. passenger jet by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a young man from a rich family in Kaduna, refocuses attention on extreme radical fringe. In January, at least 149 people are killed during two days of violence between Christian and Muslim gangs in Jos.

In March, more than 120 people are killed in clashes between Muslims and Christians in Jos.

2010

Yar’Adua dies on 5 May, after prolonged illness and five-month absence that created constitutional crisis. Vice President Ebele Goodluck Jonthan is sworn in as president on 6 May, to serve until the election scheduled in April 2011.

In September, Boko Haram free over 700 prisoners, including 150 of its members, in dramatic prison break in Bauchi.
In October, Boko Haram commits a series of assassinations in Maiduguri.

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APPENDIX E
TWO CASE STUDIES OF CONFLICT

1. Ethnic and Christian-Muslim conflicts:
Kaduna State
Kaduna State includes two broad cultural blocs, of roughly
equal size overall. The first is the Muslim Hausa-Fulani,
which mainly occupies the northern part of the state and
dominates traditional governance remaining from the
Zaria (Zazzau) emirate, a part of the Sokoto Caliphate.
The second comprises a non-Muslim population of some
30 groups, located in the southern and western half of the
territory. However, Hausa enclaves are to be found
throughout this non-Muslim half of the territory, the focal
points of economic, political and administrative life in
their respective areas149 and a pattern of settlement representative of socio-economic relations between the Hausa and the non-Muslim communities. Complex forms of patron-client relations exist between these two groups. The smaller were in the past the target for slave-raiding and

the exaction of tribute by the Hausa-Fulani. Their political and military vulnerability to Hausa-Fulani hegemony arose from their relatively inferior technology, smaller
settlements and decentralised political organisation.
Islam provided the ideological foundation for the emirate
system. Different forms of animist worship have, at least
until recent times, predominated among the non-Muslim
populations. Regarded as non-believers by the emirate
population, they became particularly receptive to Christian conversion and education. Thus, historically, the leadership of these smaller groups has been dominated by
mission-educated elites, many of whom have also been
employed as pastors or lay teachers.150 Today, these ethnic minority elites often occupy a leading position in the CAN, which has persistently attacked the hegemony of
Muslim Hausa-Fulani elites in the north and in the whole
of Nigeria.
The political, cultural and religious cleavages are reinforced by an economic imbalance. The southern districts are relatively less developed than the northern sections.
Moreover, even within the southern area, socio-economic
opportunities and infrastructure improvements have tended
to be concentrated in areas or enclaves inhabited by
Hausa settlers.151

These differences have periodically escalated into violent
agitation and confrontation. In 1942, political protests developed among the Kaje ethnic group of the Zangon Katab district over perceived discrimination by the native
authority administration against the southern Zaria population. Similar protests took place in 1948 among the Kataf of the same Zangon Katab district. At different
times until independence, the Kataf and other related
peoples in Southern Kaduna rioted in protest against oppressive features of the emirate system, particularly the headship of Fulani ruling families over predominantly
non-Fulani districts.
The polarisation that followed Nigeria joining the OIC in
1986 appeared to have opened a new phase of ethnoreligious conflict in Kaduna state. The Kafanchan disturbances (March 1987) started as a theological disagreement between Christian and Muslim students of the Kafanchan Teachers College. They rapidly degenerated

into a fracas that spilled into the town and ignited age-old tension between politically dominant Muslim HausaFulani in the town centre and the predominantly Christian or animist groups in the suburbs. The fiercest violence

occurred in Kaduna city, Katsina and Funtua, where Muslim mobs attacked non-Muslims and their properties (mainly churches and hotels) in retaliation for the killing
of Muslims and burning of mosques in Kafanchan town.
According to official estimates, the crisis claimed nineteen lives and resulted in the destruction of 169 hotels, 152 churches, five mosques and 95 vehicles.152
Even more serious rioting took place during February
1992 in Zango, a town in the Zangon Katab local government area of Kaduna state. The Zangon Katab local government council, chaired by a Kataf, Juri Babang
Ayok, had in January 1992 announced the impending relocation of the Zango weekly market from the Hausadominated town centre to a new site on the outskirts of town. The Hausa community there resisted, claiming that

the new site was part of the Muslim annual Eid prayer
ground and that the relocation was designed to hurt its
economic position. It obtained a court injunction, with
accompanying police protection, restraining the relocation. The dispute escalated, on 6 February, into clashes that, according to official estimates, left 95 persons
(mostly Hausa) dead, 252 others injured and 133 houses
and 26 farmlands destroyed.

149

M.G. Smith, Government of Zazzau (London, 1960), p. 2.
A. D. Yahaya, The Native Authority System in Northern Nigeria (Zaria, 1980), p. 28. 151
Ibid, p. 74.
150

152

New Nigerian, 17 April 1987, p. 9; and Jibrin Ibrahim, op.
cit.

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The Kaduna state government appointed Justice Rahila
Cudjoe to head a commission of inquiry into the violence.
It had barely concluded its public sittings when a new
wave of rioting broke out in the town in May. The rioting
and tit-for-tat attacks between the Christian and Muslim
communities eventually engulfed Kaduna, Zaria and
Ikara. Two factors mainly responsible for the escalation
were reports and rumours of dispossession of Hausa Muslims by non-Muslims in Zangon Katab and emotions evoked among Kaduna Muslims by the sight of dead or
severely injured Zangon Hausa conveyed into Kaduna
city from Zango. 471 persons were officially confirmed
killed in the May disturbances, with 250 and 188 of these
deaths in Kaduna city and Zangon Katab respectively.
According to police sources, 518 persons were injured
and 229 houses and 218 vehicles were destroyed.153
In 2000, Kaduna state was hit by even more destructive
Muslim-Christian violence. Following Zamfara state’s
lead in restoring Sharia, Muslim leaders began a campaign for a similar restoration. CAN, northern minority groups and southern immigrants countered that introducing Islamic criminal law in Kaduna would be inappropriate, as the state had a multi-religious and cosmopolitan composition, unlike Zamfara, which was more homogeneously Muslim.154 Christians saw the campaign as an attempt to advance Islamic influence beyond states with clear Muslim predominance and to restore Hausa-Fulani

supremacy. This had to be resisted, they believed, to discourage similar attempts in other states. In December 1999, the Kaduna state House of Assembly
formed an eleven-member committee to examine the applicability of Sharia criminal law. This polarised the body and the state along religious lines.155 On the sidelines, JNI and CAN organised separate public conferences that,

rather than foster dialogue and a search for common
ground, led to a hardening of positions.156 In the absence
of an effective institutional mediation mechanism for reconciling these positions, it seemed clear that the controversy could degenerate to violence. On 21 February 2000, CAN organised a procession to the

governor’s office to protest “the planned introduction of Sharia in the state”.157 Attacks on it by stone-throwing
hoodlums rapidly degenerated to violence in all parts of

153

New Nigerian, 20 July 1992.
Crisis Group interview, secretary general, CAN Kaduna branch, Kaduna, July 2009.
155
Osaghae and Suberu, op. cit., p. 134.
156
H. Abdu and L. Umar, “Hope Betrayed: A Report on Impunity and State-Sponsored Violence in Nigeria”, World Organisation against Torture (Brussels, 2002), p. 93. 157
Ibid.
154

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Kaduna.158 Fighting lasted for four days, with dead and
injured estimated between 1,800 and 5,000.159 While a
government commission was investigating that first riot,
another major clash broke out from 22 to 24 May 2000.
Recurrent incidents of ethno-religious violence have taken
a severe toll in the region. For instance, after the Sharia
riot in Kaduna in 2000, the fact-finding panel set up by
the state government put the material loss at more than
N40 billion (about $266 million). All the conflicts have
led to significant population displacements. After the
2000 Sharia riots, for instance, many fled the city for
good, resettling in towns such as Abuja, Jos or Minna.
Some southerners left for the south, never to return.
In Kaduna city, particularly, these conflicts have redrawn
the ethno-religious demography. A climate of fear has
forced Muslims, mostly the Hausa-Fulani who resided in
Narayi, Sabon-Tasha, Barnawa, Ungwar Pama, Ungwar
Romi and other Christian-dominated areas to move to the
predominantly Muslim Tudun-Wada area. Similarly,
Christians in Muslim-dominated areas, including up to
10,000 Igbo entrepreneurs, have largely moved to the
southern part of the city, which they dubbed “New Jerusalem”.160 Many who fled the state during the Sharia crisis have returned, but they are also massed in the southern parts of the city. Others would like to return to where they lived before 2000 but sold their properties.161 Ten years

after the Sharia riots, the segregated settlement remains
largely unchanged.
Though relative peace exists currently, due to the collective efforts of the state government, religious bodies and NGOs,162 the division caused by the Sharia crisis persists.
Social relations, once relatively cordial among the ethnic
and religious groups, remain tense. Many Muslims avoid
Christian-dominated areas and vice versa, for fear of sudden violence.163 The atmosphere in Kaduna is particularly tense whenever there is a report of violence in another
northern state. Although the city has not witnessed any
large-scale violence since 2002, there is continuing risk
of recurrence.

158

K. Maier, “Northern Exposure: Northern Nigerian states adopt Sharia”, The New Republic, vol. 223, no. 7 (14 August 2000). 159
Shehu Sani, The Killing Fields, op. cit., p. 108; Women Advocate, September 2000, p. 16; The News, Lagos, 5 June 2000. 160
Crisis Group interviews, journalist, Kaduna, June 2009; head of the Yoruba community, Kaduna, June 2009. See also Femi
Adi, “Kaduna: A Divided City”, The NEWS, Lagos, 15 March 2010.
161
Crisis Group interview, media operator, Kaduna, July 2009.
162
Crisis Group interviews, media operator, Kaduna, July 2009;
senior traditional leader, Kaduna state, June 2009.
163
Crisis Group interviews, riot victims, Kaduna, June and July 2009.

Northern Nigeria: Background to Conflict
Crisis Group Africa Report N°168, 20 December 2010

2. Anti-Establishment Conflicts in Borno and
Yobe States: from Taliban to Boko Haram
Violence in Borno, Yobe and Bauchi States in 2009 and
2010 pitted police and army against a rejectionist group
commonly referred to as Boko Haram, raising again the
issue of radical rejectionist groups.
Events
The immediate predecessor of Boko Haram was the socalled “Nigerian Taliban”, which emerged in Yobe and Borno states in 2003.164 Between 2003 and 2004, it fought
security forces on three occasions. On 31 December
2003, roughly 200 clashed with police in Geidam and
Kanamma, Yobe state. Some say the police provoked
this;165 others maintain the group’s sophisticated organisation implied plans for violence. Whichever was the case, the group raided two police stations, killed a policeman
and seized some AK-47 rifles. They subsequently attacked
three police stations in the state capital, Damaturu, and
confronted other police units near the Borno state capital,
Maiduguri. After four days of fighting in January 2004,
security forces routed them, killing at least eighteen and
arresting dozens.
The second clash followed an incident in June 2004, when
four members of the group, arrested during the January
fight, attempted to escape jail in Damaturu and were shot
dead by police.166 Retaliating and apparently also trying
to seize more guns, the group attacked police stations in
Bama and Gworza (eastern Borno state, close to the
Cameroon border) in September, killing six people and
abducting four. Security forces again subdued them, killing 24 and arresting many more. Others fled into nearby Cameroon and Niger.167
On 8 October 2004, the group launched a third attack.
Ambushing a police patrol in Kala-Balge, near Lake Chad,
it killed three officers instantly and captured twelve,

164

As is common, the name of this movement is subject to
some controversy. It never called itself Taliban, never admitted formal links with the fighters in Afghanistan and insisted its origins were entirely local. But as many members professed
admiration for the Taliban in Afghanistan and flew flags marked “Afghanistan” during their brief occupation of Kanamma in December 2003, they came to be known publicly as the “Nigerian Taliban”. 165

Crisis Group interview, prominent Islamic preacher in Kaduna and former director of an international Islamic organisation, June 2009. 166
Crisis Group interview, senior official, Nigeria Prisons Service, Abuja, 15 October 2009. 167
Crisis Group interview, former police commissioner, July
2009.

Page 36

whom they later killed.168 Heavy deployments of police
and army dispersed them: some again fled into Cameroon, police said, but most retreated to Maiduguri, according to locals.169 In 2006-2009, the group re-emerged, primarily in Borno
state, under the banner “Boko Haram”.170 Its leadership, particularly Mohammed Yusuf, showed it was a direct
continuation of the Taliban.171 On 25 July 2009, police
arrested several leaders on suspicion they were preparing
for violence. The Bauchi state governor, Isa Yuguda, said
he ordered the arrests after intelligence indicated the
group was planning to over-run Bauchi city. They had already clashed with police in Borno state. Protesting the arrests, and probably also trying to free their detained
leaders, several hundred members attacked the Dutsen
Tanshi police station in Bauchi, on 26 July 2009, but they
were repelled and at least 50 of them killed.
For the next four days, the group battled police, reinforced by the army, in Bauchi, Borno, Kano and Yobe states.
The worst violence was in Maiduguri, where the sect was
based. On 30 July, army units stormed its headquarters,
captured Yusuf, who had fled to his father-in-law’s
house, and handed him over to the police. He was shot
dead in custody hours later.172 Exact casualty figures were
never published, but the Red Cross reported over 780
bodies buried in mass graves.173 CAN showed 29 churches
burnt and at least three pastors killed, and police listed 28 of its officers among those killed.

168

Crisis Group interview, senior police officer, Abuja, July
2010.
169
Crisis Group interviews, local sources, Maiduguri, Borno
state, September 2009.
170
As with the Taliban, the Boko Haram never identified itself
as such. It earned that label due to its vocal rejection of “Western education”. It was also commonly known as Yusufiyyah. It used various names, indicating its members were strict followers of Islamic texts (broadly equivalent to “Salafist”). Tracts found in Bauchi in 2010, and seen by Crisis Group use the

name Ahllissunnah Wal lidda’awati Jihad (Salafist group for propagation and jihad).
171
Crisis Group interviews, several sources, Borno and Yobe
states, July-September 2009.
172
The Borno state police commissioner said he died in a shootout, but several groups, including the Nigerian Bar Association, insisted he was executed extrajudicially, while still in handcuffs. Others who died controversially in police custody included a former commissioner for religious affairs in the state, Alhaji Buji Foi, who was previously close to Yusuf but had fallen out with him. Several well-informed security sources believe that Yusuf’s and Foi’s killings were intended to stop any information concerning the support they had previously received from local political authorities coming out. Crisis Group interviews, Kano and Abuja, October 2010.

173
“780 killed in Nigeria clashes, says Red Cross”, Daily Nation, 31 July 2009.

Northern Nigeria: Background to Conflict
Crisis Group Africa Report N°168, 20 December 2010

Unsurprisingly, the events of July 2009 did not put an end
to the sect’s activities. Taking refuge in neighbouring Niger and Chad, or simply lying low in Maiduguri,174 it used martyrdom videos of the events to radicalise its membership, and in the first months of 2010, there were clashes with security forces. The group has now begun to issue

increasingly radical messages to the press, stating an intention to wage war on secular authorities and seek revenge on those it considers have betrayed it. On 8 September 2010, it executed a spectacular prison break in Bauchi, a highly violent, military-type operation that

freed 150 of its members and several hundred other prisoners. One prison guard, one policeman and two civilians were reported killed. This has been followed by a series
of assassinations of clerics and policemen who spoke out
against the sect, principally in Maidugari.
Interpretations
The Taliban and Boko Haram are among several radical,
anti-establishment groups that have emerged among Muslims in the region in recent years. The interpretations of their motivations and world views differ widely. Many
believe that they are part of a generalised discontent with
the Nigerian state and a product of a moribund economy.
Others claim that they emerged from doctrinal religious
disputes. In either case, they have been characterised by
radical rejectionism, including refusal to enter dialogue or compromise with secular authorities.
The movements have attracted Muslim youth, including
university students and some young people who apparently
were revolted by corruption in their wealthy families.175
These middle class youths then developed a following
among more marginalised youths. The initial Taliban
numbered only a few hundred, but Boko Haram drew a
much larger membership that was probably boosted by
worsening unemployment. Most were Nigerian, but small
numbers came from neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and
Niger.176 Members wore long beards, red or black headscarves and refused to use certain modern (purportedly Western) goods, such as wristwatches and safety helmets.
The original Boko Haram leader, Mohammed Yusuf, was
born in Girgir, Jakusko local government area, Yobe
state, on 29 January 1970. He had basic Western educa-

174

Crisis Group interviews, security experts, Abuja, 2010.
Crisis Group interviews, several sources, Borno and Yobe
States, July and September 2009. For instance, the son of the former secretary to the Borno state government (fourth highest state official), a fourth year university student, reportedly abandoned his studies and joined the sect. Crisis Group interview, Alhaji Baba Shehu, secretary general, Dapchi Youth Development Association, Damaturu, Yobe state, July 2009. 176

Crisis Group interview, senior police officer, Maiduguri,
Borno state, 12 October 2009.
175

Page 37

tion but undertook a Quranic education in Chad and Niger. He was a member of the Borno state Sharia Implementation Committee under Governor Mallah Kachallah (1999-2003) and active in debates on Islamic issues on

local radio and television stations. He later joined the
Taliban movement for a short period. A colleague recalled
that even while on the committee, Yusuf was “against the
system of government, and he used to regularly preach
against it”.177
The view that the group was merely opposed to Western
education tends to oversimplify its complex and somewhat vague ideology. It is clear that it rejects secularism, seen as incompatible with Islam, and Western influence
in general, considered the source of secularist ideology.178 Western education comes in for particular criticism, which
echoes long-standing mistrust in northern Nigeria of colonial and Christian influence carried through schooling. Yusuf constantly railed against what he saw as the corrupting influences of a “Godless” system of education introduced during colonial rule.179 However, this apparent rejection of Western education and associated technology

sits uneasily with the organisation’s ready use of the
internet to disseminate its ideas. As a recent study has
shown, when challenged to define exactly what elements
of Western education are objectionable or incompatible
with Islam, Yusuf was unable to provide a clear answer.180
Followers whom Crisis Group was able to interview said
they were angry at northern state governors’ insincerity in applying Sharia and allowing massive corruption and il-

177

Crisis Group interview, religious leader, Maiduguri, Borno
state, 21 August 2009.
178
In a BBC interview, Yusuf explained: “There are prominent
Islamic preachers who have seen and understood that the present Western-style education is mixed with issues that run contrary to our beliefs in Islam”. 179
Crisis Group interviews, members of Boko Haram, Bauchi,
May 2010. The Hausa language name, Boko Haram, is generally translated as “Western education is sacrilege”. The group preferred to talk about Western civilisation in general. Yusuf explained its attitude: “The difference is that while the first [education] gives the impression that we are opposed to formal education coming from the West, that is Europe, which is not true, the second [civilisation] affirms our belief in the supremacy of Islamic culture .... we are talking of Western ways of life which include: constitutional provision as it relates to, for instance, the rights and privileges of women, the idea of homosexualism …, lesbianism, sanctions in cases of terrible crimes like drug trafficking, rape of infants, multi-party democracy in an overwhelmingly Islamic country like Nigeria, blue films,

prostitution, drinking beer and alcohol, and many others that are opposed to Islamic civilisation”. See “Nigeria: Boko Haram resurrects, declares total jihad”, Vanguard, 14 August 2009. 180
Abdalla Uba Adamu, “African Neo-Kharijites and Islamic
militancy against authority: the Boko Haram sect/Yusufiyya
Kharijites of Northern Nigeria”, upublished paper, 2010.

Northern Nigeria: Background to Conflict
Crisis Group Africa Report N°168, 20 December 2010

legal affluence to continue amid grinding poverty.181 Believing that Sharia can never be implemented properly under a secular state, they insisted on establishing an Islamic regime. A Maiduguri resident said, “they were opposed to a lot of Western culture and what they saw as its anti-Islamic and corrupting influences … opposed to the

federal and state governments which they saw as propagating these Western influences as a cover-up for their own corruption … opposed to security forces which they
saw as protecting the corrupt governments and oppressing
fundamentalist Muslims … opposed to Christians whom
they regarded as infidels aligned to the West, and who
had to be converted to Islam, forcefully”.182
Many youths in Maiduguri saw Boko Haram as a social
movement protesting the “corruption” of the secular state and campaigning militantly for an Islamic state. Seeking
the strength to defy the authority of that “corrupt” state, they were attracted by “the bravado which many [Boko
Haram] members usually displayed against security
agents, especially the police … and so wanted to join
them, in order to enjoy whatever immunity that made
them seemingly untouchable”.183
That members of the group offered ethnic motivations,
centred on the corruption of the secular elite, appears confirmed by many interlocutors. This resonates with much religiously inspired rejection of state authority across the country, including in the Christian churches.184 However,

the debates that Yusuf entered into with other Islamic
scholars, and the group’s preaching – available on cassettes across the region – concerned almost exclusively detailed points of religious doctrine and what actions can
and cannot be permitted within Islam. While this did include debates on the relations between democracy and Islam, it would be incorrect to think that Yusuf was a social reformer or was overly concerned with corruption.

His concern with a pure interpretation of Islamic texts,
combined with the group’s rejection of public authority,
clearly places Boko Haram within the fold of international al-Qaeda type movements. Since the death of Yusuf, who his successors have tried hard to turn into a martyr figure, there are signs of a growing rapprochement with al-Qaeda ideology and an increasingly violent and

radical tone. For example, speeches and pamphlets seen
by Crisis Group in October 2010 carry clear jihadi ico-

181

Crisis Group interviews, members of Boko Haram, Bauchi,
5 June 2010.
182
Ibid.
183
Crisis Group interview, independent analyst of religious
groups in the north east, Maiduguri, August 2009.
184
See, for example, Dan Smith, A Culture of Corruption: Everyday Deception and Popular Discontent in Nigeria (Princeton, 2008), chapter 7; and specifically on the north, Pierce, op. cit.

Page 38

nography, with deliberate attempts to echo the stage
props of jihadi groups in Afghanistan (reading a speech
while sitting in front of a white cloth with two AK47s
propped behind, for example). Concrete personal links
are said to already exist between the group and the alQaeda affiliate in the West African Sahel, known as alQaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.185 Public reactions to the Boko Haram movement, its violent

actions and the equally violent reactions of security forces are ambivalent and hard to gauge. On one hand, many
northern Muslims share the movement’s desire for stricter
implementation of Sharia, or even for an Islamic state,
and its hostility to federal authorities. This undoubtedly
explains why some politicians in the area got close to the
group in its early years, sensing that it might develop
popular support. Equally, the fact that the group has a
very strong presence in Maiduguri and at times in 2009
openly ran parts of the town indicates that the local population either offered some support, was intimidated or – most likely – both.
But many now reject its violent tactics, and some now see
Yusuf as merely having exploited the dire economic conditions and popular religious sentiments to build a personality cult.186 Many Maiduguri residents considered his followers cultists and lawless, often in breach of public

regulations.187 Indeed, many learned scholars, including
the late Sheikh Adam Ja’afar, Sheikh Abba Aji and Yahaya Jingir, rejected Boko Haram’s militant ideology as a perversion of Islam’s peaceful teachings but were unable
to dissuade it from violence.188 Reacting to the July 2009
violence, JNI “firmly and categorically (dissociated) Islam and Muslims from this … devilish … motley outfit [that] constituted themselves into a terror group”.189

185

Crisis Group interviews, security specialists, Abuja and
Europe, September and October 2010.
186
Crisis Group interviews, lecturer in peace and conflict management and resolution, National Open University of Nigeria, Maiduguri, August 2009; public relations consultant, Maiduguri; several local residents, May-June 2010. Some said Yusuf reminded them of Sani Ahmed Yerima, former Zamfara state

governor, who “used the campaign for Sharia” to advance his own political fortunes.
187
Crisis Group interviews, several local people, Maiduguri,
May-June 2010.
188
Crisis Group interviews, several religious leaders, Maiduguri, May-June 2010.
189
“Statement by Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA)”, signed by the Sultan of Sokoto and leader of Nigerian Muslims, Alhaji Mohammed Sa’ad Abubakar, 6 August 2009.

Northern Nigeria: Background to Conflict
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Page 39

APPENDIX F
ABOUT THE INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP

The International Crisis Group (Crisis Group) is an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organisation, with some 130 staff members on five continents, working through
field-based analysis and high-level advocacy to prevent and
resolve deadly conflict.
Crisis Group’s approach is grounded in field research. Teams of political analysts are located within or close by countries at risk of outbreak, escalation or recurrence of violent conflict. Based on information and assessments from the field, it produces analytical reports containing practical recommendations targeted at key international decision-takers. Crisis Group also publishes CrisisWatch, a twelve-page monthly

bulletin, providing a succinct regular update on the state of play in all the most significant situations of conflict or
potential conflict around the world.
Crisis Group’s reports and briefing papers are distributed widely by email and made available simultaneously on the
website, www.crisisgroup.org. Crisis Group works closely
with governments and those who influence them, including
the media, to highlight its crisis analyses and to generate
support for its policy prescriptions.
The Crisis Group Board – which includes prominent figures
from the fields of politics, diplomacy, business and the
media – is directly involved in helping to bring the reports and recommendations to the attention of senior policy-makers around the world. Crisis Group is co-chaired by the former
European Commissioner for External Relations Christopher
Patten and former U.S. Ambassador Thomas Pickering. Its
President and Chief Executive since July 2009 has been
Louise Arbour, former UN High Commissioner for Human
Rights and Chief Prosecutor for the International Criminal
Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda.
Crisis Group’s international headquarters are in Brussels, with major advocacy offices in Washington DC (where it is
based as a legal entity) and New York, a smaller one in
London and liaison presences in Moscow and Beijing.
The organisation currently operates nine regional offices
(in Bishkek, Bogotá, Dakar, Islamabad, Istanbul, Jakarta,
Nairobi, Pristina and Tbilisi) and has local field representation in fourteen additional locations (Baku, Bangkok, Beirut, Bujumbura, Damascus, Dili, Jerusalem, Kabul, Kathmandu, Kinshasa, Port-au-Prince, Pretoria, Sarajevo and Seoul). Crisis Group currently covers some 60 areas of

actual or potential conflict across four continents. In Africa, this includes Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic,
Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo,
Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia,
Madagascar, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan,
Uganda and Zimbabwe; in Asia, Afghanistan, Bangladesh,

Burma/Myanmar, Indonesia, Kashmir, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, North Korea, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Taiwan Strait, Tajikistan, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan; in Europe, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cyprus, Georgia, Kosovo, Macedonia,

Russia (North Caucasus), Serbia and Turkey; in the Middle
East and North Africa, Algeria, Egypt, Gulf States, Iran,
Iraq, Israel-Palestine, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen; and in Latin America and the Caribbean, Bolivia,
Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti and Venezuela.
Crisis Group receives financial support from a wide range of governments, institutional foundations, and private sources. The following governmental departments and agencies have
provided funding in recent years: Australian Agency for
International Development, Australian Department of Foreign
Affairs and Trade, Austrian Development Agency, Belgian
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Canadian International Development Agency, Canadian International Development and Research Centre, Foreign Affairs and International Trade
Canada, Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Royal Danish
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dutch Ministry of Foreign
Affairs, European Commission, Finnish Ministry of Foreign
Affairs, French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, German Federal
Foreign Office, Irish Aid, Japan International Cooperation
Agency, Principality of Liechtenstein, Luxembourg Ministry
of Foreign Affairs, New Zealand Agency for International
Development, Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
Slovenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Swedish International Development Agency, Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs,
Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, United Arab Emirates Ministry of Foreign Affairs, United Kingdom Department for International Development, United Kingdom Economic and Social Research Council, U.S. Agency for International Development.

The following institutional and private foundations have provided funding in recent years: Carnegie Corporation of New York, The Charitable Foundation, Clifford Chance Foundation, Connect U.S. Fund, The Elders Foundation, Henry Luce Foundation, William & Flora Hewlett Foundation, Humanity

United, Hunt Alternatives Fund, Jewish World Watch, Korea
Foundation, John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Open Society Institute, Victor Pinchuk Foundation, Ploughshares Fund, Radcliffe Foundation, Sigrid Rausing
Trust, Rockefeller Brothers Fund and VIVA Trust.

December 2010

Northern Nigeria: Background to Conflict
Crisis Group Africa Report N°168, 20 December 2010

Page 40

APPENDIX G
CRISIS GROUP REPORTS AND BRIEFINGS ON AFRICA SINCE 2007
Central Africa
Congo: Staying Engaged after the Election,
Africa Briefing N°44, 9 January 2007
(also available in French).
Northern Uganda: Seizing the Opportunity
for Peace, Africa Report N°124, 26
April 2007.
Congo: Consolidating the Peace, Africa
Report N°128, 5 July 2007 (also available in French).
Burundi: Finalising Peace with the FNL,
Africa Report N°131, 28 August 2007
(also available in French).
Northern Uganda Peace Process: The
Need to Maintain Momentum, Africa
Briefing N°46, 14 September 2007.
Congo: Bringing Peace to North Kivu,
Africa Report N°133, 31 October 2007
(also available in French).
Central African Republic: Anatomy of a
Phantom State, Africa Report N°136, 13
December 2007 (also available in
French).
Congo: Four Priorities for Sustainable
Peace in Ituri, Africa Report N°140, 13
May 2008 (also available in French).
Burundi: Restarting Political Dialogue,
Africa Briefing N°53, 19 August 2008
(also available in French).
Chad: A New Conflict Resolution Framework, Africa Report N°144, 24 September 2008 (also available in French). Central African Republic: Untangling the
Political Dialogue, Africa Briefing
N°55, 9 December 2008 (also available
in French).
Northern Uganda: The Road to Peace, with
or without Kony, Africa Report N°146,
10 December 2008.
Chad: Powder Keg in the East, Africa
Report N°149, 15 April 2009 (also available in French).
Congo: Five Priorities for a Peacebuilding
Strategy, Africa Report N°150, 11 May
2009 (also available in French).
Congo: A Comprehensive Strategy to
Disarm the FDLR, Africa Report N°151,
9 July 2009 (also available in French).
Burundi: réussir l'intégration des FNL,
Africa Briefing N°63, 30 July 2009.
Chad: Escaping from the Oil Trap, Africa
Briefing N°65, 26 August 2009 (also
available in French).

CAR: Keeping the Dialogue Alive, Africa
Briefing N°69, 12 January 2010 (also
available in French).
Burundi: Ensuring Credible Elections,
Africa Report N°155, 12 February 2010
(also available in French).
Libye/Tchad: au-delà d’une politique
d’influence, Africa Briefing N°71, 23
March 2010 (also available in Arabic).
Congo: A Stalled Democratic Agenda, Africa
Briefing N°73, 8 April 2010 (also
available in French).
Chad: Beyond Superficial Stability, Africa
Report N°162, 17 August 2010 (only
available in French).
Congo: Pas de stabilité au Kivu malgré le
rapprochement avec le Rwanda, Africa
Report N°165, 16 November 2010 (only
available in French).
Dangerous Little Stones: Diamonds in the
Central African Republic, Africa Report
N°167, 16 December 2010.

Horn Of Africa
Somalia: The Tough Part Is Ahead, Africa
Briefing N°45, 26 January 2007.
Darfur: Revitalising the Peace Process,
Africa Report N°125, 30 April 2007
(also available in Arabic).
A Strategy for Comprehensive Peace in
Sudan, Africa Report N°130, 26 July
2007 (also available in Arabic).
Sudan: Breaking the Abyei Deadlock,
Africa Briefing N°47, 12 October 2007
(also available in Arabic).
Ethiopia and Eritrea: Stopping the Slide
to War, Africa Briefing N°48, 5
November 2007.
Darfur’s New Security Reality, Africa
Report N°134, 26 November 2007 (also
available in Arabic).
Kenya in Crisis, Africa Report N°137, 21
February 2008.
Sudan’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement:
Beyond the Crisis, Africa Briefing N°50,
13 March 2008 (also available in Arabic).
Beyond the Fragile Peace between Ethiopia
and Eritrea: Averting New War, Africa
Report N°141, 17 June 2008.
Sudan’s Southern Kordofan Problem: The
Next Darfur?, Africa Report N°145, 21
October 2008 (also available in Arabic).
Somalia: To Move Beyond the Failed State,
Africa Report N°147, 23 December 2008.

Sudan: Justice, Peace and the ICC, Africa
Report N°152, 17 July 2009.
Somalia: The Trouble with Puntland,
Africa Briefing N°64, 12 August 2009.
Ethiopia: Ethnic Federalism and Its
Discontents, Africa Report N°153, 4
September 2009.
Somaliland: A Way out of the Electoral
Crisis, Africa Briefing N°67, 7 December 2009.
Sudan: Preventing Implosion, Africa
Briefing N°68, 17 December 2009.
Jonglei's Tribal Conflicts: Countering
Insecurity in South Sudan, Africa Report
N°154, 23 December 2009.
Rigged Elections in Darfur and the Consequences of a Probable NCP Victory in Sudan, Africa Briefing N°72, 30 March
2010.
LRA: A Regional Strategy Beyond Killing
Kony, Africa Report N°157, 28 April
2010 (also available in French).
Sudan: Regional Perspectives on the
Prospect of Southern Independence,
Africa Report N°159, 6 May 2010.
Somalia’s Divided Islamists, Africa
Briefing N°74, 18 May 2010 (also
available in Somali).
Sudan: Defining the North-South Border,
Africa Briefing N°75, 2 September 2010.
Eritrea: The Siege State, Africa Report
N°163, 21 September 2010.
Negotiating Sudan’s North-South Future,
Africa Briefing N°76, 23 November
2010.

Southern Africa
Zimbabwe: An End to the Stalemate?,
Africa Report N°122, 5 March 2007.
Zimbabwe: A Regional Solution?, Africa
Report N°132, 18 September 2007.
Zimbabwe: Prospects from a Flawed
Election, Africa Report N°138, 20
March 2008.
Negotiating Zimbabwe’s Transition, Africa
Briefing N°51, 21 May 2008.
Ending Zimbabwe’s Nightmare: A Possible
Way Forward, Africa Briefing N°56, 16
December 2008.
Zimbabwe: Engaging the Inclusive Government, Africa Briefing N°59, 20 April 2009.

Northern Nigeria: Background to Conflict
Crisis Group Africa Report N°168, 20 December 2010

Zimbabwe: Political and Security Challenges to the Transition, Africa Briefing N°70, 3 March 2010.
Madagascar: sortir du cycle de crises,
Africa Report N°156, 18 March 2010.
Madagascar: la crise à un tournant
critique?, Africa Report N°166, 18
November 2010 (only available in
French).

West Africa
Guinea: Change or Chaos, Africa Report
N°121, 14 February 2007 (also available
in French).
Nigeria’s Elections: Avoiding a Political
Crisis, Africa Report N°123, 28 March
2007.
Nigeria: Failed Elections, Failing State?,
Africa Report N°126, 30 May 2007.
Côte d’Ivoire: Can the Ouagadougou Agreement Bring Peace?, Africa Report N°127, 27 June 2007 (also available in French).
Sierra Leone: The Election Opportunity,
Africa Report N°129, 12 July 2007.
Guinea: Change on Hold, Africa Briefing
N°49, 8 November 2007 (also available
in French).
Nigeria: Ending Unrest in the Niger Delta,
Africa Report N°135, 5 December 2007.
Côte d’Ivoire: Ensuring Credible Elections,
Africa Report N°139, 22 April 2008
(only available in French).
Guinea: Ensuring Democratic Reforms,
Africa Briefing N°52, 24 June 2008
(also available in French).
Guinea-Bissau: In Need of a State, Africa
Report N°142, 2 July 2008 (also available in French).
Sierra Leone: A New Era of Reform?,
Africa Report N°143, 31 July 2008.
Nigeria: Ogoni Land after Shell, Africa
Briefing N°54, 18 September 2008.
Liberia: Uneven Progress in Security
Sector Reform, Africa Report N°148,
13 January 2009.
Guinea-Bissau: Building a Real Stability
Pact, Africa Briefing N°57, 29 January
2009 (also available in French).
Guinea: The Transition Has Only Just
Begun, Africa Briefing N°58, 5 March
2009 (also available in French).
Nigeria: Seizing the Moment in the Niger
Delta, Africa Briefing N°60, 30 April
2009.
Guinea-Bissau: Beyond Rule of the Gun,
Africa Briefing N°61, 25 June 2009
(also available in Portuguese).
Côte d’Ivoire: What's Needed to End the
Crisis, Africa Briefing N°62, 2 July
2009 (also available in French).

Guinea: Military Rule Must End, Africa
Briefing N°66, 16 October 2009 (also
available in French).
Côte d’Ivoire: sécuriser le processus électoral, Africa Report N°158, 5 May 2010. Cameroon: Fragile State?, Africa Report
N°160, 25 May 2010 (also available in
French).
Cameroon: The Dangers of a Fracturing
Regime, Africa Report N°161, 24 June
2010 (also available in French).
Guinea: Reforming the Army, Africa
Report N°164, 23 September 2010 (also
available in French).
Côte d’Ivoire: Sortir enfin de l’ornière?,
Africa Briefing N°77, 25 November
2010 (only available in French).

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Northern Nigeria: Background to Conflict
Crisis Group Africa Report N°168, 20 December 2010

Page 42

APPENDIX H
INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP BOARD OF TRUSTEES

CO-CHAIRS

OTHER BOARD MEMBERS

Lena Hjelm-Wallén

Lord (Christopher) Patten

Adnan Abu-Odeh

Former European Commissioner for External
Relations, Governor of Hong Kong and UK
Cabinet Minister; Chancellor of Oxford University

Former Political Adviser to King Abdullah II
and to King Hussein, and Jordan Permanent
Representative to the UN

Former Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign
Affairs Minister of Sweden

Thomas R Pickering

Kenneth Adelman

Former U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Russia,
India, Israel, Jordan, El Salvador and Nigeria;
Vice Chairman of Hills & Company

Former U.S. Ambassador and Director of the
Arms Control and Disarmament Agency

Kofi Annan

PRESIDENT & CEO

Former Secretary-General of the United Nations;
Nobel Peace Prize (2001)

Louise Arbour

Nahum Barnea

Former UN High Commissioner for Human
Rights and Chief Prosecutor for the International
Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia
and Rwanda

Samuel Berger

EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE
Morton Abramowitz
Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State and
Ambassador to Turkey

Cheryl Carolus
Former South African High Commissioner to
the UK and Secretary General of the ANC

Maria Livanos Cattaui

Chief Columnist for Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel

Chair, Albright Stonebridge Group LLC; Former
U.S. National Security Advisor

Emma Bonino
Vice President of the Senate; Former Minister
of International Trade and European Affairs
of Italy and European Commissioner for
Humanitarian Aid

Wesley Clark
Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander,
Europe

Sheila Coronel

Member of the Board, Petroplus Holdings,
Switzerland

Toni Stabile, Professor of Practice in Investigative
Journalism; Director, Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism, Columbia University, U.S.

Yoichi Funabashi

Jan Egeland

Editor in Chief, The Asahi Shimbun, Japan

Frank Giustra
President & CEO, Fiore Capital

Ghassan Salamé
Dean, Paris School of International Affairs,
Sciences Po

George Soros
Chairman, Open Society Institute

Pär Stenbäck
Former Foreign Minister of Finland

Director, Norwegian Institute of International
Affairs; Former UN Under-Secretary-General for
Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief
Coordinator

Swanee Hunt
Former U.S. Ambassador to Austria;
Chair, Institute for Inclusive Security; President,
Hunt Alternatives Fund

Mo Ibrahim
Founder and Chair, Mo Ibrahim Foundation;
Founder, Celtel International

Igor Ivanov
Former Foreign Affairs Minister of the Russian
Federation

Asma Jahangir
UN Special Rapporteur on the Freedom of
Religion or Belief; Chairperson, Human Rights
Commission of Pakistan

Wim Kok
Former Prime Minister of the Netherlands

Ricardo Lagos
Former President of Chile

Joanne Leedom-Ackerman
Former International Secretary of International
PEN; Novelist and journalist, U.S.

Lord (Mark) Malloch-Brown
Former Administrator of the United Nations
Development Programme (UNDP) and UN
Deputy Secretary-General

Lalit Mansingh
Former Foreign Secretary of India, Ambassador
to the U.S. and High Commissioner to the UK

Jessica Tuchman Mathews

Mohamed ElBaradei

President, Carnegie Endowment for
International Peace, U.S.

Director-General Emeritus, International Atomic
Energy Agency (IAEA); Nobel Peace Prize (2005)

Benjamin Mkapa

Uffe Ellemann-Jensen

Former President of Tanzania

Former Foreign Minister of Denmark

Moisés Naím

Gareth Evans

Senior Associate, International Economics
Program, Carnegie Endowment for International
Peace; former Editor in Chief, Foreign Policy

President Emeritus of Crisis Group; Former
Foreign Affairs Minister of Australia

Mark Eyskens
Former Prime Minister of Belgium

Joschka Fischer
Former Foreign Minister of Germany

Jean-Marie Guéhenno
Arnold Saltzman Professor of Professional
Practice in International and Public Affairs,
Columbia University; Former UN UnderSecretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations

Carla Hills
Former U.S. Secretary of Housing and U.S.
Trade Representative

Ayo Obe
Legal Practitioner, Lagos, Nigeria

Güler Sabancı
Chairperson, Sabancı Holding, Turkey

Javier Solana
Former EU High Representative for the Common
Foreign and Security Policy, NATO SecretaryGeneral and Foreign Affairs Minister of Spain

Northern Nigeria: Background to Conflict
Crisis Group Africa Report N°168, 20 December 2010

Page 43

PRESIDENT’S COUNCIL
Crisis Group’s President’s Council is a distinguished group of major individual and corporate donors providing essential support, time and expertise to Crisis Group in delivering its core mission. Canaccord Adams Limited

Neil & Sandy DeFeo
Fares I. Fares

Frank Holmes
Steve Killelea
George Landegger

Statoil ASA
Harry Pokrant
Ian Telfer

Mala Gaonkar
Alan Griffiths

Ford Nicholson

Neil Woodyer

INTERNATIONAL ADVISORY COUNCIL
Crisis Group’s International Advisory Council comprises significant individual and corporate donors who contribute their advice and experience to Crisis Group on a regular basis. Rita E. Hauser
Co-Chair

Elliott Kulick
Co-Chair

Anglo American PLC
APCO Worldwide Inc.
Ed Bachrach
Stanley Bergman & Edward
Bergman
Harry Bookey & Pamela
Bass-Bookey

Iara Lee & George Gund III
Foundation
Chevron
John Ehara
Equinox Partners
Neemat Frem
Seth Ginns
Paul Hoag
Joseph Hotung
International Council of
Swedish Industry

H.J. Keilman

Michael Riordan

George Kellner

Shell

Amed Khan

Belinda Stronach

Zelmira Koch
Liquidnet

Talisman Energy
Tilleke & Gibbins

Jean Manas
McKinsey & Company

Kevin Torudag

Harriet Mouchly-Weiss
Yves OltramareAnna Luisa
Ponti & Geoffrey Hoguet

VIVATrust
Yapı Merkezi Construction
and Industry Inc.

SENIOR ADVISERS
Crisis Group’s Senior Advisers are former Board Members who maintain an association with Crisis Group, and whose advice and support are called on from time to time (to the extent consistent with any other office they may be holding at the time). Martti Ahtisaari

Chairman Emeritus

George Mitchell
Chairman Emeritus

HRH Prince Turki al-Faisal
Shlomo Ben-Ami
Hushang Ansary

Mong Joon Chung
Pat Cox
Gianfranco Dell’Alba

Timothy Ong
Olara Otunnu
Shimon Peres

Jacques Delors

Victor Pinchuk

Alain Destexhe
Mou-Shih Ding
Gernot Erler

Surin Pitsuwan
Cyril Ramaphosa

Marika Fahlén

George Robertson
Michel Rocard
Volker Rühe

Fidel V. Ramos

Richard Armitage
Ersin Arıoğlu
Óscar Arias

Stanley Fischer
Malcolm Fraser

Diego Arria
Zainab Bangura
Christoph Bertram
Alan Blinken

I.K. Gujral
Max Jakobson
James V. Kimsey
Aleksander Kwaśniewski

Mohamed Sahnoun

Lakhdar Brahimi

Todung Mulya Lubis
Allan J. MacEachen

Michael Sohlman

Zbigniew Brzezinski

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