The Politics of Eco-violence: Why Is Conflict Escalating in Nigeria’s Middle Belt?

24 November 2021, Version 2


Competition for natural resources has intensified in recent years between nomadic Fulani herders and sedentary farmers in Nigeria's Middle Belt. What were initially sporadic conflicts over cropland and water resources have transformed into daily occurrences of mass violence. While extant research centres on the root causes of such conflicts, the reasons for their escalation remain insufficiently understood. This article examines how political developments have contributed to the escalation of conflicts in the region. Using Homer-Dixon's model, the findings show that changes in Nigeria's 'political opportunity structure' since 2014 were catalysts for escalating the conflicts. The consequences were the unvarnished adoption of nepotistic domestic policies and alliances between elites and militia members, which escalated the violent conflicts. It advocates the devolution of natural resource and security governance to prevent leaders from leveraging shifts in political opportunity structures to favour a specific demographic group.



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