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The dynamism of this study generally sought to understand why the Nigerian state has remained deeply divided and prone to structural violence especially in the North Central zone despite all governmental and nongovernmental efforts at ensuring stability, and fostering unity in diversity and peaceful coexistence among its regionally, ethnically and religiously diverse population. The study was an attempt to understand and shed some light on a phenomenon that has had debilitating consequences on the Nigerian state and its people, and left some gaps in our knowledge of the circumstances that harness or hinder the integrative and peace-generating function of federalism in Nigeria.

The adoption of the conflict transformation approach in dealing with structural violence in the North central zone was also explored and examined in order to understand how the approach can work in the Nigerian federation, and in enhancing political stability in Nigeria. In understanding the phenomenon, the study specifically examined structural violence and the various challenges posed by structural violence in the Nigerian political space. It also explored the concept of violence in the Nigerian federal structure from 2011-2015 in relations to the North central Zone. In an attempt to investigate the phenomenon, the study employed a qualitative research method for gathering and analyzing data.

In achieving the objectives of the study, the thesis assessed the context of federalism all over the world, and narrowing it down to the Nigerian example, its origins and other contextual issues connected to it, structural violence was also examined extensively, and its key concepts, including incidences of structural violence in the north central zone and the overlying and underlying causes. The conflict transformation theory and the structural conflict/violence theory were adopted for the theoretical discourse.

The summary of findings of the research suggests that the values, attitudes, actions and perception of the people with regard to issues that were ethno-religiously contentious reinforced the centrifugal forces that tend to cause structural violence in the North Central zone. This finding emanates from the expressed descriptions and indicated perspectives of various authors as well as the data obtained from other sources. It thus recommended that Nigeria should aim at fashioning out a political culture that will downplay, if not totally eliminate feelings of mistrust, deep-seated animosity that exists among the various ethnic groups in the country.

Keywords: Structural violence, Conflict transformation, Violence, Peace, Conflict.



1.1 Background to the Study

Africa, especially the Sub-Saharan region has been plagued by conflict for many decades now (Clempson, 2012). There has been a great deal of war and bloodshed since the colonial masters left the continent. According to De Ree and Nillesn (2009), the last six decades has experienced up to 47 civil wars in sub –Saharan Africa which in turn has resulted in over 1.37 million deaths on the battlefield and an even larger number of civilian deaths.  In Nigeria, over the past two decades, especially in the middle belt, the country has also experienced an increased level of violence” (Action Aid Nigeria, 2014). Experts have in several studies identified economic disparities and more importantly structural violence, as key factors in the rise of violence in the region (Olojo, 2013; Walker, 2012; and Adesoji, 2010).

According to Olojo (2012), structural violence has predicated thousands of impoverished and unemployed youths in northern Nigeria to take part in armed violence. This state of events according to the report has resulted in the said youths becoming willing recruits for the terrorist organisationBoko Haram’s who has being the main cause of a series of conflicts and armed violence predominant in the Northern part of Nigeria. Olojo (2012) attributed the main cause of the Boko Haram crisis to poverty, lack of education and social marginalisation. This makes a clear case for the premise that structural violence is one of the more responsible factors leading to armed violence and conflict in the region under review. 

Another serious case of conflict that has plagued the North-central region of Nigeria in recent years is the crisis that has persisted between Fulani herdsmen and farmers in various states in the region. The problem here can be traced to a belief of land and ‘overlord-ship’ entitlement held by one or both parties and the resulting violence is caused by the feeling that the other party is trespassing or encroaching on land that does not belong to them. Other cases reported include Fulani herdsmen taking up arms against farmers who accuse them of despoiling their crops with cattle during grazing and farmers taking up arms against Fulani herdsmen upon hearing that ‘so and so’ farmer was attacked in ‘so and so’ town. Again the development of these cases of conflict can can be explained using the concept of structural violence. Galtung (1969)’s structural violence paradigm underscores how socio-cultural systems, political structures and state institutions create structural violence among people and indirectly act as instigators of armed violence and conflict. By implication, it is the many factors of political, social and ethnic machinations (e.g implementation of land tenure and the concept of communal land, lack of proper litigation and inter-ethnic conflict mediation in rural areas etc) that has created the aforementioned beliefs of entitlement as well as a system that can continually breed violence and conflict. Accordingly, the theory suggests how seeds of hostility are sown and ultimately degenerate into large scale uprisings, revolutions and conflicts within societies.

Structural conflict is therefore inherently built into a society through its structure and organization as it is seen in the forceful foundation of the Nigerian state’s adoption of federalism as was propagated by the British. Structural violence in this context examines the social problems that have manifested itself in the North central zone as a result of certain federal principles such as federal character/quota system, fiscal federalism amongst others that do not suit the system or are not properly balanced in practice, this principles have brought about; political and economic exclusion, poverty, injustice, exploitation, religious conflicts which are the major sources of conflict peculiar to this zone. Structuralism maintains that conflicts occur because of the exploitative and unjust nature of human society, domination of one class by another (Faleti, 2006).

Conflict is inherent in society; so are mechanisms for dealing with it. The decline of traditional authority and its role in conflict mediation has contributed to the development of large-scale conflict in countries such as Liberia, Somalia, Sudan and our case study, north central zone of Nigeria. Characteristic of many conflicts in the northern zone of Nigeria have degenerated to a critical level. It has so far defied possible explanations where life is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. The state at present is in a dire situation of unrest, continual suspicion, perpetual fear of violence and death. In this condition, there is little place for industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain and worse of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death.

Conflict transformation is an emerging field or theoretical framework in the study of conflict resolution and management. The idea behind conflict transformation is to go beyond just resolving conflict and try to ensure that one attains a long-term goal of ‘transforming’ or addressing the reasons for the conflict in order to ensure that it never arises again (Miall, 2004).

Conflict transformation appears to be able to provide a lasting solution to the issues addressed above. This is because, unlike most other conflict management techniques, conflict transformation actually tries to tackle a problem of conflict from the cause through to its effects. Thus, this research aims at investigating the relationship between structural violence and conflict in North-central Nigeria as well as the suitability of conflict transformation for tackling the underlying problems.

1.2                   Statement of the Problem

In Nigeria today, the adoption of Western civilization and system of government can be argued to have actually increased imbalances in the Nigerian federation as exemplified in continued centralization and concentration of power at the centre with its attendant consequences; conflicts of varying degrees. This has led to a great deal of marginlization of minority ethnic groups (e.g. Niger-Deltans and North-Central tribes); causing poverty, poor education and structural violence (Agang 2013). The resulting effect of this state of things has been conflict and armed violence which has troubled the region for the last two decades or so (Action Aid, 2014). Even though there is a consensus that the federal idea is the most suitable mechanism for fostering unity and diversity in the context of ethnic, religious and regional pluralities of Nigeria, there is still the feeling that the federal system; which was adopted by Nigeria as a way of managing her diversity and heterogeneity; has not yielded much peaceful output, but rather, has created problems and violence amongst the various groups in the country. In the North central zone, the idea of federalism in the Nigerian political space has so far not been able to tamed the recurrence of ethnic clashes and violence, there still exists imbalances amongst the people which is the major source of conflict.

It is based on the contending issues that this study is relevant for theoretical and practical reasons. A study of the nature and prevalence of structural violence and the role it plays in premeditating armed conflict and violence will be important for addressing the Nigerian Structural Violence problem whose solution has eluded both policy and experts till date.

1.3 Objective of the Study

The main objective of this study is to assess the incidence of structural violence present in the North central zone of Nigeria, and how conflict transformation can be used to proffer solutions to this problem.The specific objectives are to;

1.                  examine the concept of structural violence;

2.                  Interrogate incidences of structural violence in North Central Nigeria;

3.            assess the role structural violence plays in premeditation of armed violence and conflict in North Central Nigeria and

4.            evaluate how conflict transformation can be used to manage structural   violence and conflict in North-Central Nigeria

1.4 Research Questions

1.      To what extent is the state of structural violence in North Central Nigeria?

2.      How has the prevalence of structural violence resulted in North-central Nigeria armed conflicts?

3.      How can conflict transformation be used to manage the structuralviolence posed in the North Central Zone?

1.5 Significance of the Study

The study is very significant because it would enlighten readers and researchers and the public on the silent issue known as structural violence and how it has contributed largely to some issues of conflict in the North central zone of Nigeria.

This study would also contribute to knowledge in the society, as it would l serve as reference material to the researchers and the scholars in the field of political science and Peace and conflict studies.

The study would help Nigerians develop keen interest in global discourses on structural violence, and its role in mitigating against national peace. It would also, promote peaceful interrelationship among diverse regions of the country and usher in developmental initiatives to the system.

The study also has importance in the context of Nigeria. Although much research has been done on structural violence in Nigeria, there is a distinct lack of case studies that relates the concept to conflict degeneration. Therefore, this study would help to fill this research gap.

1.6 Scope of the Study

The scope of this research would be restricted to structural violence and key examples of conflicts that have degenerated from them in the north central zone as well as the role of conflict transformation approach in addressing such key issues. The North Central Zone consists of the seven states situated geographically in the middle belt region of Nigeria, spanning from the west, around the confluence of River Niger and River Benue: Benue, Kogi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger and Plateau States. This study examines 5 years of prevalence of structural violence in the Nigerian federal structure from 2011-2015 in relations to the North central Zone. The choice of north central zone as a case study is informed by regularity of ethnic conflicts and rivalry in the area and the strategic location of the place as it serves as gate way to the Northern, Southern and Eastern parts of the country.

1.7 Methodology

As defined by Patton (2002), research is something that people undertake in other to find out things in a systematic way, thereby increasing their knowledge.

The methodological approach of this study is qualitative because it aimed to achieve in-depth understanding of structural violence in the north central zone of Nigeria: a conflict transformation approach. Moreover, the study required data collection that embraces perceptions about the actors who have been involved either in instigating or managing conflict. Hence in this study a mix of primary and secondary sources of data was adopted. This is justified due to its intrinsic values. For any research to be meaningful, reliable and scientific fact and ideas must be supplemented with empiricism. Secondary materials like textbooks, research papers, government publications, newspapers, magazines etc where used.

The organisation and analysis of the data collected started with their sorting into themes and sub themes, informing the structural arrangement of the findings. This is however done in an attempt to avoid the challenges involved in the interpretation of the findings and to reach a good conclusion.

1.8 Research Design

The two basic research methods used in any research is the quantitative and qualitative approach. However, the qualitative approach was adopted for this study. Qualitative studies encompass a broad range of data collection methods which include: observation, documentary analysis and interviews.

According to Denzin and Lincoln (2000), ‘Qualitative research involves an interpretative, naturalistic approach to the world’. This means that qualitative researchers study things in their natural settings, attempting to make sense of, or to interpret, phenomena in terms of the meanings people bring to them. The qualitative approach was adopted for this study because the researcher does not intend to use statistical inquiry and techniques to gather data about the social phenomena to be researched. Therefore the researcher made use of both primary and secondary data sources which includes:

 (a) elite interview sessions with key political figures in the area of study was conducted by the researcher and the following persons were interviewed: HRH Chief Nuhu Ododo “Omo olobu Attah Igala” of odu ogodo anya of Dekina local government area of Kogi State. Also, Mr Cosmas Num (Director Special Services Bureau of Internal Affairs and special services, Makurdi Benue State) and finally Honorable Alilu Ogbadu (Special Assistant to a legislative member) National Assembly Abuja. The choice of this respondents was borne out of their work experiences and access to first hand information.

(b) collection of articles and journal publications from Babcock university library, and the Ken Nnamani Political Science Resource Centre and online journals that were accessed via the internet. (c) The use of text books and citations from previous Authors whom have written on the related subject matter were also used. Another source of data was media reports including newspapers, magazines and other commentaries which were collected over a period spanning from 2011-2015.

The method is more efficient as it enables the researcher study the phenomenon effectively and make forecast based on the findings. Coming from the explanatory approach of a qualitative analysis that seeks to give the explanation for what is going on given a situation, this study tried to give explanations or cause-effect relationships between armed conflict and structural violence using historical information, articles, media reports and other records that serve as the basis for making inferences as to the reason for structural violence in the North Central Zone of Nigeria. The collection of these evidences formed of theory or concept proposed for the effect of Structural violence on conflict in the north central region of Nigeria. Therefore, in order to achieve the objectives of this study, a thematic approach was adopted to analyze available data and draw conclusive inferences.

Before the qualitative data was obtained, the researcher carried out an initial textual examination of the primary sources relating to structural violence in Nigeria. This was followed by an analysis of secondary literature (journal articles and commentaries) where available. After this initial analysis, qualitative interviews were undertaken for key members of society living within the north central zone of Nigeria. The rationale behind this was to get an inside view from more informed respondents who have full grasps and knowledge of actual events and trends both from societal and political points of views.

1.9       Area of the Study

The focus of the study is North Central Nigeria. The zone includes the following states, Benue, Kogi, Kwara, Nassarawa and Niger states. They are also described as middle belt states because they are geographically located at the centre of Nigeria. The estimated population of people in the zone is put at 20 million, which is approximately 11.8% of the total population of Nigeria. Each of the states in the zone has a mix of tribes and cultures that impact upon the life of the people. There are also majority ethnic groups within the region that reflect an abstraction of the fate suffered by minorities in the country. The study area was selected to represent the general characteristics of the zone in line with established statistical principles.

1.10  Operational Definition of Terms

Central to this study are certain concepts that need clarifications in other to provide a focus for the senses in which they are to be understood in this study as perhaps against other usage or their general usage in the literature of the genre. These concepts are:

Structural Violence: Structural violence does not necessarily involve physical force; it is called structural violence which ordinarily means the use of physical force to justify rebellion against unjust institutions by appeal to the self-defense. Structural violence is a name for what would more correctly be called social injustice.

Conflict: Conflict is a situation in which people, groups or countries are involved in a serious disagreement or argument.

Conflict Resolution: This deals on how to control or manage an existing conflict so that it does not escalate, thereby leading to chaos, crisis and war.

Conflict Transformation: Conflict transformation draws on familiar concepts of conflict management and resolution. It is a process of engaging with and transforming the relationship, interest, discourses and, if necessary, the very constitution of society that supports the continuation of violent conflicts. This recognizes that conflicts are transformed gradually, through a series of smaller or larger changes as well as specific steps by means of which a variety of actors may play important roles.

Community: Refers to a group of people having the same culture.

Communal Conflict: Is construed in the study as a conflict within a homogeneous group.

Insurgency: An insurgency is a rebellion against authority when those in taking part in the rebellion are not recognized as complaining.

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