The religiously and ethnically diverse group of participants included community leaders, members of informal community security groups, police, researchers from the University of Maiduguri, students and a journalist. Meeting participants had taken part in a March field assessment to evaluate security risks and perceptions of security actors in the Borno State communities of Gwange III, Shehuri North, Kubo and Shani.
Attendees of the June meeting broke into smaller groups to discuss security threats in their communities. Echoing concerns unveiled by the March assessment, they identified the growing and unregulated influence of vigilante groups operating in northeast Nigeria as one of the major security threats. Many participants said that while well-armed and unmonitored community security groups fill a gap in the capacity of state security actors in some remote areas, they were nonetheless operating with impunity and now posed a potential additional threat to communities. Representatives from the police and informal security groups were receptive to hearing criticisms of their respective operations. The ABA ROLI consultant who helped facilitate the meeting said, “Despite the fact that the workshop had to end a few days early and that the participants came together never having met before and represented groups with potentially conflicting agendas, they all came to the meeting with profound enthusiasm and a strong sense of camaraderie and commitment to ultimately accomplish a shared goal.”
Meeting participants identified marginalization, discriminatory economic development, religious tension and political disenfranchisement as the most prevalent of the root causes of conflict and violence in their communities. They also designed plans for appropriate responses to alerts of violence or tension. For instance, representatives from the Kubo and Shani communities—which, despite being only 8 km apart, have never shared information on security threats—considered assigning runners between their two locations to deliver alerts on conflicts affecting either community. The plans participants designed are being piloted in the Gwange III and Shehuri North communities. ABA ROLI will support community advisory groups in assessing monitored threats to community security. Local forums will also be engaged in discussions on effective responses to prevent and mitigate the impact of outbreaks of violence.
To learn more about our work in Nigeria, contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at firstname.lastname@example.org.