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There have been some successes on the security front in Nigeria since 2015, but President Buhari and his All Progressives Congress (APC) government have found themselves fighting on at least as many fronts as their predecessors. In the ‘Middle Belt’ of the country, inter-communal violence, which has been a permanent fixture of Nigerian life for many years, has again been escalating alarmingly. Particularly badly affected have been Benue, Taraba, Kogi, Nasarawa, Kaduna, Plateau and Niger States. According to a report released by the International Crisis Group in July, violence between Nigerian farmers and herders killed at least 1,300 people in the first half of 2018, claiming “about six times more civilian lives than the Boko Haram insurgency”. The violence has continued unabated during the second half of the year too.

President Buhari and the government have been criticised (as, to be fair, were those predecessors too) for failing to get to grips with the interlocking ‘root causes’ of violence – poverty, inequality, marginalisation and corruption – in Nigeria, whether in the north or elsewhere, and for often appearing to favour military responses over political ones.

Most of this violence derives from competition between mainly Muslim pastoralists and largely Christian farmers over land and natural resources. Some of this violence has been described as ‘banditry’ by experts. There are concerns that the inter-communal violence is beginning to spread both southwards and northwards.

Some Christian leaders have gone so far as to accuse President Buhari of being complicit in the violence and of sympathising with the mainly Muslim pastoralist groups that have been involved. He has angrily denied such accusations. But the inter-communal violence, and the state’s response, will undoubtedly be a major election issue when Nigeria goes to the polls in early 2019.

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