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Water Stress, Instability, and Violent Extremism in Nigeria

Nigeria is ranked among the most fragile states in the world. The country faces significant water challenges, which vary greatly from one region to another. Weak governance exacerbates these water challenges, and in turn, conflicts over water resources make governance more difficult. There are three main geographical flashpoints where conflict over water is likely to break out. In the north and northeast, Boko Haram has waged a violent insurgent campaign since 2010; among their demands are government provision of clean water. In Nigeria’s Middle Belt, changing rainfall patterns are limiting the grazing area of Muslim Fulani herders, who then encroach on the land of predominantly Christian farmers. Conflict over these lands killed more Nigerians than Boko Haram in 2016. Finally, in the Niger Delta, militant groups are attacking oil infrastructure, partially motivated by conflict over rights to land and waterways. Oil spills also contribute to food insecurity and malnutrition in this region.