Nigeria is a country exhibiting numerous signs of impending crisis. These include potentially explosive tensions between various ethnic groups; economic decline leading to soaring inequality and poverty; an authoritarian and deeply repressive military regime; widespread human rights abuses; and rampant and systemic corruption.
At the present time, the military regime in Abuja is able to maintain order only by using harsh and brutal measures to stamp out potential challenges to its authority and quash dissent. Without some let up, however, in the climate of economic hardship, favouritism, corruption and repression, there is a real risk that public unrest could spark increased civil disturbance leading to a complete breakdown in order, massive refugee flows and, in the worst case, civil war on a scale unseen since the Biafra war of 1968.
Civil war or even unrest within Nigeria would have a far-reaching, destabilising effect on the rest of the west African region. Nigeria itself is a giant among African states. Its population is roughly equal to that of its 15 west African neighbours combined and accounts for one quarter of Africa�s total population. Its military might and economic power far outstrip those of any other country in the region. It is closely enmeshed in regional economic and security frameworks (ECOWAS and ECOMOG). Nigeria�s fate therefore is of enormous importance to both neighbouring countries and to Africa as a whole. its collapse could well spill across national boundaries sparking political, economic, ethnic and humanitarian crises throughout west Africa.
ICG has been monitoring events in Nigeria since early 1996. In August 1996 the organisation published a report containing the findings of a survey of international opinion on Nigeria. The survey encompassed all the major stakeholders in the Nigeria crisis, including the governments of the United Kingdom, the United States and South Africa; the Commonwealth; the United Nations; the European Union; the oil industry; opposition groups in Nigeria; and Nigeria experts, academics and campaigners based outside Nigeria. The results exposed a basic lack of any coherent, co-ordinated international response to events in Nigeria.
ICG believes that key to moving Nigeria out of crisis is a stepping up of pressure on the regime in Abuja from both within and without Nigeria. Increasing Pressure from within Nigeria requires the strengthening of the pro-democracy movement, opposition groups, local NGOs and the media. ICG will encourage and support existing initiatives, both governmental and non-governmental, designed to achieve that end. However, ICG believes it equally important that pressure from beyond Nigeria is increased and it is in this area that the organisation feels it has most to offer. Accordingly ICG is currently developing a project designed to stiffen international resolve to increase pressure on the Nigerian regime through a series of limited, targeted but potentially highly effective measures. In pursuing this course of action, ICG will seek to build a broad, robust and united international front capable of arresting Nigeria�s slide into crisis and moving the country on to more stable ground.
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