Fulani extremism in Nigeria

Fulani extremism refers to violence by an ethnic group, the Fulani (also known as Fula or Fulbe) against neighboring farmers of various ethnicities.[1] Nigeria is considered a “melting pot” of different cultural and ethnic groups.[citation needed] Ethnic identification in the country is a complicated amalgamation of primordial and constructivist approaches.[2] The Nigerian Fulani and Hausa are typically considered a singular group - however this is not the case for members of these ethnic groups throughout the rest of the continent.[2] The Fulani/Hausa are the largest and most well-known group.[1] The number of Fulani in Nigeria is estimated to be around 14 million.[1] The primary ethnic groups that the Fulani come into conflict with are the Yoruba and the Igbo, although a total of 33 known groups participate in the farmer-pastoralist conflict in the country.[2][3]

General historyEdit

The Fulani are largely nomadic/semi-nomadic group of approximately 20 million individuals who live in the semi-arid climate of West Africa.[1] It is important of course to emphasize that not all Fulani are extremists - the extremists are a subset of this larger ethnic group.[citation needed] The Fulani are a pastoralist group and their livelihood depends on herding cattle, and occasionally goats and sheep, along grazing routes.[citation needed] In recent years, as climate change has brought about increased desertification and a scarcity of resources, Fulani-farmer conflicts have increased in frequency.[citation needed] As Fulani nomads move southward into more fertile lands, there has been greater competition for grazing routes with local farmers, prompting violence.[citation needed]

While there are other kinds of herder-farmer conflicts in Nigeria, Fulani-farmer conflicts have been categorized as extremism because terrorism and extreme violence are frequently used as tactics to settle disputes.[1] In some parts of Africa, such as in Mali, formal terrorist groups have been established.[4] The Macina Liberation Front, or the Front de Libération du Macina (FLM) in Mali is an official jihadist group that has become intertwined with the Fulani pastoralists.[4] While there is currently no formal organization in Nigeria, terrorist tactics are still common.[1] These tactics include, but are not limited to, destroying crops, deadly riots, blocking traffic, raping women, beating up farmers, and instigating armed attacks on villages.[5] The battle for fertile farming land and grazing routes has resulted in a significant amount of violence.[1] These crises also occur throughout Guinea, Senegal, Mali, and Cameroon.[1]

While the specific details of Fulani migration into Nigeria are largely unknown, it is generally assumed that the Fulani moved into Northern Nigeria from the Senegambia region in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.[6] Since this initial migration, the Fulani have come into conflict with farmers in Nigeria.[citation needed] Fulani extremist attacks are most prominent in the Kaduna, Plateau, and Benue states.[1]

Over the course of several centuries, these conflicts have fluctuated in intensity based on a variety of social, political, economic, and environmental factors.[citation needed] Specifically, droughts, erratic rainfall, and the degradation of land in Nigeria have intensified the conflict.[1]

Prominent attacksEdit

Fulani extremists are not consolidated under the rule of top-down leadership.[1] Instead, attacks are operated on an individual, smaller-scale level, which is atypical of terrorist groups.[1] As a result, it is difficult to both maintain a clear record of attacks and hold extremists accountable.[5] The following are some, but not all, of the prominent attacks by Fulani extremists in Nigeria over the last five years.[7][8][9][10]

Date Location Attack Type Fatalities
3/5/2015 Egba Firearms 95[7]
2/24/2016 Abugbe Armed Assault 51[8]
2/24/2016 Aila Armed Assault 50[8]
2/24/2016 Akwu Armed Assault 50[8]
2/24/2016 Ugboju Armed Assault 50[8]
6/18/2016 Logo District Armed Assault 59[8]
3/20/2017 Zaki Biam Armed Assault 73[9]
5/5/2018 Gwaska Facility/Infrastructure Attack 58[10]
9/3/2018 Bolki Facility/Infrastructure Attack 35[10]


  • In 2018, Fulani extremists were responsible for 72% of terrorist-related deaths in Nigeria.[1] The total death toll was 1,159 deaths.[1]
  • In 2019, just one year later, Fulani extremists were responsible for only 26% of terrorist-related deaths in Nigeria, accounting for 325 deaths.[1]
  • Between the years 2010 and 2016, Fulani extremists were responsible for 466 terrorist attacks and 3,068 deaths across several West-African countries.[1]

Federal actionEdit

The government has taken several actions that have impacted this conflict.[6][11]

Nigerian Grazing Reserve Act of 1964Edit

In 1964, the government passed this act, hoping that it would encourage the Fulani to adopt sedentary lifestyles and graze on these reserved lands.[11][12]

Land Use Act of 1978Edit

In 1978, the government implemented the Land Use Act.[6] This piece of legislation empowered the federal government to allocate land to different groups.[6] Additionally, indigenous groups were granted the right to claim ownership of ancestral territories.[6] The passage of the Land Use Act exacerbated the Fulani-farmer conflict, as the nomadic Fulani were largely excluded from the right to claim ownership of ancestral land.[6]

Nigerian Agricultural Policy of 1988Edit

In an attempt to resolve the issues presented by the Land Use Act, the government has demarcated specific grazing reserves with the Nigerian Agricultural Policy.[11] This law set aside a minimum 10% of the total territory of the country to be reserved for grazing.[11] To date, this mandate has not been enforced to its fullest capacity.[11]

Effects of conflictEdit

Reduced crop yieldEdit

The constant conflict between the pastoralists and the farmers has had a negative effect on farmer output.[13] Fulani extremists indiscriminately destroy crops, negatively affecting agricultural production.[13]

Displacement of farmersEdit

Farmers are displaced by this conflict, exacerbating poverty and disorder in the agricultural regions.[13]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Institute for Economics and Peace (1 November 2020). "Global Terrorism Index 2020" (PDF). Vision of Humanity.
  2. ^ a b c Ukiwo, Ukoha (18 August 2006). "The Study of Ethnicity in Nigeria". Oxford Development Studies. 33: 7–23. doi:10.1080/13600810500099592. S2CID 144295856.
  3. ^ Laura Angela Bagnetto (January 29, 2020). "Illicit arms used in northern Nigeria farmer-pastoralist conflict same source as Mali jihadists: report". RFI.
  4. ^ a b Benjaminsen, Tor, Boubacar, Ba (2019). "Why do pastoralists in Mali join jihadist groups? A political ecological explanation". Journal of Peasant Studies. 46: 1–20. doi:10.1080/03066150.2018.1474457. S2CID 158928938.
  5. ^ a b Okeke, Okechukwu Edward (25 April 2014). "Conflicts between Fulani Herders and Farmers in Central and Southern Nigeria: Discourse on Proposed Establishment of Grazing Routes and Reserves". AFRREV IJAH: An International Journal of Arts and Humanities. 3: 66–84.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Idehen, Roosevelt Osazenaye, Ikuru, Ubelejit Renner (27 November 2019). "Migration and the Emerging Security Challenges in West Africa: Case of Fulani Herders/Sedentary Farmers Conflicts in Nigeria". International Journal of Arts and Humanities Ethiopia. 8: 128–137.
  7. ^ a b Institute for Economics and Peace (1 November 2016). "Global Terrorism Index 2016" (PDF). Vision of Humanity.
  8. ^ a b c d e f Institute for Economics and Peace (1 November 2017). "Global Terrorism Index 2017" (PDF). Vision of Humanity.
  9. ^ a b Institute for Economics and Peace (1 November 2018). "Global Terrorism Index 2018" (PDF). Vision of Humanity.
  10. ^ a b c Institute of Economics and Peace (1 November 2019). "Global Terrorism Index 2019" (PDF). Vision of Humanity.
  11. ^ a b c d e Okello, Anna (12 September 2014). "Identifying Motivators for State-Pastoralist Dialogue: Exploring the Relationships between Livestock Services, Self-Organisation and Conflict in Nigeria's Pastoralist Fulani". Pastoralism. 4: 1–14. doi:10.1186/s13570-014-0012-7. S2CID 55540876.
  12. ^ S.A. Ingawa; C. Tarawali; R. von Kaufmann; ILCA Subhumid Research Site, International Livestock Center for Africa (December 1989). "Grazing reserves in Nigeria: Problems, prospects and policy implications" (PDF). African Livestock Policy Analysis Network (ALPAN).
  13. ^ a b c Ofem, Ofem, Inyang, Bassey (6 May 2014). "Livelihood and Conflict Dimension among Crop Farmers and Fulani Herdsmen in Yakurr Region of Cross River State". Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences. 5: 512–519.