Poverty, Conflict and Development in Nigeria

Poverty, Conflict and Development in Nigeria

There appears to be a link between poverty, conflict and under-development in Nigeria. In this article, we examine the relationship between conflict, poverty and development in the country. In the course of the article, we shall consider some of the effects of conflicts in Nigeria.

Conflict and Development

Nigeria over the past three decades, particularly in the 1980s and 1990s has faced greater challenges to stability and progress in all ramifications than ever before. The country is poor despite its abundant natural and human resources. Majority of Nigerians have no access to proper health care, proper hygiene, safe water, and electricity.

Furthermore, Nigeria (and some other countries in Africa) has experienced a variety of insecurity and conflict. The problem of conflict and insecurity is destabilizing the countries’ peace process. Indeed, no country that is bedeviled with the problem of peace and stability in its societal milieus could progress. Therefore, the dire need for peace in Nigeria is a matter that calls for great and urgent concern.

Land disputes, ethno-religious clashes, armed conflict, civil wars, violence have come to represent the greatest challenges to peace, security and stability in the country. Whenever conflict occurs, the development of the society is seriously affected.

Indeed, the costs of conflicts in Nigeria in terms of loss of human life and property, and the destruction of social infrastructure are enormous. For example, between 1967 and 1970, some three million people died in the Nigerian-Biafra civil war.

Besides, once conflict occurs, scarce resources are inevitably diverted to the purchase of military equipment at the expense of socio-economic development. While many factors contribute to creating conflicts, most conflicts in Nigeria result mainly from poverty rooted on political corruption, and these have had a devastating impact on Nigeria’s development.

Poverty and Conflict

Poverty is indeed a multidimensional issue that goes beyond economics to include social, political, and cultural problems.

In an attempt to develop an approach to poverty and conflict, it becomes clear that poverty as a result of lack of human needs lead to reactions that result in conflict. Accordingly, we witness conflict and instability in Nigeria and other developing countries because people are denied their needs that relate to growth and development.

This is because basic needs (such as food, water, shelter and health) cannot be suppressed, or bargained for; thus any attempt to do this, leads to conflict. When the poor are in the majority and have no prospect of ameliorating their condition, they are bound to be restless and seek restitution through violence. No government can hold stability and peace when it is created on a sea of poverty.

Conflicts are therefore often caused by an attempt to clamor for these basic needs by violent means. Nigeria, as a volatile mix of poverty and conflict has continued to be poorly developed. Thus, as long as poverty remains in Nigeria, conflict is inevitable.

Furthermore, poverty, conflict and underdevelopment in Nigeria are traceable to political corruption. Thus, there is the need for Nigeria to develop politically (particularly by eliminating political corruption) in order to effectively alleviate poverty; in effect manage conflict in Nigeria to avoid further human losses.

Conflict in Nigeria and its Effects on Development

Nigeria has been experiencing a plethora of conflicts endangering the countries’ social order, peace, and development over the last three decades, particularly in the 1990s. Nigeria could be said to have witnessed four major types of conflicts, these include land disputes, ethno-religious conflicts, civil war, and internal crises.

The Nigerian civil war (1967-1970) occurred when the Igbos attempted to separate from state control or authority. This was an attempt to withdraw from a state’s sovereignty and organize its own government and separate institutions. Biafra’s dogged efforts to secede from Nigeria (1967) resulted in a civil war that lasted almost three years with a death toll of above two million.

Event leading to the Nigerian civil war started as minor internal crises, but developed to a full-fledged war, which was fought with conventional weapons.

Internal crises refer to disturbances of any kind which affect the state of peace and security. These include rampages, riots, violent demonstrations, etc. The series of students’ riots in Nigeria between 1999 and 2006 are germane. Conflict has destabilized Nigeria and most African countries.

The costs of conflicts in Nigeria in terms of loss of human life and property, and the destruction of social infrastructure are enormous: Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in many of the country. Many others have also suffered and continue to suffer untold psychological trauma associated with conflicts. This is because once conflicts occur scarce resources are inevitably diverted to the purchase of military equipment at the expense of socioeconomic development.

When people are forced to flee their homes, poverty associated ailments such as malnutrition and diseases follow. Those who suffer most from conflicts are the poor and vulnerable, including children and women.

The costs of conflicts are horrific, and in many cases conflicts wiped out the achievements of decades of economic and social development. Armed conflicts, in particular, involve complete economic paralysis, immense social costs and trauma, political quagmire and disintegration, as well as serious environmental degradation and dilapidation.

Some conflicts, like the civil way, have been of high intensity; however, there are countless smaller conflicts, such as those between herdsmen and farmers found in the middle belt and northern parts of Nigeria, which are no less vicious.

Violence from these smaller conflicts also causes as many deaths as do diseases. For example, the human cost resulting from localized conflicts is devastating. Millions of lives have been lost as a result of localized conflict in Nigeria, for example, at least 10,000 people lost their lives between 1999 and 2003, and an estimated 800,000 were internally displaced.

Most of the people who have been forced to flee their homes in Nigeria end up in the slums of already over-crowded cities and towns. Malnutrition and disease increase. And those who suffer most are the poor and the vulnerable. War and conflicts does not only harm people. It destroys roads, bridges, farming equipments, telecommunications, as well as water and sanitation systems. It shuts down hospitals and schools. It slows trade and economic life, sometimes to a halt. The very fabric of society is torn asunder.

The consequences of conflicts are much wider; conflict also weakens the stability of Africa as a whole and even extends its destructive tentacles to global peace (instability in Africa undermines global security).


Conflict directly undermines governance and development by destroying the trust relationship between the people and the state. One obligation of the state is to provide the basic needs of its people and also to ensure the safety of its citizens. When the state fails to carry out this obligation, the people effectively reclaim their right to use force (conflict) in the resolution of disputes, often with disastrous consequences, such as a rise in crime and stunted development. Thus, bad governance and poor leadership causes or worsens Poverty, which leads to an increase in Conflict, which in turn leads to the stunting of Development.


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