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ANALYSIS | Encouraging Youth Inclusion Against Extremism – Perspectives from Northeast Nigeria

Security personnel stand guard in Kukawa village in Kanam Local Government Area of ​​Plateau State on April 12, 2022, after residents’ houses were burnt down during an attack by bandits.

Different spheres of government in Nigeria are failing to invest in the youth which creates fertile ground for criminal or violent armed groups to exploit vulnerable and sensitive youths to join their cause, claims Jaynisha Patel and Emmanuel Bosa.


Battered by decades of conflict that shows few signs of letting up, Nigeria’s northeastern region is increasingly vulnerable amid the growth of Boko Haram and its more violent offshoot, the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP).

Central to restoring stability to the region is the search for solutions to the plight of vulnerable young Africans, whose recruitment has increased the numbers of both groups.

New research by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR) shares insights from young people at the heart of the conflict. This research uses interviews with young people in the region, community activists and leaders to look for solutions that promote youth resilience in this highly fluid and fragile environment

10 million children do not go to school

Deficits in human development were a prominent vulnerability in this consultation. Over the decades, inadequate long-term investment in formal education has contributed to a national literacy rate of 62% for Nigerians aged 15 and above.

In the north, however, this figure is less than half at 29.7%, with around 10 million in this age category not attending school. This reality creates fertile ground for criminal or violent armed groups to exploit vulnerable and susceptible youths to join their cause, targeting those with poor literacy and underdeveloped critical thinking skills.

Regardless of qualification, the majority of young people feel frustrated and desperate about their economic prospects.

Different spheres of government fail to invest in young people. Added to this is the widespread perception that ethnic favoritism also serves as a filter for employment. One young woman from Borno State points out that even when looking for work in neighboring states, employers prefer to hire people from their area. Another man from Borno State pointed to religious or tribal differences as barriers to finding work.

These factors combined strengthen the fortunes of extremist groups.

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The ongoing frustration, according to the youth of the area, has been Boko Haram’s most used entry point for recruitment. It has also led to youth becoming reactively violent to minor provocations that could otherwise be mediated peacefully. This was captured by the reflections of a community activist in Borno State:

“Every little thing that shouldn’t even raise an alarm does [youth] violent because they already have many problems and challenges. Some have their certificates looking for jobs everywhere to no avail. They have no hope of going anywhere to look for work. Some states will ask you if you are a native before they will give you a job. This makes the young people easily provoked and violent.”

In finding a way to stem the flow of young people to radicalized movements, it is essential that policies and investments are centered around youth inclusion, assessed on the basis of needs, and that they consider the development needs that local youth see as important to their own progress. This ensures that locals buy into programs and take ownership of them.

Private sector crucial

Residents in Borno and Kano have overwhelmingly indicated that skill development centers are vital in addressing the problem of idle youth. Another need expressed by local communities is for capital or financing for small business, as well as development of skills to run businesses. In addition, there is a great demand for apprenticeships and initiatives for the transfer of skills through mentorship.

Programs of this nature can be put in place at the same time to encourage inter-ethnic learning opportunities which also promote greater understanding between ethnic groups, ultimately contributing to wider social cohesion. This can help address existing grievances that lead to violence.

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In light of lagging government capacity, the role of the private sector will become central to addressing the plight of young people in these regions. It has a central role to play in creating jobs and thereby stimulating local economies through its investment. To this end, the government should consider how to encourage private sector investment for youth in post-conflict communities by improving security infrastructure, introducing tax incentives, exemptions or subsidies, and investing in power systems, transport infrastructure and programs that enable promote. of marginalized youth.

Without the emergence of a supply of young recruits in armed groups, violence and instability will continue to leave their brutal mark on already fragile communities and risk further expansion of these groups. In this context, the research points to the importance of creating employment to create more resilience in these societies.

You can read the full research publication over here.

– Jaynisha Patel is the Project Leader for Inclusive Economies at the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation.

– Emmanuel Bosah is the Executive Director of Adika Development Foundation, a research organization based in Nigeria, focused on interrogating issues related to climate change, food security and sustainable agriculture, and good governance.

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ANALYSIS | Encouraging Youth Inclusion Against Extremism – Perspectives from Northeast Nigeria

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