Photo L-R: Dr. Dayo Oluyemi-Kusa & Dr. Marc-Antoine Perouse de Montclos, Founder NigeriaWatch/Global Fellow, Peace Research Institute, Oslo (PRIO)
On the 12th of October, 2018, CDD hosted Dr. Marc-Antoine Perouse de Montclos's presentation of the findings of research titled: '10 myths about violence in Nigeria'. The public presentation of the findings was in Abuja and I was the discussant at the event. Marc-Antoine is the Founder of Nigeria Watch; Senior Researcher, Institute de recherche pour de developpment (IRD), Paris & Global Fellow, Peace Research Institute in Oslo (PRIO). Marc-Antoine is the coordinator of the research project, housed by Research in Africa (IFRA), Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan (UI). There are at least 11 other contributors to the project, who are mostly postgraduate students of UI.
The methodology used entails a database which indexes/codes fatal incidents on a daily basis since June 1, 2006. The uniqueness of the study lies in the fact that it is the first attempt at an objective assessment of the many myths about violence in Nigeria from a scientific point of view. It is a collective effort, starting with a 10-day Masterclass organised by IFRA-Nigeria in December 2017. Further details about the methodology can be retrieved from http://www.nigeriawatch.org/
The findings are as follows:
1) Nigeria is more and more dangerous.
*No. Fatal violence has declined since 2015.
2) Economic recession leads to grater violence.
*No. Recession often leads to social apathy while development can trigger social tensions.
3) Oil production is a major cause of fatal violence.
*Not necessarily. Oil distribution (downstream sector) is more fatal than the production (upstream).
4) Nigeria is most dangerous for foreigners.
*No. More Nigerians are killed than foreigners. More Africa foreigners are killed than whites or those from Western nations. The killed foreign blacks are not noticed because they blend into the population.
5) Lagos is the most criminal city in Nigeria.
*No.The research is based on the figure - 10 million inhabitants (2006 census). The Middle-Belt Plateau and Nasarawa are more volatile than Lagos. the north-east is volatile, no thanks to insurgency.
6) Abuja is safe.
*No. There are many more fatal road accidents in Abuja than in any other city in Nigeria!
7) There are more crime incidents at Christmas.
*No. There are no cycles in fatal crime incidents.
8) Sharia Law helps in fighting crime.
*No. There is no discernible effect of Sharia Law on fatal crime incidents.
9) Religious violence is a major issue.
*No. Most incidents of violence labelled 'religious' are indeed not religious. They are usually violence as a result of politics, economic issues, farmer-herder clashes, communal clashes, etc.
10) Ritual killings are on the rise during elections.
*No. This perception may be due to the fact that the electorate do not trust politicians and therefore label them ritualists without scientific evidence.
The following is my critique of some of the findings of the research:
1) The sources of data should be expanded beyond newspapers. A lot of in-depth research is going on in many reputable NGOs like CDD, SFCG, CLEEN Foundation, PSN, NNNGO, etc.
2) The ownership of each of the Media Houses whose data are used for the research could taint the authenticity of the figures sourced since he who pays the piper dictates the tune. It may be useful to use 'averages' for each fatal incident of violence.
3) I do not agree hook line and sinker with the 'fact' that Nigeria is 'less' dangerous. It depends on which type of fatal casualties we are considering - farmer-herder crises, road accidents, insurgency, etc.
4) I still believe Abuja is relatively safe in-spite of the fact that there are more fatal accidents in the city. At least because of perimeter fencing and the fact that the seat of the Federal Government is in Abuja citizens can sleep with both eyes closed in the city, unlike in other states. As regards fatal road accidents, make sure your kids and wards go to good driving schools before entrusting cars to them. Be careful which public transport you patronise, etc.
5) Sometimes, there could be more crime at Christmas time if individual criminally minded individuals wish to 'catch up with the Jonses'.
6) The findings could be translated into Pidgin and some major Nigerian languages to take the discourse on this long held myths to the grassroots.
The research findings point to the fact that we should not swallow everything we are told hook line and sinker without subjecting same to scientific investigation. Kudos to the research team for reminding us about the importance of critical thinking backed by scientific analysis.
See for example: www.nigeriawatch.org/media/html/NW10Myths.pdf
28th December, 2018
*10 conflicts to watch in 2019 https://www.crisisgroup.org/global/10-conflicts-watch-2019