The Complex Dynamics of Religious Conflicts and the Boko Haram Sectarian Crisis in Nigeria

24 Pages Posted: 12 Apr 2018 Last revised: 12 Aug 2020

Date Written: January 12, 2018


The two main religious groups in Nigeria (Christians and Moslems) have been known for violent clashes over the years. These conflicts often resulted in the massive destruction of lives and property, as well as increased interfaith suspicion. Despite the clear provisions of sections 38(1) and 10 of the 1999 constitution of Nigeria, which have guaranteed freedom of religion and prohibited the declaration of a state religion respectively, the frequency of religious conflicts have continued to wreak havoc on Nigerians. One major reason for this is that each side claims absolute monopoly over the true route to salvation. The recent problematique has been the evolution of Boko Haram, a violent Islamic sect which has taken the centre-stage of violent conflicts with both authorities and perceived enemies of Islam in Nigeria. Their modus operandi includes violent assassinations, urban warfare, kidnapping, and bombing to advance their course. The group was initially known for peaceful proselytization and non-violence but has now metamorphosed into a Jihadi faction with the aim of establishing a purely Islamic state governed by sharia law. This paper argues that religious conflict in Nigeria result among other things, from the promotion of extremist exegeses and abhorrence to religious tolerance on the one hand, and the tendency of opportunistic politicians to utilize religious dogmatism for personal gains on the othe. It is also the contention of this paper that the government's failure to establish a balanced development in all regions of the country and to effectively address the growing challenges of economic and social injustice among the diverse elements and groups also account for religious conflict and Boko Haram in particular in Nigeria.

Keywords: Religion, Boko Haram, Religious Conflicts, Fundamentalism, Ideology, Radicalism

JEL Classification: Z12

Suggested Citation

Chiangi, Michael Aondona, The Complex Dynamics of Religious Conflicts and the Boko Haram Sectarian Crisis in Nigeria (January 12, 2018). Available at SSRN: or

Michael Aondona Chiangi (Contact Author)

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