Open Journal of Philosophy
2013. Vol.3, No.1A, 207-212
Published Online February 2013 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 207
Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs),
Conflict and Peace Building in Nigeria
Anthonia O. Uzuegbunam
Public Administration and Local Government, University of Nigeira, Nsukka, Nigeria
Received September 5th, 2012; revise d Octobe r 6th, 2012; accepted October 20th, 2012
Despite some efforts by the government, corporate bodies, civil society, national universities commission
etc to reduce situations of conflict in Nigeria, peace is still elusive to her and consequently to sustainable
development. This paper thus aims at an in-dept description of NGOs, conflict and peace building and
proffering a way forward to reduce conflict situations through NGOs. Content analysis, was adopted, us-
ing the secondary sources of collecting data from books, journals and articles. NGOs are an aspect of civil
society, without government representation, embarking in conflict reduction, welfare scheme, empower-
ment and employment. Among the recommendations are: government recognition and support of NGOs;
NGOs increased and effective performance and government/NGOs partnership in peace and conflict is-
Keywords: Government; Organizations; Conflict and Peace Building
The prime value in contemporary Nigeria today is peace. It is
the most valuable public good, but yet the most elusive (Francis
David, 2006). The three (3) years of civil war and the recent
disturbances in various parts of the country, namely the Niger
Delta regions of the South-South, the Jos Bauchi Regions of
Bauchi and Platue States and the Ebonyi States of the South-
East States are at different levels of intensity and peace settle-
ment. These have wrecked devastating effects on Nigeria in
terms of considerable loss of human life, human suffering, the
destruction of infrastructural facilities, the disruption of eco-
nomic and agricultural activities and the coming anarchy that
threatens not only the Nigeria internal peace and security but
also internal peace in Africa and beyond. Alarmingly most of
these areas of conflict lack the political will to maintain past
peace agreements and have fallen prey to continuous armed
clicks and ethnic conflict (Monty Marshal, 2003). Peace has
therefore become the most pressing challenge faced by Africa
at large and Nigeria in particular. This situation is partly due to
unwholesome merger of multi-ethnic people by the colonial
masters and partly as a result of ineffective conflict manage-
ment. Despite some efforts by the government, corporate bodies,
civil society, national universities commission etc to reduce
situations of conflict in Nigeria, peace has continued to elude
Nigeria and consequently sustainable development.
Be that as it may, this work aimed at X-raying the place of
Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in conflict and peace
building in Nigeria and proffering a way forward to peace
building in Nigeria. The work was therefore discussed under
the following sections:
Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs);
Conflicts in Nigeria;
NGOs in Conflict and Peace Building in Nigeria;
The way forward.
Theoretical Base
The theoretical approach to this study of Non Governmental
Organizations (NGOs) Conflict and peace building in Nigeria is
“African Theistic Humanism” propounded by Dukor, (2010).
Dukor used this idea in discussing and analyzing any global
issue from African philosophy or world view. African theistic
humanism from philosophical perspective explains the fact that
Africans originally have their own way of thinking, reacting or
acting in any situation and towards any issue in life. This be-
havior is governed by the principle that the mother earth is
always there to prescribe or proscribe for people and as such
respect and compliance are required. These considerations it is
believed, facilitate success, progress and solutions to problems.
For instance, in Dukor’s analysis of African culture and Nigeria
in particular, every ethnic group has sets of values, namely
moral normative and non-moral normative values. The former
concerns ethical values like obligation, duty, right, wrong, de-
sirable, undesirable, etc., while the later concerns cultural envi-
ronment, poetry, agriculture unlike Islamic world with common
values and law, the Africans cultural values are varied as there
are variations in ethnic groups. Consequently, Dukor (2012: pp.
15-16), emphasized that African philosophy in terms of values
and common law has to be placed in proper perspective. These
values, Dukor referred to as “Theistic Humanism”. Further, this
was summed up in a diagram with kinship at the apex, followed
by extended family, communitarianism, social values, ethical
values, etc. see Figure 1.
Applying this to the analysis of Non Governmental Or-
ganizations (NGOs) Conflict and Peace Building in Nigeria,
we tend to focus on what the society values. It is this
thought that reveald to the analysits the nature and type of
values that are existential and experienced therein. Any ne-
gation or violation of these values breeds disagreement, dis-
order and consequently conflict. Africans have communal
Figure 1.
The African cultural values are varied as there are variations in ethnic groups. In placing African
philosophy in terms of values and common law, Dukor, (2012) referred to life existence as “Theis-
tic Humanism”. This was illustrated in the above figure. The figure shows that theistic humanism
gave rise to two broad groups of values namely; Community values and Aesthetical values,
marked “(A)” and “(B)”. From (A)—community value, we derived kinship, at the apex, extended
family, communitarianism, social values and ethical values. (B)—from Aesthetic values, we de-
rived food and work habit for celebration of life, followed by Agric and Archeological values, mu-
sic and artistic values.
life, enjoy communal peace and also solve communal prob-
lems communally.
Against this back drop the analysis of NGOs Conflict and
Peace Building in Nigeria was examined.
Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)
A Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), an aspect of
civil society, is a legally constituted non-state organization
created by natural or legal persons. It has no participation or
representation of any government. Even in cases where NGOs
are funded totally or partially by governments, they still main-
tain their non-governmental status by excluding government
representatives from their membership. Though, NGO is legally
constituted and is in general use, no legal definition is assigned
to it. In many jurisdictions, NGO is defined as a civil society
organization or as any other names like independent sector,
social movement organization, private voluntary organization,
volunteer sector, self-help organization and non-state actors,
(Anheier et al., 2001).
Historically, the beginning of national NGOs started from
antiquity. The international non-governmental organizations
have a history dating back to at least 1839. For instance, Rotary
international was founded in 1905. It has been estimated that in
1914 there were 1083 NGOs. These international NGOs were
quite helpful in the antislavery moment and at the movement
for women’s suffrage, which reached its peak at the time of the
world disarmament conference. However, the phrase “non-
governmental organization” only came into popular use with
the establishment of the United Nations Organization in 1945
with the Article 71 of chapter 10 provision made by the United
Nations chapter. This is where the cumulative status of non-
governmental organization was derived. The definition of “In-
ternational Non-Governmental Organization (INGO)” was first
issued in resolution 288 (x) of ECOSOC on February 27, 1950.
Any international organization not founded by an international
treaty was then referred to as an international non-governmental
organization. The vital role of NGOs and other “major groups”
in sustainable development was recognized in chapter 27 of
Agenda 21, that led to intense arrangements for a consultative
relationship between the United Nations and Non-Governmen-
tal Organizations (NGOS), (Burton, 1997). Again, globalization
of the 20th century strengthened the importance of NGOs as
many problems could not be solved within nations, (Pawel
Zaleski, 2006). The reason being that the international treaties
and international organizations like World Trade Organization
were understood as being too centered on the interests of capi-
talist enterprises. So in an attempt to balance this trend, NGOs
developed to emphasize humanitarian issues, developmental aid
and sustainable development. An outstanding example of this is
the World Social Forum as a rival of World Economic Forum
held annually in January at Davos, Switzerland. The 5th World
Social Forum held in Porto Alegue, Brazil in January, 2005 was
attended by more than 1000 NGOS representative (Abahlali,
2006). The arguments were that NGOs came as a result of wel-
fare state restructurization in western countries. NGOs take the
place of what belong to popular movements of the poor, NGOs
are often imperialist, sometimes operate in a radicalized manner
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
in dominant countries and that they perform similar functions to
that of the clergy and so on. Whatever, the case may be, NGOs
transnational networking is currently extensive in many nations
of the world. Consequently, Nigeria operates many (Estimate of
2000 in number) NGOs based on the different problems in the
society, either as chapters of international NGOs or as local
NGOs. Examples include Women in Nigeria (WIN), Women’s
Health Issues in Nigeria, (WHERIN) Women Aid Collective
Types of NGOs are discernable on the basis of their orienta-
tion and co-operation. NGO type by the level of orientation can
be charitable orientation, service orientation, participation ori-
entation and empowering orientation. NGO type by the level of
co-operation are seen to be community-based, city wide based,
national based and international based. Based on the above
understanding, the World Bank typologised NGOs into opera-
tional and advocacy. While the operational NGOs concentrate
on the design and implementation of development related pro-
jects, the advocacy NGOs focuse on defence and promotion of
specific courses. Operational NGOs in Nigeria are either relief
oriented or development oriented, service delivery or participa-
tory, religious or secular, public or private oriented and com-
munity-based, national or international. Advocacy NGOs in
Nigeria attempt as much as possible to raise awareness, accep-
tance and knowledge through lobbying, activist events and
Methods of operation of NGOs differ from organization to
organization. For instance, those concerned with poverty alle-
viation may provide needy people with the equipment and skills
to find food and clean drinking water and those concerned with
human rights abuse may work through investigation and docu-
mentation of human rights violation by providing legal assis-
tance to victims of human rights abuse. In all their endeavours,
NGOs adopt public relations attitude, consulting power and
project management entrepreneurship and techniques for vi-
ability and effect iv eness.
Staffing of NGOs is not always issued on altruism. A few are
volunteers while a good many find themselves in NGOs so as
to have immediate benefits for themselves and for the people
they serve especially in acquiring skills, experience finances
and contacts. However the expertise of employees or volunteers
may be influenced by a number of factors namely the cost of
expatriate in the organization, grassroots connections, local
expertise etc. The NGO sector all over the world, is an impor-
tant employer in terms of numbers. For instance, the world
organizations on poverty alleviation, elimination and treatment
of communicable diseases, women affairs engage in employing
people across the world estimating the number to the tune of
1,000,000 as at 2007, (Stillman, 2007).
Sources of fund for NGOs include membership dues, the
sales of goods and services, grants from international and na-
tional governments, private donations etc.
Conflicts in Nigeria
Discussing conflicts in Nigeria may require us to situate the
clarification of the term “conflict”.
“A conflict is a situation between two or more people in
which one person perceives that another person has negatively
affected, or is about to negatively affect”, (Holmes, 2010: p. 8).
This definition contains three elements, all of which must be
present in order for a conflict to exist. First, there is a specific
perception on the part of one or more of the people involved in
the conflict, whether the perception is accurate or inaccurate, it
is held by the conflicting parties. Second, the perception is gen-
erally negative. One party believes the other is going to do
something of negative effect directly or indirectly. Finally, the
issue surrounding the conflict must be something both parties
care about. Conflict is also seen, as a strain in a relationship that
goes with emotion. The higher the emotion, the higher the ten-
dency of an evolving conflict intensity (Aja Akpuru Aja, 2007:
p. 12). Hence, to many scholars, conflict is inevitable in social
life process; for conflict occurs even in the best of human so-
cieties, (Sani Shehu, 2007: p. 12). Thus, we find conflict gradu-
ating into such phases like early conflict indicators, conflict
resistance, explosive or exhausitive conflict and the most
deadly spiral and the highest level of violence. Again, conflict
can be a frustration-based attitude or protest against lack of
opportunities for development and against lack of recognition
and identity. Conflict can therefore originate in class, status,
ethnicity, sex, religion, nationalism or resource control, yet
same fundamental issues are being addressed.
The foregoing led us to postulate that conflict has both nega-
tive and positive underpinnings. It is considered negative when
it is a setback, destructive and disintegrative. Conflict is con-
sidered positive when it leads to positive developments for the
individuals, the groups and the society at large through correc-
tive signal or warning. It also leads to integrative process of
development. However, change is the real subject of conflict
whether in its negative or positive form. Thus, it requires the
need to tailor it towards the support of existing norms and rules
of social existence for if conflict of any form is left uncon-
trolled, the situation may be counterproductive.
Other related concepts of conflicts, include conflict indica-
tors, conflict prevention, conflict trigger, conflict resistance,
conflict explosion, conflict dynamics, conflict intervention, con-
flict analysis, conflict resolution, conflict management, conflict
reduction, conflict stability, conflict transformation, conflict
suppression and identity conflict. Conflict indicators refer to the
idea that conflict is no automatic imposition. It does not just
occur in any given situation. It does not happen without signs.
If action is taken immediately there is any sign, the damage is
prevented or limited. Conflict prevention is a process of con-
trolling and managing strained relationship early enough to
avoid the threats of a conflict. It makes effective use of early
warning system to detect and respond to early threats. Conflict
trigger refers to provocative utterances, decisions or actions that
suddenly give rise to an outburst of frustration or aggression
through open violence. This is most often associated with arm-
ed conflict, mass murder, genocide against defenceless or un-
suspected civilians. Thus, hardly do we have automatic vio-
lence without a particular trigger on the moment of aggression.
Conflict resistance connotes a protracted conflict situation
that has long been endured. In Nigeria and African societies,
many cases of conflict resistance abound. Conflict explosion
means heightened level of violence. This kind of conflict situa-
tion fails to observe the sacredness of life liberty and property
and as such extreme use of arms of demonize and dehumanize
human nature. Example of this conflict explosion is terrorism
where people are involved in engaging in killing, destroying
their targets and dying for their faith. Such actions include
rampant suicide bombing in the Middle East, Iran, Iraq, Syria,
Isreal and Lebanon. Terrorism and its activities are frequently
experienced in advanced countries of Britain and USA, Sep-
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 209
tember 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the USA has remained the
highest display of conflict explosion. Terrorism activities also
exist in African countries leadership like Abacha Obasanjo and
Yar Adua extreme violence in Nigeria, Mobutu in Zarie, Mug-
abe in Zimbabwe, Idi Amini in Uganda and recent Sudanese
and Syria leadership. Conflict dynamics is in form of conflict
analysis using the factors like history of the relationship, the
primary and secondary actors, the structures (factional goals,
attitudes and behaviour), the intensity (low, moderate or ex-
treme), strategies adopted by conflicting parties, pattern of re-
gime responses and facilitators of conflict transformers.
Conflict resolution is the process of systematizing intelli-
gence and strategies on “dos” and “don’ts”. So as to enhance
their capacity building in favour of bargaining, negotiation,
mediation, conciliation and arbitration, (Miall et al., 1999: p. 2).
Conflict resolution is to help parties develop common, norms,
rules and regulations on utterance, attitudes, actions and hopes
to give peace a chance. No readymade “conflict resolution for
any conflict case. It differs from conflict case to another. Con-
flict management refers to the open and clear dialogue in as-
sisting opponents to develop agreement against hostile images
or actions, but compliance to agreed resolution and strategies.
Conflict management operates as a drive from conflict resolu-
tion. Conflict management is where the two parties concerned
share the same ideas, principles in their capacity to make peace
reign. The third party involvement can be from states or “re-
gimes” multilateral actors initiatives and non-governmental or-
ganization initiative. Conflict stability is also known as crisis
stability which means a condition whereby each party perceives
parity in an overall balance of military power. It tends to serve
as deterrence t hat helps to restore peace.
Conflict transformation refers to the state of new situation
involving conflict issues, perceptions, relationships and com-
munication patterns. It is a change initiated by a third party for
readjusting the emotional, perceptual and spiritual approaches
to a conflict situation. Conflict suppression of a sub-concept of
conflict transformation, positive oriented that enables interven-
ers to work hard in the direction of positive change.
Conflict identity refers to the environment of the individuals
involved in the conflict. e.g., Ethnic identities, kinship groups
necessary for development of out-groups and in groups. This is
the issue that breeds the “us’ and “them” syndrome. In multi-
linguistic societies like Nigeria. Ethnic problems emerge as a
result of competition of the following:
control of state power;
different development plans;
educational controversies;
resources control struggles;
religions intolerance;
land disputes;
indigene-settle syndrome (migration and compete con-
These differences in issues become entangled in themselves
and cause ethno-national to manage or resolve. This penetrates
the very fabric of society and engenders living misunderstand-
ing among groups within nations.
Examples of Cases of Confl i c ts in Ni geria
Cases of conflict situations abound in Nigeria right from pre-
colonial period till date. Examples of these conflicts include the
following among others :
Nigeria-Biafra Civil War (1967-1970);
The Inter-Communal Conflicts like Zango-Kataf Crisis
Ife-Modakeke political and religion crises (pre-colonial to
Aguleri-Umuleri conflicts (since 1933);
Religious conflicts in Kano State;
Religious conflicts in Kaduna State;
Social and Political Motivated Federal Election Crises of
National Census Controversy of 1962;
Western Nigeria Election Crises of 1965;
Niger Delta crises in Ogoni, Ijaw and Warri.
However, apart from political and military issues mentioned
above, potential causes of conflicts in Nigeria have increased
and diversified to a large extent. These causes include recruit-
ing ground for international terrorist networks, organized crime,
drug traffickers, new tensions created by refugees across bor-
ders and state failure to cater for the citizens and those in spe-
cial needs.
The Concept of Peace Building
Peace building is the identification and support of measures
needed for transformation toward more sustainable, peaceful
relationship and structures of governance, so as to avoid a re-
lapse into conflict, (UN, 2007). Peace building is also perceived
as attempts to conquer the structural, relational and cultural
contradictions hastily causing conflict, especially in strong
support of peace making and peacekeeping. Inspirations of
peace building are drawn from developmental imperatives fac-
ing mankind and conflict resolution initiatives, (Ifesinachi,
2009). Again efforts of peace building may be imported from
outside the system thereby overlooking the structures and cul-
tures of the parties concerned. The approach to the efforts of
peace building could be bottom-top and or top-bottom. Which-
ever base the efforts are directed to, the end results must be in
respect, promotion and use of local human and socio-cultural
resources. Peace building has assumed such a prominent posi-
tion in the minds of the international community members and
all peace lovers in the world. Hence the call for every one to
contribute in making peace a reality. Thus, the United Nations
(UN) security council installed peace building as its number 2
point agreement under the provision of chapter VI of the UN
The Role of NGOs in Conflict and Peace
Building in Nigeria
It is an understatement to state that the aim or purpose of
peace building is to prevent conflict and create peace. A sug-
gestion was made that peace has two different concepts—nega-
tive peace and positive peace. Negative peace refers to mere
absence of violence, but positive peace is said to be a stable
social equilibrium in which the surfacing of new disputes can-
not escalate into violence and war (Henning, 1998). The em-
phasis on finding and resolving the root causes of conflict is
criticized on the grounds that it is an overtly negative view of
social conflict. Conflict may contribute to a dynamic and inno-
vative society once it is not violence. Since it is increasingly
acknowledged that social conflict is inevitable, some ap-
proaches to peace building have shifted the emphasis from the
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
root causes of social conflict to good governance and peaceful
settlement of dispute mechanisms.
In conflict resolution, NGOs embark on problem solving
workshops and seminars aimed at internal conflicts like the
religious crises in Kano and Kaduna states, Bauchi and Plateau
States, Enugu-Ezike crises in Enugu State where especially the
women groups had series of meetings resulting in the follow-
1) Deciding to engage in dialogue to resolve mutually intol-
erable problems;
2) Coming together to map the elements of the problems and
the relationship that perpetuate the problems;
3) Uncovering the underlying dynamic of the relationships
and beginning to see ways to change them;
4) Planning steps together to change the relationships and;
5) Devising ways to implement their plan.
Indeed what conflict resolution offers is more than enough
theoretical and practical ways of developing peace in conflict
environments. These can be exploited at several levels so as to
channel global, regional and national norms of interdependence,
human security and democratization into unstable local envi-
ronments. It is therefore in, this situation that NGOs contribu-
tion to the process of conflict resolution is very critical. NGOs
play the role of facilitating a linkage between global, regional
and organization, thereby resolving one of the most serious
problems of the conflict resolution genre related to the trickle-
up and down effect of conflict, (Henning, 1998). This is be-
cause NGOs conduct humanitarian, developmental, human
rights, and conflict resolution activities that enhance the process
of peace making.
NGOs place in peace-building in society cannot be over em-
phasized. The inadequacies of first generation approaches to
conflict resolution both nationally and globally has called for
settlements to be based upon just political orders that promote
democracy and human rights, new norms, participatory gov-
ernance structures, civil society, international tribunals and
truth commissions. Thus, under the auspices of the United Na-
tion (UN), disarming, repatriating refugees, building a consen-
sus for peace and moderate local political leadership appear to
be important issues in building peace. Since this is based on
conflict resolution and perspectives of conflict, it requires deep
access into local environments and grassroots processes rather
than top-down approaches. Thus NGOs can always provide
these conditions as a result of their official and human security
oriented base.
Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) are doing even
more peace building activities than any official governmental
agencies. In many of the areas of the world at large and in Ni-
geria in particular, they have a long term presence that are af-
flicted with intractable conflicts. NGOs are in an excellent po-
sition to engage in a wide variety of peace building activities.
Added to the process of providing humanitarian aid and media-
tion, they are also well positioned to engage in empowerment
and capacity building among the local population in getting
them involved with the adversary in a variety of joint activities.
In accordance with official government peace building efforts,
the goal NGO efforts is usually conflict reduction and/or reso-
lution, not just between official actors but also among ordinary
Again, much peace building efforts especially peace church
members like Christian union, Christian women group try to
foster reconciliation through apology, prayer and forgiveness.
Some other organizations work for mutual understanding and
prejudiced reduction. This is pursued through development of
joint projects and confidence building activities involving op-
ponents, at the grassroots level. Even though their projects and
strategies vary, they all encourage increased contact and co-
operation between people on all sides of the conflict.
Conflict and peace building exist in literature. Nonetheless,
most opinions accepted that conflict involves disagreement,
frictions, and misunderstanding, violent and non-violent, in the
course of relationship with others or with innerself. Peace
building actions to create and sustain peace results in all its
ramifications are also available.
The Way Forward
As a way for improvement of the performance of NGOs in
conflict and peace building in Nigeria, the following are rec-
NGOs should recognize that peace building is a political
undertaking rather than a development and humanitarian
Funding of NGOs from the local government should be
increased for effective performance of their responsibilities;
Since the importance of NGOs in conflict resolution and
peace building has been recognized by the international
community, the Nigeria government should also recognize
NGOs important contributions towards the grassroots in-
volvement in peace building and accord them same;
The NGOs should recognize the different phases of conflict
and ensure that each phase is effectively aligned with their
peace building activities;
NGOs should embark on going into the communities to
teach them non violent conflict resolution;
The NGOs members should be committed to the activities
for peace building and be honest in discharging their re-
An integrated effort of NGOs with other civil organizations
requires effective partnership to yield better activities and
aggregate for a significant impact;
Nigerians should recognize the importance of NGOs in
conflict resolutions and peace building in societies, and
therefore undertake researches on the activities of NGOs in
Nigeria for significant documentation.
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