The Middle Belt is a human geographical term designating the region of central Nigeria populated largely by minority ethnic groups and stretching across the country longitudinally. The Middle Belt is indeterminate in that it lacks designated "borders" and is characterized by a heterogeneity and diversity of peoples and cultures. The eminence of manifold minority groups to some degree constitutes an ethno-linguistic barrier in the country, drawing a separation between the principally Islamic North and the mainly Christian south.
The region is a convergence of these cultural domains and maintains a tremendous degree of ethno-linguistic diversity, with languages of the Afro-Asiatic, Nilo-Saharan, and Niger–Congo families, three of the primary African language groups, all being spoken.
Minorities in Nigeria tend to be dominated by the three largest ethnic groups, the Hausa of North and the Igbo and Yoruba of the South. Surrounded by divergent religious, economic, and cultural histories, the middle belt has been the melting pot where small and large ethno-religious groups in Nigeria have long coexisted, but where they have also increasingly collided over land, resources, identity and political power.
The result is a mixture of recurring conflicts and occasional political unity and solidarity amongst these highly differentiated peoples. An example for the latter was the United Middle Belt Congress that emerged following Nigeria's independence from Britain in 1960.
In particular, Jos city in Plateau State has been a centre for ethno-religious disputes and violence since the 1990s. The Jos Forum Inter-Communal Dialogue process spanned 16 months from August 2013 - December 2014, and refers to a peace process undertaken by communities living in Jos that concluded in a “Declaration of Commitment to Peace”.
Areas of Nigeria which are generally referred to as belonging to the Middle Belt are: Kwara State, Kogi State, Benue State, Plateau State, Nasarawa State, Niger State, Taraba State, Adamawa State as well as the southern parts of Kaduna State, Kebbi State, Bauchi State, Gombe State and Borno State.
The definition of the Middle Belt areas are subject to great debate due to the presence of significant number of ethnic Hausa, Fulani and Kanuri groups. In addition, the Yoruba of Kwara and Kogi have a strong affinity with the larger Yoruba body and frequently prefer not to be associated with the Middle Belt identity.
- Johannes Harnischfeger, Democratization and Islamic Law: The Sharia Conflict in Nigeria (Frankfurt am Main 2008) p. 38. Campus Verlag. ISBN 3593382563
- Higazi, Adam (January 2011). "The Jos Crisis: A Recurrent Nigerian Tragedy" (PDF). Working Paper (Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung) (2): 3–6. Retrieved 19 October 2015.