The Middle Belt is a term used in human geography to designate a belt region stretching across central Nigeria longitudinally and forming a transition zone between Northern and Southern Nigeria. It is characterised by its lack of a clear majority ethnic group, and is the location of Nigeria's Federal Capital Territory. The eminence of manifold minority groups, to some degree, constitutes an ethno-linguistic barrier in the country and draws 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. Afro-Asiatic, Nilo-Saharan, and Niger–Congo languages are all spoken, which are three of the primary African language families.
Minorities in Nigeria tend to be dominated by the three largest ethnic groups, the Hausa of North, the Yoruba of the Southwest and Igbo of the Southeast. 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”.
In 2018 violence escalated, with battles for scarce resources leading to over 500 deaths and 50 towns being destroyed. The clashes were largely between Muslim Fulani pastoralists and Christian Berom farmers. Over 300,000 people have been displaced by the violence.
Middle Belt Area Definition
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Areas of Nigeria which are generally referred to as belonging to the Middle Belt are: Kwara State, Kogi State, Benue State, Taraba State, Plateau State, Nasarawa State, Niger State, Adamawa State, the Federal Capital Territory (Abuja), as well as the southern parts of Kaduna State, Kebbi State, Bauchi State, Gombe State, Yobe 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. The population of the middle belt is estimated to be over 35 million or more who are predominantly Christians and some few Muslim converts. The area also has a very large significant number of the Hausa-Fulanis who are roughly 20% percent of the population. The Christians make about 70-75% of the population while the Muslims constitute 25-30% of the population.
- 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.
- "Nigeria's Farmers and Herders Fight a Deadly Battle for Scarce Resources". Retrieved 2018-06-27.