Commissions of Inquiry, Institutions and Violence Accountability in Nigeria’s Middle Belt

In response to recurring episodes of inter-communal violence in Nigeria’s Middle Belt, multiple commissions of inquiry (CoI) were established with the task of creating institutionalised mechanisms for accountability in the region. However, successive CoIs have been characterised by the failure to deliver meaningful policy change, reduce violence, or enhance accountability.

About the research project

Aside from the human rights implications, CoIs provide a valuable opportunity to understand and explore potentially divergent meanings, interpretations and operationalisations of accountability; as well as the blockages in pathways to accountability for violence.

This project attempted to understand why social and political action failed to lead to institutional accountability in the context of the CoI which had been established to respond to inter-communal rioting and violence in Nigeria’s middle belt urban areas.

It was specifically interested in:

  • What does accountability mean to different groups and communities in such contexts?
  • What are the expectations of the communities affected by violence?
  • Why have the commissions failed to deliver and what factors limit social and political action in demanding accountability?

The study shows that COI processes have helped bring about transparency and some degree of answerability, in particular in relation to documenting violent events. However, with respect to accountability in terms of enforcement, the COIs have been less effective. One key reason is due to the weakness of and pervasive corruption in Nigerian state institutions; key characteristics of fragility. These dynamics have also influenced the perceived neutrality of COIs, no matter how strong the credentials of individual members. In the absence of state responsiveness, the potential role of COIs in furthering accountability through legal justice has been undermined, eventually leading to a lack of trust in both COI processes and the state.

Key contacts

Marjoke Oosterom

Power and Popular Politics Cluster Lead


Project details

start date
1 April 2017
end date
31 December 2018


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About this project



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