A report released by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reveals the staggering economic cost of the conflict in Nigeria’s North-East region, which has been ravaged by violence and insecurity for over a decade.
The report, titled ‘The economic cost of conflict in northeast Nigeria’, estimates that Nigeria has lost approximately $100 billion due to the conflict, which has also resulted in widespread violations of children’s rights and well-being.
The report uses a quantitative model to measure the direct and indirect effects of conflict on the Nigerian economy, comparing the actual economic performance with a counterfactual scenario of what would have happened if there was no conflict. The report finds that, for the duration of the conflict, cumulative losses (i.e., the losses that build up each year that the economy is damaged) were around US$100 billion. The report also projects that even if the conflict ends now, the cumulative losses would be $150 billion to $200 billion by 2030, while the cumulative losses by 2030 due to lost educational opportunities would be $150 billion.
The report states that the direct effects of conflict, such as death and injury, loss of livelihoods, displacement, and damage to infrastructure, are transformed into long-term economic impacts. These impacts reduce the rate of economic growth for the country affected by conflict relative to what it might have been, had conflict not occurred. The report also notes that the impacts of conflict are not confined to the regions that experience these most acutely. Nigeria as a whole is worse off as a result of the conflict. Given Nigeria’s economic size relative to the rest of the region, slower growth in the country may have broader regional spillover effects.
The UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Cristian Munduate, said that the study reveals that as of 2021, the Nigerian economy was 2.5 per cent smaller than it would have been without the conflict. She also said that the most heartbreaking aspect of this study is the impact on children. In 2021, it was estimated that one million children missed school due to the conflict, around 900,000 children were reported to suffer malnutrition, and close to 300,000 were reported to suffer acute malnutrition. She called for urgent action to safeguard the future of the young generation and prioritise peace and the protection of children’s rights.
The Chief Child Protection Specialist, UNICEF Nigeria, Ibrahim Sesay, said that when looking at the grave violations that have been encountered by children, just from 2016 to date, there have been over 14,890 documented and verified cases of grave violations against children in Nigeria. He also said that many children have been deprived of education and their families have been displaced from their homes and communities.
The report urges all parties involved in the conflict to respect international humanitarian law and human rights law and to protect civilians, especially children. The report also calls for increased investment in social services and infrastructure in the affected regions, as well as support for peacebuilding and reconciliation efforts. The report emphasises that ending the conflict is crucial for achieving sustainable development and prosperity for Nigeria and its people.