Report Exposes Weak Social Cohesion in Nigeria

James Emejo in Abuja

A new study has adjudged the Nigeria Social Cohesion Index (NSCI) as weak, indicating increasing polarisation along ethnic, religious, economic and political fault lines.

The 2022 Nigeria Social Cohesion Survey (#NSCS) report was released yesterday by the Africa Polling Institute (API) in collaboration with the Ford Foundation.
The concept of social cohesion refers to the willingness of citizens of a country to cooperate and work together towards ensuring the survival and prosperity of the country.

However, the report further demonstrated a weakening of the state of social cohesiveness in the country.
The study recorded the current social cohesion index at 39.6 per cent in 2022, which remained below the average of 50 per cent, and represents a 4.6 per cent decline from the 44.2 per cent recorded 2021.

The Executive Director, Africa Polling Institute, Prof. Bell Ihua, said the outcome of the study further indicated a weakening on the state of cohesion in the country over the last year.

He explained that drawing from the literature, and building upon the 2019 and 2021 survey round, the current edition captures attitudes and perceptions of citizens using 13 key indicators to measure social cohesion in Nigeria including – identity, trust, social justice, participation and patriotism, natural resource governance, and gender equity.

Others are impunity, corruption, polarisation, peacebuilding, coping strategies, self-worth and future expectation.
Ihua said, “The 2021 and 2022 survey rounds reveal marked differences: The data reports that the proportion of citizens who believe that the country is much more divided today than it was 4 years ago increased slightly by 1 per cent from 65 per cent in 2021 to 66 per cent in 2022.

“Citizens’ trust in President Muhammadu Buhari declined by 9 per cent from 26 per cent in 2021 to 17 per cent in 2022. Similarly, trust for the National Assembly (NASS) declined by 6 per cent from 22 per cent in 2021 to 16 per cent in 2022; while trust for the Judiciary also declined by 5 per cent from 27 per cent in 2021 to 22 per cent in 2022.

“Nonetheless, the data reveals that the proportion of citizens who believe that Nigeria will be better in the future increased marginally by 1 per cent, from 59 per cent in 2021 to 60 per cent in 2022. However, on the contrary, there was no difference in the proportion of citizens who believe that the future of Nigeria would be much worse than it is today (27 per cent in both 2021 and 2022).

However, in the identity indicator, the report noted that overall, 81 per cent of Nigerians feel comfortable with the dual identity of being identified as both Nigerian and from their ethnic group, but to different proportions.

“Remarkably, 66 per cent of citizens opined that the country is much more divided today (in 2022) than it was four years ago; compared to only a few (10 per cent) who said the country is much more united today and 20 per cent who believe that the country has stayed the same.”

However, the API, recommended among other things that the federal government should strengthen existing policies, legislation and institutions, that help to create a sense of belonging, promote trust, foster good governance and provide a conducive atmosphere for citizens to thrive and fulfil their life aspirations.

Ihua said, “In this connection, Nigeria’s legislation and policies on citizenship should be rejigged to encourage social and inclusive citizenship that de-emphasize indigeneity and discourage the exclusion of citizens based on indigeneity.

“Such unemployment and poverty alleviation programmes like the Nigerian Social Investment Programme (NSIP) and NAPEP should be revived and strengthened to tackle the problems of poverty, unemployment and underemployment.

“In addition, the federal government should adopt a hybrid of conventional and unconventional peacebuilding initiatives as the main thrust of its conflict management strategies. It is worth noting that states like Lagos and Oyo operate Alternative Dispute Resolution Centres, attached to the State Ministries of Justice. The Centres deploy a hybrid of conventional and local peacebuilding mechanisms of negotiations, remediation and arbitration to mediate individual and group conflicts, and build peace among parties.”

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