Nigeria is Sub-Saharan Africa’s largest economy. At present, it relies heavily on oil as its main source of revenue and has the largest natural gas reserves on the continent. Efforts to diversify economic activities are limited by poverty and corruption (Crisis24, Nigeria Country Report).

According to the World Bank country overview (last updated: 31 March 2023):

  • Economic growth: “The economy is projected to grow by an average of 2.9% per year between 2023 and 2025, only slightly above the estimated population growth rate of 2.4%. Growth will likely be driven by services, trade, and manufacturing.”
  • Inflation: “High inflation has also taken a toll on household’s welfare and price increases in 2020-2022 have pushed more Nigerians into poverty.”
  • Poverty: “The deteriorating economic environment is leaving millions of Nigerians in poverty. On current trends, with Nigeria’s population growth continuing to outpace poverty reduction, the number of Nigerians living below the national poverty line will rise by 13 million between 2019 and 2025. … Inequality, in terms of income and opportunities, remains high and has adversely affected poverty reduction. The lack of job opportunities is at the core of the high poverty levels, regional inequality, and social and political unrest.”

Due to the serious security situation, the violent attacks on or intimidation of farmers in many parts of Nigeria, the fear of abduction (not only in the villages but also along the roads), the impunity for violence against Christians, and the absolute lack of compensation by the government for damage suffered, have handicapped farming activities and caused serious economic damage. Many Nigerians have been affected by this, but Christians in particular.

Islamic banking started in Nigeria in 2012. Many Christians look at Islamic banking with suspicion. Whether the suspicion is founded, remains to be seen. A Christian lawyer in a predominantly Islamic commercial city explained that he is worried about Islamic banking not because it is Islamic but because of background packages such as the Mudarabah. This allows a client to transfer money for subsequent project or investment and is a recipe for all kinds of funding, including whatever form of jihad is acceptable to the customer. That constitutes a serious setback in any fight against the funding of terrorist activities.

In the field of business and human rights: Shell’s Nigerian subsidiary was declared liable for the consequences of two oil spills in Nigeria, according to a ruling of the Court of Appeal of The Hague on 29 January 2021 (Rechtspraak, 29 January 2021).

Gender perspective

Women are – in general – more economically vulnerable than men, due to gender gaps in regards to education and labor force participation rates (HDI 2020). Patrilineal inheritance practices and harmful practices against widows make it additionally challenging for women to gain economic independence (OECD, 2019).


Social and cultural landscape

According to the UNDP’s HDI profile and CIA Factbook:

  • Main ethnic groups: Hausa 30%, Yoruba 15.5%, Igbo (Ibo) 15.2%, Fulani 6%, Tiv 2.4%, Kanuri/Beriberi 2.4%, Ibibio 1.8%, Ijaw/Izon 1.8%, other 24.7% (2018 est.)
  • Main languages: English (official), Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo (Ibo), Fulani, over 500 additional indigenous languages
  • Urban population: 51.2% of total population

•        Rate of urbanization: 4.23%

  • Literacy rate (adult, ages 15 and older): 62.0% (female: 52.7%; male: 71.3%)
  • Expected years of schooling: 10 years (female: 9.4 years; male: 10.6 years)
  • Mean years of schooling: 6.7 years (female: 5.7 years; male: 7.7 years)

•        Youth not in school or employment (% ages 15-24): 22.0

  • Population: Nigeria accounts for about half of West Africa’s population and one of the largest populations of youth in the world. According to World Population Review, accessed 25 June 2021: “Nigeria has the largest population in Africa. The United Nations project that the overall population of Nigeria will reach about 401.31 million by the end of the year 2050. By 2100, if current figures continue, the population of Nigeria will be over 728 million.”
  • Population growth: 2.6% (2018 estimate)
  • Median age: 18.1 years
  • Life expectancy at birth: 54.7 years (Female: 55.6, Male: 53.8)
  • Inequality: “Inequality in terms of income and opportunities has been growing rapidly and has adversely affected poverty reduction. The North-South divide has widened in recent years due to the Boko Haram insurgency and a lack of economic development in the northern part of the country.”

According to the UNHCR Country data (accessed 11 April 2023):

  • IDPs/Refugees: As of 28 February 2023, there were 92,133 registered refugees (the vast majority from Cameroon). As of 30 March 2022, there were 3,167,581 IDPs (of these, 2,197, 824 were in North-East).

According to UNDP’s HDI country data profile (Data updates as of 8 September 2022):

  • HDI score and ranking (2021): “Nigeria’s HDI value for 2021 is 0.535— which put the country in the Low human development category—positioning it at 163 out of 191 countries and territories.”
  • Gender inequality (2021): “The 2021 female HDI value for Nigeria is 0.495 in contrast with

0.574 for males, resulting in a GDI value of 0.863, placing it into Group 5     Nigeria has a

GII value of 0.680, ranking it 168 out of 170 countries in 2021.”

emographic developments might shift the precarious balance in Nigeria between Muslims and Christians. The fact that the Muslim population could already use its numerical strength in the judiciary and legislature to amend the Constitution to extend the remit of Sharia law (see above: Political and legal landscape), suggests that for some, democracy has become more a ‘game of numbers’ than a means of protection for minorities.

The combination of high numbers of children and youth, a lack of education and employment opportunities and high levels of poverty is potentially dangerous for the future of Nigeria. It will make recruitment for violent Islamic militancy easier, and given the atmosphere of high levels of impunity, turn the country into a ‘powder keg’, ready to explode. The resulting chaos and conflict will be the perfect breeding ground for making Nigeria a Sharia nation.

In this socio-cultural setting, the situation of converts from Islam to Christianity is harshest. While in the Sharia states all Christians can be confronted with education and employment difficulties, converts often have to flee for fear of their lives, and leave everything behind.

Gender perspective

Whilst education rates are low across the board, girls in particular are discouraged from attending school, both due to economic and socio-cultural factors (UNICEF, 2022). According to a 2017 UNICEF report, girls are 6% less likely to attend secondary school than boys (UNICEF, 2017, “Impact Evaluation of UNICEF Nigeria”, p.4). This is in part due to high rates of early marriage and teenage pregnancy; 43% of girls are married before their eighteenth birthday, and 16% before their 15th birthday (Girls_Not_Brides, 2022). Some parents, fearful that their Christian daughter might be attacked – particularly in Sharia states – choose to keep them at home or have them marry early in order to protect them.

Patriarchal norms are particularly prevalent in northern Nigeria, where women are widely considered to be second class citizens. According to a 2017 CEDAW report (NGO Coalition Shadow Report, 2017, p.12), persisting discriminatory stereotypes about the roles of men and women in the family unit contributes to the high rates of early and forced marriages. Victims of sexual assault and rape, already deeply traumatized, often face stigma from their families and communities (International Alert, 2020). Christian women and girls abducted and impregnated by Boko Haram for example, are viewed as being tarnished and they struggle to integrate upon return – their babies are viewed as ‘Boko’ babies and their husbands struggle to accept what has happened. This can lead to the breakdown of Christian families and communities.

Technological landscape

According to Internet World Stats (IWS 2022)

  • Internet usage: 67.5% penetration – survey date: December 2021 (most recent survey at time of writing)
  • Facebook usage: 16.1% penetration – survey date: January 2022. According to Napoleon Cat (February 2023), 58.3% of Facebook users are male, compared to 41.7% female users.

According to UNDP’s HDI country data profile:

  • Mobile phone subscriptions: 88.2 per 100 people According to Freedom House’s Freedom on the Net 2022 report:
  • Nigeria is categorized as ‘partly free’ with a score of 57 points out of 100.
  • “Internet freedom remains under threat in Nigeria. After Twitter censored a tweet by President Buhari that seemingly threatened violence against Biafran secessionists, the Nigerian government blocked Twitter on most networks for seven months. Legislation that would reshape the legal landscape for internet content in Nigeria, including a data protection bill and a bill that would expand intermediary liability for service providers, remained under consideration at the end of the coverage period [May 2022].”
  • “Online journalists continue to be subjected to extralegal harassment and intimidation.”

In the context of Nigeria, increasing government control over social media and related Internet services, is liable to affect Christians seriously. Being such a threatened group in Nigeria, Christians depend on the Internet to make widely known what they are experiencing. This is very important for them and others interested in their plight, to keep questioning how the rule of law is functioning in the country. This is particularly the case when the attitude of the Federal and state authorities sometimes raises doubt about their willingness to protect their Christian citizens.