Since gaining independence in 1960, Nigeria has suffered waves of political instability, including half a dozen coups, decades of military rule, and a civil war (1967–1970) that claimed up to two million lives. Despite efforts by the elected government and Nigerian military to eradicate Boko Haram, the terrorist group has sustained its presence in the country.
The military has sought to crack down on the Boko Haram insurgency through heavy-handed raids, which have resulted in widespread accusations of human rights abuses.
In 2015, Muhammadu Buhari won the presidency by promising to crush two scourges that had plagued the nation for years: endemic corruption and a war with Islamist extremists. Buhari has been largely unsuccessful in keeping his promises but in March 2019 he was re-elected in what most watchdog organizations consider an unfair election (CFR). While some areas enjoy basic access to rights and freedoms, much of the northeast of the country has faced sectarian violence, largely at the hands of Boko Haram, and more recently, communal violence between farmers and herders (or pastoralists). According to the International Crisis Group, the latter conflict has overtaken the Boko Haram crisis as the deadliest conflict in Nigeria, killing six times more Nigerians than Boko Haram did in the same period.
Primary Terrorist Presence in Nigeria –
Boko Haram , which was designated as a terrorist group by the U.S. in 2013, has killed tens of thousands of Nigerians and has displaced millions since 2009. U.S. intelligence officials have estimated that there are between 4,000-6,000 active militants while other analysts have said the group’s membership could be three times that (CFR). In 2016, Boko Haram split into two factions: ISWAP, which is led by Abu Musab al-Barnawi, and Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad (JAS), led by Abubakar Shekau.
The Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS)-West Africa is based primarily in the north, along the border with Niger, and aims to replace the Nigerian Government with an Islamic state. They primarily target regional military installations and civilians (CIA World Factbook).
Human Rights, Humanitarian and Other Crises:
Since May 2011, more than 37,500 people have been killed. In the Lake Chad Basin area, 2.4 million are estimated to have been displaced. There are more than 232,000 Nigerian refugees (CFR).
Nigeria’s eight-year conflict with Boko Haram has resulted in a large-scale humanitarian crisis. The United Nations Secretary-General has warned that Nigeria is facing famine-like conditions due to insecurity triggered by the war.
An estimated 3.9 million people are food insecure and more than 400,000 children suffer from severe acute malnutrition (ReliefWeb).
Other Restrictions on Humanitarian Aid:
Humanitarian access is often impeded or restricted as a result of ongoing hostilities, threats of attack, and impassable roads. According to OCHA, more than 800,000 people are estimated to be in areas that are inaccessible to international humanitarian organizations.
Nigeria in Recent News
- Boko Haram Storm Military Base in Northeast Nigeria, Al Jazeera (April 27, 2019)
- Nigeria’s Election Disappoints, Council on Foreign Relations (March 18, 2019)
- Violence Against Women Pervasive in Nigeria, Human Rights Watch (March 14, 2019)
- Council on Foreign Relations, Nigeria Security Tracker (NST)