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Nigeria is confronted by multiple security challenges, notably the resilient Boko Haram Islamist insurgency in the north east, long-running discontent and militancy in the Niger Delta, increasing violence between herders and farming communities spreading from the central belt southward, and separatist Biafra agitation in the Igbo south east. Violence, particularly by the Boko Haram insurgency, has displaced more than two million people, created a massive humanitarian crisis, and prompted the rise of civilian vigilante self-defence groups that pose new policy dilemmas and possible security risks. Crisis Group seeks to help the Nigerian government by shedding new light on the country’s security challenges, de-escalating risks and tension, and encouraging regional and gender-specific approaches toward ending the violence durably.

CrisisWatch Nigeria

Deteriorated Situation

Conflict Risk Alert

Election-related violence rose around delayed polls raising risk of further escalation around governorship polls set for 9 March, ethnic violence spiked in north centre and Boko Haram (BH) continued attacks in north east. Election-related violence rose in run-up to and on day of presidential and federal legislative elections 23 Feb. Clashes involving thugs and supporters of political parties, especially President Buhari’s ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and main challenger Atiku Abubakar’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP), escalated; over 40 killed in election-related violence, including about twenty in Rivers and Akwa Ibom states in south east on election day. Electoral commission 27 Feb said Buhari had won presidential poll with 56% of vote; Atiku rejected result. In north centre, ethnic violence flared in Kaduna state. Governor 19 Feb said attacks on mainly Fulani hamlets in Kajuru area left 130 dead; ethnic Adara said governor, a Fulani, had inflated figures to trigger Fulani attacks on Adara or lower voter turnout; gunmen 26 Feb stormed four villages of ethnic Adara in same area, killing 29. In Benue state, gunmen killed seventeen in Agatu area 20 Feb. In north east, both Boko Haram (BH) factions continued to attack military and civilians in Borno and Yobe states. Notably, in Yobe state, army 4 Feb repelled attempt by BH faction known as Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) to enter Kanama town, several insurgents reportedly killed. Three BH suicide bombers 16 Feb attacked mosque in Borno state capital Maiduguri, killing eleven people including themselves. Suspected members of Shekau’s BH faction 18 Feb killed at least fourteen in Koshebe forest near Maiduguri. Air force strike 24 Feb killed several ISWAP fighters at hideout in Kolloram near Lake Chad, northern Borno state. In north west, banditry and intercommunal violence continued, mostly in Zamfara state, but also Sokoto, Katsina and Niger leaving at least 90 dead. Notably, bandits 19 Feb stormed Danjibga village, Zamfara state, clashed with civilian vigilantes, seven residents and at least 59 bandits reportedly killed; bandits 25 Feb attacked three villages in Sokoto state, sixteen reportedly killed.

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

12 Feb 2019
Stakes are high for Nigeria and the region. A vote marred in controversy and violence inevitably would hinder efforts to address the country’s security and economic challenges. African Arguments

Robert Malley

President & CEO
14 Jan 2019
While ending the insurgency and countering the militants’ appeal is obviously vital, it is also essential to recognise what precisely has guided women to join [Boko Haram] in the first place. The Guardian

Azadeh Moaveni

Senior Analyst, Gender
3 Oct 2018
The fact that some of the recent attacks [in Nigeria] specifically targeted military bases shows they were deliberate, not opportunistic. Bloomberg

Nnamdi Obasi

Senior Adviser, Nigeria
24 Jul 2018
Jihadist groups present since the 2012 crisis in Mali exploited local unrest and the weak presence of the state in northern Mali to launch cross-border attacks against the Nigerien army... Despite direct support from Chadian troops since 2015 and closer collaboration with the Nigerian army, Nigerien forces have been unable to fully secure the border with Nigeria from attacks, including some linked to the Islamic State. Voice of America

Hannah Armstrong

Consulting Analyst, Sahel
25 Jun 2018
More people to feed means more agricultural settlement and less available land and water for herders. All of this tend to trigger more and more disputes [between farmers and semi-nomadic herders in Nigeria]. Reuters

Rinaldo Depagne

Senior Adviser Africa & Project Director West Africa
9 Apr 2018
Given the [Nigerian] government’s continuing inability to impose its own solution to the conflict [with Boko Haram] ... the government’s exploration of dialogue [with] the insurgents is understandable. Anadolu Agency

Nnamdi Obasi

Senior Adviser, Nigeria

Latest Updates

Op-Ed / Africa

What Would Make A Woman Go Back To Boko Haram? Despair

In northeastern Nigeria, the militant group exploits a broken social system. There are lessons here for the rest of the world.

Originally published in The Guardian

EU Watch List / Global

Watch List 2018 – Third Update

Crisis Group’s third update to our Watch List 2018 includes entries on economic reforms in Libya, preserving the fragile quiet in Syria’s Idlib province, addressing the plight of civilians in eastern Ukraine, supporting Colombia's uneasy peace process and averting violence in Nigeria's upcoming elections. This annual early-warning report identifies conflict situations in which prompt action by the European Union and its member states would generate stronger prospects for peace.

Commentary / Africa

Averting Violence around Nigeria’s 2019 Elections

As election preparations get underway in Nigeria, conflict and insecurity in many parts of the country risk exacerbating intercommunal tensions and preventing a peaceful transfer of power. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2018 annual early-warning update for European policy makers, Crisis Group urges the EU and its members states to remain fully engaged during the election in order to curb violence and strengthen the country’s democratic institutions.

Briefing / Africa

Preventing Boko Haram Abductions of Schoolchildren in Nigeria

Four years after the abductions in Chibok, and months after more kidnappings in Dapchi, over 100 schoolgirls are still missing. Nigeria must act to make schools safe – beefing up security, learning from past mistakes and, ultimately, working to end the Boko Haram insurgency.

Report / Africa

Herders against Farmers: Nigeria’s Expanding Deadly Conflict

Propelled by desertification, insecurity and the loss of grazing land to expanding settlements, the southward migration of Nigeria’s herders is causing violent competition over land with local farmers. To prevent the crisis from escalating, the government should strengthen security for herders and farmers, implement conflict resolution mechanisms and establish grazing reserves.

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Nnamdi Obasi

Senior Adviser, Nigeria