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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

Criminal groups abducted hundreds in north west, while ethnic and regional tensions ran high in south amid farmer-herder conflict; meanwhile, tensions rose in south east between govt and Biafra secessionists. Criminal groups in Feb reportedly killed at least 112 and kidnapped over 450 people, mostly in Katsina, Kaduna, Sokoto and Zamfara states (north west), but also in Niger state (Middle Belt). Notably, armed group 17 Feb abducted 42 students and school personnel in Niger state, released them 27 Feb; 26 Feb kidnapped 279 girls in Zamfara state. Meanwhile, Auwalun Daudawa, who masterminded Dec 2020 abduction of 344 students in Katsina state, 8 Feb laid down arms along with five of his troops. Amid rise in herder-farmer and intercommunal violence in south since Jan, clashes between ethnic Hausa and Fulani on one hand, and ethnic Yoruba on the other, early Feb killed two dozen people in Oyo state capital Ibadan (south west). Nobel laureate in literature Wole Soyinka 6 Feb warned situation could spiral into civil war and former President Abdulsalam Abubakar 16 Feb said it could lead to “point of no return”. In Imo state (south east), security forces stepped up operations against Eastern Security Network (ESN), paramilitary wing of outlawed secessionist group Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB); army 18 Feb deployed helicopters and hundreds of troops in Orlu and Orsu areas, razing several ESN camps; IPOB same day said govt had triggered “second Nigeria-Biafra war”. Boko Haram (BH) attacks continued in Borno state (north east) despite military operations. Army 9-10 Feb repelled insurgent attacks on base in Rann town and on Askira Uba town, killing at least 50 combatants. BH splinter group Islamic State West Africa Province 15 Feb killed at least seven soldiers in Marte area; next day launched coordinated attacks in Marte and Gubio areas, death toll unknown; 19 Feb raided several villages in Dikwa area, displacing thousands. BH rocket attack on state capital Maiduguri 23 Feb reportedly left 16 dead. Military 15 Feb said troops had killed some 80 insurgents from BH faction led by Abubakar Shekau (JAS) in “recent” operations in Sambisa forest; at least two senior JAS figures reportedly among those killed.
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Reports & Briefings

In The News

28 May 2019
Massive unemployment [in Nigeria] has created a growing army of unemployed youth, vulnerable to recruitment in the criminal industry. BBC

Nnamdi Obasi

Senior Adviser, Nigeria
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

Former 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

Project Director, 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

Senior 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

Deputy Program Director, Africa & Project Director, West Africa

Latest Updates

Video / Africa

Video – Returning from the Land of Jihad: The Fate of Women Who Lived with Boko Haram

In late 2018 Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst for Gender Azadeh Moaveni went to north-east Nigeria, which has been the epicenter of the fight between Boko Haram and the Nigerian military, to explore how effectively women formerly associated with the group have been rehabilitated and reintegrated back into society.

Report / Africa

Returning from the Land of Jihad: The Fate of Women Associated with Boko Haram

Women are streaming home from Boko Haram’s domain in north-eastern Nigeria, some having escaped captivity and others having left jihadist husbands behind. The state should safeguard these women from abuse, so that they stay in government-held areas and encourage men to come back as well.

Report / Africa

Facing the Challenge of the Islamic State in West Africa Province

Three years after Boko Haram broke apart, one faction, the Islamic State in West Africa Province, is forming a proto-state in northern Nigeria. The state should press its military offensive against the jihadists but also try undercutting their appeal by improving governance and public services.

Q&A / Africa

Winning Back Trust in Nigeria’s Rescheduled Elections

Only hours before polls were to open, Nigeria’s electoral commission postponed elections scheduled for 16 February by one week. In this Q&A, Crisis Group’s Nigeria expert Nnamdi Obasi says the commission and other authorities must act now to win back trust and reduce risks of violence.

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

Our People

Nnamdi Obasi

Senior Adviser, Nigeria