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Nigeria: Security Forces and Insecurity

AfricaFocus Bulletin
April 7, 2014 (140407)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

"Boko Haram is both a serious challenge and manifestation of more profound threats to Nigeria's security. Unless the federal and state governments, and the region, develop and implement comprehensive plans to tackle not only insecurity but also the injustices that drive much of the troubles, Boko Haram, or groups like it, will continue to destabilise large parts of the country. Yet, the government's response is largely military, and political will to do more than that appears entirely lacking." - International Crisis Group, April 3, 2014

The advice from international agencies and partners, as well as from Nigerian civil society, is consistent. A primarily military approach to the very real threat from Boko Haram in the northeast will not work, and in fact, will only produce more human rights abuses and fuel the conflict. Nevertheless, there seem to be no signs of a change in de facto government policy. And Nigeria's major partners, such as the United States, have given decidedly mixed signals on the issue, with an official designation of Boko Haram as "terrorist" last November, and news that the U.S. will be supplying additional training to Nigerian forces (see links below).

Unlike other conflicts in Africa, in which the United Nations, the African Union, and others play major roles, with the potential for greater accountability, the outcomes in Nigeria depend primarily on internal debates within Nigeria, in which hard-liners seem to have the effective upper hand.

Nonetheless, the evidence is clear that the policies are promoting insecurity rather than security. This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains excerpts from two reports released in the last two weeks on the issue, one from Amnesty International and the other from the International Crisis Group.

Of related interest:

Background on debate about "terrorist" designation

"US names Nigeria's Boko Haram and Ansaru 'terrorists'"

"US military aids Nigeria on Boko Haram: New special ops units expected to benefit from Pentagon training and equipment," Christian Science Monitor, January 23, 2014 -

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Nigeria, visit

The most recent on the conflict in the northeast is at

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on peace and conflict issues, visit


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++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++

Nigeria: More than 1,500 killed in armed conflict in north-eastern Nigeria in early 2014

Amnesty International

AFR 44/004/2014

March 31, 2014


Since the start of 2014, more than 1,500 people have been killed in north-eastern Nigeria. People are living in a climate of fear and insecurity, vulnerable to attack from Islamist armed group Boko Haram on the one hand and facing human rights violations at the hands of the very state security forces which should be protecting them. In light of this context, the ongoing intensity of the confrontation and the organisation of the clashing actors, Amnesty International considers the situation to be a non-international armed conflict.

According to Amnesty International's research at least half of the deaths are civilians, killed in attacks by Boko Haram. More than 600 people, mainly former detainees, were killed by the security forces following the attack by Boko Haram on the military barracks in Maiduguri on 14 March. These killings amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Amnesty International is extremely concerned that Nigerian security forces and the Islamist armed group Boko Haram are committing serious violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and human rights abuses amounting to war crimes and crimes against humanity. There have been hundreds of unlawful killings, including scores of extrajudicial executions, and deliberate attacks on civilians. Thousands of detainees have been victims of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Suspected Boko Haram members have launched a campaign of violence on the residents of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states. A state of emergency was declared by President Goodluck Jonathan in these three states in May 2013 and was extended in November 2013.

The extension of the state of emergency has not helped to reduce the violence in northern Nigeria. Hundreds of people are dead, thousands of families have been separated and hundreds of thousands of people have fled the affected states and are seeking refuge in neighbouring countries or have been internally displaced. National and international humanitarian organisations have faced serious difficulties in reaching out to people in some parts of the affected region. As a result, thousands do not have access to emergency medical care and food supplies. Women, the elderly and children have been mostly affected.

Since the violence started in 2009, thousands of fighters have also been killed in clashes between security forces and Boko Haram members across different locations in north-eastern Nigeria. Since 2012, thousands of people have died in military custody in Borno and Yobe states. Hundreds more have been victims of enforced disappearances and thousands have been subjected to acts of torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in military and police custody in north-eastern Nigeria.

Amnesty International is calling on regional and international human rights bodies to step up in ensuring that thorough, independent, impartial and transparent investigations are conducted. Nigeria should seek international assistance and advice in the conduct of these investigations and any subsequent prosecutions.


Recent Attacks and Unlawful Killings by Boko Haram

Since the beginning of 2014, attacks by suspected Boko Haram members have intensified, resulting in the deaths of more than 700 people, mainly civilians not directly participating in hostilities. Boko Haram has embarked on a campaign of widespread violence and human rights abuses, resulting in a general atmosphere of intimidation and fear among the population in north-eastern Nigeria. They have claimed responsibility for the majority of attacks in the north-east. As far as Amnesty International is able to ascertain, no other group or individuals have claimed responsibility for the attacks. However, it is possible that other groups or individuals have also carried out some of these attacks.

On 3 March suspected Boko Haram members attacked Jakana Village in the Konduga Local Government Area of Borno State. They killed between 40 and 48 civilians, and destroyed shops and the police station. ...

On 25 February, suspected Boko Haram members attacked a college in Yobe State, killing between 43 and 59 students and teachers. Several survivors and local residents told Amnesty International that the gunmen spent four hours in the school compound killing people and burning nearby houses and school buildings. They described how gunmen arrived around 9:00pm and started shooting indiscriminately, killing every male they found. Children who hid in a classroom were burned alive. Survivors and some eye witnesses told Amnesty International it took several hours before the army responded.

In an interview with Amnesty International, one of the staff at the school said: "When the gunmen entered the school compound, there was confusion. Everybody was running for safety. I and many students ran into the bush. Many of the children did not return after the attack. We don't know what has happened to them. When I returned, my quarters had already been burned. As we speak, I'm staying with a relative. I don't know what to do. I am fed up."

On Tuesday 11 February, suspected Boko Haram members killed more than 50 people and burnt scores of homes in the village of Konduga, also in Borno state. Two eyewitnesses in Konduga village told Amnesty International that between 30 to 40 girls were abducted and taken away by the gunmen during the attack on a government-run secondary school in the village. The Chief Nursing Officer of the General Hospital in Konduga was also reportedly kidnapped by the gunmen.

Similar attacks have taken place in villages in Adamawa and Yobe states, leaving scores dead, injured and forcibly displaced.

Nigeria's Security Forces Commit Human Rights Violations with Impunity

Nigeria's security forces continue to commit serious human rights violations in their response to Boko Haram. Since 2009, thousands of people suspected of having links to Boko Haram have been extrajudicially executed or unlawfully killed by the Nigerian army and police. Hundreds more have been victims of enforced disappearances and since 2012, thousands of suspects died in military and police custody.

The JTF frequently conducts raids usually following attacks by Boko Haram in which ordinary people are arrested en masse and detained in military detention centres for lengthy periods, often without charge or trial and without access to their families and lawyers.


In 2014, as attacks by Boko Haram intensified, the military has responded by stepping up its operations against Boko Haram camps in Borno state. In the first three months of the year, over 400 suspected Boko Haram members were killed in JTF raids and in firefights during Boko Haram attacks on towns. 38 civilians have also allegedly been killed by the military this year. In addition, at least 150 detainees died in military custody.


Hundreds Unlawfully Killed by the Nigerian Security Forces on 14 March 2014

On Friday 14 March, at 7 am Boko Haram members attacked the Giwa barracks in Maiduguri, Borno state and opened the cells to release the more than 1,000 detainees, who were arrested under suspicion of being members or sympathisers of Boko Haram. A video released by Boko Haram shows gunmen entering the Giwa military barracks, setting ablaze scores of vehicles in the compound, before releasing hundreds of people, including women, children. Many of those released looked frail and were barefooted.

Eyewitnesses told Amnesty International that the attackers came from a nearby village and crossed the Yedzaram River.

One resident in Mairi, Mallam Ibrahim1 described what he saw during the attack: "On Friday morning around 7 to 7:30 in the morning, I heard gunshots. I came out to the back of my house and saw gunmen running towards the barracks. I live close to the barracks. We were all scared. We knew the day is going to be very bad for all of us. We stayed indoors with my family. The gunshots continued non-stop. It took about an hour before we heard the fighter jet."

"A few minutes later, we saw lots of people coming towards our house from the barracks. Many of them look hungry, barefooted and were asking for water. Some did not even have full clothes on. We came out and started helping them. We gave them water and some fruits. We later took them to a classroom in the University of Maiduguri. They were 56 in total. They told us they are all detainees from Giwa," added Ibrahim.


Mallam Ibrahim and one other resident in Mairi told Amnesty International that, less than an hour after the detainees left the barracks, two Hilux trucks filled with government soldiers came to the scene where the 56 former detainees were gathered. Mallam Ibrahim said: "[The soldiers] asked all of us to leave the area. The former detainees were all in the classroom. They started screaming 'we are not Boko Haram. We are detainees!' I and my other neighbours saw the soldiers take the former detainees to a nearby place called 'no man's land,' behind the University of Maiduguri. We stood there and watched while the soldiers opened fire and killed the 56 people we had just given fruits and water. They were shot and killed in front of us. All of them. Just like that."

[report continues with more details of killings by the security forces in the wake of the attack]


According to reports received from eyewitnesses, family members, lawyers and community activists, at least 622 people were killed by the security forces on 14 March. The actual number could even be higher.


Humanitarian Crisis and Impact of the Conflict on Civilian Population

The ongoing fighting between Boko Haram and the Nigerian security forces has had damaging impact on the lives of millions of people across north-east Nigeria. The humanitarian situation in the region has reached unprecedented levels.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to seek refuge in neighbouring countries and thousands more have been made internally displaced. According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) "…the crisis in north-eastern Nigeria, exacerbated by the declaration of the state of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States on 14 May 2013 (extended for six months on 12 November 2013), more than 520,000 people, mainly women, children and elderly people have been forced to flee inside Nigeria or seek refuge in neighbouring countries (Niger, Cameroon and Chad)."

On Tuesday 26 March 2014, the Director-General of the Nigerian National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said more than 250,000 people have been displaced as a result of the fighting in northeastern Nigeria.

Nigerian Government's Failures to Address Impunity

Amnesty International has repeatedly urged the authorities to conduct thorough and independent investigations into the alleged human rights violations and abuses with a view to bringing suspected perpetrators to justice in a fair trial.

Over the years, both State and Federal government have established inquiries into acts of violence including communal and sectarian violence in Nigeria's middlebelt, unlawful killings, poor conditions in detentions and other instances of violations and abuses, but their findings and recommendations have mostly not been made public. Criminal investigations have been inadequate, with serious doubts over the quality of evidence against those arrested.

In 2013, the committee set up by President Goodluck Jonathan to investigate and explore options for bringing an end to the on-going fighting in northern Nigeria submitted its report to the Presidency. The findings of the Committee's report have not been made public.

Following previous incidents of political, communal and sectarian violence, scores of people were rounded up by the police and security forces but few have been successfully prosecuted.

According to information received by Amnesty International, previous commissions of inquiry into allegations of human rights abuses have named suspected perpetrators, yet very few people are aware of the content of these reports. In many cases, no criminal investigation is initiated on suspected perpetrators. Victims of violence have not received redress or reparation, including compensation, leaving people destitute and further stoking feelings of resentment and desperation. Victims and their families have a right to know the truth about the abuse of their rights including the identities of individuals or groups responsible for carrying out or ordering violations.

As such, Amnesty International is urging the international community, in collaboration with credible national civil society organisations and the National Human Rights Commission of Nigeria, to set up an independent and international commission of enquiry with a mandate to investigate grave human rights abuses and violations that may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in north-eastern Nigeria.


Curbing Violence in Nigeria (II): The Boko Haram Insurgency

International Crisis Group

3 Apr 2014 / direct URL:

Executive Summary and Recommendations

Boko Haram's four-year-old insurgency has pitted neighbour against neighbour, cost more than 4,000 lives, displaced close to half a million, destroyed hundreds of schools and government buildings and devastated an already ravaged economy in the North East, one of Nigeria's poorest regions. It overstretches federal security services, with no end in sight, spills over to other parts of the north and risks reaching Niger and Cameroon, weak countries poorly equipped to combat a radical Islamist armed group tapping into real governance, corruption, impunity and underdevelopment grievances shared by most people in the region.

Boko Haram is both a serious challenge and manifestation of more profound threats to Nigeria's security. Unless the federal and state governments, and the region, develop and implement comprehensive plans to tackle not only insecurity but also the injustices that drive much of the troubles, Boko Haram, or groups like it, will continue to destabilise large parts of the country. Yet, the government's response is largely military, and political will to do more than that appears entirely lacking.

Most Nigerians are poorer today than they were at independence in 1960, victims of the resource curse and rampant, entrenched corruption. Agriculture, once the economy's mainstay, is struggling. In many parts of the country, the government is unable to provide security, good roads, water, health, reliable power and education. The situation is particularly dire in the far north. Frustration and alienation drive many to join "self-help" ethnic, religious, community or civic groups, some of which are hostile to the state. It is in this environment that the group called Boko Haram (usually translated loosely as "Western education is forbidden") by outsiders emerged. It is an Islamic sect that believes corrupt, false Muslims control northern Nigeria. The group and fellow travellers want to remedy this by establishing an Islamic state in the north with strict adherence to Sharia (Islamic law).

Boko Haram's early leader, the charismatic preacher Mohammed Yusuf, tried to do so non-violently. ...

Yusuf subsequently became increasingly critical of the government and official corruption, his popularity soared, and the group expanded into other states, including Bauchi, Yobe and Kano. ...

A series of clashes between Boko Haram members and police escalated into an armed insurrection in 2009. Troops crushed the rebellion, killing hundreds of followers and destroying the group's principal mosque. Yusuf was captured, handed over to the police and shortly thereafter extrajudicially executed.

Boko Haram went underground and a year later launched attacks on police officers, police stations and military barracks, explicitly in revenge for the killings of Yusuf and his comrades. Its spokesman demanded prosecution of those responsible, release of their detained colleagues, restoration of the mosque and compensation for sect members killed by troops. Since 2010, the group's campaign has grown, targeting not only security forces, government officials and politicians, but also Christians, critical Muslim clerics, traditional leaders, the UN presence, bars and schools. Lately it has evolved into pure terrorism, with targeting of students attending secular state schools, health workers involved in polio vaccination campaigns and villages supporting the government.

In May 2013, President Goodluck Jonathan declared an emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states and deployed additional troops that with the help of vigilantes drove Boko Haram from most cities and towns. He also established a committee to negotiate a settlement with its leadership, with little success. On 18 March 2014, National Security Advisor Mohammed Sambo Dasuki announced a "soft" approach to addressing the root causes of terrorism, but it remains to be seen whether and how it will be implemented.



To ensure greater human security in northern Nigeria, better protection from Boko Haram attacks and a more law-abiding, better resourced, professional security service

To Nigeria's Federal Government:

1. Discontinue heavy-handed military and police methods that risk pushing yet more restless, jobless and frustrated youths into violence and extremism.

2. Begin to address impunity (and a main Boko Haram demand) by completing prosecution of the police officers alleged to have extrajudicially executed Mohammed Yusuf; and investigate and prosecute crimes allegedly committed by the security services, government officials (state and federal) and Boko Haram members.

To state governments in the north:

3. Work with northern political, traditional and religious elites to disarm, deradicalise and reintegrate Islamist militants.

To Nigeria's international partners:


4. Continue to build bi- and multinational security ties and networks in the region.

5. Intensify mixed patrols at Nigeria's borders to curtail the movement of armed groups and criminals.

6. Share and exchange intelligence information on a more regular basis.


7. Encourage the federal government to work with northern political, traditional and religious elites toward a political solution to the Boko Haram problem. To switch from a mainly military approach to the challenge from Boko Haram, and radicalism in general, to one more attuned to root causes

To Nigeria's Federal Government:

8. Recognise that unless issues of bad governance and systemic corruption are addressed vigorously and transparently, all other measures will be nothing but stop-gaps.

9. Free up the necessary national resources to address sustained economic hardship, rising inequality and social frustration by expanding and strengthening the anti-corruption agencies, and ensure they work effectively at state and local levels, free of political manipulation.

10. Begin to tackle the root causes of growing radical Islamic and ethnic militancy by fully developing and implementing a Far North Development Commission, similar to the Niger Delta Development Commission, with a mandate that includes coordinating antidesertification campaigns, developing large-scale irrigation, agriculture, power and road projects and promoting small businesses that could create jobs for youths; and do so in a transparent, consultative and accountable manner.

11. Take steps to change the climate of secrecy and fear around radical Islam by encouraging greater public discussion on the causes of and ways to address radicalism.

12. Accredit senior ambassadors and defence attachés to all neighbouring countries and meet with them frequently to review the domestic and transnational security situations. To state governments in the north:

13. Reform the Quranic educational system by introducing a dual curriculum (as in Kano) and paying teachers' salaries so as to relieve pupils of the need to beg for their upkeep.

14. Use the Northern Governors' Forum to set high standards of transparent and accountable state governance. To Nigeria's international partners:

15. Support programs at all levels of government that address poverty, youth unemployment and women's lack of empowerment.

16. Encourage and support the federal government to genuinely implement a national policy of zero tolerance for corruption.

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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