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Nigeria: Beyond the Hashtag Debates
June 9, 2014 (140609)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
"As is often the case in situations of widespread insecurity and
violence, the displacement caused by Boko Haram and the [Nigerian]
army's operations against it has reduced people's ability to feed
themselves both directly and indirectly. Not only have IDPs exhausted
their own supplies, making them dependent on their hosts' resources,
but over 60 per cent of the region's farmers have been displaced just
before the start of the planting season, making food crops scarcer
and setting the scene for protracted shortages." - Internal
Displacement Monitoring Centre
The debates on #BringBackOurGirls, a hashtag initiated by Nigerian
protesters and picked up around the world, have ranged widely,
without any clear consensus on answers to the complex questions of
what should be done and by whom. It is easy to say that the longerterm
response to Boko Haram must address broader causes, and that the
Nigerian military must shift from a policy that adds to the violence
rather than protecting people. But whether the outside world can find
useful ways to assist such a change in Nigeria remains doubtful (a $6
million counter-terrorism satellite channel, just reported in the New
York Times, seems a particularly clear example of what not to do).
Meanwhile, Boko Haram attacks continue unchecked in northeastern
Nigeria, killing hundreds in recent weeks. While the debates on the
big questions should continue, the immediate needs of the people of
the area are pressing, as stressed in a recent report by the Internal
Displacement Monitoring Centre. This AfricaFocus Bulletin includes
excerpts from that report, as well as a press release on ways to
address these needs and an op-ed on practical steps that could be
taken now, by American University professor Carl LeVan and Nigerian
civil society activist Priscilla Achakpa.
Also of interest:
Ron Nixon, "Nigerian Television Becomes Front for U.S. in Terrorism
Fight: State Department Ramps Up Efforts Against Boko Haram" New York
Times June 6, 2014
Johnnie Carson, "Nigeria: Worsening Security Demands New Strategy,"
AllAfrica.com guest column, June 5, 2014
John Campbell, "A Boko Haram Enclave in Northeastern Nigeria?,"
Council on Foreign Relations, June 6, 2014
"Brainstorming with #BringBackOurGirls," Carl LeVan, May 9, 2014
Boston University African Studies Outreach, "Boko Haram: Behind the
For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Nigeria, visit
++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++
Putting Communities at the Center of Crisis Response in Nigeria
Mercy Corps / Friends Committee on National Legislation / Search for
http://www.mercycorps.org / http://www.fcnl.org / http://sfcg.org
direct URL for press release: http://tinyurl.com/l92x468
June 04, 2014
The mobilization of interest, energy and resources to respond to the
crisis in northeastern Nigeria presents an opportunity for both
Nigerians and international partners to bring much-needed assistance
to victims of conflict and address the root causes of Nigeria's
crises. This new wave of violence and displacement exacerbates
existing tensions, including between farmers and pastoralists, in
advance of the 2015 elections. Nigeria already had one of the highest
rates of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the world. Yet in
just the first three months of 2014, violence by Boko Haram has left
more than 290,000 persons internally displaced and has negatively
impacted the lives of as many as four million people in northeastern
Nigeria. As organizations dedicated to preventing violent conflict
and supporting communities to achieve more inclusive, resilient and
empowered futures, we urge the United States government to work with
the Nigerian government, civil society, and other actors to mitigate
and respond to conflict by providing rapid and robust assistance to
violence-affected communities. In particular, the following is
1. Mitigate harm from insecurity in northern Nigeria by providing
rapid and robust assistance to violence-affected communities.
a. Increase support to meet emergency material needs of communities
affected by the conflict. Basic services should be provided to IDPs,
refugees, and host communities in Nigeria, Cameroon and Niger.
Priorities include: shelter, food and non-food items, and
water/sanitation. Reinforcing coordination mechanisms will be
critical to ensure an effective humanitarian scale up.
b. Prioritize protection and psychosocial support. To address the
psychological scars of conflict, protection and psychosocial support
should be integrated within the humanitarian response for IDPs and
refugees. There is a need for both clinical and community-based
trauma healing support. Protection initiatives should particularly
address the needs of women and children.
c. Support livelihoods restoration efforts to create opportunities
and reduce vulnerabilities. As a result of the conflict, most IDPs
have lost critical livelihoods assets such as livestock, tools,
seeds, and other items used for income generation. Support should
prioritize helping people regain their ability to earn incomes,
thereby enabling them meet their basic needs. Response mechanisms
should be flexible and long term so that planning the transition from
relief to development begins now.
2. Work with all actors to bring the current crisis to a swift close.
a. Promote locally-led non-violent solutions. Local civil society
groups, including elders, religious groups, and women's organizations
are the frontline crisis responders. International efforts should
empower and support community-level efforts to respond to the effects
of insecurity and conflict. Particular emphasis should focus on
supporting community projects, raising local voices through community
radio, and efforts to reduce the risk of recruitment.
b. Consolidate peacebuilding and development gains in the Middle Belt
and Niger Delta, particularly in advance of the elections. Sustaining
these gains will be critical to achieving stability during the preelection
period, when tensions are anticipated to rise.
c. Ensure a regional approach, working with local leaders, civil
society, media, and governments in Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon
to address transnational root causes of the crisis, identify mutually
shared benefits of peace, and decrease the risk of this becoming a
3. Invest in medium and long-term solutions to address the underlying
factors of the crisis
a. Work with the government, civil society and international partners
to address structural underpinnings of the current crises. The crisis
in the north is not isolated and reflects many of the same structural
issues that have long fueled conflict in the Middle Belt, the Niger
Delta, and elsewhere. Lack of access to basic services, nontransparent
use of resources, and perceived inequality are among the
many underlying drivers of conflict that must be addressed over a
prolonged period in order to achieve sustainable change.
b. Ensure that community protection and human rights remain at the
forefront of all crisis response efforts. Any increase in diplomatic,
political and development resources to Nigeria must be channeled in a
way that respects human rights, prevents and documents abuses, and
works to build the trust of Nigerian citizens.
c. Support programs to help Nigerian children and youth, particularly
girls and adolescents, reach their full potential. Supporting
opportunities for the next generation of leaders to address their
perceived marginalization and unlock the human potential of this
region is critical. This should include initiatives supporting girls
education, practical training for people outside the formal education
system, and working with youth champions for peace.
Six ways to #BringBackOurGirls in Nigeria
The Christian Science Monitor - http://csmonitor.com
By A. Carl LeVan, Op-ed contributor, Priscilla Achakpa, Op-ed
May 20, 2014
[A. Carl LeVan is a professor at American University and the author
of the forthcoming "Dictators, Democracy and Development in Africa:
the Political Economy of Good Governance in Nigeria." Priscilla
Achakpa is executive director of Women Environmental Programme (WEP)
and helped organize the #BringBackOurGirls protests in Nigeria.]
When Nigerian Islamic militant group Boko Haram kidnapped more than
200 girls in Chibok, it galvanized world opinion and inspired one of
the biggest social media campaigns ever - #BringBackOurGirls. While
medium- and long-term strategies to end the Boko Haram insurgency
have yet to be devised, the Nigerian government and those supporting
it in the international community could do more in the short term to
act on some practical and urgent ideas sprouting up from the grass
It is time to prioritize Nigeria's pressing humanitarian needs and
put into play practical ideas that would promote greater
participation, deepen democracy, and build on Nigeria's bonds across
the Atlantic. Most of these ideas could be implemented immediately,
without major policy debates or costs. But they would make a huge
difference for Chibok's girls - and all the others who deserve an
These six steps could immediately help address urgent humanitarian
needs and contribute to democracy and rule of law in Nigeria.
1. Establish 'solidarity schools' in the north
Families in the predominantly poor and Muslim northeast undertake
huge risks and sacrifices to educate girls. Because the security
services there have been unable to protect the schools in the region,
thousands of children are being kept out of school - denied an
education in a region of the country where the adult literacy rate is
an abysmal 27 percent.
If existing public schools in nearby states could temporarily absorb
some students, these schools and communities would be making a
statement of national solidarity while also building trust across
regional and ethnic lines. Kano State, for example, is well suited to
do this, since its curriculum already accommodates Islam.
Private organizations such as the Federation of Muslim Women's
Associations in Nigeria or Women Environmental Programme could lead
the effort to defray costs, manage logistics, and buffer against
2. Reform citizenship laws
Rather than protecting the rights of all citizens equally, the
Nigerian Constitution permits discrimination against people who
migrate from one state to another. Even if these Nigerians have lived
in a state nearly their entire lives, the law considers them
"settlers" who have a second-tier citizenship status compared with
the local "indigenes."
This distinction has given rise to conflicts over land, political
representation, and resources in the Middle Belt region, nestled
between the north and the south. Thousands of people have been killed
by violence that often has religious overtones, yet is rooted in
these deeper constitutional flaws.
As a step toward broader federal citizenship law reform and as a way
to help ensure just treatment for girls who attend "solidarity
schools," the government could declare that the girls in solidarity
schools will be treated as full Nigerian citizens, no matter which
state they are from.
3. Officially acknowledge the problem of internally displaced persons
As they say in Africa, "When the elephants fight, the grass suffers."
Boko Haram's terror and the Nigerian military's heavy-handed response
to it have led to massive displacement. Nigeria's National Emergency
Management Agency recently declared that at least 3 million civilians
are in dire need of humanitarian assistance. The agency should work
with the National Commission for Refugees to outline the scale of the
problem without assigning blame.
The government should then formally ask the United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees and humanitarian organizations for
assistance in addressing the problem. And the military should secure
a humanitarian corridor to facilitate the safe travel of refugees and
humanitarian aid. The fact that there are barely 610 miles of paved
roads in Borno State, where Boko Haram has been most active, means
that controlling and securing such a corridor in that territory is
To prevent corruption, the effort would need to be monitored by the
National Human Rights Commission and the Transition Monitoring Group,
which has experience fighting corruption and also deploying thousands
of monitors for elections. It could set up a similar network to
prevent diversions of aid.
4. Invite more women to run for political office
By some estimates, men hold up to 90 percent of the elected and
appointed government positions in Nigeria. Since 2007, when 26 women
held position in the House of Representatives, the number of women
has fallen to just 12 in 2011. Gender disparity is even worse in
state-level assemblies. Parties such as the ruling People's
Democratic Party, the All Progressives Congress, and others should
urge women to run for office and invite voters to participate in
transparent, competitive primaries before the 2015 elections.
This will help keep access to education and other challenges facing
girls high on the political agenda, and it will send a clear signal
that Boko Haram's message about women is very far from the
5. Hold a press conference every day
Earlier, Ministry of Defense officials said that Chibok's girls had
been rescued when, in fact, they had not. This created a credibility
gap between citizens and government. Reliable information in any
crisis is critical. Providing a reliable means to convey factual
information forces the government to justify official narratives. The
national security adviser should host a daily press briefing on the
situation, streamed live on the Internet with accredited local and
international journalists allowed to ask tough questions.
6. The missing girls' families must receive government and legal
The families of the missing girls must be given the support they
deserve. President Goodluck Jonathan should meet with them in private
- without the media. He must hear their concerns, feel their
frustration, and earn their trust. It's not just good politics; it's
Groups such as the Nigerian Bar Association or the Federation of
Women Lawyers could offer pro bono representation to the families as
they negotiate the crisis and the government and media attention that
come as a result. Since some girls escaped and they need to be
debriefed, such assistance could help ensure that their privacy and
civil rights are protected.
Nigeria: Fleeing Boko Haram's relentless terror
5 June 2014
http://www.internal-displacement.org / direct URL:
As the world's attention has focused on Boko Haram's kidnapping of
more than 200 schoolgirls in the northeastern Nigerian town of
Chibok, other aspects of the Islamist group's terror have been
largely overlooked. Not least among them, its brutal violence has
caused significant forced displacement in the north-east of the
country and beyond.
Nigeria's National Commission for Refugees (NCFR) recently made data
available to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC)
showing that as many as 3.3 million people have been internally
displaced in the country by violence, including at least 250,000
people who have fled armed conflict perpetrated by Boko Haram. IDMC's
Global Overview, published on 14 May, reported that Nigeria had the
largest displaced population in Africa and the third largest in the
world behind Syria and Colombia.
The mass abduction of the schoolgirls and unrelenting attacks on
civilians have served to highlight the security and geopolitical
threat Boko Haram poses to Nigeria and the wider region. The scale of
the internal displacement it has provoked should also be cause for
the most serious concern.
Nigeria has ratified the African Union Convention for the Assistance
and Protection of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa, also known
as the Kampala Convention. It has also been developing a national
policy on internal displacement, but the process has lost momentum at
the final stage. Such a framework is crucial to guide the response to
the displacement crisis Nigeria faces. It should be adopted and
implemented as a matter of urgent priority.
What is Boko Haram, and what threat does it pose?
Boko Haram took up arms against Nigeria's government in 2002, with
the aim of establishing an independent Islamic state. It initially
targeted government and religious facilities in the north-eastern
states of Bauchi, Borno, Kano and Yobe, but it has since expanded its
activities to other areas, carrying out increasingly frequent and
sophisticated attacks against the civilian population.
The group's use of suicide attacks, bombings and raids have spread to
most northern states and south towards Abuja, and its targets have
become almost exclusively civilians. It has looted villages, killed
and kidnapped residents, used forced conscription and abducted women
The government's strategy to combat Boko Haram has been narrow and
short-sighted from the outset. ...
The government's counterinsurgency operations and use of force have
increased since 2013, exacerbating violence and displacement in the
region. The declaration of a state of emergency in Borno, Yobe and
Adamawa states in May 2013, and the creation of civilian self-defence
groups known as civilian joint task forces (CJTF), have also
aggravated the spiral of violence and pushed this formerly urban
group into isolated rural areas.
Boko Haram's attacks have continued in the north-east since the state
of emergency was imposed, and they have escalated in frequency and
impact since the beginning of 2014, resulting in the death of at
least 3,000 people. In a region the size of Greece, nearly 50 per
cent of the population has been affected by the conflict.
Patterns and scale of internal displacement linked to Boko Haram
Insecurity, poor roads and the insurgents' destruction of
communications infrastructure hamper the collection of data on
internal displacement. Despite the limited capacity, however, the
National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), NCFR, and international
agencies are making increasing amounts of information available.
This has led to a better understanding of displacement patterns,
three of which emerge. The first is of internally displaced people
(IDPs) fleeing to the south of the country in the footsteps of
economic migrants. The second is of people fleeing from rural to
urban areas within their states, and the third is of the secondary
displacement of both IDPs and host communities who move once again
when their resources have been depleted.
The level of destruction undermining physical security and
livelihoods has instilled deep fears in the affected populations,
significantly reducing the possibility of returns. This is likely
lead to protracted displacement, unless people can integrate
successfully in their places of displacement or find other safe haven
within Nigeria or abroad. There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that
many IDPs aspire to integrate locally in their places of refuge,
whether in the north-east or the south.
According to NEMA figures, Boko Haram's recent surge in violent
attacks on civilians and the army's response forced at least 250,000
people to flee their homes between May 2013, when the state of
emergency was imposed, and March 2014. Borno has been the worstaffected
affected state with 111,000 IDPs, followed by Yobe with
76,000 and Adamawa with 67,000.
This is a decrease of 40,000 since the end of 2013, when NEMA
reported 290 000 IDPs in this region, but it is believed to be result
of secondary displacement to neighbouring states such as Bauchi and
Gombe rather than IDPs returning to their homes. Estimates rarely
capture secondary displacement and return movement are equally
unaccounted for in the context of scarce data collection on IDPs.
Suffering amid the violence
There are no agencies on the ground focused on documenting human
rights violations in north-eastern Nigeria, but reports have emerged
of the killing and maiming of civilians; forced recruitment and
abduction; rape and sexual violence; and forced marriage. Many
children have been orphaned or separated from their families during
displacement. There is a pressing and growing need for systematic
protection monitoring and the documentation of such abuses.
Displacement and humanitarian needs are mounting, but assistance is
not, leaving both IDPs and their host communities without access to
the basic necessities of life. IDPs' access to food in Borno and Yobe
states is dire.
As is often the case in situations of widespread insecurity and
violence, the displacement caused by Boko Haram and the army's
operations against it has reduced people's ability to feed themselves
both directly and indirectly. Not only have IDPs exhausted their own
supplies, making them dependent on their hosts' resources, but over
60 per cent of the region's farmers have been displaced just before
the start of the planting season, making food crops scarcer and
setting the scene for protracted shortages. Both IDPs and host
families have increasingly resorted to negative and unsustainable
coping strategies as a result. Some have reduced their food intake
from three meals to one a day, and host communities have resorted to
eating grain set aside for sowing.
At least 37 per cent of primary health facilities in areas under the
state of emergency have shut as a result of the violence, and in the
worst-affected areas none at all are thought to be open. Boko Haram
has stolen medical supplies and reportedly displaced, kidnapped and
killed health workers. Those facilities still open are overwhelmed,
leaving both IDPs and host communities with little or no access to
health care. Aside from its impact on physical health, the extreme
violence has also taken a heavy psychological toll, leaving many
people in need of trauma counselling and psychosocial support.
Populations affected by the conflict lack access to water and
sanitation facilities across the north-east, with IDPs living in
settlements in Borno and Adamawa, and those sheltering in schools
Property, be it homes, shops, businesses or public infrastructure,
has suffered extensive damage and destruction. Many IDPs do not have
a home to go back to, and with host communities also hit, spontaneous
displacement sites have started to spring up in Adamawa and Borno
states. NEMA has set up 11 camps in southern Benue state, but it is
unclear if they are hosting people fleeing Boko Haram's violence in
the north or those displaced by more local inter-communal violence.
Boko Haram attacks on schools have forced the government to close
many institutions and have led to significant reductions in
enrolment. The number of classrooms available has reportedly been
further reduced as they are occupied by IDPs. Few displaced children
attend school, with some being taken out of education to help their
families in the struggle to make ends meet.
Mixed migration and an increasingly divided country
Nigeria is broadly split between its Christian south and Muslim
north, separated by a mixed central region known as the Middle Belt.
The predominantly Muslim north-eastern states have historically been
estranged from the rest of the country and have received little or no
government support, leaving them relatively underdeveloped. Scarce
resources, energy shortages and desertification have made poverty and
exclusion worse still, leading to significant population frustrations
and movements southwards.
Many of those fleeing Boko Haram's violence have made for the
bustling cities of the south, mirroring the migration of others
seeking economic opportunities there. IDPs have joined economic
migrants in the slums and satellite towns around large cities, most
notably Abuja. As experience elsewhere has shown, IDPs who migrate to
large urban centres tend to become invisible and rarely receive
support as they struggle to integrate in new and often hostile
In this uncertain and volatile context, Nigeria's IDPs are in urgent
need of protection and assistance, the provision of which requires
the concerted engagement of both national authorities and the
international community. The adoption and implementation of a policy
on internal displacement would be a significant step in the right
direction, establishing a solid framework for this to take place. It
would clearly define roles and responsibilities, and it would provide
a degree of predictability for IDPs who are likely to remain in limbo
in a country suffering increasing violence and division. It would
also ensure that they remain on the radar as they seek durable
solutions to their plight, and it would contribute to preparing for
and preventing future displacement.
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