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Published: March 19, 2014

Nigeria 2015: looking beyond endemic insecurity and changing politics

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Raquel Vazquez Llorente is a Researcher at the European Interagency Security Forum (EISF). Raquel is responsible for producing original research papers that help share and promote best-practices amongst the humanitarian sector, with the aim of building the capacity of security and risk managers. Raquel also collaborates with other bodies undertaking research projects in the sector.


Amid convulsive politics, the northeast of Nigeria has reached a critical security situation yet once again. Communal violence is adding to the growing humanitarian response gap, with Boko Haram not the only threat to the country’s security. Last weekend alone, at least 100 people were killed and 2,000 were displaced after 40 gunmen stormed villages in central northern Kaduna state. Despite Nigeria’s booming economy, inequality is rampant in the country, and the deteriorating security situation in northern states may further destabilise a country of 170 million that seems to be struggling to stay united. How the government deals with the ever-growing Islamist threat, inter-communal violence, and their humanitarian consequences will be important factors in determining the outcome of 2015 elections.

Government response to the humanitarian consequences of violence
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been in power since 1999, but its continuity as the ruling party is being jeopardised by the government’s failure to tackle Boko Haram, and the humanitarian consequences of endemic violence. The lack of security and limited access to affected populations makes it difficult to estimate the humanitarian needs in affected areas. However, the government has recently agreed to facilitate access both for humanitarian agencies and human rights monitors—according to a statement of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, during her visit to the country last week.

Attacks by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram have intensified since January 2014, killing several hundred and causing mass displacement of population. On 20th February, Boko Haram’s leader Shekau issued a video where he vowed to kill several national leaders. This week, the government has been forced to close 85 schools in northeastern Borno, an area that has the country’s worst literacy rates, affecting nearly 120,000 students. Previous strategies, such as declaring a state of emergency in the three northeastern states of Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa in May 2013, or assembling a Joint Task Force of military and police units, have proven at best useless, and at worst prompted more extrajudicial killings from corrupt forces.

Nigeria’s future and regional impact of 2015 elections
At a time of tense politics and volatile security, Nigeria’s national conference opened on Monday in Abuja. 492 delegates representing the country’s ethnic and religious groups are in the capital to discuss the future of Nigeria and address a wide range of topics, from oil revenues to Islamist extremism. However, delegates have been prevented from discussing Nigeria’s unity and the potential for the country to fragment after the 2015 elections.

Defections from the PDP to the All Progressives Congress (APC) have made headlines since November last year, in what has been described as a ‘defection storm’ that is still on-going. Two days ago, the 2015 elections were again the focus of attention when a Federal High Court ruled that President Goodluck Jonathan is free to seek re-election—which may cause further defections given internal opposition within his party.

The presidential elections, to be held on 14th February 2015, will also have a broader impact in the region. The outcome of Nigeria’s elections and how the winning party deals with the general security situation will affect neighbouring countries—particularly Niger, Chad and Cameroon, where over 15,000 Nigerian refugees have sought asylum to date as a consequence of violence in the country. Nigeria is preparing to vote amidst a changing political climate and a volatile security situation, and the outcome of the elections is yet difficult to predict.



Government response to the humanitarian consequences of violence:

Nigerian state closes schools amid fears of Boko Haram attacks, The Guardian, 18 March 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/mar/18/nigeria-state-closes-schools-fears-boko-haram

100 killed in Nigeria attacks as gunmen storm villages, AFP, 16 March 2014, available at http://reliefweb.int/report/nigeria/100-killed-nigeria-attacks-gunmen-storm-villages

Opening remarks by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay at a press conference during her mission to Nigeria, OHCHR, 14 March 2014, http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=14374&LangID=E

Nigeria: Humanitarian Response Gap Grows in Northern Nigeria, All Africa, 14 March 2014, http://allafrica.com/stories/201403170463.htm

Crisis Watch Database-Nigeria, ICG, 1 March 2014, http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/publication-type/crisiswatch/crisiswatch-database.aspx?CountryIDs=%7b3103A533-A2BE-4809-A42C-DED2660987E0%7d#results

Nigeria’s future and regional impact of 2015 elections:

Nigeria 2015: Jonathan dares Saraki, Governor Ahmed, other PDP defectors, Premium Times, 19 March 2014, http://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/157013-nigeria-2015-jonathan-dares-saraki-governor-ahmed-pdp-defectors.html

Nigeria: Eligibility Suit – Jonathan Can Contest 2015 Presidential Poll – Court, All Africa, 18 March 2014, http://allafrica.com/stories/201403180187.html

Nigeria’s National Conference starts in Abuja, BBC,  17 March 2014, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-26613962

Senate: PDP, APC in gale of defections, Punch, 2 February 2014, http://www.punchng.com/politics/senate-pdp-apc-in-gale-of-defections/

Background information:

Boko Haram, Council on Foreign Relations, 26 February 2014, http://www.cfr.org/nigeria/boko-haram/p25739

Leadership Analysis of Boko Haram and Ansaru in Nigeria, CTC Sentinel, 24 February 2014, http://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/leadership-analysis-of-boko-haram-and-ansaru-in-nigerial

Nigeria’s 2015 Elections: Expectations, Priorities and the Independent National Electoral Commission, Chatham House, 30 January 2014, http://www.chathamhouse.org/sites/default/files/home/chatham/public_html/sites/default/files/300114nigeria.pdf

Humanitarian Implementation Plan, Nigeria, ECHO, 17 October 2013, http://ec.europa.eu/echo/files/funding/decisions/2014/HIPs/nigeria_en.pdf

2014 Regional Operations-West Africa, UNHCR, undated, http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49e484f76.htm


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