07 January 2013

Tracking Nigeria's State of Security

A new Nigeria Security Tracker (NST) released by the Council for Foreign Relations (CFR) provides information regarding political, social and economic violence that takes place in Nigeria. Users can interact with the data that is divided up by state and ranges from the end of May 2011 (the point when current president Goodluck Jonathan was inaugurated) to the start of November 2012.

"This new tool facilitates a more precise understanding of the violence that is plaguing Nigeria, including changes in its magnitude, methods, venue, and victims. We hoped that better understanding will help the search for sustainable solutions to the conflict," said CFR Ralph Bunche Senior Fellow for Africa Policy Studies, NST Editor and former U.S. ambassador to Nigeria John Campbell in a press release.

Boko Haram, a loosely affiliated Islamist movement in the north, has acted to destabilize parts of Nigeria through terrorist attacks against civilians, most notably attacking church-goers. According to the NST, Boko Haram has employed at least 28 suicide bombers, of which 10 targeted churches and mosques.

In a blog post announcing the NST and discussing Boko Haram, Campbell points out the deeper problems that contribute to the lack of stability in the north. "Despite the fact that Boko Haram has garnered local support by propagating a radical Islamist ideology, alienation, poverty, and bad governance are the fundamental causes of northern Nigeria's instability," writes Campbell.

Complicating the matter further, the Nigerian forces that are battling Boko Haram are also committing human rights violations. Campbell cites a Network on Police Reform report that found 7,198 people were extra-judicially killed by Nigerian security forces over the past 4 years.

Daniel Williams of Human Rights Watch argued in the Washington Post that the killings by both Boko Haram and Nigerian security forces means that Nigerian citizens are caught in the middle. "To win its battle against Boko Haram, the government must make ending security-force lawlessness a primary objective," Williams advised.

"Officials should also hear and act on the concerns of the beleaguered residents of places such as Maiduguri, who are caught in the crossfire between an Islamist group bent on destruction and security forces whose indiscriminate attacks also fuel the spiral of violence in Nigeria."