Tuesday, August 14, 2012

NIGERIA: Recent Violence

This is a briefing from Christian Solidarity to the House of Lords.

NIGERIA: Recent Violence   

1. Background to Boko Haram  

Boko Haram is not a recent phenomenon. The group initially came to prominence in 2003. At the 
time it alternatively called itself Sunna Wal Jamma or “the Taliban” or “Yussufiyya” after its founder- 
leader, Mohammed Yusuf, who styled himself on Mullah Omar. Mohammed Yusuf believed Islam had 
been corrupted by Westernisation and all that it brought, especially education and Christianity, and 
rejected the legitimacy of the state and of Muslim traditional rulers. Consequently, from the outset 
the group sought the destruction of federal Nigeria and its replacement with a Shari’a state governed 
by an orthodoxy defined by Mohammed Yusuf. 

Initially Boko Haram consisted of former university students and disaffected scions of wealthy 
northern families, and was thought at that time to be around 200 strong. In late 2003, it began a brief 
armed uprising in Yobe State in north-east Nigeria by issuing pamphlets declaring its determination 
to make Nigeria a Muslim State. Then the young militants proceeded to invade Kanamma and 
Geidam Local Government Areas (LGAs), and destroyed Kanamma police station, killing a policeman 
and carting off weapons while chanting Allah u Akbar – God is great. Afterwards, they marched to the 
town centre, took over a primary school, renamed it “Afghanistan”, hoisted their own flag and 
declared a jihad against Christians and the Nigerian Federal Government. These aims remain 
unchanged. The group went on to cause havoc in several towns and villages, including the state 
capital Damaturu, occasioning the displacement of around 10,000 people. Federal forces eventually 
crushed the uprising and arrested several members of the group, four of whom were killed while 
allegedly attempting to escape from Damaturu prison. 
In September 2004, the group murdered over a dozen Christians during raids on the towns of Bama 
and Gwoza in Borno State, situated in the north-east close to the border with Cameroon. Around 
60 sect members were also reported to have attacked police stations in the area, killing four 
policemen. As a joint police and army force launched an operation against them, the group took 
seven people hostage, forcing them to act as porters as they retreated over the Mandara hills and 
into neighbouring Cameroon. One of the hostages escaped and was interviewed by Christian 
Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) at that time, while two are known to have been murdered.i 
Despite such notorious activities, by the time the group once again made headlines, it had not only 
set up a headquarters in the Borno State capital, Maiduguri, but had also established a presence in 
several northern states. The group was by then known locally as Boko Haram (regularly translated 
‘Western education is forbidden’’). It would appear that Boko Haram had come to some form of 
accommodation with northern authorities. There is speculation, that state governors made use of 
the group for nefarious political purposes, and that the group may even have played a major role in 
the 2006 Cartoon Riots, when around 65 Christians were killed, 57 churches were destroyed and 
hundreds of Christian businesses razed to the ground in Maiduguri on 18 February in what was billed 
a protest at the 2005 publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed in Denmark. 
However, in July 2009, complaining of harassment and mistreatment, Boko Haram launched 
coordinated attacks in Bauchi, Yobe, Kano and Borno States, resulting in the deaths of at least 1,000 
people. Once again a joint security force was mustered, and the group was driven back to its 
stronghold in Maiduguri’s Railway suburb. Although at the time Boko Haram claimed their quarrel 
was with state officials who were mistreating its adherents and assured Christians in the area they 
would be safe, Boko Haram proceeded to murder three pastors, torch over twenty churches, 
destroy numerous Christian-owned businesses and hold over 100 Christians hostage at its 
headquarters for use as human shields against the encircling federal forces. Surviving hostages 

interviewed by CSW vividly described how male hostages were either forcibly converted or 
beheaded, while females were subjected to hard labour upon refusing to convert. ii 

Following the destruction of the Maiduguri headquarters and extra-judicial killing of its leader the 
group went underground. In February 2010, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) offered 
training and equipment to Nigerian Muslims, who it claimed were being oppressed.iii When Boko 
Haram remerged in September 2010, it mounted a spectacular attack destroying Bauchi’s federal 
prison and freeing 700 inmates, including around 100 suspected Boko Haram members. The 
uncharacteristic methodology indicated specialist training and purported spokesmen for the group 
have since claimed on several occasions that the group is variously affiliated with Somalia’s al Shabaab, 
AQIM or both.iv  

Today’s Boko Haram adopts an array of sophisticated tactics including; improved bomb and IED 
manufacturing capacity, massive attacks on Christian suburbs, destructions of schools and churches, 
hit and run drive-by murders of officials, imams, traditional rulers and other individuals deemed to 
have betrayed or oppose it. Of greatest significance are suicide bombings, previously unknown in 
Nigeria, that largely target churches and high profile locations such as the United Nations 
headquarters the in Abuja and media houses. The group now calls itself Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna 
Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad - People Committed to the Propogation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad.  
It also expresses, regularly and openly, that one of its major goals is to cleanse the north of 
Christianity.  On the surface this would appear to be a nearly impossible goal; however, the group is 
making headway in such states as Yobe, Borno, Kano and parts of Kastina, where in many cases, even 
indigenous Christians are fleeing.v The group also expresses particular hostility towards Plateau, the 
only recognised majority Christian state, and Kaduna State, which elected a Christian governor.  

2. The recent violence in Plateau State  

In remote areas of Plateau and Bauchi States, hit and run night attacks on non-Muslim villages by well- 
armed Fulani men, some dressed in uniform, have been occurring sporadically since 2010. More 
recently, there have also been sporadic attacks on villages in predominantly Christian southern 
Kaduna State.  In March, three villages in Chikun LGA were attacked by unidentified men armed with 
AK 47s, who killed ten villagers.vi Then in June, during an attack by armed Fulani tribesmen on Sansun 
Village in Zangon Kataf LGA in Southern Kaduna State, a man named Matthew Aetung and his son, 
were hacked to death, his wife was critically injured, and his home was razed to the ground.vii  In 
most of these cases the assailants are thought to have made use of traditional herding routes to 
evade detection, leading some outside observers to erroneously conclude that they are primarily 
caused by competition between herders and farmers for land. There are also regular reports, 
particularly in Plateau and Bauchi States, of the security forces allegedly failing to assist the victims in 
a timely manner. These attacks can last several hours. However, despite regularly being contacted 
while violence is underway, the security forces invariably arrive after the attack is over. 

The events that occurred in Plateau State over 7 and 8 July were a major escalation of this 
phenomenon. An estimated 12 villages in Riyom and Barkin Ladi, situated on the outskirts of the 
state capital Jos, were attacked simultaneously on Saturday 7 July by hundreds of heavily armed 
gunmen wearing military camouflage and bullet proof vests, in raids reminiscent of the 2010 attacks 
on Dogo Nahauwa, Zot and Ratsat villages in Jos South, which claimed an estimated 400 lives. Early 
news reports suggested that at least 25 people were killed, five hospitalised and approximately 150 
displaced.  As is usually the case during these attacks, the majority of whom were women, children 
and the elderly. Reports also indicate that around 19 of the gunmen were later killed and one was 
taken alive during an exchange of fire with the Special Task Force (STF). 

A mass burial was hastily organised for the next day, and as mourners proceeded to the burial site 
they reportedly discovered the burnt remains of around 50 additional victims who had fled from 

their homes to shelter in a the home of a local pastor in Matse Village, Riyom Local Government 
Area (LGA).  As they buried the dead, the mourners themselves were ambushed by armed men.  
The attack claimed the lives of around 20 people, including Federal Senator for Plateau State North 
Gyang Dalyop Datong and Majority Leader in the Plateau State House of Assembly Honourable 
(Hon.) Gyang James Fulani, while a member of the Federal House of Representatives, Honourable 
Simon Mwadkom, narrowly escaped death.  

Although a report circulated to the effect that the two men had died of shock or during a stampede 
occasioned by the sound of gunfire, several mourners insist the men were shot dead.  The latter 
accounts appeared increasingly credible the following day, when Boko Haram issued a statement 
claiming responsibility for the weekend of violence, including the deaths of the two politicians. 
Amongst other things the statement said Christians will “never know peace again” until they convert 
to Islam and insisted it would “continue to look for government officials; they will not have rest of 
mind. We will attack their homes and security agencies in the same way they are attacking us and 
destroying our houses that we been renting.”viii However, official sources cast doubt on Boko 
Haram’s claims, and during his regular statement denying responsibility for the violence, the leader of 
Fulani herders in Plateau State also denied any connection to Boko Haram.ix  

On 9 July, the government of Plateau State placed four local government areas under curfew, but 
relaxed this curfew on the morning of 10 July.  However, by the evening of 10 July, it was confirmed 
that two more villages in Barkin Ladi had been razed to the ground on Saturday, 7 July.  Then on 
Wednesday 11 July came unconfirmed reports that Fulani militants were regrouping in a hill camp 
near Barkin Ladi, where they were awaiting a fresh stock of armaments before moving onto the next 
stage of their campaign, namely, an attack on the southern part of Kaduna State, which is a 
predominantly Christian area.  

3. Events over the weekend of 13-15 July  

At least five people died outside Maiduguri’s central mosque on Friday 13 July when a teenage suicide 
bomber set off an explosion as he approached local dignitaries, including the deputy governor of 
Borno and the Shehu of Borno, the state’s most prominent Muslim traditional leader.  Both men 
survived.  However, while the bombing has been described as the first suicide attack at a mosque, it 
differs from attacks on churches in that it appears to have been a targeted but failed assassination 
attempt. On the same day, three gunmen murdered the education secretary of Marte Local 
Government in the state, Alhaji Abacha Abbas, at his home. Then on Monday, Nigerian news 
agencies reported that Hajja Bayayi, the councillor who represented Bolari Ward 1 had been shot 
dead in her Maiduguri home during curfew hours by unidentified gunmen, who stole her jewellery.x 

On Sunday 15 July, came reports that a car bomb had exploded near a filling station in Okene, near 
the Kogi State capital, Lokoja. The filling station is around 200 metres from a church, which was 
thought to been the real target. Two days later security forces in Kogi uncovered a bomb-making 
factory in Okaito, Okehi LGA.  The two bedroom bungalow was reportedly disguised as a mosque in 
one room and a church in the other, and, among other devices, 46 IEDs were stored there.xi    

On the same day, it was reported that, two Boko Haram members had been overpowered by youths 
in the Mahuta suburb of Kaduna city. The two young men aged 17 and 22 are reported to have 
entered the area at 9am on motorbike together with a third man, armed with AK-47 rifles and to 
have begun shooting when they entered the house of the District Head of Mahuta. The official was 
able to escape unhurt but a young boy was reportedly shot. The assailants then emerged from the 
official's home shooting sporadically at the people, but youths managed to overpower two of the 
three gun men. Early reports indicate that no one was killed but seven youths were taken to Kaduna 
Hospital and treated for gunshot wounds.xii  Local police later reported that one of the suspects had 

led them to a hideout where a number of items were recovered, including two bags of chemicals, a 
jerry can of acid, and eight car alarm systems.xiii 

On Tuesday 17 July, trouble flared briefly in the Bukuru area in Jos when a rocket propelled grenade 
(RPG) fired from a moving vehicle on the Ungwar Daba Bukuru Express Way damaged nearby 
buildings and killed a seven year-old boy. While it has been reported internationally that the target of 
the attack was the Nurul Islam School, there is local speculation that it was aimed at either the 
National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) orientation camp at Zang Commercial Secondary School or 
the Jos South Local Government Secretariat. Upon hearing the explosion Muslim youths in the area 
are reported to have taken to the streets shooting guns.  However, they were eventually brought 
under control by members of the mobile police force. No other casualties were reported from that 
incident. However, earlier that day, raiders had attacked the Sabon Gida Kanar area, also in Bukuru, 
killing three people.xiv Two more RPGs were fired on the same day during curfew hours; one landed 
close to Bukuru market and damaged a building, the other fell close to an STF post in Angwan Daba. 
There were no casualties.  

4. Questionable Youth Corps postings 

Nigeria’s National Youth Service Corps (NYCS) was created around 40 years ago in an effort to 
foster national unity in this vast country by allowing graduates from different states to serve in states 
they would otherwise never visit prior to embarking on their chosen careers.  However, in northern 
and central Nigeria, Young Corps members (known locally as Corpers) from southern and eastern 
states have become increasingly vulnerable.  For example, during the November 2008 violence in Jos, 
Plateau State, three members from southern Nigeria were dragged from their lodgings by a mob, 
hacked to death, and their bodies were set on fire.  One of them was also a British citizen.  In 2009, 
Grace Ushang from Cross Rivers State, was raped and murdered in Maiduguri, Borno State, allegedly 
by men who took exception to her uniform, which includes trousers.  More recently, during the 
violence that erupted after the 2011 presidential elections Nigeria witnessed the murders of many 
members of the Youth Corps in several northern states. They had been assisting with the election as 
part of their civic duties, and were targeted both for this reason, and because their ethnicity 
identified them as non-Muslim in the eyes of their assailants. 

The Minister of Youth Development, Alhaji Inuwa Abdulkadir, has caused widespread anger by his 
insistence that, barring constitutional changes, current members of the NYSC would still be posted 
to Borno, Yobe and other troubled states as a “national sacrifice”.xv Not only is this statement being 
condemned as insensitive and unbefitting of any politician, let alone one  charged with youth affairs, it 
also contradicts a directive issued by the Director-General of the NYSC, Brigadier-General Nnamdi 
Okore-Affia, which stated that members assigned to Bauchi, Gombe, Plateau, Kano and Kaduna 
States were to report to the NYSC Directorate Headquarters in Abuja for redeployment, while 
those posted to Yobe and Borno States would have their orientation at NYSC camps in Nasarawa 
and Benue States respectively.  The minister’s statement also runs contrary to the provisions of a 
resolution passed by the Federal House of Representatives requesting the NYSC to end all the 
postings to troubled northern states. 

5. The ambivalent American response  

There is a school of thought that appears to have gained acceptance in influential American circles 
that espouses the view that the emergence of Boko Haram is largely attributable to poverty in 
northern Nigerian and a reaction to endemic corruption.  This line is most frequently articulated by 
the US Assistant Secretary of State, Ambassador Johnnie Carsons, who recently outlined the need 
for a ministry of northern affairs to deal with what he termed “longstanding northern grievances”xvi. 
In reality, “northerners have exercised the reins of power for the majority of Nigeria’s independence. 

These northern leaders – particularly military generals – became fabulously rich, while maintaining a 
system of patronage in their own areas for their own political purposes. Even since 1999, the north 
east and north west [of Nigeria] still receive higher federal allocation than the south east. The 
problem in the north stems from what the leaders the north supports or elects to govern it are 
doing with the money. That is where the responsibility for underdevelopment of the region primarily 

Attributing the emergence of Boko Haram to underdevelopment, poverty, injustice or opposition to 
corruption effectively justifies the activities of a violent group that has clearly stated its raison d’être 
from the outset and continues to do so on every possible occasion.  While it does indeed seek to 
take advantage of unemployed northern Muslim masses, there should no longer be any doubt that 
Boko Haram is a terrorist organisation that is using violence and the threat of violence to bring about 
its long standing aim of transforming a multi-ethnic and multi-religious nation into a country governed 
by its own interpretation of shari’a law. Nevertheless, the State Department in particular continues 
to resist calls to designate Boko Haram as a foreign terrorist organization.  Moreover, the logic 
behind the recent decision to merely designate three Boko Haram members as terrorists, as 
opposed to the entire organisation, is difficult to comprehend.  This will not fully address the scale of 
the problem posed by Boko Haram and will therefore be of limited use in exposing and disrupting its 
financial or other networks.  The decision is indeed tantamount to “designating Bin Laden as a 
terrorist, but failing to designate Al Qaeda as a terrorist organization.”xviii  It is only a matter of time 
before the group itself receives this designation; however, by then it will have ensured maximum 
benefit from the time and space afforded to it by this period of vacillation 

6. Conclusion and Recommendations 

There is deep anger in the Barkin Ladi and Riyom areas, where for the last three years people have 
complained to the authorities of the presence of a militant training camp in the area, yet nothing 
appears to have been done to address this concern.  Similarly in 2011, sources in Bauchi reported 
the presence of a group of around 2,000 militants from Niger, Katsina, Kano, Sokoto and other 
northern Nigerian states, who allegedly dressed in army and mobile police uniforms, and were 
encamped in the Bununu area of Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area (LGA).  Again, no 
discernible official action appears to have been taken.    

The weekend of violence in Plateau State served as an indication that any alleged official 
procrastination had yielded extremely deadly results.  Days before his death Senator Dantung spoke 
at the funeral of a family that had been murdered by armed Fulanis, making an impassioned plea for 
decisive action to deal with the killers, who he presciently asserted were in the hills re-arming for 
further attacks.xix It would appear that his death and those of the other politicians may be the 
catalysts for such action. On Sunday 15 July, the STF announced it was launching a military operation 
to search for the militant’s hide outs.  As part of what has been termed “Operation Safe Haven”, the 
military has given the inhabitants of five villages in Barkin Ladi and Riyom LGAs (namely, Mahanga, 
Kakuruk, Kuzen, Maseh, and Song 2) 48 hours to leave their homes before it embarks on intensive 
house to house searches, and has advised the inhabitants of the neighbouring areas to move 
cautiously while the operation is underway.xx The six villages are inhabited by members of the Fulani 
tribe. While the STF insists this is a temporary measure to ensure villagers are not caught in 
crossfire, the villagers are reportedly refusing to leave their homes. 

Regardless of the misgivings of the Fulani community, there is clearly an urgent need for adequate 
protection for Christian villages in Plateau, Kaduna, Bauchi and Kano States, which are all situated 
within reach of the militants, and for the Nigerian authorities to take effective measures to deal with 
militant strongholds once they are located.  It is vital that the federal government is seen to be both 
willing and able to tackle this insurgency decisively.  A continuing failure to do so will engender a 
situation where, to ensure their own survival, an increasing number of citizens will take the defence 

of their respective communities into their own hands, fuelling a cycle of retributive violence and 
thereby adding to general lawlessness in the nation.  Retaliation already occurs.  Following the 
bombings of three churches in Kadunaxxi, which themselves followed three consecutive weekends of 
suicide attacks on churches, youths in the predominantly Christian southern part of Kaduna City 
began to exact revenge on members of the Muslim community, some of whom were guilty, but many 
of whom may have been innocent. Sporadic outbreaks of violence continued to occur throughout the 
city despite the imposition of a 24 hour curfew as Muslim youths retaliated in turn, and again, the 
innocent were the main victims. Retributive violence also broke out briefly in Plateau State on 
Sunday, 9 July, as news emerged of the deaths of the politicians, occasioning the imposition of the 
state of emergency in the four LGAs. At such times tensions are regularly exacerbated by rumours 
and false reports, usually circulated via text message, claiming that members of the opposite religious 
community are either indulging in or planning some kind of violent activity. By the time such rumours 
are denied by state officials, they have damaged community relations further by heightening suspicion 
and causing terror and apprehension.  

It is vital that indentified sponsors of Boko Haram and other religion-related violence are found and 
prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, regardless of social standing, as this will assist in ending 
impunity and stemming terrorism. Moreover, given the recent statement by the head of the US 
Africa Command (Africom) that Boko Haram, the Somali Islamist militia al Shabaab and AQIM are 
increasingly seeking to coordinate efforts,xxii and the fact that Somalis and Nigerians have been 
sighted amongst Islamist militia in northern Mali, it is clear that the security implications engendered 
by Boko Haram extend far beyond Nigeria’s borders.  International co-operation and action are vital 
elements to disrupting the organisation’s funders, backers and training network. The group’s stated 
links to international terrorist networks urgently require a comprehensive international approach, 
especially since the de-facto creation of a state in northern Mali in part by a group sympathetic to 
AQIM raises the spectre of a Taliban/Afghanistan-style base for Al Qaeda in West Africa, with all its 
concomitant implications. “Nigeria isn't going to turn into Somalia or Yemen - let alone Iraq or 
Afghanistan - overnight. But if the religiously fuelled violence there is not contained, it might become 
yet another front in the war on terror.”xxiii  

 CSW Press Release http://dynamic.csw.org.uk/article.asp?t=news&id=369  and briefing paper, September and October 
2004 respectively 
 Findings of Visit to Nigeria, CSW, April 2006, 
 See AQIM’s statement of 2/2010 http://www.globalterroralert.com/images/documents/pdf/0210/aqim-the-annihilation- 
 “Boko Haram claims al Qaeda links”, http://www.news24.com/Africa/News/Boko-Haram-claims-al-Qaeda-links-20111124 ; 
Boko Haram seen linked to other terrorist groups, http://www.voanews.com/english/news/africa/west/Boko-Haram-Seen- 
 “Nigeria: Overview of recent violence”, CSW Briefing , 1 January 2012 
 “Military arrest two after attempted Boko Haram bombings in Kano”, 23 March 2012 
 “Two churches targeted in Bauchi”, CSW press release, 4 June 2012, 
 “Nigeria’s Boko Haram claims attack that killed 65”, Buhari Bello,  Jos,  http://uk.reuters.com/article/2012/07/10/uk- 
nigeria-bokoharam-idUKBRE8690XE20120710.  Translation of the full text from English to Hausa courtesy of CSW Nigeria 
 “Nigeria’s Boko Haram claims attacks that killed 65”, Reuters, http://uk.reuters.com/article/2012/07/10/uk-nigeria- 

 Posting NYSC members to troubled states in Nigeria is a sacrifice to th nation –Minister of Youth, 11 July 2012 
 Assistant Secretary of State, Ambassador Johnnie Carsons during “Promise and Peril in Nigeria”, a debate at the Centre 
for Strategic and International Studies on 11 April 2012  
 “No Your Excellency, you missed the point”, Reverend Y S Nmadu , CEO, CSW Nigeria, 24,04,2012 
 Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), “ US Policy Towards Nigeria West 
Africa’s Troubled Titan”, Committee on Foreign Affairs Hearing, 10 July 2012, Washington DC 
 “Nigeria: Dantong- Dies, Defeats Death”, Vanguard, 1 July 2012, 
 “Nigeria: Dantong’s death. STF gives six villages 48 hours to evacuate” Leadership, 15 July 2012, 
 “Curfew in Kaduna following bombings of three churches”, CSWpress release, 18 June, 2012, 
 “Africa’s Islamists ‘coordinate efforts’”, Mark Doyle, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-18592789  
 “Is Nigeria the next front in the War on Terror?” Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, Foreign Policy, 3 July 2012 


Post a Comment

<< Home