An ex-combatant leans against a window of a dormitory room at an internment camp for ex-Boko Haram fighters, in Goudoumaria, Niger, in August 2018. (Jane Hahn/For The Washington Post)

My last international trip before the covid-19 lockdown was to Nigeria’s neighbor Chad. It wasn’t my first visit to the north-central African nation of some 16 million, which ranks last on the World Bank’s Human Capital Index, but it was unique. I ventured to the Lac region, the country’s principal agricultural region, an area impoverished by climate change, corruption, diseases, dictatorship — and now, the militant group Boko Haram. Having monitored the advent and transformation of Boko Haram in Nigeria, I knew that the group had inflicted substantial damage across the Lake Chad region, but I wanted to see and feel the situation for myself.…  Seguir leyendo »

Ogechi Egemonu, an entrepreneur based in Lagos, Nigeria, opens the Twitter app on a smartphone at her office June 10. Many Nigerian companies use Twitter to conduct business, which means the official Twitter ban puts their work at risk. (Seun Sanni/Reuters)

On June 4, the Nigerian government announced that it had suspended Twitter’s operations in the country. The announcement came two days after the social media company removed a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari, in which Buhari issued a thinly veiled threat against secessionist groups in the southeast “to treat them in the language they understand.”

Since announcing the ban, the government has issued directives to federal prosecutors to arrest anyone still using Twitter — and ordered Internet providers to block access to the platform. After some initial confusion as to whether Twitter remained accessible, it appears as of mid-June that most Nigerians can no longer access the platform.…  Seguir leyendo »

Outside the Government Girls Secondary School in Jangebe, Nigeria, where 279 students were abducted in February. Since December, more than 800 students have been kidnapped. Credit EPA via Shutterstock

On all sides, Nigeria is buffeted by crisis.

A series of mass abductions — most recently on May 30, when 136 schoolchildren were carried off by gunmen — have swept the country’s north-central and northwest regions: Since December, more than 800 students have been kidnapped. States in the southeast and southwest, meanwhile, have witnessed the rise of separatist militias, as conflicts between farmers and pastoralists have grown ever more deadly. And Boko Haram and its rival factions continue to terrorize the country’s northeast.

Each of these issues is longstanding, with roots going back years if not decades. But they have come together to create a gathering sense of crisis — for which President Muhammadu Buhari, who came to power in 2015 on the promise to restore the country’s security, has been roundly blamed.…  Seguir leyendo »

A group of schoolboys is escorted by Nigerian military and officials following their release after they were kidnapped, in Katsina, Nigeria, on Dec. 18. (Sunday Alamba/AP)

There has never been a more trying time to be Nigerian.

That sounds cliched, but there are simply no words to convey Nigerians’ horror at the endless cycle of national grief. Our country has so far been spared the worst of the covid-19 pandemic, but extremist violence, communal clashes and rising criminality are producing an epidemic of insecurity.

The latest alarming trend is a wave of mass kidnappings of students, endangering millions of children’s futures. At the end of May, dozens of kidnappers on motorcycles stormed a school in north-central Nigeria and whisked away 136 children aged 5 to 14 and three teachers, after killing one person.…  Seguir leyendo »

A Fulani herdsman walks past grazing cattle in Paiko, Nigeria November 27, 2018. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

Land disputes between nomadic herders and sedentary farmers occurred sporadically in Nigeria’s past, and relations between the two groups were largely amicable.

However, in recent years, violence between herders and farmers has alarmingly grown, spreading from the north to the central and southern states.

Violence between the two groups has claimed more lives than the Boko Haram jihadist insurgency in the north-east, disrupting rural communities and threatening Nigeria’s stability and food security.

The combination of environmental degradation and violence (attributable to climate change, high population growth, Boko Haram insurgency and armed criminal activity such as cattle rustling) has pushed herders from the north of the country southward in search of pasture and water, resulting in almost daily clashes with farming communities.…  Seguir leyendo »

Around the world, states locked in conflict with jihadists are trying to devise policies to reintegrate disillusioned militants into society. In Nigeria, a program targeting defectors from the violent extremist group Boko Haram offers a window into the promise and pitfalls of such efforts.

For the past 12 years, Nigeria has struggled to quash a violent insurgency waged by Boko Haram in its northeast. Although a 2015 military offensive put the jihadists onto the back foot, the federal government recognized that it would not be able to defeat the insurgency solely through force. It therefore decided to explore nonmilitary ways to erode Boko Haram and, after the group split roughly five years ago, its two successor factions—which I will refer to collectively here simply as Boko Haram.…  Seguir leyendo »

Nigeria is once again facing a challenge that has grown all too familiar: children in peril. Kidnappings first gained international prominence in 2014, when the jihadist group Boko Haram abducted 276 schoolgirls from their boarding school in the northeastern town of Chibok. Despite a global media campaign to urge their safe return, #BringBackOurGirls, more than 100 of them are still missing today. Many more children have been abducted since then—and the trend could get even worse.

Over the past four months, armed groups have raided boarding schools and kidnapped more than 650 students. In perhaps the most prominent of these incidents, more than 340 boys were abducted from a school in President Muhammadu Buhari’s home state of Katsina, in December.…  Seguir leyendo »

A deserted classroom at the Government Girls Secondary School, the day after the abduction of over 300 schoolgirls by gunmen in Jangebe, a village in Zamfara State, northwest of Nigeria on 27 February 2021. Kola Sulaimon / AFP

The 26 February mass kidnapping was the third in the past three months in Nigeria’s North West or adjacent states. Is the region becoming more insecure?

The North West has been in turmoil for several years. It tends to get less international attention than Nigeria’s North East region (which is the centre of activity for the jihadist group Boko Haram and the site of its notorious 2014 kidnapping of over 270 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok). But deadly violence in the North West has surged since the emergence of competition between herders and farmers, who have been vying over land resources, and militias allied with both sides.…  Seguir leyendo »

Members of the Nigerian military patrol the streets of Gwoza, Boko Haram's base in northern Nigeria, recently retaken by the Nigerians, on 8 April 2015. Photo: Jane Hahn for the Washington Post via Getty Images.

President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent decision to appoint new leaders at the head of Nigeria’s military has put the spotlight on the shortcomings of the country’s armed forces. Nigeria is perhaps more insecure now than at any time since its civil war raged in the late 1960s. The Council on Foreign Relations conservatively estimates that conflict across Nigeria has killed 38,000 in the past 5 years, while the UN assesses that the Boko Haram conflict has displaced over 3.4 million civilians across the deeply impoverished Lake Chad region. Even Nigeria’s once-placid northwest is experiencing an unprecedented wave of violence, crime and kidnapping.…  Seguir leyendo »

A farmer holds a hand up during a demonstration against recent agricultural reforms at a highway in Ghazipur on the outskirts of New Delhi on Saturday. (Anindito Mukherjee/Bloomberg News)

Rihanna may not have released new music in years, but her recent tweet on the ongoing farmers protests in India was music to the ears of human rights supporters around the globe.

Last week, the pop star and beauty mogul tweeted a CNN article about the Indian government shutting down the Internet in protest sites near the capital. She asked, “Why aren’t we talking about this?!” and used the hashtag #FarmersProtest, which has been the rallying cry for what started as a protest by Indian farmers against agriculture reform bills and has become one of the largest protests for economic and human rights in the world.…  Seguir leyendo »

Gay in Nigeria, Black Male in America

I came to the United States in 2019 as a scholar-at-risk fellow at Harvard University. After I was kidnapped and tortured in Nigeria for being gay and daring to speak openly about it America offered me refuge. But this spring after videos of the killings of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd surfaced, I’m coming to terms with the fact that the country that promised me safety is one where Black men like me face a different kind of danger.

Each time I tell someone why I’m here, the sad irony of it hurts like a gut punch. I’ve traded one perilous identity — being gay in Nigeria — for yet another one: being a Black man in America.…  Seguir leyendo »

A demonstrator holds a stained Nigerian flag during a protest in Lagos, Nigeria, last month against the Special Anti-Robbery Squad police unit, known as SARS. (Akintunde Akinleye/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

If there is one thing that unites a lot of Nigerians, it is hatred toward queer people. Religion is the basis for a good amount of this. Homophobic Nigerians are quick to tell you how the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because of homosexuality.

For the past several weeks, Nigerians have been protesting against police brutality, taking aim at a particularly violent police unit, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, known as SARS. The protests have been some of the largest demonstrations in Nigeria in recent times. Taking to both the streets and social media, queer Nigerians are not just demanding the end of SARS but also taking great risks in letting Nigerians know that Queer Lives Matter, too, and that the movement should be inclusive for all.…  Seguir leyendo »

Demonstrators gather during a protest last month in Lagos, Nigeria, over alleged police brutality. (Temilade Adelaja/Reuters)

Nigeria’s #EndSARS movement has spawned over 150 mass protests in cities across the country, with demonstrations intensifying after soldiers reportedly fired live rounds into protesters at the Lekki toll plaza in Lagos on Oct. 20. The movement has also inspired solidarity protests in major cities of the world, including London, New York, Berlin and Washington.

Women play a leading role in the ongoing #EndSARS movement against police brutality and government violence in Nigeria, specifically seeking to abolish a federal police unit called the Special Anti-Robbery Squad. One nascent women’s group in particular, the Feminist Coalition, has used digital platforms to mobilize funds and design strategies to support protesters across Nigeria.…  Seguir leyendo »

Adetona Omokanye/Getty Images Demonstrators protesting police brutality at the Lekki toll gate, Lagos, Nigeria, October 20, 2020

On October 22, President Muhammadu Buhari, the former army general who was elected to office in 2015 and again in 2019, stunned Nigerian citizens with a televised twelve-minute speech. He began with a warning “to those who have hijacked and misdirected the…protest of some of our youths,” and ended by declaring that his government “will not allow anybody or groups to disrupt the peace.” On social media, the response was mostly shock: Was that all he had to say?

Nigerians had demanded a statement from the government after people all over the world watched via Instagram Live on October 20 as the army opened fire on a crowd of young people demonstrating against police violence at the Lekki tollgate in Lagos.…  Seguir leyendo »

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari addresses the nation on a live televised broadcast on Oct. 22. (Bayo Omoboriowo/AP)

Some things never change in Nigeria. Police and military brutality, the terrible state of governance, the ubiquity of corruption, extreme poverty and inequality, unreliable power supply go in an endless cycle, like the year’s seasons.

Nigerian elections are like gambling. We blindly toss a coin into the air — with no guarantee of what we get. We vote out one corrupt leader for an even more corrupt one. Or, as we like to say, “you go from the frying pan into the fire.”

Take President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria, for example. As the first opposition candidate to mount a sweeping defeat of a sitting president in Nigeria, Buhari — a former general and military head of state —rode the coattails of rife anti-government sentiments to victory in 2015.…  Seguir leyendo »

The “giant of Africa” is trying to crush its people.

Nigerians across all walks of life, both in the country and in the diaspora, have been protesting police brutality and state violence for nearly two weeks. On Monday, the protests got so large that Lagos, the continent’s largest city, was effectively shut down. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the governor of Lagos state, tried to muzzle the energy by imposing a curfew on protesters. As night fell, CCTV cameras were reportedly cut out and Nigerian army officials began firing live rounds at protesters at the Lekki toll gate. The true death toll is unclear, with reports claiming from 12 to 78 dead at Lekki alone.…  Seguir leyendo »

Credi Pius Utomi Ekpei/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

For years, the name SARS hung in the air here in Nigeria like a putrid fog. SARS, which stood for Special Anti-Robbery Squad, was supposed to be the elite Nigerian police unit dedicated to fighting crime, but it was really a moneymaking terror squad with no accountability. SARS was random, vicious, vilely extortionist. SARS officers would raid bars or stop buses on the road and arbitrarily arrest young men for such crimes as wearing their hair in dreadlocks, having tattoos, holding a nice phone or a laptop, driving a nice car. Then they would demand large amounts of money as “bail.”…  Seguir leyendo »

Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu, wife of the governor of Lagos State in Nigeria, at a Men Against Rape walk in June.Credit...Adekunle Ajayi/NurPhoto, via Getty Images

In May, hundreds of thousands of people around the world became familiar with the slight smile of a young student named Uwa Omozuwa. She was studying in a church, working toward a degree in microbiology, when she was violently raped. Within days, she had died from the brutal injuries inflicted by her attacker.

When Ms. Omozuwa’s death became public knowledge, the outrage was swift and sustained. Social media was awash with posters featuring her smiling face and the hashtag #JusticeForUwa. Talk-show hosts, newspapers and blogs focused on the case. People criticized the public response of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, in one of whose branches Ms.…  Seguir leyendo »

For decades, the mantra of ‘economic diversification’ characterized attempts to reverse Nigeria’s dependence on oil with little real progress. Despite numerous reforms, international loans and restructuring programmes, 85 million Nigerians live in deteriorating conditions of poverty. The current coronavirus pandemic combined with mounting debt obligations and declining GDP gives new urgency to this issue.

The fall in international oil prices, which led government to slash its oil benchmark price from $57 to $30 a barrel and cut 20% of the capital budget, worsens these problems, but it is far from the only factor. Biomass, which drives household pollution and contributed to the death of 114,000 people in Nigeria in 2017, is the most dominant source of energy in Nigeria, amounting to more than 80% of the total energy mix, followed by fossil fuels (18%), and a negligible amount of renewable energy.…  Seguir leyendo »

Para la mayoría de los nigerianos, las enfermedades mentales se dan «cuando alguien empieza a correr desnudo por ahí». Es un error impactante, sin embargo el 70 % de los encuestados en un relevamiento reciente —el mayor en el país en casi 20 años— lo cree. Y esa fue tan solo una de las muchas creencias equivocadas y nocivas que mostró el relevamiento.

La encuesta, que contó con 5315 participantes y fue llevada a cabo por nuestras organizaciones —EpiAFRIC y el Instituto de Encuestas de África (Africa Polling Institute)— detectó que el 84 % cree que los problemas mentales se deben al consumo excesivo de estupefacientes, el 60 % vincula esas enfermedades con el «mal de la mente», el 54 % con la «posesión por espíritus malignos» y el 23 %, con el «castigo de Dios».…  Seguir leyendo »