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The Violent Road: Nigeria’s North East

Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba, Yobe

Screen Shot 2013-12-12 at 02.29.10Politics

Discussions of politics in Nigeria are frequently characterised in terms of Northern and Southern rivalry, although this can mask much more complex dynamics of violence in the region. The most active militant group in the North East is the violent Islamist group Boko Haram, which has evolved over time to target not only security forces but also traditional leaders and public officials who have been critical of their agenda.

The federal government has in recent years twice declared a state of emergency in parts of the North East in response to high levels of armed violence there: most recently in the states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa in May 2013,167 and previously in January of 2012 in several local government areas in Yobe and Borno states.168 Most states in the North East region were won by the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, the current President’s strongest rival in the most recent 2011 general elections. Taraba and Adamawa were won by President Jonathan.169


Across a range of poverty measures, the North East performs particularly poorly. The region has the highest mortality rate of all national regions.170 The North East also has the highest rate in the country of male respondents who reported having no educational attainment whatsoever, and the second highest rates of female respondents reporting they had no educational attainment.171 Bauchi and Yobe in the North East are among the five states with the highest rates of absolute poverty (at 84 and 81.75 respectively).172

Demographics and geography

The population of the North East region is estimated at 22.3 million people.173 The region’s population
is predominantly Muslim,174 and members of the Hausa-Fulani and Kanuri ethnic groups (who make up approximately 29% and 4% of the national population respectively) are dominant in the area.175

Conflict in the North East region cannot be easily reduced to violence between Muslims and Christians: Boko Haram has carried out several high-profile attacks on Christian communities and churches, and has also engaged in extensive violence against Muslim communities and Muslim clerics who are critical of their agenda.

Armed violence

Much of the upsurge in armed violence in Nigeria since 2009 has been driven by conflict in the North East of the country. Conflict in this region has gar- nered international attention in recent years with the rise of Boko Haram, a violent Islamist group primarily operating in the North East, alongside other affiliated groups. Reports of violent Islamist activity are often attributed to Boko Haram, but may in fact represent the actions of a more diverse range of emerging militant groups176 and a wide range of affiliates and members, including reports of forced recruitment177 and the targeting of vulnerable youth.178

Attempts by the government to quell violence in the North East have emphasised military responses, including aerial bombardments of suspected training camps following the May 2013 declaration of a state of emergency, and wide-ranging military-police raids in North East urban areas.179 These have been met with claims of heavy-handedness and indiscriminate violence by state forces.180 A more recent strategy of the federal and local governments has been to tolerate and in some cases support the deployment of vigilante forces, commonly referred to as the ‘Civilian JTF’, although this poses some risks in terms of the potential for counter-attacks181 and further escalating violence.182

In Bauchi and Taraba, 50 organisations including 35 civil society organisations were surveyed.

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Number of actors mapped

Civil society in the North East includes almost no international organisations. No international organisation working directly on armed violence has been recorded. The only two INGOs interviewed work on risk factors related to health and maternal mortality.

Civil Society there has less money than counterparts in other zones. Getting information about budgets was even more challenging in the North East than in other zones. From the scarce data on finance, it appears that the median budget seems to under 3 million naira annually, which is lower than the national median of 3.8 million naira.


Screen Shot 2013-12-12 at 02.29.35Bauchi State overview

Bauchi is located in the North East of Nigeria and had a population of 4,643,066 as of the 2006 census.184 The southern part of the state is predominantly Christian, while the north is heavily Muslim, with a minority of followers of traditional religions throughout the state. Bauchi also has a high level of tribal diversity, with 55 separate groups spread across its 20 local government areas.

Agriculture is predominant in Bauchi’s economy. However, as with its neighbours in Nigeria’s northeast, poverty is a major issue. Bauchi’s 49% poverty rate is the fourth-highest in the country, and its 30% unemployment is the second-highest nationally. The unemployment rate is also unbalanced by gender, with 19% of females employed and 87% of males. The youth bulge in Bauchi’s population – 55.4% are 19 years of age or younger – is also considerable and feeds into the potential for unrest there.

The drivers of violence in Bauchi are similar to those in the neighbouring states of the North East region. The state experiences high rates of absolute poverty, unemployment and infant mortality. There are some state-specific characteristics which may underscore the high levels of conflict witnessed there. A 2012 CLEEN Foundation survey found that 39% of survey respondents in Bauchi reported experiencing bribery and corruption among public officials, far above the national average of 24%.185

Overview of armed violence in the state

Armed violence in many areas of Nigeria has escalated since 1999 and is destabilising and impoverishing communities. Small arms and light weapons (SALW) are freely available and both regional and state controls are minimal.

Bauchi has experienced overall moderate levels of violence, primarily involving Boko Haram militants. The Nigeria Security Tracker recorded 169 violence-related deaths in Bauchi between May 2011 and August 2013, while the ACLED political violence research project recorded 93 separate explicitly political incidents of armed violence in the state between 2000 and August 2013.186

Inter-communal attacks, battles over control of natural resources and reprisals have flared up on several occasions, with tensions related to land/ political control and political rivalries compounding existing social tensions. Meanwhile, representatives of Nigeria’s State institutions, religious buildings and popular recreational spaces were the target of frequent bomb attacks and other deadly incidents in Bauchi.

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Political violence by type

Tafawa Balewa and Bogoro local government areas have seen a long period of communal violence and resultant fear amongst residents from 1991 to the present. Gunmen have adopted a hit-and-run strategy in raiding the area. Most recently, in August, 2013, a bus was attacked and two people were killed.

Post election violence erupted in May 2011 in various parts of the state, but Katagum, Bauchi, Misau, Danbam and Alkaleri LGAs were most heavily affected. Many people were killed, while cars, houses and other valuables were destroyed in the aftermath of the presidential election in different parts of Bauchi State. The basic cause of the violence in nearly all the communities concerned was political, although ethno-religious sentiments were also raised by those stoking the flames.

In urban areas, armed gangs of youth exploited and sometimes financed by politicians or political groups during campaigns and elections engage in electoral violence. Outside of election seasons, these gangs frequently resort to armed violence and robbery.

Main underlying causes
Illiteracy is a major issue in Bauchi. The 2010 Nigerian Education Data Survey showed that Bauchi State is moving slowly to improve educational outcomes. Adult literacy is also uneven on gender lines – males have a 50.3 percent literacy rate versus 28.5 percent for females. This state of affairs is compounded by the high level of unemployment, the lack of access to capital or training and the widening gap between the rich and the poor. The opportunity for vocational skills is limited to few and where available the requirement is at least a post primary school education qualification.

The vulnerability of the population to armed violence is exacerbated by the chaotic nature of politics in Bauchi. Unemployed youths are bought off by unscrupulous politicians and used to attack or intimidate their opponents. These individuals are locally known as sara suka, meaning “to cut or stab.”

Perpetrators of armed violence

Mostly the perpetrators of armed violence in Bauchi state are males between the ages of 12 and 35. Some of these are in the employ of political leaders; others take part in communal violence. Another set of perpetrators are the religious leaders who encourage violence, as with Boko Haram.

Weapons used
Armed violence has been exacerbated by the fact that older variants of locally-produced guns have in the past few years been replaced by more modern weaponry. Many of these are imported (either legally or illicitly), usually second-hand rather than new. Among the weapons now in use in Bauchi are AK-47 assault rifles, Beretta and Browning pistols, carbine rifles, double-barrelled shotguns, sub-machine guns, knives, improvised explosive devices, sticks, clubs and incendiaries.

Victims of armed violence

Armed violence inhibits development for all, but women and children suffer the most during conflicts. Rape, gendered violence, reductions in living conditions, and displacement and homelessness are all results of recurring political, cultural and religious violence as well as ordinary criminality.

Institutional responses

A commission was set up in 2009 in the wake of the violence which occurred in February of that year. Its mandate was to examine the causes of the violence and make recommendations for long-term fixes which could prevent such incidents from happening again in the future.

Local peace and reconciliation committees are designed to address issues of violence in situations that are not religious or political. The committees are inaugurated by village heads to tackle matters before the police or army become involved. In a similar vein, neighbourhood religious coalitions are committees made up of the clergy and other respectable persons within the community. They broker peace in matters pertaining to religion before they escalate into armed violence.

In the state capital and urban areas, the military and police have established checkpoints and patrols to stop and check persons likely to start or participate in armed conflicts. The state has also enacted an anti-thuggery law and a law compensating the victims of rioting. These are intended to curtail the rising armed violence within the state.

Responses to armed violence are highly localised: very few international organisations working directly on armed violence reduction and mitigation were recorded in Action on Armed Violence’s mid-term report, although two were recorded working on risk factors in health and maternal mortality. Similarly, although data on finances was limited, the organisations surveyed reported a median budget under 3 million Naira, lower than the national median.187

Terrorism - Suicide Car Bomb - Bauchi, Nigeria

The remains of a car used in a suicide bombing outside a church in Bauchi in 2012. (Associated Press)

Bauchi State: view from the ground

When our researchers arrived in the North East state of Bauchi, it was immediately apparent from the checkpoints drawn across major roads and the armed security personnel patrolling the streets that peace was not at hand. As one military officer who wished to remain anonymous told us, “Forget what you read in the newspapers that all is well. We are on a serious alert here.”

Movements are restricted in some areas, particularly those in which Boko Haram is believed to have sympathizers. Many people we spoke to in these areas said that they tend to stay indoors and avoid crowded areas – commercial activities have been hard hit by the restrictions and the population’s wariness. “Driving around the state is no longer easy,” says resident Sani Yusuf “A place that would have taken you 30 minutes [to get to] you end up spending hours [to get to now]. Soldiers and policemen will always stop you for interrogation.”

Boko Haram

Since a successful prison break in 2010, in which more than 700 prisoners escaped, Boko Haram has launched multiple raids on prisons in Bauchi state to free those being held for inciting sectarian violence. AOAV has been told that little was done to search for the freed inmates. The few re-arrested are often non-Boko Haram criminals who escaped in the chaos.

What’s more, according to sources, no full investigation has been carried out on this rash of prison breaks. With no changes implemented by the prisons, and very little resistance offered by the guard, it appears to be a cycle destined to continue.

Recently, another terror group – Ansaru – has splintered off from Boko Haram. The group has reportedly claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of some foreign nationals in Bauchi state, and is thought to be better organised and more heavily armed than the normal Boko Haram militants. There are rumoured connections to Al-Qaeda groups displaced by fighting in Mali and Libya.

However, Isa Yuguda, governor of Bauchi state, is optimistic that amnesty will separate the ideological from criminal terrorists. In a much quoted statement, Yuguda has said, “I believe the real Boko Haram may have genuine agitations, like joblessness. But once they accept amnesty we will fight the criminal ones.”

Conflict over religion and indigeneity

Like most of northern Nigeria, Bauchi state is primarily Muslim with a sizable Christian minority. Despite these minority numbers, many Bauchi Christians considered themselves region’s indigenes, resulting in conflict. In some areas, Muslims who have inhabited the area for almost a century are still considered settlers. As is often the case in Nigeria, it’s hard to separate the religious from the political. In the summer of 2013, the Tafawa Balewa Headquarters – Bauchi state’s govern- mental HQ – was moved from the town of Tafawa Balewa to Bununu, a strict Muslim enclave. This was seen by some as an invitation for Muslim extremists to attack in Bauchi state. As Rev. Isaac Istifanus told the Daily Post newspaper, “The relocation of Tafawa Balewa Local Government Headquarters was out of ill will as it was meant to pave way for attacks on residents of Tafawa Balewa and its environs.”

Political intimidation

Bauchi’s criminal gang Sara-Suka is often used as the pawn of political groups during election times, according to many of the people we spoke to. These drug gangs move in groups sometimes in the hundreds, stabbing and sometimes butchering their victims. At election time politicians reportedly hire Sara-Suka thugs to disrupt the polls and intimidate voters, particularly in the towns of Bauchi and Azare.


There is very little coverage of attacks within Bauchi in the media, and what information does get out is often incomplete or insufficient. Our researcher was told that, in the villages, casualty figures are sometimes speculative, and that locals keep information to themselves for fear of attracting reprisal attacks. Likewise, information is rarely released by government and security agencies. A security official, pleading anonymity, told our researchers, “We don’t trust anyone. Some persons come to us as journalists and we can’t confirm if they are agents of the Boko Haram, so we rather not talk but issue only press releases before we give out useful information.”

Government response

Residents told our researcher that victims of attacks get very little help from the government after the fact. They rarely get security reinforcement, and compen- sations are sometimes not paid. For example, some victims of the 2011 electoral violence are still chasing government promises of compensation, as are many victims of attacks by Boko Haram. Sources within the local government, wishing to remain anonymous, told our researcher that members of government panels set up to investigate violent incidents seem to see the position as a political compensation – with panel salaries and per diem allotments – rather than as a job to accomplish.

In 2012, the Bauchi state government set up Danga, a state-specific security force, and began drafting in larger numbers of personnel to step up security measures. Drawn from the local populations, unlike the federal security operatives, these Danga units are essentially better-equipped vigilantes. Residents say that the Danga are feared by criminal youths more than the police, because of their local knowledge and connections. Likewise, remote communities have created their own vigilante forces, patrolling the villages at night with arms that they conceal, as they are not authorized to carry weapons.


Screen Shot 2013-12-12 at 02.29.59Borno State

Borno, in the far northeast of Nigeria, was created in 1976 and covers an area of 69,435 km.188 It borders Niger to the north, Chad to the northeast, and Cameroon to the east, as well as three Nigerian states to the south and west: Yobe, Gombe and Adamawa.

The state is subdivided into three senatorial districts: ethnic Kanuris dominate Borno North and Central, with ethnic minorities in Borno South. Some 30 indigenous languages are spoken; Kanuri dominates and the Shuwa Arabs speak an Arabic dialect. Under the traditional administrative structure, the state has three strong emirates (Borno, Dikwa and Biu) and four chiefdoms (Askira, Uba, Shani and Gwoza).

Official statistics estimated the population to be 5,158,680 million in 2012.189 Agriculture is the main-stay of the economy, and the majority of the active population is involved in fishing (on Lake Chad) or herding.

Clay, salt and potash deposits are found in the Chad plains. Limestone and kaolin deposits abound in the Bima Sandstones. Volcanic and Basement Complex rocks contain iron ore, uranium, quartz, magnesite, mica and granite.190 Commercial oil and gas fields are about to be developed in Chad and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation is prospecting for oil in Borno’s Chad Basin.

Overview of armed violence in the state

Borno is the most conflict-affected state in the country. Since independence, the government has changed 14 times, on seven occasions through bloody military coups.191 The Nigeria Security Tracker recorded more than 8,600 deaths nationwide between May 2011 and August 2013 because of political, economic and social violence; 2,470 (28.7%) were in Borno.192 The state also had the highest recorded levels of political violence in the Armed Conflict Location and Event Dataset, at 473 separate conflict incidents since 1997.193

Information on responses to armed violence in Borno is limited: during the preparation of the interim report on armed violence reduction strategy mapping, the security situation deteriorated to such a degree that AOAV was unable to carry out research in the state directly. Initial research indicated that at least 34 organisations were conducting work in the area of armed violence response, including religious groups, NGOs and community-based associations. These were typically low-profile organisations.194

Main underlying causes
There are three main theories of insecurity in Borno.195 The “armed robbery theory” posits that armed groups are increasingly sophisticated; and that national politics is extremely competitive and elections are perceived as zero-sum contests, which leads to a marriage between the two. Armed groups subsequently develop their own bases of economic support (armed robbery) and free themselves from their political patrons. The fallout is the increasingly militarised nature of politics, the use of violence as an electoral tool, and the inculcation of a culture of violence in society.

The “wobble economy theory” posits that with growing numbers of youths unable to find work in a saturated labour market, and against a background of high poverty levels, they are recruited and exploited as hired killers. Second-term politicians, determined to retain power at any cost, arm the youths before elections and the weapons are never recovered.

Some identify unemployment ‒ the combined result of power failure and mass illiteracy ‒ as the fundamental factor responsible for the recurring violence.196 Perpetrators of violence are often economically idle Nigerian youths or insurgents from neighbouring countries.

According to the “ruling-opposition party theory”, the ruling party accuses the opposition – and other groups it brands as anti-democratic – of engaging in violent crimes. Political marginalisation is the impetus for much of the violence in Nigeria, and no less so in Borno. “The ugly situations is a combination of poverty [and] loss of public confidence in elections… with the electorate feeling they would not get justice from election tribunals, and the inability of political leaders to manage communal and interfaith relations”.197

Porous borders facilitate access to small arms and light weapons, and the heterogeneous nature of border populations brings other problems.198 During the 19th century, the colonial powers’ arbitrary boundaries did not recognise tribes and ethnic groups. For example, as well as living in Nigeria, Yorubas and Borgus live in Benin; Hausas, Mandaras, Kanuris, Fulanis and Kotokos in Cameroon; Shuwa Arabs and Kanembus in Chad, and Hausas and Fulanis in Niger.

These trans-border communities are usually composed of kinfolk who owe allegiance to one another, sometimes at the expense of their governments. They intermarry and members of the same family commonly live on either side of a border. These circumstances are not conducive to the efficient policing of international borders. Locals know how to evade security checks and are reluctant to cooperate with security forces, especially on cross-border trafficking and crime, which may constitute their livelihoods.

Militant Islamism in Nigeria as a whole exists in the context of a complicated confluence of socioeconomic and political grievances that have remained unaddressed over a long period of time.199 Furthermore, unlike the political violence in the south, the violence in the north has also been fuelled by pervasive insecurity among Muslim communities about their religious and moral well-being, based in part on the fading influence of religious authority in the region.

Historical legacy
According to International Crisis Group, armed violence in northern Nigeria has steadily increased over the past 30 years. This has often taken the form of urban riots, and religious disturbances between Muslims and Christians and between different Islamic sects.

Armed religious militancy in Borno dates back to the 1980s.200 Boko Haram is believed to have originated in late 2004 out of a group that crossed between Nigeria and Cameroon. It was established in the state capital Maiduguri and remains by far the most active armed group in the state. Boko Haram has been involved in almost two-thirds (60%) of all recorded political violence; followed by the military (14%) and police (3%).201

In June 2009, police killed 17 Boko Haram members at a funeral.202 Anger at perceived heavy-handed police tactics led to armed uprising in the northern state of Bauchi, which spread into Borno, Yobe and Kano. Following the uprising, the militants’ leader Yusuf, his father in-law Baa Fugu and other members were killed outside Maiduguri police station.

The police initially claimed that they died in an intense gun battle with officers, but video later emerged that showed they had been executed. Observers and human rights advocates described these as extrajudicial killings. The government eventually agreed: in late 2011, five police officers were brought to trial for allegedly murdering Yusuf, but the armed violence refused to abate. The Joint Task Force (JTF) was deployed to reinforce the overwhelmed local police forces; by the time they began to regain control, more than 800 people had been killed.

Perpetrators of armed violence

The main perpetrators of violence are Boko Haram and the JTF. In 2011, Amnesty International reported many cases of forcible disappearance of suspects, torture and extrajudicial executions; in addition to other ill treatment by the police and security forces, including arbitrary arrest, unlawful threats and extorting money from detainees. This situation has the result of turning Boko Haram and their sympathisers into, to some degree, victims.

Weapons used
Weapons range from very simple to sophisticated,203 for example: clubs; machetes; Molotov cocktails; locally made and foreign small arms; rocket launchers, rocket bombs; and improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

IEDs may be either simple improvised grenades (e.g. soft-drink cans filled with explosive), which can be thrown from motorcycles or larger devices left at target locations. In June 2011, militants drove a suicide Vehicle Bomb IED (VBIED) into the Nigerian National Police headquarters in Abuja.

Boko Haram is believed to have access to large quantities of commercial explosives either stolen or extorted from mining companies in the north, or purchased via front companies. They are also believed to have sophisticated shoulder-launched weapons systems.

Apart from the ubiquitous AK-47 semiautomatic rifle, the Heckler & Koch G3 machine gun is widely used by both state security forces and militants. Boko Haram attacks police stations and security forces to obtain weapons.

A woman stands next to a burnt house in the aftermath of what Nigerian authorities said was heavy fighting between security forces and Islamist militants in Baga

A woman stands next to a burnt house in the aftermath of what authorities said was heavy fighting between security forces and Islamist militants in Baga, Borno state, April 2013 (Reuters).

Victims of armed violence

Borno has the highest absolute and proportional levels of recorded attacks on civilians.204 This is because of the deliberate targeting of civilian political, traditional and civil society leaders who criticise Boko Haram, in addition to sporadic, high-profile attacks on extremely vulnerable civilian targets such as schools and churches.

In 2011, Amnesty International reported that the group was targeting the police, security forces, government officials and buildings. They had also killed religious leaders and reportedly put up posters threatening to kill anyone they suspected of giving information to the security forces.

Institutional response

The level of insecurity and its move into terrorism greatly concerns security experts.205 The police,206 armed forces and state security intelligence community are held to be the institutions best equipped to confront this.207 Religious groups and civil society organisations that are seen as neutral will also have great impact in addressing armed violence.

Borno State: view from the ground

During our visit to Borno, and in particular its capital city of Maiduguri (also the city in which Boko Haram was established), security sources told our researchers that insurgents have resurfaced.

Boko Haram

The militant Islamist group Boko Haram is at the heart of Borno’s insecurity. The insurgents still control some regions, especially areas bordering Cameroon, Chad and Republic of Niger, where difficult terrain confounds efforts by the Nigerian military to establish control.

One resident who fled fighting in neighbouring Bauchi state and now lives in Borno, said he had high hopes for the military surge that accompanied the state of emergency, but such hopes had not come true: “We were happy when the president declared a state of emergency and sent more soldiers to Borno. Now these Boko Haram seem to have come back and started killing people once again.” Dawn raids on remote communities, drive-by shootings, detonation of explosives targeting security personnel, bank robberies, raids for arms on police stations, and prison breaks are all ongoing in Borno.

Boko Haram attackers believe they have suffered injustice at the hands of the government, being detained or even killed for belonging to the group. Some who join the group are unemployed youths or ‘political thugs’ who feel as though the government has wronged them. In some cases, these grievances may be valid: the official civilian vigilante Joint Task Force (JTF) has been accused of abuse in detention centres and during anti-insurgent operations, including the arbitrary arrest of those suspected of sympathy for Boko Haram.

There are unconfirmed reports that Boko Haram is rearming with more sophisticated weapons smuggled in via Niger and Cameroon.


We were told by journalists that telephone and internet services are frequently cut off and communication is almost nonexistent, leaving them with no way to confirm military press releases and statements. Meanwhile, Boko Haram operatives continue to upload videos to Youtube telling their followers the group is winning the war.

Government response

A curfew is in place across Borno, and checkpoints manned by security personnel. At times of extreme conflict between the military and Boko Haram insur- gents, such as October, 2013, the curfew is extended in some high risk areas – such as Maiduguri metropolitan council, Jere local government area and Bama town to a 24-hour statewide curfew. Heavy artillery weapons have been deployed by the military, as have fighter jets and armoured tanks. The Boko Haram response to this is to use assault rifles, IEDs and local intelligence to out-strategize the military.

The establishment of the JTF vigilante group has given the anti-insurgent fighters a boost, as local residents told us that they trust civilian JTF soldiers more than the official army. Unfortunately, such successes have been double-edged, as Boko Haram now sees civilians as a serious threat and has begun assassinating members of the vigilante group. Nigeria’s usual ethnic and political polarizations have begun to emerge in the JTF and we were told that in-fighting within the group is becoming more common. The military does not disclose the exact number of their men killed, arguably because they do not want to be seen as losing the war. Boko Haram takes this further, sometimes hurriedly burying their casualties in shallow graves to avoid any data being gathered on their losses.

The government of Borno has recently stepped up distribution of relief materials to victims. Food, clothing, sleeping mats and makeshift accommodation have been provided for some victims, and the government has begun efforts to renovate those school buildings and offices destroyed in insurgent violence.


Screen Shot 2013-12-12 at 02.30.13Taraba State

Taraba State was created on 27th August, 1991, from the former Gongola State.208 The state is in the North East region of the country. Taraba is bounded by Bauchi State and Gombe State in the northeast, Adamawa State on the east and Plateau State in the northwest. The state is further bounded to the west by both Nasarawa and Benue States. Taraba shares an international boundary with the Republic of Cameroon to the south and southeast. The state has 16 Local Government Areas (LGAs).

Taraba has an estimated population of 2.6 million people.209 The state is extremely ethnically diverse: ethnic groups found in the state include Mumuye, Ichen, Wurkun, Mambila, Kuteb, Chamba, Jukun, Tiv, Yandang, Fulani, Jenjo, Kunini, Ndoro, Kambu, Kaka, Bandawa, Munga, Zo and Banbuka. Other ethnicities such as Igbo and Yoruba are also found in Taraba State. Hausa is a commonly spoken language in Taraba State irrespective of ethnic grouping. The state is also religiously diverse with large populations of both Christians and Muslims.

Economically, the state suffers from relatively high rates of poverty: approximately 68.3% of the population lives in absolute poverty, although this rate is lower than all but one other state (Borno) in the North East.210

Overview of armed violence in the state

Armed violence in Taraba State is dominated by tribal crises arising from land disputes, conflict between nomadic and farming communities, and chieftaincy issues. Criminal violence is also common, as is politi- cal violence. Since 2012, a small number of attacks in the state have been attributed to suspected Boko Haram militants.

Communal conflict has recurred between members of the Jukun / Chamba and Kuteb communities in Taraba at multiple points in recent years. In 1997, several people were killed and houses burnt in communal clashes and rioting during a period of local council restructuring which saw the removal of elected local council officials from office.211 Sporadic unrest follow- ing that campaign of violence continued into January 1998, by which time over 50,000 people had been displaced and property worth millions of Naira destroyed in the violence.212 Armed violence in the state has a strong historical dimension, with the recurring crises involving Jukun / Chamba and Kuteb communities arising from a historical claim to the territory of Takum LGA and the chieftaincy title. Members of the Jukun / Chamba communities have asserted that they occu- pied the present location around 18th century, while the Kutebs maintained that the Chambas migrated more recently into the area from present-day Adamawa State.

In other politically-motivated violence, Taraba has witnessed high levels of rioting and armed violence between rival political party supporters. Around 30 people were killed in clashes between rival supporters and security forces following local government elections in 2004.213 Deadly riots also followed the general election in Taraba in 2011, resulting in two deaths.214

Access and control over land is also a cause of armed violence in Taraba State. Generally land disputes have resulted from tussles over the right of succession, while others revolve round the right to land ownership. In July 2011, a councilor representing Kona Ward in Taraba State and six others were killed in communal conflict arising from a land dispute.215 The deaths occurred during a communal clash between members of the Mumuye of Lau LGA and the members of the neighbouring Jukun of Jalingo LGA. The number of casualties rose further to 12 as clashes spread to the village of Minda and Jalingo LGA.216

Over 1,000 people were displaced from their homes as a result of the clashes, and fled to the state capital to escape the violence. Armed police and mobile police were deployed to re-establish peace in the area.

Local and ethnic identities often overlap with livelihoods, with access to grazing and agricultural land featuring as flashpoints for violence. In January 2002, deadly clashes broke out between members of pre- dominantly agricultural groups, and members of the predominantly pastoralist Fulanis in the Mambilla Plateau. At least 40 people were killed in violence between the two communities lasting almost a week.

At the time of the clashes, Taraba State Police Commis- sioner reported that the fighting broke out following a dispute over grazing land. The Commissioner reported that violence was brought under control with the deployment of anti-riot police to the affected areas.217

Armed violence in Taraba State is also closely connected to levels and patterns of violence elsewhere in the country, with spillover effects evident in several cases. When armed violence broke out in Taraba in 2001, clashes soon spread to Benue State, contributing to regional instability across eastern Nigeria.218

In June 2012 communal clashes between members of the Bachama and Fulani communities in Adamawa State spilled over into Taraba when homes were burnt in clashes in Lau LGA. Members of the Yandang community, the indigenous ethnic group on the border

of Taraba and Adamawa States, have been an interceding actor in the crises, as they have been rescuing wounded Fulani fighters and treating them, while appealing to Bachamas to disarm.219 A small number of attacks in Taraba State have also been attributed to suspected Boko Haram militants, whose activity is mainly concentrated in the far north of the country.220

Perpetrators of armed violence

Perpetrators of armed violence in Taraba State include youths, politicians, elders and civil servants. Some reports document the involvement of security forces – both mobile police and military forces – in attacks on civilian populations and the destruction of property in Taraba State.221 Suspected Boko Haram militants have also been active in the state in recent years, though at much lower levels than in the far north of the country.


The Emir in Jalingo, Taraba state on Sallah day (Ibrahim Tafida)

The political affiliations of those involved in armed violence in Taraba State vary from incident to incident, and often overlap with local or communal identities. However, reports of armed violence and statements issued by police indicate that among perpetrators

of violence have been individuals hired by powerful figures to engage in fighting on their behalf,222 suggesting that the sponsorship of violent groups is an underlying driver of instability in the state.

Sophisticated weapons used in armed violence in Taraba include assault rifles and explosive weapons. Local weapons used include swords, javelins, bows and arrows, and fuel for burning of houses and other assets.

Victims of armed violence

Outbreaks of armed violence in Taraba State have affected vulnerable civilian populations such as women, children, the elderly and the less privileged. Victims are directly affected through injury and fatality as a result of armed violence, and indirectly through the destruction of property and livelihoods, displacement of large numbers of people fleeing insecurity and conflict, and the longer-term impact on security, stability and development in the state.

Institutional responses

Responses to armed violence in Taraba have included government initiatives. Among these was an initiative undertaken in response to the outbreak of armed violence in July 2011, in which prominent government functionaries, traditional rulers and civil society leaders were sent to the communities of Kona and Mumuya in Lau LGA to mediate between the two communities involved in the clashes. Relief efforts were also under- taken by the government to take stock of what had been destroyed and distribute relief materials to the affected persons.223

Civil society is also active in addressing armed violence in the state. Civil society groups in Taraba conduct advocacy targeting religious leaders, traditional leaders, and youth, and hold society forums to educate and inform people of the effects of armed violence.

They also mobilise advocacy to raise awareness of the importance of peace in the community. Initiatives involving Taraba’s Youth Progressive Association in collaboration with Women Environmental Programme (WEP) have involved mediation between members of communities involved in armed violence, on the theme of connecting disconnected members of the Jukun, Kuteb, Tiv and Chamba communities in Takum.

Several peace initiatives have also been undertaken in collaboration with local authorities in an attempt to address longer-term underlying drivers of armed violence and establish a sustainable peace between Taraba’s diverse communities. For instance, in April 2009, members and leadership of the Tiv and Kuteb communities at the center of recurring violence participated in a conference at Kwambai, Taraba State.


Overviews of armed violence per geopolitical region:

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167  Al Jazeera, Nigeria president declares state of emergency, 15 May 2013, 2013/05/2013514192543867669.html.

168  BBC News, Boko Haram attacks prompt Nigeria state of emergency, 1 January 2012,

169  Nigeria Elections Coalition, Nigeria Presidential Elections – 2011,
170 National Population Commission, Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey 2008, November 2009, p. 121.
171 National Population Commission, Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey 2008, November 2009, pp. 15, 16.
172 National Bureau of Statistics, Nigeria Statistical Data Portal, ‘Revised Absolute Poverty 2009/10 (per capita methodology),
173 National Bureau of Statistics, Social Statistics in Nigeria Part III: Health, Employment, Public Safety, Population and Vital Registration, 2012, p. 71.
174 Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, Tolerance and Tension:
Islam and Christianity in Sub-Saharan Africa, April 2010, p. ii. 175 Chris Kwaja, Nigeria’s Pernicious Drivers of Ethno-Religious
Conflict, Africa Security Brief No. 14, July 2011, p. 3, citing Ulrich Lamm.
176 Jacob Zenn, ‘The Different Faces of Boko Haram,’ Africa in Transition, 29 August 2013; for Boko Haram’s own state- ments on the proliferation of militant groups, see Ali Adoyi, ‘Boko Haram Rule out Dialogue with Government, Warns Media Houses and Impostors,’ Daily Post, 23 August 2012.
177 The Economist, ‘Nigeria’s Northern Insurgency: A City under Siege,’ 25 May 2013.
178 John Alechenu, ‘Boko Haram paid us N5,000 each to burn schools – Kid suspects,’ Punch, 1 June 2013; Jacob Zenn, ‘The Different Faces of Boko Haram,’ Africa in Transition, 29 August 2013.
179 Africa Confidential, ‘An Insurgency without the Oil,’ Vol 54, No 11, 24 May 2013.
180 Human Rights Watch, ‘Nigeria: Massive Destruction, Deaths from Military Raid,’ Baga Town, Borno State, 1 May 2013; Amnesty International, Nigeria: Trapped in a Cycle of Violence, November 2012.
181 BBC News, ‘Nigerian Boko Haram and Vigilantes “in Deadly Clashes,” BBC News, 8 September 2013,; Al Jazeera, ‘Vigilantes and Boko Haram Clash in Nigeria,’
8 September 2013, 5940397.html.
182 Reuters, ‘Nigeria Backlash against Boko Haram spurs Risky Vigilante War,’ 11 August 2013; John Campbell, ‘Violence in Northern Nigeria: Not Just Boko Haram,’ Africa in Transition, 14 August 2013, ern-nigeria-not-just-boko-haram/.
183 Shiktira Usman Abdullahi,“Background Paper on Bauchi State”, September 2012.
184 The information in this section is taken from:
184 Bauchi State. 2012. Bauchi State. [Online]. [Accessed September 10 2012]. Available from:
184 Post Election Violence Kills 10 in Bauchi. 2011. [Online]. [Accessed September 14 2012]. Available from: 4088-post-election-violence-kills-10-in-bauchi
185 CLEEN Foundation Justice Sector Reform, CLEEN Foundation: Summary of Findings of 2012 National Crime and Safety Survey, p. 6.
186 Council on Foreign Relations Nigeria Security Tracker: Mapping Violence in Nigeria, ‘Map: Deaths by State,’ p29483?cid=otr-marketing_use-nigeria_security_tracker; Armed Conflict Location & Event Dataset,
187 Action on Armed Violence, Mapping Efforts against Armed Violence in Nigeria: Interim Report, June 2013, p. 17.
188 The information in this section is taken from:
188 Adegbite, T. 2011. Curbing Violence In Nigeria. [Online]. [Accessed: 23 May 2011]. Available from:
188 Alemika and Chukwuma. 2011. Crime Victimization, Safety and Policing in Nigeria: CLEEN Foundation. Malthhouse press limited.
188 Aliyu, S. 1996. Religious-based Violence and National  Security in Nigeria: case studies of Kaduna state and the Taliban activities in Borno state. A thesis presented to the Faculty of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College.
188 Amnesty International. 2011. Loss of life: insecurity and im- punity in the run-up to Nigeria’s elections. Amnesty Interna- tional, pp 8 – 9.
188 Ayissi, A and Sall, I. 2005. Combating the Proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons in West Africa: Handbook for the Training of Armed and Security Forces – UNIDIR. Geneva: United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research.
188 Forest, J.J. 2012. Confronting the Terrorism in Boko Haram in Nigeria. [Online]. [Accessed 2012] Available from: Report-2012.pdf
188 Hazen, J. M. and Horner, J. 2007. Small Arms, Armed Vio- lence and Insecurity in Nigeria: The Niger-Delta Perspective. [Online]. [Accessed: 12 September 2012]. Available from: B-Occasional-papers/SAS-OP20-Nigeria.pdf
188 International Crisis Group. 2012. Northern Nigeria: Background to Conflict. International Crisis Group, Africa Report N°168.
188 JTF Kills Two, Intercepts Eight Rocket Launchers. 2012. [Online]. [Accessed: 1 August 2012]. Available from: haram-intercept-eight-rocket-launchers/
188 Okpaga, A, Chijioke, U.C and Okechukwu E. 2012. Activities of Boko Haram and the insecurity question in Nigeria. Arabian Journal of Business and Management Review. 1(9). Markudi: Benue State University.
188 Ngang, K. 2007. Small arms and light weapons, Africa’s true WMDs: The role of SALW in conflict and insecurity in Sub-Saharan Africa. Master of Arts thesis presented to the European University Centre for Peace Studies (EPU).

188  Salkida, A. 2012. Tears from Maiduguri. [Online]. [Accessed: 24 September 2012]. Available from: article/tears-maiduguri-ahmad-salkida
189  National Population Commission, 2009
190  Borno State Liaison office of the Raw Materials Research and Development Council
191  Confronting the Terrorism of Boko Haram in Nigeria, Joint Special Operations University 7701 Tampa Point Boulevard MacDill AFB FL 33621, James J.F. Forest JSOU Report 12-5 May 2012 pp 1-2
192  Council on Foreign Relations Nigeria Security Tracker: Mapping Violence in Nigeria, ‘Map: Deaths by State,’ tracker/p29483?cid=otr-marketing_ usenigeria_security_tracker.
193  Armed Conflict Location and Event Dataset (ACLED),
194  National Working Group on Armed Violence and Action on Armed Violence, Mapping Efforts against Armed Violence in Nigeria: Interim Report, 2013, p. 16.
195  Activities of Boko Haram and Insecurity Question in Nigeria, Professor Adagba Okpaga, Ugwu Sam Chijioke, Eme, Okechukwu Innocent, Arabian Journal of Business and Management Review (Oman Chapter) Vol. 1, No. 9; April 2012, Benue State University, Markudi
196  Curbing Violence In Nigeria , Tunde Adegbite www.nigerian- 6:29pm on May 23, 2011
197  Iheoma Obibi (2011)
198  Anatole Ayissi and Ibrahima Sall (2005)
199  Confronting the Terrorism of Boko Haram in Nigeria, Joint Special Operations University 7701 Tampa Point Boulevard MacDill AFB FL 33621, James J.F. Forest JSOU Report 12-5 May 2012 pp 1-2
200  Confronting the Terrorism of Boko Haram in Nigeria, Joint Special Operations University 7701 Tampa Point Boulevard MacDill AFB FL 33621, James J.F. Forest JSOU Report 12-5 May 2012 pp 1-2
201 Confronting the Terrorism of Boko Haram in Nigeria, Joint Special Operations University 7701 Tampa Point Boulevard 202 MacDill AFB FL 33621, James J.F. Forest JSOU Report 12-5 May 2012 pp 1-2 Activities of Boko Haram and Insecurity Question in Nigeria, Professor Adagba Okpaga, Ugwu Sam Chijioke, Eme,
203 Okechukwu Innocent, Arabian Journal of Business and Management Review (Oman Chapter) Vol. 1, No. 9; April 2012, Benue State University, Markudi
Armed Conflict Location and Event Dataset (ACLED),
204 Activities of Boko Haram and Insecurity Question in Nigeria, Professor Adagba Okpaga, Ugwu Sam Chijioke, Eme,
205 Okechukwu Innocent, Arabian Journal of Business and Management Review (Oman Chapter) Vol. 1, No. 9; April 2012, Benue State University, Markudi
According to Alimika and Chukwuma (2011), 43% of people interviewed in Borno on police performance said that the
206 police were doing a very good job.
207 Marama (2012)
208 The information in this section is taken from:
208 Adejumobi, S. 2001. Citizenship, Rights, and the Problem of Conflicts and Civil Wars in Africa. Human Rights Quar- terly, 23(1) pp. 148–170.
208 Albert, I.O. 1999. New Directions in the Management of Community Conflicts in Nigeria Insights from the Activities of AAPW. In: Otite, O. and Albert, I.O. eds. Community Conflicts in Nigeria: Management, Resolution and Transfor- mation. Ibadan: Spectrum Books limited, pp. 34 – 63.
208 Alubo, O. 2004. Citizenship Crisis and National Integration in Nigeria. In: Nigerian Journal of Policy and Strategy. 14(1), pp. 1 – 23.
208 Egwu, S.G. 1998. Agrarian Question and Rural Ethnic Conflicts in Nigeria. In: Nnoli, O. ed. Ethnic Conflicts in 208 Africa. Dakar: CODESDRIA Book Series, pp. 62-63. 209 National Bureau of Statistics, Social Statistics in Nigeria
2012 Part III: Health, Employment, Public Safety, Population and Vital Registration, p. 71.
210 National Bureau of Statistics, Revised Absolute Poverty
2004 and 2010, Revised Absolute Poverty 2009/10 (Per Capita Methodology).
211 Xinhua General News, Seven Killed in Communal Clash in East Nigeria, 1 November 1997.
212 Xinhua General News, Renewed Communal Clash Displaces 50,000 in Nigeria, 12 January 1998.
213 Associated Press International, ‘Nigerian Youths, Security Forces Battle over Disputed Election Results; 30 Feared Dead,’ 5 April 2004.
214 Daily Trust, ‘Two Killed in Post-Election Violence in Nigeria’s Taraba State,’ 19 April 2011.
215 Leadership (Abuja), ‘Communal Clash: Councilor, Six Others Killed in Taraba,’ 12 July 2011.
216 This Day (Lagos), ‘Nigeria; Taraba – Death Toll Rises to 12 in Kona / Mumuye Clash,’ 13 July 2011.
217 IRIN Humanitarian News and Analysis, Nigeria: Dozens Reported Dead in Clashes between Farmers, Herders, 8 January 2002, nigeria-dozens-reported-dead-in-clashes-between- farmers-herders.
218 Human Rights Watch, Nigeria – Military Revenge in Benue: A Population Under Attack, Vol. 14, No. 2, April 2002.
219 Sunday Trust, ‘How the Bachama-Fulani Crisis Spilled over to Taraba,’ 24 June 2012.
220 Agence France Presse, ‘Suicide Attack on Nigerian Police Official’s Convoy Kills 11,’ 30 April 2012.
221 Human Rights Watch, Nigeria – Military Revenge in Benue: A Population Under Attack, Vol. 14, No. 2, April 2002. 222 IRIN Humanitarian News and Analysis, Nigeria: Dozens Reported Dead in Clashes between Farmers, Herders, 8 January 2002, nigeria-dozens reported-dead-in-clashes-between- farmers-herders. Armed Conflict Location and Event Dataset (ACLED),
223 This Day Live, ‘Taraba: Death Toll Rises to 12 in Kona/Mumuye Clash,’ 13 July 2011.
This report is a draft and may be subject to change.