10. Political and Security Environment
Political, religious, and ethnic violence continue to affect Nigeria. The Islamist group Jama’atu Ahl as-Sunnah li-Da’awati wal-Jihad, popularly known as Boko Haram, and the Islamic State in West Africa (ISIS-WA) have waged a violent campaign to destabilize the Nigerian government, killing tens of thousands of people, forcing over two million to flee to other areas of Nigeria or into neighboring countries, and leaving more than seven million people in need of humanitarian assistance in the country’s northeast. Boko Haram has targeted markets, churches, mosques, government installations, educational institutions, and leisure sites with improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and suicide vehicle-borne IEDS across nine Northern states and in Abuja. In 2017, Boko Haram employed hundreds of suicide bombings against the local population. Women and children carried out many of the attacks. There were multiple reports of Boko Haram killing entire villages suspected of cooperating with the government. ISIS-WA targeted civilians with attacks or kidnappings less frequently than Boko Haram. ISIS-WA employed targeted acts of violence and intimidation against civilians in order to expand its area of influence and gain control over critical economic resources. As part of a violent and deliberate campaign, ISIS-WA also targeted government figures, traditional leaders, and contractors.
President Buhari has focused on matters of insecurity in Nigeria and in neighboring countries. While the two insurgencies maintain the ability to stage forces in rural areas and launch attacks against civilian and military targets across the Northeast, Nigeria is also facing increased rural violence in the Middle Belt.
Due to challenging security dynamics in the North, the U.S. Diplomatic Mission to Nigeria has significantly limited official travel north of Abuja. Such trips occur only with security measures designed to mitigate the threats of car-bomb attacks and abductions.
Decades of neglect, persistent poverty, and environmental damage caused by oil spills have left Nigeria’s oil rich Niger Delta region vulnerable to renewed violence. Though each oil-producing state receives a 13 percent derivation of the oil revenue produced within its borders, and several government agencies, including the Niger Delta Development Corporation (NDDC) and the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, are tasked with implementing development projects, bureaucratic mismanagement and corruption have prevented these investments from yielding meaningful economic and social development in the region. Niger Delta militants have demonstrated their ability to attack and severely damage oil instillations at will as seen when they cut Nigeria’s production by more than half in 2016. Attacks on oil installations have since decreased due to a revamped amnesty program and continuous high-level engagement with the region.
Other security challenges facing Nigeria include increasing rural violence caused by criminal actors and by conflicts between migratory pastoralists and farmers, and thousands of refugees fleeing to Nigeria from Cameroon’s English-speaking region due to tensions there.