Elections in Nigeria Must Lead to Protection and Accountability


[UPDATE: The Nigerian presidential elections have been postponed to March 28, 2015.]

In the Nigerian presidential elections on February 15th, and after a year of conflict spurred by attacks by the armed group Boko Haram, one would expect security issues to be the top topic of debate. However, in his New Years address to the nation, President Goodluck Jonathan, the incumbent in the election, placed little emphasis on the severity of the violence in the northern regions of the country. Instead, he devoted a majority of the speech to his commitment to the oil industry and other topics of infrastructure and development.

Since the abduction of almost 300 girls in Chibok last spring and hundreds of others since then, there has been a significant push for a stronger security initiative to protect Nigerian citizens in the northern territories, where the armed group Boko Haram has wreaked destruction and mayhem. One of the loudest voices calling for improved security was the #BringBackOurGirls campaign last summer that started in Abuja but was then taken up by Nigerian diaspora communities around the world.

Sadly, since then, the Nigerian government has been accused of egregious and systematic human rights violations, including “indiscriminate arrest, detention, torture, and extra-judicial killing of those suspected to be supporters” of the armed group. Further, the Nigerian president has been criticized domestically and internationally, by both the media and by public officials, for his military’s failure to effectively counter Boko Haram’s territorial advances, showing that the brutal methods of the country’s security forces are not having the results they were boasted they would produce. According to the Nigeria Security Tracker of the Council on Foreign Relations, almost 3,000 people have been killed by the hostilities between Boko Haram and the Nigerian government since September 2014, with most of the conflict concentrated in the northeastern regions of Borno and Adamawa. This has been accompanied by more abductions and bombings.

In the first week of 2015, Boko Haram raided numerous villages in Baga, killing an estimated 2,000 people and forcing tens of thousands of people to flee across the border into Chad. Additionally, the armed group gained control of a major multinational army base, further refuting President Jonathan’s claims that the situation has improved in any regard since last summer.

The failure to effectively address the security situation has caused massive backlash against President Jonathan and his administration and will likely lead to one of the closest Nigerian elections in recent history. This once would have been nearly unthinkable since Jonathan’s party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), took the majority of the electorate over a decade ago. The primary opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), officially nominated Muhammadu Buhari as its candidate in December after a landslide win in the primaries. Given his military background, Buhari’s supporters are convinced that he will take a more serious and effective stance against Boko Haram. However, during his tenure as a former head of state, Buhari’s poor human rights record should give pause to hopes for better leadership from Abuja on accountability for human rights violations by the Nigerian military.

The Nigerian government must be held accountable for establishing professional, accountable police and military forces throughout the entire country, particularly in regions where security is a primary concern. The upcoming elections must not be allowed to distract national and internal pressure on the Nigerian government to meet its responsibility protect its citizens, and secure the safe return of all individuals abducted by Boko Haram, including the Chibok girls. These problems will not go away on its own after the next president is elected.

Caroline Courtney contributed to this post.

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3 thoughts on “Elections in Nigeria Must Lead to Protection and Accountability

  1. Muhammadu Buhari for President of Nigeria is the only ANSWER to stoping the MADNESS! President Buhari has done it in just 1 1/2 years in office before (1983-1985) He can do it again (God's Willing) if given the chance. Boko Haram seems to be in full control in Nigeria. They seems to have taken over the North. Now our 10 Year Old Children are being used as Suicide Bombers in the Market. Those being Used are Poor ommon Children, Killing Poor Common Marlet People (both Muslims and Christians). The Children Suicide Bombers were captured by Boko Haram and used against their will. The INNOCENT KIDS have NO IDEA if they have been equiped and wired with BOMB to go and DIE and KILL anyone around them. This is happening in Nigeria, NOT Iraq, Syria or Afghanistan. What are our Leaders thinking? What are they doing? What are they waiting for? Are they waiting for the whole Country to be overulled by Boko Haram before taking action? Who is the Commander in Chief? Somebody tell me please… Who is in control Here?

  2. I hope things will change by the democratic change. The current scenario will require a drastic change with more secure air for the Nigerians.

  3. It's interesting that the United Nations is against gun ownership but that's the exact problem we have here. The population, too poor to own guns, is harassed, terrorized and killed off by these militant groups. Often these groups are funded and controlled by outside interests for various reasons. Having a well armed and capable population would put an end to these attacks and restore peace to the villages. You could argue that doing this would cause things to escalate as the outsiders would soon provide the militants will larger and more effective arms but this may not be the case. After the population is armed, you really have to go after the nations or crime families that are funding these groups. You also need more honest local government to win the respect and trust of the population so people don't join these groups. Good luck with that.
    People should be secure in their homes, we see what disarmament did in Iraq, before the US troops came, the Iraqi people were allowed almost unlimited weapons ownership. Because of this, they could easily repel any terrorist attack.