Update May 2022

From Atrocities Watch Monitor N° 4, May 2022
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Recorded violent incidents throughout the country decreased during the month of April, which showed the lowest number of incidents since the start of the year.[1] At the same time, Islamic state has been refocusing its efforts on the country. Since the start of the year, Nigeria has been the site of the largest number of operations claimed by the Islamic State in the world surpassing Iraq and Syria.[2] The attacks that did occur were brutal. On 10 April, at least 154 people were killed by gunmen who attacked by shooting sporadically into homes and businesses, more than 4,800 people were forced to flee from their homes in Garga District. Nigeria’s Information Minister blamed armed criminal bandits as well as Boko Haram fighters.[3] In the aftermath of the Plateau massacre, organisations expressed concern over the possible alliance between bandits and Boko Haram,[4] which was exacerbated when the federal government blamed last month’s Kaduna train attack on an alliance of both groups on 13 April.[5]

Violence peaked in Kaduna state during the first week of the month.[6] On 2 April, 52 bandits were killed in Zamfara, 33 in Kaduna and 15 in northeast Borno State in a series of ground and air attacks launched after the airport attack that took place at the end of March.[7] Fifteen soldiers were killed.[8] Violent events increased up to 300% in Taraba state during the second week of April, when gunmen from Zamfara and Katsina clashed with military forces and took control of territory.[9] On 19 April, an explosion at a market in Taraba killed or wounded about 30 people, ISWAP claimed responsibility for the attack, expanding their area of operation in the country.[10] In Yobe state, at least 10 people were killed and several others wounded in an attack by Boko Haram militants during the third week of April.[11]

On 16 April, the Nigerian Air Force claimed it had killed or severely injured over 70 ISWAP fighters on the border with Niger in a joint operation with the neighbouring country.[12] Among those killed was ISWAP commander, Abou Sufyan,[13] according to the Nigerian armed forces. On 20 April, the Multinational Joint Task Force killed 27 Boko Haram and ISWAP insurgents and rescued over 6 women who had been kidnapped months prior.[14]

On 11 April, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo declared his intention to contest the 2023 presidential election.[15] On that same day, Chief Gbenga Ogbara, Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) was killed by suspected gunmen.  The crime may be politically motivated as elections in Osun State are less than 3 months away.[16] Tensions over governmental elections increased in Ekiti state too, in Efon Local Government Area, unidentified armed groups attacked the convoy of the Social Democratic Party candidate.[17] In some areas of Imo state violence in voting stations led to a discontinuation of the voter registration.[18]

The International Crisis Group warned of the increasing number of vigilante groups that are functioning throughout the country, some have even been filling in for the Nigerian Police Force. These groups are solving some issues but exacerbating others, and if not controlled could aggravate existing intercommunal tensions as well as heighten the risks of conflict.[19]


Nigeria faces multiple security challenges, including ongoing violence related to the Islamic State in the north, increasing intercommunal violence in the North-Central Zone, and separatist movements in the Niger Delta and South-East Zone.

Armed groups known locally as bandits carry out widespread killings, kidnappings, and looting across several states in the northwest region. Responding to the violent attacks, the government launched renewed campaigns in the north-west to curb armed banditry in September 2021.[20] In January 2022, under the Terrorism Prevention Act, the government of Nigeria designated bandit groups as “terrorists.”[21]

Boko Haram has been active in the country since the early 2000’s. Based in north-eastern Nigeria it has expanded to neighbouring countries such as Chad, Niger, and northern Cameroon. In 2016, the group split, resulting in the emergence of a hostile faction known as the Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP).

IPOB members say the region has been economically and politically marginalised since the end of the civil war in 1970. In recent years, the group has begun to amass foot soldiers culminating in the launch of its paramilitary arm, the ESN in December 2020.

International response:

International Criminal Court prosecutor Mr Karim Khan visited the country and reminded the government that accountability is needed for crimes committed, extremist groups associated with ISIS and Al-Qaeda, including Boko Haram, could be effectively addressed either in national courts, through joint efforts by the affected states within the regions of West Africa and the Sahel, or failing that, at the ICC.[22]

[1] ACLED Data.

[2] Twitter, Jihad Analytics (@Jihad_Analytics), 8 Apirl 2022, https://twitter.com/Jihad_Analytics/status/1512383500766392324?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1512383500766392324%7Ctwgr%5E%7Ctwcon%5Es1_&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.thecable.ng%2Freport-nigeria-overtakes-iraq-as-country-with-highest-number-of-is-attacks

[3] Al Jazeera, “Death toll hits 154 following attack in central Nigeria,” 13 April 2022, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/4/13/death-toll-hits-154-following-attack-in-northern-nigeria

[4] Al Jazeera, “Death toll hits 154 following attack in central Nigeria,” 13 April 2022, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/4/13/death-toll-hits-154-following-attack-in-northern-nigeria

[5] All Africa, “Nigeria: Govt Links Kaduna Train Attack to Synergy Between Boko Haram and Bandits,” 14 April 2022, https://allafrica.com/stories/202204140467.html

[6] ACLED Data.

[7] Nation, “Nigerian military kills 100 bandits in Kaduna and Zamfara,” 3 April 2022, https://nation.africa/africa/news/nigerian-army-kills-100-bandits-in-kaduna-zamfara-3770224

[8] Reuters, “Gunmen attack kills at least 50 in Nigeria’s Plateau state,” 11 April 2022, https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/gunmen-attack-kills-least-50-nigerias-plateau-state-2022-04-11/

[9] ACLED data, Regional Overview: Africa 9-15 April 2022, 21 April 2022, https://acleddata.com/2022/04/21/regional-overview-africa-9-15-april-2022/

[10] Al Jazeera, “ISWAP claims Nigeria bombing, says about 30 killed or hurt,” 21 April 2022, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/4/21/isil-group-claims-nigeria-bombing-says-about-30-killed-or-hurt

[11] Xinhuanet, “Nigerian police confirm 10 killed in Boko Haram attack,” 24 April 2022, https://english.news.cn/20220424/6904e5b0feec4c139b81863327f8089d/c.html

[12] Alarabya News, “Nigerian air strikes kill 70 ISIS-linked terrorists,” 17 April 2022, https://english.alarabiya.net/News/world/2022/04/17/Nigerian-air-strikes-kill-70-ISIS-linked-terrorists

[13] Sahara Reporters, “Nigerian Military Kills ISWAP Commander, Abou Fatima, 15 Others With Super Tucano’s Airstrikes In Lake Chad,” 15 April 2022, http://saharareporters.com/2022/04/15/nigerian-military-kills-iswap-commander-abou-fatima-15-others-super-tucanos-airstrikes

[14] Channels TV, “Troops Kill Over 27 Boko Haram/ISWAP Terrorists, Rescue Six Female Hostages,” 20 April 2022, https://www.channelstv.com/2022/04/20/troops-kill-over-27-boko-haram-iswap-terrorists-rescue-six-female-hostages/

[15] Twitter @ProfOsinbajo, 11 April 2022, https://twitter.com/ProfOsinbajo/status/1513396861037694981

[16] The Guardian, “Police confirm killing of APC Chairman in Osun,” 11 April 2022, https://guardian.ng/news/police-confirm-killing-of-apc-chairman-in-osun/

[17] ACLED data, Regional Overview: Africa 2-8 April 2022, 13 April 2022, https://acleddata.com/2022/04/13/regional-overview-africa-2-8-april-2022/

[18] ACLED data, Regional Overview: Africa 9-15 April 2022, 21 April 2022, https://acleddata.com/2022/04/21/regional-overview-africa-9-15-april-2022/

[19] International Crisis Group, “Managing Vigilantism in Nigeria: A Near-term Necessity,” 21 April 2022, https://www.crisisgroup.org/africa/west-africa/nigeria/308-managing-vigilantism-nigeria-near-term-necessity

[20] The Defense Post, “Nigeria’s Military Crackdown Puts Squeeze on Bandit Gangs,” 21 September 2021, https://www.thedefensepost.com/2021/09/21/nigeria-military-crackdown-bandits/

[21] The Guardian, “FG declares bandits as terrorists,” 5 January 2022, https://guardian.ng/news/fg- declares-bandits-as-terrorists/

[22] International Criminal Court, Statement “ICC Prosecutor, Mr Karim A.A. Khan QC, concludes first official visit to Nigeria,” 22 April 2022, https://www.icc-cpi.int/news/icc-prosecutor-mr-karim-aa-khan-qc-concludes-first-official-visit-nigeria