Update June 2022

From Atrocities Watch Monitor N° 5, June 2022
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Violence continued in Nigeria, in May, there has been a slight decrease in reported events, and an over 26% decrease in fatalities throughout the country when compared to the monthly average of the past year. Despite this, in the north-eastern region, violent events have gone up over 10% compared to the monthly average of the previous year. Bandits continue to terrorise the country. On 6 May, at least 48 people were killed in simultaneous attacks on three villages in northwest Nigeria’s Zamfara state, local officials say more than 700,000 people have been displaced.[1] On 10 May, at least seven soldiers were killed in the state of Taraba when they were ambushed while on patrol. In April,  Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) claimed responsibility for two bombings.[2] The group also killed at least 30[3] after their commanders Bako Gorgore and Abu Ibrahim were killed in a military operation in Borno state mid-May.[4] There was a more than 150% increase in violent incidents during the third week of May in the states of Anambra, Kogi and Niger when compared to the last month, flagged by the ACLED Subnational Threat & Surge Trackers.[5] In Kala Balge, Borno state,at least 45 farmers were killed during an attack by suspected ISWAP militants.[6]

Gubernatorial elections are set to take place in Ekiti and Osun states this month (June 2022) and national presidential elections in February 2023. Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari requested all members of his cabinet who plan on running in the 2023 elections to resign their current appointments, except for current Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.[7] At least ten have resigned so far.[8] On 23 May, ISWAP fighters opened fire on a convoy transporting a presidential aspirant from the ruling All Progressives Congress when travelling from Abuja to Maiduguri. Three policemen were killed.[9] On that same day, an Anambra state legislator, Okechukwu Okoye, was found dead after having gone missing on 15 May.[10]  In Bayelsa, Gombe, and Oyo clashes erupted among People’s Democratic Party (PDP) opposition party members.[11] On 29 May, the opposition People’s Democratic Party chose Atiku Abubakar, former vice president, as its candidate for the 2023 presidential elections.[12]

Violence over charges of blasphemy were also highlighted during the last month. Deborah Samuel, a teenage student was brutally murdered in Sokoto state,[13] by individuals who accused her of blasphemy allegedly in connection with social media posts about the prophet Mohammed. Two suspects were arrested and this led to Muslim youth taking the streets in protest demanding their release.[14] This brought repercussions elsewhere, in Borno State a young woman, Naomi Goni, was threatened after allegedly insulting the Prophet on a social media platform.[15] In Bauchi State, a pastor was injured, some houses and a church were burnt down.[16] Although the Nigerian constitution guarantees the right to freedom of expression, thought, and conscience, national law makes it a criminal offence to insult religion. In the predominantly Muslim northern states, blasphemy may also be criminalised.[17] Concerns and questions regarding the place of religion are being raised,[18] combined with the ongoing bandit and Islamist extremist violence as well as the fragile economic situation, continue to add on to the risk of mass atrocities in the country.


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.[19]  In January 2022, under the Terrorism Prevention Act, the government of Nigeria designated bandit groups as “terrorists.”[20]

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).

The Indigenous People of Biafra (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 Eastern Security Network (ESN) in December 2020.[21]

International response:

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres visited the country on 3 and 4 of May, expressing the UN’s solidarity in the country’s fight against terrorism. He called on the international community to support “not only a state of hope, but a state of reality, in which there is no room for terrorism.”[22]

[1] AL Jazeera, “‘Bandits’ kill 48 in northwest Nigeria attacks: Local officials,” 8 May 2022, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/5/8/gunmen-kill-48-in-northwest-nigeria-attacks-local-official

[2] Al Jazeera, “Attackers kill seven soldiers in ambush in northern Nigeria,” 11 May 2022, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/5/11/gunmen-kill-seven-nigerian-soldiers-in-ambush-on-army-patrol-sources

[3] The Guardian Nigeria, “Jihadists kill 30 in northeast Nigeria,” 24 May 2022, https://guardian.ng/news/jihadists-kill-30-in-northeast-nigeria/

[4] Daily Post, “ISWAP commanders, Bako Gorgore, Abu Ibrahim killed in airstrike in Borno,” 14 May 2022, https://dailypost.ng/2022/05/14/iswap-commanders-bako-gorgore-abu-ibrahim-killed-in-airstrike-in-borno/

[5] ACLED Subnational Threat & Surge Trackers, (accessed 30 May 2022) https://acleddata.com/early-warning-research-hub/subnational-threat-surge-tracker/

[6] Humangle, “ISWAP Terrorists Kill 45 Farmers In Fresh Attack On Northeast Nigeria Village,” 24 May 2022, https://humanglemedia.com/boko-haram-terrorists-kill-45-farmers-in-fresh-attack-on-northeast-nigeria-village/

[7] Al Jazeera, “Nigeria’s Buhari asks ministers with political ambition to resign,” 11 May 2022, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/5/11/nigerias-buhari-asks-ministers-with-political-ambition-to-resign

[8] Reuters, “Ten Nigerian cabinet ministers resign to run in next year’s election,” 13 May 2022, https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/ten-nigerian-cabinet-ministers-resign-run-next-years-election-2022-05-13/

[9] Sahara Reporters, “Boko Haram Terrorists Ambush Convoy Of Ruling APC Presidential Aspirant, Kill Three Policemen, Injure Four Others,” 23 May 2022, http://saharareporters.com/2022/05/23/boko-haram-terrorists-ambush-convoy-ruling-apc-presidential-aspirant-kill-three-policemen

[10] Al Jazeera, “Nigeria: Police discover severed head of missing legislator,” 23 May 2022, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/5/23/nigeria-police-discover-severed-head-of-missing-legislator

[11] ACLED, Regional overview Africa: 21-27 May, 1 June 2022, https://acleddata.com/2022/06/01/regional-overview-africa-21-27-may-2022/

[12] All Africa, “Nigeria’s Atiku Abubakar Is Main Opposition’s Presidential Choice,” undated, https://allafrica.com/view/group/main/main/id/00082300.html

[13] Human Rights Watch, “Student in Nigeria Murdered Over Blasphemy Allegation,” 16 May 2022, https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/05/16/student-nigeria-murdered-over-blasphemy-allegation

[14] DW, “Protests erupt in Nigerian city after blasphemy killing,” 15 May 2022, https://www.dw.com/en/protests-erupt-in-nigerian-city-after-blasphemy-killing/a-61802804

[15] Sahara Reporters, “BREAKING: Jihadists In Borno Plot To Kill Another Young Woman For Alleged Blasphemy, Post Death Threats On Facebook,” 14 May 2022, http://saharareporters.com/2022/05/14/breaking-jihadists-borno-plot-kill-another-young-woman-alleged-blasphemy-post-death

[16] Punch Nigeria, “Tension over alleged blasphemy in Bauchi, pastor injured, houses burnt,” 21 May 2022, https://punchng.com/breaking-tension-over-alleged-blasphemy-in-bauchi-pastor-injured-houses-burnt/

[17] Human Rights Watch, “Student in Nigeria Murdered Over Blasphemy Allegation,” 16 May 2022, https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/05/16/student-nigeria-murdered-over-blasphemy-allegation

[18] The Africa Report, “Nigeria: Killing of student for blasphemy raises question on place of religion,” 24 May 2022, https://www.theafricareport.com/206665/nigeria-killing-of-student-for-blasphemy-raises-question-on-place-of-religion/

[19] 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/

[20]  The Guardian, “FG declares bandits as terrorists,” 5 January 2022,


[21] Al Jazeera, “Nigeria: Separatist leader to appear in court for treason trial,” 9 November 2021, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/11/9/nigeria-ipob-leader-nnamdi-kanu-appear-court

[22] UN News, “Recognize ‘enormous challenges’ facing northern Nigeria to forge new hope, Guterres urges,” 4 May 2022, https://news.un.org/en/story/2022/05/1117472