from Africa in Transition

American "Quality" Press and Nigeria

April 15, 2014

Blog Post

More on:

Sub-Saharan Africa

Terrorism and Counterterrorism

Fossil Fuels


Wars and Conflict

On April 15, arguably the most influential of the American print press carried the story of the horrific April 14 bombings in Abuja. The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post among others all had stories or photographs on their front pages.

Nevertheless, the biggest story in all three continued to be Ukraine. Yet, as African hands know, Nigeria’s population–at an estimated 177 million–is far larger than that of the Russian Federation. In addition to Abuja, the Nigerian press is credibly reporting that some 200 people in the far northeast were killed last week, including students on their way to take their high school exams. From what I have seen, that story has received no American coverage. Neither has the report that suspected Boko Haram members stormed a secondary school and abducted over 100 female students studying for their exams earlier this week.

It takes horrific violence in the capital city, Abuja, to generate U.S. coverage on Nigeria. In the U.S. as in southern Nigeria, the carnage receives little to no attention–no matter how great it is–so long as it is far away in the northeast. The “Giant of Africa” and until recently Washington’s most important strategic partner in Africa and a major source of imported oil and gas, Nigeria is largely ignored by the U.S. media, beyond occasionally boosterish articles on the business pages that focus on the Lagos-Ibadan corridor and the country’s oil patch.

While the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal are honorable exceptions and have previously broken stories of gross human rights violations by the government security forces U.S. media inattention to Nigeria seems short-sighted and unwise.