from Africa in Transition

Mapping the Nigerian State of Emergency

May 24, 2013

Blog Post

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Sub-Saharan Africa

Refugees and Displaced Persons


Terrorism and Counterterrorism

Wars and Conflict

Emily Mellgard coauthored this post. Emily is the Africa research associate at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Information about the state of emergency in the three northern Nigerian states of Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa comes almost exclusively from government sources. Cell phones no longer operate and there are few journalists in the area; though some have been able to make contact with refugees fleeing across the border into Cameroon and Niger. The government claims that as many as 2,000 troops were deployed within twenty-four hours of President Goodluck Jonathan’s declaration of the state of emergency. They are accompanied by air and ground support, including military jets, helicopters, and tanks. But we cannot confirm these claims from independent sources. The troops appear to have been compiled from those already deployed in other parts of Nigeria, Mali, and Liberia.

The Nigerian media claims that civilians are fleeing the towns for the bush or across the borders into Cameroon and Niger. As many as 2,000 refugees have crossed the north eastern border to the Diffa region of Niger. Others are traveling by bus to other major Nigerian cities such as Kano and Kaduna that are not currently under the state of emergency.

One of the first acts of the “Counter Terrorists Squad,” the state security forces mandated to carry out the state of emergency, was to knock out the telephone towers to keep Boko Haram members from communicating with each other. Aid workers and journalists not already in the affected areas, have so far been barred from travelling.

In an effort to better understand the sparse information that is available, my research associate Emily Mellgard created a Google map indicating the military activity since the start of the state of emergency, the towns claimed to be under Boko Haram control, the routes by internally and externally displaced persons, and those allegedly taken by Boko Haram members fleeing Maiduguri at the start of the current events; as well as the incidents in Bama and Baga towns that immediately preceded President Jonathan’s declaration of the state of emergency.

The locations of some of the towns identified are not known by Google, and so cannot be mapped. Mobbar in northern Borno state is supposedly also under Boko Haram control. Marti in Borno, was identified for troop deployment. The Cameroonian town Darak, is a refugee destination. The military has purportedly also regained control of Krenoa area.

We caution that the map is indicative only, not definitive, and that it is based on government and military information as reported in the media.