Nigeria’s ongoing battle with insurgent groups and continued government corruption threaten the stability and political integrity of Africa’s most populous state. Since 2011, Boko Haram—one of the largest Islamist militant groups in Africa—has conducted terrorist attacks on religious and political groups, local police, and the military, as well as indiscriminately attacking civilians in busy markets and villages. The kidnapping of over two hundred girls from their school in April 2014 drew international attention to the ongoing threat from Boko Haram and the government’s inability to contain it. Following negotiations between Boko Haram and the Nigerian government, brokered by the International Committee for the Red Cross, 103 girls have since been released.
President Muhammadu Buhari, the former military dictator who defeated incumbent Goodluck Jonathan, was elected in 2015 on a counterterrorism platform, but economic and political challenges in Nigeria have complicated the fight against Boko Haram. In addition to the military conflict, continuing uneven distribution of oil revenue, high levels of corruption, and violence in the Middle Belt region pose significant challenges to Nigerian security.
Links between Boko Haram and other Islamist groups could further intensify regional security concerns. After the group pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in March 2015, the United States boosted its military assistance and deployed three hundred troops to Nigeria in an effort to help in the fight against Boko Haram. As the largest African oil producer, the stability of Nigeria is important to regional security and U.S. economic interests.
After a peak in Boko Haram–related violence in 2014 and 2015, the number of casualties attributed to the group fell dramatically. The Nigerian military—with assistance from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, and Niger—has pushed Boko Haram out of several provinces in northeastern Nigeria, but the group retains control over some villages and pockets of territory and continues to launch deadly suicide attacks and abduct civilians, mostly women and children. In February 2018, more than one hundred students were kidnapped by a faction of Boko Haram known as Islamic State West Africa. They were released a little more than a month later.
The conflict has been primarily contained in the Muslim north, particularly in Borno state, but has displaced millions of people in the region. In June 2018, the Nigerian Army announced that two thousand internally displaced people were to return home. Security forces combatting the militants have also been accused of severe human rights abuses.