Nigeria’s Suffering Civilians

And the Plague of State Violence Against Them

People walk at the site after a bombing attack of an internally displaced persons camp in Rann, Nigeria, January 2017.  REUTERS

On January 17, the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) accidentally bombed a camp for internal refugees in Rann, in the country’s northeastern Borno State, killing an estimated 236 and wounding 120 more. The Nigerian government quickly expressed remorse at the mistake and argued that the event should not reflect on the professionalism of the NAF. In response, the International Committee of the Red Cross released a statement saying, “We are deeply saddened by the loss of our six colleagues and shocked that an incident of this magnitude has occurred in a civilian area,” while Doctors Without Borders called the event “shocking and unacceptable.”

The accidental bombing is but one example of the kind of violence that the Nigerian state subjects displaced people throughout Nigeria to every day. This violence is the result of both omission and commission.


The Boko Haram insurgency has displaced more than 2.3 million people throughout the Lake Chad Basin, resulting in one of today’s worst humanitarian crises. In response, the Nigerian government and its international partners have struggled to provide care for the civilians forced to flee their homes. Fewer than ten percent of the displaced live in an official government camp, perhaps because the living conditions at camps are so miserable. Residents complain of chronic food shortages, inadequate medical services, and a lack of any livelihood programs. In July, Doctors Without Borders gained access to an internal refugee camp in Bama, where they saw that 66 percent of the children were emaciated and there were more than 1,200 recently dug graves. Although Bama may be an outlier, in camps throughout the region, hunger and malnutrition are common complaints.

Camp residents complain of chronic food shortages, inadequate medical services, and a lack of any livelihood programs.

Conditions were so bad in February 2016 that residents of the Dalori II camp in Borno staged a protest. One camp leader, Hussina Usman, stated that, contrary to the government’s reports, the residents ate only once a day—if they received a meal at all. Malam

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