John Campbell

Africa in Transition

Campbell tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa.

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Nigeria Security Tracker Goes Live

by John Campbell
December 27, 2012

A car burns at the scene of a bomb explosion at St. Theresa Catholic Church at Madalla 25/12/2011. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters) A car burns at the scene of a bomb explosion at St. Theresa Catholic Church at Madalla 25/12/2011. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters)

The Nigeria Security Tracker is now accessible on cfr.org; check it out.

The Nigeria Security Tracker (NST) is a research project of the Council’s Africa program that I direct. The project was originally envisioned by Asch Harwood. The NST documents and maps violence in Nigeria that is motivated by political, economic or social grievances. There is a map that documents deaths by state. There are three graphs that show deaths over time; weekly violent deaths by perpetrator (Boko Haram, state security services, and deaths from sectarian/communal violence); and cumulative weekly violent deaths in Nigeria by perpetrator.

The map and graphs are interactive: they organize the data by state but also by timeframe. For example, they show the steady spread of Boko Haram and security service violence from east to west. At the time of President Jonathan’s inauguration, most of the Boko Haram violence was centered in Borno. By the last quarter of 2012, it had spread to every state in the North, though it remained most intense in Borno and Yobe.

The NST data date from President Goodluck Jonathan’s 2011 inauguration day and go through the end of October 2012. It is regularly updated, and data from November 2012 should be included in the next week or so.

The NST is based on a methodical and regular survey of Nigerian and international press reports.

The NST is most valuable as an indicator of trends, not the exact number of victims. Violence is often under-reported in Nigeria and there can be significant differences between official figures and those of other observers. For example, experienced foreign and Nigerian non-governmental organization (NGO) field workers have told me that a rule of thumb is to multiply official death figures by five to get a more accurate picture.

For more on Boko Haram and some conclusions based on the NST, see the Expert Brief I published with Asch Harwood on December 26, and Toni Johnson’s Backgrounder, “Boko Haram,” updated today.

Post a Comment 2 Comments

  • Posted by Folusho Dolire

    The result of your work is good but certainly not representative of the situations on ground; that makes it less reliable. The models used are not stated and i do not see how the NST is going to elicit local support. Uncertainties, as you mentioned are huge, that also makes it difficult to be relied on. Data sufficiency and reliability is are primal issues here. Relying on media report alone can inform me about the potential danger of visiting any northern state; how can your tracker take over this function when it is not holistic enough.

  • Posted by Chike Chukudebelu

    I applaud the time and effort put into this (rather morbid) illustration of violence in Nigeria.

    The next logical question is “then what?”.

    My problem with a lot of Western scholarship about Nigeria/Africa is that it is descriptive, not prescriptive. Even if Western scholars are unaware of these morbid statistics, Nigerians like me are not.

    So how does it help people like me? How different is it from the stereotypical “disaster voyeurism” that has come to dominate most of Western media’s coverage of Africa. Does it improve security outcomes or prescribe carefully considered solutions to our problems?

    The answer is no.

    We are digging a hole, but merely describing the velocity at which we are digging the hole, and the acceleration or deceleration rate does note change the fundamental fact; we are digging a hole.

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