On 14th May 2013 President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in three states of Nigeria which were Borno, Yobe and Adamwara. This came to be known as the Nigerian Emergency. The emergency was imposed due to the increasing terrorist attacks of Boko Haram which became one of the dangerous terrorist groups after 2009, because of the conflicts between government forces of Nigeria.

There are other factors which boosted such horrific attacks are a socioeconomic factor, political factor and religious factor. As far as a socioeconomic factor is concerned, the large part of the Nigerian youths is unemployed due to lack of economic and social progress resulting poverty which provides an incentive for them to engage in militancy and other social vices. Poverty is the cause of insurgency and terrorism. Further, political factor, after the independence of Nigeria from colonial power of Great Britain it included 300 and 400 distinct ethnic groups and various expressions of three dominant religion, Islam, Christianity and Traditional Animist. These kinds of diversities also cause internal conflict within the country.

This article will be discussing Boko Haram, its attacks and retaliation by Nigeria, international responses and human rights violation caused by the attacks and the state of Nigerian emergency and how it has unfolded throughout.


Boko Haram means ‘Westernization Is Sacrilege’ byname of Jam’ at Ahl al-Sunnah li-l-Da’awahwa al-Jih’d which means ‘People Committed to the Prophet’s Teachings for Propagation and Jihad’. Originally, Mohd. Yusuf formed a group called Jam’at Ahl al-Sunnah li-l-Da’awahwa al-Jih’d translated as ‘Association of the people, of the Sunnah for preaching and Jihad’ or people committed to the Prophet’s Teaching for propagation and Jihad’ situated in the capital of Borno, Maiduguri, Nigeria. Another short name ‘Boko Haram’ was given to that group which means ‘westernization is sacrilege’ by the neighbours who would see their lifestyle and teachings.

Initially, they pretended that they were intended to uproot the corruption and injustice in Nigeria which, as they believed, arose due to the western influences, also, they were intended to impose Sharia or Islamic law. Boko Haram became popular in July 2009, when the group members were allegedly subjected to the excessive use of force by police and did not get an official investigation into the matter. Consequently, they attacked the police post, government agencies and killed the number of police officers.


With the intention to avenge, the group of Boko Haram moved towards their targets who were primarily police officers. They attacked individuals in the city of Bauchi and released more than 700 inmates including Boko Haram’s members. Their primary targets were Police, Military and Government- Agencies as well as Christen Churches, Schools and Muslim Individuals who criticised their horrific activities. Their violent activities were carried on, gradually they covered many eastern parts of Nigeria.

Keeping in view the situation caused by the group the President of Nigeria made an attempt to further protect citizens. He made a proposal to grant amnesty to the Boko Haram armies if they disarmed. The leader of the group, ‘Shekau’, rejected the proposal stating that ‘Boko Haram members had not done anything for which they needed amnesty’. which led to the declaration of Nigerian emergency.

Consequently, on 14th May 2013, President Goodluck Jonathan declared ‘State of Emergency’ in Nigeria for three states which are Borno, Yobe and Adamwara. After a month of declaration of Nigerian emergency, he declared Boko Haram a terrorist group and banned it under Nigerian Laws, which meant that group members and anyone caught aiding them would be prosecuted under the country’s Terrorism Prevention Act. The new legal designation was expected to make it easier for authorities to prosecute members of the group legally. Their violent act extended when they abducted 275 girls from a boarding school in Chibok and Borno in August 2014. They planned three different attacks in the town of Gombaru Ngala on the Cameroon Border due to which around 336 people died, a car bombing in Jos and an attack on the Military base in Yobe. In February 2016, Boko Haram attacked two villages in northeast Nigeria which killed 30 people, in another attack in the same month two female suicide bombers killed 58 people at a Nigerian Refugee Camp and such attacks still continue in Nigeria.


To protect the civilians from the brutal violence caused by Boko Haram, President Jonathan did many attempts and he was supported by his neighbouring countries as well. Pursuant to that President Jonathan signed the Terrorism (Prevention) Act in 2011, which was later amended in 2012, which authorised the death penalty upon conviction for any individual convicted of stated terrorist acts. He granted extra powers to security without legal encumbrances. Despite added measures, Nigeria failed to protect its citizens from heinous incidents which may be classified as a crime against humanity.

The Speaker of the House of Representative Amino Waziri Tambuwal stated in March 2014, that federal lawmaker must be prepared to act to end the violence. Moreover, President Jonathan appointed veteran Security Chief, Abuja Mohammad Gusua as his new Defense Minister. With the sole agenda of ending the violence activities, the first conference commenced in Abuja on 17th March 2014. In addition to these neighbouring countries, France, Cameroon, Chad, Niger and the Republic of Benin entered into an agreement on ‘massive, joint offensive’ against the insurgency. The agreement included the enhancement of coordination and intelligence exchange. The party countries also committed to effective border patrolling as a result of the agreement defence ministers from the six-nation Lake Chad Basin Commission agreed to establish a multinational force to bolster security in the region. Sadly, this endeavour did not prove effective since the attacks subsisted.

Then, a revisited Multinational Joint Task Force was authorised in January 2015 by the African Union Peace and Security Council and strongly supported the United Nation. Moreover, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Benin committed to contributing to a force of 8,700 troops, which will be stationed along the Nigerian Border in order to contain Boko Haram’s regional expansion. Commissioner for Political Affairs confirmed a partnership with the United Nation and the Nigerian Government in a new Weapon Collection Programme for Northern Nigeria.

The success achieved in some of the missions by the Nigerian Government:-

In May 2017 eighty two Chibok schoolgirls who were abducted by the group were released after negotiation between Boko Haram and Nigerian Government.

In February 2018 statement of Justice Ministry stated that Nigerian High Court convicted 205 Boko Haram suspects alleging involvement with that group of terrorists and sentenced to imprisonment from three to sixty years.

In March 2018, Minister of Information and Culture Alhaji Lai Mohammad stated that 104 of the girls abducted from their boarding school have been released and returned to their hometown of Dapchi.

In May 2018, the Nigerian Army stated that it rescued more than 1,000 detainees including mostly women and children.

In May 2019, UNICEF reported that 1,727 children had been released since the Civilian Joint Task Force signed an action plan in 2017 to end child recruitment.


Member State Actors

United States and the United Kingdom made efforts to free Nigeria from the horrific attacks of Boko Haram. The attack and abduction of school girls shook the conscience of every nation due to which France assisted in to release those girls from the custody of Boko Horam ruthless people. Where most of the countries were helping Nigeria in combating with the Group its co-ordination and co-operation with all of them deserved to be commended. It also applauded the United States aid team and Israel Counter Terror team.

Amnesty International Report (2013-2015)

It gave special attention to the Chibok abduction wherein 276 schoolgirls were abducted by Boko Haram. It gave high intense to migration case as a result of Boko Haram terrorism and non-functioning acts of government. According to report since May 2013 approximately, 1.5 million people were forced to flee to other parts of the Nigerian and neighbouring countries to seek refugee protection.

Human Right Watch Report (2013-15)

This report mentioned the spreading in Nigeria not only mentioned about the Boko Haram’s human right violation but also Nigerian Government Military forces violence was extremely critical. Further, it stated that soldiers had allegedly burned homes and executed Boko Haram suspects or residence with no apparent links to the group. The Report also recommended the International Community to overcome Boko Horam’s international human rights violence. The recommendations were mainly about the UK, US, EU and UN, it is basically relevant to:-

  • Create support for independent commissions to investigate human rights violations.
  • Prevent abduction and sexual abuse.
  • To have clear procedures to search crimes, sexual and gender violence by Boko Haram.
  • Decide a condition of health- care for women and girls in Nigeria.
  • Provide Psycho-Social and Mental Health Services for the victim of the sexual abuses.


From contemplating the situation that ensued during the Nigerian emergency by the terrorist group Boko Haram, it can be inferred that the attack shows how an offensive and arbitrary action of police and military can be turned out in a massive social disaster. The situation which has been facing by Nigerian citizens for years as a consequence of extra-judicial killings of Boko Haram chief and members. Although, the avenge by that group is not at all justified since it caused human right violation at great extent, the day to day increasing violence caused social disaster as many citizens fled to another country to seek protection. As of now, the attacks by the Boko Haram still subsist in certain areas of Nigeria, and with the attacks, Nigerian emergency cannot be eradicated.


  • Human Right Violation By Boko Haram, written by Ozge San, published on Academia.
  • International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect.
  • Children in Conflict, Boko Haram Crisis by UNICEF.
  • ‘Boko Haram’ United Nation Human Rights Council.
  • ‘Boko Haram’ written by the Editor of Encyclopaedia Britannica.