Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


Over 13 000 killed in Nigeria’s insurgency

10 January 2015, 12:50Tolu Ogunlesi, Africa Check

Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan said in 2014 that “over 13 000 people have been killed” in the violent Boko Haram campaign against the Nigerian state.

“Over the past five years, we have been, and are still confronting threats posed by Boko Haram to peace and stability,” he told the UN Security Council in New York. “The costs are high: over 13 000 people have been killed, whole communities razed, and hundreds of persons kidnapped.”

His claim was widely reported in Nigerian press. Africa Check examined the evidence.

Numbers vary

There are varying figures for the numbers of people killed since Boko Haram began its insurgency in 2009. (For more on the group, read Africa Check's factsheet.)

The Nigeria Social Violence Project, under the auspices of the Johns Hopkins University Africa programme, has recorded 11 121 deaths since the start of the insurgency. Their figures include killings by the militants and by the Nigerian security forces, who have repeatedly been accused of extrajudicial killings by human rights organisations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Other reports focus on shorter time-frames. Human Rights Watch has said that attacks by Boko Haram “killed at least 2 053 civilians... during the first half of 2014“.

Killings by Boko Haram and the Nigerian military

According to Amnesty International “more than 4 000” people have been killed “by the Nigerian military and Boko Haram” in 2014.

Between May and December 2013, according to the United Nations Humanitarian Agency (OCHA), 1 224 people were killed by Boko Haram.

As for the deaths of civilians and militants at the hands of the armed forces, Amnesty International says it “received credible information from a senior officer in the Nigerian army that over 950 people died in military custody in the first six months of 2013”.

Add this to the 4 000 fatalities reported thus far in 2014, and the widely-held estimates of 3 000 to 4 000 deaths between 2009 and mid-2013, and the total number of people killed by Boko Haram and the Nigerian military would be, conservatively speaking, 9 000 to 10 000.

‘Three to five times more people killed than reported’

Higher figures are reported by the Nigeria Security Tracker, a project run by Africa programme of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). It estimates the death toll from May 2011 (when it began its work) to August 2014 at over 17 500. This includes 6 742 deaths linked directly to Boko Haram, and a further 10 806 killings involving “Boko Haram and state perpetrators”. The latter category covers instances in which armed forces and insurgents have directly engaged each other, and in which it is not always clear who the victims are. CFR measures extra-judicial killings by state forces separately.

Asked why their figures are significantly higher than those reported by human rights organisations, Allen Grane, a research assistant on CFR’s Africa programme said: “When we add a violent occurrence to the tracker we always take the highest reported number. We do this as we have been told by multiple non-profits on the ground that the figures range from three to five times what is actually reported.”

The limits of counting deaths

The inconsistent death toll figures are understandable. According to the CFR: “Relying on press reports of violence presents methodological limitations. There is a dearth of accurate reporting across certain regions, death tolls are imprecise, and accounts of incidents vary. There is the potential for political manipulation of media.”

For its part, the Nigerian Social Violence Project cautions that its “categories overlap”, and therefore “deaths may be counted in more than one category”.

Conclusion: The 13 000 death toll is broadly accurate

The available data suggests that as few 9 000 and as many as 17 500 people have died in the insurgency. The latter figure includes killings by both Boko Haram and the Nigerian military.

It is unclear whether President Jonathan’s claim of 13 000 deaths referred to those at the hands of the insurgents or through the conflict in general. However, the statement would appear to be broadly accurate if killings at the hands of the military are also included.

- "Africa Check a non-partisan organisation which promotes accuracy in public debate and the media. Twitter @AfricaCheck and www.africacheck.org".

- Full report.

- Supplied


Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Nigeria @ 56: Words to my green f...

A leader’s job is not to dictate, but rather to be respected, admired and be a trustee, of the land we love, with so much potential, a land which should be freer than free. Its still a long way to fufilling our destiny! Read more...

Submitted by
Isaac Asabor263
Recession: An opportunity for Nig...

The recession should be seen as an opportunity for the country’s promotion as long as we all collectively conduct ourselves in a patriotic manner, writes Isaac Asabor.  Read more...

Submitted by
Black and White

We want to imitate the whites in everything because we are ignorant of our inherent originality and content. We spend all our Naira to acquire his inventions because we so oblivious of our natural endowments that we allow him have it for free. Read more...

Submitted by
Nate Nat
Adamawa State University Mubi: A ...

ADSU integrity forum has accused the Sunday Joshua Wugira, a lawyer, of adopting unorthodox tactics by abusing his privilege by attacking the integrity of ADSU Vice Chancellor Dr. Moses Zira Zaruwa, writes a News24 reader. Read more...

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
My Country Nigeria (Part One)

Poetry by Abdulsalam Jubril.

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
Recession, dearth in leadership a...

Every leader has the opportunity to become great and making himself immortal in the lives and hearts of people for generations to come. Will Mr. President seize this opportunity?, questions Abdulsalam Jubril. Read more...