BY PATRICIA TAFT*
In January, the Nigeria Stabilization and Reconciliation Program (NSRP) Sources filter continued to generate more reports about Violence Affecting Women and Girls (VAWG) than any other source integrated onto the platform. As we begin the first quarter of 2015, there are 50 self-identified Agents of Peace focusing on issues of gender in the NSRP states. As the project has grown, more organizations have stepped forward to be identified through the Observatory. Rivers continues to have the most Agents of Peace, with 17 organizations currently listed. On the other end of the spectrum, there are currently no self-identified Agents of Peace in Yobe, although we are currently working with NSRP to connect with partner CSOs focusing on gender issues. The trend of increasing overall violence in 2014 continued into December, however January 2015 reporting dropped significantly in a number of states.
This memo covers the month of January (data coding and uploading lags by a month) for the eight NSRP States: Borno, Yobe, Kano, Kaduna, Plateau, Rivers, Bayelsa, and Delta.
Scope and limitations: We recognize that the data collected is not a comprehensive tally of all incidents of violence, VAWG or otherwise. However, to the extent that the data is representative of the patterns and trends, findings are as indicated in the report below.
Overview of January 2015
With December reporting included, 2014 surpassed all previous years measured since 2009 in both incidents reported and fatalities. The significant jump in fatalities in 2014 is directly related to the number of mass casualties that took place over the course of the year in multiple bombings and large-scale, insurgency-related, attacks. However, the number of both reported incidents as well as the number of fatalities decreased in January 2015 from the previous month. It should be noted here that the drop in incidents and fatalities in January is not a reflection of decreased violence, but rather a marked decrease in reporting.
Reporting specifically on VAWG has followed the national trend, with the overall situation deteriorating during 2014 and January 2015. For the month of January 2015, Delta state had the highest number of reports per capita while Yobe state had the second highest number of reports. Data from Nigeria Watch reports the January 2015 data differently, indicating that Rivers had the highest number of overall incidents whereas Bayelsa had the most reports per capita. Borno had the most VAWG reports overall as well as reports per capita during the month. Yobe, tied for second with Delta and Rivers in overall reporting, was second per capita reporting for the month of January.
There has been a decline in reports over the past quarter. It is highly unlikely that this indicates a decline in actual incidents of violence against women and girls, but rather a delay in reporting of incidents. Such delays may be linked to general insecurity factors such as pre-election tensions and the ongoing insurgency in the North. In such a climate, the challenges become more manifold for Peace Agents collecting data and submitting reports. It is anticipated that retrospective data for January 2015 may become available in coming months if insecurity levels decrease.
Kano and Kaduna continue to become more fully online in 2015, as the Peace Clubs become more active, we expect to receive more reports. In the other six states, there are varying degrees of reporting coverage which, until the new service points come online for the Middle Belt and the Niger Delta in February, are largely based on reporting from other sources, including the media. The gap in data from the state of Yobe improved in January, with two incidents and fatalities affecting women and girls reported for the first time since June 2014.
In January 2015, the most prevalent incidences of violence against women and girls included abductions by Boko Haram and female suicide bombings in both Borno and Yobe states. Other reported incidents were the result of sexual assault, cult violence, and attacks that were politically motivated or had taken place during a robbery.
January Incidents by NSRP State
Below is a breakdown of issues reported in the month of January by each NSRP target state:
Borno State: In January, VAWG reports came from Maiduguri, Kukawa and Baga LGAs. Kukawa and Maiduguri remained the predominate area of incidents, however, insurgency related casualties of women and children were also reported in Baga. Abductions of women and girls was highest in Kukawa, where it was reported that approximately 300 women and children were rounded up and imprisoned by Boko Haram on January 3. Several reports suggested that women and children were largely targeted during sustained attacks against civilians in Baga. Heightened risks of female suicide bombings remained a concern after a bomb attack occurred on January 10 in Maiduguri. The attack involved a ten-year-old female suicide bomber under the direction of Boko Haram who killed 20 people and injured 18 others.
Yobe State: For the month of January, VAWG incidents were reported in Gujba and Potiskum. Unknown numbers of women and children were abducted following a Boko Haram attack on civilians in Gujba that killed 25 people. There were also two separate suicide bombing incidents involving young women which occurred in Potiskum. One pair of female suicide bombers killed three others and wounded 26 in one attack on a market place. The other pair of female bombers, both believed to be between the ages of 15 and 17, killed 39 civilians.
Kano State: There were no reported incidents related to VAWG from Kano State in January.
Kaduna State: There were no reported incidents related to VAWG from Kaduna State in January.
Plateau State: There were no reported incidents related to VAWG from Plateau in January.
Delta State: VAWG incidents were reported in Oshimili South, Aniocha North, Ika South, and Warri South LGAs in January. Two cases of direct sexual violence were reported. In Oshimili South, a 72-year-old man was arrested for sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl. In Warri South, a young girl was also reported to have been sexually assaulted. In Aniocha North, a pregnant woman was killed by her husband and his brother. In Ika South, 12 people including 3 pregnant women were killed during a cult supremacy clash. Lastly, in Warri South, cultists attacked a market with machetes, injuring women and children in the process.
Bayelsa State: There were no reported incidents related to VAWG from Bayelsa in January.
Rivers State: There were two VAWG incidents reported in Rivers State in January. In Asari-Toru LGA, a man and woman were attacked and robbed by Deebam cultists. In Okrika LGA, a party chairman and his wife were attacked and their political offices destroyed.
* Kendall Lawrence and Hannah Blyth also contributed to this report.