News / Africa

Northeast Nigeria Under State of Emergency

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan (C, with black hat) visits St. Theresa's Catholic church, the scene of a Christmas day bomb attack, just outside the capital Abuja, December 31, 2011.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan (C, with black hat) visits St. Theresa's Catholic church, the scene of a Christmas day bomb attack, just outside the capital Abuja, December 31, 2011.
Nick Loomis

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency Saturday in parts of northern Nigeria affected by the Islamist militant group, Boko Haram.  The president also closed some borders as a temporary security measure.

After Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the Christmas Day bombings that left at least 40 people dead, President Jonathan put the measures in place to restore order in the troubled north.

"The crisis has assumed a terrorist dimension by attacking institutions of government, including the United Nations building and places of worship becoming targets of terrorist attacks," he said.  "While the search for a lasting solution is ongoing, it has become imperative to take decisive measures necessary to restore normalcy in the country, especially within the affected communities.  Consequently, I have in the exercise of the powers conferred on me by the provisions of 305, of subsection one of the constitution, declared a state of emergency."

Under harsh criticism from Nigeria's Christians over what they as the government's inability to protect them, Jonathan also stepped up security by creating a counter-terrorism force and closing borders with Cameroon, Chad, and Niger.

"The temporary closure of our borders in the affected areas is only an interim measure designed to address the current security challenges and will be resumed as soon as normalcy is restored," said the president.  

That could be a long time, as Boko Haram - meaning "Western education is sinful" in Hausa - has seemingly succeeded in increasing tensions and violence between the Muslim north and Christian south.

Ethnic violence resulted in more than 50 deaths Saturday in clashes between Ezza and Ezilo groups in the eastern state of Ebonyi.  The violence reportedly began over farmland disputes - an old security problem in a country dealing with a growing new one.

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