Civilians in northeast Nigeria are caught in the middle of an ongoing conflict between the Government of Nigeria and multiple armed opposition groups (AOGs) that have grown from Boko Haram since 2009. Tens of thousands have lost their lives, with many more injured and millions displaced from their homes and facing food insecurity. Efforts to defeat AOGs have been complicated, however, by a well-documented history of civilian harm and abuse by government security forces resulting in poor civil-military relations generally, and particularly in the northeast.
In 2018, Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC) began engaging with communities and the military in northeast Nigeria to address the civil-military relationship, which according to civilians in the region, is a critical component to realizing improved protection. CIVIC began by providing training to Nigerian security forces on the protection of civilians and civilian harm mitigation. Recognizing that civilians are the best agents of their own protection, CIVIC then sought to enable civilian advocacy through the formation of local community protection committees. The goal of these committees was to first assess the threats to the community, and then to pursue improved protection outcomes through advocacy and engagement with security forces. Finally, civilians participating in the CPCs and military leaders deployed to the community engaged in new dialogue concerning civilian protection threats and the local civil-military relationship. Throughout this process civilians were encouraged to regularly engage with security forces to advocate for their protection from AOG attacks and raise concerns related to abuses committed by both state and non-state forces. This brief, “Barriers and Bridges to Protection: Civil-Military Engagement in Northeast Nigeria“, is intended to be a reflection on the dialogue and engagement process in Banki and Monguno since 2019.