In August 2014, the armed opposition group (AOG) Boko Haram captured a town called Gwoza in Northeast Nigeria and declared the town its headquarters. Civilians in the area fled into Maiduguri, the capital of Nigeria’s Borno state, and over the border into neighboring Cameroon. The Nigerian military recaptured Gwoza town in March 2015, but the area was not fully secured. On the contrary, Jama’atu Ahl al-Sunna li-l-Da‘wa wa-l-Jihad (JASDJ), the successor to Boko Haram, frequently carried out predatory attacks on civilians who lived outside of the town perimeter, destroying farmland, looting crops, killing and abducting hundreds of civilians, and causing additional widespread displacement. More recently, as ISWAP has consolidated power across the northeast, Gwoza remains at risk.
While civilians have said that the security situation has improved each year since the Nigerian military recaptured the town – with attacks on Gwoza shifting from being a regular occurrence to being sporadic in 2020, and further improvements noted in 2021 – challenges to protection still remain. In July 2021, Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC) interviewed civilians residing in the Gwoza and Maiduguri areas, community militia members, traditional leaders, and international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) to explore the impact of shifting armed opposition group (AOG) tactics on civilians and the Nigerian military’s response. The “Civilian Protection Snapshot: Gwoza, Nigeria” captures the research findings and provides recommendations based on these findings and the analysis provided in this snapshot.