Nigeria: A Case For International Humanitarian Intervention?

22 May 2014


This week marked 5 weeks since hundreds of schoolgirls were kidnapped from their school in Chibok, a village located in the turbulent region of north-eastern Nigeria. Although initial reporting of the kidnapping was meagre, the world has been stunned and angered by news of events that have emerged in the weeks following the incident. Save for an estimated 53 girls who have managed to escape, the whereabouts of most of the girls remains a mystery.  A video has emerged that appears to show the leader of a notorious Nigerian fundamentalist group, Boko Haram, taking responsibility of the kidnappings. Since the disappearance of schoolgirls in Chibok, other disturbing incidents have occurred in the county. Such incidents include, the kidnapping of a further 8 girls in another village, the shooting of more than 50 people at a market and a bombing in Jos, in which it was reported more than 100 people were killed.  


A significant aspect of the incident was that the girls were taken irrespective of religious affiliation. As a result, rather than incite further division among civilians by exacerbating religious differences, the unfortunate events have pushed the community together as they strive as one, in their pursuit to locate and bring their girls home.


The abduction of the girls has uncovered concerns felt across the world about the need to bring fundamentalist behaviour to an end. However, the failure of the Nigerian government to locate and rescue the girls has brought to light the fears felt by not only Nigerians but the international community also. The international community has exhibited frustration with the country’s slow, and to date, unsuccessful response. This has been manifested in various ways, such as through demonstrations and social media.  These concerns have raised questions the Nigerian government’s capability to rescue the kidnapped school girls as well the country’s ability to quell extremist behaviour.


Perhaps though, there is an element of unfairness to the condemnation of the Nigerian government in their response to the missing schoolgirls. The country and more importantly, its army, simply lack the resources necessary to handle a situation like this. It is possible that the sheer scale of the task that the country has had the displeasure of dealing with, has not fully registered for some people; the task being to locate and rescue a reported 286 girls out of an estimated population of over 173 million, in an area spanning more than three times the size of Italy. It is a daunting task, to say the least.


Several leaders have come forward to offer their nation’s assistance in the search for the missing girls. The U.S., France and the U.K are just some of the countries that have offered help so far.


Until recently though, the country was supposedly reluctant to welcome international assistance in dealing with religious extremism. Although, perhaps Nigeria’s initial doubts with regards to accepting international help were not entirely incomprehensible. Indeed, there have been cases where international humanitarian intervention has arguably done little in the way of improving already fraught situations.


There is no doubt that Nigeria needs help in rescuing the missing girls and weakening the powers of religious extremists. What is important though, is that in order for international intervention to succeed where the Nigerian government has not, there has to exist a sound understanding of the socio-economic, cultural and religious aspects of the country. A solution which may be appropriate for one country may not fare so well in another. As a result, it is important that whatever solution is decided upon, it should be one that is well-suited not only to Nigeria but more specifically the region in which the abductions took place.


To access a timeline, documenting the events that have taken place since the initial kidnapping of the schoolgirls on 14th April, click here.


To join in with the social media campaign to rescue the kidnapped schoolgirls of Chibok tweet the following:




Back to News

Help our local partners realise their vision of hope for their communities