Skip to main content

Life Count: Analysis Of The Deaths And Continuous Deaths Of Nigerians In A Non-War Zone

This analysis attempts to bring to the fore the number of lives that have been lost in Nigeria to the inefficiency in our security systems from 2011 to 2019 using available data.



Currently, the genocide in the English speaking regions of Cameroon has led to the death of about 10,000 people, according to an activist from one of the haunted areas. The Cameroonian president, Paul Biya, has ordered war on Southern Cameroonian secessionist and its people.

Since the 3-year impasse between Anglophone leaders and the Biya government, reports say over 200 villages have been burnt down, homes sacked and many forced into exile. This is one instance where many international agencies and western countries have turned their back to pleas for intervention. Contrast the Southern Cameroonian situation to neighbouring Nigeria. There is no full-blown war but somehow, tens of thousands have been killed in the last eight years.

As sad as it is to admit, death is becoming normalized in Nigeria. We would have expected a stronger sense of responsibility on the part of the government. We would have hoped that they hugely condemn the killings of thousands of Nigerians but the war against insurgency has been politicized too often. Government statements on decimating the insurgents, have been brutally replied with daring attacks. In saner climes, we have seen decisive government actions on the death of just one or two persons.  When it gets to hundreds and thousands like it has in Nigeria, it is just another time to cash out he undeclared war landscape in Nigeria.

Since the Boko Haram insurgency was ignited in 2009, killings have been a regular feature in Nigeria. This deadly group has killed thousands of people, maimed many and displaced families. Till date, there has been no full audit of these deaths and the corresponding socio-economic effect it has had on the country.

According to the Institute of Security Studies, headed by veteran African Security analyst, Jakkie Cilliers, 37% of the 39,286 violence-related fatalities recorded in Africa in 2014 occurred in Nigeria, mainly as a result of attacks by Boko Haram. This is followed closely by the percentage of such fatalities related to attacks by Al-Shabaab in Somalia. That same year, Boko Haram were responsible for the deaths of 6,664 people, 561 more than deaths attributed to ISIS.

According to the Global Index Terrorism Report 2018, although Nigeria has the least increase in terrorism deaths from 2015-2016, it still remains the 3rd highest impacted country with terrorism in the world. 

As we have also observed, Boko Haram is not the only agent of death that Nigerians have had to grapple with in recent years. Another monster has been unleashed into the arena, the herdsmen. According to the Department for State Security (DSS), a large number of these herdsmen are not Nigerians, they are people from other countries who armed themselves from the stockpile of ammunition built-up during the unseating of Muammar Gadaffi in Libya in 2011. In the last three years, herdsmen have unleashed terror on Nigerian communities with Benue, Plateau, Kaduna, Adamawa and Taraba states the worst hit. There is also the little matter of deaths as a result of accidents, banditry and election violence.

This analysis attempts to bring to the fore the number of lives that have been lost in Nigeria to the inefficiency in our security systems from 2011 to 2019 using available data.


Boko Haram is the third most deadly terrorist group on the map after ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) and Al-Qaeda. The murderous militants who reign supreme in the Northeastern region of the country, have pushed the Taliban that once governed all of Afghanistan into fourth position, according to the Global terrorism Index 2017 report.

Data gathered by CFR, an independent, nonpartisan membership organization and think tank based in the United States, Boko Haram has been responsible for the death of 16,533 civilians between 2011 and June 2019. Within this period, 2,877 state actors including soldiers, Policemen, Civil Defense Corps and Vigilante groups have lost their lives as well. On the other hand, 15,915 Insurgents have been killed within this time frame.  This brings the number of lives they have caused to be wiped-out to 35,325 in Nigeria as at June 2019.

These deaths are predominantly in the northeastern states of Borno, Adamawa, Yobe, and Taraba. There were also deaths recorded in Niger, Abuja, Kaduna and Bauchi at several points within the years in view.

A breakdown of the deaths in years reveals that there are more deaths under the previous administration than in President Muhammadu Buhari’s first tenure.

The documentation of killings started in May 2011 and in that year alone, 597 people were killed. Out of this number, 379 were civilians, 123 State actors and 95 were terrorists. The number of deaths increased to 1,673; 1,102 Civilians, 340 state actors and 231 insurgents in 2012.

In 2013, the death toll continued to rise with 1,784 civilians losing their lives as well as 298 State Actors and 584 Boko Haram members. Boko Haram killings reached a crescendo in 2014, as Nigeria was building up towards the 2015 General Elections. At list 5,500 civilians lost their lives. While 6,308 insurgents were killed in return— the highest number so far. No fewer than 450 state actors are recorded to have lost their lives too.

Despite the change in leadership in 2015, 5,260 civilians died, 450 security officials were killed, while 4,751 Boko Haram members were vanquished.

In 2016, 2017 and 2018, Civilian deaths numbered 690, 827 and 587 respectively, while state actors deaths were 231, 202 and 459 in that order. For the insurgents, 1,354, 947 and 872 were killed in the three years.

As at June 2019, Nigeria has already recorded 404 Civilian deaths; 773 Boko Haram members have been killed and 491 state actors murdered as well.


While the death toll seems to have reduced, this cannot be attributed to a superior military might from the Nigerian army and allied forces. Last year, videos abound on social media of several misdemeanors within the ranks of the military which led to avoidable deaths.

Boko Haram has since split into Islamic State of the West African Province (ISWAP), a resultant effect of the tapering war in Syria and the unwillingness of the African Union to police the human, arms and organ smuggling roots in the Sahara Desert. Add the lack of a coordinated effort at finding peace in both regional and continental African blocs, to the drying up of water bodies like the Lake Chad, the continued suppression of the girl-child and an overall absence of governance, and you would have brewed the potent cocktail of destruction that is fueling killings in the country. Maybe African leaders will take note when holocaust status is attained.


Before 2016, herdsmen were not known to be killers but riding on the crest of the Libyan crisis which led to proliferation of arms, a new breed of herdsmen entered into Nigeria and unleashed terror on its people killing farmers and destroy communities where their herd have been denied access to fresh grass, this was the narration sold to the people by the Nigerian government.

A report by Global index revealed that the herdsmen crisis, which went up another notch in the last three years has led to a 300% increase in deaths. Between 2010 and 2013, there were just 80 deaths as a result of herdsmen-farmer but it has been on the rise since then. Deaths rose to 1,229 in 2014 and then reduced to 525 in 2015.

By 2016, Nigerians have woken up to the new reality, tales of woes of herdsmen attacking villages and communities in several parts of the country, from Southern Kaduna down to the South Eastern state of Enugu. That year alone, 4,940 people lost their lives. The gory tales continued in 2017 with a total of 1,832 deaths and 1700 in 2018.

In 2019, there has been no specified number of deaths recorded as a result of the herdsmen, as many have observed, the herder-farmer heat simmered in the build up to the 2019 general elections. The Nigerian government has since been toiling with ideas to find a permanent end to the clashes, like the RUGA policy which was met with stiff resistance from Nigerians (especially southerners) and has since been suspended.




While Nigerians were still dealing with the new form of violence in herdsmen crisis, another form of doom ensued within the northern spaces, banditry. This, as described by victims are a group of blood-thirsty armed bandits who unleash terror on people, these bandits are involved in kidnapping, cattle rustling and gruesome murder of people in any community they set on. This was a dominant feature in the Nigerian media in 2018 as states like Zamfara, were said to be under siege.

Death, as a result of banditry shot to the roof from below 20 in 2013 to well over 200 in 2019. According to CFR, the total death as a result of banditry in Zamfara was 27 as at June 2012 but then in 2013, it increased to 62 people. 258 died in 2014 while no death was recorded in 2015. In 2016, the violence continued with 75 people losing their lives, this increased to 121 in 2017 and then 41 in 2018.


Another death trap for Nigerians is Election Violence. Election time is always a tense period in Nigeria, every four years the polity is heated with a lot of division among Nigerians, friction always arises among politicians which has led to several incidences of election violence in the country. According to Policy and Legal advocacy Centre (PLAC) an independent CSO in Nigeria, 800 people lost their lives in the 2011 elections, this can be attributed to the uproar after Goodluck Jonathan was declared winner over then serial candidate, Muhammadu Buhari at the polls. Violence erupted in states like Bauchi, Kaduna and Kano leading to these deaths.

During the 2015 polls, there were about 105 lives lost, a far cry from the number in 2011 despite the major opposition being declared winner over the incumbent. In 2019, only 39 deaths were recorded.


Also worthy of mention is death caused by road accidents, while this may not be tagged to major security breach, it shows how government has been nonchalant towards lives of its people.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, deaths as a result of road accidents was 5,539 in 2013. 4430 people lost their lives in 2014, 5400 in 2015 while 5,053 died in 2016.

5049 people died as a result of road accidents in 2017 while there was a major reduction with 2, 623 people losing their lives in 2018. This reduction may be attributed to the improvement on road construction under this present administration.


On the whole, over 60, 000 Nigerians have lost their lives in the last 8 years to a major breach in security, without the country being in a war. This number does not however include Q\

undocumented deaths, the maimed, incapacitated, impoverished and displaced people who lives have been altered within this period.

We have watched our beloved country degenerate into a terrorist state and western countries giving travel advice to their citizens to avoid Nigeria. While we may not be able to put a figure to the economic loss, we can at least talk about precious lives.

It is worthy to note, that had there been a strong political will and lack of corruption, most of these deaths would have been avoided. For instance, several promises by the incumbent president, Muhammadu Buhari, has seen the country invest billions of dollars and dedicated more troops to fight Boko Haram insurgents, with the support of neighbouring countries like Cameroon, Niger and Chad. These efforts have largely reduced the powers of the terrorist group but a lot still needs to be done.

Also, internal security is key as the country now has a whole lot of other insurgents to battle, we hope the country and its citizens will enjoy a better lease of life in the second term of the President.