Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Studies (CHRHS)

Community Perceptions of Military Involvement in Epidemic Response in the Northeast Region of Nigeria

Implications for Civilian-Military Relations

Military Officer Taking Temperature of Civilian in Nigeria

© 2020 George Osodi/Bloomberg via Getty Images

For over a decade, the northeastern region of Nigeria has been plagued by violence perpetrated by the armed group Jama'atuAhlis Sunna Lidda’awatiwal-Jihad (JAS), popularly known as Boko Haram. The humanitarian crisis in this region has affected 29.6 million people, with 2.2 million people internally displaced and over 190,000 people fleeing for Niger, Chad and Cameroon as refugees. Coupled with the highest rate of poverty in Nigeria, the situation in the northeastern region has become one of the world’s largest humanitarian crises and the fastest growing displacement crisis in Africa. Additionally, these vulnerable communities also face outbreaks of infectious diseases, such as Ebola, Polio, and, most recently, COVID-19. In response, the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the National Disaster Response Plan (NDRP) were created to devise a more coordinated and comprehensive strategy to deal with these crises. In Nigeria, the military is a crucial actor in the mitigation of such domestic challenges. Military intervention during disease outbreaks has evolved significantly over the past decade. However, despite common goals recognized by both military and civilian entities, numerous gaps remain in civil-military coordination in epidemic response. This research aims to assess civilian perception and interaction with Nigerian military’s involvement in epidemic response, using insights from both the military and civilian populations. Recommendations provided in the report aim to improve civilian-military stakeholder collaboration.