In a brutal rampage that began Jan. 3, 2015, Boko Haram militants laid waste to the Northern Nigerian town of Baga. Thousands fled from their homes. Now, over a year later, the death toll is still unknown.
The attack was covered by much of the mainstream media as having been the worst attack by Boko Haram militants to date. However, determining that would require a proper assessment of the damage to the town, and more importantly, a credible and accurate death toll. Some media outlets reported that as many as 2,000 people may have been killed in the massacre. A week after the attacks, a report from the Nigerian government put the death toll at only 150. All numbers reported by the media were, and still are, estimates.
The initial event received coverage from most major news outlets, albeit to a subdued extent, having been overshadowed in the Western media by the Jan. 7, 2015 attacks on Charlie Hebdo in Paris. However, a Jan. 14, 2015 Daily Maverick analysis said the death toll hadn’t been independently verified due to a lack of independent reporting and oversight in the region. Furthermore, the Daily Maverick analysis reports that the initial figure of 2,000 deaths was given by a government source that hadn’t been present in Baga at the time of the attacks and was basing the number on eyewitness accounts. On Jan. 9, 2016, the Guardian published an article marking the one-year anniversary of the attacks. The Guardian article used the number an “estimated 2,000 people” killed, because there has still been no independent investigation into the death toll.
Ryan Cummings, “Murder by numbers: Assessing the credibility of the Baga death toll,” Daily Maverick, January 14, 2015, http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/opinionista/2015-01-14-murder-by-numbers-assessing-the-credibility-of-the-baga-death-toll/#.Vuof1DZnfzI
BBC, “Boko Haram crisis: Nigeria estimates Baga deaths at 150,” BBC News, January 12, 2015, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-30788480
Eromo Egbejule, “The massacre Nigeria forgot: a year after Boko Haram’s attack on Baga,” Guardian, January 9, 2016, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jan/09/nigeria-baga-massacre-boko-haram-1-year-on
Student Researcher: Brandon Harder (University of Regina)
Faculty Evaluator: Patricia W. Elliott (University of Regina)