Nigeria more than doubled its per capita income between 1990 and 2010; but progress towards the MDGs has been inconsistent and hampered by sharp social inequalities.

While the country has achieved significant declines in HIV infections, and in 2010 reported good potential for meeting MDG 6 on combating infectious diseases, child and maternal health indicators continued to reflect inequalities between the poor, predominantly Muslim north and the oil-rich south.

In a particularly worrying development, in northern Zamfara state, labour-intensive artisanal gold mining has left widespread lead poisoning, especially among children, killing more than 400 of them since 2010. Around 2,500 others have received treatment, but thousands more have not. This is because environmental remediation, or decontamination, has not been undertaken, with the result that the children's exposure continues and any therapy would be ineffective.

In December an Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) court ordered the Nigerian federal government to enforce regulations on six oil companies responsible for oil spills, ensuring that they carry out adequate clean-up, fully compensate affected residents and take steps to avoid future pollution.

In 2011 the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) had published a groundbreaking report on oil pollution in the Ogoniland region of the Niger Delta, home to the minority Ogoni people. The report found that, given that oil exploitation began in the late 1950s in the area, most residents had lived with chronic oil pollution throughout their lives, with grave impact on the traditional livelihoods of farming and fishing. It called for emergency action in response to high levels of contaminants, including benzene, a known carcinogen, in communities' drinking water, and detailed the impact of oil pollution on soil, groundwater, surface water and vegetation.

In 2012 northern Nigeria suffered the effects of the Sahel drought and, in some areas, of internal armed conflict. These factors have disrupted livelihoods, increasing residents' vulnerability to hunger and disease, including polio. Nigeria is one of only three countries in the world where polio is endemic, and the only one in Africa.

For a polio immunization campaign to be effective, it must be universal; however in the north in particular, the vaccination drive is reportedly hampered by mistrust of the initiative among the population and disrupted by insecurity caused by the armed Islamist group Boko Haram.

Boko Haram

In 2012 Boko Haram ('western education is a sin' in the Hausa language) increased its violence in the largely Muslim north, with additional attacks elsewhere in the country. The group is primarily targeting members of the Christian community, although it has carried out bomb attacks across the country. Security forces and Muslims suspected of opposing the group appeared to be other primary targets. Security forces were also accused of numerous human rights violations, including during raids on communities that had been attacked by Boko Haram.

More than 250 people were killed by Boko Haram in January alone, 185 of them in one day of attacks on security force installations the northern city of Kano. The group appeared to be widening its range of targets, with attacks on churches, unoccupied schools and media outlets. Mourners at funerals of some victims were attacked, prompting further inter-ethnic retaliatory violence. On 31 December 2011 President Goodluck Jonathan declared a six-month state of emergency in the affected region. Boko Haram responded with a three-day ultimatum to southern Nigerians, most of whom are Christian, to leave the North.

In the following six months, Boko Haram reportedly carried out more attacks and killed more people than during all of 2010 and 2011 together. The security forces, granted emergency powers in April, were accused of extra-judicial killings, torture and arbitrary detention against suspected militants and members of the public at large during raids in communities where attacks have occurred.

The NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported in October that abuses by Boko Haram, could constitute crimes against humanity, while at the same time pointing out that the state security forces were implicated in very serious human rights violations, including extra-judicial killings, which also need to be investigated and prosecuted.

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