Nigeria is starting 2012 with a state of emergency in four states that was declared by President Goodluck Jonathan December 31 after a series of deadly attacks by the extremist Islamist sect, Boko Haram that killed dozens of people.
Jonathan also ordered the closing of international borders near the affected areas, which include parts of the northeastern state of Yobe, and the central states of Plateau and Niger, according to the New York Times. Those areas were hit by attacks on Christmas Day that killed at least 42 people and for which Boko Haram claimed responsibility.The attacks targeted churches and a state office of Nigeria’s secret police.
Jonathan vowed to "crush" Boko Haram when announcing the state of emergency in a live televised address.
"The temporary closure of our borders in the affected areas is only an interim measure designed to address the current security challenges," said Jonathan, according to the BBC.
“What began as sectarian crises in the northeastern parts of the country has gradually evolved into terrorist activities in different parts of the country with attendant negative consequences on our national security,” Jonathan said in an address on national television.
The armed forces will provide a special unit with "dedicated counter-terrorism responsibilities" to be deployed to these states.
The land borders of the affected local government areas in these states will be closed temporarily to prevent cross-border security threats, although it is not clear how this will be enforced and if people will be able to leave to seek safety in other states.
There is growing concern that Boko Haram has developed a presence across the region.
Earlier this week, leaders of neighboring Chad and Cameroon were reported to have held talks about how they can help prevent the violence spreading to their countries.
Jonathan has been under pressure to bring an end to the attacks, and the announcement of the state of emergency indicates his toughest move so far in an attempt to suppress Boko Haram.
He said he had directed top security officials to set up a special counterterrorism unit to fight the growing threat posed by Boko Haram.
The Christmas attacks come a year after a series of Christmas Eve bombings in the central city of Jos, which lies on the line where the country’s largely Muslim North meets its largely Christian South.