Nigeria is confronted by multiple security challenges, notably the resilient Boko Haram Islamist insurgency in the north east, long-running discontent and militancy in the Niger Delta, increasing violence between herders and farming communities spreading from the central belt southward, and separatist Biafra agitation in the Igbo south east. Violence, particularly by the Boko Haram insurgency, has displaced more than two million people, created a massive humanitarian crisis, and prompted the rise of civilian vigilante self-defence groups that pose new policy dilemmas and possible security risks. Crisis Group seeks to help the Nigerian government by shedding new light on the country’s security challenges, de-escalating risks and tension, and encouraging regional and gender-specific approaches toward ending the violence durably.
Four years after the abductions in Chibok, and months after more kidnappings in Dapchi, over 100 schoolgirls are still missing. Nigeria must act to make schools safe – beefing up security, learning from past mistakes and, ultimately, working to end the Boko Haram insurgency.
Security forces continued to clash with Boko Haram (BH) militants in Borno state in north east, as herder-farmer violence and rural banditry spiralled, with about 500 killed overall. Army 1 April repelled BH attacks on base and two villages near Borno state capital Maiduguri, thirteen insurgents, thirteen villagers and one soldier killed. Army 7 April killed three insurgents and freed 149 captives at BH hideout in Yerimari Kura. Army 8 April hit BH at Arege and Tumbun Rago. Army 13 April killed seven BH fleeing Sambisa forest. Cameroonian soldiers and local vigilantes of Zigague in Cameroon 18 April attacked BH cell in Dougouma in Nigeria, killing four fighters. Army 20 April repelled BH insurgents in Gamboru Ngala area, killing one. BH 22 April shot dead eighteen forest workers near Gamboru; vehicle same day hit mine planted by BH near Wumbi village, three civilians killed. BH 26 April attacked Jidari Polo area of Maiduguri, repelled by army, nine people including five suicide bombers killed. Herder-farmer violence and related attacks on sedentary farming communities continued in five states; over twenty incidents reported with over 350 people killed, mostly in Benue and Nasarawa states, including 24 April killing of at least eighteen people, including two Catholic priests, at church in Mbalom village, Benue state, which drew Christian protests. Federal parliament 25 April called on govt to sack military and intelligence chiefs for incompetence. Rural banditry continued, especially in Zamfara and Kaduna states. In Zamfara state, army 4 April killed 21 suspected bandits in Tunga Daji village, two soldiers killed; suspected bandits 11 April stormed Kuru-Kuru and Jarkuka villages, killing 26; suspected cattle thieves 19 April attacked Kabaro and Danmami villages, killing at least 27. Suspected bandits 5 April attacked Sarari village, Kaduna state, killing at least five. In federal capital Abuja, police 16-17 April forcibly dispersed Shiite Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) rallies demanding release of its leader Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, one IMN member reportedly killed. Kaduna state govt 18 April filed more charges against El-Zakzaky.
Propelled by desertification, insecurity and the loss of grazing land to expanding settlements, the southward migration of Nigeria’s herders is causing violent competition over land with local farmers. To prevent the crisis from escalating, the government should strengthen security for herders and farmers, implement conflict resolution mechanisms and establish grazing reserves.
Vigilante groups have been successful in providing local security. But subcontracting security functions to vigilante groups for counter-insurgency purposes is a dangerous option for fragile African states. African leaders should set clear objectives and mandates when enlisting vigilantes and invest in disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programs.
Five million people are hit by the humanitarian fallout of the Boko Haram insurgency. Beyond ending the war, this briefing, the last of four examining famine threats in Nigeria, Yemen, South Sudan and Somalia, urges donors to fund their UN aid pledges in full and the Nigerian government to step up relief for its citizens.
Regional armies in the Lake Chad basin deploy vigilantes to sharpen campaigns against Boko Haram insurgents. But using these militias creates risks as combatants turn to communal violence and organised crime. Over the long term they must be disbanded or regulated.
Women have suffered violence and abuse by Boko Haram, but they are not only victims: some joined the jihadists voluntarily, others fight the insurgency, or work in relief and reconciliation. Women’s experiences should inform policies to tackle the insurgency, and facilitate their contribution to peace.
Given the [Nigerian] government’s continuing inability to impose its own solution to the conflict [with Boko Haram] ... the government’s exploration of dialogue [with] the insurgents is understandable.
The Dapchi incident [in Nigeria] is a major setback for hopes and expectations for a conclusive release of the remaining Chibok girls and all others still held by Boko Haram.
Les forces armées tendent à employer la méthode forte et cela peut exacerber les conflits [au Nigeria] et créer de nouveaux problèmes de droits humains et de relation militaires/civils.
In the last five years we've had a huge increase in the number of incidents [in Nigeria], the number of casualties and the bitterness that goes with it. In many areas it's like a no man's land.
The decision to start the trials [in Nigeria of more than 1,600 people suspected of ties with Boko Haram] is a response to persistent complaints by local and international human rights groups over thousands of [detained] persons.
[The borderlands between Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso are] becoming a new permanent hotbed of violence. This shows the level of organisation of these [insurgent] groups and also their confidence.
Crisis Group’s second update to our Watch List 2017 includes entries on Nigeria, Qatar, Thailand and Venezuela. These early-warning publications identify conflict situations in which prompt action by the European Union and its member states would generate stronger prospects for peace.
While Nigeria confronts the humanitarian fallout of the ongoing Boko Haram insurgency and simmering separatism in the South East, crucial reforms have been stalled. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2017 – Second Update early warning report for European policy makers, Crisis Group urges the European Union and its member states to encourage the government to prioritise engagement with regional leaders and other stakeholders.
Many Igbo feel politically and economically marginalised, and the government’s hardline stance is not helping.
Originally published in African Arguments
Despite suffering significant blows in Syria and Iraq, jihadist movements across the Middle East, North Africa and Lake Chad regions continue to pose significant challenges. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2017 – First Update early-warning report for European policy makers, Crisis Group urges the European Union and its member states to prioritise conflict prevention at the heart of their counter-terrorism policy and continue investment in vulnerable states.