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.
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.
Boko Haram (BH) insurgents abducted over 100 female students from school in Yobe state as military continued counter-insurgency operations in north east and herder-farmer violence continued, mostly in Benue and Adamawa states. Military 14 Feb said it had killed 186 insurgents since mid-Dec and taken “total control” of former BH stronghold Sambisa forest; 26 Feb said Nigerian and Cameroonian forces killed 35 militants and rescued 906 civilian hostages in joint operation along common border. BH continued attacks: three suicide bombers struck market in Konduga near Borno state capital, Maiduguri 16 Feb, killing at least 21 people; insurgents raided girls’ school in Dapchi town, Yobe state 19 Feb, 110 girls missing, apparently abducted. Two soldiers died from wounds inflicted by BH suicide bombers in Sambisa forest 27 Feb. Federal High Court 16 Feb released 475 people held, some since 2010, on suspicion of involvement with BH, for rehabilitation by state govts. Govt 19 Feb said 205 people convicted for BH involvement, jailed for between three and 60 years. To suppress herder-farmer violence and rural banditry, army 15 Feb launched Operation Ayem Akpatuma (“Cat Race”) to run until 31 March in six states (Benue, Taraba, Kogi, Nasarawa, Kaduna and Niger) but violence continued: Benue state Governor Ortom 26 Feb said herders invaded Guma area previous week, killing over 60 people; herders 27 Feb attacked Gwamba village near Numan, Adamawa state, killing at least seven people; troops responded, killing ten herders. Violence flared in north-west and north-central zones: bandits 14 Feb attacked Birane village, Zamfara state, killing over 40 people; Christian and Muslim youth 26 Feb clashed in Kasuwan Magani community, Kaduna state, at least twelve killed.
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.
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.
Nigeria’s military is in distress. President Muhammadu Buhari’s over-due reforms aren’t yet enough to turn an under-resourced, over-stretched and corrupt army back into a professional force. A complete overhaul is needed, including accountability for human rights abuses, if Nigerians are not to be left at the mercy of Boko Haram and other armed groups.
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.
[The Nigerian government] needs to reverse the bad governance, economic desperation and social hopelessness that push so many youths to radical ideologues.
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.
For the first time in three decades, four countries, driven by war, verge on famine. Over coming weeks, Crisis Group will publish special briefings on Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and Nigeria. Each conflict requires tailored response; all need increased aid and efforts to end the violence.