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.
Crisis Group’s third update to our Watch List 2018 includes entries on economic reforms in Libya, preserving the fragile quiet in Syria’s Idlib province, addressing the plight of civilians in eastern Ukraine, supporting Colombia's uneasy peace process and averting violence in Nigeria's upcoming elections. This annual early-warning report identifies conflict situations in which prompt action by the European Union and its member states would generate stronger prospects for peace.
Boko Haram (BH)-related violence continued in north east as intercommunal attacks persisted in centre. In Borno state in north east, troops and Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) vigilantes 5 Oct killed five insurgents in Gara; army 6 Oct repelled militants’ attack on Ngala displaced persons’ camp, killing three; troops and CJTF 7 Oct killed militant in Mairari; BH 8 Oct attacked military base in Metele, killing at least seven soldiers; troops 12 Oct repelled BH attack on Arege base, reportedly killing several militants; troops and vigilantes 10 Oct reportedly killed three militants in Kaltunbare; Air Force 11 Oct destroyed BH training camp in Malkonory; militants 20 Oct attacked farmers near Kalle, killing at least twelve. Suspected BH 20 Oct attacked Mairari and Femari, killing at least one. BH 22 Oct attacked Mifa, killing at least two. BH 27-28 Oct attacked military base in Gashigar, killing one soldier. Air Force 23 Oct destroyed BH base in Abadam, reportedly killing several militants. Troops 25 Oct killed two BH in Konduga. Hardline commanders in BH faction led by al-Barnawi, Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), 27 Sept reportedly killed fellow commander Ali Gaga, allegedly planning to surrender. Govt 15 Oct said ISWAP had killed second of three female aid workers abducted 1 March in Rann. Intercommunal violence in Middle Belt, especially in Plateau and Kaduna states, left at least 146 dead. In Plateau state, suspected Fulani herders attacked Berom community in Jol 2 Oct, at least thirteen killed; suspected Fulani herdsmen 3 Oct attacked Ariri, killing nineteen; attack on Nkiendoro village 4 Oct left at least four dead, including military unit commander. In Kaduna state, rival Muslim Hausa and Christian Adara youth 18 Oct clashed in Kasuwan Magani, police said 55 killed but toll may be up to 100. Suspected herdsmen 25 Oct killed three in Guma, Benue state. Troops 21 Oct killed thirteen Gana gang members in Ukum, Benue state. Attacks caused 23 deaths in Kaduna state 21 Oct, nine deaths in Udu, Delta state 22 Oct, “dozens” of deaths in Lamurde, Adamawa state 23 Oct. Nnamdi Kanu, leader of Biafran secessionist group who disappeared in Sept 2017, 19 Oct appeared in Israel and called for boycott of elections until after referendum on Biafra’s independence. Military late Oct clashed with followers of Shia Islamic Movement of Nigeria demanding release of cleric Ibrahim Zakzaky in Abuja; three followers shot dead 27 Oct and at least three killed 29 Oct. Parties elected candidates for 2019 general elections: ruling All Progressives Congress 6 Oct chose President Buhari and main opposition People’s Democratic Party 7 Oct chose Atiku Abubakar. Electoral commission 26 Oct confirmed 79 candidates, including Buhari, will contest Feb 2019 presidential poll.
Rising conflict between herders and farmers in Nigeria is already six times deadlier in 2018 than Boko Haram’s insurgency. To stop the bloodshed, the federal government should improve security; end impunity for assailants; and hasten livestock sector reform. State governments should freeze open grazing bans.
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.
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.
The fact that some of the recent attacks [in Nigeria] specifically targeted military bases shows they were deliberate, not opportunistic.
Jihadist groups present since the 2012 crisis in Mali exploited local unrest and the weak presence of the state in northern Mali to launch cross-border attacks against the Nigerien army... Despite direct support from Chadian troops since 2015 and closer collaboration with the Nigerian army, Nigerien forces have been unable to fully secure the border with Nigeria from attacks, including some linked to the Islamic State.
More people to feed means more agricultural settlement and less available land and water for herders. All of this tend to trigger more and more disputes [between farmers and semi-nomadic herders in Nigeria].
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.
As election preparations get underway in Nigeria, conflict and insecurity in many parts of the country risk exacerbating intercommunal tensions and preventing a peaceful transfer of power. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2018 annual early-warning update for European policy makers, Crisis Group urges the EU and its members states to remain fully engaged during the election in order to curb violence and strengthen the country’s democratic institutions.
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