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.
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.
Despite military operations, Boko Haram (BH) continued attacks on civilians and military in north east and banditry-related insecurity persisted in north west, as politicians jostled for position ahead of 2019 elections. In Borno state in north east, five BH suicide bombers killed themselves 5 Aug trying to enter suburb of state capital Maiduguri; militants killed 30 civilians and reportedly seventeen soldiers 6-19 Aug; attacked army base at Zari 30 Aug, reportedly killing 30 soldiers; army dismissed report as BH propaganda. In Adamawa state, suicide bombers killed at least ten in Madagali 11 Aug. After more than three years fighting BH, soldiers 12 Aug blocked entrances to Maiduguri airport and shot in air to protest length of deployment without relief. Herder-farmer attacks decreased amid sustained military deployment, but violence continued: army said troops fought armed herders in Benue and Nasarawa states 4 and 18 Aug, killing 21; troops also raided camp of gang leader Terwase Akwaza in Benue state, killing unspecified number. In Plateau state, gunmen 28-29 Aug killed eight people, burnt 95 houses and stole 310 cows in Barkin Ladi local govt area. Insecurity related to cattle rustling and rural banditry continued in north west as military stepped up counter operations. In Zamfara state, army 17 Aug said soldiers clashed with bandits in Kwuyambana forest, five bandits and one soldier killed; air force 18 Aug said it had recovered weapons and ammunition after bombing bandits’ hideouts in Shamashale village and Rugu forest. Army 16 Aug said soldiers killed five bandits in Birnin Gawri area, Kaduna state. Air force 23 Aug reported airstrikes in Daji Bawar and Sunke villages, Zamfara state killed 30 bandits. Ahead of 2019 general elections, political manoeuvring intensified. After Senate President Bukola Saraki – along with three state governors and over 40 federal legislators – defected from ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP), masked operatives of domestic intelligence agency (DSS) 7 Aug temporarily prevented lawmakers from entering National Assembly complex, motives unclear. With President Buhari on ten-day “medical vacation” in UK, Acting President Osinbajo same day dismissed intelligence agency chief.
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.
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.
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.
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.