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.
Originally published in Daily Trust
Kaduna state remained epicentre of violence in North West and large-scale attacks left over 150 killed and thousands displaced in neighbouring Plateau state; Islamic State claimed expansion into central states, and separatists stepped up attacks in South East. Federal govt 13 April blamed “bandits” together with “Boko Haram insurgents” for late-March attack on Abuja-Kaduna train line in North West; operations continued to rescue dozens of abductees. Also in Kaduna, gunmen 4 April abducted 22 civilians on Abuja-Kaduna highway; same day attacked Polwire military base in Birnin Gwari area, killing at least a dozen soldiers. In Zamfara state, bandits 1 April reportedly attacked Daki Takwas village in Gummi area, killing at least 20 civilians. Troops 1 April engaged suspected bandits near Suleja town, Niger state; three bandits and 14 soldiers reportedly killed. Military next day said 83 suspected bandits killed in airstrikes in Zamfara and Kaduna states. Meanwhile, unidentified gunmen around 10 April reportedly killed around 154 people in Kanam area of Plateau state; about 4,800 people reportedly displaced by violence. In Borno state in North East, Boko Haram faction known as JAS around 31 March-1 April ambushed and killed about 50 fighters from rival group Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) in Abadam area; renewed clashes in Sambisa forest 22 April left 32 killed on both sides. ISWAP allegedly expanded operations to new areas: group claimed 19 April bomb attack which killed at least three in Iware town, Taraba state, and overnight 22-23 April reportedly killed five policemen in first ISWAP attack in Kogi state. Herder-farmer violence continued. Suspected herders 4 April killed 12 people in Plateau’s Bassa area and 12 April killed at least 23 villagers in Guma and Tarka areas of Benue state. In south, suspected members of separatist Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB)’s armed wing Eastern Security Network launched almost daily attacks on local authorities and security forces, particularly in Anambra state: at least six people killed 3-7 April in Aguata area; four police officers killed 13 April in Ogbaru area. Federal High Court in Abuja 8 April dropped eight of 15 charges against IPOB leader Nnamdi Kanu.
Vigilantes have become so important to protecting the Nigerian public that for now the country has little choice but to rely on them. Yet there are dangers. Authorities should better regulate these groups, while working to restore citizens’ trust in the police.
An ISIS franchise is tightening its hold on parts of north-eastern Nigeria near Lake Chad. Abuja should enhance its containment strategy, helping rival militants surrender, protecting internally displaced persons and working with neighbouring countries to cut off outside material support for the jihadists.
Nigeria’s latest plan for curbing herder-farmer conflict is facing obstacles, including staff and funding shortages as well as political opposition. If this initiative fails, there could be more rural violence. Abuja should work with donors to raise both money and awareness of the scheme’s benefits.
Insecurity is plaguing north-western Nigeria, due to persistent herder-farmer tensions, rising crime and infiltration by Islamist militants. Federal and state authorities should focus on resolving conflict between agrarian and pastoralist communities, through dialogue and resource-sharing agreements, while also stepping up law enforcement.
The persistent targeting of schools in [Kaduna] suggests the armed groups may be trying to break the state government’s resolve not to pay ransom to criminal groups.
The [Nigerian] military [has] yet to achieve decisive results against the insurgents in the northeast and various armed groups in the northwest.
Les gouverneurs locaux [au Nigéria] insistent pour dire qu’aucune rançon n’a jamais été versée, mais c’est très difficile à croire.
Massive unemployment [in Nigeria] has created a growing army of unemployed youth, vulnerable to recruitment in the criminal industry.
Stakes are high for Nigeria and the region. A vote marred in controversy and violence inevitably would hinder efforts to address the country’s security and economic challenges.
While ending the insurgency and countering the militants’ appeal is obviously vital, it is also essential to recognise what precisely has guided women to join [Boko Haram] in the first place.
Originally published in The Africa Report
Every year Crisis Group publishes two additional Watch List updates that complement its annual Watch List for the EU, most recently published in January 2021. These publications identify major crises and conflict situations where the European Union and its member states can generate stronger prospects for peace. The Spring Update of the Watch List 2021 includes entries on Bolivia, Myanmar, Nigeria, Ukraine and Yemen.