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.
Boko Haram (BH) continued attacks on civilians and military in Borno state in north east, while herder-farmer violence remained relatively low in centre and violence related to cattle rustling and banditry continued in north west. In Borno state, suspected insurgents from BH’s Islamic State (ISIS)-affiliated faction, Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), 7-8 Sept stormed Gudumbali town, sacked army base and held town briefly before military pushed them back, several civilians reportedly killed; army and air force 12 Sept repelled BH attack on military base in Damasak town; BH 14 Sept attacked Modu Ajiri and Bulama Kayiri villages, killing eight civilians; air force 16 Sept repelled BH attack on military bases at Gudumbali and Damasak; troops same day repelled BH ambush on military convoy along Konduga-Bama road, three insurgents killed; BH 19 Sept attacked villages of Kalari Abdiye and Amarwa, killing at least nine villagers; troops 26 Sept repelled BH attack on army base in Garshigar town, killing four insurgents. International Committee of the Red Cross 17 Sept said BH had killed one of three female aid workers abducted 1 March. Soldier killed colleague and injured several before committing suicide in Borno state 19 Sept; soldier 23 Sept opened fire at military facility in Abuja, killing colleague and injuring another before killing himself. BH militants 27 Sept killed one of their own commanders over his alleged plan to surrender and hand over 300 hostages to military. In centre, herder-farmer violence remained relatively low: in Plateau state, gunmen 2 Sept attacked two villages in Jos South area, eleven villagers killed; army 8 Sept said three soldiers were killed in Barkin Ladi area; in Taraba state, gunmen 6 Sept ambushed and killed three policemen and two vigilantes responding to distress call from Bujum Kasuwan village; in Adamawa state suspected Fulani herders 13 Sept reportedly attacked five villages, over fifty killed. Violence related to cattle rustling and banditry continued in north west, particularly Zamfara state. Notably, armed men 13 Sept killed eleven people at cinema in Badarawa village; authorities said perpetrators were bandits. In Niger Delta, tensions rose 5 Sept after police raided Abuja home of leader of Pan-Niger Delta Forum, in search of illegal arms. Police found none, apologised and said raid was unauthorised; nevertheless a coalition of Niger Delta agitators said they had called off their ceasefire and would resume attacks on oil installations. Electoral commission 23 Sept declared governorship election previous day in Osun state inconclusive due to small margin between two major parties All Progressives Congress (APC) and People’s Democratic Party (PDP); commission declared APC winner after 27 Sept rerun in seven polling units, but observers said exercise was marred by violence and other interference. Ruling party 28 Sept nominated President Buhari as its candidate for 2019 election.
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.
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.