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.
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.
Deadly violence including Boko Haram (BH) insurgency, herder-farmer killings and rural banditry escalated, leaving at least 300 dead. In Borno state in north east, BH attacked military base, displaced persons’ camps and civilians in rural areas and state capital Maiduguri killing at least 23 people. In Adamawa state, BH attacked Mildu and Kaya villages 1 March, killed a woman, at least one insurgent also killed; 21 March returned over 100 girls abducted from Dapchi town 19 Feb, still held one, five missing. Herder-farmer violence continued leaving at least 194 people dead, despite military operation in Benue, Taraba, Kogi, Nasarawa, Kaduna and Niger states. In Taraba state, at least 29 people killed in Sardauna area; armed men 15 March attacked five villages in Takum and Ussa areas, killing at least seven. In Benue state, suspected herders 4-5 March killed at least 31 in Umenger and Omusu Edimoga villages, killed eight in Guma area 14 and 25 March. In Plateau state, violence between Fulani herders and Irigwe farmer communities escalated: clash 5 March left three dead in Bassa area; suspected herders 7-9 March killed at least sixteen in Bokkos area and 12 March killed 25 in Dundu village; herders 14 March attacked Miango area, two soldiers and at least 23 civilians killed; suspected herders 22 March killed three in Dong. Herder-farmer violence spread southward: clash in Onunwakpu community, Ebonyi state 12 March left at least four dead; suspected herders attacked Dekina and Omala areas, Kogi state 13-14 March killing at least 32 and attacked villages in Omala area 18-19 March, killing eleven. Bandits 20 March killed eleven soldiers in Birnin Gwari area, Kaduna state, north central; 27-28 March attacked Bawar-Daji village, Zamfara state, killing at least 63; 29 March attacked Bakin Kogi village in Kaduna state, killing six. In other violence, intra-gang feud in Zamfara state 7 March left prominent bandit Buhari Tsoho and eight gang members dead; clash over land in Boki area, Cross River state 9-10 March left eleven dead.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.