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.
Jihadist and criminal violence continued in north east and north west, and herder-farmer tensions persisted in many states. In Borno state in north east, Boko Haram (BH) and BH faction Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP) attacks continued despite airstrikes by govt forces, which left dozens of insurgents killed 11-17 Aug notably on Lake Chad islands and in Sambisa forest. Suicide bomber 2 Aug killed herself and two others in Konduga town. Suspected ISWAP 10 Aug reportedly killed 13 civilians and several soldiers in Magumeri and Kukawa towns. After ISWAP 18 Aug again attacked Kukawa town, local sources reported they took hundreds hostage, while military said troops thwarted attack, killing eight insurgents and losing three soldiers. In Nasarawa state, near capital Abuja, troops 26 Aug raided camp of little-known Islamist group Darul Salam in Toto area; military reported over 400 group members surrendered, and troops seized artisanal explosive device-making factory and assault weapons. In north west, security operations against armed groups killed at least 25 and curbed attacks in some areas; but raids on villages continued, particularly in southern Kaduna state, leaving 33 killed in Zango Kataf area 6-8 Aug, and 11 others in Zango Kataf, Kajuru and Kachia areas 16-19 Aug. In Katsina state, gunmen 9 Aug abducted several women in Kurfi area. In Niger state, armed group 12 Aug killed 15 civilians in Ukuru village, Mariga area. Concerns over jihadist groups forging links with armed groups in North West continued. Commander of U.S. Special Operations Command Africa 5 Aug warned against “al-Qaeda starting to make some inroads” there. Amid persistent tensions between herders and farmers and other communal violence in many states, prominent Fulani herders’ group 13 Aug accused community vigilantes of killing 68 Fulani civilians in Kebbi state 29 April-11 Aug, warned “large conflict” was looming. In alleged fallout from long-running chieftaincy-related dispute, gunmen 10 Aug killed at least 13 in Edikwu village, Benue state.
Women are streaming home from Boko Haram’s domain in north-eastern Nigeria, some having escaped captivity and others having left jihadist husbands behind. The state should safeguard these women from abuse, so that they stay in government-held areas and encourage men to come back as well.
Three years after Boko Haram broke apart, one faction, the Islamic State in West Africa Province, is forming a proto-state in northern Nigeria. The state should press its military offensive against the jihadists but also try undercutting their appeal by improving governance and public services.
Nigerian elections are high-stakes affairs often marred by street clashes and worse. As the 2019 contests approach, the risk of disturbances is particularly high in six states. The government and its foreign partners can limit campaign-related violence by enhancing security and promoting dialogue among rivals.
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.
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.
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].
In late 2018 Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst for Gender Azadeh Moaveni went to north-east Nigeria, which has been the epicenter of the fight between Boko Haram and the Nigerian military, to explore how effectively women formerly associated with the group have been rehabilitated and reintegrated back into society.
In northeastern Nigeria, the militant group exploits a broken social system. There are lessons here for the rest of the world.
Originally published in The Guardian
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.
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.