Security Challenges Nigeria’s Leader Must Tackle
Nigeria, the most populous country in sub-Saharan Africa as well as the biggest economy, is facing a severe crisis in its nation-building process. Virtually every part of Nigeria is facing security issues.
When a country’s institutions are weak, its security forces are not trusted, and its borders are not strong, as is the case in Nigeria, giving terrorist organisations room to flourish. A key starting point should be to understand the causes of insecurity as well as to investigate their sources of social disorder and instability.
It is necessary to distinguish between different causes as each may require a different remedy. insecurity is defined as “the state of fear or anxiety, stemming from a concrete or alleged lack of protection.” It refers to a lack of or inadequate freedom from danger.
This definition reflects physical insecurity, which is the most visible form of insecurity, and it feeds into many other forms of insecurity, such as economic security and social security. Gravest security challenge, now claiming far more lives than the Boko Haram insurgency. It has displaced hundreds of thousands and sharpened ethnic, regional and religious polarisation. It threatens to become even deadlier and could undermine national stability.
The administration has also failed in its mandate to ensure security, from which there are economic implications, coupled with an intersection with poverty. Despite government claims to the contrary, insecurity across the country appears to be spreading.
The narrative that Boko Haram insurgents in the North East have been ‘technically defeated’ now appears propaganda as fatalities continue to be recorded from attacks. In addition, other bandits continue to cause mayhem through countless kidnappings and massacres in parts of Zamfara and the President’s home state, Katsina. An independent researcher, Dr Jose Luis Bazan, reported that an estimated 2,539 persons had been killed from 654 attacks between 2017 and 2020.
In 2019, Nigeria was ranked 3rd below Afghanistan and Iraq out of 138 countries in the Global Terrorism Index and was said to be the 14th most fragile in the world and the 9th in Africa, according to the Fragile States Index. Unsurprisingly, in the same year, the country was also ranked 148th out of 163 countries in the Global Peace Index, far below former war-ravaged countries like Sierra Leone (52), Liberia (59) and Rwanda (79).
Attacks and reprisal attacks have continued in states like Kaduna with accusations of ethnic cleansing and religious and cultural diversity mismanagement. Part of the reason for the spread of insecurity that has allowed these groups to operate with impunity is due to what has been described by Scot Bower, Chief Operating Officer of the UK-based organisation CSW, as ‘the failure or unwillingness of those in authority to address these and other non-state actors and to secure ungoverned spaces, has not only allowed the violence to mutate but has also created an environment in which Boko Haram can extend its operations’.
The heightening insecurity continues to impact negatively on the business environment, and business flows into the country. Recently, many stakeholders, including civil society groups and the National Parliament, asked the President to sack the country’s security chiefs or force them to resign due to ineptitude as a result of insecurity’s escalation.
As of Tuesday, 26 January, the President, through its special adviser on Media and Publicity Femi Adesina, announced the appointed of new security services chiefs after the President accepted the old ones immediate resignation and their retirement from service. Nigerians urge them and the presidency to be dedicated and discharge their responsibilities well and deal with the following:
Banditry is on the increase in northern Nigeria/ Farmer-herder clashes.
The farmer-herder conflict has arguably become the greatest threat to Nigeria’s peace and security. Recurring violence between herdsmen and farmers, as well as related cattle theft and banditry in many northern states, including Zamafara and Kaduna, posed serious threats to peace and security.
Although the violence is increasingly described in religious terms, competing claims to land and other resources are at its core. The Middle Belt region of Nigeria has faced prolonged violent clashes between the predominantly Christian farmers and the mostly Muslim cattle herders.
At the core of the conflicts are disputes over access and rights to land and water resources and rapid desertification, which has changed cattle grazing patterns. These clashes are not necessarily new, but since 2015, the disputes have become more frequent and violent.
In 2018 alone, more than 2,000 people were killed in such clashes – more than the number killed in the past two years combined.
The conflict now claims an estimated six times more than the Boko Haram crisis. The dispute is being politicised and is stirring ethnic and religious tensions, which is very dangerous in a deeply divided country like Nigeria. The president must find inclusive and creative ways of addressing and de-escalating this complex conflict.
One major immediate factor that has enhanced Nigeria’s insecurity is the porous frontiers of the country, where individual movements are largely untracked. The porosity of Nigeria’s borders has serious security implications for the country.
Given the porous borders as well as the weak and security system, weapons come easily into Nigeria from other countries. Small Arms and Light Weapons proliferation and these weapons’ availability have enabled militant groups and criminal groups to have easy access to arms.
Unemployment/Poverty -As a result of the high level of unemployment and poverty among Nigerians, especially the youths, they are adversely attracted to violent crime. Failure of successive administrations in Nigeria to address challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequitable distribution of wealth among ethnic nationalities is one of the major causes of insecurity in the country.
Nigeria has the resources to provide for the needs of its people, but corruption in public offices at all levels has made it impossible for officeholders to focus on the provision of basic needs for the people.
This is manifested by the government’s incapacity to deliver public services and provide basic needs for the masses. The lack of basic necessities by the people in Nigeria has created a pool of frustrated people who are ignited easily by any event to be violent.
This situation is made worse by the absence of effective community policing mechanisms capable of addressing the hinterlands’ peculiar security challenges. The government cannot hope to defeat Boko Haram if it does not change its counterinsurgency strategy.
The way forward, then, is the development of grassroots policing, enriched by local personnel and intelligence. Encourage herder-farmer dialogues and support local peace initiatives: Federal and state governments should foster dialogue between herders and farmers by strengthening mechanisms already existing at state and local levels, particularly supporting peace initiatives at the local level.
End impunity: The federal government also should order the investigation of all recent major incidents of farmer-herder violence. It may need to expedite the trials of individuals or organisations found to have participated, sponsored or been complicit in violence. deploy more security units to vulnerable areas; prosecute perpetrators of violence; disarm ethnic militias and local vigilantes, and begin executing long-term plans for comprehensive livestock sector reform.