The Nigerian foreign policy has historically focused on the use its influence and power to contribute to peace in West Africa and the broader African region; especially as its stability has an inextricable impact on the peace, progress, and prosperity of the continent. However, in recent times the country has witnessed numerous in security challenges.
Security issue is most glaring and much talked about thing in Nigeria today. Acts of insecurity occur on a daily basis throughout the country. This has made a national security threat to be a major issue for the government and has prompted huge allocation of the national budget to security.
Most violence in Nigeria is motivated by domestic factors, such as unemployment, inequality, poverty, fraudulent electoral process, corruption, skewed federalism, porous nature of the Nigerian borders, sabotage among political elites, bad governance, religious intolerance, citizen-settler controversies, among others.
These security challenges are not peculiar to a particular region, it cuts across the six geopolitical zones, but more particularly in the North-East, North Central and South-South. Residents in these regions now sleep with one eye open while government grapples with the best possible solutions to protect the lives and properties of every Nigerian as guaranteed in the constitution.
Insecurity has come to characterize the lives of many Nigerians. Armed robbery, a commonplace hazard, is now compounded by kidnapping for ransom. To combat crime, a massive database of SIM card numbers, along with personal details and photographs of their owners, has recently been created. Civil liberty concerns about this venture have been raised.
In order to ameliorate the incidence of crime, the federal government has embarked on criminalization of terrorism by passing the Anti-Terrorism Act in 2011, fundamental surveillance as well as investigation of criminal related offences, heightening of physical security measures around the country aimed at deterring or disrupting potential attacks, strengthening of security agencies through the provision of security facilities and the development and broadcast of security tips in mass media.
Divergent groups in Nigeria resort to violence
Since Nigeria’s 1999 return to civilian rule, its political leaders have allowed and even encouraged the military to take over internal security duties from the country’s increasingly incapable and predatory police force. Nigeria’s security agencies are also becoming more politicized, detaining journalists and civil society members, and appearing more like a tool of regime coercion than at any time since the end of military rule.
In the last decade, clashes between armed groups in the Niger Delta and the security forces reached an all-time high; kidnappings were rife, and oil infrastructure destroyed at a phenomenal rate. At the end of July 2009, founder of the Boko Haram terror group, Mohammed Yusuf, was killed in police custody in Maiduguri, Nigeria. His successor, Abubakar Shekau, vowed to exact revenge on the Nigerian government and a merciless campaign was launched.
In the eventual Boko Haram killing spree, nearly 30,000 people have been killed and more than two million displaced, according to the Council on Foreign Relations’ Nigeria Security Tracker. Hundreds of young women have been abducted by the group to become brides to their fighters, and in some cases suicide bombers. Despite several security operations and dialogue efforts, a durable peace remains elusive.
Since 2019 the Middle Belt region of Nigeria has faced prolonged violent clashes between the farmers and the cattle herders. A problem, which initially appeared as localised disputes between herders and farmers over access to land and water resources and rapid desertification, which has changed the grazing patterns of cattle, morphed into an intractable crisis that now poses a threat to national security. 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 level of rural banditry escalated between 2014 and 2019, attracting a lot of attention, while assuming increased political undertones in the run-up to the 2019 Nigeria elections. Having originated in Zamfara state, gang violence has since spread to five other nearby states, namely Kaduna, Katsina, Sokoto, Kebbi and Niger, the last of which is in North Central Nigeria.
The ravaging gangs of armed bandits have engaged in violent acts, while attacking, abducting, killing, and robbing villagers and travellers, and engaging in the rustling of cattle. Although sometimes exaggerated or underestimated, the casualty figures include the destruction of nearly 500 villages and 13,000 hectares of land, 2,835 people killed between 2011 and 2018 and the number of children orphaned since 2010 as a result of such attacks was put at 44,000.
Imminent country Cameroon is on the brink of civil war. The Anglophone minority 20% of the total population has felt marginalised since independence. In 2016, what started as a series of protests by the Anglophone community against the increasing use of French in their region, eventually turned into a full-blown deadly crisis.
The Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) strong position on these issues of the leader of the group Ibraheem Zakzaky who he’s opposed to the federal system of Nigeria, and their regular protesting has resulted in clashes with security forces. However, recently these clashes have become more frequent and more violent.
Connexion between social security and conflicts in Nigeria
Without a doubt, insecurity has heightened leading to severe unimaginable social consequences which has further blighted the socioeconomic pursuit of an average Nigerian. This implies that threat to human life does not only emanate from situation of violent conflicts such as Boko Haram or herdsmen activities but also from other non-conflict sources.
The actions of the security forces, persistent corruption and ‘the alleged complicity of highly placed individuals’ hampered the fight against Boko Haram. The strategy of involving locals in intelligence gathering in the north is paying off, as they have intimate knowledge of the sect’s whereabouts.
Over time, local vigilante groups are also taking the law into their own hands in the fight against Boko Haram. Much of the responsibility for this can be laid at the feet of Nigeria’s political leaders. Instead of properly training and equipping soldiers and police, politicians have created an alphabet soup of overlapping security agencies and vigilante groups.
In 2018, President Muhammadu Buhari, presented to the federal legislators a 2019 budget of N8.83 trillion with allocations to the defence and security sector taking larger chunk of the estimated expenditure. The 2019 budget estimate was N300 billion lower than the N9.1 billion being implemented for the current fiscal year, but the combined allocation for the National Security was over a trillion Naira.
The Ministry of Defence got N435.62 billion, but the combined expenditure for ministries of Interior and Defence was at N1, 031.31 trillion. The significant sectoral budgetary allocation to defence and security mirrors the fact that the country was currently plagued with diverse security challenges with an ongoing military operations in the country.
By the way, experts say secret services from various countries like Israel and the US are helping Nigeria on the ground, at this stage it seems unthinkable that Nigeria would ask for foreign intervention against a terror threat, as the government of Mali did years ago. Notwithstanding, the government made significant military gains, reducing the number of Boko Haram attributed deaths from more than 5,000 in 2015 to less than 1,000 in the past couple of years.
After all, the crisis is not yet over, and it would be a grave mistake for the president to disregard the continued importance of the conflict. Suicide attacks and kidnappings have been carried out by the group this year. At this time, the government should not just focus on security, but invest in peace-building, reconstruction and rehabilitation and socioeconomic development.
The semblance of calm in the Niger Delta, largely thanks to the amnesty granted to militants there during the presidency of Umaru Yar’Adua, also seems reassuring to international observers. But ultimately the current terror threat in the north remains President Muhammadu Buhari biggest challenge.
Nigeria’s security sector needs greater transparency and better oversight. Its current lack of accountability and opaque budget and procurement practices enable the large-scale corruption that is a major contributing factor to its operational shortcomings, frequent misconduct and poor performance in conflict zones. Banning the use of corruption-prone security votes widespread at the federal, state and local level.
Whereas, conflicts among ethnic groups, farmers, and herdsmen sometimes acquires religious overtones. When religion and tribe seize to be important to national privileges, but replaced with merit on tests of aptitude then ends religion and tribe crisis in Nigeria. This will equally mark the birth of a new united nation of our dreams. A one Nigeria.
There are needs to consolidate Nigeria’s numerous security agencies such as the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Federal Road Safety Corps and Nigeria Immigration Service and integrate each of them into either the military and police. This would create operational centres of gravity, yield budgetary efficiencies, reduce bureaucratic overheads and break down intelligence silos.
Moreover, Nigeria’s military should consolidate its support functions by creating joint combat support agencies that could help the force improve its dismal ratio of non-combat elements to Frontline units. This could free up surplus personnel assigned to non-combat roles for counterinsurgency duty in the northeast.
The security challenge in Nigeria throws a moral challenge to all and sundry to live by high moral standards that place a value. The current clamour for a “National question” is a good evidence. It would be too bad if the country disintegrates and those who would cause it would not enjoy it. There are examples all Africa already.