Rising insecurity in northwest Nigeria: Terrorism thinly disguised as banditry

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Summary: The security situation in Nigeria is worsening, despite the efforts of the leadership. The recent security crises such as abduction/kidnapping and banditry in the Nothern local communities have been a cause for concern. Northern Nigeria has remained vulnerable to several of these security threats due to factors such as; the Nigeria-Niger porous borders, arms, and weapons trafficking, poor governance, poverty, and climate change-fragility links, and overburdening of security instruments, and a decreasing presence of the federal government.

In spite of government effortsthe security situation in Nigeria is deteriorating. Indeed, the lingering conflict between herders and farmers in north-central Nigeria has been rated six times deadlier than the Boko Haram insurgency. The recent abductions of schoolboys in Kankara community, Katsina State and in Niger State are more examples of the deplorable state of security in the country. Notably, the unprecedented increase in violent attacks is defying the sustained narrative among analysts that the northwest is relatively peaceful compared to the northeast—even though the northwest is poorer; worse governed in some areas; and has lower levels of human development.


The rising insecurity in the northwest—vicious attacks on local communities and kidnapping of people by criminal groups in the region—is being described by state officials as banditry. However, further evidence suggests that the government is simplifying the dynamics. In actuality, northwestern Nigeria has become the safe haven of increasingly active terrorist groups, including the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS); Jama’at Nusrat al Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM)Al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb; a splinter of Boko Haram popularly referred to as the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP); and the Fulani herdsmen of West Africa once rated the fourth-deadliest terror group in the world.

The recent Kankara abduction bears the operational footprints of the Boko Haram group that has perfected the act through previous abductions of schoolgirls in Chibok and Dapchi in northeastern Nigeria. This incident gives credence to the jihadists’ perpetual attempt to forge an alliance with splinter terror groups in the northwest. While Boko Haram maintains a coordinating center in the Lake Chad Basin, ISWAP operates from southwestern Niger. These two centers of jihadism are separated by northwest Nigeria, increasing the likelihood of interaction and collaboration among these actors there.


In addition to its location between these groups, the northwest region is highly susceptible to violent attacks by the various terror groups due to a combination of mutually reinforcing factors. Primary factors include:


The policy solutions for the security challenges plaguing the northwestern states of Nigeria must be multipronged and include:

Better supported border security and stamping down on corruption. The federal government must collaborate with state governments to address the immediate challenge of border porosity. Concerted efforts to recruit, train, and post adequately equipped customs and immigration personnel to the region can boost surveillance and stem the tide of the free flow of arms into the country. Moreover, addressing corruption here is pivotal, because border patrol is a major racket for security forces and government officials. The ongoing military response must also be sustained through strategic coordination with the counterterrorism unit of the Nigerian police force, while the recent introduction of drone surveillance and anti-banditry bombardment is maintained.


• The federal government must work with state governments to address the urgent challenge of border porosity by recruiting well-trained personnel and equip customs and immigration personnel for routine border surveillance.
• Joint efforts to recruit, train and deploy customs migrants with the right equipment can enhance surveillance and prevent the free influx of weapons.
• The current military response must also be sustained through strategic collaboration with the Nigerian Police’s counter-terrorism department, while drone monitoring and anti-bandit bombardment are continued.

About the Author(s):

-Oluwole Ojewale – ENACT Program’s Regional Organized Crime Observatory Coordinator for Central Africa – Institute for Security Studies, Dakar, Senega

Source: Brookings

Keywords: Insecurity, Nigeria, Terrorism, Banditry, Northwest

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