Multiple conflicts in the six regions of Nigeria have claimed more than 60,000 lives in the last decade, findings from research on the various security challenges afflicting the country.
The conflicts ranging from insurgency, criminal banditry, farmer-herder conflicts, and violent separatist agitations have defied the kinetic approaches favoured by the federal government, according to the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD).
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In the report titled “Multiple Nodes, Common Causes: National Stock-take of Contemporary Insecurity and State Responses in Nigeria,” the CDD called on the federal government and other stakeholders to devise new approaches to curtail the threat as all the six regions were faced with security challenges.
The report noted that over 14,000 people had been killed in the North West in the last decade, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), 2022 data, while 11,000 people had been killed in incidents of violence and crime across North Central states since 2006, according to the Nigeria Watch Database.
Boko Haram and its splinter group, ISWAP, it said, had sustained an uprising against the Nigerian state that caused over 35,000 deaths (350,000 when second-order effects are counted) and left two million internally displaced people in the northeastern states of Borno, Yobe, Bauchi, Gombe, Adamawa and Taraba.
It stressed that after decades of oil militancy, the South-South is struggling with violent criminal networks and street gangs that engage in oil bunkering, armed robbery and kidnapping, while the South-West is witnessing a major increase in the spread of communal violence and kidnappings, amidst growing secessionist agitations and the emergence of Amotekun, a regional vigilante force.
While noting that the South East is also not insulated from farmers-herders conflicts, it added that since the launch of a military operation known as “Operation Python Dance” in 2016, the region has witnessed an intensification of confrontations between the Indigenous People Of Biafra, IPOB and the Nigerian security forces, especially the police, the Department of State Security (DSS) and the military. These confrontations have led to several deaths, destructions and displacements.
Land patronage, ethnic profiling, corrupt judicial process compound crisis
The 53-page report, which adopted a primarily qualitative approach to data gathering for its study, identified nine major causes of insecurity in Nigeria.
They include land use disputes, shifting livelihoods, reciprocal radicalisation, lack of security sector capacity and professionalism.
Others are the circulation of small arms and light weapons, corruption and inadequate access to justice, geography and regional dynamics, ideological grievance and politics.
The report, which noted that competition over land resources was exacerbated by climate change and general environmental degradation, observed that beginning around late 2000 with Nigeria’s return to electoral democracy, many politicians and emirs in the North West began selling or distributing (as patronage) land on restricted grazing areas to farmers or developers.
“Additionally, traditional symbiotic land-use arrangements between farmers and herders began to break down as farmers found that they could charge herders hefty fees for use of their lands and crop residue, or even extort the herders with the support of local police and officials.
“Together, these developments helped create a sense of victimhood among many herders,” it added.
Land use disputes and deteriorating inter-communal relations, it observed, was compounded by a corrupt justice system that has repeatedly failed to deliver fair and impartial verdicts, leaving community members aggrieved.
“Many criminals have managed to escape justice by bribing themselves out of police custody.
“The failures of the justice system have incentivised communities to settle matters in an extrajudicial and often violent and disproportionate manner,” it also noted.
It cited how authorities’ failures to detain and prosecute criminals helped fuel the creation of Yan Sakai across the region throughout 2000 and early 2010.
It added that by early 2010, Yan Sakai began profiling all Fulani as bandits, while the Fulani were quick to retaliate against Hausa for their alleged Yan Sakai sympathies.
“Every bandit or former bandit the research team interviewed claimed that the harassment and crimes of Yan Sakai were a major factor in pushing them to take up arms,” the report noted.
No region is safe
In its region-by-region analysis, the study, which cited the 2021 Global Peace Index report, which ranked Nigeria as the 17th least peaceful country in the world, concluded that the country is plagued by insecurity, which contributed to her emergence as the third on the Global Terrorism Index’s international ranking.
It noted that insurgency persisted in the North-East as Boko Haram and ISWAP continue to unleash terror on local communities, while the North-West is caught up in a tidal wave of insecurity fuelled by so-called armed banditry, inter-communal conflicts, kidnapping and violent crimes, with debilitating effects.
It added that longstanding secessionist agitations resurfaced in the South East, taking a deadly turn, with the emergence of the Eastern Security Network (ESN), the armed front of IPOB.
It identified sea piracy and robbery; illegal oil bunkering and artisanal refining; cultism; kidnapping; human trafficking and ritual killings; political violence; herders-farmers conflict; spillover effects of southeastern secessionists agitations, as the current conflict nodes in the South South.
The report stated that the South-West, which is traditionally considered Nigeria’s most peaceful region, has also not been spared from the recent upsurge in inter-communal tensions and unrest.
It added that the increasing tensions between indigenous farming communities and criminals had emboldened previously dormant separatist agitators in the region.
New approaches to solve conflicts
According to the report, in many instances, an overreliance on military power risked exacerbating the conflict by fuelling grievances that push communities towards insurgents or criminals.
The independent research training and capacity building organisation said that future efforts to address insecurity must consider local, state and national level solutions and ensure coordination between relevant individuals and agencies.
“Peacebuilding interventions are urgently needed in most, if not all the geopolitical zones, to improve community cohesion in conflict-affected areas.
“Much of the insecurity in Nigeria today falls along ethnic or religious lines, even if it is fundamentally rooted in separate issues, such as land use or criminality, making it imperative to mitigate sentiments of inter-communal hostility and restore a degree of trust among communities,” it stated.
Security Risk Management and Intelligence Specialist, Dr Kabir Adamu, said there are several non-kinetic ways that can be adopted both at the federal and state levels to address the crisis.
He said the components include addressing the socioeconomic development of the regions, that is, tackling the drivers of insecurity, which include poverty and unemployment. He added that other components to be addressed by the federal government include the proliferation of small and light arms as well as the consequences of climate change
The security expert said the FG is also expected to employ counter and deradicalization measures, including strategic communication by rallying the citizens to support government efforts at addressing insecurity, instead of statements that encourage terrorists. He also counselled citizens to be measured in their criticism of the government, stressing that some languages used by the public can embolden terrorists.
He said 30 states have Peace building commissions that are able to use early warning signals to address conflicts among communities. He also urged states to invest in education as a non-kinetic way of addressing insecurity.
A communication expert, Dr Tunde Akanni, urged the government to be proactive by engaging with relevant stakeholders to address insecurity in the country.