Despite President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive to the Nigerian Armed Forces and other security formations to end insecurity and restore order and stability in the country by the end of December 2022, terrorism in the form of insurgency, banditry and killings by separatists has continued to claim lives.
Though the killings have not stopped, experts say the last four months have witnessed a decline.
At least 671 civilians, police officers and military personnel have been killed since the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola disclosed the president’s directive at a Joint World Conference in September 2022. Aregbosola had quoted President Muhammadu Buhari as giving marching orders to Nigeria’s security chiefs to move against terrorists and ensure that the insecurity ravaging the country ends by the close of the year.
However, pockets of attacks and killings have continued since the deadline elapsed. Four policemen were killed on January 2nd 2022 when gunmen bombed the convoy of the former governor of Imo State, Ikedi Ohakim in Ehime Mbano Local Government Area of the state.
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Also, despite military operations across the country, bandits have also launched attacks on communities in Zamfara, Katsina and Kaduna states, killing and abducting residents.
Daily Trust reports that Nigeria continues to battle diverse and high-level security attacks, among them insurgency by Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), banditry and farmer-herder crisis as well separatist agitations by members of the proscribed Independent People of Biafra (IPOB).
Data analysed by Daily Trust from reported cases in the media reveal that out of the 671 recorded deaths in the last four months, 614 were civilians, while 47 were police officers and 10 soldiers. The data also reveal that at least 1,321 people have been abducted between September and December.
Over 80 per cent of deaths, abductions from north
From the 614 civilians killed between September and December 2022, data analysed by this paper reveal that 85 per cent of the deaths is from the northern part of the country while 15 per cent is from the southern part. Records show that 57 per cent of the total deaths come from five northern states, with Benue leading with 120 deaths, followed by Kaduna with 69 deaths and Zamfara with 60 deaths. Plateau comes fourth with 48 deaths and Niger has 42 deaths. States with the least casualty figure are Abia, Osun, Ekiti and Kwara states with one death each, while Bayelsa has two and Kano has three. Nasarawa, Rivers, Gombe and Ondo state have four casualty figures each.
Data from media reports on kidnappings show that out of the 1,321 people abducted between September and December, 84 per cent came from the north, leaving the south with 16 per cent. The data revealed that 62 per cent of the total abductions occurred in five northern states of Kaduna, Zamfara, Niger, Katsina and Sokoto. Kaduna, which has 256 abductions within the period is followed by Zamfara, which has 246 abductions and Niger with 127 abductions. Katsina has 116 abductions while Sokoto has 74 abductions.
Yobe, Osun and Lagos had the least reported cases of abductions with one each, while Kano, Gombe and Abia had two reported abductions. The data shows Jigawa had three reported cases, with Bauchi had two and Imo, five.
The figure shows a pattern of reduction in the number of deaths in states such as Kaduna where the state government’s second quarter (April-June) security report published 285 fatalities and 161 deaths from the third quarter (July- September).
South East records highest killings of policemen
In the South East, where members of IPOB have launched recurrent attacks, mostly targeting security personnel, 24 police officers were killed in Enugu, Imo, Anambra and Ebonyi and Abia between September and December. This is followed by the North West where banditry has claimed the lives of nine police officers in Kebbi, Sokoto, Katsina and Kaduna states. The Nigerian Police Force also lost seven officers in the South-South states of Rivers and Edo state while four were killed in the North Central states of Benue, FCT and Kogi. The Nigerian Police Force also lost three officers in the South West states of Ekiti and Oyo. However, despite insurgency in the North East, there were no reported deaths of police officers in the area. Data, however, revealed that 10 soldiers were killed in Borno State within the period under review.
Terrorists neutralised in 4 months
Despite inability to curtail the killings in the land, security forces however recorded many successes since President Buhari gave the directive to bring an end to terrorism by the end of 2022.
Data shows that Nigeria’s security forces had neutralised 267 terrorists in Borno State between September and December. Also, over 200 bandits were reported killed during a combined aerial and ground duel with troops in Zamfara State in mid-November.
At least 34 other bandits were also neutralised based on reported cases by the Kaduna State government.
Daily Trust reports that the numbers could be higher as security forces have on multiple times confirmed it neutralised scores of bandits and insurgents without giving specific death toll.
Despite deaths, abductions, situation improved – Experts
Despite the numbers, security experts say the level of insecurity has dropped since the president’s directives. “It is impossible to bring insecurity to a zero level,” said Dr Tanko Ahmed, a security expert and fellow of the War College.
“In the northeast, we see people going back to their communities. If the situation has not improved, we will not see this. There is also one snag, security service, like any other government service, will be more effective when it is linked to the people.
“There is a drop in the number of attacks, Boko Haram is surrendering and if you look at the Kaduna-Abuja highway, it is now secured. Nigerians are now able to move from one part of the country to the other freely,” he said.
A retired Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG), Wilson Inalegwu acknowledged what he called, “marginal improvement” in the security situation as “A lot of people can now travel and they are not as scared as they used to be. We have seen some level of improvements on the highways.”
Inalegwu who had also served as Commissioner of Police in the FCT however expressed worry over what he described as “Increasing attacks on security agents and particularly the Nigeria Police Force in the South East.”
“I think that the IPOB and the Eastern Security Network is more or less an insurgency and rebellion against the federal government, so they see the security forces, especially the Nigerian Police as a symbol so they unleash mayhem and other deadly attacks against that category of government officials,” he said.
“I think they want to send the message that these people (police) who are supposed to protect you, if we can get them, then we can get you. That is the usual tactic of terrorists and the security forces must not give into their antics,” he said.
Experts harp on intelligence gathering, community policing
Both Dr Ahmed and AIG Inalegwu (rtd), said to sort out Nigeria’s myriad security problems, there must be a transformation from the usual security architecture to involve all citizens of the country, using robust intelligence gathering and the use of other support security services such as vigilante and community policing services.
“If I were the president, I would not give any security order again, but assist the army with the necessary security equipment and to also mobilise all necessary agencies like the National Orientation Agency to mobilise the people. Community policing should take centre stage after the military finishes its sweep up operation,” says Dr Tanko Ahmed.
AIG Wilson Inalegwu (rtd), says intelligence-led policing should be able to accomplish a lot by understanding the social intelligence of terrorists and getting the public to key into the security architecture.
“The South East has the Okija forest and I hope that by now, we are able to take the fight to their enclaves, to where they are preparing these IEDs and planning their attacks. We have to begin to profile them and know who their commanders are,” he said.
Presidency mum over deadline
The Presidency on Sunday kept mum on the December 31, 2022 deadline set for security agencies to end all violent crimes in the country.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, was yet to reply to the text message sent to his phone after phone calls at the time of filing this report.
However, President Buhari had in his New Year message said the year 2023 would be a time his administration would use to work to solidify on delivering key strategic priorities under its Security, Economy and Anti-Corruption (SEA) agenda.
The president had said the fight against banditry, kidnapping and other crimes in the North West and other regions was gaining momentum and showing clear results, citing the resumption of train service along the Kaduna to Abuja corridor.
He had further stated that the fight against insurgency in the North East region had “continually” recorded very clear wins in the past year.
“We will continue to engage, push back and dismantle the operations of both internal and external extremist and criminal groups waging war against our communities across the nation….Our security forces are working in partnership to ensure the wins we have got in war against insurgency, banditry, secession and other crimes are sustained and more wins acquired,” the president added.