AnalysesArmed Violence

More Accountability, Less Politics: Experts Set Agenda For Nigeria’s Security Response

Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu rose to power, promising to tackle insecurity. But months after he was sworn in, he admitted that there was still work to be done. 

Nigeria enters 2024 with a burden of devastating and multifaceted crises, from increasing attacks in the North West to the resurgence of fatal communal violence that led to the massacre of hundreds in the north-central region. Recent incidents of violence stifle hope for improved security in the new year. Experts have urged that to turn the tide, the country must pay attention to both kinetic and non-kinetic approaches to fighting crime.

Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu rose to power, promising to tackle insecurity. But months after he was sworn in, during his televised speech on Jan. 1, he admitted that there was still work to be done. 

“While we can’t beat our chest yet that we have solved all the security problems, we are working hard to ensure that we all have peace of mind in our homes, places of work and on the roads,” he said.

Security analysts who spoke to HumAngle suggested various approaches the government could adopt or improve on to achieve this goal sooner.

Jesse Attah, a security and intelligence analyst at Beacon Consulting, wants authorities to prioritise prosecuting criminal and terrorism suspects in 2024. He explained that unchecked instances of insecurity foster the continuity of crime and stressed the need for accountability as well as an effective system of identifying, apprehending, and prosecuting culprits.

“Efforts to checkmate organised crime should be reinforced, especially the strengthening of our internal security architecture with manpower and our legal systems to address instances of crime,” he noted.

Attah advised government actors, especially at the regional level, to invest more in non-kinetic problem-solving projects. These may focus on resolving grievances tied to local conflict, youth empowerment, infrastructure development, and community awareness campaigns for intelligence sharing. These, he said, reinforce the influence of the government at the grassroots level and play a vital role in preventing pockets of instability from further escalating.

Another issue observers find concerning is the politicisation of armed violence in parts of the country, especially by people in positions of power.

Chinagorum Joseph, an independent researcher and security analyst, said this trend is worsening communal conflicts and terrorism-related attacks, especially in the southeastern region. “I would like them [politicians] to be sincere in addressing these issues regardless of the party,” he said.

He stressed that politicians should also prioritise good governance this year because criminal masterminds in the region cite bad leadership as an excuse to unleash terror.

Meanwhile, Joseph believes the continued detention of Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), a secessionist group that has since been declared a terror group, has exacerbated the violence in the South East. Kanu has been detained by the federal government for over two years.

“They should be proactive enough to not just secure the release of Nnamdi Kanu, but to also make sure that he stops making inflammatory remarks against the federal government,” he said. “Without his release, many criminals will continue to take advantage of the situation to perpetuate crime. Releasing Kanu will go a long way to help the federal government find who the real people behind these crimes are.”

Rabiu Maru, the leader of a local security outfit in Zamfara, said armed forces must not rest on their heavy raids of terror camps in the northwest region, which have successfully driven terrorists out of some areas.

“The security forces should continue what they started last year, especially being hard on the terrorists,” he said. “The soldiers need to let the terrorists know that they are superior; after we have achieved this, we can begin to discuss non-kinetic strategies for ending insecurity.”

The Nigerian military has vowed to address insecurity in 2024. Edward Buba, the Director of Defence Media Operations, said that the Nigerian armed forces are geared towards intensifying the bombardments of terrorists’ hideouts across the country.

“The aim of our ongoing operations remains unchanged and clear even in the new year 2024,” Buba said in a press statement last Thursday. 

“We aim to find and destroy the terrorist[s] wherever they may be hiding to ensure their enduring defeat. This would deny the terrorist[s] the ability to terrorise or hurt citizens across the country. Our operations indicate that we are hunting the terrorist commanders and their senior leadership. Indeed, from their topmost leadership to the lowest commanders are dead men walking and we will stop at nothing until they are dead or surrender.”

Buba noted that the Nigerian troops have, in the past week, focussed on destroying the terrorist enclaves with air raids and ground onslaughts.

“Our operations resulted in 86 neutralised terrorists with 101 of them arrested; troops also arrested 30 perpetrators of oil theft and rescued 21 kidnapped hostages,” he said. 

“In the South-South, troops denied oil theft of the estimated sum of Seven Hundred and Thirty-Six Million One Hundred and Fifteen Thousand Four Hundred and Seventy Naira (N736,115,470.00) only.”

The military spokesman also addressed the spate of attacks in Nigeria’s capital city, saying troops are collaborating with hybrid forces to deploy patrolling officers to the Bwari Area Council and other places where these incidents are recurrent.

According to data collected by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), at least 8,119 people died due to political violence in Nigeria between January and Dec. 8 last year, with the most affected regions being the North East, North West, and North-Central. The states with the highest killings in 2023 were Benue, Borno, Kaduna, Niger, and Zamfara.

The Nigerian military claimed it killed 6,886 terrorists and other suspected criminals during various operations across the country in the same year. The military also said it arrested 6,970 suspects and rescued 4,488 kidnapped citizens across the country. It identified terrorism, oil theft, and secessionist operations as the predominant criminal features.

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Ibrahim Adeyemi

Deputy Investigations Editor at HumAngle. Ibrahim covers conflict and humanitarian crises with a special interest in terrorism financing. While his works have tackled the routine of criminality and injustice on many occasions, they have also earned him both local and international journalism accolades, including the One World Media Award, the Kurt Schork Awards in International Journalism, the Thomson Foundation Young Journalist Award, the Wole Soyinka Awards for Investigative Reporting, and recently the Kwame Karikari Fact-checking Award for African journalists.

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