Right from the administration of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, Nigeria’s security challenges have been heightened with frequent attacks in the mostly Northern region of Nigeria. This is also one of the reasons that there was a massive campaign against President Jonathan. When he was president, bombs went off in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and the dreaded Boko Haram terrorist group claimed the attacks. At the height of the attacks, hundreds of secondary school children were abducted from Chibok in Borno State.
Since then, Nigeria has had to battle one security challenge or the other. After Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in in 2015, the attacks by the dreaded Boko Haram groups reduced, but many others resurfaced in their stead. The age-long conflict between herders and farmers mostly in the North Central geo-political zone of the country (usually known as the Middle Belt) arose and many communities were annihilated. Also, as Boko Haram became relegated to the background the more, another terrorist group, ISWAP, replaced them with renewed attacks. Of course, there were protests by the secessionist group, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
Insecurity has resurfaced in full since April.
Barely a week goes by in Africa’s most populous nation without attacks or kidnappings by criminals known as “bandits” in the North West, jihadists in the North East or separatists in the South East. The frequency and the intensity of the violence even made security agencies fear that it would threaten the elections that were held in February and March. However, there was relative calmness during the polls, which surprised many voters and observers.
As Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the president-elect, takes over from Buhari by May 29, 2023, he is expected to hit the ground running on security issues. This especially as his predecessor has been accused of not delivering on his promise to tackle entrenched insecurity during his tenure. So, one of the new government’s most urgent tasks will be to tackle insecurity, which has resurfaced in full force since April. According to Emeka Okoro, security analyst at Lagos-based consultancy firm, SBM Intelligence, the incoming president will likely face significant security challenges upon assuming office.
President-elect urged to try a non-military approach against insurgents.
Further, Okoro told the media that the North Central and the North West zones of the country have the most urgent states of insecurity. These are where old tensions between herders and farmers have morphed into a deadly conflict involving heavily armed criminal gangs. Despite some ongoing military operations against such groups, impunity and insufficient security as well as lack of wider government presence have allowed the violence to fester. Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III, the Sultan of Sokoto, said that these bandits invade communities, kill people and destroy property with little or no resistance. Sokoto is also affected by the issue.
During the presidential campaign, Tinubu promised that he would “accelerate the reforms commenced” under Buhari “in building a more robust, re-energized armed forces.” He said he would recruit, train and better equip additional military, police, paramilitary and intelligence personnel. However, Abuja-based Centre for Democracy and Development’s Idayat Hassan has said that the incoming administration should explore a non-military approach and address some of the root causes of the violence.
Tinubu to battle 14-year-long jihadist insurgency in the North East.
A major front for the Tinubu administration is the 14-year-old jihadist insurgency in the North East, which has resulted in some 40,000 deaths and two million more displaced. The military recaptured jihadists-controlled territories under Buhari. However, rivals linked to the Islamic State group, ISWAP, have since emerged as the dominant threat. In the South East, Tinubu also faces separatist agitation, a highly sensitive issue in Nigeria where around one million people died in a three-year civil war in the late 60s between federal forces and Igbo secessionists (Biafran War).