Terrorism and Violent Conflicts in Nigeria: Will They Ever End?
By Ya’u Mukhtar,
As stated in the latest version of ‘National Security Strategy 2019,’ a document produced by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), the threat of terrorism and violent extremism has no doubt continued to challenge our security forces over the last decade, thus raising concern over the nation’s safety.
In most cases, the state’s failure to respond to the needs of its citizens paves way for the emergence of various terrorist and violent extremist groups.
These groups in Nigeria include the Boko Haram of the Northeast, the O’odua People’s Congress of the Southwest, the Niger Delta militants of the South-South and the MASSOB/IPOB of the Southeast.
The last three groups based their agitations mainly towards emancipation of their various regions and right to control resources.
For example, Niger Delta militants were famous for destruction of oil facilities and abduction of oil companies’ workers for ransom. Meanwhile, IPOB has been firmly agitating for the self-actualization of its Biafra nation.
The group was alleged to have participated in the murder of non-indigenous people, especially northerners in the eastern region and serial killings of security personnel and demolition of their facilities.
On the other hand, OPC that initially campaigned to protect the interest of the Yoruba ethnic group and seek for its autonomy, later turned out to be a violent extremist group that carried out dangerous attacks on other tribes residing in the southwest.
Needless to say, Boko Haram is the most violent Jihadist group that carries out dangerous intermittent attacks, initially on isolated targets with the ultimate aim of creating an Islamic Caliphate in the North East. At the moment, their campaign has not stopped as their heinous activities have been on the increase.
Boko Haram activities started 12 years ago in Maiduguri, the capital city of Borno, under the supreme leadership of Mohammed Yusuf, who declared that “western education is sin” or in Hausa “Boko Haram”.
His movement became very popular, especially in the Northeastern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa.
However, Boko Haram demonstrations were banned towards the end of July 2009 and this sparked riots that culminated in the loss of about 300 lives in Borno alone.
The Nigerian Police Force responded by arresting many sect members, including Muhammed Yusuf who was later executed in July, 2009. This development marked the beginning of Abubakar Shekau reign as the sect leader, and under whose leadership the sect have launched countlesd merciless and violent “holy war” against the Nigerian state.
Later, the group’s activities moved underground taking the new dimension of carrying out dangerous suicide attacks on government facilities. An example is what happened on August 26, 2011, when a suicide bomber detonated an explosive-laden vehicle at the UN office in Abuja, killing at least 21 people.
Dangerous terrorists-attack by the sect have been carried out in Kano, Jos, Yobe, and Adamawa, among others.
The effects of this terror campaign has led to mass displacement and migration, creation of a large number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), while also undermining governance, rule of law, national cohesion, economic activities, together with the violation of human rights.
For example, since May 2011, more than 37,500 people have been killed, and over 2.5 million were internally displaced, while nearly 244,000 estimated Nigerians have become refugee in neighboring countries due to Boko Haram Terrorist activities. Many civilians including travellers, villagers and students were also massively kidnapped by the terror group.
The most horrific incidences being the Dapchi and Chibok female students’ abduction.
The splintering of BHT into two factions i.e. the Islamic State of West African Province (ISWAP) has compounded the complexity of the threat environment. The objective of the factions is to undermine the public trust in government.
While the activities of terrorists have largely been degraded by the combined efforts of the Armed Forces of Nigeria and other security agencies, as well as the Multi- National Joint Task Force (MNJTF), there are still concerns that these terrorist groups remain a threat. Many civilians and soldiers have been killed or injured, while private and government assets were destroyed in the process.
To curtail this threat, Nigeria enacted the Terrorism Prevention Act 2013, developed the National Counter Terrorism Strategy 2016 (NACTEST), and established the Counter Terrorism Centre to coordinate national counter terrorism efforts. Also, a Policy Framework and National Action Plan for Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism were adopted in 2017 which emphasizes on people-centered approaches in dealing with insecurity.
In recent years, some laudable initiatives have been employed by the government in the fight against terrorism with positive results. This includes initiating programs to encourage defections from terrorist groups as well as promoting the rehabilitation and reintegration of repentant terrorists.
Also, subversive religious activities, hate speech and ethno-religious extremism in the mainstream media, social media and cyberspace are being curbed in partnership with civil society.
It is evident that military operations alone are not sufficient to defeat terrorism and violent extremism. Therefore, great emphasis should be put on conflict prevention, through reinforcing structural changes, community engagement and building resilience.
It is necessary to enhance effective governance by addressing aggravating factors and underlying conditions which lead to the recruitment of vulnerable young citizens in marginalized areas into terrorist and violent extremist groups.
Thus, sensitive issues such as unemployment, poverty and illiteracy should be addressed quickly in order to arrest the situation.
Ya’u Mukhtar writes from Madobi in Kano state. He can be reached via; [email protected], +2348062662147