A lecture Delivered by
Prof. Williams Emeka Obiozor,
Director, Centre for Disability and Special Needs Research
(CENDASNER) Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka-Nigeria.
Saturday July 17, 2021.
Distinguished participants, May I stand on the existing protocols as I discuss the topic: Emerging Threats of Insurgency and Terrorism: A Call for Effective Community Participation to Peace and Unity in Nigeria.
It is no longer news that Nigeria is at crossroads with insecurity, instability, banditry, terrorism, cultism and waves of insurgency.
Each passing day heartbreaking news of man-made calamities of all sorts befalling innocent Nigerians in the northern and southern Nigeria, as well as weakening the governments especially government at the Centre becoming helpless and hopeless of possible solutions and end to this national imbroglio.
The current insecurities in Nigeria involve a lot of criminal activities which include bombing, suicide bomb attacks, sporadic shooting of unarmed and innocent citizens, burning of police stations, churches, kidnapping of school girls and women, e.t.c. Kidnapping, rape, armed robbery and political crises, murder, destruction of oil facilities by Niger Delta militants, Software vulnerabilities, cyber frauds and attacks, activities of unknown gun men.
There are differences in the terms – insurgency and terrorism which equally have related areas worthy of mention in our understanding of the concepts.
Terrorism is considered to be a method of pursuing a political goal, while insurgency is a political movement aimed at realizing a specific political goal, which is generally to overthrow a regime. We can begin to analyze the distinction between terrorism and insurgency by drawing upon the case of the infamous Al Qaeda terror plot and attack on September 11, 2001 (911) at the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York, USA and the Boko Haram insurgency in Northeast and others of Northern Nigeria. Thus, an insurgency is a movement within a country dedicated to overthrowing the government. An insurgency is a rebellion.
Presently, there are proliferation of terror groups and dozens of insurgencies, guerrillas, opposing factions in civil wars, and members of organized criminal groups across many African countries and the world. Such groups are not generally bound by the same constraints or motivated by the same factors as are nation-states, but pose significant threats to peoples’ lives worldwide. Terrorist acts pose an especially potent threat to national interests. When carried out by small, close-knit groups, these attacks are difficult to detect in advance, despite diligent intelligence efforts. Insurgents on the other hand aim to overthrow existing governments, thus destabilizing regional peace and stability of the nation.
It is quite appalling that these emerging threats are truly a Nigerian, African and global problem, cutting across all nations. The threat has been starkly demonstrated by the 1995 nerve gas attack in Japan, the 911 bombing, Eagle square bombing in Abuja, and the increased involvement of criminal groups in the smuggling of small arms, gun running and even nuclear materials. Furthermore, with numerous ongoing insurgencies and civil wars worldwide, there are additional dangers for escalation should Nuclear Biological and Chemical (NBC) weapons or missiles be introduced to the conflict. As these threats go on without control or serious action, there could be an increased potential for leakage of NBC weapons or missile technology, or individuals with technological know-how. Then, me and you, will be in serious trouble.
Major Nigeria’s Security Threats and Challenges
The current governments in Nigeria have been battling terrorism, banditry, arson, kidnapping, herder clashes and recently cult wars and assassinations, within outbreaks of violence in different parts of the country. The march to the 2023 presidential election seemed to be gloomy with the electoral process plagued with all kinds of allegations, challenges on zoning of the presidency between north and south, among other threats could lead to heightened tensions and perhaps more violence in the periods following the presidential election. These are grave and unfortunate examples of the insecurity that the ‘Giant of Africa’ will need to overcome to achieve its true potential. However, it is not the only challenge facing President Mohammad Buhari (Wodu, 2019).
Here are major security challenges that the nation must tackle now to check the emerging threats to national unity.
The grim reality is that Nigeria has a serious internal security problem—and nobody knows exactly how to solve it. Nigeria has experienced devastating attacks from armed bandits for more than two years.
While these attacks initially started in the North West region of Nigeria, they have since spread to other parts of the country, including the peaceful Southeast. Armed bandits frequently kidnap unsuspecting members of the public before using their captives to secure huge ransoms in return for their release. Ransom frequently comes in the form of opaque government payments, a strategy that tends to undermine government authority. The level of coordination in the attacks seems to betray some type of paramilitary training or, at the very least, organization by leaders with military training.
- Boko Haram
The militant Islamist group has destabilised the North-East of Nigeria. Since 2009 the group killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions more. About 2.5 million people fled their homes and towns, and the direct consequence of the conflict was that the North-East was plunged into a severe humanitarian crisis – as of 2018, one of the worst in the world – which has left about 7.7 million people in need of humanitarian aid. Suicide attacks and school children kidnappings have been carried out by the group this year.
- Farmer-herder clashes
The Middle Belt region of Nigeria has faced prolonged violent clashes between the predominantly Christian farmers and the mostly Muslim cattle herders. At the core of the conflicts are disputes over access and rights to land and water resources and rapid desertification which has changed the grazing patterns of cattle. These clashes are not necessarily new, but since 2015 (when President Buhari took over the mantle of leadership), the disputes have become more frequent and violent. In 2018 alone, more than 2,000 people were killed in such clashes – more than the number killed in the past two years combined. The conflict now claims an estimated six times more than the Boko Haram crisis. The dispute is being politicised and is stirring ethnic and religious tensions, which is very dangerous in a deeply divided country like Nigeria.
- The Myetti Allah Group
The Myetti Allah society is an association of cattle breeders whose vociferous leadership stand on open grazing fan seeds of discord between armed headers and farmers, resulting in violent clashes and killings.
The Niger Delta, the oil-producing core of Nigeria has for decades suffered from oil pollution which has led to the loss of livelihoods and sources of food for locals. The area has also been neglected by the federal government even though the bulk of the country’s fund comes from the region.
In the last decade, clashes between armed groups in the area and the security forces reached an all-time high; kidnappings were rife, and oil infrastructure destroyed at a phenomenal rate. The infrastructure vandalism contributed to the onset of one of Nigeria’s worst economic recessions on record.
Making the problem worse, bandits have recently taken to targeting softer targets, such as schools, illustrated most recently by today’s mass kidnapping in Zamfara State, where gunmen took captive over three hundred schoolgirls. The kidnapping is the latest in a string of incidents.
In December 2020, eighty students were kidnapped from an Islamic school in Katsina State, although they were later rescued or released. Last month, over forty-two people, including twenty-seven students, were kidnapped from a secondary school in Niger State—signaling a geographical expansion into the North Central region, part of the Middle Belt. The targeting of schools, worrying in itself, also further discourages students in a country with dismal rates of school attendance and completion.
Banditry alone fails to explain the full scale of Nigeria’s internal security problem. For much of this decade, a murderous conflict between herders and farmers has plagued Nigeria, particularly in the Middle Belt. According to the Global Terrorism Index 2015, Fulani militants—the most violent actor in the Middle Belt’s farmer-herder conflict—were adjudged the fourth-deadliest terror group in the world.
In 2018, Fulani extremists were responsible for 1,158 fatalities in Nigeria—a majority of terror-related deaths in the country that year. Intense violence perpetrated by militant herdsmen has since begun to expand further, towards the South West and South East regions, as herders search for grazing routes for their cattle.
Unfortunately, a combination of drought occasioned by the rapid disappearance of Lake Chad, political instability driven by Boko Haram, and banditry made herders’ southward march an inevitability that will be difficult to reverse.
A Call for Effective Community Participation to Peace and Unity in Nigeria
I am therefore calling on all and sundry to lend their voices to the emerging security threats, condemn terrorist acts and mobilize the leadership to be fair and just to all.
Given our nation’s economic, cultural and demographic might; Nigeria must use its influence and power to contribute to peace and good governance in all parts of the country; same way it has done in West Africa and the broader African region. We should recognize that Nigeria’s stability has an inextricable impact on the peace, progress, and prosperity of the African continent.
If Nigeria in the past decades had contributed to the de-escalation of conflicts in Liberia, Sierra Leone and most recently in The Gambia. Nigeria must continue along this path for her own people in Northeast, Southwest, South South and Southeast.
There is a need for all NIGERIANS to focus on security, peaceful co-habitation, as well as invest in peace-building, reconstruction and rehabilitation and socio-economic development. The nation must find inclusive and creative ways of addressing and de-escalating this complex farmer-header conflict.
President Buhari has to ensure that the army has learnt lessons from how they dealt with the then emerging threat of Boko Haram, banditry, and make sure that the security forces are well equipped to defend the nation.
More positive efforts should be made by the Buhari administration to address the grievances of all the regions concerned in agitation, including the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), Oduduwas, Niger Delta and Middle Belt.
There is every reason for the government to make efforts to better foster peace and development in the region especially given the havoc the herdsmen, kidnappers, bandits, unknown gun men, Avengers (and similar groups) have already brought to the country.
The government needs to be proactive in its response to the conflict through helping to mediate and deescalate the community conflicts; and also through making proper arrangements for displaced persons/incoming refugees.
Communities should encourage vigilantes and neighborhood watch activities to protect it from bandits and criminals.
There is also need for State Police in all the states so that grassroots security would be made paramount and effective.
To protect your devices and data against cyber threats, you can adopt simple measures such as using the latest hardware and software for your digital needs. You will also need to adopt advanced measures such as installing a firewall to add an extra security layer.
People need employment. Build cottage industries. Create more opportunities for skill acquisition training and vocational empowerment.
Introduce community legal education – let it be another form of civic education which will provide trainings on legal and human rights, equity, justice and fair play.
The issue of open grazing should be replaced with cattle ranches.
I hope that this presentation has made you aware of the threats and hope that you will take corrective actions at an individual and organizational level to safeguard against such security issues.
Need for Legal Frameworks (case for Legal Ideas Forum International)
We need applicable legal frameworks and some key recurring issues for victims of terrorist attacks, it is important to identify some of the effects that the resultant violations and trauma may have on the victims themselves. Sometimes, in the counter terrorism context, such factors are not always as prominent as they should be, even though, ultimately, a primary objective of rule of law based counter-terrorism efforts is to prevent victimization. In order to fully provide access to justice for victims, however, an understanding of the harm they have suffered, and the needs that arise because of that harm, is essential.
Notably, the impacts identified in this section are not intended to represent the specific experiences of all survivors of terrorist acts, but rather are descriptive of a range of responses which survivors might experience. Traumatic responses will differ between individuals and may be influenced by several factors, including the age and gender of the survivor, together with any political, religious or cultural affiliations which they hold (Baker, 1992, p. 83; Spiric et al., 2010, pp. 411-412).
In addition, the socio-political-cultural context within which the trauma occurs will inform the way in which survivors interpret and respond to their experiences (Aroche & Coello, 2004, p. 56). These factors are discussed further in the context of the interrelationship between individual and societal trauma and are demonstrated through a case study example of the use of torture.
The potential effects on victims of terrorism can be devastating and multiple; it may be experienced at many interrelated levels – individually, collectively and societally. From a victimological perspective, there are three circles of ‘personal victimization’ which are determined in accordance with their proximity to the direct victim: ” primary or first order victimization, experienced by those who suffer harm directly, whether it is injury, loss or death; secondary or second order victimization, experienced by family members, relatives or friends of primary victims; and tertiary or third order victimization, experienced by those who observe the victimization, are exposed to it through TV or radio coverage of the victimization, or help and attend to victims” (Erez, 2006, p. 20).
Ünall, M.C (2016). Terrorism versus insurgency: a conceptual analysis. Department of Political Science and Public Administration, Adjunct at Bilkent University, Ankara, Turkey.