As Insecurity Rages across Nigeria

Chiemelie Ezeobi and Kingsley Nwezeh, who chronicled the recent spate of insecurity across the nation, write that it has reached a worrisome crescendo especially after witnessing one of the most violent weeks in the nation’s recent history, as was further collaborated by the SBM Intelligence index report that 590 people were killed in April alone

In the past one week of the just ended month of April, the violence convulsing the land peaked, puting Nigerians on edge, spreading fears of a looming war or a war that has reached an advanced stage, depending on your perspective.

The newspapers became nearly unreadable because 60 per cent of the news content daily dwelt on violence that gripped the land. The electronic media and online publications also chronicled daily the orgy of violence devastating the country and a leadership that is running in circles, issuing endless assurances that even the perpetrators of violence take advantage of to increase the tempo of violence.

Some of the newspaper headlines read: “Two Police Officers, Four Others Killed in Akwa Ibom, Benue, Enugu”, “Slain Student of Greenfield University Laid to Rest”, “Nation in Turmoil, Bandits Kill Two More Kaduna Students, “Bandits Invade Zaria, Abduct Housewives, Children”, among many other heart-wrending headlines and it continues unabated.

Some have raised the posers: Is there a purge going on? Is this about 2023? Is this about conquest? Is it Al-Qaeda, ISIS and Boko Haram on a jihadist mission, Is it the product of deliberate ploy to engender a breakup of the country, create regional armed groups in order to achieve a hidden agenda? Whatever it is, the blood of the innocent appears to be the currency and they are crying out.

Chilling Week of Violence

Within one week, it was reported that bandits killed a Divisional Police Officer (DPO), eight policemen and two vigilantes in Kebbi State; 19 people were killed in Igbariam, Anambra State; abductors kill five students of Greenfield University, Kaduna; gunmen attacked soldiers in Amasiri; gunmen kidnapped several students of the University of Agriculture.

590 Citizens Killed in April

A report prepared by SBM Intelligence, a geo-political research intelligence group, said 590 people were killed across the country in violent attacks in the month of April alone.

The SBM report said killings took place in 31 States and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and recorded 160 instances of violent attacks from April 1 to 27.

The report said Benue State recorded the highest number of deaths with 127 people killed in 11 attacks. This was followed by Zamfara with 86 deaths in six attacks while 85 deaths occured in Borno in nine incidents.

It listed other states to include Kaduna, 32; Katsina, 31; Anambra, 29; Imo, 25; Rivers, 24 and Yobe,21. Others are Gombe, 18; Niger, 12; Kebbi, 11; Akwa Ibom, 10; Taraba, 10; Lagos, nine; Adamawa, six; Delta, six; Ebonyi, six and Plateau, six.

Two states, Bayelsa and Ekiti recorded five deaths even as three people were killed in Cross River, Edo, and Osun States. Three deaths, the report said, occured in Ondo, two in Abuja, Abia, Enugu, Nasarawa, and Ogun while Oyo and Sokoto recorded one death each.

At the geo-political level, the SBM report said 161 people were killed in the North-west while 149 people died in the North-central even as 140 people lost their lives in the North-east. A look at the South-east showed that 64 people were killed while South-south recorded 53 deaths and South-west bringing the rear with 33 fatalities.

SBM Intelligence said the northern part of the country recorded 76 percent of fatalities within the period under review.

While the nation battled with other forces of insecurity, the Jihadist terrorist organisation, Boko Haram, did not let up. With the aim of expanding its base beyond North-east Nigeria, they have consistently formed alliances with other Islamist groups, thus further intensifying regional security concerns. After the group pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in March 2015.

Known for its brutality, the insurgents have killed tens of thousands of people, displaced millions from their homes and is one of the world’s deadliest terror group according to the Global Terrorism Index.

Unrepentant Bandits

In 2011, Nigeria experienced a surge in bandit attacks as it spread from the North to the South. Over the past decade, banditry evolved from a communal rivalry into lethal militia groups and has become an appealing method of generating income through ransom demands.

Lately, the spate of banditry has severely disrupted means of livelihood. According to reports, since 2011, “nearly 200,000 people have fled bandit violence and remain internally displaced within the northwest region. Approximately 77,000 Nigerians have fled to neighboring countries”.


Before, the victims were the rich or well connected. Now, the spread has touched virtually all strata and class. From the rich to the poor, the aged to youth and children. Again, no strata is left out as doctors, pastors, teachers, farmers, military, judges and even traders, among others, have become victims of this well-oiled thriving syndicate.

Random search on the internet popped up several kidnap cases. From Kaduna to Zamfara, Lagos to Enugu, these kidnappers have gone riot across all geo-political zones of the nation.

Ransom as Cash Cow
It is pertinent to note that these kidnappers do not just strike for the fun of it. No. They have embraced the business because it has become a juicy cash cow that keeps yielding fruit. This according to experts should be blamed on the desperation of families to secure the release of their loved ones, which has emboldened the kidnappers who know they can always coerce the cooperation of victims’ families to keep the security agents off their trail.

At the moment, kidnapping for ransom has become an industry running into billions of naira. In most cases, these kidnappers demand ransom running into millions of naira, a sum which doesn’t even guarantee the safety of the kidnapped.

In most cases, parents and families of abducted victims are often left to raise the funds. For those that can’t afford the funds, they often run to the social media to appeal for the required ransom.

To ameliorate the increasing spate of kidnapping in Nigeria, security experts have advocated for the Personal Locator Beacons (PLB). The way it works, one has to trigger it when they are kidnapped so their location will show.

The beacon is usually registered in the name of the owner and when triggered, their data comes to the system, and the rescue team are alerted. The PLB can also be built into wrist watches as a disguise. The snag however is the cost. As useful as the PLB is, one could cost between 300 to 700 dollars. At the moment, few hundreds of PLBs are in circulation in Nigeria and that is too small a number compared to what is applicable worldwide.

Ambush at Mainok

Also, at Mainok, 30 soldiers were killed by the terrorists when they laid ambush against the Nigerian soldiers who were escorting some arms to Maiduguri. They reportedly overwhelmed the soldiers during a prolonged shoot out and eventually seized some of the weapons.

Damask’s Fall

Recently, Damasak, in Borno State had also fallen to the terrorists after the community was razed. In the attack, about eight persons were reportedly killed and a dozen others injured. In the ensuing melee, the residents fled the town and the Boko Haram flag was hoisted there for some days before the military recovered the community.

Geidam’s Vulnerability

One of the states recently at the mercy of terrorists and bandits Geidam, in Yobe State, is the home town of the acting Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba. Boko Haram terrorists seized Geidam and displaced many residents. The Nigerian soldiers battled the terrorists for days to regain control of the town.

Attacks on Policemen, Police Station
One of the most bizarre illegality going on now is the attack on policemen and police stations. Coming at the heels of the attack against police formations during last year’s #EndSARS, the recent resurgence of such attacks have become alarming.

On January 8, three policemen were attacked at Onueke Police Station in Ezza South Local Government Area (LGA) in Ebonyi State and on
January 23, two policemen were killed after gunmen invaded a police station in Aba, Abia State.

On February 1, hoodlums razed the divisional police station at Omoba, headquarters of Isiala Ngwa South in Abia, killing a policeman and looting the armoury, while on February 4, another police station was burnt at Isu, Onicha LGA in Ebonyi. The next day, two policemen were killed at the Umulowo police division in Obowo LGA in Imo State.

On February 23, unknown gunmen stormed Abayi Police Station in Osisioma Ngwa LGA in Abia and killed a policeman before they looted arms and set the station ablaze. The next day, hoodlums killed a police officer and razed a patrol vehicle in Ekwulobia, Anambra State. Again on February 25, a policewoman was shot after hoodlums attacked a police station in Aboh Mbaise LGA in Imo.

On March 1, another police station was attacked at Iboko divisional police station in Izzi, Ebonyi while on March 9, another one was burnt at Ihitte-Uboma LGA in Abia. On March 18, some policemen were killed in Ekwulobia in Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State, when gunmen attacked various locations. Also in Ekwulobia, two staff members of the Nigeria Correctional Service (NCS), Awka, who were escorting inmates to court in Ekwulobia, were gunned down.

On March 20, hoodlums attacked the divisional police headquarters at Isiala Mbano in Imo on March 20 while on March 22, three police officers attached to the Abiriba police division were killed in Ohafia LGA in Abia on March 22. Their rifles were taken away.

On March 31, three policemen attached to the former Central Bank of Nigeria governor, Prof Charles Soludo, were killed in Isuofia, Aguata LGA, Anambra.

On April 5, gunmen attacked the Imo State Police Command headquarters and the Correctional Centre in Owerri. They looted the armoury, burnt vehicles and freed no fewer than 600 detainees and 1,844 inmates. On April 6, gunmen razed the Divisional Police Headquarters in Ehime Mbano LGA in Imo. Also on the same day, another attack was launched at the Ugbodo Police Station in Ebonyi LGA but the police repelled the attack and killed one.

On April 8, gunmen attacked the Mbieri Divisional Police Headquarters in Mbaitoli LGA in Imo, freeing suspects. On April 14, three policemen attached to the Safer Highway Patrol team in Ebonyi were killed in an attack at Ogoja/ Abakaliki Express road by Nwaezenyi junction.

On April 19, gunmen killed two policemen during an attack on the Zone 13 Police Headquarters in Ukpo, Dunukfia LGA in Anambra. Also on the same day, gunmen burnt a police station in Uzoakoli, Bende LGA in a 3 am attack.

Also in Abia, an attack was launched on a police patrol team before Abiriba junction in Ohafia local government area, which three officers dead and their van set on fire.

Death of IPOB Commander

Meanwhile, the incessant attacks on its personnel and stations set the police on its warpath. Recently, they took the war to the enclave of IPOB in Imo State. In a joint operation with the Nigerian Army and DSS, they stormed IPOB operational headquarters in Awomama Village, Oru East LGA of Imo State and neutralised the commander Ikonso and six others.

After the gun duel, THISDAY gathered that the security forces recovered the remains of Ikonso Commander and six of his fighters. Also, several sophisticated weapons including six AK47 rifles, hundreds of ammunition of different caliber and lots of charms including bullet proof charms

Meanwhile, three policemen and one army officer died after sustaining serious bullet injuries during the exchange of gunfire.

Attack on Imo Governor

In a reprisal by IPOB, the country home of the Governor of Imo State, Hope Uzodimma was attacked and two cars including a Rolls Royce was burnt. According to the news report, the attackers threw petrol bombs into the compound sparking a fire incident which led to the razing of vehicles within the premises.

The attack also claimed lives of security personnel including an officer of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC).

Recently, jail breaks have assumed a terrible dimension. On April 5, 2021, heavily armed unknown gunmen attacked Owerri Prison in Imo State. They came into the prison heavily armed with machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and improvised explosive devices, which they used to gain access to the administrative block and released 1,844 inmates.

Alarming Statistics in Kaduna
According to the statistics released week by the Kaduna State Ministry of Internal Affairs, a total of 323 people were killed and 949 others kidnapped within three months from various attacks ranging from banditry, reprisal attacks, kidnapping, and cattle-rustling. Of the total number of deaths recorded from the various aforementioned attacks, 20 were women and 11 were minors.

Meanwhile, the Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs, Samuel Aruwan said in the security report for the first quarter of 2021, that troops killed 64 gunmen and arrested several gunrunners during the period under review.

Niger Governor’s Alarm as Boko Haram Hoists Flag

Last week, Governor of Niger State, Mr. Abubakar Sani Bello raised the alarm that fighters of terror group, Boko Haram, had sacked 50 villages and hoisted its flag in the state.

There were also unconfirmed reports that the terror group had signed a N20 million pact with some villages, some of whom have gone ahead to procure motorcycles for them as a way of preventing the insurgents from unleashing violence on the besieged villages.

Governor Bello had warned that Abuja, the nation’s seat of power was only a two-hour drive from Niger State, advising the government at the center to take the matter more seriously.

Worry over Infiltration of Insurgents in Nasarawa

Nasarawa State Governor, Abdullahi Sule, had also said recently that insurgents were infiltrating the state, stating that it was imperative for something urgent to be done about it. He said at a meeting with security chiefs in March that the terrorists were regrouping in some local government councils in the state.

He had listed the places to include Nasarawa, Wamba, Awe, Doma, and Karu respectively.
Governor Sule stated that apart from the regrouping of Boko Haram members and bandits in the state, he was also worried about the influx of herdsmen in the state who were coming in from Ondo, Oyo, and other south-western states of the country, following clashes over insecurity.

Security Cordon around Abuja

Following Governor Bello’s security alert, security forces had thrown a massive security cordon around the nation’s seat of power following threats of attacks by insurgents and the increasing wave of armed banditry in the contiguous states of Kaduna, Kogi, Nasarawa, and Niger States.

The Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) had also reassured the nation that there was no threat to the nation’s airports even as security was beefed up at the airports.

There was also increased deployment of troops, police, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), and intelligence operatives to the three strategic entrance to the city notably, Keffi, Zuba and Gwagwalada while more checkpoints were also mounted around Gwagwalada and Keffi.

There was also increased security checks at the entrance to the National Assembly, making it difficult for people to gain entrance into the federal legislature.

The Federal Capital Territory Police Command had also ordered the deployment of personnel to the borders with other states even as it pushed back against messages circulating on social media of an alleged attack on the University of Abuja by armed bandits.

The Spokesperson of the Command, ASP Yusuf Mariam, said the seat of power was safe. She said the command had deployed personnel to FCT borders with other states.

Buhari’s Appeal to US Govt for Assistance

Last week, President Muhammadu Buhari called for the assistance of the United States in containing the violence ravaging the nation.
The president had come under pressure in recent times to seek external help which the government had been reluctant to do.

At a virtual meeting with the United States Secretary of State, Mr. Anthony Bliken, Buhari also called for the relocation of the United States African Command (AFRICOM) from Stutggart in Germany to Africa.

US government had in 2020 and recently issued a security alert that Al-Qaeda and ISIS were making inroads into West Africa, Sahel and Lake Chad, moving Southwards in Nigeria, exploiting local differences.

Buhari had told the US Envoy that the security challenges in Nigeria remained of great concern to Nigeria and impacted more negatively by existing complex negative pressures in the Sahel, Central and West Africa, as well as the Lake Chad Region.

“Compounded as the situation remains, Nigeria and her security forces remain resolutely committed to containing them and addressing their root causes”.

He noted that “the support of important and strategic partners like United States cannot be overstated as the consequences of insecurity will affect all nations hence the imperative for concerted cooperation and collaboration of all nations to overcome these challenges.

“In this connection, and considering the growing security challenges in West and Central Africa, Gulf of Guinea, Lake Chad region and the Sahel, weighing heavily on Africa, it underscores the need for the United States to consider re-locating AFRICOM headquarters from Stuttgart, Germany, to Africa and near the Theatre of Operation.”

Chief of Staff’s Trouble Shooting in South-east

In the midst of all the trouble, it is gratifying to note that a foundation linked to the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, organised a peace meeting in Owerri, the Imo State capital, aimed at eliciting views of some stakeholders in the South-east on how to restore peace in the zone.

The event was organised by Neighbourhood Environment Watch Foundation, founded by Okezie Kelechi, an environmentalist and human rights and social justice activist and funded by Savannah Center for Diplomacy, Democracy and Development (SCDDD), a centre founded by the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof Ibrahim Gambari.

The program was themed: “Imperative of National Dialogue for Unity, Security and Development-South-east Zonal Stakeholders Dialogue”.
Speaking on the topic: “X-raying the Current Insecurity in the Southeast: the Role of the Stakeholders”, a Principal Officer of the International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law (Intersociety), Mr. Emeka Umeagbalasi, who is also a legal practitioner, blamed the federal government and its security forces particularly the Nigerian Army for the rising insecurity in the region and accused them of promoting and sustaining policy of structural, physical and cultural violence against the region and its population.

He said the insecurity in the South-east was the product of years of yet to be addressed “state actor injustices including the massacre of hundreds of defenseless citizens, indiscriminate clampdowns on self determination activists and uninvolved others, ethnic profiling or hatred and crackdowns on the basis of ethnicity and religion and state’s unwillingness to fish out and punish the perpetrators in addition to the activities of jihadist herdsmen among others and the totality of which could lead to ‘citizens’ reprisal radicalism’ and widespread defensive self-help”.

The paper also highlighted and lamented that out of 15 key army and police formations in the South-east, 12 are headed by Muslims including 10 Fulani-Hausa Muslims and two South-west Muslims.

He said out of the 15, only one is of Igbo extraction and two others Hausa Christians (CP, Anambra) and South-south Christian (CP, Abia).
In the South-east gateway Sstates of Benue, Edo, Delta, Rivers, Cross River, Akwa Ibom and Bayelsa, out of their 15 key army and police formations, 13 are headed by Muslims including 10 Fulani-Hausa Muslims and two Southwest Muslims and only two are Christians including Rivers State Commissioner of Police who is from Delta State.

“The flooding of the region and its outposts with Fulani-Hausa Muslim military and police commanders must be reversed and all the top officers named above and similar others removed or transferred out of the region and its outposts.

” The percentage of Muslim senior military and police officers to be posted to the region and its named outposts must be drastically reduced to 30 per cent so as to allow the Christian indigenous officers to fill 70 per cent of the total slots or positions and give the indigenous citizens of the region a true sense of security and safety”.
It is hoped that with more dialogue moving to other geo-political zones, the peace that has eluded the nation may be restored.

IG Overhauls Security Architecture in South-east

On its part, the Inspector General of Police, acting IG Usman Alkali Baba, overhauled the security architecture in the South-east by ordering the posting of CP Christopher A. Owolabi as the new Commissioner of Police (CP) in charge of Anambra State Police Command.

According to the Force Public Relations Officer, CP Frank Mba, the deployment of the new CP was part of the ongoing efforts at re-ordering, overhauling and strengthening the security and policing architecture in Anambra State and other states of the South-east and South-south geo-political zones of the country.

Stance of National Assembly

The insecurity that has continuously plagued the nation was the discourse during one of the recent sittings of the law-making body. They further resolved to call on the army chief and the Inspector General of Police to immediately deploy troops to defend the unarmed populace and bring back security to the affected communities.

They lawmakers also called for a permanent military and police command base in the area adjoining Shiroro and Rafi Local Government Areas respectively and to redesign the modus operandi of the military operations within the affected areas so as to curtail the escalating insecurity. Additionally, they tasked the president to order for massive recruitment of police officers and other security personnel.

Governor’s Take

In February this year, the Nigeria Governors Forum (MGF) in reaction to rising insecurity in parts of the country after an emergency meeting, agreed to adopt a number of measures to address the nation’s security challenges.

Speaking on behalf of the governors, the NGF Chairman and Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi said the NGF, undertook a comprehensive review of security challenges across the country, identified the various elements of insecurity in the nation and agreed to adopt broad measures to ensure the protection of lives and property.

Some of the measures include increased funding for security agencies, strengthening the National Livestock Transformation Plan by adopting modern grazing and livestock management approaches and reviewing the nation’s forestry management and environmental laws to ensure effective management of the nation’s forest resource. But months after the meeting, insecurity seemed to have tripled and become worse.

UNHCR and its Growing Concerns about IDPs
As expected, with the growing attacks and subsequent displacement of communities, many lost their homes and joined the growing figure of the internally displaced.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, in their statement expressed their concern after 65,000 Nigerians moved following a series of attacks by armed groups on Damasak town, Borno State. Initial reports indicate that eight people were killed and a dozen injured.

According to the agency, “following the latest attack on Wednesday April 14, the third in seven days, up to 80 per cent of the town’s population – which includes the local community and internally displaced people – were forced to flee. Assailants looted and burned down private homes, warehouses of humanitarian agencies, a police station, a clinic and a UNHCR Protection Desk. Those fleeing include Nigerians and Niger nationals living in the area.”

They noted that humanitarian access is increasingly challenging in many parts of Nigeria’s Borno State, including for UNHCR staff, who were forced to temporarily relocate out of Damasak that week. But despite the challenges, they noted that they are ready to assist those newly displaced people we can reach.

Way Forward

Given the alarming tilt of insecurity and its attendant consequences, many stakeholders have continuously posited the way forward to mitigate this anomaly. One of such effective mechanisms
should be a peace building process that includes dialogue between security agencies and communities. This, according to stakeholders, is crucial to effective policing and intelligence gathering.

Also, they charged the federal government to increase funding for police and security forces, just as the government should address social problems that drive people to illegality.

According to Nextier SPD, “the Nigerian government must stay ahead of these security issues. Nigerian security agencies are overwhelmed by the assortment of the security crisis. Moreover, they have become vulnerable to insecurity, with the targeted attacks on police outfits in the southeast and South-south zones.

“New security commitments are needed to end imminent widespread chaos in the country. Crisis hotspots are increasing in number, same as civilian responses to manage them. Therefore, the security architecture must be reviewed in light of emerging security concerns.

“Additionally, the government must focus on early warning signs to mitigate emerging violent threats before they escalate to full-blown conflicts. For instance, ongoing pro-secessionist movements in the South-east zone have resulted in violent clashes between security agents and the agitators.

“Government must begin to look beyond repression in managing the crisis to reduce the need for combative commitments in the crisis hotspots and redeploy them to other theatres of violence. In essence, early warning signs, peace building initiatives will help to reduce the increasing violence and need for kinetic actions while also preventing human and material losses.”

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