Most deaths in war are not the result of battlefield clashes, nor are fighters among the largest cohort of casualties. Rather, civilians suffer the most fatalities from conflict—a result of the damage to the infrastructure and livelihoods that provide food, water, shelter, and health care. UNDP estimates that for each death directly linked to the violence started by Boko Haram in 2009, nearly nine more have been killed due to lack of food and resources. This means that as of late 2020, the conflict has led to an estimated 350,000 fatalities and 1.8 million children unable to attend school. While northeastern Nigeria was unlikely to have achieved any SDGs even in the absence of conflict, the violence has halted progress and set back human and economic development in the region for decades.
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Nigeria faces an array of security challenges beyond Boko Haram. Distinguishing these threats and understanding their socio-geographic contours is essential for adapting customized solutions.
Nigeria faces a plethora of security challenges ranging from violent extremism, to farmer-herder conflict, banditry, a revived secessionist movement, police repression, piracy, and attacks on oil infrastructure, among others. In this roundtable discussion, experts representing diplomatic, scholarly, and practitioner perspectives discuss the links between these security challenges and Nigeria’s patronage-based state institutions. Key themes were the need to rethink the structure of the Nigerian state, identify means of strengthening national identity, harness the aspirations of youth to advance governance reform, create more accountability within the security services, and avoid the militarization of every security challenge.
Escalating violence in Nigeria’s North West region requires applying lessons from the fight against Boko Haram, including the need for community outreach and adapting the use of the Joint Military Task Force to unique local threats.
A rise in highway ambushes by Boko Haram and the Islamic State in West Africa pose a growing threat of isolation for Borno State’s 4 million residents.
Nigeria’s largest protests in a generation are calling for police and governance reforms—and expose long-delayed initiatives to enhance professionalism and oversight of Nigeria’s police.
Development efforts to stabilize conflict-affected regions should focus on a wider geographic area than those that are most fragile. Strengthening the resilience of outlying regions can help prevent deterioration in these locations while providing a more solid base of support for areas affected by crisis. This may require intensifying agriculture and strengthening markets in peri-urban and rural areas where displaced persons are living. Private sector investments can also be encouraged in these areas by reducing the risks investors face. Development efforts must simultaneously amplify the voices of effective local leaders and institutions while improving public sector effectiveness.
From Boko Haram to farmer-herder conflicts, ethno-religious tensions, separatist movements, urban crime, and national identity, Nigeria experts size up the security priorities facing the Buhari government in its second term.
Chinese demand for Nigerian rosewood has created a lucrative, yet illegal commercial logging sector in Nigeria’s eastern states. The Nigerian government has chosen profits over environmental protection or the rule of law. Corruption that ranges from bribery of forestry guards to misrepresentation of logging shipments bound for Chinese ports has created the conditions for illegal logging to continue—at least until resources run out and loggers move to the next state. The extensive environmental impacts of illegal logging include increased flooding, erosion, and the removal of animal and plant ecosystems, which leaves certain species facing extinction. Illegal logging also denies communities a source of food and livelihoods.
Most of Nigeria's security threats require security forces—especially police—that are well-governed, respected, and have effective oversight mechanisms.
Biola Shotunde has been a member of the Africa Center alumni community since 2008, when she participated in the Combating Terrorist Financing in North and West Africa Program and the 2009 Community Leadership Conference. Mrs. Shotunde most recently earned her Master of Arts in Strategic Security Studies and War College Diploma in 2015 after a... Continue Reading
Asymmetric Warfare: Reflections on the Responses of Security Forces to Boko Haram Insurgency in Northern Nigeria
The Nigerian government has undertaken a range of actions to combat Boko Haram’s asymmetric insurgency in the country’s northeast: roadblocks, raids, surveillance, patrols, and deradicalization. Nearly all have followed an enemy-centric rather than population-centric approach, despite the fact that many of the factors constraining success are tied directly to the security forces’ operational capacity. For instance, poor coordination, inability to effectively deliver appropriated funds and equipment, enemy penetration, and porous borders all hindered successful counter-enemy actions. However, if Nigeria had instead emphasized a population-centric approach to counterinsurgency, it is possible that such efforts would not have faced as many headwinds.