Those who desire peace. Part 1: Nigeria’s Internal Security Considerations

As Nigeria’s new administration settles in, it is clear that Nigeria’s security issues are not polite enough to observe a honeymoon period.

It is therefore pertinent to further review the threats facing Nigeria and the Nigerian security forces and how they function. By balancing these against existing and potential threats we will attempt to build on previous observations as to the nature and severity of these threats and the best way to counter them.

This series of articles began as a result of a series of conversations the author had with other security professionals and evolved as threats evolved, thus further parts will focus on particular actors of interest.

Hostile Non State Forces

Boko Haram: are a collection of armed groups centred on the remnants of the Yusufiyya group. Their numbers are hard to determine but include forced conscripts, mercenaries, criminals and child soldiers as well as willing volunteer fighters. Recently renamed DWAP (Daesh West African Provinces), it is unclear as to how much support they derive from Daesh in Iraq/ Syria or Libya but the name change has seen the retirement (or death) of ‘Shekau’ but no overt change in tactics or techniques, except a willingness to attack Chad and a relentless surge of suicide attacks against soft targets.

Location: operates mainly in Yobe, Adamawa and Borno State Extreme Nord Region of Cameroun and Diffa Prefecture of Niger Republic but have staged attacks in multiple locations. Their furthest attack has been in Lac Region in Chad, however geographically they have attacked as far away from their base in North East Nigeria as Niger and Kogi States.

Objectives: their ostensible objectives are implementing their version of Islamic rule on Northern Nigeria in particular and Nigeria in general. In the areas they have captured this seems to consist of kidnapping and raping females, murdering or conscripting males and extorting money and food from the people. In negotiations or demands of the government they have consistently asked for compensation for lost or damaged properties as well as the release of their captured fighters.

Targets: their main targets have been the security forces, government facilities, opposing clerics and peaceful civilians (initially focussing on Christians but latterly less discriminating)

Mode of operation: Boko Harams methods of attack evolved from mob violence to assassinations with small arms and bladed weapons to IEDs to complex combined arms attacks using armour, indirect fire weapons, mobile units and foot soldiers. They have demonstrated a full range of ground capabilities and allegedly even shot down an aircraft

Logistics: Boko Haram’s has mostly supplied itself by capturing arms from the security forces. They have supplemented this by purchases from Central Africa and the Sahel. Food and fuel has been mainly stolen in Nigeria and Cameroun, with funds raised through theft, kidnap for ransom, illegal taxations

Lethality: Boko Haram has caused an estimated 17,000 deaths and displaced over a million in 6 years. They have a willingness, ability and inclination to use violence indiscriminately to achieve their goals

Future trends: Boko Haram will redevelop its terror and guerrilla capabilities. It will revert to IED and isolated small arms on strategic targets (i.e. away from the main Area of Operations (AO)), whilst attacking isolated and soft targets and launching raids within the AO. As friendly forces become worn down and stretched out they will attempt to once more go on a general offensive, probably with more limited objectives. They will spread its attacks over as wide a geographical area as possible so as to force friendly forces to spread out as thinly as possible however the core focus will be Borno state.

Ansaru: is an off shoot of Boko Haram formed in 2012, reportedly consisting of Nigerians who fought with MUJAO in Mali who became disillusioned with Shekau’s leadership of Boko Haram. Badly damaged by a combination of security force action and infighting with Boko Haram, Ansaru became dormant until re-emerging to work with Boko Haram in 2013 on kidnaps for ransom and their offensive

Location: North Eastern States, Sokoto, Kebbi and Kano States

Objectives: ostensibly the defence of Muslims in the Middle Belt and Northern Nigeria as well as the wider regional and global jihad in the pattern of AQIM and MUJAO

Targets: mainly foreigners, security forces etc, Ansaru independent operations have shown more discrimination but has allegedly taken part in Boko Harams general offensive

Mode of operation: Ansaru has used IEDs, small arms and mounted small unit attacks. It is not clear if it is capable of independent combined arms type operations like Boko Haram

Logistics: Ansaru has used weapons and equipment stolen or captured from the security forces or bought from the black market.

Lethality: while more discriminating than Boko Haram, Ansaru and uses violence against civilians and the security forces to achieve its aims

Future trends: Ansaru’s fate is unclear, it is possible that it has merged completely with Boko Haram, has been destroyed as a standalone group or the differences are indistinguishable.

Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB): was formed in 1999 to campaign for the restoration of the Republic of Biafra. Led since inception by Ralph Uwazuruike, it has a multi stage non violent plan to achieve the peaceful secession of the South South and South East zones of Nigeria.

MASSOB has mostly engaged in demonstrations and publicity stunts such as forming governments in exile, street cleaning days, introducing Biafran currency and passports and hoisting the Biafran flag. Mob violence has been used against non compliant traders or business people and riots have led to arson. Several thousand MASSOB members have been detained without trial and several hundred have been reportedly murdered extra judicially by the security forces. Despite this in the 2015 elections, MASSOBs leader curiously endorsed President Jonathan’s candidacy without any reciprocal easing of repression.

Location: MASSOB is based in the South Eastern/ Igbo states of Enugu, Anambra, Ebonyi, Imo, Abia.

Objectives: MASSOB seeks to reconstitute the Republic of Biafra, using populist, non military means

Targets: other than intimidation, riots and mob violence MASSOB remains generally non violent. If however MASSOB were to become radicalised likely targets would be government buildings, the security forces and possibly non sympathetic Igbo political or cultural leaders.

Mode of operation: MASSOB official seeks non violent means to its aims although violent acts have been committed by its members.

Logistics: Proximity to the Niger Delta and well established illegal arms traffickers would mean that obtaining weapons would not be difficult nor would maintaining a supply line. However these ‘seed’ weapons would have to be supplemented with others stolen from the security forces

Lethality: currently MASSOB is a nonviolent group. The main casualties of their effort have been MASSOB members by the security forces.

Future Trends: MASSOB is likely to remain a non violent pressure group. If radicalised initial attacks would most likely involve mob violence, attacks on police stations, drive by shootings with small arms and IED attacks against government and political targets. Potential mass attacks could be used against soft targets such as northern civilians or mosques using bladed weapons or petrol bombs. It might try and leverage dissatisfaction amongst politicians and activists on the losing side of the Presidential elections and local elections to generate a mass movement but the conflicting objectives of the politicians (access to Government money) and MASSOB (to leave the Federation) means this will be a fractious coalition. For MASSOB to radicalise and transition to violence would involve several key steps such as overt discrimination by other ethnic groups, brutal, indiscriminate government crackdown, renewed massacres against Igbos in the North, with perceived government complicity or indifference, sponsorship by wealthy individuals as a tool to seize or influence political power.

Other Biafran separatists: other than MASSOB there are several other Biafran separatist groups:

Biafran Zionist Movement (BZM): led by Benjamin Onwuka, broke away from MASSOB they claim a link to Israel and Jewish origins. BZM attempted to attack a radio station in Enugu and declare the formation of the Republic of Biafra

Radio Biafra: is a radio station streaming online and broadcasting on the FM band. Its spokesman is Nnamdi Kalu aka The Director and it broadcasts a stream of virulent, tribalistic, sectarian, partisan and xenophobic propaganda. It seeks to incite and alienate and seems to be succeeding.

Location: although based in the South Eastern States the BZM seems most active in Anambra and Enugu States. Radio Biafra is apparently based in London.

Objectives: unilateral secession and the re-formation of the Republic of Biafra

Targets: thus far the only targets of the BZM have been a radio station. Radio Biafra is virulently tribalistic in its pronouncements and broadcasts

Mode of operation: BZM used an unarmed mob attack, Radio Biafra uses crude propaganda

Logistics: the source of funding for both groups are unknown, however Radio Biafra actively fundraises on its website and solicits funds through its broadcasts.

Lethality: currently only BZM has attempted to use violence and this has been done poorly.

Future Trends: It is likely as the economic situation worsens, propaganda and activities from these sources will become more virulent and strident. It is likely that lone wolf attacks could follow against Northerners in the East or Government targets. If repression is used to counter these groups or even worse used indiscriminately it is likely to have a reinforcing effect on their activities.

Niger Delta Militants: there are various militant groups in the Niger Delta such as Asari Dokubo’s Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force, late Ateke Toms Niger Delta Volunteers, late John Togo’s Niger Delta Liberation Front and Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta. These groups in their various iterations came into being in 1999 when university cults, criminals and pirates were recruited by local politicians to help rig the upcoming elections, once the elections had been decided many were left without support and too on the cause of resource control and compensation for the damage oil exploration has done to the region. After a fairly successful campaign targeting oil installations, kidnapping foreign and local workers, shutting down production and so on, an amnesty was implemented in 2009, paying fighters a stipend and giving commanders ‘pipeline monitoring’ and security contracts. These contracts and the exponential increase in oil bunkering has led to these commanders becoming extremely wealthy.

Location: Mainly Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta and Edo States, with incidents in Cross River and Akwa Ibom States

Objectives: the original goal was resource control, compensation for environmental damage and clean up of environmental damage, however this has morphed into oil bunkering and rent seeking contracts.

Targets: oil installations, security forces, rival gangs

Mode of operation: abductions, water borne attacks, hijackings, pipeline attacks, oil installation attacks with IEDs, small arms, RPGs and crew served weapons.

Logistics: well funded by contracts, bunkering, illegal refineries, ransoms and local politicians. Arms are easy to obtain either from old stocks or from the black market. Traditional coastal smuggling routes make arms importation relatively easy.

Lethality: Niger Delta militants have used violence quite successfully to achieve their aims (or at least the pecuniary aims of their leaders). Whilst their attacks have been targeted at the security forces, ships, oil companies and oil installations civilians have been harmed in their attacks.

Future trends: the change in government jeopardises the revenue streams of several militant leaders, combined with the end of the amnesty programme in December 2015 this provides an incentive for them to return to conflict. It is however unlikely that the wealthiest militant leaders will sacrifice their comfortable lifestyles to return to the creeks, however there are many lesser commanders and people who missed the initial amnesty largesse, for whom the potential rewards of bunkering, kidnap for ransom and ‘amnesty’ compare favourably with their current lifestyle.

Bakassi Militant Groups: these groups sprung up as a result of the ceding of the Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroun and the Niger Delta insurgency. Bakassi indigenes who did not wish to be Camerounian were resettled in squalid camps, away from ancestral homes whilst those that remained claim they are being discriminated against. Combined with the usual lack of development juxtaposed with oil exploration, several gangs have begun to operate in the creeks of the area. The Bakassi Movement for Self Determination formed in 2006 seeks the secession of Bakassi from Cameroun, there are also the Bakassi Freedom Fighters who have kidnapped foreign workers and the South Cameroun’s Peoples Organisation who seek an independent English speaking republic and the Niger Delta Defence and Security Council. These groups have launched attacks on both sides of the border and are reportedly disciplined, well equipped, well armed, with good communications equipment and mobility.

Location: Cross River and Akwa Ibom State and Sud Ouest (South West) Region, Cameroun

Objectives: are the restoration the rights of the Bakassi peoples, with a healthy dose of piracy, kidnap for ransom, oil bunkering and smuggling.

Targets: targets have been Nigerian and Camerounian security forces, oil companies and vessels.

Mode of operation: fighters mounted in boats equipped with machine guns, RPGs and crude IEDs, in well organised and executed attacks

Logistics: this area has always been a smugglers paradise with easy access to weapons and equipment. Illegal taxes on smuggled goods as well as oil bunkering and kidnap for ransom, ensure strong revenue streams.

Lethality: these groups have used violence to achieve their aims and have shown no reserve about challenging the security forces on both sides of the border.

Future trends: these groups will grow in strength, reach and lethality. The north east is absorbing most of Nigeria and Cameroun’s combat strength, and the multiplicity of conflict zones in Nigeria will only exacerbate this. With the combination of an international border, inhospitable, difficult terrain, access to funds and weapons and a legitimate grievance and a lack of strategic awareness by friendly forces these groups will present a significant threat.

Ombaatse: are a militia/ secret society of the Eggon tribe, led by native doctor Baba Alayko (reportedly killed in 2014). Their name mean ‘Our time has come’ and uses fetish oaths and violence to bind members. They have also forcibly recruited Christians and Muslims.

Location: they are mainly based in Akwanga and Nasarawa Eggon LGA, Nasarawa State.

Objectives: Their objectives appear to be local supremacy and the attainment of political power in the state for the Eggon.

Targets: their main targets have been other tribes, non Ombaaatse members and the local security forces.

Mode of operation: the militants use small arms and bladed weapons

Logistics: it is not clear how the group is funded, however as a localised group with fairly modest aims, its costs will be small. Weapons appear to be locally sourced

Lethality: the group has used violence to recruit and achieve its aims and launched an effective ambush on a combined Police/ DSS task force sent against it, killing most of them. However it has no known capability to operate outside Nasarawa State

Future trends: this group has overtly local objectives, they are more likely to remain within Nasarawa State or spill over to neighbouring states. Attacks might resume due to fears of marginalisation or to avenge the alleged killing of their leader. There is also the slight probability that the organisation will operate as a mercenary group for the various warring tribes in the Middle Belt.

Oodua People’s Congress (OPC): this a Yoruba nationalist organisation, seeking greater representation for Yoruba people in Nigeria. It has spawned several factions and engaged in low level militancy clashing with the police and army in 1998.

Location: OPC is based in the south-western states of Nigeria, Oyo, Ondo, Ogun, Ekiti, Osun, Lagos. With strongholds in several areas in Lagos

Objectives: OPC espouses Yoruba nationalism. Whilst some factions have expressed secessionist inclinations for an Oduduwa Republic, the majority seek greater Yoruba rights and representation

Targets: OPCs main targets have been the police and Northern traders in certain parts of Lagos

Mode of operation: they have generally used mob violence, thugs or else untrained men with small arms

Logistics: OPC can fund itself through extortion, protection rackets smuggling or political sponsorship. If it needed weapons could be sourced through the long coastline or border with Benin Republic

Lethality: OPC has the capacity use violence to achieve its aims and a history of doing so.

Future Trends: the OPC had a brief resurgence with a ‘pipeline protection’ contract during the last election cycle. Unfortunately for them, Yoruba interests are fairly well represented by the Yoruba political elite, who control Lagos (the richest state) and are well placed in the new administration. However it is conceivable they could be reactivated as a pressure group if Western politicians feel they are not getting the deal they want.

Fulani herdsmen: the Fulani are an ethnolinguistic group found in West and Central Africa. There are town Fulani and Cow Fulani, i.e. settled and nomadic. There are also Fulani who are nomads but have semi-permanent settlements. The conflict between the Fulani and other tribes revolves mainly around resources i.e. grazing for their cattle, this is exacerbated by other local factors such as religion, tribe and politics. Recent upsurges in violence appear to be carried out by semi-professional, organised groups of fighters.

Location: North east, middle belt, South east and western zones

Objectives: in the main the objectives are land rights, resource control and political power.

Targets: have been other tribes and the security forces

Mode of operation: massed attacks with small arms and bladed weapons. These attacks vary in sophistication and intensity however they tend to use indiscriminate violence and burn and loot the villages they attack. The violence seems to intensify around election time and the create virtual ethnic cleansing.

Logistics: as nomads they cross international borders with impunity, and have access to weapons from traditional and modern sources

Lethality: these groups have used extreme and indiscriminate violence to try and achieve their aims, such as killing, looting, abductions and burning property.

Future Trends: it is likely that these attacks will continue and expand as criminal gangs migrating from the Sahel and Central Africa take advantage of the rich pickings and poor security situation. Attacks also seem to mirror election cycles and voting patterns, thus once election tribunals are concluded there is a possibility off violence reducing however this is unlikely.

Middle Belt conflict: is a multiplicity of conflicts within the strip of land between North and South Nigeria, containing hundreds of small, medium and relatively large tribes as well as the larger Hausa, Fulani and Kanuri tribes all of which have a historical grievances with each other. These tribes practice either Islam, Christianity or traditional religions (or a combination of all or some) and the area covers or borders all geopolitical zones of Nigeria except South South

Location: Kwara, Kogi Benue, Plateau, Nasarawa, Niger, Taraba, Adamawa States, southern Kaduna, Kebbi, Bauchi, Gombe and Borno States.

Objectives: generally land rights, resource control and political power.

Targets: have been other tribes and the security forces

Mode of operation: attacks have included ambushes, abductions, looting, arson, massed attacks with small arms and bladed weapons of varying sophistication and intensity.

Logistics: as nomads they cross international borders with impunity, and have access to weapons from traditional and modern sources

Lethality: these groups have used extreme and indiscriminate violence to try and achieve their aims, such as killing, looting, abductions and burning property.

Future Trends: it is likely that these attacks will continue and expand as criminal gangs migrating from the Sahel and Central Africa take advantage of the rich pickings and poor security situation. Attacks also seem to mirror election cycles and voting patterns, thus once election tribunals are concluded there is a possibility off violence reducing however this is unlikely.

Armed robbers

Location: all over Nigeria

Objectives: theft with violence

Targets: there are no particular targets, although the middle class and lower class are generally disproportionately targeted as they have poorer security.

Mode of operation: varies

Logistics: weapons are either bought from dealers or stolen, vehicles are generally stolen and used for operations and then sold or abandoned.

Lethality: varies. Some attackers merely rob with threats others use violence gratuitously.

Future Trends: it is unlikely that armed robbery will decrease due to the economic situation and poor level of policing


Location: all over Nigeria,

Objectives: mainly ransom payments, slavery, ritual murder

Targets: there are a wide variety of targets, foreigners, middle class professionals (doctors seems to be the favourites in Port Harcourt) and even lower class workers

Mode of operation: varies

Logistics: these are fairly cheap crimes that can be carried out with unsophisticated weapons, the victim’s handset and stolen vehicles.

Lethality: varies. Some abductions result in deaths even if ransoms are paid, sometimes abductees are beaten or raped, at other times relatively well treated.

Future Trends: it is unlikely that this crime will decrease due to the economic situation and poor level of policing and is likely to become more prevalent.


Location: the Niger Delta and Gulf of Guinea (as far west as Ghana and as far south as Angola), with hotpots in Nigerian territorial waters off Lagos, Delta, Rivers, Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom and Cross Rivers States

Objectives: kidnap for ransom, cargo (mainly petroleum products) theft, theft from ship

Targets: ships queuing to berth in West African ports, sailing in the Delta or close to the coast

Mode of operation: fast boats, launched from shore or mother ships are used to swarm and board the target ship. Crews are beaten or threatened and the ships taken to an isolated location either in the ocean or in shore and cargo stolen or ransoms for crew sought

Logistics: resources for the attacks are easy to locate as weapons, boats and skilled personnel are in abundance in the region. Funding is either from political or criminal sponsors after which operations become self funding

Lethality: pirates use violent means such as murder, abduction, torture and threats to achieve their aims.

Future Trends: it is highly likely that incidents of piracy will remain at the same levels or increase. The low oil price and possible end of the subsidy regime will reduce profits from petroleum theft, however the lack of legitimate job opportunities, relative impunity, poor governance and law enforcement will remain to incentivise pirates. The existing networks of financiers, sailors, gunmen, boat owners, mothership owners, middlemen and money launderers will evolve to overcome an obstacle such as commodity prices and refocus on theft from ship, other cargos and kidnap for ransom.

Illegal oil bunkerers: involves the theft of crude oil and other petroleum products from pipelines and other oil installations as well as the refining and sale of stolen crude oil. Operations vary in scale from villagers breaking a pipeline, to sophisticated product diversion or the quantities of cargo lifted being falsified. Collusion between the security forces, politicians, oil companies and the regional elite exacerbate the problem

Location: Delta, Rivers, Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom, Cross River States

Objectives: profit from the sale of illegally obtained petroleum products

Targets: pipelines, oil installations

Mode of operation: generally armed but non violent.

Logistics: basic equipment is easily obtained, pipelines and installations are isolated, above ground and in disrepair. Financing can be through seed money from locals or large scale financiers.

Lethality: generally non violent except when the product is being stolen from ships

Future Trends: it is highly likely that this crime will remain at the same levels or increase. It gives industries and hauliers petroleum products and due to the profits impunity enjoyed by high level bunkerers there is little incentive to end the practice.


In order to prioritise threats they would need to be categorised by effect such as those that are Existential, Critical, Severe, Serious and Moderate.

Existential: a situation which by itself can permanently alter the structure, territorial integrity, economy or system of government of the Federation

Middle Belt Conflict/ Fulani herdsmen: this crises is in fact a collection of multiple sub crisis with their own actors, drivers and characteristics. Whilst localised the spill over effect and location of these conflicts means that if unchecked, disorganised militias could become organised, displacements could become long term putting pressure on other areas, casualties continue rising, north south and east/ west communications disrupted and economic life in the major food producing area of Nigeria halted.

Other Biafran Separatists: whilst neo Biafran agitation is a niche issue within a very specific geographical location and tribe, it is an exceptionally touchy subject. The Igbos have one of the widest and most visible diaspora within the Federation, with families settling in different parts of the country for generations, trading and doing business. Although Igboland is linguistically and tribally homogenous it is a small, over populated, area, with tribes on the border who whilst not hostile are wary of Igbo ambitions and domination. A situation in which you have a small, overcrowded, landlocked area seeking secession would hint strongly at using diplomacy, negotiation and developing the tools for self reliance. Unfortunately the neo Biafran groups have gone down the ever popular route of rabble rousing and hate speech and have struck a nerve with Igbos fed up with perceived marginalisation. As Nigerian history has shown pogroms against the Igbos in the North in particular are a regular occurrence, an attack on non Igbo civilians (which seems to be where the agitators are leading) would invoke a retaliatory pogrom on Igbos outside the South East. With a widely spread diaspora, casualties would be high and those who escaped would face a long journey through potentially hostile territory to become refugees in an already poorly governed, isolated piece of land. A war of secession would be an insurgency rather than a conventional war between two states as in the Biafran War.

Critical: a situation which combined with other threats can permanently alter the territorial integrity, economy or system of government of the Federation

Boko Haram: is the primary security threat facing Nigeria but as this commentator has argued it is not existential. Despite its attacks in the north centre and attempted attacks in the north west it is mostly contained in the North East. It has caused huge disruption, displacement and death but it is so removed from the rest of Nigeria that its effects are felt mainly by the people there, the military and the economy that must support the war effort. For it to be existential Boko Haram would need to hold territory and set up a parallel government that could threaten Nigeria. This is not possible. The countries at most existential risk from Boko Haram are Chad and Niger Republic. Boko Haram remains the premier security problem in Nigeria and will correctly absorb majority of the military and security resources but even at its high point it did not in my opinion present an existential threat.

Piracy: Nigeria depends on oil and gas exploration in its littoral area and coastline. It needs the sea to export these products and import products not made or produced in Nigeria. Thus Nigeria needs clear waterways. Unchecked banditry in Nigeria’s coastal waters and inland waterways increases the costs of doing business which in a time of falling oil prices makes oil and gas in Nigeria extremely unprofitable. The actions of pirates, takes money from the economy, deters legitimate businesses in the coastal regions and thus produces more unemployment and reducing the amount of money available for maritime security and law enforcement. Piracy is symptomatic of land based problem chases away legitimate shippers in the Nigerian market leaving Nigerian maritime business open to foreign exploitation

Niger Delta Militant Groups: the underlying causes of the conflict, underdevelopment, unemployment and environmental degradation have not gone away and have in fact worsened with further large oil spills, oil bunkerers, illegal refineries and the drop in oil prices and resultant loss of jobs and reduction in investment. Those that partook of the amnesty and pipeline security bonanza see their future access to funds curtailed but also have the finance, contacts and experience to reactivate an insurgency. Equally as potent are those who remained in the creeks and did not benefit from the largesse. Freed from the pressure to ‘support their brother’ (President Jonathan) they could begin attacks again.

Bakassi Militant Groups: these groups have the right combination of international borders, inhospitable terrain, neglect by two central governments, access to finance and weapons. If not addressed these groups will present a significant problem.

Severe: a situation which causes significant loss of life, economic damage and displacement

Illegal oil bunkerers: are as much a security as economic problem due to the nexus between militancy and bunkering. Reforms in the petroleum industry will address this problem as much if not more than increased patrols and policing.

Serious: a situation which causes loss of life, economic damage and displacement

Ansaru: is unlikely to present an independent threat unless boko Haram is severely weakened and defeated or close to defeat.

Kidnapping: this crime will continue until there are determined efforts to prosecute kidnapping kingpins with the resultant negative effect on the economy and quality of life.

Armed robbers: as long as police forces are weak, the economy poor and unemployment high and easy accessibility to small arms there will be armed robbery. This is an economic and policing issue

Moderate: a situation which could potentially lead to loss of life, economic damage or displacement

OPC: will most likely exist as a pressure group however the overwhelming predomination of certain parties and personalities in Western State politics significantly reduces their influence.

MASSOB: as the more mature member of the neo Biafran groups its can exert a moderating voice on the debate. It is however unlikely to present any sort of a threat as its campaigns thus far have been generally ineffective

Ombaatse: this group whilst deadly is unlikely to have an effect outside Nasarawa state unless it turns its attentions to the wider Middle Belt crisis.


As can be seen there is an eclectic mix of security threats within the Federation, all of which claim (with varying levels of justification) a legitimate grievance against the country or their fellow countrymen. There are however certain common characteristics;

Localised: each of these threats has a defined area, ethnic or religious group that it affects. For example Boko Haram appears to have little mass appeal amongst Muslims in North West Nigeria and none amongst Muslims in Western Nigeria. The desire for secession in the East has not led to calls for secession in the Middle Belt. Thus there are no ideologically, ethnic or religious driven threats that have a broad mass appeal beyond their specific subset thus means that each threat can be strategically isolated.

Economic or resource driven: underlying every problem is a conflict over access to resources. The lack of resources (education, health, power, employment, money, farmland, grazing etc) exacerbates other issues and provides willing manpower to the different actors.

Legitimate grievances: every group has a grievance or issue with the country that has legitimacy amongst its target support group. Looked at holistically many of these grievances are similar and revolve around development and access to resources. This means that even if the target support network does not agree with the methods of the actors it might agree or sympathise with its aims and if a particular group is defeated or neutralised unless these underlying grievances are addressed it creates space for other groups, which historically are more radical and veer closer to violence

Spillover: whilst the drivers might be localised, the spillover effects tend to affect neighbouring states and even countries.

Difficult Terrain: Nigeria’s geographical variations favour guerrilla warfare. The rainforests and bush of the south east, the forested hills of the south west, the rocky hills and forests of the middle belt, the vast savannah of the north all favour light, mobile forces with local knowledge. Even Nigeria’s cities, chaotic and unplanned with slums on the suburbs and little public record of occupants make urban terrorism relatively easy and difficult to detect

Violence pays: the inescapable conclusion from reviewing Nigerian crises is that if you are violent and successful the potential rewards are high. Non violent protest ala MOSOP or even MASSOB leads to imprisonment or even the gallows.

Poor security force reaction: the reaction of the Nigerian state to threats has always been curious. It generally combines extreme violence with select bribery and ignores underlying issues. The reaction to the crisis in the Niger Delta was not to look at the legitimate grievances but to react with military force and then pay the insurgents not to fight without still touching the legitimate grievance. The reaction to Boko Haram was violent repression and then lack of interest, until it grew beyond control.

Impunity: it is a characteristic of Nigerian crises that the guilty never seem to suffer the wages of sin. The perpetrators of the pogroms against Igbos in the 1960s were never tried or held to account, surviving Niger Delta militants leaders became multi billionaires. In the middle belt multiple reports naming sponsors, culprits and drivers of these conflicts have been ignored. The impunity enjoyed by perpetrators as well as abuses by security forces contributes to radicalisation and the belief that violence can solve problems.

Long gestation period: all these threat have histories that date back many years, in some cases decades or even centuries. This means that if picked up early they can be brought

These factors can assist in looking at the Nigerian security forces and whether they are fit for purpose. If not how can they be repurposed and prepared for the treats currently faced.

It is also clear that basic governance and development would go a long way to reducing the number of security threats facing the country. Unfortunately that is beyond the purview of this commentator or this blog, thus we must plan on the basis that all these threats will manifest themselves.

Although we desire peace we must unfortunately prepare for war

About peccavi

A Nigerian with interests in defence, security, geopolitics, the military particularly small unit tactics, COIN, stabilisation and asymmetric warfare
This entry was posted in Counter insurgency, Defence, Geopolitics, Nigeria Defence, Nigeria Strategy, Terrorism and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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