In the first quarter of 2021, Nigeria witnessed cascading violence and conflict across the board. Adding to existing security challenges such as terrorism, banditry, kidnapping violence, gang wars and communal clashes, new violent vistas has intensified. Across southern Nigeria, multiple attacks on security outfits and gunmen violence have been recorded. In northern Nigeria, reports of terrorist attacks, incursions and gunmen violence have been widespread.
The appointment of new service chiefs in January 2021 by President Muhammadu Buhari offered rays of hope. The new service chiefs came with fresh ambitions to tackle Nigeria’s deepening security crisis. In April 2021, a new acting inspector general of police was also appointed. However, the hopes that trailed the appointments do not reflect on peace and security in the country. There is a noticeable increase in widespread violence and conflict when compared to the last quarter of the year 2020. In the first quarter of 2021, about 724 people were killed and 802 kidnapped in 336 incidents, according to Nextier SPD’s violent conflict database. Meanwhile, in the last quarter of 2020, 384 people were killed, 510 persons kidnapped in 256 incidents. The statistics portray an increasing wave of violence despite new appointments and commitments.
The ubiquitous wave of violence in Nigeria must push the new security heads to action. There is a need to implement new ideas to the unfolding security crisis. In February 2021, the Nigerian Defence Headquarters (DHQ) said military operations were undergoing reorganisation to tackle security challenges. However, with the current trend of insecurity, it appears the efforts by the DHQ needs to be overhauled. Also, the new Chief of Army Staff, Major General Ibrahim Attahiru, had said he would partner with Chadian and Cameroonian soldiers to end the northeast insurgency. The death of Idriss Deby, the president of Chad, and the end of his efforts in tackling armed groups’ violence in the Lake Chad region must trigger new strategies within the Nigerian military.
Beyond potential regional support, Nigeria’s security agencies must also look within. Due to the proliferation of security issues, new informal security actors have emerged. Therefore, Nigeria’s security agencies must incorporate quasi-security outfits performing policing functions into the security framework and operations. If emerging informal security actors continue to operate without formal regulations from formal security institutions, the former may ultimately pose new security concerns in the country.
There is also a need to review existing combative responses to insecurity in Nigeria. Genuine efforts to evaluate security operations and responses to the crisis will help to inform new approaches and reshape existing frameworks. The Nigerian government must seek local and international support to manage the wave of violence. The multistakeholder response must include exploring alternative options of mitigating insecurity such as peacebuilding mechanisms that seek to manage emerging tensions and prevent the escalation of violence and conflict.