Quashing Boko Haram Expansion

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Local conflicts in Nigeria may be the tipping point for the spread of jihadist violence. Research affirms that local conflicts can create an enabling environment for terrorism to fester. Nigeria’s Northeast region has battled terrorism for over a decade. The Northwest neighbour is currently faced with local conflicts manifesting as armed banditry, farmers-herders clashes, inter-communal wars and land-related conflict. The North-central states such as Benue, Nasarawa, Niger and Plateau states are also entangled in the security skirmishes, which have killed hundreds and displaced thousands. The big scare is if the Northwest and part of North-central regions are experiencing a spillover of jihadist violence. On the 10th of July 2020, Nigeria’s Defense Headquarters (DHQ) held that terrorists from the Northeast were moving to the Northwest with sophisticated weapons.

Migratory terrorists may mean a number of things. First, the combat approach by the Nigerian forces and members of the Multinational Joint Task (MNJTF) is sacking terrorists from the havens they have occupied for years. On the other hand, ambitious Boko Haram fighters are aiming to widen their geographical network. The Northwest region could be the choice location given the ongoing security crisis. Security in the area is unstable. The government has failed to protect citizens from violence. In most rural communities, violent attacks occur unabated; signalling lack of state’s presence. About 1500 deaths and over 300,000 displacements have been recorded in the area. Government efforts have not ended nor reduced the occurrence of attacks. For instance, in five years, about ₦16 billion has been spent on security by the Kaduna State government, according to Nasir El’Rufai, Kaduna State governor.

The relatively peaceful Northwest region must be returned to its glory. The possibility of Boko Haram expansion in the Northwest must push the federal and state governments to act. Each Northwest state with support from the federal government and security agencies must move to identify and seek measures to resolve peculiar conflict enablers in their states. The scale of violence calls for a formidable state-level or regional response. Either on a regional basis or state-level, affected governments need to adopt community policing, which involves state-sponsored security personnel and community in effective securitisation. Community policing or a regional security network will reinforce combative responses to violence in the area. Illicit activities are grave enablers of local conflict and are also enticing to violent extremists.

Minimal state presence in some locations is alluring for jihadist groups pushing for a jihadist territory. Securitisation that involves improved civil-military relations will aid in policing areas prone to attacks. The violence in the Northwest represents a vicious cycle of unresolved local disputes, failure of governance to promote social cohesion, deliver public services and provide opportunities for people to thrive. Therefore, state governments in the Northwest have to address governance and development deficits in their respective states. The region must be redirected towards growth and sustainable peace. With commitment, these efforts will disincentivise the appeal Boko Haram may have for the northwest region.