At 60: The Changing Face of Insecurity in Nigeria – Paul Adeyeye

4 min read


Summary: Following Nigeria’s transitioning into a civilian government, terrorism, militancy, corruption, lawlessness, unemployment, illiteracy, unstructured systems, politics, natural resources, ethnicity, religion, and cybercrime have all grown to be some of the security threats the country faces. These problems are becoming more prevalent due to poor response, neglect, and politicization; thus, posing several hazards to the economy and people.


Tomorrow we celebrate Nigeria’s independence from British rule. Yet, with Nigeria’s trajectory, you’d be hard-pressed to find a reason to be happy. Insecurity in Nigeria is so worrisome that Nigeria is one of the most unsafe places to live and work.

  • Insecurity caused over 70,000 deaths in Nigeria between 2012 and 2020;
  • Since 2011, Boko Haram insurgency has led to 37,500 deaths, 2.5 million displacement, and 244,000 refugees;
  • In just two years, farmer-herder clashes claimed 10,000 lives and resulted in the displacement of 300,000 people;
  • Nigeria has one of the world’s worst kidnap-for-ransom with 685 kidnaps reported in the first quarter of 2019 alone;
  • Between June 2011 and March 2020, Nigerians paid about $18.34 million as ransom;
  • Militancy in Nigeria’s Niger Delta has resulted in kidnapping, unrest, and economic distortion. 

Overview of Nigeria’s Insecurity

After 60 years of independence, Nigeria’s tale appears to bear semblance to Jacob’s biblical account of his years. Few and evil! Indeed, the last six decades seem few, so much so that the country has failed to position herself as an adult. We have neither improved on infrastructure nor human resources. The quality of life in Nigeria is also very low. Beyond these, however, Nigeria’s last sixty years have been perilous. 

Despite years of self-governance and independence, insecurity is still Nigeria’s biggest challenge. But history has shown that insecurity started with civilian access to arms following the Nigeria civil war. The current security challenge in Nigeria is traceable to the aftermath of the civil war that promoted the importation and use of arms and ammunition by civilians. After the war, the arms became possessions of civilians and ex-military men who resorted to crime owing to job loss and the need to survive. However, the insecurity that started off as small-scale criminalities has grown in alarming proportions. In fact, insecurity in Nigeria has grown to become a global concern with no end in sight.

Like a die with many sides, insecurity has many faces and manifestations in Nigeria. It can be as “little” as burglary or political violence and can be as “complex” as an extremism that has lasted over a decade. And sometimes, security agents charged with protecting life, take it. Akin to cancer, Nigeria’s security issues over the years evolved into several strains. Between 2012 and 2020, the security challenge resulted in as much as 70,000 deaths. Dataphyte discussed four most critical of these challenges below.

Niger-Delta Militancy

Militancy in Nigeria’s Niger-Delta region is one of the earliest forms of organised rebellion and insurgency in the country spanning back to to the early 90s. When foreign oil corporations degraded the Niger Delta regions following oil exploitation, minority groups in the region did not take it lying down. And while the intent was first justifiable, it has since resulted in oil pipeline vandalism, loss of lives, kidnapping, killing of security operatives; all leading to a meltdown of Nigeria’s economy. Indeed, the Nigerian government’s failure to address the legitimate concerns of the population of the Niger Delta region has resulted in further deterioration of the security situation in the region. Also, oil exploitation and the politics of distribution of oil wealth have created disempowerment, frustration, and deprivation which has further exacerbated violence in the Niger-Delta.

The effect of the militancy in the Niger-Delta has been diverse. In 2013, militants killed 12 police officers in an ambush. And while the presidential amnesty programme was successful, victory was short-lived. In 2016, the rebranded Niger Delta Avengers came back with a vengeance. Recall that pipeline vandalism by the Niger Delta Avengers in 2016 resulted in a distortion in oil production and culminated in one of Nigeria’s worst economic recessions. This further led to a decline in average oil production from 2.2 million barrels per day to 1.4 million barrels in daily production. Also, a report by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation documented over 8,560 pipeline vandalism cases between 2015 and 2018. Again, the recent unrest in the region shows the government needs to do more to resolve militancy and violence in these parts. Militants have also continued to threaten further hostilities.

Boko Haram Conflict

The Jihadist Boko Haram group is now synonymous to insurgency in Nigeria. In 2009, the group started an armed rebellion against the Nigerian government. And the death toll, 37,500 deaths since 2011. These casualties also include law enforcement with 2019 accounting for the demise of 750 operatives. According to the Global Terrorism Index, the group has grown to become the deadliest extremist group in the world. Besides the deaths, Boko Haram insurgency resulted in the displacement of about 2.5 million Nigerians. About 244,000 Nigerians now live as refugees as a result.

Farmer-Herder Clashes

Another wave of insecurity in Nigeria is the farmer-herder clashes. Since 1999, these conflicts have left a body count of 19,000; only rising to prominence in recent years. According to the International Crisis Group, the mounting conflict between herders and farmers was six times deadlier in 2018 than Boko Haram insurgency. Over 1,300 people lost their lives between January and June 2018 because of these clashes. Since the violence escalated in January 2018, about 300,000 people in Adamawa, Benue, Nasarawa, Plateau, and Taraba States have fled their homes. A 2019 report by Foreign Affairs put the death toll from farmer-herder clashes at 10,000 within a two-year period.

Kidnapping for Ransom

Kidnapping for ransom is another recent security challenge in Nigeria. While the prime targets of kidnapping for ransom are the wealthy, school children and the poor have also been kidnapped in groups in various parts of Nigeria. Further, Nigeria has one of the world’s highest rates of kidnap-for-ransom cases. Per police reports, there were 685 cases of kidnapping in the first quarter of 2019; i.e. an average of seven per day. Also, kidnappers demand between $1,000 and $150,000 as ransom depending on the financial resources of the victims. Between June 2011 and March 2020, Nigerians paid an estimated $18.34 million as ransom to kidnappers; January 2016 to March 2020 featured peak periods for these occurrences. Again, kidnappers sometimes killed victims despite receiving a ransom.

Repositioning at 60

The undeniable fact is that Nigeria is one of the most unsafe places in the world. Insecurity in Nigeria has threatened food security, foreign and local investment, and has hurt the country’s economy. Ultimately, insecurity has been a threat to human existence, productivity, and economic development in Nigeria. Thus, the Nigerian government must address the security challenges and position the country as a safe place to live, work and invest. Beyond these, the government should address poverty in Nigeria; experts have since reckoned it a precursor for the growing insecurity in the country.


Recommendation(s):

• Nigeria’s government must address insecurity from its root and promote Nigeria as a safe location to live, work, and invest. Poverty and poor governance are notably the key triggers that sponsor the country’s growing instability.


Source: Dataphyte

Keywords: Kidnapping for Ransom, Boko Haram Conflict, Farmer-Herder Clashes, Niger-Delta Militancy

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