Security Threats In Nigeria: A Thematic Exposition – Charles Olise, Eme Okechukwu Innocent and Eme Okechukwu Innocent

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Our Take: Nigerian leaderships have over time presented an unrefined leadership style that has no regard for democracy and rule of law. The incessant practice of political thuggery, pervasive corruption, and inadequate infrastructural development have reduced people’s confidence in government. These inadequacies have consequently sponsored myriads of internal security challenges and political dysfunction that could only be addressed if there is a change in leadership style.


 Nigeria is a diplomatic force within West Africa, a major participant  in  continental  African  politics and an important international actor. As the world’s seventh-most-populous country, its 14th- largest oil producer and home to Africa’s fifth-largest military, Nigeria possesses tremendous resources. Yet Nigeria’s internal security challenges and political dysfunction constrain its role on the regional, continental and world stages. Cyclical violence undermines the  rule  of  law  and  entrenches  inter- communal enmities. Pervasive corruption drains funding from services and infrastructure and saps public confidence in government. Policy implementation often proceeds haphazardly and generates  backlash.  Finally, “do-or-die” electoral politics, as former President Olusegun Obasanjo characterized the country’s voting culture, heightens political violence and elevates political tensions. The insecurity situation in the country has made Nigerians more interested in issues relating to security. For example, it would not be strange to have citizens discussing budget allocation to security and law enforcement agencies, rules of engagement of security operatives in the northern part of the country, operational strategy or procedure of JTF and other security agencies, equipments purchased,   watch with keen interest parliamentary debates      or discussions in respect of Baga (or any similar situation). This has become so topical that it has become focus of media, academic and NGO reports. This paper seeks to add to the debate.


It is a truism that the recent phenomenal wave of political assassination, murders, armed banditry, kidnapping and general eruption of insecurity in Nigeria has put both the government and the populace on the edge. There is hardly a day that passes without sorry tales of pre-meditated killings, armed robbery and other crimes and attacks nationwide.

In the last few months, some prominent politicians and business moguls have been attacked, killed or robbed in unresolved circumstances. The intriguing aspects of these fatal developments is that the president, Musa Yar’Adua and his predecessor, in most cases authoritatively declared and lay blame on the Nigerian wobble economy, and anti-democratic forces.

What these contending perspectives suggest is that the government has not shown any seriousness towards the issue of safety of life and property in Nigeria until the invasion of top political, business brass and appointees by the criminals. This underscores the haphazard response to the assaults and contradictory explanations coming from different government quarters pertaining to waves of attacks.

These political tensions are compounded by the reality that Nigeria’s economy has grown since 1999, and yet this wealth has been neither seen nor felt by the last majority of Nigerians. Nearly three- quarters of the populace live on less than one dollar a day in a country that has earned oil revenues if at least USD 280 billion over three decades, excluding the past few years of high oil prices (Eme, 2009:2). Ethnic tensions, religious differences, limited economic opportunities, and numerous socio-political grievances are all fuelling the unrest in Nigeria and contributing to flashpoints for violence.

In all the reactions so far, government has not even addressed the fundamental and immediate causes of these manifestations. All that have dominated former Obasanjo’s and Yar’Adua’s and Jonathan’s security question policy have been redeployment of police top brass and other security personnel without any attention to the questions of political intolerance, unemployment, escalating impoverishment and the population’s despondency, all of which have made ordinary Nigerian, unbearable.

Nigeria projects an image of politics that is nasty, brutish, and bestial. In short, Nigeria and her leadership has dishonoured her past and fashioned a present that premises no future except more pains and shame and even more precarious existence. As a result of the above, analysts have variously described the Nigerian State as predatory, propaganda tilled, parasitic, patrimonial, decadent, criminalized, chronic, venal, irrational, kleptocratic and impotent. This image has been so powerful that even those who have raised top in her defense have been deeply influenced by it.

On daily basis, there are cries of dependency and government appears to be helpless.

Can the federal government restore security? What is responsible for all the sporadic bombings?

Why has Jos remained a troubled spot? These are puzzles that seem to have no answers.

Just recently, governors were at a crossroads. Although, it is the north that is primarily under siege, southern governors could not turn their eyes away from the plight of their kinsmen who reside in these troubled spots. The Nigeria Governors Forum (NGE) proposed some measures. Taking a global look at the socio economic and political realities that may underlie insecurity, it suggested a sort of ‘Marshal Plan’ to tackle the land. Some governors also reiterated their clamour for state police.

Former Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi, who spoke briefly with reporters in Abuja, said that police was long overdue. He highlighted the numerous assistants given to state police commands by governors, including donation of vehicles, uniforms housing, guns, and even, bullets. He said it is illogical that the state governors, who are chief security officers, have no control over the police.

Many reasons have been adduced for the state of insecurity ravaging the country. Some of them paled into conjunctures. But there is no evidence that government has got any lead as well. There is a monotony of assurances of normalcy from the Police then Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammad  Abubakar and former Chief Defence Staff Air Vice Marhall Olu Pettinrin. To their consternation, the suicide bombers seem to have dwarfed security agents.

There have been rumours that the north is aggrieved that the Presidency has stayed too long in the South contrary to agreement. Former Security Adviser Gen. Patrick Aziza attributed the Security problem to the People Democratic Party’s (PDP) zoning arrangement, which was jettisoned during the last presidential election. His remark caused a stir. Few Weeks after he was shoved aside. Others  have argued that it was part of a clandestine plan by the Boko Haram sect to wipe out non-natives and adherents and other faiths. Taking exception to this, foremost commentator, Mallam Mohammed Haruna corrected the erroneous impression that the Boko Haram sect was waging a religious war against Christians alone, adding that Muslims are more causalities. He said the violence unleashed by the group has created strains on the economy of Northern Nigeria, emphasizing that Boko Haram is a threat to all Nigerians(Eme,,2012 & Eme,,2016).

He lamented that the media has been subjective in their reports of the conflict, complaining that reports were laced with anti-northern sentiment. Haruna also pointed out that the fear of Boko Haram has made government to violate the rights of some Nigerians under the guise that they are suspects. The affected citizens, he said, are languishing in jail.

The Former Chairman of Nigerian Guild of Editors, Mr. Gbenga Adefaye, urged reporters to avoid labeling and sentiments. If these are avoided, he counseled, misinformation would be avoided and tension reduced to the barest minimum. An expert on security, Col. Gabriel Ajayi, who reflected on the security challenges facing the country at a recent birthday lecture in honour of Prof. Wole Soyinka in Lagos, berated the lip service being paid to security right from colonial days. He argued that security projections were limited to securing those in power, while the citizens are left in the wilderness of hope and despair. He added that since then, Nigeria has failed to develop a security system to sustain its socio-economic and political development. Ajayi, who covered the Agbekoya uprising as a reporter in 1969, lamented that, under the indigenous rulers, security was also tackled with aloofness and treated as a no go area. Even, Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa deliberately ignored warnings that a coup was about to depose or kill him (Eme and Anyadike,2012).

Military came and put up security system for tenure survival. It was the climax of the ‘Glover Syndrome’ of using the people to keep the people under bondage. Ajayi could not properly dissect the dreadful sect,  Boko Haram. But the he acknowledged that the insurgency resembled a campaign of unidentified people who cannot be properly traced, a people who treat everywhere as no man’s land. The retired soldier compared deaths resulting from Boko Haram activities to the ones attributed to the carnage on bad roads, resulting from what he called siege on the people by government.

Put differently, peace and security continue to be elusive for Nigeria. The amnesty program for militants in the Niger Delta has reduced violent protests and oil bunkering. But the core of the amnesty program consists of monthly payments to the militants and particularly handsome contracts for the leaders of the armed groups. This is not sustainable, particularly when the basic complaints of the Delta population remain largely unaddressed. Security is an encompassing phenomenon that is paramount to individuals, entities, communities and even nations. Security has to do with self-preservation which is the first law of existence. Security implies a stable, relatively predicable environment in which an individual or group may pursue its ends or objectives without disruption, harm, danger and without fear of disturbance or injury.

According to Sambo (2013), in the Grand Strategy for National Security, security was defined as: the aggregation of the security interest of all individuals, communities, ethnic groups, political entities and institutions which inhabit the territory of Nigeria”. The Grand Strategy specifically states that paramount importance is attached to safety, security and the prosperity of individuals and institutions within Nigeria and what belongs to Nigeria and Nigerians abroad. A country’s national security therefore is concerned with the well-being, welfare and interest of her citizens, preservation of her sovereignty and territorial integrity against external aggression. The importance of security to economic well-being of a country and her citizens was amply highlighted by a former American Secretary of Defence, Robert McNamara when he stated that security is development and development is security. This means without security there cannot be any development.

The importance attached to security was well captured in the Nigerian Constitution of 1999. Section 14 (2) (b) of the Constitution states that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government”. Invariably therefore the Constitution has saddled the Government with the responsibility of safeguarding lives, property, welfare of Nigerians against both internal and external threats including other forms of danger. Thus it is incumbent on the Government to monitor public order and safety, including law and order.

It has however been observed that no matter how endowed and organized a country ~is, it can hardly be totally free/devoid of security challenges. The security challenges nations contend with are inextricably linked with their history, culture, social structure and economic conditions. In order to tackle security challenges nations established the armed forces, police, security agencies and other Para-military forces. It is however to be noted that given the broader perspective of national security, government security agencies alone cannot provide the desired peaceful environment. Therefore, everybody has a role to play at enhancing our national security and security is and should be everybody’s business.

In the midst of rising interest and actual investment into Nigeria’s economy, security is emerging as the biggest challenge to sustaining the tempo of investment inflow. The bombings and killings in the northern Nigeria and kidnapping in the south are gradually emerging as a trend that Nigeria’s security agencies seem incapable of dealing with decisively. More worrisome is the silent suspicion that the security agencies are actually involved in the business of kidnap for ransom in the South while in the North, the fear is that the security agencies may have been compromised and giving vital security information to the violent Boko Haram sect members.

So far, the security challenges seemed not to have deterred investments inflow into the country. In the first nine months of 2012, data from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) shows that portfolio investment stood at US$4.6 billion while foreign direct investment stood at $1.44 billion. Foreign investors also controlled an average of 60 percent of all trading done on the Nigerian Stock Exchange in 2012 despite rising insecurity(Eme,2012). What is however, difficult to evaluate is how much investments would have come into the country without the current security challenges. This is the opportunity cost of the current insecurity which because it is difficult to measure, maybe ignored by economists and thus the government. Amid this scenario, this paper seeks to examine the question whether Nigeria can overcome her security threats.

Contextualizing Security

Security as an essential concept is commonly associated with the alleviation of threats to cherished values, especially the survival of individuals, groups or objects in the near future. Thus, security as the name implies, involves the ability to pursue cherished political and social ambitions (Williams, 2008:6). According to McSweeny, (1999:9), “there is a correlation between security and survival”. Whereas survival is an essential condition, security is viewed as safety, confidence, free from danger, fear, doubt, among others. Therefore, security is „survival-plus’ and the word ‘plus’ could be understood from the standpoint of being able to enjoy some freedom from life- determining threats and some life choices (Booth,1994: 15). However, the concept – security, is meaningless without a critical discourse of something pertinent to secure. Indeed, security could best be understood when situated within the context, of a referent object. In the long sweep of human history, the central focus of security has been people (Rothschild, 1995:68). Contrarily, some scholars especially those in international politics have argued that when thinking about security, states should be the most important referents. On the other hand, some analysts have challenged this position by arguing that any intellectual discourse on security should accord priority to human beings since without reference to individual humans, security makes no sense (McSweeney, 1999:127).

Booth (1994) further argued that human security is ultimately more important than state security. While concurring with Both, Nwabueze (1989:2) posited that economic security of the individual is or should be of far greater concern to the government and society than the security of the state. Thus, some scholars seem to place emphasis on absence of threat to acquire values or tendencies that would undermine national cohesion and peace as criteria for determining what security connotes ( Wolfers 1962; Oche 2001). In his view, Booth (1994) posited that security is the condition or feeling of safety from harm or danger, the defence, protection and the absence of threats to acquire values (cited in Igbuzor, 2011:2). Security in an objective sense, measures the absence of threats to acquire values, in subjective sense, the absence of fear that such values will be attacked (Wolfers, 1962). In spite of its conceptual complexities, the understanding of the term shows that security is vital for national cohesion, peace and sustainable development.

Thus: “Security has to do with freedom from danger or with threats to a nation’s ability to protect and develop itself, promote its cherished values and legitimate interests and enhance the well being of its people. Thus, internal security could be seen as the freedom from or the absence of those tendencies which could undermine internal cohesion and the cooperate existence of the nation and its ability to maintain its vital institutions for the promotion of its core values and socio-political and economic objectives, as well as meet the legitimate aspirations of the people. Internal security also implies freedom from danger to life and prosperity” (Imobighe cited in Oche 2001:76-77). It therefore refers to the search to avoid, prevent, reduce, or resolve violent conflict- whether the threat originates from other states, non-state actors, or structural socio-economic conditions (Stan, 2004:2).

Wolfers (1962) has argued that national securities has been defined by defence specialists as first from the narrow perspective as the protection of a nation’s people and territories from physical attack; and second the more extensive concept of the protection of political power to the fundamental values and vitality of the state. National security in Nigeria is still construed through the narrow sense of it being aimed at the protection of the nation state, its people and political powers.

Looking at the security architecture  of the  nation beginning from the  extinct National Security  Organisation which was created by virtue of decree no 27 of 1976 by the military administration of General Olusegun Obasanjo after the aborted Dimka coup which claimed the life of former head of state  General Murtala Mohammed. The National Security Organisation was given the mandate of coordinating internal security, foreign intelligence and counter intelligence activities. It was also charged with the detection and prevention of crime against the security of the state, protection of classified materials and carrying out any other security missions assigned by the president. The Babangida administration redesigned the National Security Organisation and separated same into three divisions namely State Security Services, National Intelligence Agency and the Defence Intelligence Agency – each of them with different responsibilities as stated in the National Securities Agencies Act (Obasanjo,2006). For example Sub section (1) provides for the duties of the Defence Intelligence Agency which are stated as follows:

  • Prevention and detection of crime of a military nature against the security of Nigeria;
  • The protection and preservation of all military classified matters concerning the security of Nigeria both within and outside Nigeria;
  • Such other responsibilities affecting defence intelligence of a military nature, both within and outside Nigeria, as the President or Chief of Defence Staff, as the case may be or may deem necessary;

Sub section (2) provides that the National Intelligence Agency shall be charged with the responsibility of

  • general maintenance of the security of Nigeria outside Nigeria, concerning matters that are not related to military issue; and
  • such other responsibilities affecting national intelligence outside Nigeria as the National Defence Council or the President, as the case may be, may deem necessary.

Sub section (3) provides that the State Security Service shall be charged with responsibility for:

  • the prevention and detection within Nigeria of any crime against the internal security of Nigeria;
  • the protection and preservation of all non military classified matters concerning the internal security of Nigeria; and
  • such other responsibilities affecting internal security within Nigeria as the National Assembly of the President, as the case maybe, may deem necessary (Mohammed,2006).

The National Defence Policy developed in June 2006 states that two factors made the publication of the document necessary – the first being the strategic realignment of the international security environment which followed the end of the Cold War while the second is Nigeria’s embrace of democratic governance after a long period of military rule. The Policy further states that its content are taken from the country’s National Security Policy ‘which focuses on the preservation of the safety of Nigerians at home and abroad and the protection of the sovereignty of the country and the integrity of its assets’(Obasanjo,2006).

In a democratic regime the role of the police as one of the security sector actors cannot be swept under the carpet – therefore Section 4 of the Police Act provides for the general duties of the police as follows:

  1. The Police shall be employed for the prevention and detection of crimes;
  2. The apprehension of offender;
  3. Protection of life and property;
  4. The due enforcement of all laws and regulations with which they are directly charged;
  5. Shall perform such military duties within or outside Nigeria as may be required of them by or under the authority of this or any other Act(Ehindero,2006).

Section 25 of the Nigeria Police Regulations provides for the establishment of a Police Mobile Force, which is to be maintained as a police striking force in the event of riots or other serious disturbances occurring within the federation (Ehindero,2006).

Other actors within the security sector framework in a contemporary democratic society also include the courts, prisons (for the purpose of Nigeria), Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and civil society groups. These critical actors have a place in a defining, shaping and contributing to the security architecture of the country because the concept of national security has broadened since the end of the cold war beyond the narrow military conception to include human security which combines elements of defence, economic and basic human rights (Obasanjo,2006).

Theoretical Framework

This study adopts the Democratic Peace Thesis and the Relative Deprivation Theory to explain the Security challenges and economy of the Nigerian State. Thus, the democratic peace thesis assumes that liberal states do not fight wars against other liberal states. This theory was first enunciated in a keynote article by Michael Doyle in Journal of Philosophy and Public Affairs (Doyle, 1983). Thus, Doyle argued that there was a difference in liberal practice towards liberal societies and liberal practice towards non- liberal societies. From security point of view, the recommendations of democratic peace theory are clear. According to this theory, security largely depends on encouraging liberal institutions to discharge their responsibilities creditably; and a security policy must have as its long-term the spread of liberalism Doyle, (1998). Therefore, the route to peace is to encourage democratic system, the universal respect for human rights and the development of civil society. But such conclusion depends largely on untroubled and robust correlation between the democratic nature of a state and peaceful inclination. By application of this theory to security challenges and economy of the Nigerian state, we argue that for Nigeria to address her perennial security challenges, the need to adopt and faithfully implement strategic security policies and viable socio economic programmes capable of strengthening the growth of democracy in Nigeria are the first step to be adopted by government.

Thus, we further argue that the increasing spate of security threats in Nigeria which if unchecked could further distort the country’s economy is clearly symptomatic of the abysmal failure of the institutions constitutionally charged with the responsibility of protecting the lives and properties of Nigerian citizens (Dinneya, 2006:47). To further investigate the security challenges and economy of the Nigerian state, the Relative Deprivation Theory is also adopted in this study. This theory was propounded by Dollard et al (1939). This theory was propounded as part of efforts to link socio-political and economic inequalities in the society to rebellions and insurrections. As individual and group- based theory of aggression, the relative deprivation theory argues that when expectation outstrips achievement regardless of the absolute levels of economic consumption or the provision of political rights, frustration is generated. Thus, the collective frustration turns to anger and violence (Dollard et al, 1939:52, Davies, 1962:44, Feierabend and Feierabend, 1966:89). By application, this theory assists us to trace the historical antecedence of conflicts, agitations and frequent rise of individuals and groups against the Nigerian government. From the standpoint of the assumptions of Relative Deprivation Theory, we argue that the abysmal failure of the Nigerian government to addressing critical challenges to development in many parts of the country may be responsible for the internal insurrection by armed militia groups against the state.

Further, we equally argue that security challenges or threats in some parts of Nigeria particularly the northern region, are clear indications that government seems to have failed in her constitutional role of protecting lives and properties of the Nigerian people. This is clearly because, available evidence demonstrates that there is increasing rate of poverty among Nigerians. Also, unemployment looms large, per capita income is low and high rate of inflation has not be addressed. Similarly, Nigerians are still facing challenges of poor health status, poor state of infrastructures, high rate of illiteracy, low technological development, among others (Anosike, 2010:8). These ugly situations which adversely affect the security of lives and property of Nigerians as well as socio-economic development of the country are carefully articulated by Oladeji andFolorunsho(2007:20) who argue that:

… the mention of crime, violence, as well as restiveness has been tied to the Niger Delta area, no thanks again to kidnapping, bombings and vandalization of pipelines… leadership problem has made it impossible for Nigeria to get to its peak in terms of socio-economic and political development … this problem has remained in the front burner of national discourse … the polity has not gotten it right because of bad leadership … the polity has remained stagnated in terms of developmental challenges and this has been attributed to selfishness, greed and corrupt political office holders who have milked or are presently milking or will milk the country dry of its resources…

The implication of Relative Deprivation Theory on security challenges and economy of the Nigerian state is that democracy is most likely to be undermined, thereby paving way for military incursion in the country. .Also, the continuous internal insurrection by armed youths across the country could distort any meaningful efforts by the government to achieve radical economic development in Nigeria. This is imperative because, as Agomuo (2013:9) explains:

… security is viewed as a dynamic phenomenon as well as a. social problem in the country … it is the duty of the government to ensure the security of lives and property of its citizens … youth restiveness, agitations, protests and demonstrations these days are very violent and leads to sabotage of vital government installations like NNPC pipelines, NITEL cables and NEPA wires, thus, posing great threats to the economic life-wire of the state.

Therefore, the improvement of the security apparatus of the Nigerian state as well as commitment of the government to address the core causes of insecurity, are likely panacea to the survival of democracy and achievement of desired economic growth. As Ebegbulam (2007:8) aptly observes, “democracy only thrives where there is security and stability”. The Objectives of Nigeria’s National Security Policy  The central  pillar of Nigeria’s national security policy is the preservation of the safety of Nigerians at home and abroad and the protection of the sovereignty of the country as well as her integrity and assets. Other subordinate goals include:

  1. To safeguard the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of the Nigerian state;
  2. The defence of African unity and independence;
  3. Non-intervention in the internal affairs of other states;
  4. Involvement in regional economic development, security and cooperation; and
  5. Attainment of military self-sufficiency and regional leadership.

A cursory look at the above objectives indicates that the Nigeria’s defence policy is the bedrock for achieving foreign policy and national security policy of Nigeria. Thus, since the focus of the investigation is on micro security – the internal security problems in Nigeria, it therefore, becomes imperative to assess the extent to which Nigeria has successfully implemented her internal security policy to preserve the safety of Nigerians at home and the protection of the territorial integrity of the country.

Thus, the internal security challenges in Nigeria since the enthronement of democracy in 1999 has received mixed reactions within and outside the Nigeria‟s political environment. However, the increasing spate of ethnic militia in Nigeria and their continuous attacks on both the government and the citizens prior to 2007 partly explains why Akinterinwa (2001) declares:

… security appointees have failed the President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. If we are to judge by the current state of affairs in the country … Nigeria is in a state of lawlessness. It is a shame when the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice was killed so easily. The aggressive posturing Oadua Peoples Congress (OPC), armed robbery, paid assassins kidnapping of foreigner’s, drug trafficking, advanced, free fraud (419), unemployment, high price of commodities … are realities being faced in the country that require urgent remedies…

Similarly, the security situation between 2007 till date in Nigeria obviously took different dimensions. This period, however, witnessed a consistent pressure on the government by Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), Movement for the Sovereign State of Biafra (MOSSOB), increasing spate of kidnapping in the South – East geo – political zone, incessant bombings in the northern parts of Nigeria by Boko Haram group, the Islamic assailants in Jos crisis, politically motivated killings by unscrupulous groups, among others (Ameh, 2008:9).

Nigeria’s Security Challenges

Since the return of Nigeria to civil rule in 1999, security challenges have posed a serious threat to smooth governance, reaching new highs in 2012. Different militia groups had at one point or the other held the country to ransom. There is the Egbesu Boys in the Niger Delta; the Bakassi Boys, in the South-East and the Odua People’s Congress (OPC) in the South West, and now the Boko Haram sect in the North. At different times in the past, these different groups have held the Nigerian nation to ransom. In each of these different times, the groups reigned, the nation’s security agencies were unable to deal with them or quell their lawless conduct through superior fire power.

The government has always reached a form of settlement with these organisations. The trend is that each time the government reached a compromise with these lawless groups, it became weaker and new groups emerged to use violent means to extract a commitment from government. In a typical behaviour of a nation that thrives on a rent economy, the government has always sought to buy peace and always ended with the peace of the graveyard like the current situation in the Niger Delta where former militants have been transformed into either top level government contractors or emergency crude oil refiners in the creeks or kidnap merchants, despite an amnesty programme that still costs the government billions of Naira every year.

In the North, the lingering Boko Haram insurgency, which started in 2009 in Maiduguri, Borno State, North East geo-political zone, has brought the economy of the North to a standstill. Major consumer goods’ companies have seen their distribution chains destabilised as the distributors of their goods in the Northern part of the country have been forced to relocate to the south.

The violence in the north has spared no one, as the recent attack on the Emir of Kano shows. The telecom companies have seen their telecom facilities destroyed while bank branches have been attacked and robbed. Several road construction companies have seen their expatriate staff kidnapped and in some cases killed.

Although the actual figure of deaths arising from the deadly strikes by the Boko Haram sect may be difficult to pinpoint, media reports estimate that over 3,000 people have been killed since 2009. The economic cost of the violence may however be difficult to evaluate immediately in terms of lost investment opportunities and actual cost of damage done to existing infrastructure and human lives.

To be sure, Nigeria has long been facing severe security challenges prior to 2007.

While the government is focused on tackling the Boko Haram challenges because it is in the front burner in the media, it is clear that Nigeria’s security challenges go well beyond Boko Haram. For example, a new group that calls itself Ansar Dine has started claiming responsibility for recent attacks in the North. This may indicate that even if government reaches ceasefire with Boko Haram, there may be an Ansar Dine to deal with thereafter. Outside the North, there is endemic violence that the security agencies look incapable of dealing with. The crude oil theft and refining in the South is a form of organised criminality, which the government has not shown it is capable of dealing with. The South West seems calm but close observers say that the calmness has come with the political pacification of the Odua People’s Congress (OPC). Remove that pacification, and there may be a new form of violence in the South West. The same form of political pacification seems to have been achieved in the South East with the Bakassi Boys who have also been turned into an unofficial police force by most governors.

No nation is free of security challenges. These challenges also vary from one country to the other. Thus, Nigeria’s security challenges would definitely differ from those in Egypt, USA or Russia. For instance, in US today, the dangers posed by” weapon possession are perhaps the greatest security challenges confronting the country.

Threats/challenges to a country’s security may range from low level civil disorder, large scale violence, even armed insurgency or terrorism. These threats may be directed against citizens or the organs and infrastructure of the state itself. Foreign powers may also act as a threat to a country’s security by either committing or sponsoring terrorism or rebellion without actually declaring war.


Perhaps the greatest and predominant security challenge in Nigeria today is terrorism or terrorism related. The Jarna’atu Ahlis Sunnah Ladda’awatih wal- Jihad, a religious based Islamic fundamentalist group, popularly known as Boko-Haram is the harbinger of terrorism in Nigeria today. The sect, which is predominately based in the’ North Eastern part of the country, has an ideology that is averse to western education and anything it represents. The sect also seeks an enthronement of Islamic (Sharia) government in the whole of Northern Nigeria. Adherents of Boko Haram attack government institutions, such as the police, and military through armed attacks, suicide bombing or lED. Notable attacks carried out by the sect with concomitant loss of lives and property include: the Mogadishu Barracks bombing in Abuja in December 2010, the Police Headquarters in Abuja in June 2011, and the UN bombing in Abuja in August 2011 to mention a few. The sect seeks to erode the credibility and legitimacy of the government by making it appear incapable of protecting lives and property of the citizenry. Mr. President’s strategy for dealing with the Boko Haram threat is based on a multi- dimensional approach involving all elements of national power. While security forces operations dominate the media headlines, government has also embarked on other activities spanning across legal reforms, de- radicalization programme and strategic public communications.

Additionally, the Federal Government, in conjunction with State Governments, is making efforts to tackle the issue of unemployment in the affected states as joblessness has been. identified as one of the drivers fuelling terrorism in the country. The Boko Haram has international links with other terrorist groups such as the AI-Qaeda in the Magherb (AQIM), AI-qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and al-Shabab in Somalia. The sect has been getting tremendous support from these groups. The participation of Nigeria forces in the Malian crisis is bound to open another flank of vulnerability to the Nigerian interest worldwide because the Malian terrorists have vowed to retaliate against any country that participates in the operation. They have demonstrated capability by taking people of different countries hostage. The recent incident at the Algeria’s oil and gas facility is instructive. It thus rests on Nigeria to take additional security measures to protect her interest worldwide and also heighten security at home.

The challenge in tackling Nigeria’s insecurity is associated with a weak and poorly trained security agency. Data from BusinessDay Research shows that the Nigerian police  spend an average of 94  percent  of its budget on paying its personnel. The Army and Navy spend an average of 76 percent of their budgets on personnel cost. This leaves the security agencies with little or no budget to get the sophisticated weapons and training to fight insurgency especially when such insurgency is funded by crude oil theft or foreign interest with deep pockets(Agomuo,2013).

Maritime Security

The insecurity in Nigeria’s maritime environment is a major challenge to our national security. These occur in many forms, such as, piracy, illegal oil bunkering, oil theft” illegal fishing and hijacking. It has caused the Government loss of revenue and making our ports unattractive to foreign shipping lines. Efforts are being made by government to put a stop to various maritime security challenges. The Nigerian Navy has statutory responsibility for security in Nigeria’s maritime environment. Interestingly, the Navy is being strengthened through training, capacity building and purchase of new platforms to adequately cope with the tasks of policing Nigeria’s maritime environment. The Nigerian Maritime Security and Safety Administration (NIMASA) is another body set up by the government to deal with problems of safety and security in Nigeria’s harbours and coastal area. Recently, NIMASA entered into agreement with Global West, a private security company to ensure security of Nigeria’s coastal waters and prevent piracy and illegal oil bunkering(Akpan,2012).

At the sub-regional level, Nigeria is partnering with other countries in the West African sub-region, through the auspices of ECOWAS to forge collaboration, security and legislative efforts to combat piracy and other illegal maritime activities. As you all are aware the Nigerian Navy and Beninese Navy are currently involved in a combined operation code name OPERATION PROSPERITY aimed at enhancing maritime security between the two countries. The same is being done through the Gulf of Guinea Commission, which has 8 countries bordering the Gulf of Guinea from Angola to Nigeria(Haruna and Nzoniwu,2012).

Niger Delta Militancy

The emergence of MEND and other agitating groups in the struggle to addressing the injustice by the Federal Government against the region exacerbated the security problems not only in the region, but also in the entire Nigerian state. These include Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force (NDPVF) led by Mujahid Dokubo-Asari and Niger Delta vigilante (NDV) led by Ateke Tom (Amaizu, 2008). The leaders of these agitating groups are from Ijaw nation.

However, the two groups (NDPVF and NDV), dwarf a plethora of smaller militias supposedly numbering more than one hundred in the Niger Delta region. These groups comprised mostly the disaffected young men from Warri, Port Harcourt, Yenegoa and their sub-urban areas (USIP,2012). Against this backdrop, daily civilian life was disrupted, forcing schools and economic activities to shut down (Eze,2012). Similarly, properties of indigenes of the area worth millions of naira were destroyed. To arrest the challenges of insecurity in the Niger Delta, the Federal Government of Nigeria applied minimal force in a bid to ensure that these militias drop their arms and end their hostilities against the government and the people of the area. In August 2008, the federal government launched a massive military crackdown on militants (Onyoha,2012).

Thus, military patrolled waters, hunted for militants, searched all civilian boats for weapons, and raided numerous hideouts. Also, on May 15, 2009 a military operation undertaken by a Joint Task Force (JTF) was put in place by the federal government against MEND and their affiliates in the Niger Delta region (Onoyume, 2008:5). These actions by the federal government were in response to the activities of the militia groups which adversely affected both the residents of the area and the Nigerian economy (Onuorah, 2009:2).

Paradoxically, rather than the measures put in place by the federal government to address the challenges of insecurity in the Niger Delta, the situation led to incessant kidnapping of not only the foreign oil workers, but also the indigenes and residents of the region. Hence, on June, 2009, the Nigerian Government under the leadership of Late President Umaru Yar‟Adua, announced the granting of Amnesty and unconditional pardon to militants in the Niger Delta region (Rotimi, 2009). The militants were given between August 6 and October 4, 2009 to surrender their weapons to the federal government in return for training and rehabilitation. During the 60 day period, the militants led their groups to surrender their weapons which included rocket-propelled grenades, guns, explosives, ammunition, gunboats, among others. Although the federal governments’ Amnesty Programme reduced the rate of militancy in the region, the incessant kidnapping activities in the Niger Delta region ultimately had a spill-over effect in some states in the South-East geo-political zone of Nigeria.

At the peak of the militancy in the Niger Delta, crude oil production which is the mainstay of the country went as low as 700,000 bpd against over 2million bpd, This adversely affected Nigeria’s economy as the revenue accruable from oil dwindled. However, with the granting of amnesty to the Niger Delta militants, threats posed by the militants to oil production and oil facilities have virtually disappeared. However, there are still some residual threats being posed by those claiming to be remnants of the Niger Delta militants seeking to benefit from the FG Amnesty Programme. They seek to be included in the third phase Amnesty Programme. On a number of times they disrupted peace and tranquility in Abuja and other cities in the Niger Delta(Dibia,2012).

The security challenges in the Niger Delta area may not be attributed entirely to the remnants of the Niger Delta militants, as the government has commenced moves to inaugurate the third phase of the Amnesty Programme. It is suspected that criminal gangs may be responsible, in their effort to make a living from all sorts of illegal activities in the Niger Delta(Mohammed,2012.


Kidnapping started initially as part of methods used by Niger Delta militants to attract attention of oil companies and the government to their struggle for resource control. However, with the FG Amnesty Programme in place, Niger Delta militants have abandoned the crime but criminal elements, especially in the South-Eastern part- of the -country, have adopted the kidnapping strategy, .believing that kidnapping is a less risky and more lucrative venture than armed robbery(Dare,2011).

Currently, cases of kidnapping that are concentrated and frequent in the South-East, have gradually spread to other parts of the country and the phenomenon is now regarded as one of the main security challenges confronting the country. Prominent Nigerians, lawmakers and traditional rulers have fallen victims. Kidnapping gives the impression that lives of oil workers, prominent citizens and ordinary Nigerians are not safe and consequently portrays Nigeria as insecure, with attendant consequences(Ikuomola,2011).

Kidnapping as a social problem is the act of illegally taking somebody away and keeping him as a prisoner in order to get money or something in return for releasing him. The history of kidnapping in the South- East zone of Nigeria could be traced to hostilities, conflicts and violence in the Niger Delta region. In the South-East zone, especially in Abia and Imo States, kidnapping activities were mainly targeted at prominent indigenes and residents of these states. This situation was pervasive shortly after the 2007 general elections in Nigeria. This is partly because, the youths that were used as political thugs by politicians during the 2007 general elections in these states subsequently engaged in kidnapping as means of livelihood after the elections. Indeed, confession by those apprehended indicated that some politicians in these states supplied guns to youths for the purpose of rigging the 2007 general elections. Unfortunately these guns were not retrieved at the end of the elections. Consequently, kidnapping later turned to profitable business mostly among the youths in Abia, Imo, Ebonyi and other states in the zone. Thus, the increasing rate of kidnapping activities in Abia State, particularly in Aba metropolis, resulted in several foiled attempts to kidnap the Abia State Governor, Chief Theodore Orji in 2008 (Nwogu, 2008).

Thus, from 2007 to 2010, several prominent men in Aba and its environs were kidnapped for ransom. This adversely affected the economy of Abia State as many businessmen and manufacturing companies relocated to other states like Enugu and Anambra. Also, this pathetic situation got to a crescendo, when school children were kidnapped in Aba in 2010. However, the kidnapping of school children in Aba, as well as common men in the metropolis forced all the commercial banks in the area to close down for several days in 2010. It is pertinent to note that prior to this period, many commercial banks were robbed in Aba which is the commercial nerve of Abia state. In rural areas, kidnapping of traditional rulers and poor people were also rampant. Worse still, people were kidnapped while attending church services and village meetings (Ajani, 2010). To address the spate of kidnapping in the South-East zone particularly in Abia state, the federal government deployed soldiers to Aba metropolis and its environs. This bold step taken by the government is put in clear perspective by Okoli (2009) who states that:

Governor Theodore Orji of Abia State formally invited the Army to the State to assist in the fight against crime and criminals, especially kidnappers. Their Governor said the menace of kidnapping seemed to have overwhelmed the police…

The action of the government in response to kidnapping, no doubt, minimized the reported cases of the menace, especially in Aba and its environs. This was partly as a result of intensive attacks launched by the army at the hideout of kidnappers in Ukwa West Local Government Area of Abia State (Sampson, 2010).

Illegal Bunkering

Nigeria has long been confronted with challenges of illegal bunkering and oil theft during which both crude and refined products are stolen on a regular basis. This development not only creates serious economic problems for the country in terms of loss of revenue, it also gives the impression that the main foreign exchange earner on which the country depends cannot be effectively secured. The President while decorating the recently appointed Services Chiefs had to task them to stop the threat of oil theft. Efforts are currently on-going by the Government through the Nigerian Navy and NIMASA to bring the problem under control.

It is observed that pirate attacks and sea robberies constitute another great threat to peace in Nigeria. The coastal parts bordering Lagos and the Bonny waters are some of the areas of the world most prone to incessant attacks by pirates and robbers (Dauda, 2011:12). According to him, the attacks are aimed at fishing trawlers, oil tankers, cargo vessels and speed boats conveying passengers from one destination to another. The level of insecurity in the coastal areas of Nigeria is so high such that lives are lost on daily basis in addition to several billions of naira that are lost to sea piracy. It is baffling to note that between 2007 and 2008, the Nigerian Trawler Owners Association (NITOA), had painstakely recorded over 20 attacks on vessels and a loss of over 10 lives (Dauda, 2012:6).

Furthermore, there are other reported cases of hijacks and attacks along Nigerian coastal areas which include:

  • On July 24, 2011, the M.V. RBD Anema E Core, an Italian-owned tanker with 108,958 dead weight, dwt and 23 crew members on board were hijacked by sea pirates off the coast of Benin, just outside the Nigerian Waters. The tanker was, however, released after four days.
  • On October 30, 2011, suspected sea pirates were reported to have attacked passengers of a speed boat along Nembe waterways in Bayelsa State. They attacked four of the speed passenger boats which were conveying traders to Yenagoa, the capital of Bayelsa State. It was sad to record that some of the passengers were ordered by the hoodlums to jump into the water after being dispossessed of their cash and other valuables.
  • In the first week of November 2011, gunmen boarded MT Halifax, an oil tanker, which anchored off the coat of Port Harcourt. They hijacked the ship and sailed off into the waters of the Gulf of Guinea with the crew until the crude oil in the ship was discharged.
  • Between March 1st and September 30th 2011, there were about 124 reported cases of distress alerts, some of which were false in respect of piracy or robbery against ships in Nigerian waters (Dauda, 2011:12).

There is belief among many Nigerians that oil has given rise to vertical and horizontal conflicts between the dominant and subordinate geo-political zones, classes and groups across Nigeria, given the pivotal role that oil plays in the restructuring power relations in Nigeria (Eme and Onyishi, 2011:177). The revenue accruing from oil has regrettably generated a lot of insecurity problem in Nigeria. It has led to struggles for more shares of the national revenue between the two major and leading ethnic groups in Nigeria (Ovaga, 2010:133). It is in the light of this that Attah (2004:32), likened the Nigerian Federation to a captive state dominated by powerful, political and ethnic social forces constantly in conflict over material reward of state power. He contended that the minority and oil producing ethnic group, especially the South-South of the nation, struggles for the control of the petroleum resources with which their land is endowed with. Similarly, the majority northern ethnic group, struggles for control of power with the sole aim of also controlling the resources endowed in the south. Concisely, the struggle for power in Nigeria is implicitly the struggle for petroleum control between the majority northern group and minority southern ethnic group.

Pipeline Vandalisation

Pipeline vandalisation is closely related to illegal bunkering, though not the same. Nigeria loses about N105 billion (one hundred and five billion naira) to pipeline vandalisation annually. Most of the vandals puncture or blow up pipelines to siphon crude or finished products while some others cause damage so as to get oil companies to engage them in the repairs of such damaged pipelines or engage them for the security of the pipelines. Whatever maybe the case, this is a serious security challenge for the country. They both constitute a big drain to the country’s revenue. Huge sums of money are also spent in repairing damaged pipelines. Loss of lives and environmental degradation are other negative impacts. The Arepo pipeline vandalisation which has become a constant phenomenon is instructive.

Armed Robbery

Armed robbery has been a long standing security issue in Nigeria, especially after the 1967-70 Civil War, when arms became widely available in the country. For a very long time it was the number one security challenge confronting the nation until the Niger Delta militancy and later Boko Haram activities pushed the ‘problem to the back burner. It has persisted despite many efforts to tackle the root causes of this particular security challenge. It is generally believed that youth unemployment, and the culture of get-rich-quick based on greed, which pervades our society today are responsible. Proliferation of small arms and light weapons as well as inadequate policing of our borders and maritime environment are other inducing factors.

Youth Unemployment

A high level of unemployment is blamed for Nigeria’s rising insecurity. Though the official unemployment rate is 23.9 percent, some economists say it could be as high as 50 percent of the workforce. The high unemployment rate is fuelling poverty level which is as high as 60 percent in some states in the North, data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) shows. Unemployment is one socio-security challenge that successive  governments  over  the  years  have  identified  and  acknowledged.  Unfortunately, government’s efforts appear not to be making the desired positive impact. The engagement of these unemployed into criminality is a matter of concern for the government. In Nigeria, on many occasions many youths have been used as thugs during political campaigns and in time of crisis.

Government is very concerned about this problem and had taken several steps in the past, and currently, to train youths in relevant skills in order to generate employment. To solve the youth unemployment issue, the FG has initiated the Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria (You WIN) programme. The programme is a collaboration of the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Communications Technology, the Ministry of Youth Development and the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development that will launch an annual Business Plan Competition for aspiring young entrepreneurs in Nigeria.

This is in line with the FG drive to create more jobs for the Nigerian youths particularly. The programme will be implemented in partnership with Nigeria’s private sector, who will be requested to provide funding, support and mentoring for the aspiring young entrepreneurs.

Climate Change

The recent heavy rains and associated flooding in many parts of the country has brought the issue of climate change as a security threat to the fore. Efforts are being made to study the pattern of climate change in a comprehensive way so as to predict weather patterns. This will allow government to provide early warning to farmers and those living in flood-prone areas. With the depletion of the ozone layer and the resultant onsequences of global warming, there has been significant climate change, which is now a major problem for many parts of the world.

The recent “Sandy” storm disaster in the United States and flooding of many parts of Asia and Africa are urgent reminders that climate change is a serious security problem that needs to be properly addressed. All the relevant security and environmental agencies have been summoned for a comprehensive assessment of the problem, as it pertains to Nigeria, towards advising the government on the best approach at minimizing the effect of climate change and other natural disasters.

Porous Borders

One of the main security challenges in the country is the wide expanse of Nigeria’s porous borders with contiguous countries. Many border communities have over time, out of practice, come to depend on the proceeds of smuggling and consequently, have come to see such practices as a way of life. Porosity of the borders has many implications, apart from revenue lost to smuggling, small arms and light weapons are brought into the country in large numbers. This has led to a situation where the country is awash with all sorts of weapons which find their way into the hands of criminal gangs. With the recent collapse of the Ghadafi regime in Libya, heavy weapons from Ghadaffi’s arsenal, such as the ones with the Islamists in Northern Mali, could be smuggled into the country and used to deadly effects by armed gangs and members of the Boko Haram sect. To avoid this frightening possibility, the government has taken steps to firm up border security, by opening up more border posts and increasing the manpower of the various security agencies at the borders.

Nigeria has also signed joint border patrol agreements with some of the contiguous countries having land borders with Nigeria. There is now provision for aerial surveillance of the border with helicopters and planes, as well as electronically aided security checkpoints to capture biometric data of those coming in and exiting the country through the land borders. These measures when firmly in place will go a long way to help secure Nigeria’s land borders.

Resolving the Security challenges

Peace and security continue to be elusive for Nigeria. The amnesty program for militants in the Niger Delta has reduced violent protests and oil bunkering. But the core of the amnesty program consists of monthly payments to the militants and particularly handsome contracts for the leaders of the armed groups. This is not sustainable, particularly when the basic complaints of the Delta population remain largely unaddressed. There has been some progress with a major road project to link the Niger Delta to the capital city of Lagos, but this will be of limited benefit to most Delta residents. Violence could flare again if residents don’t see more improvement in their lives. Some, but not all governors, in the Delta are making life better for their residents but the federal contribution has been limited. Major attention needs to be given to projects like schools and clinics that will benefit the local population.

So far, the government has concentrated its efforts at resolving the security challenge faced in Northern Nigeria by deploying the military in what has become one of the largest peace time military operations in Nigeria. The deployment has not however, stopped the bombings and in some cases have increased resentment in the local community where these soldiers are located. Security agencies however, claim their efforts have reduced the bombings. The bigger question though, is how sustainable is the current drop in bombings without the massive booths on the ground? Only recently, the media reported of an acceptance by the Boko Haram sect of a ceasefire. The challenge with such a claim however, is that it cannot be verified since the sect has no known face to dialogue with.

Finally, security threat across the globe has greatly affected the world economy in recent times. The high rate of immigrants coming into the country needed to be checkmated by our custom officers in our Nigerian borders and avoid being gratified by powers that be. The federal government need  to improve  on information technology by installing CCTVs to monitor illegal arms and ammunition into the country. The Nigerian security agencies needed to be highly remunerated to avoid bribery and corruption .Youth unemployment should be directly tackled by all levels of government now.


There appears to be some cracks in the membership of Boko Haram in the North with the recent media report that faction now seeks peace with government. The hope is that this faction will not only drop its arms but give information about other factions. If this really happens, then there is a chance that the violence generated in the North will weaken in 2013. The French intervention in Mali may also be good news for Nigeria as there were some established links between the Mali insurgence and the destabilisation of Northern Nigeria. Hopefully, with the Malian rebels on the run, they may not be in a position to train the militant that end up as bomb throwers in the North.

The security agencies will however, have to watch out and ensure that the Malian rebels do not end up seeking refuge in Nigeria and causing more violence in the North. In the southern part of Nigeria, the recent conviction of Henry Okah in South Africa seems to have raised the spectrum of more violence in the South South. MEND, the organisation that Okah set up threatened to start violence again on his conviction. Feelers are that MEND is not in a position to carry out the level of insurgence that it was once known for.

For now, the South West looks like the calm zone in the country with the politicians having been able to reach a form of live and let live arrangement with their main militant group, the OPC. No economy develops in the midst of high insecurity. Nigeria’s case however, looks deceptively different as the economy has sustained a significant 6.1 percent growth in 2012 despite the level of insecurity. This growth is however, deceptive because the opportunity cost of the insecurity is difficult to capture. The opportunity cost of insecurity is the lost growth rate that would have occurred without the rising insecurity in the country. A breakdown of economic growth rate based on geography may also place into perspective the rising cost of insecurity on the nation’s economy.


  •  Addressing the country’s security concerns would necessitate a re-evaluation of the number of immigrants entering through Nigerian borders. The federal government should upgrade its information technology by deploying CCTV cameras to track illegal weaponry and ammunition entering the nation.
  • To avoid bribery and corruption, Nigerian security agencies have to be well compensated.
  • All levels of government should take immediate action to combat youth unemployment.
  • There is also a need for government to engage in projects and programs that would boost economic and social development.

About the Author(s):

Eme Okechukwu Innocent – Department of Public Administration and Local Government, University of Nigeria, Nsukka

Nwachukwu, Tochukwu Stephen – Department of Public Administration and Local Government, University of Nigeria, Nsukka

Olise, Charles Nnamdi – Department of Public Administration and Local Government, University of Nigeria, Nsukka

Source: Research Gate

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