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Our Take: Recently, there have been records of security infiltration in manners that pose severe threats to the sovereignty of nations, as seen in Kabul’s recent overthrow of the government by the Taliban and the Tigrayan encroachment into Ethiopia’s capital city. Such movements have seemingly begun to replicate themselves in Nigeria. The recent abduction in the University of Abuja has ignited concerns about the level of security of the state’s capital which is supposedly the most secure place in the country. By addressing the insecurity in Nigeria, a thorough understanding of the deep-rooted causes of insecurity would be a spot to start.
Nigeria’s seat of power may not be different from violent hotspots across the country. In the first week of November 2021, gunmen have kidnapped about six people at the University of Abuja. The university is a few kilometres from the city centre of Nigeria’s capital, Abuja. As expected, the incident has triggered apprehension and knee-jerk reactions. The university’s chapter of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASSU) says trauma from the attacks has prevented them from going to classes. ASUU had also given security agencies forty-eight hours to rescue the kidnapped. The Nigerian army and the police have mounted roadblocks at entry points of the city. Latest report say the victims have been released. But that has not stopped aspersions and uneasiness on growing insecurity across the board.
Is Nigeria’s capital under siege? In May 2021, parents and guardians withdrew dozens of students from some schools in Abuja due to rumoured bandits’ infiltration from the neighbouring Niger State. Niger state has been witnessing recurrent bandits’ attacks in recent times. Data from the Nextier SPD Violent Conflict Database shows that 47 incidents of banditry in Niger state were recorded in twelve months to September 2021. In Kogi state, another neighbouring state, 17 attacks were recorded in the period under review. In Nasarawa state, the figure stood at 11 incidents. A total of 338 casualties were recorded in these incidents. Besides banditry, terrorists are also making an incursion into Nigeria’ north central region. For instance, In April 2021, the Governor of Niger state, Abubakar Sani Bello, revealed that Boko Haram had hoisted its flag in Kaure village in Niger state.
Abuja’s nearness to violent conflict is agreeably a national scare. Arguably, Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, should be one of the safest cities in the country, considering it’s the seat of power, where security agencies and almost all government institutions are headquartered. It is also home to many players in the international community working in Nigeria. As shown in recent events, capital cities are usually the last line of defence against terror. Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, was the last to fall to the Talibans’ onslaught. In Ethiopia, there are reports that Tigrayan forces are advancing towards the capital to take over the country. Rebel groups in the country have joined forces to defeat the Ethiopian government, complicating frantic efforts to save the nation. These examples show that once armed conflict gets to the state’s capital, it is a total takeover of powers and resources from government’s control.
Saving Nigeria’s capital must begin with the effective securitisation of the entire country. Multiple violent conflicts across the board increasingly require government’s responses to save lives and livelihoods. Ineffectual handling of these security threats will exacerbate them. It will also expand the geographical scope of violent hotspots. If state structures are ineffective in handling security threats, citizens will take up arms for self-preservation, thereby cascading the tide of violence. Equally, the resilience of armed groups will deepen if their activities are not matched with lasting resistance. This scenario speaks to the audacity of bandits. From rustling cattle to raiding rural communities to large-scale ransom kidnap and brazen attacks on hard targets and looming infiltration in Abuja, the seat of power. Therefore, treating the proliferation of armed groups in Nigeria with kids’ gloves is akin to preparing for doomsday and the possible fall of Abuja.
Considering alternative approaches to peace. Beyond reactive engagement with non-state armed groups, government should seek to understand the current dynamics of insecurity, including the proliferation of arms and armed fighters. This understanding should also cover current drivers of armed conflict in Nigeria, structural vulnerabilities and social issues that may be fuelling violent conflicts across the board.
Government’s preparedness towards increasing violence may be the game-changer. There should be proactive measures in peacebuilding and early warning mechanisms to address grievances and fierce group rivalry. A study of workable peacebuilding approaches in a crisis environment will help shape policy actions and programming for communities prone to violent upheavals. Additionally, building peace is a proactive effort to engender tolerance and prevent war. Additionally, early warning mechanisms are essential to identify grievances and threats of violence before they fester and become a full-blown crisis. Nigeria’s cascading insecurity and fall of crisis-ridden nations across the world are timely lessons for proactive action.
There ought to be proactive measures in peacebuilding and early admonition instruments to address complaints and wild gathering contention. An investigation of functional peacebuilding approaches in an emergency climate will assist with molding strategy activities and programming for networks inclined to savage disturbances.