Friday 30 March 2018

The Increasingly Fragile, Ungoverned Spaces in Nigeria

Quote: “The peace in [Taraba] state is under assault. There is an attempt at ethnic cleansing in this state and, of course, in all the riverine state of Nigeria. We must resist it. We must stop it. Every one of us must rise up. The armed forces are not neutral; they collude with the armed bandits that kill people, kill Nigerians. They facilitate their movement. They cover them. If you are depending on the Armed Forces to stop the killings, you will all die one by one. The ethnic cleansing must stop in Taraba State, it must stop in all the states of Nigeria; otherwise Somalia will be a child’s play.”

-         Lt. General Theophilus Danjuma (Rtd)
Nigeria’s Former Chief of Army Staff & Minister of Defence,
Saturday, March 24, 2018

With the exception of vested interests benefitting from the status-quo hence blinded by their spoils, keen followers of goings-on, upshots in Nigeria are in agreement that Nigeria presently ticks the right boxes of an increasingly fragile, failed, misgoverned or ungoverned space. It is worrying that statesmen, patriots, ordinary citizens and sections of the country are gradually losing confidence in the capacity of the government and the security agencies to protect them. The military, security and intelligence agencies are apparently overwhelmed, helpless, and clueless. The political will to rejig the security agencies or to wield the big stick against their top brass is lacking. Reminiscent of a war-torn, rudderless State, the socio-economic, geo-political, ethnic and religious faultlines in Nigeria continue to deepen by the day while those in authority continue to play the Ostrich, politick. It is not surprising that while decrying the spate of killings in different parts of the country, the Nigerian Senate on March 15, 2018, warned that Nigeria was gradually tilting towards a failed state. The Senate is not alone in this line of thought. Washington-based think-tank, Fund for Peace (FFP), for the second time in a row, ranked Nigeria as the thirteenth least stable country in the world in its 2017 Fragile States Index (FSI). Nigeria had a total score of 101.6 out of a possible 120. The United States Department of State ‘’Country Report on Terrorism 2016’’ which was released July 2017, disclosed that 75 per cent of deaths caused by terrorist attacks across the world occurred in Nigeria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria; and Pakistan. A United States-based independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank, the Institute for Economics & Peace, in its 2017 Global Terrorism Index, GTI, ranked Nigeria for the third year running as the third most terrorized nation in the world. Though the 2017 GTI report says terrorism deaths attributed to Boko Haram decreased by 80 per cent, but random killings ascribed to marauding herdsmen seem to have upped the ante. A Punch Newspaper editorial of August 6, 2017, titled, ''Insecurity reducing Nigeria to a failing state'', submits that, ‘’Nigeria places a very low premium on human life and safety. This is why crime proliferates in every nook and cranny of the country. This chronic nightmare is graphically illustrated by unremitting kidnapping, armed robbery, ritual killings, smuggling, street gang (or cult-related) violence, herdsmen killings, Islamist terrorism and militancy. The Federal Government should be concerned about its loss of the power of coercion to non-state actors and quickly roll out strategies to change the status quo.’’ Chairman, Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts, Senator Shehu Sani (APC, Kaduna State) describes Lt. Gen. Theophilus Danjuma’s statement cited above, as a clear indication that the nation was ‘’tip toeing through a minefield’’.
Of Fragile States, Ungoverned Spaces/Ungoverned Territories
A fragile state can be defined as, ‘’a state whose central government is so weak or ineffective that it has little practical control over much of its territory; non-provision of public services; widespread corruption and criminality; refugees and involuntary movement of populations; and sharp economic decline.’’ A United States think tank, Fund for Peace started publishing an annual study known as the Fragile State Index (previously known as Failed State Index) since 2005. The Fragile States Index (FSI) is essentially a yearly ranking of 178 countries aimed at underlining not just the common forces encumbering different countries, but also serves to pinpoint when those forces increasingly pushes a Nation to the verge of failure. Some of the indicators used to determine the fragility of a country include: security threats, uneven economic development, poverty and economic decline, demographic pressures (refugee flows), human rights violations, state legitimacy and the state of public services, amongst others.

Likewise, an investigative report prepared for the United States Air Force titled, ‘’Ungoverned Territories: Understanding and Reducing Terrorism Risks’’, United States-based nonprofit research organization, the RAND Corporation defines an ungoverned territory as ''an area in which a state faces significant challenges in establishing control.’’ According to RAND, ‘’ungoverned territories can be failed or failing states, poorly controlled land, maritime borders, airspaces or areas within otherwise viable states where the central government’s authority does not extend.’’ Problem is, ungoverned territories or spaces are breeding grounds for security threats and criminal activities such as terrorism, money laundering, refugee flows, humanitarian crises, kidnap for ransom and extortion (KRE) or mass abductions (Boko Haram, Chibok and Dapchi school girls abductions), drug smuggling, human trafficking and arms smuggling, amongst others.  NBC News cites U.S counterterrorism officials and a classified list which confirms ungoverned spaces in about 10 countries. According to the NBC report, ‘’fearing that newer safe havens that could eventually become "external operations platforms" for attacks against Western and U.S. interests, the CIA has stepped up its monitoring of 12 countries that include significant ungoverned spaces where Islamic extremists are operating.’’ Of course, Nigeria is conspicuously in that list. Other countries with swathes of ungoverned spaces include: Somalia, Mali, Libya, Mauretania, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, and Iraq. Weak, Failing or Failed State, ‘’Fragile State’’, ‘’Ungoverned Space’’ or ‘’Ungoverned Territory’’ are interwoven, and will be used interchangeably in this report.

Classification, Indicators of Ungoverned Spaces
There are three broad classifications and manifestations of ungoverned spaces. They are, in no particular order: contested, incomplete, and abdicated governance. Each is a function of the state of affairs that birthed it. According to RAND, indicators of ungovernability include the following variables: (a) Lack of state penetration, (b) Abdicated, incomplete or contested Governance, (c) Lack of physical infrastructure, (d) Corruption and the prevalence of the informal economy, (e) Social/cultural resistance, (f) Lack of monopoly of force (Niger-Delta militants, Fulani herdsmen, Boko Haram, plethora of armed, ethnic militias), (g) Presence of Organized Armed Groups Outside the State’s Control, (h) Presence of Criminal Networks Linked to Terrorist or Insurgent Groups (i) Population with access to illegal weapons, arms (j) Lack of border controls

Many if not all most of the above indicators are presently omnipresent in Nigeria; they need no elaboration. However I will proceed to reconcile some of the indicators with trends, goings-on in Nigeria.

1.     Abdicated, incomplete or contested governance: In a typical fragile, failing, failed state or ungoverned space, those in authority abdicate responsibility. They blame everyone else but themselves. This is the situation in Nigeria right now. Renowned for finger-pointing, buck-passing, during a visit to Zamfara State on March 22, 2018, President Buhari accused ‘powerful individuals ‘of orchestrating the lingering conflicts between farmers and herders in parts of northern Nigeria. I am constrained to think that Mr. President’s statement is self-incriminating. A logical interpretation is that Mr. President is in the know of the so-called ‘powerful’ individuals sponsoring these killings but opted to do nothing. Possibly those ‘powerful’ individuals are above the law?

Talking about incomplete or contested governance, the way and manner Boko Haram had a free rein when they abducted and returned over a hundred Dapchi school girls, paints a picture of incomplete or contested governance in that part of the country. Scores of unruffled, unhurried and well-armed Boko Haram insurgents arrived in a convoy of Hilux trucks to Dapchi to abduct the Dapchi girls. A video showed villagers hailing gun-toting Boko Haram militants as they came to drop the ‘abducted’ girls. The insurgents had the effrontery to exchange pleasantries with locals and preached to them not to send their wards to school. Perhaps to further buttress the fact that the Nigerian government, the military and the security agencies lack the capacity to protect Nigerians from internal and external aggression, Defence Spokesperson, Brigadier General John Agim, who was a guest on Channels Television Breakfast Programme, Sunrise Daily avers that, ‘’due to the huge land mass, especially in the Northern East which is volatile to attacks, The Military Doesn’t Have The Capacity To Defend Schools From Terrorists’ Invasion’’. In other words, he is indirectly telling pupil’s to go to school at their own risk? The implication of this is that parents in the northeast would heed the warnings of Boko Haram not to send their children to school. Granted the Nigerian military cannot be everywhere as the military is overstretched. Recall that the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Buratai says the Army is currently deployed and battling terrorism, kidnapping, cattle rustling, pipeline vandalism, communal clashes, and other forms of insecurity in 32 states out of the 36 states in Nigeria. The police are well suited for internal security operations but ironically, police protection in Nigeria is monetized; it is an exclusive preserve of moneybags, politicians, and the highest bidder. Hitherto, we understand there are about 371, 800 policemen in Nigeria. A recent audit of Nigeria’s 42 police commands and formations into the federal government Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) by the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation reveals that no fewer than 80,115 ‘ghost policemen’ exist in Nigeria. The data shows that the police staff strength in Nigeria is tenably only 291,685. We are also told that 80 percent of Policemen i.e. 233,348 policemen in Nigeria are deployed to protect top shots, politicians, moneyed folks and celebrities. Out of the remaining 20% (58, 337), there will be officers on sick leave; training/courses, including those doing clerical, medical duties, and those serving in police band, sports department, etc. If you do the math, out of the 291,685 staff strength of the Nigerian police, plausibly less than 50,000 are doing real police work. It is idiotic to expect sanity, serenity in such an atmosphere.

2.     Lack of monopoly of force and presence of organized armed groups outside the State’s control: Apart from Boko Haram Terrorists (BHT) and the rampaging herdsmen, a plethora of armed, ethnic militias abound across the nook and cranny of Nigeria. From the Niger-Delta to Benue, Taraba to Zamfara, Yobe to Borno or Adamawa states, militants, bandits and terrorists hold sway. At the peak of the Niger-Delta militancy, research suggests there are about two dozen splinter militant groups in the Niger Delta. Now that militancy has bottomed out, the increasingly number of sea piracy off Nigeria coast suggests some of the groups may have morphed into sea pirates.  
The Senator representing Zamfara Central in the National Assembly, Senator Kabiru Garba Marafa asserts that militia groups may have killed over 2,000 people and destroyed property running into several billions of naira in some towns and villages across nine out of the 14 local governments in Zamfara State in the last seven years. The Senator goes further to allege that, “The most saddening part of it is that the governor of the state knows these people; the deputy governor knows these people. I want to say again and again that the governor of the state knows the perpetrators of these crimes; the deputy governor knows these people; the commissioner of police knows these people. They move around freely with their arms. “No fewer than 70 corpses of the victims of herdsmen attacks on Logo and Guma LGA of Benue State were given a mass burial on January 11, 2018. Weeks later, 26 Benue indigenes massacred by killer herdsmen were also given a mass burial. In what THISDSAY Newspaper of March 28, 2018, captioned, ''The Kogi Massacre'', suspected herdsmen launched coordinated attacks on some communities in Kogi State leading to the death of over 35 people dead and destruction of property worth millions of naira. August 7, 2016, armed bandits killed 11 military personnel in Niger state. Similar to the attack in Niger state, Guardian newspaper reports that 11 soldiers were feared killed in Birnin Gwari local council area of Kaduna State by armed bandits. Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, recently raised an alarm and alerted the Nigeria Police authorities about frequent attacks on farmers in numerous communities in Delta State by Fulani herdsmen who now demand toll from farmers wishing to enter their farms. The governor, disclosed that some communities in his state have been under siege from the nomadic Fulani’s for years, warned that the situation could deteriorate into full-blown crisis if the security agencies failed to curb illegal activities of herdsmen in parts of the state. The loss of confidence in the Federal government-backed security agencies essentially buoyed State governors to create state-sanctioned security outfits while ethnic groups are establishing ethnic militias to protect themselves from marauding herdsmen attacks.
Armed Militias In Nigeria
Cheta Nwanze of SBM Intelligence cites the formation of ethnic militias by the Tarok, Eggon, Jukun and Tivs in Plateau, Nassarawa, Taraba and Benue states respectively. The Ekiti state governor, Mr. Ayo Fayose charged hunters in the state to ‘protect’ the state against herdsmen militia. The Benue State Governor, Mr. Samuel Ortom reiterates that the federal government, especially the security agencies is aware of the culprits and their hideouts, but intentionally opts to do nothing about it. Taraba State Governor, Mr. Darius Ishaku, on Tuesday, March 27, 2018, opined that, ''the Federal Government is culpable in the security challenges facing the country because of its refusal to act when reports of security threats were brought to its attention of security agencies under its control.  Nigeria’s former Chief of Army Staff and Minister of Justice, Lt. General TY Danjuma, pointedly accused the Nigerian military of complicity in the ongoing brigandage and sporadic killings in parts of the country.

A perusal of this report: ‘’Fresh Mercenary Herdsmen Attacks in Mambilla’’, reveals the identity of some of these killings. In a chat with BBC Pidgin, a leader of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association in Benue State, one Garus Gololo revealed that Fulani herdsmen attacked some communities in Benue state, saying their action was a reprisal for alleged theft of cows. In his words, “as we dey relocate go Taraba State through Nassarawa State, for border town of Nengere, thief come collect 1000 cows from us, so we sef fight dem back”, he said. How do we explain that these marauders operate freely and waltz despite deployment of soldiers, security agents?

After months of talking tough, tritely bragging how it had reined in terrorism in Nigeria, the Buhari administration seems to have come down from its high horse. Humbled and desperate to prop up a semblance of serenity in Nigeria, the current administration seems to now prefer pacifying bloodletting terrorists with ransom, blanket amnesty. Despite the purported ceasefire and ongoing negotiation between the Buhari administration and Boko Haram, suspected Boko Haram insurgents on Sunday May 25, 2018, attacked a Borno community located along the Maiduguri-Bama road. The road was reopened a day earlier by the Nigerian military four years after it was encroached upon by Boko Haram. A detailed analysis by Jacob Zenn titled, ''Making sense of Boko Haram’s different factions: Who, how and why?'', suggests there are at least three Boko Haram factions – the Abubakar Shekau, Mamman Nur and the Albarnawi, which of them is the Nigerian government negotiating with? Given that the truce is seemingly with the last two, will Shekau jump ship? Unlikely. It is not Uhuru!

From the foregoing, it is safe to say that the Nigerian government doesn’t have monopoly of force.

3.     Lack of Effective Border Controls: Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, says 60 per cent of the Boko Haram members terrorizing Nigeria’s North-east, are foreigners. Prior to now, a certain Colonel Al-Amin Abubakar Garba who was the Commander, Division Intelligence Command (DIC) of the Nigerian Army 1st Division, Kaduna, stated that, ’’porous borders and weak security system are routes through which Boko Haram and other criminal groups source arms. Nigeria's erstwhile Minister of Interior, Mr. Abba Moro, disclosed that there were over 1,499 irregular/illegal and 84 regular/legal officially identified entry routes into Nigeria. The nearly ten year old Boko Haram insurgency is largely buoyed by Nigeria’s extensive porous land borders with Cameroon (1,690 kilometers) in the east, Niger Republic (1,497 kilometers) in the north, Benin Republic (773 kilometers) in the west, and Chad (87 kilometers) in the northeast. Most of these border areas are either mountainous or in the jungle. A conservative estimate by locals in Kuros-Kawwa, a village in Monguno council area of Borno State claims there are tenably 300 unmanned and unprotected walkways, routes connecting the Borno - Damaturu/Maiduguri axis with Niger, Chad or Cameroon. Out of the 27 local government areas in Borno State, nine are said to crisscross into a couple of neighboring countries through unsecured common borders.

In southern Borno, it is easier to walk-in to Cameroon from some adjoining mountainous settlements in Gwoza council area than to come to Maiduguri, the state capital. In Adamawa State, one of the states in northeast Nigeria ravaged by Boko Haram insurgency, there are reportedly more than 25 illegal routes into Nigeria from neighbouring countries. Nigeria’s borders in the northeast is so extensive and porous that at the border town of Banki, in Gombe State, the southern entrance to a local mosque is reportedly inside Nigerian territory while the northern exit of the same mosque lies in another country, Niger Republic. The situation is so bad that Boko Haram now has the effrontery to waltz in and out of northeast Nigeria towns from their camps within or near Chad, Cameroon flanks.

The Sambisa forest (said to be the size of Belgium), Fagore, Kamuku, Kiyanbana forests, and Dajin Rugu, a forest stretching from Birnin-Gwari in Kaduna State through Katsina to Zamfara forests are some of the ungoverned spaces in northern Nigeria. Bandits hold sway in these climes; terrorists, smugglers capitalize on the porosity of such places to smuggle small arms and light weapons (SALWs). As a result, over 70 percent of about 8 million illegal weapons in West Africa are reported to be in Nigeria. I espoused the implications of porous borders in my piece titled, ‘’Strategic Intelligence: How Nigeria’s Porous Borders, Proliferation of Arms Fuel Boko Haram Insurgency, Militancy’’.

A Nigerian criminologist, Dr. James Alfred, submits that “When armed groups free prisoners and orchestrate breaks, then you know anarchy is close by. A country that cannot arrest this trend is heading for the rocks. That is where Nigeria is at the moment and it is a very precipitous state.” Alfred explained that the inability to guarantee lives and property is a clear indication of lawlessness and chaos. “When people no longer feel safe in parts of the country, then you wonder if there is a government in place. It is a dangerous signal really.” We can deduce from the foregoing, that the indiscriminate bloodletting, wanton kidnappings and mass abductions, wholesale insecurity in the nook and cranny of Nigeria and the apparent inability of the government, security agencies to rein in these unwholesome events, points to the fact that (a) swathes of Nigerian territory are ungoverned spaces controlled by non-state actors and/or (b) Nigeria country is a misgoverned, failing, fragile or failed state. High time the Buhari administration stopped bandying excuses. Wield the big stick against folks orchestrating the wanton killings, insecurity in Nigeria otherwise it may just be a matter of time before the country implodes.

Written By: 
©Don Okereke, security consultant/analyst, thinker, researcher, writer
March 28, 2018

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