In Nigeria, a disturbing reality has emerged: the government shares governance and tax collection responsibilities with terrorists and various types of non-state actors. This alarming situation not only undermines the government’s authority and legitimacy, but it also exacerbates security concerns, impeding efforts to restore stability and uphold the rule of law.
With insecurity, history is repeating itself. In the early months of 2015 and the run-up to the general elections, 27 Local Authorities (LGAs) in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states were occupied by Boko Haram Islamic insurgents. There, Boko Haram hoisted its flags, collected tributes/taxes, rendered social services and imposed its harsh version of Sharia law. Although these territories were later liberated, parts of them intermittently relapsed into the hands of the Islamist terrorists.
Across the country, communities are caught in a dangerous web of violence and extortion perpetrated by terrorist groups and non-state actors. In Niger State, clashes between rival factions such as Ansaru and the Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP) have resulted in bloodshed and instability. Reports from Kurebe in Shiroro Local Government Area attest to the terror unleashed on civilians caught in the crossfire.
Furthermore, in Nigeria’s central Plateau State, violence between Muslim herders and Christian farming communities has flared up once more, killing at least 30 people this year following on from last Christmas Eve’s massacre of possibly over 200 citizens.
This is however something much more insidious than the ‘lazy but convenient narrative of herder-farmer clashes’ as the charity PSJUK argues. Despite a 24-hour curfew in the Mangu local district, attacks continue, with schools, places of worship, and homes being burned and ransacked.
The Mwaghavul Development Association blames the recent violence on Fulani Muslim herders, claiming they attacked Kwahaslalek village and killed approximately 30 people.
In addition, terrorist organisations have expanded their reach beyond mere acts of violence, establishing quasi-governments in areas under their control. In Zamfara State, Dogo Gide’s group has imposed its authority by collecting taxes and administering justice in a parallel system that undermines the government’s legitimacy.
The collusion between certain elements within the government and these terrorist groups exacerbates the situation. Reports of alliances and corruption in state institutions raise serious questions about accountability and transparency. The result is a breakdown in trust between the government and its citizens, exacerbating grievances and perpetuating the cycle of violence.
The horrific kidnappings in and around Abuja, Nigeria’s political capital, are simply too dehumanising to include in this piece. How can one comprehend and process the atrocities of 25 people kidnapped in two weeks, four of whom were murdered for refusing to pay the demanded ransoms?
This situation has serious and far-reaching consequences. On the ground, communities are caught in the crossfire between government forces and armed groups fighting for control. At other times it is various terrorist groups fight each other for control of communities. Ordinary citizens are left vulnerable to violence, extortion, and exploitation by these actors, who operate with impunity in a variety of contexts. Nigerians in the UK are now asking the question: Where is the government who have the ‘Responsibility to Protect?’
The breakdown of governance goes beyond just territorial control. In some areas, terrorist groups have effectively established parallel administrations, enforcing their own laws, collecting taxes, and providing basic services to the population. This consolidation of power by non-state actors undermines the government’s authority and its ability to carry out its basic responsibilities to its citizens.
Furthermore, the symbiotic relationship between certain members of the government and these non-state actors raises serious concerns about accountability and transparency. Reports of collusion, corruption, and complicity among government officials only serve to exacerbate public distrust and fuel grievances, perpetuating the cycle of violence and instability.
Addressing Nigeria’s governance crisis necessitates a multifaceted approach that prioritises the well-being and safety of the people. This entails addressing not only the immediate security threats posed by terrorist groups but also the root causes of conflict and insecurity
The capacity and legitimacy of state institutions to deliver essential services, uphold the rule of law, and protect the rights of all citizens are critical components of this endeavour. This should include reforming security forces, strengthening accountability mechanisms, and promoting inclusive governance processes that give marginalised communities a voice. International assistance and collaboration are also critical in addressing Nigeria’s governance issues.
The international community must stand in solidarity with the Nigerian people, offering genuine aid, expertise, and diplomatic pressure to assist the government in confronting the root causes of instability and violence. Nigeria’s massive diaspora also have a role to play in bring about Peace, Security & Social Justice.
Finally, the path to long-term peace and prosperity in Nigeria requires reclaiming the state’s authority, restoring the social contract between government and citizens, and fostering inclusive and accountable governance that excludes terrorists and non-state actors.
These killings and abductions mimic a war situation. Having lost its monopoly of coercive force to sundry criminal groups, the Nigerian state is hurtling towards failure. With physical insecurity, food insecurity has also worsened, and extreme poverty is rising.
Therefore, beyond the pledge by the new Minister of Defence, Abubakar Badaru, to significantly improve on the security in his first year in charge, and beyond simply re-signing MoU documents for bi-lateral Defence Partnership arrangements that do not seem to have yielded fruit in the last half-decade, the Nigerian government and its international partners must prioritise security because that is the supreme raison d’être of government.
Only through concerted and sustained efforts will Nigeria overcome its governance crisis and build a future of peace and prosperity for all of its people.
Victor Ikoli is a volunteer writer/editor with PSJUK – A UK-based advocacy charity mobilizing Nigerians in the diaspora to be influenced for positive change.