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Nigeria’s New Era, Part 2: Banditry, Violence, Insecurity and the Legacies of President Buhari

2024-04-15 09:56

Jan Záhořík

#Nigeria , #WestAfrica , #BuhariLegacy , #Insecurity , #Violence , #Banditry , #SocioEconomicIssues ,

Nigeria’s New Era, Part 2: Banditry, Violence, Insecurity and the Legacies of President Buhari

Dive into the roots of Nigeria's insecurity and the impact of Buhari's policies in "Nigeria's New Era Part 2"

For those who remember, twenty years ago it was possible to travel freely throughout Nigeria and explore the wonders and treasures of this vast and magnificent country, whose wealth is greater than the rest of West Africa put together. Twenty years later, it is almost impossible to travel anywhere except a few southern regions without fear of being kidnapped, robbed, harassed or killed. Many people in Nigeria blame the Buhari regime for 'making things worse' in terms of corruption, security and violence. Muhamadou Buhari was Nigeria's 7th (1983-1985) and 15th (2015-2023) president, whose first term was marked by authoritarianism and repression, giving rise to the term Buharism. Thirty years later, he was re-elected, defeating incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan, the first time an incumbent president had lost an election after his first term.





Talking to ordinary Nigerians, however, it is easy to come to the conclusion that the eight-year presidency of the man who preceded the current president, Muhammadu Buhari, contributed to a huge deterioration in the security situation in the country. Northern Nigeria, in particular, has long been plagued by insurgency from Boko Haram and the Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP), and despite former President Buhari's repeated claims of defeating Boko Haram,[1] the situation remains rather volatile especially in Borno state and several other locations in North-east part of the country. 



Other parts of the north (Sokoto, Kaduna, Zamfara) are known for chronic violence and kidnapping by bandits and militias.[2] Occasional violence has also been reported in some parts of the South, such as Port Harcourt in Rivers State, which has several causes, one of which is a new monetary policy introduced by President Buhari to fight corruption. This has not gone down well with some governors, including Nyesom Wike of Rivers State.[3] But neither the monetary policy of the Buhari government nor the current reforms of President Tinubu are the real causes of violence, banditry, kidnapping or terrorism in Nigeria. So where does it come from?




The causes are many. Nigeria has a history of military coups and military governments that have ruled the country with an iron fist, a perfect example being the Sani Abacha regime (1993-1998), which became internationally 'famous' for the repression that led to the death of a political and environmental activist, Ken Saro-Wiwa, who was protesting against the regime and the Royal Dutch/Shell company causing environmental damage in Rivers State.[4]



Abacha was the last of Nigeria's military leaders, and since then the country has been ruled by civilian, democratically elected governments. However, the country remains divided and the so-called identity problem is one of the factors contributing to instability. Nigeria was created by British colonial rule, and the country, divided along ethnic and religious lines, has never really embarked on a process of nation-building. Rivalry between the Hausa/Fulani, Yoruba, Igbo and other groups remains a challenge for Nigeria's future. Second, Nigeria's economy has been heavily dependent on oil production, with very little done to diversify the economy. Despite President Tinubu's recent reforms, the labour market remains rather stagnant and the national economy is dependent on oil and gas prices[5] with no prospects of stimulating other sectors of the economy. 


This creates huge inequalities in the population of Nigeria that has more than 200 million inhabitants. Inequalities are obvious particularly between urban centers (such as Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Kano) and rural areas where the majority lives. Given the fact that the majority of population is of very young age, and millions of children have no access to education,[6] this may cause further frustration and deprivation already felt by many who work either in informal sector or for very low wages or are dependent on their families. Last but not least, Nigeria has become known for chronic corruption, being ranked very low on the international ranking.[7] Some experts explain this by greed and “do-or-die” approach practiced by those in power,[8] 


While there is certainly a complexity of factors, including unresolved inter-ethnic issues, conflicts between Fulani herdsmen and farmers of other ethnic groups in the North and Middle Belt, environmental degradation, a neglected education system and lack of social mobility. According to former Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu, the violence in the North-West and North-East stems from neglected education, leaving people with little or no opportunities and dependent on families or charity. In his words: “When you fail to educate people, over the years they will grow up to find out that the social inequality like some people enjoying light, some driving cars, and they are left out. This makes them start rebellion against the society.”[9]


The truth is that the poor education system and the fact that millions of children are left out does not help, as it creates prospects for future trouble. It is therefore an attractive option for a young unemployed man without proper education to join a group of bandits or a militia, which gives him a "sense of belonging" as well as cash and immediate profit. At the same time, to paraphrase ex-minister Shittu, we can see such people as a "no future generation" that will either remain in the informal sector or be involved in a variety of illegal activities. One of Nigeria's problems is that, despite the enormous wealth generated by oil and gas revenues, large sections of the population do not feel that they are receiving the services that the state is supposed to provide. In the final part of this trilogy on Nigeria, we will take a closer look at the problems of education and place them in the context of state and society.


[1] See e.g. https://www.africanews.com/2018/01/02/pres-buhari-insists-that-boko-haram-has-been-defeated/


[2] See e.g. https://www.vanguardngr.com/2024/02/bandits-kill-six-abduct-ex-cbn-staff-others-in-kaduna/


[3] See e.g. https://www.premiumtimesng.com/regional/south-south-regional/582741-naira-scarcity-shops-burgled-during-violent-protest-in-port-harcourt.html


[4] See e.g. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Ken-Saro-Wiwa


[5] See e.g. https://www.bmz.de/en/countries/nigeria/economic-situation-55712


[6] See e.g. https://www.unicef.org/nigeria/education


[7] See e.g. https://www.cfr.org/article/nigerias-all-too-familiar-corruption-ranking-begs-broader-questions-around-normative


[8] Ideyi, N. (2008). The root cause of violence in Nigeria: The Niger Delta crisis, a reference point. OGIRISI: A New Journal of African Studies, 5, 85-109.


[9] Raji, M. (2024). Banditry is rebellion against neglect of poor people in North — Buhari’s ex-minister, Shittu. https://www.vanguardngr.com/2024/03/banditry-is-rebellion-against-neglect-of-poor-people-in-north-buharis-ex-minister-shittu/


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