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Insecurity: Nigeria On the Brink

On August 7, 2016, gunmen ambushed and killed 11 soldiers in Niger State, one of the states sharing boundary with the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja, Nigeria’s seat of government. Confirming the incident the  spokesman for the Nigerian Army, Colonel Sani Usman, said, “Following covert surveillance and intelligence reports on the activities of some gun runners and armed bandits in Kopa, Dagma and Gagaw villages of Bosso Local Government Area, Niger State, troops of 31 Artillery Brigade, 1 Division Nigerian Army, in conjunction with Nigeria Air Force detachment on Internal Security Operation MESA went on quick cordon and search in the affected areas to recover suspected weapon cache and arrest the suspected persons and the armed bandits. “Contrary to statements attributed to some questionable vested interests, the  troops were on legitimate official duty aimed at safeguarding lives and property of citizen in the area. “While approaching and deploying to carry out their lawful duty, the troops came under simultaneous and sporadic shootings in all the three locations.

They however responded as necessary in line with the rules of engagement. Sadly, an officer and 8 soldiers of the Nigerian Army and 2 Airmen of the Nigeria Air Force lost their lives in the line of national duty.” Across the country herdsmen and cattle rustlers are on rampage killing, maiming and raping innocent Nigerians in their murderous quest to take over farmlands and cattle from farmers and herders respectively while the security agents appear incapacitated. Similarly, kidnapping for ransom, and armed robbery is on the rise all over the country even as Boko Haram appears to have resurfaced with the emergence of its new leadership that has vowed to exterminate Christians in Nigeria. This is at a time when the government had already claimed to have ‘technically’ defeated the murderous Islamic sect. Another testimony of the insecurity in the country was the recent issuance of travelling warning to U.S. citizens living in Nigeria or planning to visit Nigeria. In the travel warning dated August 3, 2016, the Department of State listed some states in Nigeria that should be avoided as a result of insecurity.

The statement by the Department of State reads in part, “The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Nigeria and recommends that U.S. citizens avoid all travel to Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe states because the security situation in northeast Nigeria remains fluid and unpredictable. The Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens in Nigeria to consider their own personal security and to keep personal safety in the forefront of their travel
planning. This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning for Nigeria dated February 5, 2016.
“The ability of the Mission to provide assistance to U.S. citizens in Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe states remains severely limited. The Department recommends against all but essential travel to the following states due to the risk of kidnappings, robberies, and other armed attacks:  Bauchi, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo, Gombe, Imo, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Kogi, Niger, Plateau, Rivers, Sokoto, and Zamfara. The Department also warns against travel in the Gulf of Guinea because of the threat of piracy. Based on safety and security risk assessments, the Embassy maintains restrictions for travel by U.S. officials to the states listed above; officials must receive advance clearance by the U.S. Mission for any travel to those states.


“The U.S. Mission advises all U.S. citizens to be particularly vigilant around government security facilities; churches, mosques, and other places of worship; locations where large crowds may gather, such as hotels, clubs, bars, restaurants, markets, shopping malls; and other areas frequented by expatriates and foreign travelers. Security measures in Nigeria remain heightened due to threats posed by extremist groups, and U.S. citizens may encounter police and military checkpoints, additional security, and possible road blocks throughout the country. “Kidnappings remain a security concern throughout the country. Criminal elements throughout Nigeria orchestrate kidnappings for ransom; Islamic extremists, operating predominantly in the North, also have been known to conduct kidnappings. Criminals or militants have abducted foreign nationals, including U.S. citizens, from off-shore and land-based oil facilities, residential compounds, airports, and public roadways. “Separatist groups have staged demonstrations in Abia, Anambra, Bayelsa, Delta, Enugu, Imo, Lagos, and Rivers states, some of which have turned violent. Militant groups have destroyed oil production infrastructure in Bayelsa and Delta states.


U.S. citizens are advised to avoid the areas of these states where these incidents have occurred. “Attacks by pirates off the coast of Nigeria in the Gulf of Guinea have increased substantially in recent years.  Armed gangs have boarded both commercial and private vessels to rob travelers. The Nigerian Navy has limited capacity to respond to criminal acts at sea.” This warning by the United States government, especially concerning the North East, at a time that the government claimed to have defeated Boko Haram and is encouraging internally displaced persons (IDPs) to return to their homes, is indeed worrisome. While we commend the gallant Nigerian army for its successes against the Boko Haram, we urge them to do more and ensure that the sect is totally defeated so that IDPs can return home to rebuild their lives. We also urge the security agents to lay more emphasis on intelligence gathering and prevention of crimes before they happen. We must also remind the president, Muhammadu Buhari, that the core responsibility of any government is the protection of lives and property and anything short of that is an indication of failure of governance.