Despite an electoral victory in 2015 bolstered by President Muhammadu Buhari’s military credentials and stated aim of defeating the Boko Haram terrorist insurgency, his administration has overseen a relentless decline in security.
Resurgent terrorist factions, which are now amalgamated, continue to launch deadly attacks in the northeast. In the northwest attacks by diverse armed gangs primarily of Fulani ethnicity terrorise predominantly Hausa Muslim farming communities. Attacks perpetrated by assailants alternatively termed armed Fulani herders, Fulani militants or Fulani militia are reported regularly from central states, particularly Benue, Kaduna and Plateau. These attacks are now occurring in southern Nigeria with increased frequency.
There is a long history of disputes between nomadic herders and farming communities across the Sahel, occasioned by competition for land and water, and exacerbated by desertification and other factors. However, the asymmetry of current attacks in terms of frequency, organisation and weaponry mean these attacks now appear to constitute a campaign of ethno-religious cleansing.
CSW highlighted Nigeria’s critical security vacuum in a 2020 report, having warned earlier that “this pivotal West African nation [was] close to failing.”; and in December warned again of the urgent need “to ensure protection for Nigeria’s besieged citizens, and to avert the nation’s descent into failed statehood.” However, by May 2021, seasoned observers were concluding that Nigeria’s inability to “provide peace and stability” for its citizens had converted what was a “weak state” into a failed one. “Nigeria has become a fully failed state of critical geopolitical concern. Its failure matters because the peace and prosperity of Africa and preventing the spread of disorder and militancy around the globe depend on a stronger Nigeria.”