New SSR Resource Centre post by Blog Contributor Chris Kwaja discusses the Boko Haram insurgency and roots of conflict in Nigeria, with a particular focus on the role of the security sector in both exacerbating and addressing these factors.
“He (African) loves the display of power, but fails to realize its responsibility” Lord Lugard – The Dual Mandate, Published in 1926:70.
The spate of violence and insurgencies occasioned by discontents in Nigeria provides detailed evidence of contemporary insecurity in the country. In the last five years, armed violence and insurgency with grave humanitarian consequences have held the country siege. This has created an elaborate transnational criminal network of insurgents that became conduits for arms transfers and mercenarism in the country.
The socio-economic dimension of the bloody insurgency as a result of militancy in the Niger Delta region and the Boko Haram phenomenon in northern Nigeria reveals that when corruption remains a barrier to growth and development, discontents and resistance can become explosive. Thousands of people have been killed and displaced due to the violent confrontation between militants and insurgents on one hand, and the Nigerian security forces on another. For instance, the Boko Haram phenomenon in the north is seen to represent part of the resurgence of Islamic revivalism and militancy in its search for a new template for the emergence of a theocratic state in the north. This is also linked to the crisis of political legitimacy and governance in a polity that is witnessing an unprecedented level of militarisation. In fact, the crisis of state building that is associated with governance deficits in both the north and the Niger Delta part of the country is organically tied to the inability of leadership to undertake reforms in all spheres of governance, which are required to bolster good governance, durable peace and stability. All these have been stunted by corruption, which has become a major developmental challenge.
Conditioned by the realities above, the security sector has been worst hit, largely due to the fact that it has been caught up in the web of identity politics and corruption, which has contributed to its politicization and factionalisation along ethnic, religious, political and regional lines.
There is a sense that governments at all levels are failing in their responsibility to convert growth into jobs for the unemployed, which heightens the dynasty of poverty in the country. Hence, Nigeria has become breeding grounds for insurgents and militants. These groups are increasingly challenging state capacity and control over the instruments of force.
Experiences within the country as it relates to violence and insecurity has shown that poor attention to the security needs of the people within the context of security sector governance has been responsible for the emergence and dominance of politicized security sectors, the resort to armed conflicts by non- state actors, as well as a rising culture of impunity that is associated with flagrant disregard for the rule of law by both the state, belligerent elements and other criminal networks. This makes security a public good that is far from the reach of the people. As observed by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD, 2004):
Security matters to the poor and other vulnerable groups, especially women and children, because bad policing, weak justice and penal systems and corrupt militaries mean that they suffer disproportionately from crime, insecurity and fear. They are consequently less likely to be able to access government services, invest in improving their own futures, and escape from poverty.
The huge governance deficit in the country has been one that people do not see as part of the state building project, under leadership that is unwilling to transform society and guarantee security for the people. Rather, emphasis is often placed on appropriation of power and regime security at the expense of good governance and human security.
In the long run, undertaking security sector reform/governance is an imperative. Here, emphasis should shift from the traditional perception of security from a state centric approach, to a more holistic one that recognizes the centrality and primacy of human security.
A normative national framework for early warning and response that seeks to strengthen cooperation among governance institutions and security agencies is needed in the fight against insurgency, militancy and insecurity. This will help address the question of mercenarism and the proliferation of illicit arms that end up in the hands of unauthorized non-state entities.
As a long term strategy, addressing some of the key drivers of violence and insurgencies requires reducing some of the major discontents that under-lie violent conflicts in terms of ferocity and frequency. The key assumption here is that discontents arising from perceptions of political, economic and social exclusion, as well as inequality are critical drivers of violence and insurgency in the country.
Chris Kwaja is a Lecturer and Researcher with the Centre for Conflict Management and Peace Studies, University of Jos, Jos, Nigeria. His area of research focuses on the politics of identity in Africa, Security Sector Reform, privatization of security, governance, peace and conflict studies.