For years it had wreaked unspeakable havoc on parts of Nigeria, especially the North-East region, but it was the infamous abduction of over 200 schoolgirls from their dormitory in the sleepy town of Chibok in 2014 that attracted global attention to the dreaded Boko Haram terrorist group.
The insurgency grew even more complicated when a splinter faction of Boko Haram – later known as Ansaru – emerged by kidnapping foreigners.
Boko Haram’s main faction also started kidnapping foreigners when Shekau claimed responsibility for the abduction of a French family of seven in February 2013.
That same year Boko Haram was designated a terrorist group by the US, and the following year it declared a caliphate in areas under its control.
In 2013, Boko Haram targeted pupils in a series of horrific school attacks in the North-East that killed dozens of boys. Later, there were reports that the group was also kidnapping girls and women with the intent of raping them or making them brides.
In April 2014, attackers raided Chibok and kidnapped 276 school girls, generally between 16 and 18 years old. Shekau claimed credit for the kidnappings in a video and threatened to sell them, sparking global outrage.
Although Boko Haram fighters have since retreated to the Sambisa Forest, where the Nigerian military has pursued it, freeing hundreds of captives while taking down most of the group’s leadership, the sect remains a serious security threat as insurgents have taken to attacking soft targets.
Another security threat that is plaguing the country is armed banditry. Only recently, a new trend of robbery which was quite different in outlook occurred at Ogolonto area of Ikorodu, Lagos State, when a lady reportedly led the gang to the banks and stayed outside while the two-hour operation lasted.
The leader of the gang was said to have sat down in front of the bank bragging, and no police officer was able to confront her.
It was disclosed that the gang that carried out the robbery consisted of about 15 youngsters, all in their early twenties.
Incidences of armed robbery have become a daily routine in many parts of the country. Apart from public institutions such as banks that are the major targets, major highways across the country are also targeted as commuters are routinely attacked and dispossessed of their valuables.
Although the police make daily arrests of suspects who are paraded before journalists in different parts of the country, the trend appears to be getting worse by the day.
Ethnic militia has been a recurring decimal in Nigeria and its fledgling democracy. The restoration of democratic rule in Nigeria on May 29, 1999 signalled the emergence and continued proliferation of vigilante groups, ethnic and sectional militias as well as secessionist or separatist groups.
Prominent among these are: O’odua people’s Congress (OPC), formed in 1994 as a militant arm of Afenifere, a pan-Yoruba group and National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) that were in the forefront of protesting the annulment of the June 12,1993 general elections. Although short lived, the ArewaPeoples’ Congress (APC) appeared to have been formed to serve as a check on OPC’s incessant attacks on the Hausa/Fulani population in Lagos and other Yoruba towns.
The Igbo People’s Congress (IPC), a militant arm of Ohaneze Eastern Mandate, in response to OPC and others, was also formed in 1999. Others are the Bakassi Boys, a vigilante outfit set up by Abia and Anambra states governments to curb criminal activities in 1999; the Egbesu Boys (1998); the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) 2000; Ijaw Militia (1999); Itsekiri Militia (1999), and the Militia arm of Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP)1992.
Analysts say the dissatisfaction with the structure, operation and power configuration under Nigeria’s federalism was responsible for the unprecedented emergence of the groups.
The increase in crime rate and the helpless attitude of law enforcement agencies towards curbing crime have been cited by their founders and admirers as reasons for creation of these groups.
A most recent development is the emergence of Niger Delta militants that goby the name ‘The Avengers’.
While MASSOB’s leaders claim it is a peaceful group, the Nigerian government accuses it of violence. Its leader, Ralph Uwazuruike, was arrested in 2005 and detained on treason charges but later released in 2007.
The current leader of the movement – now known as Indigenous People of Biafra- Nnamdi Kanu, is currently facing treason charges preferred against him by the Federal Government. He is also charged for allegedly maintaining an unlawful organisation and for illegal possession of firearms.
Even as Kanu’s trial continues, the aforementioned ‘Avengers’ continue to launch attacks on major oil installations in the Niger Delta.
Although the Federal Government has since condemned the attacks and warned the perpetrators of dire consequences, security experts say the trend if not properly checked could worsen.
In 1952, a group of seven students from the University College Ibadan were said to have formed the Pyrates Confraternity. They called themselves the Magnificent Seven. They observed that the university was populated with wealthy students who were associated with colonial powers.
Those who were poor were struggling in every manner to be accepted by the more advantaged students, prompting them to form the confraternity.
Membership was open to any promising male student regardless of tribe or race, but selection was stringent and most applicants were denied. For almost 20 years, the Pyrates were the only confraternity on Nigerian campuses.
In the late 1960s, the Pyrates registered themselves as National Association of SeaDogs (NAS) and the confraternity extended off campus. Another confraternity known as Buccaneers Confraternity was registered as National Association of Sea Lords.
This division was as a result of assertion of leadership of the group where some wanted to hold onto power and not wanting to give it up.
From the 1980s to the 1990s, there was proliferation of cult groups in over three hundred institutions of higher education in the country. These groups were later known as secret cults based on new formations.
Cultism, especially in schools, if not properly addressed, could undermine the overall development of the country in years to come. In recent times, Rivers State appears to be the epicentre of the trend, with no fewer than nineteen people reportedly killed following cult clashes in two communities.
One of the security threats in the front burner today, remains the recurring crises between cattle herders and farmers. The most recent of such crises were those that occurred in Agatu community in Benue State and that of Nimbo community, Uzo-Uwani local government area of Enugu State.
In both attacks, several lives were lost while properties worth millions of Naira were also destroyed.
Many proposals have been advanced to proffer solution to the recurring problem. While some have proposed grazing reserves, others insist that ranches would be the best solution out of the conundrum. The Federal Government has also waded into the problem but analysts say an urgent solution is needed to avert disaster in the country.
In 2004, the Malaysia-based International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said that half of the 30 deaths recorded in pirate attacks around the world between 1st January and 30th June of that year occurred in Nigerian territorial waters.In terms of the number of attacks, Nigeria was ranked third with 13 attacks, behind Indonesia (50) and the Malacca Straits (20).
“Both the increased number of attacks in this area and the degree of violence being used is of grave concern and we will be putting pressure on Nigeria to step up anti-piracy measures,” IMB director Pottengal Mukundan said.
Industry-watchers say Nigeria’s growing piracy problem can be traced back to oil, the country’s economic lifeblood and its large-scale theft and sale to vessels offshore.
Gangs, armed with automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, cruise along in speedboats and barges, finding cover in the maze of creeks and rivers intertwined with mangrove swamps that make up the delta where the River Niger empties into the Atlantic Ocean.
The activities of pirates are said to have drawn illegal oil buyers and arms traders to the Gulf of Guinea coast off Nigeria, making the region, which has always had high volumes of shipping traffic including oil tankers and general goods vessels, more dangerous. Piracy, if unchecked, remains one of the deadliest – and costliest – security threats in the country.
Another security concern spreading across Nigeria like wildfire is kidnapping. When it began in the creeks of the Niger Delta region some years ago, nobody thought it would become a nightmare.
Gradually, it has even become a ‘lucrative business’ for many of Nigeria’s jobless youths in the South East, South West and other parts of the country.
Initially, it was the kidnapping of expatriates that was predominant in the South. But today, the situation has gotten so bad that “nobody is safe”. Serving government officials are not spared in the kidnapping menace, as their family members, relatives and friends have become worthy ‘targets’.
Interestingly, armed robbers and other sorts of criminals are fast abandoning their trades for the more lucrative business of kidnapping. A report by ASI Global Response on kidnapping shows that the victims are mainly business men and women, politicians or their family members.
Also, at a summit held in Lagos last year, the Regional Vice President, Africa, American Society for Industrial Security, Mr. Dennis Amachree, disclosed that of the top 10 countries with high kidnapping records in 2007, Nigeria occupied the 6th position. But Nigeria has since 2007 moved up to the third position, behind Mexico and Columbia.
Several cases of kidnapping in different parts of the country never made headlines or were noticed by security operatives.
So many other cases were never reported to the security operatives because kidnappers threaten families of their victim over involving the police.
In such cases, families were said to have quietly paid ransoms without anyone noticing.
Worried by the threat posed by kidnapping, the Nigerian Senate recently agreed to begin a process for the enactment of a law that would prescribe capital punishment for kidnappers across the country.
The Senate also asked state governments to enact laws that would prosecute kidnappers in their jurisdiction and recommended that the Inspector-General of Police and Director-General of the Department of State Services in particular as well as other security agencies be encouraged to do more.
Jan Birni, a community in Birnin Gwari local government area of Kaduna State, which lies on the border between Kaduna, Katsina and Zamfara states, is one of the areas that has been in the grip of cattle rustlers.
Little wonder the traditional ruler of the area and Emir of Birnin Gwari, Alhaji Zubair Maigwari, was reported to have lamented that his community had completely been taken over by rustlers who kill, maim and rape their victims before dispossessing them of their hard-earned investments.
Acting on a request by the Kaduna State governor, Malam Nasir El-Rufai, to address the insecurity occasioned by cattle-rustling, President Muhammadu Buhari reportedly summoned a meeting to discuss the situation in the affected states.
At the meeting, which had security chiefs in attendance, were the governors of Kaduna, Kebbi, Katsina, Nasarawa, Niger, Benue, Zamfara and Plateau states as well as government representatives.
The Abuja closed-door meeting which gave birth to ‘Operation Sharan Daji’, a military task force with the responsibility of checkmating the incidents of ethnic killings, cattle rustlings and farmers-herdsmen conflicts, Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Mr. Danladi Kifasi, who coordinated the meeting on behalf of President Buhari had reportedly told Nigerians that the task force had the troubled Northern states as its scope.