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Who Benefits From Insecurity in Nigeria?

Kingsley Okechukwu

According to the Global Terrorism Index, Nigeria is the sixth most terrorised country on the planet. Four of the five countries more terrorised than Nigeria are either in or near the end of a civil war. This means that Nigeria is the world's second most terrorised non-wartime country. Since 2003, non-state actors have emerged, evolved, split, and reigned terror across the federation's states. Nigeria has had five commanders-in-chief, dozens of service chiefs, and spent trillions of naira on the war on insecurity in the last two decades. The security situation remained unchanged. It got worse. Nigeria lost over 3,000 civilians to non-state actors between May and December 2023. The president has now allocated 3 trillion naira to combat insecurity in 2024, but no Nigerian can expect security in the New Year.

The number of questions on the inquisitee's lips is uncountable. What are some of them? Why has insecurity persisted despite the deployment of human and material resources? Does anyone benefit from the country's constant security breaches? Who are the beneficiaries of Nigeria's insecurity? The questions are without end but we can dwell on the latter for this article.

The first people to benefit from insecurity in Nigeria are those who commit the crime. Regardless of their ideological claims, it is a profitable economic venture for these non-state actors. According to SB Morgen Intelligence, Nigerians paid 13.6 billion naira to non-state actors to secure their release from captivity between June 2011 and July 2022. Banditry in the north has become more community-based in the last two years, with bandits taxing villages before accessing their farmlands, marketplaces, and varied routes.

Boko Haram beheaded 17 youths in Yobe State in October 2023 for refusing to pay taxes and planted explosives that killed more than 20 people attending the funeral of these 70. Bandits in Niger State burned down more than 20 harvest-ready maize, soya bean, and guinea corn farms worth tens of millions of naira in November because the villages failed to pay a 30 million naira tax. For terrorists, terrorism is a serious business, and Nigerians are paying the price for failing to recognise this.

The corrupt military leaders who steal funds allocated to fight insurgency in the country are the country's second set of beneficiaries. According to the Centre for Democracy and Development, military leaders in Nigeria have embezzled 15 billion dollars, or more than ten trillion naira, of the money entrusted to them for security as of December 2021. Since 2010, the National Assembly has had reasons to summon military leaders for questioning, and the media has run scandalous headlines about leaders, including the majority of chiefs of army staff.

While no one has been convicted or prosecuted for embezzling these funds, the fact that Nigeria is still bedevilled by corruption and insecurity despite these funds lends credence to these allegations. Indeed, even if only one-third of this 15 billion dollars was truly stolen, Nigeria has suffered greatly from security corruption, and it is safe to assume that those who benefit from this racket would be sorry to see Nigeria enjoy peace.

Politicians who appreciate insecurity for its political purpose are another group of people who benefit from it in Nigeria. A politician may want insecurity to persist because it distracts from his failures to govern effectively; he may want insecurity to persist as evidence of the opposing parties' incompetence; a politician may be sympathetic to the cause of insecurity because it allows him to play the victim card and beat up sentiments among his people, with the ultimate promise being to push his people to believe that voting against an outsider who cannot protect them is a matter of survival.

While these incidents are rarely proven on paper, some of the rhetoric in the North during the 2015 elections portrayed President Goodluck Jonathan as an outsider uninterested in the security of the North, while his main rival Muhammadu Buhari was portrayed as a homegrown saviour. In at least one instance, former Kaduna State governor Lawal Kaita stated in 2011 that if Jonathan is declared the winner of the presidential election and sworn in, Nigeria will become ungoverned under Jonathan. Many people blamed the daring increase in acts of insecurity between 2012 and 2015 on this sentiment.

What is clearer and more documented is the stream of incidents in Nigeria in which politicians threaten violence if a political decision does not go their way. Buhari stated in 2013 that if what happened in the 2011 elections happened again in the 2015 elections, there would be violence ("baboons and dogs would be soaked in blood" were the exact words used). A traditional ruler in Lagos threatened to drown an entire ethnic group if they did not vote for his preferred candidate in 2019. In September 2023, President Tinubu promised that if the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal overturned his election, there would be violence. It's only natural to conclude that some of Nigeria's security breaches are the result of some politicians not getting their way, and the violence serves to feed their battered egos.

Illegal mining is one business that thrives in the tumultuous waters of insecurity. Zamfara State stands out as an example of a location where terrorist activities and illegal solid mineral mining coexist. Zamfara State is rich in gold deposits, accounting for 40% of all gold deposits in the country; however, there is no evidence that the Nigerian state earns money from its exploration. Non-state actors appear to be excluded from gold exploration. Banditry is more prevalent in mining areas in Zamfara State, according to available data, including Anka, Bungudu, Bukkuyum, Maru, Tsafe, Shinkafi, and Maradum local government areas. As a result, it is fair to say that those who profit from illegal mining benefit from Nigeria's insecurity.

There have also been whispers about the impact of external forces on Nigeria's security challenges. Nigeria is a large market for small and light arms manufacturers, and only a state of chaos would keep patronage. There is also the fact that gold and other minerals from Nigeria's violent areas are allegedly exported abroad at lower prices than through official channels. International jihadists seeking to expand their influence in the Sahel and elsewhere play a role as well. Nigeria is a complex country, with numerous causes and beneficiaries of insecurity. In reality, the question of who benefits from Nigeria's insecurity raises more questions than it proffers answers to.

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