Nigeria’s military has largely degraded the capacity of Boko Haram since the peak of the insurgency in 2015. The government and security forces must now focus on winning the peace. This Special Report outlines the insurgency and its aftermath, the challenges facing the Nigerian government, the imperative of national police reform, and ways forward to stable and effective civilian-led governance.

Summary

  • Since the 1990s, Nigeria’s development has been hindered by a series of violent conflicts with militant groups in the oil-rich Niger Delta, Boko Haram in the northeast, Igbo secessionists in the south, the Islamic Movement in Nigeria in the north, along with ongoing confrontations between farmers and herders.
  • The Nigerian military has been deployed on internal missions in most of the country’s thirty-six states to subdue an array of conflicts, especially in the northeast.
  • Because the armed forces, supported by multinational efforts, have significantly degraded the capacity of the Boko Haram insurgency, and internally displaced people and refugees are returning to their communities, Nigeria now needs to plan for a transition to full civilian authority.
  • Vigilante groups such as the Civilian Joint Task Force and organized hunters who have supported the fight against Boko Haram present a unique challenge to postconflict security.
  • These issues are compounded by corruption and other dysfunction within police ranks, leaving a vacuum in civil provision of public safety.
  • Increasing the size and capacity of the Nigerian police (as well as other official but nonmilitary security forces) and improving its effectiveness is an urgent necessity.
  • Additionally, Nigeria’s youth, some of whom have been involved in the vigilante groups, are a vital demographic. Getting the buy-in of this demographic will require creating opportunities for them to fully participate in rehabilitating and rebuilding their communities.
  • A new Public Protection Service Commission could provide a unified but flexible interagency cooperation mechanism for the Nigeria Police Force, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, and the Nigeria Immigration Service to establish a single coordinated service for community stabilization and policing. It also could take in the Civilian Joint Task Force and other nonstate security actors.

About the Report

Focusing on northeast Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin, this Special Report outlines the rise of the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria and the security and governance challenges in the wake of its possible decline. It was supported by USIP’s Middle East and Africa Center.

About the Authors

Jibrin Ibrahim, a political scientist and development expert with more than thirty years of active engagement with civil society, is a senior fellow at the Centre for Democracy and Development-West Africa, a research, advocacy, and training NGO in Abuja, Nigeria. Saleh Bala, a retired senior officer of the Nigerian army, is the founder of the Abuja-based White Ink Institute for Strategy Education and Research (WISER), an organization that focuses on security governance and national security policy research.

Related Publications

Six Alternative Ways to Measure Peace in Nigeria

Six Alternative Ways to Measure Peace in Nigeria

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

By: Yagana Bukar; Aly Verjee; Chris Kwaja

When measured by the death toll, Nigeria seems beset by violence. By some accounts, the COVID-19 pandemic has made experiences of violence even more common — notably, Nigeria recorded a 169% increase in abductions between 2019 and 2020. While quantifying violence is relatively straightforward, defining what peace means to ordinary Nigerians has been largely overlooked, even if such definitions may be more meaningful. By exploring more nuanced understandings of peace, how these vary between and across communities, and finding which indicators of peace are most valued, peace might be better pursued. We went in search of how people in the states of Bauchi, Kaduna, Nasarawa and Plateau define peace. Here are six of our most important findings.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & Prevention; Fragility & Resilience

The Current Situation in Nigeria

The Current Situation in Nigeria

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

As Africa’s most populous country, largest economy and most notable democracy, Nigeria is a bellwether for the continent. A weakening economy, rising insecurity and violent conflicts threaten progress made in its democratic development. Amid deepening distrust in government and institutions, Nigeria has significant work to do in improving national, state and local security and governance ahead of national and state elections in 2023.

Type: Fact Sheet

How Mass Kidnappings of Students Hinder Nigeria’s Future

How Mass Kidnappings of Students Hinder Nigeria’s Future

Thursday, July 8, 2021

By: MaryAnne Iwara

This week’s latest mass kidnapping of Nigerian schoolchildren underscores that the crumbling of human security in Africa’s most populous nation is worsening a deeper impairment, hollowing out Nigeria’s education system to create a “lost generation” of youth across much of the country. Alarmingly, one in five of the world’s out-of-school children is Nigerian. As Nigerian and international policymakers focus on the immediate crises—of kidnappings, Boko Haram’s extremist violence, and conflict between farming and herding communities—they must urgently rescue and buttress the country’s damaged education system. Reducing violence and achieving development in Africa will depend on an effective strategy for doing so.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Human Rights; Youth

How to calm violent crises? Nigeria has an idea.

How to calm violent crises? Nigeria has an idea.

Friday, June 4, 2021

By: Darren Kew

If U.S. and international policymakers hope to see Africa stabilize amid the world’s crises of violence, record human displacement and the COVID pandemic, Nigeria must be center stage. This demographic giant, home to one in five sub-Saharan Africans, now faces a perfect storm of violent conflicts that pose an existential challenge. Yet Nigeria also offers its own solutions for stabilization—including a low-cost innovation worthy of international support: peacebuilding agencies operated by governments in three of the country’s 36 states. This timely model offers localized approaches to the roots of violence and is relevant to nations worldwide.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Global Policy; Mediation, Negotiation & Dialogue

View All Publications