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.

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