Northern Nigerian Breaking News

SCORECARD: Has Nigeria’s defence fared well in one year of Badaru, Matawalle leadership? Here’s what we found.

On May 29, 2023, Bola Tinubu was sworn in as Nigeria’s new president. He succeeded former President Muhammadu Buhari who spent eight years in power and left behind a track record of shortcomings in the security sector. 

However, Tinubu, in his inaugural speech promised to tackle insecurity. 

“Security shall be the top priority of our administration because neither prosperity nor justice can prevail amidst insecurity and violence,” he said. “To effectively tackle this menace, we shall reform both our security doctrine and its architecture. We shall invest more in our security personnel, and this means more than an increase in number. We shall provide better training, equipment, pay, and firepower.” 

Two months after his assumption of office, the president nominated and appointed Muhammed Badaru as minister of defense and Bello Matawalle as his state counterpart.  

“For the sake of our country, we know that without security, there will be no investment, and without investment, there will be no economic growth,” Badaru said on the day of his resumption.

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On the other hand, Matawalle said “Terrorism, banditry, insurgency, cyber warfare, transnational organised crime, and communal conflicts pose significant challenges to our national security. The task ahead is not an easy one. However, I am confident that with the support of my colleagues, the dedication of our armed forces, and the unwavering commitment of every Nigerian citizen, we will overcome any challenge that comes our way.” 

“We will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to build a strong defence apparatus that can effectively counter emerging threats.”

Now, what has changed in the last one year?

In January 2024, Civil society groups, under the aegis of the Civil Society Joint Action Group, said no fewer than 2,423 persons were killed and 1,872 others abducted in the first eight months of President Tinubu’s administration.

“Our tracking shows at least 2,423 people have been killed in mass atrocities-related incidents and at least 1,872 persons were abducted since the beginning of President Tinubu’s administration till January 26, 2024. We are particularly concerned about the upsurge in abductions, noting that at least 230 incidents, in which multiple victims were involved, occurred within the first 2 weeks of January 2024 alone,” said Auwal Rafsanjani, Executive Director of the Civil Society Legislative and Advocacy Centre. 

Recently, Nigeria’s national security adviser, Nuhu Ribadu, claimed that deaths recorded due to insecurity in Nigeria have reduced by 90 per cent in the last year. This is false. 

Figures from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data (ACLED) project, which has been updated up to April 19, 2024 shows that fatalities have not reduced nearly as much as the national security adviser claimed.

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If we sum up the death toll between June — shortly after the new administration was sworn in — and April 19, we will get 8,112. At 8,312, the death toll in the previous 11 months is only slightly higher than this. This accounts only for a 2.4 per cent decrease in the period, which could get even smaller by the end of April.

Major incidents 

On March 7, terrorists abducted nearly 300 students from a school in Kuriga, a town in Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna State, and marched them into the forest unchallenged. This event brought to the limelight and possibly a climax the tragic episodes of years-long reign of terror in the community.

At the time the bandits arrived, the community was still healing from the mindless killing of Idris Sufyan, the principal of Government Secondary School, Kuriga. The terrorists who shot him in January, in his house, also whisked away his wife and their baby; although the two were later rescued in a joint military operation on 3 February.

Two days later, gunmen abducted 15 children from an Islamic school in Sokoto. With authorities and communities still reeling in the aftermath of these incidents, on March 12, armed bandits struck Kaduna again – this time in Kajuru – taking with them 61 people. 

On February 29, suspected Boko Haram members abducted at least 200 people, primarily women and children, in the North Eastern state of Borno. 

Mass abductions, particularly of women and schoolchildren, place significant pressure on the government, both domestically and internationally, to secure the release of the victims. Though the government’s public position is that it does not pay ransoms, there are reports that state actors have paid ransoms to armed bandits and violent extremist groups in the past.

Success story

Last Thursday, the police announced the arrest of the alleged mastermind of the attack on the Abuja-Kaduna where some passengers were killed while scores were abducted in March 2022.

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The mastermind was identified as Ibrahim Abdullahi, also known by the ominous moniker of Mandi. Force Public Relations Officer, ACP Olumuyiwa Adejobi, who made this known in Kaduna on Thursday, also disclosed that the suspect had also participated in the abduction of students from Greenfield University in 2021.

Adejobi also added that 48 AK-47 rifles were seized during Mandi’s arrest and efforts were underway to identify his sponsor and supplier of weapons.

Overall, based on promises, challenges and achievements, and the current realities of Nigeria’s security situation, Badaru and Matawalle need a lot to do to address the surge in mass kidnappings. There is a need for prompt intelligence gathering to pre–empt gunmen attacks and ensure adequate security in remote and rural areas.

Also, they must as a matter of urgency address the growing insecurity associated with IPOB and Yoruba Nation militants.


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