When suspected herdsmen attacked parts of Benue and killed 73 persons on New Year’s day in 2018, sparking outrage, few expected that killings would become some sort of sordid soundtrack to the year.
However, not only did killings continue and spread to different parts of the country, several other issues emerged during the year that led to questions around the security architecture of the country.
With the year now confined to history, we look at some of the major security issues the country grappled with.
An Orgy of Killings
On the 1st and 2nd of January, 2018, people believed to be herdsmen attacked communities in Benue State, killing 73 and leaving several others injured.
The slaughter led to allegations and counter allegations with some accusing herders of pursuing an expansionist agenda, while herders claimed they were being unfairly targetted.
As the killings spread to other parts of Benue and other states, Benue and Taraba all enacted anti-grazing laws which led to further contention and disputes.
In all, the killings in Benue seemed to have paved the way for the more carnage with similar-style attacks in Taraba, Pleateau, and Kaduna.
Zamfara witnessed a killing spree, albeit with a different coloration. The bloodshed is believed to be the result of the activities of bandits, cattle rustlers, illegal miners and more.
Between January 2016 and October 2018, clashes between herders and farmers have led to the death of at least 3,641 people according to Amnesty International, with 57 percent of the deaths occurring in 2018 alone.
Dapchi Girls Kidnap
The nation had barely come to terms with the killings in Benue and the fallout before news broke on February 19 regarding yet another horrific incident far away in Dapchi, Yobe State.
This time the sour tale was the abduction by Boko Haram of about 110 girls aged between the ages of 11 and 19 years, a very bitter reminder of the outrageous Chibok abduction of 2014.
Initially thought to be an attack aimed at food items and fuel, the realisation that more than 100 girls had been snatched from their school generated a lot of anger and questioned.
This was aggravated by the complaint of Yobe State Governor Ibrahim Geidam that troops had been withdrawn from the area without informing either the police authorities or the state government in advance.
A shocked nation, distraught parents and the traumatised girls, however, when on 21 March, 104 of the girls were released by the terrorists.
But it was a bittersweet development with no closure as five of the schoolgirls died and one – the only Christian among them was held back reportedly for refusing to convert to Islam.
Her freedom remains a major issue and calls continue to come from across the world for her release.
Offa Robbery and the roar of bandits
Emerging security threats did not stop regular criminals from operating in 2018 and the deadly Offa bank robbery of April 4 was proof of that.
It wasn’t just another robbery, however. The level of ruthlessness the robbers unleashed on Offa Local Government Area of Kwara on that day was considered unprecedented by many.
The robbers hit four banks with dynamites and bullets. By the time they were done and gone, over 33 persons including nine police officers had been killed.
So far, the police have announced the arrest of five key suspects. The alleged leader of the group that stormed the banks has, however, died in custody, according to the police. The case is still being heard in the courts.
The robbery is arguably at the top of the pyramid of other criminal acts and the level of banditry in the country this year. Talking about bandits, they operated in several places – along the Abuja-Kaduna highway, in Zamfara, in camps in Benue and more.
Shiites Vs Army/Police
The Islamic Movement in Nigeria otherwise known as Shiites has been at loggerheads with the Federal Government and the Nigerian Army since 2015 when its leader Sheikh El-Zakzaky was injured and taken into custody after members clashed with the Army.
His continued detention has led to a series of protests. Prior to 2018, the protests had taken place mainly in Kaduna (where the group has been banned) and Kano.
In the course of the year, the Shiites took the protest to the streets of the Federal Capital Territory. The result? Clashes with security operatives and the police resulting in the loss of lives.
During one of the protests in May, the protesting IMN members clashed with the police, smashing vehicles.
Months later, on October 29, during another attempt to protest in Abuja, they had a run in with the military along the Nyanya-Keffi highway – on the outskirts of the nation’s capital.
According to the group, the military killed up to 50 of its members in the altercation. But the military said only three members of the group were killed that day and that the soldiers acted in self-defense.
The Shiites have said they will not stop their protests until the freedom of their incarcerated leader is secured.
More Rights Violation Allegations Against The Military
The year 2018, the operations of the military came under the spotlight with Amnesty International accusing the Nigeria military of infringing on the rights of different individuals, in the course of their executing their duties.
In a report in December, the group accused some military personnel of constantly used lethal force wrongly against innocent citizens.
Whiles accusing the government of negligence, A.I urged the government to investigate its claims and bring those found guilty to justice.
Replying to the accusations by A.I, both the Federal Government and the Army said the rights organisation was biased and that reports by the group are all inaccurate.
The Army said Amnesty International is working solely to destabilize the government, adding that it would make a case for the international rights group to leave Nigeria if they continue with their mode of operation.
Earlier, in March, a former Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant, General Theophilus Danjuma (retd), accused the Nigerian Armed Forces of complicity in the killings in Taraba, Benue, and other “riverine states” in the country.
Danjuma’s allegation, during Taraba State University’s convocation in Jalingo, came at the peak of the killings and in reaction to the resultant military operations in Taraba and Benue as a result of the bloodshed.
His allegations were denied by the military.
The onslaught on Aid Workers
The country’s security challenges during the year did not spare aid workers. On March 1, Boko Haram terrorists attacked an internally displaced persons’ camp in Rann, Borno State, killing three of them and abducting three others.
Not only did the terrorists ignore calls, including from the United Nation, for their release, it shocked the world by executing two of the three abducted aid workers later in the year.
Both of them worked with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Saifura Ahmed was executed in September and despite pleas by the ICRC, UN, and others for the remaining women to be spared, Hauwa Liman was executed in October.
The attack and killings added another dimension to Nigeria’s war against terror and the safety of aid workers who have helped to provide relief for the millions displaced by the Boko Haram insurgency.
Also in 2018, the relationship between the Nigerian Army some global agencies and charities operating in the North-East, especially UNICEF, turned sour.
In December, the army announced the suspension of the operations of the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) in the North-East.
In a statement by its Deputy Director of Public Relations, Theatre Command Operation Lafiya Dole, Colonel Onyema Nwachukwu, accused the agency of abandoning its primary humanitarian role in the region.
He said, “This has become inevitable since the organization has abdicated its primary duty of catering for the wellbeing of children and the vulnerable through humanitarian activities and now engaged in training selected persons for clandestine activities to continue sabotaging the counter-terrorism and counterinsurgency efforts of troops through spurious and unconfirmed allegations bothering on alleged violations of human rights by the military.”
The move attracted criticism with Amnesty International describing it as an act of intimidation.
The Mysterious Murder Of General Alkali:
In September, troops of the 3 Division of the Nigerian army embarked on a search and rescue operation for Major General Idris Alkali, who went missing on September 3.
Many would have thought the army did not have to search too far before they would pick up the retired General’s trail and rescue him.
However, the case did not play out as one would have excepted, the trail lingered too long, casting a cloud of uncertainty over the General’s safety.
In the course of the military investigation, a major discovery was made which caused many to question the safety of travelers within Nigeria.
The army found the retired General’s car in a pond at Doi Du community in Jos. It was believed that residents conspired to overpower and kill the retired military officer.
Two other vehicles; one which was reported missing with the driver on 24 June 2018 and the other red which was reportedly buried along with its occupants on the 31st of January, 2013.
These discoveries raised red flags around the nation as regards the many who have gone missing without a trace and how much effort was put into trying to find them.
The General’s remains were discovered in Guchwet in Shen of Jos South LGA of Plateau State, sadly, some of the major suspects were never apprehended.
As if this incident was not enough to stir panic in the heart of those traveling within the country, a few weeks later the death of former Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh was announced.
Badeh was gunned down by unknown gunmen, and his aide was kidnapped, further raising questions as to the issue of insecurity in Nigeria.
The late General’s aide was later released and some suspects were arrested.
One of the most troubling development as regards security in 2018, is the upsurge in attacks by Boko Haram, especially in the latter part of the year.
Though the army continues to assure Nigerians that the terror group has been utterly decimated, still the jihadists continue to strike and wreak havoc.
A recent attack on three military bases in Metele, Borno State, has forced many to reconsider statements by the army considering the state of affairs within the North East.
There have been reports that the terrorists had taken over some towns in Borno state, causing residents to flee to neighboring towns.
The army, however, has denied the claims saying the towns in question are still under the control of the military, urging Nigerians to be calm.
In conclusion, let it be known that this review does not in any way seek to undermine the efforts of our security personnel in keeping the nation at peace, however, it has been written in a bid to spur operatives towards more gallant strides.
Beyond herdsmen crisis and the insurgency, there are still cases of smuggling and contrabands coming in from porous borders, there are also issues of human trafficking that go unchecked.
As the nation heads to the polls in 2019 and the hope is that the citizenry is better protected than in the previous year, for if 2018 had a soundtrack when it came to security challenges, it might as well be titled ‘Killing Fields’.