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Confronting Nigeria’s Kaduna Crisis

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By Olajumoke (Jumo) Ayandele

February 2, 2021

Escalating violence in Nigeria’s North West region requires applying lessons from the fight against Boko Haram, including the need for community outreach and adapting the use of the Joint Military Task Force to unique local threats.

Kaduna State in North West Nigeria has experienced a near tripling of violent incidents involving armed groups in the past year. According to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, the 220 violent events have resulted in nearly a thousand fatalities. Moreover, there have been roughly 400 persons abducted for ransom and hundreds of communities destroyed causing the displacement of more than 50,000 people. Over the last year, Kaduna has recorded the highest number of episodes of political violence and fatalities in northern Nigeria, save Borno State—the epicenter of the Boko Haram insurgency.

Kaduna’s security crisis revolves around three different but overlapping threats. The first relates to the farmer-herder conflict that involves growing tensions over access to land and its use between communities. The second threat comes from armed gangs engaged in criminal activities, including kidnapping for ransom, arms dealing, cattle rustling, and highway robbery. A similar spike from criminal gangs has afflicted neighboring states, including Katsina where over 300 schoolboys were kidnapped and later freed in December 2020. The final threat is from violent extremism. This threat reemerged in 2020 when Ansaru, a militant Islamist group thought to be defunct, carried out an elaborate ambush, followed by a series of other attacks.

In response to Kaduna’s deteriorating security, the Nigerian government has established a special Joint Military Task Force under the mandate of Operation Accord. These security forces have engaged in a military response targeting armed groups operating in the state with some success. Yet, the continued increase of casualties and growing instability in Kaduna suggest that the tactical gains made against these groups are insufficient to restore stability and protect communities.

The failure to differentiate between and develop appropriate local responses to each of the threats driving insecurity in Kaduna risks further exacerbating this escalating crisis. Should Kaduna follow a similar trajectory to the fight against Boko Haram in Borno in North East Nigeria, it will have implications for all of North West Nigeria.