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Respected Security Expert Warns that Nigeria is Heading for the Abyss

By Steven Kefas

Since the meltdown of law and order in Haiti and the Republic of Nigeria more or less took a turn for the worse early this year, analysts looking at crime trends have started to make comparisons between the two countries.  Haiti, unlike Nigeria, has been so problematic that the United Nations has authorized a Kenyan-led and U.S. supported Peace keeping mission to restore security and to set the conditions for elections. Yet in both Haiti and Nigeria, police and the military are outnumbered and under armed in clashes with criminal groups that have swelled in numbers over several years. Gangs in Port au Prince saw a void in power in late February and took over the streets. In Nigeria, the kidnapping pandemic took a turn for the worse at the same time, as if the underworld on two continents was in synch. 

The website NUMBEO , which tracks cost of living conditions in all countries, reports that Haiti has a worse crime problem than Nigeria, but the margin is small.  Haiti’s crime index is 79 relative to Nigeria’s crime index of 66. 3.

TruthNigeria sat down with one of Nigeria’s most respected security analysts, Col. (retired) Hassan Stan-Labo, to sort out the chief takeaway’s from recent crime extravaganzas on Nigerian soil.

It’ a fact that  armed groups are making increasingly brazen attacks and mass abductions, stoking fears that the country could descend into an anarchy akin to what is unfolding in Haiti.

In the latest incident highlighting the worsening crisis, reported Monday and updated today, gunmen abducted 86 people, mostly women and children, during a raid on the Tantatu community in Kaduna State’s Kajuru Local Government Area early Monday morning. Eyewitnesses said the attackers, who spoke the Fulfulde language, looted food and clothing items from their victims after the kidnapping, an act that portrays the attackers as “rag tag criminals.”  Col Hassan Stan-Labo spoke exclusively to Truth Nigeria on the dangers of “diminishing the status of these fighters”

“We should never make the mistake of diminishing the status of these fighters as ‘rag tag criminal elements’,” warned Col. Stan-Labo (Rtd), a Nigerian security expert from the embattled Southern Kaduna region. “They are well trained and groomed in their given task with a requisite built up resilience to match. They are jihadists with an Islamization mission.”

Col. Stan-Labo’s stark assessment reflects growing concerns that the violence gripping swaths of Nigeria has taken on an ethnic and religious dimension, driven by Islamist extremist ideologies. Monday’s attackers targeted a predominantly Christian community as part of a broader pattern of raids plaguing indigenous populations in the fertile plains surrounding Kaduna. 

“Many terrorist camps are staffed with hundreds of fighters.” Courtesy of Channels TV.
“Many terrorist camps are staffed with hundreds of fighters.” Courtesy of Channels TV.

“In the case of Southern Kaduna, there has been for long a tacitly-endorsed government policy deliberately aimed at dislodging the indigenous people from their ancestral lands through all forms of retribution, including physical attacks, raids, maltreatment, unpopular government policies, etc. – all aimed at depopulating the indigenous community,” Stan-Labo said. “In doing this, emphasis has always been on women and children for obvious reasons.

“The crisis in Northwest and Central Nigeria is multi-faceted, fueled by ethnic militancy, jihadist groups, criminality and nomadic conflicts over land and resources. But there are worrying signs the disparate armed elements are becoming emboldened and more coordinated in their operations,” according to Stan-Labo.

“If government exists specifically to provide for the security and welfare of its citizens, then government in Nigeria has failed,”  Stan-Labo said bluntly. “Given the lack of political will by the government to confront terrorism, banditry and kidnapping in Nigeria, citizens are gradually resorting to self-help.”

“As state security forces struggle to uphold law and order, ungoverned spaces are emerging where criminal gangs and extremists operate with impunity. Former hostages report their captors move in formidable armed camps of hundreds of fighters, controlling significant swaths of territory.

“Freed victims said the bandits are in their hundreds and well-armed,” Stan-Labo said with emphasis.  When asked if he thinks the security breakdown is a conundrum for authorities, he responded: “Yes it is…These terrorists have a well-knitted plan to take over this country. They are currently still building on their manpower, equipment and sundry requirements. They will soon graduate into linking our economic hubs and cities by underground networks and channels.”

“Mass kidnappings, which have emerged as a lucrative criminal enterprise in Nigeria, are exacerbating the climate of insecurity and exploitation of civilians,” he went on to say. “Over 1,000 people including students have been abducted  since the beginning of the year, including more than 200 taken in a single raid in March. While some hostages have been freed after ransom payments, the fate of many remains unknown.

“The plague of abductions and generalized violence is taking an immense humanitarian toll, fueling internal displacement crises as terrorized populations flee their homes and livelihoods. According to estimates, nearly 3 million Nigerians have been displaced over the past decade due to the insecurity wrecking the northwest and other regions,” Stan-Labo said.

“As the humanitarian fallout mounts, and the resilience of local communities strains to the breaking point, there are deepening fears the Nigerian state could lose its grip over vast stretches of its territory. A tipping point may be nearing where ungoverned areas become safe havens for terrorist and criminal groups to further coalesce and project power on a national scale.

“As small arms- and light weapons fall into the hands of non-state actors, it’s only a matter of time before gang groups begin to emerge all over the country,” Stan-Labo warned.

Steven Kefas is a conflict reporter for TruthNigeria in Niger and Kaduna.

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