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Foreign Terrorists Migrate Toward Nigeria’s Major Power-generating Town

Map of West Africa showing movement of Jihadists into Nigeria. Map by Jerry Makeri.
Map of West Africa showing movement of Jihadists into Nigeria. Map by Jerry Makeri.

By Mike Odeh, James, and Stephen Kefas

(Kaduna) Niger State is emerging as a hub for Jihadists from the Sahel region, and they have found a safe haven in Kainji town, according to security experts interviewed by TruthNigeria.  Kainji Lake, the site of a federally administered natural park on the western edge of Niger State, is facing a potential security threat, say experts, who warn that  local Jihadist groups such as Islamic State of West Africa (ISWAP) and the influx of foreign terrorists pose a significant risk to Nigeria’s national electricity grid.

Kainji Lake and surrounding area has become a safe haven for Jihadi fighters from North, South, and Central Africa, write scholars at the Clingendael Institute, a think tank based in the Hague. The report suggests that the Jihadists are using the Benin Republic as a transit point to gain access to Niger State ( North Central Nigeria ). While the motive of the extremists is unclear, the report raises concerns about their potential relationship with other armed groups in the region.

Security experts warn that the Jihadists are taking advantage of the volatile situation in Niger State to expand their reach into southern Nigeria. This development poses a significant threat to regional stability and security.

Why Jihadis Are Moving To Kainji

“The Jihadists are Islamists who have been forced out of their hideouts in Sahelian countries due to military pressure or are fleeing internal conflicts in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger,” Femi Iseilaye, a former police officer and security analyst based in Kogi State, told TruthNigeria.

He noted that the leaders of coups in several West African countries justified their takeovers in order to use more state resources to suppress jihadist insurgencies within their borders.  Once in power, they used their assets to bear down on foreign terrorists and their local allies. The military junta in Mali agreed to bring in the Russian mercenaries:  the Wagner Group. The Russians operate chiefly in Central Mali to degrade the combat effectiveness of the  Peulh tribe, related to the Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria, who have allied themselves with an Al Qaeda insurgency.

“As a result, many of these Jihadists are fleeing to safer grounds, with the Benin Republic serving as a hub and migratory route for those escaping into Nigeria’s north-central region,” Iseilaye told TruthNigeria.

“It is not that the Wagner Group and government forces are recording progress against the Jihadists, but the thought of renewed offensive is making many of them to move to areas considered as soft targets, Iseilaye added.

Peter Edeh, a lecturer at the University of Abuja, told TruthNigeria that the ongoing clashes between Jama’atu Nusratil Islam Wal Muslimin (JNIM) and Islamic State Greater Sahara (ISGS) in Burkina Faso and Mali have exposed them to attacks from regional governments as well as from themselves.

“Since 2019, these two groups have clashed over 200 times, resulting in significant loss of life. The military onslaught by the governments of Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger has further worsened their situation,” Edeh noted.

“Many fighters have moved to the Benin Republic and are quietly moving into Kainji and neighboring areas,” Edeh added.

ISWAP fighters long embedded in Niger State may have been responsible for the influx of foreign terrorists, Edeh went on to say.

“In my estimation, ISWAP members are the ones that reached out to the foreign Jihadis,” said Edeh, reflecting an assessment shared by the Counterterrorist journal, HumAngle, which reported two years ago that ISWAP had rebranded itself and taken up a role as coordinator of various terror groups in the Sahel.  “The Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) has intensified operations and expanded its sphere of influence, bringing other franchises of the Islamic State in Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso under a new arrangement where the ISWAP leader has a say in their violent campaign,” according to HumAngle.

Dangers to Nigeria’s Economy

Kainji is home to Nigeria’s largest hydroelectric power station and dam, located in Kanji town, Borgu County and poses a potential vulnerability to the nation’s power grid.

The dam and its corresponding lake cover a vast area of approximately 483 square miles, with a maximum depth of 180 feet and a length of 85 miles.

It plays a crucial role in supplying electricity to all major cities in Nigeria, as well as to neighboring countries Benin and the Niger Republic.

Influx Threatens Nigeria’s Power Grid

According to Edeh, “ISWAP, Boko Haram, and other terrorist groups have a history of sabotaging telecommunications masts and bombing power stations in Borno State, Northeast Nigeria. If given the opportunity, they would likely do the same, causing widespread disruption to the country’s electricity supply.”

Edeh emphasized the potential consequences, stating, “Imagine a Nigeria without electricity. Industries, hospitals, bakeries, and all aspects of Nigerian life would be severely impacted.”

A New Front Opens Against the Military as Terrorists Push Southward

Nigeria’s government must act swiftly to prevent foreign terrorists from entering the country through its porous borders with the Benin Republic, according to retired Navy Captain Umar Bakori, President of the Vigilante Group of Nigeria.

“The threat is real, and the consequences of inaction could be devastating,” Bakori told TruthNigeria.

Bakori said he has urged the government to boost its military presence in Kwara and Niger states and to deploy all necessary security forces, including the DSS, forest guards, and military, to Borgu Forest and Kainji National Park.

“Local intelligence is crucial in this fight, and the government must work closely with local vigilante groups and communities to gather information and prevent terrorist infiltration,” he went on to say.

“The stakes are high, and Nigeria cannot afford to wait. Bakori warns that terrorists are already moving freely into the Niger Republic from the Benin Republic, and it’s only a matter of time before they try to enter Nigeria. The government must take immediate action to secure its borders and protect its citizens,” Bakori said.

Mike Odeh James and Steven Kefas are conflict reporters for TruthNigeria.

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