In the midst of economic, political and security challenges, plus the surge in coups in west African nations, political parties must elect their candidates by 3 June 2022 for elections to be held in February and March 2023 for President and Vice-President, legislature, a number of state governors and others.154
Violence by non-state actors continues. ACLED data recorded over 150 acts of violence and almost 90 battles during the month of March including over 1,400 fatalities which represents over a 40% increase compared to the previous year monthly average.155 Among them, 62 members of a volunteer vigilante group in northwestern Kebbi were ambushed and killed by gunmen on 6 March.156 On 8 March, bandits targeted the Kebbi State deputy governor, Samaila Yombe and killed 19 of his security agents in Kanya in Dangu Wasagu.157 24 security officials were killed between 13-18 March. Ten were killed alongside three civilians in an attack by bandits in Ngaski town in Kebbi State.158 On 21 March, dozens of bandits on motorcycles invaded Ganar-Kiyawa village in Bukkuyum district, killing at least 16, local media put the death toll as high as 37.159 On that same day, in Kaduna state 34 people were killed.160 On 25 March, an airport in Kaduna State was invaded by 200 gunmen and an official was killed.161 On 28 March, gunmen attacked a train traveling from Abuja to Kaduna city and opened fire against civilians, eight passengers were killed, 168 are still unaccounted for, many are believed to be kidnapped.162 On 29 March, bandits attacked the Gidan train station and about six persons were reportedly killed and others kidnapped.163 Attacks have been ongoing in Niger state, during the last days of March bandits abducted a local priest and at least 44 other villagers believed to be returnees from internally displaced camps.164
On the other hand, the armed forces continued to fight bandits, they were responsible for at least 11 acts of violence against civilians and engaged in almost 60 battles according to ACLED, including: 100 Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) terrorists were killed and 174 surrendered between 24 February and 10 March.165 On 28 March, they killed the 12 bandits that took part in the attack against Kaduna airport.166 On 16 March, over 100 were killed in an operation at Bangi village.167 At least 7,000 Boko Haram and ISWAP members surrendered at the end of March,168 bringing the total number up to 30,000 in the north-eastern part of the country according to Mr. Boss Mustapha, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF).169 Borno state regional government announced the successful reintegration of the first group of 500 former fighters170 as part of the Safe Corridor operation launched in 2016 which aims for the rehabilitation of ex-insurgents to ensure sustainable peace and security in the state.171
ISWAP continues to grow, a recent investigation has uncovered links between ISWAP and ISIS affiliates like the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) and the Islamic State in Central Africa Province (ISCAP).172 Clashes between ISWAP and Boko Haram over control of the Lake Chad Basin area are ongoing. ISWAP killed at least 30 Boko Haram fighters in Dikwa on 5 March,173 on 8 March, nine were killed.174 On 31 March, at least 50 ISWAP fighters were killed.175 Recent information shows about 50 ISWAP camps on the Lake Chad islands training youth from Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria. Boko Haram’s use of underage children in combat and the enslavement of women and girls were among the reasons for the groups split.176
Nigeria faces multiple security challenges, including ongoing violence related to the Islamic State in the north, increasing intercommunal violence in the North-Central Zone, and separatist movements in the Niger Delta and South-East Zone.
Armed groups known locally as bandits carry out widespread killings, kidnappings, and looting across several states in the northwest region. Responding to the violent attacks, the government launched renewed campaigns in the north-west to curb armed banditry in September 2021.177 In January 2022, under the Terrorism Prevention Act, the government of Nigeria designated bandit groups as “terrorists.”178
Boko Haram has been active in the country since the early 2000’s. Based in northeastern Nigeria it has expanded to neighbouring countries such as Chad, Niger, and northern Cameroon. In 2016, the group split, resulting in the emergence of a hostile faction known as the Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP).
IPOB members say the region has been economically and politically marginalised since the end of the civil war in 1970. In recent years, the group has begun to amass foot soldiers culminating in the launch of its paramilitary arm, the ESN in December 2020.
UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres,179 as well as the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat,180 condemned the recent airport and railway attacks that took place on the last week of March and called on the Nigerian authorities to take all necessary measures to ensure that the missing passengers are found, and the perpetrators are brought to justice.
154 “High stakes as Nigeria prepares for elections 2023,” Institute for Security Studies, 11 March 2022, https://issafrica.org/iss-today/high-stakes-as-nigeria-prepares-for-elections-2023
155 ACLED Data, https://acleddata.com/dashboard/#/dashboard
156 Reuters, “Gunmen kill at least 62 vigilantes in Nigeria’s Kebbi state,” 8 March 2022, https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/gunmen-kill-least-62-vigilantes-nigerias-kebbi-state-2022-03-08/
157 Premium Times, “Kebbi deputy governor escapes death as bandits ‘kill 19 security agents’,” 9 March 2022, https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/headlines/516330-kebbi-deputy-governor-escapes-death- as-bandits-kill-19-security-agents.html
158 Nasir Ayitogo, “24 Police, Other Security Personnel Killed in Nigeria Last Week,” 20 March 2022, https://allafrica.com/stories/202203200185.html?utm_campaign=daily- headlines&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&utm_content=aans-view-link
159 France 24, “Gunmen kill more than a dozen villagers in northwest Nigeria,” 22 March 2022, https://www.france24.com/en/africa/20220322-gunmen-kill-more-than-a-dozen-villagers-in-northwest- nigeria
160 VOA, “Gunmen Kill 34 in Northwest Nigeria, Official Says,” 22 March 2022, https://www.voanews.com/a/gunmen-kill-34-in-northwest-nigeria-official-says-/6496677.html
161 VOA, “Nigerian Citizens Worried After Armed Men Attacked Airport, Killed One Official in Kaduna,” 27 March 2022, https://allafrica.com/stories/202203280002.html?utm_campaign=daily- headlines&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&utm_content=aans-view-link
162 Premium Times, “One week after Kaduna train attack, 168 passengers still unaccounted for – NRC,” 4 April 2022, https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/headlines/521738-one-week-after-kaduna-train- attack-168-passengers-still-unaccounted-for-nrc.html
163 Channels Television, “Terrorists Hit Kaduna Train Station In Fresh Attack,” 29 March 2022, https://www.channelstv.com/2022/03/29/just-in-terrorists-attack-train-station-in-kaduna/
164 The Guardian Nigeria, “Gunmen kill three, abduct Catholic priest, 44 others in Niger,” 29 March 2022, https://guardian.ng/news/gunmen-kill-three-abduct-catholic-priest-44-others-in-niger/
165 Nation, “Nigerian military kills 100 bandits in Kaduna and Zamfara,” 3 April 2022, https://nation.africa/africa/news/nigerian-army-kills-100-bandits-in-kaduna-zamfara-3770224
166 Channels Television, “Troops Kill 12 Bandits Involved In Attack On Kaduna Airport,” 28 March 2022, https://www.channelstv.com/2022/03/28/troops-kill-12-bandits-involved-in-attack-on-kaduna-airport/
167 Vanguard, “Joint task force kills 100 bandits in Niger,” 18 March 2022, https://www.vanguardngr.com/2022/03/joint-task-force-kills-100-bandits-in-niger/
168 Al Jazeera, “Nigeria: 7,000 Boko Haram, other fighters surrender in a week,” 24 March 2022, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/3/24/nigeria-7000-boko-haram-other-terrorists-surrender-in-a-week
169 The Guardian, “Troops kill 121 Boko Haram fighters, bandits in Borno, Katsina,” 11 March 2022, https://guardian.ng/news/troops-kill-121-boko-haram-fighters-bandits-in-borno-katsina/
170 DW, “Nigeria: Ex-Boko Haram fighters face tough path to reintegration,” 18 March 2022, https://www.dw.com/en/nigeria-ex-boko-haram-fighters-face-tough-path-to-reintegration/a-61169893
173 The Sahara Reporters, “Supremacy Battle: ISWAP Fighters Kill 30 Boko Haram Members In Borno,” 8 March 2022, https://saharareporters.com/2022/03/08/supremacy-battle-iswap-fighters-kill-30-boko-haram- members-borno
174 The Cable Nigeria, “‘Nine killed’ as Boko Haram clashes with ISWAP in Borno,” 9 March 2022, https://www.thecable.ng/nine-killed-as-boko-haram-clashes-with-iswap-in-borno
175 Sahara Reporters, “Boko Haram Terrorists Ambush ISWAP Fighters, Kill 50 In Borno,” 31 March 2022, https://saharareporters.com/2022/03/31/boko-haram-terrorists-ambush-iswap-fighters-kill-50-borno
176 Institute for Security Studies, “Children on the battlefield: ISWAP’s latest recruits,” 10 March 2022, https://issafrica.org/iss-today/children-on-the-battlefield-iswaps-latest-recruits
177 The Defense Post, “Nigeria’s Military Crackdown Puts Squeeze on Bandit Gangs,” 21 september 2021, https://www.thedefensepost.com/2021/09/21/nigeria-military-crackdown-bandits/
179 Xinhua, “UN chief condemns attacks on airport, passenger train in Nigeria,” 30 March 2022, https://english.news.cn/20220330/2457cee157a2412eb16112b4d2fc0db6/c.html
180 African Union, Statement of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission on a Railway Attack in Nigeria, 30 March 2022, https://au.int/en/pressreleases/20220330/statement-chairperson-railway-attack- nigeria