The gross disregard for human life has become quite common in Nigeria, owing to the actions and inactions of state and non-state actors, which has created avenues for direct and indirect harm on the general population, such as:

  • Through the unchecked proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) which has created avenues for lethal armed assaults by a slew of actors.
  • Gross mistreatment of civilians by security officers which has created mush mistrust and disdain for security institutions.
  • The impunity of extra-judicial mobs demonstrates the judicial institutions’ lack of significance and efficacy.
  • Growing sleaze among the populace, given the lack of leadership in the country, and inattention by institutions in charge of defending national values’ and providing reorientation for the public, against a slew of other social vices.

Nigeria is recognised as the “Giant of Africa” due to various factors such as its territory, large population and resources, among others; yet it is rarely observed or likely overlooked that Nigeria as a giant, has the greatest fatality toll in West Africa, an undisputed status since 2010.

While Nigeria’s fatality statistics continue to fluctuate, there has been a significant increase in fatality tolls since 2010. The statistics soared in 2015 with a sharp suppression between 2016 and 2019 with a sudden spike observed in 2018. However, since 2020, we have seen a steady rise in fatality tolls. Using Tableau’s exponential smoothing model, we can observe a predicted increase in fatality toll trend in the coming months having considered seasonal trends from the previous year with a 99 per cent prediction interval, the expected fatality toll for this year is 13,455. Given the current trend of violent crimes in the country, and the activities likely to occur during the election season. This projection verdict stands as a percentage increase/change of 34.307/34.3% that was obtained while comparing cumulative fatalities in the first quarter (Q1) of 2021 (2,670) with that of 2022 (3,586). The first quarter of 2022 has the second-highest mortality rate (12,624) after the first quarter of 2015, which has the highest fatality toll recorded in the last 12 years.

One of the contributing factors to the toll is insecurity in the form of low-intensity conflict predominant in three Northern regions namely the; The Northeast, Northwest, and Central. Due the high levels of armed conflict (sectarian, communal, ethnic), organised crime (abductions, armed robbery, banditry), and terrorism.

Insecurity consisting of a plethora of actors remains a leading factor in high fatality rates, albeit Governments intensified kinetic and non-kinetic approaches towards tracking, arresting, and prosecuting criminal actors which has remained quite effective at curtailing and deterring prevalent cases of armed conflict, organised crime, and terrorism, however, the impact on the civilian populations remains very severe. So far, 45,671 civilian fatalities (according to have been recorded since 2010 till the third quarter of 2022, which is 51.63% of total fatalities.

SALW proliferation continues to be an enabler for armed conflict, organised crime, and terrorism, resulting in the displacement of local native communities, particularly in the North with the ripple effect having a devastating impact on human security, sabotaging non-kinetic efforts, frustrating security efforts, and encouraging political instability. As a result, without arms control, there can be no stable or post-conflict environment, just the preponderance of active and latent conflict environments across the country.

Deborah Samuel, a student at Shehu Shagari College of Education in Sokoto State, Nigeria’s Northwest region, was lynched and immolated on 12 May 2022, by an enraged mixed mob of men and women at the institution’s security post (cell) after being accused of blasphemy against an Islamic Prophet by her Muslim colleagues. Following the arrest of the key suspects in the crime, followers of the perpetrators blocked a major highway in the city centre on 14 May 2022 to urge their release, stating that their actions were not criminal but a religious responsibility as Muslims.

In the evening of 14 May, 2022, only two days after the Sokoto tragedy, young men identified as musicians were beaten to pup along Admiralty Way, Lekki Phase 1. One victim was later immolated, while the other is alleged to be in critical condition at an unidentified hospital in Lagos. According to local sources, an argument had ensued during negotiation between the victim and his motorcycle rider (okada), which drew the attention of a gang of riders which deteriorated to the point whereby the victim was physically assaulted and clothes torn apart, leaving him naked, while sticks and stones were hauled at him. In the viral footage, we could see a large crowd of spectators watching helplessly as this brutal act unfolded, but most concerning was the absence of intervention by Government Security Forces despite being strategically situated near the attack scene.

The latest occurrence of lynching assaults is one of many instances of extrajudicial killing mobs and atrocities that indicate not just people’s contempt for established authority, but also groups’ impunity for lawbreaking. Mob violence has grown common in Nigeria and it is widely seen as the most expedient manner of obtaining justice when a crime or misdeed has been perpetrated or allegedly committed. The cause of these dark ages actions is a top-to-bottom defiance of the Nigerian judicial system, which has frequently been met with defiance of the rule of law by the country’s elite, particularly the common collusion with security operatives or courts to free suspects or arrest persons of interest by private citizens.

Unchecked killings have prompted many to question the government at the state and federal levels for allowing such incidents to occur in the first place, as well as the hesitant approach taken to curbing these excesses of the breakdown of law and order, particularly at the state level which is undoubtedly likely to worsen unless both State and Federal authorities work in harmony. On the flip side, it is a pipe dream given the prioritisation of political interests over many national issues, for example, in Imo State, the All-Progressive Congress (APC) under the State Governor has repeatedly blamed IPOB linked killings in Imo State to the activities of the People Democratic Party (PDP), the State’s main political opposition.

This results in the “trivialising and politicising of insecurity in the State”. If it isn’t already evident, the Nigerian environment is associated with the statement, “Nothing concern agbero with overload.” Meaning, a tout is callous, insensitive, and dismissive of the appearance and presence of a commercial vehicle with an excessive number of people or goods, much exceeding what the vehicle can conveniently transport or accommodate. In plain terms, while Nigerians may flock in large numbers to protest deaths on many levels, a vast majority are unconcerned about issues that should concern them originally since this issues don’t affect them directly.

Same has always been thought about terrorism in the northeast and how unlikely it is to occur in the south, however, since the onslaught by members of the Indigenous People of Biafra, through it’s eastern security network militia, began in the Southeast, many are coming to terms that the spread of terrorism to the south wasn’t necessarily a matter of known groups migrating, but the diffusion of its ideology “terrorism spreading”, which have seen once peaceful area’s becoming active and latent conflict environment’s in the Southeast. On the other hand, most of the time, public anger over killings is a fad that is quickly forgotten amid a trivial or entertaining occurrence.

To discover solutions, Nigerians must first recognise that what we find for SOKOTO already exists in our SHOKOTO. This indicates that answers are closer than we realise, and it begins with everyone realising the value of life and the implications of taking another person’s life. It is long overdue for the Nigerian Government to adopt firm realistic and effectively actionable positions against erratic killings in the country. The absence of such a position will only make matters worse.

With the availability of social media in influencing national discussions, the government must scale up its approach to become a greater public influencer, employing rich campaigns to enlighten the public on the value of life, the negative impact killings have on society, and emphasising the strength in a multi-religious and multi-ethnic society. Investing in education is another critical issue since illiteracy would encourage more illiterate voices to eclipse literate initiatives and ideas and be a hindrance to any efforts to reduce the trend of killings. Furthermore, if the military and the Nigerian police continue to improve with their new social media revolution, this toll may not much surpass our cumulative forecast, if they commit to using social media to fight crime and adopt and invest in open-source intelligence and data collections for understanding patterns and trends, without relying solely on traditional crime-fighting means.

Disclaimer: The statistics displayed are from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, a crisis mapping project that collects data from a wide range of armed conflict and protest events throughout the world. This implies that the mortality estimates are limited and do not represent the overall number of fatalities in Nigeria, which is expected to be many times higher. Furthermore, the accuracy of deaths in Nigeria remains a distant goal, particularly that security officers, because many incident-related fatalities get unreported. This article does not provide a precise picture of deaths documented during the period, but it does contain enough information to be informative.

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