The peace in [Taraba] state is under assault. There is an attempt at ethnic cleansing in this state and, of course, in all the riverine state of Nigeria. We must resist it. We must stop it. Every one of us must rise up. The armed forces are not neutral; they collude with the armed bandits that kill people, kill Nigerians. They facilitate their movement. They cover them. If you are depending on the Armed Forces to stop the killings, you will all die one by one.The ethnic cleansing must stop in Taraba State, it must stop in all the states of Nigeria…-Lt. General Theophilus Danjuma (Rtd) Nigeria’s Former Chief of Army Staff & Minister of  Defence.

With the exception of vested interests benefiting from the status-quo hence blinded by their spoils, keen followers of goings-on, upshots in Nigeria are in agreement that Nigeria presently ticks the right boxes of a typical fragile, failing/failed, misgoverned or ungoverned space. It is worrying that statesmen, patriots, ordinary citizens and sections of the country are gradually losing confidence in the capacity of the government and the security agencies to protect them.

The military, security and intelligence agencies are apparently overwhelmed, helpless, and clueless. The political will to reorganize the security agencies is lacking. Reminiscent of a war-torn, rudderless State, the socio-economic, geo-political, ethnic and religious faults in Nigeria continue to deepen by the day.. It is not surprising that while decrying the spate of killings in different parts of the country, the Nigerian Senate on March 15, 2018, warned that Nigeria was gradually tilting towards a failed state.

The United States Department of State ‘’Country Report on Terrorism 2016’’ which was released July 2017, disclosed that 75 per cent of deaths caused by terrorist attacks across the world occurred in Nigeria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria; and Pakistan. A United States-based independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank, the Institute for Economics & Peace, in its 2017 Global Terrorism Index, GTI, ranked Nigeria for the third year running as the third most terrorized nation in the world.

Though the 2017 GTI report says terrorism deaths attributed to Boko Haram decreased by 80 per cent, in 2018, random killings ascribed to marauding herdsmen seem to have increased significantly.

A Punch Newspaper of August 6, 2017, titled, ‘‘Insecurity reducing Nigeria to a failing state”, submits that, ‘’Nigeria places a very low premium on human life and safety. This is why crime proliferates in every nook and cranny of the country. This chronic nightmare is graphically illustrated by unremitting kidnapping, armed robbery, ritual killings, smuggling, street gang (or cult-related) violence, herdsmen killings, Islamist terrorism and militancy. The Federal Government should be concerned about its loss of the power of coercion to non-state actors and quickly roll out strategies to change the status quo.’’

Chairman, Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts, Senator Shehu Sani (APC, Kaduna State) describes Lt. Gen. Theophilus Danjuma’s statement cited above, as a clear indication that the nation was ‘’tip toeing through a minefield’’.

Of Fragile States, Ungoverned Spaces/Ungoverned Territories

A fragile state can be defined as, ‘’a state whose central government is so weak or ineffective that it has little practical control over much of its territory; non-provision of public services; widespread corruption and criminality; refugees and involuntary movement of populations; and sharp economic decline.’’ A United States think tank, Fund for Peace started publishing an annual study known as the Fragile State Index (previously known as Failed State Index) since 2005. The Fragile States Index (FSI) is essentially a yearly ranking of 178 countries aimed at underlining not just the common forces encumbering different countries, but also serves to pinpoint when those forces increasingly pushes a Nation to the verge of failure.

Some of the indicators used to determine the fragility of a country include: security threats, uneven economic development, poverty and economic decline, demographic pressures (refugee flows), human rights violations, state legitimacy and the state of public services, amongst others.

Likewise, an investigative report prepared for the United States Air Force titled, ‘’Ungoverned Territories: Understanding and Reducing Terrorism Risks’’, United States-based nonprofit research organization, the RAND Corporation defines an ungoverned territory as ”an area in which a state faces significant challenges in establishing control.’’ According to RAND, ‘’ungoverned territories can be failed or failing states, poorly controlled land, maritime borders, airspace’s or areas within otherwise viable states where the central government’s authority does not extend.’’

Ungoverned territories or spaces are breeding grounds for security threats and criminal activities such as terrorism, money laundering, refugee flows, humanitarian crises, kidnap for ransom and extortion (KRE) or mass abductions (Boko Haram, Chibok and Dapchi school girls abductions), drug smuggling, human trafficking and arms smuggling, amongst others.

NBC News cites U.S counterterrorism officials and a classified list which confirms ungoverned spaces in about 10 countries. According to the NBC report, ‘’fearing that newer safe havens that could eventually become “external operations platforms” for attacks against Western and U.S. interests, the CIA has stepped up its monitoring of 12 countries that include significant ungoverned spaces where Islamic extremists are operating.’’; Nigeria is conspicuously on that list.

Weak, Failing or Failed State, ‘’Fragile State’’, ‘’Ungoverned Space’’ or ‘’Ungoverned Territory’’ are interwoven, and will be used interchangeably in this report.

Classification, Indicators of Ungoverned Spaces

There are three broad classifications and manifestations of ungoverned spaces. They are, in no particular order: contested, incomplete, and abdicated governance. Each is a function of the state of affairs that birthed it. According to RAND, ungovernable indicators include the following variables:

(a) Lack of state penetration

(b) Abdicated, incomplete or contested Governance

(c) Lack of physical infrastructure

(d) Corruption and the prevalence of the informal economy

(e) Social/cultural resistance

(f) Lack of monopoly of force (Niger-Delta militants, Fulani herdsmen, Boko Haram, plethora of armed, ethnic militias)

(g) Presence of Organized Armed Groups Outside the State’s Control

(h) Presence of Criminal Networks Linked to Terrorist or Insurgent Groups

(i) Population with access to illegal weapons, arms

(j) Lack of border controls

Many if not all most of the above indicators are present in Nigeria; they need no elaboration. However, I will proceed to reconcile some of the indicators with trends, goings-on in Nigeria.

1. Abdicated, incomplete or contested governance:

Talking about incomplete or contested governance, the way and manner Boko Haram had a free rein when they abducted and returned over a hundred Dapchi school girls, paints a picture of incomplete or contested governance in that part of the country.

Scores of well-armed Boko Haram insurgents arrived in a convoy of Hilux trucks to Dapchi to abduct the Dapchi girls. A video online showed villagers hailing Boko Haram militants as they came to return the ‘abducted’ girls.

Picture showing Dapchi youths waving and cheering at Boko Haram Terrorists.

The insurgents had the effrontery to exchange pleasantries with locals and preached to them not to send their wards to school.

The Defence Spokesperson, Brigadier General John Agim, stated that, ‘’due to the huge land mass, especially in the Northern East which is volatile to attacks, The Military Doesn’t Have The Capacity To Defend Schools From Terrorists’ Invasion’’.

The police on the other hand are well suited for internal security operations but ironically, a recent audit of Nigeria’s 42 police commands and formations into the federal government Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) by the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation reveals that no fewer than 80,115 ‘ghost policemen’ exist in Nigeria. The data shows that the police staff strength in Nigeria is tenably only 291,685. The data reveals that 80 percent of Policemen i.e. 233,348 policemen in Nigeria are deployed to protect politicians and wealthy individuals. How do we expect sanity, serenity in such an atmosphere?

2. Lack of monopoly of force and presence of organized armed groups outside the State’s control:

Apart from Boko Haram Terrorists (BHT) and the rampaging herdsmen, a plethora of armed, ethnic militias abound across the nook and cranny of Nigeria. From the Niger-Delta to Benue, Taraba to Zamfara, Yobe to Borno or Adamawa states, militants, bandits and terrorists hold sway. At the peak of the Niger-Delta militancy, research suggests there are about two dozen splinter militant groups in the Niger Delta.

Now that Niger Delta militancy has bottomed out, the increasingly number of sea piracy off Nigeria coast suggests some of the groups may have morphed into sea pirates.

The Senator representing Zamfara Central in the National Assembly, Senator Kabiru Garba Marafa asserts that militia groups may have killed over 2,000 people and destroyed property running into several billions of naira in some towns and villages across nine out of the 14 local governments in Zamfara State in the last seven years.

The Senator goes further to allege that, “The most saddening part of it is that the governor of the state knows these people; the deputy governor knows these people. I want to say again and again that the governor of the state knows the perpetrators of these crimes; the deputy governor knows these people; the commissioner of police knows these people.

“No fewer than 70 corpses of the victims of herdsmen attacks on Logo and Guma LGA of Benue State were given a mass burial on January 11, 2018. Similar attacks have occurred in Kogi State and Taraba State. Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, recently raised an alarm and alerted the Nigeria Police authorities about frequent attacks on farmers in numerous communities in Delta State by Fulani herdsmen who now demand toll from farmers wishing to enter their farms.

Over 70 corpses of Benue massacre in preparation for mass burial

The governor, disclosed that some communities in his state have been under siege from the nomadic Fulani’s for years, warned that the situation could deteriorate into full-blown crisis if the security agencies failed to curb illegal activities of herdsmen in parts of the state. The loss of confidence in the Federal government-backed security agencies essentially buoyed State governors to create state-sanctioned security outfits while ethnic groups are establishing ethnic militias to protect themselves from marauding herdsmen attacks.

The Ekiti state governor, Mr. Ayo Fayose charged hunters in the state to ‘protect’ the state against herdsmen militia. The Benue State Governor, Mr. Samuel Ortom reiterates that the federal government, especially the security agencies is aware of the culprits and their hideouts, but intentionally opts to do nothing about it. Taraba State Governor, Mr. Darius Ishaku, on Tuesday, March 27, 2018, opined that, ”the Federal Government is culpable in the security challenges facing the country because of its refusal to act when reports of security threats were brought to its attention of security agencies under its control.

A perusal of this report: ‘’Fresh Mercenary Herdsmen Attacks in Mambilla’’, reveals the identity of some of these killings. In a chat with BBC Pidgin, a leader of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association in Benue State, one Garus Gololo revealed that Fulani herdsmen attacked some communities in Benue state, saying their action was a reprisal for alleged theft of cows.

The current administration seems to now prefer pacifying terrorists with ransom, blanket amnesty. Despite the purported ceasefire and ongoing negotiation between the Buhari administration and Boko Haram, suspected Boko Haram insurgents on Sunday March 25, 2018, attacked a Borno community located along the Maiduguri-Bama road, reopened a day earlier four years after it was encroached upon by Boko Haram. From the foregoing, it is safe to say that the Nigerian government doesn’t have monopoly of force.

3. Lack of effective Border control:

Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, says 60 per cent of the Boko Haram members terrorizing Nigeria’s North-east, are foreigners. Prior to now, a certain Colonel Al-Amin Abubakar Garba who was the Commander, Division Intelligence Command (DIC) of the Nigerian Army 1st Division, Kaduna, stated that, ’’porous borders and weak security system are routes through which Boko Haram and other criminal groups source arms.

One of Nigeria’s porous/illegal routes (Benin-Nigeria Border)

Nigeria’s erstwhile Minister of Interior, Mr. Abba Moro, disclosed that there were over 1,499 irregular/illegal and 84 regular/legal officially identified entry routes into Nigeria. Most of these border areas are either mountainous or in the jungle. A conservative estimate by locals in Kuros-Kawwa, a village in Monguno council area of Borno State claims there are tenably 300 unmanned and unprotected walkways, routes connecting the Borno – Damaturu/Maiduguri axis with Niger, Chad or Cameroon. Out of the 27 local government areas in Borno State, nine are said to crisscross into a couple of neighboring countries through unsecured common borders.

In southern Borno, it is easier to walk-in to Cameroon from some adjoining mountainous settlements in Gwoza council area than to come to Maiduguri, the state capital. In Adamawa State, one of the states in northeast Nigeria ravaged by Boko Haram insurgency, there are reportedly more than 25 illegal routes into Nigeria from neighbouring countries. Nigeria’s borders in the northeast is so extensive and porous that at the border town of Banki, in Gombe State, the southern entrance to a local mosque is reportedly inside Nigerian territory while the northern exit of the same mosque lies in another country, Niger Republic.

The Sambisa forest (said to be the size of Belgium), Fagore, Kamuku, Kiyanbana forests, and Dajin Rugu, a forest stretching from Birnin-Gwari in Kaduna State through Katsina to Zamfara forests are some of the ungoverned spaces in northern Nigeria. Bandits hold sway in these climes; terrorists, smugglers capitalize on the porosity of such places to smuggle small arms and light weapons (SALWs).


A Nigerian criminologist, Dr. James Alfred, submits that “When armed groups free prisoners and orchestrate breaks, then you know anarchy is close by” Alfred explained that the inability to guarantee lives and property is a clear indication of lawlessness and chaos. “When people no longer feel safe in parts of the country, then you wonder if there is a government in place. It is a dangerous signal really.” We can deduce from the foregoing, that the indiscriminate kidnappings and mass abductions, insecurity in the nook and cranny of Nigeria and the apparent inability of the government, security agencies to rein in these unwholesome events, points to the fact that;

(a) Swathes of Nigerian territory are ungoverned spaces controlled by non-state actors and/or

(b) Nigeria country is a misgoverned, failing, fragile or failed state. High time the Buhari administration stopped bandying excuses. Wield the big stick against folks orchestrating the wanton killings and insecurity in Nigeria otherwise it may just be a matter of time before the country implodes