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NON STATE SECURITY ACTORS AND SECURITY PROVISIONING IN NIGERIA
Threats to peace and security in the form of violent crimes and conflicts are not new in Nigeria. However, a general deterioration of internal security situation since the return to democracy in May 1999, characterised by unprecedented escalation and intensification of conflicts and criminality, is worrisome. Violent crimes such as armed robbery, banditry, kidnapping, cattle rustling, oil theft, arms smuggling, and piracy have become increasingly perturbing. Added to these is the challenges posed by the ongoing Boko Haram insurgency, resurgence of militancy in the Niger Delta, ethnoreligious crisis, communal conflicts and frequent clashes between herdsmen and their host communities.
Most times, such violent crimes and conflicts as well as associated state responses to them have proven costly in terms of human and material losses. It was recently reported that about 102,000 people were unlawfully killed by state and non-state actors between 1999 and 2016 in Nigeria (Johnson, 2016). The seven-year Boko Haram insurgency has claimed at least 20,000 lives and displaced more than 2.6 million people1. Similarly, an estimated 60, 000 people have died in pastoralist-related clashes in Nigeria since 2001 (Fulton and Nickels, 2017).
The Nigerian government have leveraged security agencies and law enforcement institutions in tackling these diverse and evolving security challenges. However, government’s reliance on about 377,000 policemen to cater for the security needs of over 170, 000,00 people in the country has proven grossly inadequate (Ogbozor, 2016). Also, other factors such as the culture of corruption and politicisation have created a hollowed-out police force – strong on paper but ineffective in practice (Okenyodo, 2016). Consequently, the military is increasingly being tasked to deal with, or complement the efforts of other security agencies in combating, violent conflicts and criminality across the country. As at February 2017, the Nigeria Army had been deployed in about 32 states of the 36 states of the Federation (Oyedele, 2017). Yet, the military and other security agencies have had problems coping with the challenging security environment.
In several states across Nigeria, groups and communities increasingly rely on informal security providers as their response to rising insecurity and declining confidence in formal state institutions, particularly the police (Kwaja, 2014). Thus, the seeming inability of formal state institutions to adequately provide security, effectively maintain law and order, and efficiently dispense justice in the society have underpinned an increase in the existence and activities of
non-state security actors in Nigeria (Ogbozor, 2016; Fourchard, 2011). Non-state security actors refer to “a group of actors outside the formal security apparatus of the Nigerian state, saddled with the responsibility of performing security and law enforcement functions on behalf of their communities” (Kwaja, 2017:2). The term encompasses diverse security providers such as vigilantes, neighbourhood watch groups, Private Guard Companies (PGCs), and Private Security Organisations (PSOs).
These actors, in many instances, emerge to complement government efforts at addressing challenges arising from the inadequacies of the state institutions in security provisioning. Mohammed (2013) has identified three categories of non-state security actors in Nigeria. The first one consists of a group of able-bodied young men in the village who organise themselves to patrol their areas mostly at night in order to protect the community against armed robbers. The second category is largely a product of community decision whereby the community contributes money and hires people, which they pay on a weekly or monthly basis to guard the community. The third group are mostly hired and equipped by the local government areas to prevent crimes and arrest criminals. A common feature of these three groups is the fact that they are independent of state control and they operate at the community level where policing by the formal state security agencies is largely deficit, if not non-existent.
As Lar (2015) observed, these groups emerged as part of the historical process of the institutionalisation of plural policing in support of the state and its agencies. Although their existence, mainly as community vigilantes and neighbourhood watch groups, date back to pre-colonial times, their multiplication and increasing participation in the security space has become a key defining feature of the Nigerian security environment in the last decade. To be sure, most of them emerged in response to gaps or deficits in security provisioning by formal state institutions. They are, however, heterogeneous in the sense that different groups specialise in qualitatively different security activities depending on the unique historical and environmental contexts that underpin their emergence. In reality, their activities, though complementing the provision of security by formal state actors, also complicate the environment of security provisioning in the society with dupilication of duties. Hence, the Nigerian state seems to be mired in a ‘security crisis’, shaped primarily by the unprecedented increase in the scale of security threats, decline in the capacity of formal state security institutions to deliver security and protection services, and the proliferation of non-state security actors that are rarely regulated.
The proliferation of non-state security actors has not been matched with a systematic attempt to understand their vastness and potential impact on the security landscape. Partners West Africa-Nigeria (PWAN) embarked on a mapping study of non-state security actors in Nigeria against this backdrop. The study seeks to provide answers to questions that deal with the socio-
economic, policy and security implications of the proliferation and participation of non-state security actors in the country. Specifically, it pays attention to such critical issues bordering on their primary functions, composition, geographical spread, modalities of operations, funding sources, and relationship with state security agencies and their host communities.
Rationale of Study
The study rationale is to identify those actors with whom the government can engage legitimately, isolate those that should come under security radar, and determine those that may be of less significance in shaping the security environment, now and in the near future. A mapping of the landscape will, therefore, help in understanding the trajectories of non-state security actors, and consequently in constructing a reform that may usher in a broad-based security architecture for enhanced partnership between state and non-state security actors in Nigeria.
The study is poised to address this imperative in Nigeria. To this end, researchers conducted field studies in some selected states in five of the six geopolitical zones in Nigeria. Table 1 contains the geopolitical zones, the constituent states as well as the states where field work was conduction for this study. As indicated in the table, the study covered the North-Central, North-East, North-West, South-East and South-West zones. The South-South zone was left out because another organisation had already mapped it2.