Analysts worried by report of Sahel militants crossing into Nigeria

Regional security analysts are warning Nigerian authorities to take caution following a new report that armed militants operating in Africa’s volatile Sahel region have a found their way into northwest Nigeria through the borders of the Republic of Benin.

Wednesday’s security report, “Dangerous Liaisons” by the Dutch research think tank Clingendael Institute, is the latest indicator that militants are migrating from the Sahel to wealthier coastal nations in the region.

The 81-page report says extremists believed to be linked with al-Qaida in the last year have migrated from the Republic of Benin and settled in northern Nigeria, including around Kainji National Park.

If not addressed, the trend could escalate attacks in both countries already struggling with lethal violence from groups, the report indicates.

Security analyst Chidi Omeje said the discovery is no surprise.

“It’s not surprising if such happens, because of course you know the nature of our very porous borders,” said Omeje. “Those ones coming through the Sahel to me are purely for economic pondering, I’m not sure they’re ideological based. [But] it’s a dire situation, it’s quite concerning, it’s frightening.”

The report also says the search for economic opportunity and high poverty levels contribute to the recruitment and expansion of various armed groups in the region.

Africa’s Sahel — the vast expanse south of the Sahara Desert — is a global terrorist epicenter, according to the 2023 World Terrorism Index.

Experts say the wave of coups in the region in recent years has affected its security situation and response to regionally based militants.

In April, Nigeria hosted more than 400 delegates from across Africa at a summit on counterterrorism.

In an address at the summit, Nigerian National Security Adviser Nuhu Ribadu spoke about factors driving terrorism.

“Terrorism in Africa is driven by factors such as foreign terrorist fighters, organized crime, prolonged conflict, drug trafficking, illicit arms trade, high youth unemployment and inadequate policing,” said Ribadu. “Effective strategies require comprehensive approaches that address these drivers, promote socioeconomic development, enhance governance, resolve conflict and strengthen regional and international corporation.”

Security analyst Senator Iroegbu said local authorities need to secure their country’s borders while planning for more robust regional action.

“There’s a lot of volatility on the northern fringes of Nigeria,” said Iroegbu. “The insecurity is a fertile ground for all these groups to easily crisscross the boundaries and establish themselves. These jihadist groups … their target is also to move to the coastal side of Africa. It’s now left for the security agents and Nigerian government, how they respond to this. In fact, a contingency plan should’ve been in place all along.”

This week, Nigeria announced plans to acquire 50 military aircraft to combat terrorism especially in the country’s northwest region.

But analysts warn that unless those plans are supported by schemes to alleviate poverty and reduce vulnerability of locals, the problem may persist.

Check Also

How Kyiv Drove Russia’s Fleet Out Of Crimea – Analysis

A significant development in the war in Ukraine is not getting much attention. The last …