Mapping violent non-state actors in the Lake Chad Basin
In the LCB region, Nigeria constitutes the vortex of violent extremism and other forms of conflict. The country is managing violent conflicts at different zones: environmental militancy in the Niger Delta; Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East; communal conflict in the North Central; and farmer-herder conflict across the whole federation. The oil-rich Niger Delta region is the scene of a sustained armed rebellion having suffered from considerable environmental challenges and socioeconomic hurdles. The region became fused with several ethnic militias engaging in agitations and some even extending the line to secessionist movements. In 2004, groups like Movement tor the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force (NDPVF), Joint Revolutionary Council (JRC) and Niger Delta Vigilante (NDV) emerged while the continued escalation of the violence saw the emergence of the recently-tagged Niger Delta Avengers. Among these groups, the NDPVF which Asari Dokubo heads and the Ateke Tom-led NDV are more violent and involved in pyro-terrorism before the actual unveiling of the Niger Delta Avengers. MEND and Niger Delta Avengers are to be considered in this chapter due to the intensity of their attacks and high-profile sabotage against the Nigerian state which invariably affected the economic output of the country and have maintained the status of being the two major factions dominating the conflict landscape of the Niger Delta.
This is not to disregard the argument of Mohammed (2017: 50) that though other splinter militant groups enjoy relative autonomy, they still key into the mutual alliances with either the NDPVF or NDV and thus receive a moderate level of combat training on weapons handling and manoeuvre tactics as well as the stocked inventory of arms of different calibres. The NDA emerged recently and aimed to carve out a sovereign political entity for the Niger Delta region and thus threaten the corporate unity of Nigeria. It evolved around January 2016 but came into national prominence in March 2016 after a series of violent activities they carried out clandestinely. The militant group has established links with Niger Delta Red Square, Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate, Joint Niger Delta Liberation Force, Red Egbesu and Water Lions among others (Mohammed, 2017: 51). The composition of the group and the sophistication of its attacks on oil installations vouched for its claim that it has members drawn from the most intelligent palate in the region. Suffice it to say, the group has reduced its frequent attacks as a result of the quick intervention of the federal government and the involvement ot regional elders where negotiating terms were reached and complied upon by both parties. The clear indicator is that this group has a potency to scale down oil production in the area which would have a direct bearing on the fiscal impact of Nigeria on the LCB.
Another group that surfaced in the South East of Nigeria is the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) as a first non-violent social movement that came to limelight after formed by Ralph Uwazuruike. At several times, the activities of the MASSOB led to violent encounters with the security forces at the formative stage of the group, it received less attention from the “international media and community.” Over time, Nnamdi Kami, a Nigerian-British based in London, rekindled the dream for the independence of Biafra as he realised that it could not be realised through MASSOB. Kami employed the modern tools of communication and mainly established a radio station - Radio Biafra to broadcast propaganda against the Nigerian. Through hate speech in radio and social media, Kami drew millions of pro-Biafra independence activists into his fold and subsequently turned violent against the state (Ugorji, 2017). The violence that erupted after the bail of the Nrnandi Kanu from custody coupled with the use of misguided and obscene expressions against the unity ot Nigeria, which are considered to be “hate speech and incitement to violence and war,” the Nigeria Army proscribed the IPOB as a terrorist group whose activities undermine the existence and stability of Nigeria. Thus, the IPOB is today seen as one violent group that threatens national security' and capable of instigating other separatist movements in the LCB region.
An interlink between MASSOB and IPOB remains a crucial step in understanding the intrigues and operational activities of the two groups. MASSOB claimed to be more involved in visitations, consultations and bringing all pro-Biafra groups under one umbrella for the revival of brotherhood consciousness among various ethnic groups. The group particularly embarked on prayers, supplications, and sober reflections on the actualisation ot the Republic of Biafra as part of the anniversary celebration ot our 19 years of establishment. MASSOB is determined to ensure the actualisation and restoration ot Biafra through initiating enhanced diplomatic and international engagements (Uzodinma, 2018). Both MASSOB and IPOB are yet to deviate from the rays of demanding for Biafra State even though they have all failed to clearly articulate the convincing justification for such demand, the modalities of establishing the state and the various ethnic nationalities that would constitute the state. Both MASSOB and IPOB are busy drawing and redrawing maps without consideration ot other ethnic groups who are at variance with their restoration campaign (Fasan, 2017). IPOB has gone a step further in this direction by issuing counterfeit visas, producing fake monetary currencies, establishing a phantom link between the Igbo and the Jews and professing faith in a Jewish faith (Fasan, Ibid). This has particularly exposed the separatists’ lack ot clear and realistic agenda to actualise their dream ot a Republic of Biatra. There is a further claim ot splinter groups among IPOB, which is clearly evidenced by the emergence ot the Re-branded Indigenous People ot “ Biafra” (TRIOPOB). The group broke away from the Kanu-led IPOB due to what they perceived as the “defeatist position” of IPOB. The splinter group has a distinct agenda trajectory' with IPOB as they denunciated a secessionist Biafra and intend to pursue the spirit and intent ot Biafra within Nigeria (IRB, 2016). Across the LCB, the Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is a Violent Non-State Actor (VNSA) which has projected itself as a Salafi- jihadist militant group and “U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organisation (FTO).” The group exploits its origin to Algeria's civil war in the 1990s and has, over time, become an al-Qaeda affiliate with the quest tor regional expansionism (Laub & Masters, 2014: 1). AQIM, is the only organised, violent Islamist group that is conducting operations in the tour Sahelian countries of Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger while initially known as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (Cocodia, 2017: 56). Its objectives include “ridding North Africa of Western influence; overthrowing governments deemed apostate, including those of Algeria, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, and Tunisia; and installing fundamentalist regimes based on sharia” in spite of the incendiary transnational terror threat its continue to posed in North and West Africa in conjunction with its affiliates (Laub & Masters, 2014: 3). AQIM was uprooted off its base of operations along the Mediterranean coast south to the Sahel region by a robust Algerian counterterrorism campaign and thus transcended to the Sahel region with a regional ambition of establishing its strongholds. AQIM has affiliations with other terrorist groups such as Nigeria's Boko Haram, Somalia's al-Shabab, and Yemen's AQAP, “with arms and funds flowing among them. AQIM's tactics include guerrilla-style raids, assassinations, and suicide bombings of military, government, and civilian targets. Its members have frequently kidnapped, and sometimes executed, aid workers, tourists, diplomats, and employees of multinational corporations” (Laub & Masters, 2014: 4). Going by the massive wealth acquired by the group, and the speed and momentum of its mobility, its sources of funds are worth noting as it engaged in large-scale farming in the Lake Chad, kidnapping tor ransom and smuggling arms and vehicles; and smuggling into its operational area of the remnants of the NATO-grade Libya air campaign in 2011. The most violent insurgent group among all the AQIM’s alleged subsidiaries is the Boko Haram.
Boko Haram has unleashed mayhem on the LCB region as it fights to enforce strict Shariah law and propagate itself as Jama’aAhl as-Siwna Li-da’wa’atil Jihad (People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad) (Bala, 2017: 4). At the onset, the group carried out armed insurrection in 2009 within the Maiduguri metropolis targeting state’s security infrastructure such as police stations, home of police officers, checkpoints operated by JTF personnel and other security agencies (Abubakar, 2017: 37). Boko Haram is ranked as one of the world’s most brutal terrorist groups, killing more people than the dreaded Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The group has killed over 30,000 civilians since 2009 and caused the internal displacement of over 2,152,000 people in Nigeria, Chad, and neighbouring Cameroon. In August 2014, the violent group escalated its campaign of territorial conquest by dislodging civilians and taking hold of their towns, villages and important facilities around Gwoza — Nigerian border with Cameroon and subsequently declared itself a caliphate (Bala, 2017: 4). After series of violent confrontations with the Nigerian-constituted Military Joint Task Force (MJTF), Muhammed (2014: 9) opined that the group went underground, reorganised with a more disastrous resurgence on the public limelight and a remarkable prison break at Bauchi in October 2010. The group employ the hit-and-run tactics couple with targeted “assassinations, drive-by shootings, suicide bombings, and massive deployment of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), vehicle-borne IEDs, and, lately, kidnapping and hostage taking.” With sustained counterinsurgency operations in the LCB, the group’s structure and networks were penetrated, and this resulted in factionalising the group into some violent splinter sects.
The sustained propaganda on the part of the counterinsurgents in the LCB with what Oftedal (2013: 14) referred to as the “internal disagreements and fragmentation” of the Boko Haram group, a group known as Ansaru announced its formation as a breakaway faction from Boko Haram. Ansaru split because of Boko Haram’s indiscriminate killing of Muslims which the group detest and pronounced as “inhumane” and “inexcusable.” The coming of the Ansaru into the regional landscape of VNSAs in the LCB was further recognised by the six major incidents involving the group that Atimbobi (2016: 32—33) articulated in his work on the transnationalisation of the Boko Haram terrorism. These include kidnappings of foreign expatriates at tour consecutive times, an attack on a detention facility in Abuja and an ambush on Nigerian soldiers earmarked for a peace support operation in Mali heading for their pre-deployment training in Jaji. A point of note here, Ansaru seems to be more against Western values and in a bit more internationally oriented than the Shekau’s faction of Boko Haram. It has also had a spell ot attacks on foreign convoys and personnel going by its raid on a French engineer in Katsina and it attacks French troops while on a mission to Mali. These instances and several others were supported by Atimbobi (2016) to depict the regionalisation ot terrorism within the LCB region. The concentration of insecurity in the region caused by the activities of these VNSAs calls for regional securitisation and thus, the next section will examine the emergent regional infrastructure of security in the LCB.
In the republic of Chad, sustained rebellion and insurgency have marked the country’s postcolonial history. This rebellion has often crossed to neighbouring countries in search of operational space and resources. Chadian rebels are by formation like paramilitary groups with alliances mostly from the Arabs, Toubou and Zaghawa as the strength-sourcing ethnic groups of the rebellion. The rebel group recruits members from the disbanded Chad’s armed and security groups. With the considerable richness in oil deposits in the country and the desire to accomplish unfettered access to resources, the rebel leaders struggle to take over the political power in N’Djamena (Pamminger, 2009: 68) a maximum number ot 10,000 fighters The ground forces ot the group are equipped with “cheap, easily available Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) and use all-terrain “technology,” under the form ofToyota Land Cruisers to move around. Their SALW inventory includes AKM assault rifles, also known as AK-47 “Kalashnikov” rifles, RPG-7s, i.e. Russian rocket-propelled anti-tank grenades, French (MILAN) anti-tank guided missiles” (Pamminger, 2009: 69). With the rebel possession of ground to air missiles and vast network of communication and information technology coupled with accessibility to weapons through illegal arms markets in the Chad-Sudan area, the mobility and manoeuvrability of the group remain both surprising and threatening. Thus, compounding sub-regional security issues in the LCB.