National Security Challenges In Nigeria: 10 Different Security Threats


Insurgency and terrorism has been the major National security challenges facing the Nigerian government in recent times. The activities of the Islamic sect (Boko Haram) has led to loss of thousands of lives and properties in the country especially in the Northern part of Nigeria. 

Some of these activities include bombing, suicide bomb attacks, sporadic shooting of unarmed and innocent citizens, burning of police stations, churches, kidnapping of school girls and women, etc.

Kidnapping, rape, armed robbery and political crises, murder, destruction of oil facilities by Niger Delta militants alongside the attacks carried out by Fulani Herdsmen on some communities in the North and South are some of the other National security challenges facing the country.


Nigeria has been included among one of the most terrorised countries of the world. Many lives and properties have been lost and a large number of citizens rendered homeless. 

What Is National Security?

Every country faces one security threat or the other. These threats can be societal, such as aggression from a neighboring country, terrorist infiltration, or worldwide economic trends that jeopardize the country’s well-being. Natural disasters, such as hurricanes or viral pandemics, can also pose a threat. Any threat puts a nation’s strength and well-being in jeopardy.

Such hazards are guarded against in the realm of national security. National security safeguards not only persons but also national institutions’ economic viability.

What is The Level of Security in Nigeria?

Nigeria has risen in worldwide terrorist rankings over the years, with the Institute for Economics and Peace’s 2021 Global Peace Index ranking Nigeria 146 out of 163 sovereign nations and territories based on its level of peacefulness. Nigeria improved one place from 147 in 2020, but it remained the seventh least peaceful country in Africa.

Nigeria’s terrorism index indicator stood at 8.31 in 2019. On a scale of 0 (no impact) to 10 (significant impact), the index assesses the direct and indirect impact of terrorism (highest impact). Nigeria is regarded to be one of the countries in the world with the greatest levels of terrorism danger. In Nigeria, terrorism claimed the lives of 1,245 people in 2019.

In the country, several militant groups are active, resulting in attacks on both civilian and military targets. Over the last decade, the Northern region has been devastated by waves of insurgency from Boko Haram (BH) and the Islamic State of West African Province (ISWAP).

Nigeria’s insecurity has escalated dramatically in recent years. There are two primary security challenges in practically every part of the country: communal clashes/civil unrest and kidnap-for-ransom (KFR).

Causes of Security Challenges In Nigeria

(1) Moral Quandry: Some of these prevailing moral issues of diversified native.

(2) Breakdown of our Cherished Cultural Values. Cultural values link the community with their ancestors and with God. The value of the sacredness of life helps to enshew all attitude contrary to the promotion of human life while the value of communication stands against all attitudes that tends to promote excessive individualism and despotism.

(3) Injustices and faulty Justice System. Our legal and justice are so faulty that the rule of laws have become the rule of men. Most of our laws are archaic and moribund. Some are prescriptions made by superiors for binding on injeriors.

(4) Religious Intolerance and Ethnic Conflict.

(5) Poverty/Unemployment/Poor Remuneration. Nigeria is faced with acute poverty, unemployment saga as well as poor remuneration for workers. Retired civil/public servants in the country are equally crying of ill prepared pension schemes and lack of welfare plans. The unemployed youth do fund solace in a devil’s workshop to commit crimes and pose security challenges while the under paid employees resort to official corruptions and dwindled productivity.

(6) Unchecked inflow of Lethal Weapons. This is proliferation of light weapons. Some politicians who procure lethal weapons for unemployed youths to use in guarding them to succeed in campaigns and elections did not recover such weapons from the youths. They now use those weapons to form cult groups or armed robbery and kidnapping for ransom. The end result is increase in violent crimes and security challenges in our nation.

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(7) The Menace of Fake and Illicit Drugs: Our young people have become drug addicts in the increase and stay under such influence to commit heinous crimes.

(8) Greed and Self Centerdness. Like the state of nature of Thomas Hobbes everybody simply pursues the satisfaction of his/her self-interest. There is no other rule of action than self-interest and its satisfaction. But in the course of pursuing the satisfaction of self interest, men have come into conflicts, quarreled and fought with one another-an aspect of security challenge in the country.

(9) Neglect of God and His Ordinances: In pursuing the desires of the human nature, man have deviated from the norms of the spirit. These are two enemies (Gal. 5 vs 16-26). Insecurity becomes imminent because human nature shows itself in immoral, filting and indecent actions (Isa. 65 vs 1-8).

National Security challenges in Nigeria

Below are more details on the 10 deadly security threats facing the country below;

1- Boko Haram

National Security challenges in Nigeria
Photo of Boko Haram fighters

Nigeria is currently bedevilled with profound threat of terrorism, especially in the North-Eastern part of the country. In the last decade, the country has witnessed the vulnerability of terror, criminality and instability.

The disheartening phenomena include, but not limited to the devastation and annihilations of several towns, villages, churches, mosques, Police Stations, schools and other public institutions with Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) bombs planted and small arms and light weapons (SALW) by the Boko Haram insurgents in Niger, Bornu, Adamawa, Kano, Bauchi, FCT Abuja, Kaduna, Plateau and Yobe states respectively.

AccordIng to World Economic Forum, militant Islamist group has destabilised the North-East of Nigeria. Since 2009 the group killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions more.

About 2.5 million people fled their homes and towns, and the direct consequence of the conflict was that the North-East was plunged into a severe humanitarian crisis – as of 2018, one of the worst in the world – which has left about 7.7 million people in need of humanitarian aid.

In his first term, Muhammadu Buhari claimed that his government would bring an end to the national suffering inflicted by Boko Haram. The government made significant military gains, reducing the number of Boko Haram attributed deaths from more than 5,000 in 2015 to less than 1,000 in the past couple of years.

READ ALSO: Unknown Gunmen Behead Army Couple

Nevertheless, the crisis is not yet over, and it would be a grave mistake for the president to disregard the continued importance of the conflict. Suicide attacks and kidnappings have been carried out by the group this year. At this time, the government should not just focus on security but invest in peace-building, reconstruction and rehabilitation and socio-economic development.

2- Armed Robbery

Photo for illustrative purpose only. (Depicts robbers during an operation)

Another threat to National Security Challenges In Nigeria is armed robbery. Armed robbers now use all sorts of small arms and light weapons. Only recently, a new trend of robbery which was quite different in outlook occurred at Ogolonto area of Ikorodu, Lagos State, when a lady reportedly led the gang to the banks and stayed outside while the two-hour operation lasted.


The leader of the gang was said to have sat down in front of the bank bragging, and no police officer was able to confront her. It was disclosed that the gang that carried out the robbery consisted about 15 youths, all in their early 20s.

Incidences of armed robbery have become a daily routine in many parts of the country. Apart from public institutions such as banks that are their major targets, major highways across the country are not spared as commuters are routinely attacked and dispossessed of their valuables. (The Punch, 28 August, 2016).

3- Niger Delta Militancy

Separatist rebels brandish weapons on the Escravros River in the Niger Delta. Photograph: Dave Clark/AFP/Getty Images

Ethnic militia has been a recurring decimal in Nigeria and its fledgling democracy. The Niger Delta militants have always been a threat to the National Security Challenges In Nigeria. The restoration of democratic rule in Nigeria on May 29, 1999 signalled the emergence and continued proliferation of vigilante groups, ethnic and sectional militias as well as secessionist or separatist groups wielding all sorts of arms and weapons.

READ ALSO: Nigerian soldier shoots self dead after being caught helping Boko Haram

Prominent among these are the Bakassi Boys, a vigilante outfit set up by Abia and Anambra State governments to curb criminal activities in 1999; the Egbesu Boys (1998); the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) 2000; Ijaw Militia and Itsekiri Militias (1999), and the Militia arm of Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) 1992. A most recent development is the emergence of Niger Delta militants with the name Niger Delta Avengers. The Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) has continued to launch attacks on some major oil installations in the oil rich region, using the various arms, IEDs and ammunitions in their possession (The Vanguard, 13 April, 2016).

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4- Cultism

Some notorious cultists being paraded by Anambra State police command. Credit: The whistler

There is now proliferation of cult groups in over three hundred institutions of higher learning in Nigeria, brandishing various small arms and light weapons whenever they “strike” on our campuses around the country. This is no doubt a threat to the National Security Challenges In Nigeria. In recent times, Rivers State has appeared to be the epi-centre of cultist activities in the country, with no fewer than 19 people reportedly killed following cult clashes in some communities in the state (Reports from Channels TV News).

5- Herdsmen/Farmers’ Clashes

Fulani herdsman carrying an AK-47.

One of the security threats in the front burner today, remains the recurring crises between cattle herders and farmers. The most recent of such crises were those that occurred in Agatu community in Benue State and that of Nimbo community, Uzo-Uwani Local Government area of Enugu State. In both attacks, several lives were lost while properties worth millions of Naira were also destroyed. Many proposals have been advanced to proffer solution to the recurring problem. 

While some have proposed grazing reserves, others insist that ranches would be the best solution out of the conundrum (Reports on Channels TV News). 

6- Kidnapping Activities

The three suspects who are part of a 19-man gang behind abductions and murder in Nigeria’s Kaduna State. The three are suspected to have participated in the kidnapping and subsequent murder of Michael Nnadi, a seminarian from Sokoto diocese.

Another security concern spreading across Nigeria like wildfire is kidnapping. When it began in the creeks of the Niger Delta region some years ago, nobody thought it would become a nightmare. Gradually, it has even become a „lucrative business‟ for many of Nigeria‟s jobless youths in the South East, South West and other parts of the country. Initially, it was the kidnapping of expatriates that was predominant in the South but today, the situation has gotten so bad that “nobody is safe”. Serving government officials are not spared in the kidnapping menace, as their family members, relatives and friends have become worthy „targets‟. Interestingly, armed robbers and other sorts of criminals are fast abandoning their trades for the more lucrative business of kidnapping. 

READ ALSO: Notorious Bandit Leader Shot In The Leg, Arrested By Nigerian Troops

7- Cattle Rustling

A Catle rustler standing guard.

Jan Birni, a community in Birnin Gwari Local Government area of Kaduna State, which lies on the border between Kaduna, Katsina and Zamfara States, is one of the areas that have been in the grip of cattle rustlers.

Little wonder the traditional ruler of the area and Emir of Birnin Gwari, Alhaji Zubair Maigwari, was reported to have lamented that his community had completely been taken over by rustlers who kill, maim and rape their victims before dispossessing them of their hard-earned investments.

These rustlers also carry all sorts of small arms and light weapons in executing their evil machinations, threatening the National Security Challenges In Nigeria. The threats posed by the existence of small arms and light weapons (SALW) to Nigeria’s internal security are also fast becoming uncontrollable (Crisis group).

8- The Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN)

members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria demonstrate against the detention of their leader (AFP or licensors)

The Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) is an Iranian backed Shia group in Nigeria. The leader of the group Ibraheem Zakzaky is opposed to the federal system of Nigeria, Israel, the US and also opposes secular governments. Correspondingly, Zakzaky has called for an Iranian-style revolution in Nigeria.

The group’s strong position on these issues and their regular protesting has resulted in clashes with security forces, endangering the National Security Challenges In Nigeria. However, recently these clashes have become more frequent and more violent. In 2015, the leader of the sect was arrested, and in 2016 a judicial inquiry revealed that the army had unlawfully killed 347 members of the group in Zaria state.

In 2020, the security forces arrested 400 IMN members and allegedly killed dozens of civilians in the capital city Abuja and surrounding areas. According to Amnesty International, the security forces’ use of automatic weapons was an excessive and horrific use of force.

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This escalating violence, the emergence of a charismatic leader and excessive use of force by the Nigerian military are reminiscent of the rise of Boko Haram. President Buhari has to ensure that the army has learnt lessons from how they dealt with the then emerging threat of Boko Haram, and make sure that the situation does not repeat itself.

9- Banditry

FILE PHOTO: Bandits [Picture credit: Voice of America (VOA)]

For more than two years, northwestern Nigeria has faced devastating attacks from armed bandits, particularly in the states of Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna, Niger, and Sokoto. Such attacks are driven by many overlapping factors, including cattle rustling, the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, illicit artisanal mining, youth unemployment, poverty, and inequality.

This is further compounded by the weakened, stretched, and demoralized security services, who are deployed in thirty-five of Nigeria’s thirty-six states and will soon enter the second-decade of their war against Boko Haram, one of Africa’s deadliest terror groups. It is estimated that many of the armed bandits are of Fulani origin, as are many of the victims. Banditry, which includes armed robbery, murder, rape, and cattle-rustling, is present in Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon, Senegal and Mali. 

10 – IPOB ESN And The Deepening Security Crisis In South East Nigeria

In the face of many security challenges, the formation of an Igbo paramilitary organization highlights the growing breakdown of any federal government monopoly on the use of force.

Even in good times, security in the former Biafra is precarious. Insecurity comes in many forms. Nigeria’s Igbo people make up the country’s third largest ethnic group. They lost the 1967–70 civil war in which they attempted to establish Biafra, a separate Igbo-dominated state. Many Igbos still believe they are marginalized in Nigeria, and there is still some support for Biafran independence, though not within the Igbo “establishment.”

Land and water disputes, which were long mostly confined to the Middle Belt, are now extending to the south, where they frequently take on ethnic and religious connotations. Many Igbo people, especially Christians, feel they are being targeted by Muslim Fulani herders who are migrating south in search of better pastures. Criminal activity is common, and the Igbo frequently blame the Fulani for it.

Many people in the former Biafra region have lost faith in the federal government, believing that the Buhari administration is Muslim-dominated and complicit in Fulani atrocities. Nnamdi Kanu’s Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), a separatist organisation that reflects and enables popular anger, has been added to the mix. The federal government, like much of the Igbo establishment, is adamantly opposed to Igbo separatism, owing to the civil war.

READ ALSO: (GRAPHIC IMAGES) Bandits suffer huge defeat as military kill scores in Zamfara

The government has attempted to defang the IPOB and quiet Kanu for a long time, sometimes using illegal or quasi-legal means. In exchange, he has utilized reported Fulani atrocities to criticize the Buhari administration.

Violence between IPOB and the federal police and army has increased since August 2020. Nigerian police killed up to twenty-one civilians at an IPOB meeting in Enugu State in that month. The IPOB responded by threatening retaliation and urging its members to use self-defense. Kanu declared the formation of a paramilitary branch, the Eastern Security Network (ESN), in December, ostensibly to protect the Igbo against the Fulani.

A non-state sanctioned paramilitary organization in the old Biafran heartland was unacceptable to the federal government, thus it moved against ESN camps.

Kanu, on the other hand, has a well-organized wing, the ESN, and feels he has the power to call a cease-fire in a struggle with federal forces. The level of violence is rising, and the outcome is uncertain.

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