(Onitsha Nigeria, 14th of August 2016)-The policy of militarism and militarization adopted and intensified by the civilian dictatorial Presidency of Gen Muhammadu Buhari has in the past one year and three months given birth to 18 armed opposition groups (AOGs) or non-State armed groups in Nigeria. That is to say that the number of non-State armed groups or groups that have taken up arms against the Federal Republic of Nigeria under Gen Muhammadu Buhari has risen from two before 29th of May 2015 to 20 as at August 2016. It further means that 18 non-State armed groups have risen in Nigeria in the past 15months under the Presidency of Gen Muhammadu Buhari.

Going by the 2016 records of the wars-in-the-world organization and the public security & safety advocacy department of Intersociety, there are ongoing internal conflicts in 28 African countries involving 220 armed opposition and other asymmetric groups; out of which the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has the highest number of active armed opposition groups with 36; followed by Libya with 28; South Sudan with 26 and Nigeria with 20. This means that Nigeria is now the Africa’s fourth largest armed opposition country. Nigeria moved from its 13th position in May 2015 to fourth position in August 2016; a period of 15 months.

Other African countries with large number of armed opposition groups (AOGs) are Sudan 19, Mali 17, Central African Republic (CAR) 10, Egypt 9, Ethiopia 8, Algeria 4, Eritrea 4, Somaliland 4, Uganda 3, Mauritania, Kenya, Chad and Angola 2 each and Western Sahara, Tunisia, Senegal, Rwanda, Congo Republic, Puntland, Mozambique, Ivory Coast, Djibouti, Cameroon and Burundi have one armed opposition group each.

As at May 2015, the number of active armed opposition groups (AOGs) in Nigeria was two: Boko Haram and Fulani terror groups; funded by radical northern politicians with strong links to serving officers of northern Muslim extraction in the Nigerian security forces. Armed Opposition Groups such as Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) and the Niger Delta Volunteer Force (NDVF) were disarmed, demobilized and amnestied in 2009 under the late Umaru Yar’adua Presidency. There was also a splinter group of Boko Haram called Ansaru, which was later, incorporated into Boko Haram under Islamic State West Africa (ISWA).

But presently under the presidential watch of Gen Muhammadu Buhari and barely 15 months of his civilian dictatorial administration, the number of these armed opposition groups (AOGs) has gone viral, increasing from two to 20. Today, there are (1) Islamic State West Africa and the Movement for Unity & Jihad in West Africa( offshoots of ISIS and Al-Qaida in Islamic Maghreb), (2) Islamist Boko Haram terror group, (3) Islamist Fulani terror group or Fulani Janjaweed, (4) resurrected and re-armed Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, (5) Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force, (6) Niger Delta Liberation Front, (7) Niger Delta Avengers, (8) Biafra Avengers, (9) Red Egbesu Water Lions, (10) Asawana Deadly Force of the Niger Delta, the Adaka Biafra Marine Commandos, (11) the Utorogon Liberation Movement, (12) Joint Niger Delta Liberation Force, (13) Joint Revolutionary Council of the Joint Niger Delta Liberation Force, (14) the Red Scorpion, (15) Ultimate Warriors of the Niger Delta, (16) the Niger Delta Red Squad, (17) Niger Delta Vigilante, (18) the Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate, (19) the Ijaw/Oduduwa Militant Movement ( in Ogun/Lagos axis) and (20) the Middle Belt Christian Militants (rising).

These armed opposition groups do not include traditional criminal gangs or entities (i.e. armed robbery or abduction gangs) or criminal entities against persons and properties. Thousands of community and States vigilante groups and other summary group violent entities in Nigeria are also excluded.

Technically speaking, armed opposition groups (AOGs) are a group of suppressed or oppressed citizens of a political territory who take up arms against a political territory or a part thereof for the purpose of achieving desired objectives usually politico-religious, politico-economic, politico-demographic, politico-geographic, politico-ethnic or for the purpose of addressing  age-long asymmetric injustice or structural violence.

At the State level, Nigeria is also the third largest defense and security spender in Africa with about $4B (or N800B) after Algeria ($10.4B) and Angola ($6B). Average of N300B is spent on the Nigeria Police Force annually. In Nigeria’s arms spending, approximately 50% or more goes to small arms and light weapons. Through the State’s illicit use of SALWs in the past 15 months, the Buhari Presidency has killed over 1300 unarmed and innocent citizens including as much as 250 pro Biafra activists, who are mainly IPOB activists as well as 809 Shiite Muslim faithful. Over 300 pro Biafra activists and their supporters have also been shot and critically wounded using State’s small arms and light weapons. There is no single evidence that the victims have individually or collectively used or advocated violence against the State or any part thereof till date.

The Chinese conflict theorists and experts have always maintained that conflict is an opportunity to change; meaning that conflict is neither negative nor positive, but its positivity or negativity is determined by the approaches adopted in handling it. Modern criminologists and military scientists  also see institutionalization and intensification of policy of militarism (act of seeking violent solution to social conflicts or problems or practices that regard war or its preparation as normal or desirable practice) and militarization ( an act by which a militant or violent political territory   militarize the polity or increase the influence of the military on all levels of the society) as a counter-productive in managing modern conflict; be it demographic, geographic, economic, political, cultural, agro-religious, ethnic or politico-military.

We had warned the Buhari administration few weeks after it came on board to demilitarize itself and its policies, but it would not listen. The resurgence and escalation of militancy in the Niger Delta was solely owing to crude and violent governance approaches adopted by its administration particularly when it rained bombs of assorted lethal types including suspected napalm bombs on the creeks of the Niger Delta few weeks after it was sworn in, claiming that once a general is always a general! In a quickest response, the Niger Delta was re-militarized and re-radicalized till date. The Buhari administration further goofed abominably when it opened fire on innocent and unarmed protesters and other jubilant pro Biafra activists and impeached the 1999 Constitution which guaranteed right to peaceful and nonviolent assemblies. These were the beginning of reprisal radicalization and solidarity counter-violence erupting from right, left and centre of Nigeria till date.  

With the way things are going, the number of armed opposition groups will record more increases in coming months particularly following the increased attacks against rural and urban Christians and their places of worship in Nigeria and total failure of the government to act as well as its connivance with the perpetrators. Possibility of affected third parties forming anti Muslim and anti Fulani Janjaweed armed groups to checkmate the raging attacks against rural and urban Christians and their places of worship in Nigeria is becoming a reality as days go by. Unless the Buhari administration begins to dismantle and demilitarize its crude militarism and militarization policies and governance approaches, otherwise Nigeria is dooming to be doomed!

For: International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law

Emeka Umeagbalasi, Board Chairman

Obianuju Igboeli, Esq., Head, Civil Liberties & Rule of Program

Chinwe Umeche, Esq., Head, Democracy & Good Governance Program
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