Having lost more than 65,000 people to insurgency and terrorism in 14 years, Nigeria has launched a national counter-terrorism centre to optimise efforts in addressing security challenges.
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari inaugurated the modern facilities and infrastructure which will be used to effectively coordinate national security and counter-terrorism efforts.
Terrorism had swooped on northeast Nigeria and particularly in the country’s states sharing borders with Chad, Niger and Cameroon which have also had to contend with the brunt of the deadly insurgency.
The emergence of Boko Haram in 2009 and its terrorist ally, the Islamic State West African Province (Iswap) has led to destruction of lives, properties, national infrastructure and agriculture as well as the displacement of more than 2.1 million people, mostly women and children.
Banditry, kidnapping, militancy and oil theft have compounded the problem of insecurity which outgoing President Buhari believes have been mitigated well.
Buhari on milestones achieved
At the inauguration of the new Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) and National Counter-terrorism Centre (NCTC) on Tuesday in Abuja, Buhari said the state-of-the-art facilities will provide Nigeria’s incoming administration with infrastructure to effectively coordinate national security and counter-terrorism efforts.
He used the occasion to outline the milestones achieved by his administration on security, including gains in combating terrorism, armed banditry, kidnapping, crude oil theft, piracy, cyber-security as well as militancy in the South Nigeria.
“I can confidently state here today that we have achieved significant milestones in degrading the major threat and restoring normalcy to most of the hitherto securitized areas in the northeast,” Buhari, who inherited terrorism issues when he assumed office in 2015, said.
He explained that the areas previously captured by terrorists, especially Boko Haram, had been freed and internally displaced persons (IDPs) were now voluntarily returning to their homes.
''This was largely achieved through the valiant efforts of our armed forces and other security agencies, in collaboration with our regional and international partners but above all, the support and cooperation of the Nigerian citizens.'' Buhari said.
North Nigeria’s insurgencies curbed
Aside from the degraded terrorism threats in northeast Nigeria, Buhari also expressed delight that his government had curbed armed banditry and kidnapping cases in the northwest and north central zones.
He further explained that these criminal acts emerged from Boko Haram dispersal in northeast Nigeria and the implosion of Libya in the Maghreb.
He noted that separatist agitators in southeast Nigeria, and to a much lesser extent in the southwest, were being checkmated.
''Meanwhile, issues of crude oil theft, piracy and militancy in the south are equally being addressed. Most of these threats have transnational linkages thereby reinforcing the need for regional and international cooperation as critical enablers to enhance our national security,'' he said.
Nigeria’s maritime threats tackled
On maritime security, President Buhari expressed delight that some key threats within Nigeria’s maritime environment such as piracy, crude oil theft as well as illegal unregulated and unreported fishing were being effectively tackled.
He said between August 2018 and March 2023, over 220 vessels involved in maritime crime activities within Nigeria’s Exclusive Economic Zone up to Togo were impounded.
He added that the seizure of over 87 oil tankers involved in various crude oil theft prevented the robbery of over 3 million barrels of crude oil as 15 million litres of petrol and diesel were recovered.
He also underlined the importance of protecting Nigeria’s cyberspace from all forms of intrusion.
In addition to receiving regular briefing from Nigeria’s Cybercrime Advisory Council, he said the government had established Nigeria Computer Emergency Response Team and revised the country’s National Cyber Security Policy and Strategy in February 2021.
''To further complement these efforts, I will soon be endorsing the presidential order for the designation and protection of critical national information infrastructure. This is bearing in mind that cyberspace creates a nexus for synchronising efforts of our security and law enforcement agencies towards addressing numerous security challenges,'' he said.
Need for broadening mandate
Nigeria’s National Security Adviser (NSA), Rtd Maj-Gen Babagana Monguno, said the changing nature of the security landscape over the last three decades in the country and across the world necessitated the broadening of mandate to accommodate the needs of emerging security threats.
Monguno said the core mandate was to assess Nigeria’s security concerns and advise the president on national security matters. He further stated that the dynamic nature of global and domestic security environments had necessitated the modification and expansion of some of the functions of ONSA.
“However, the series of amendments incorporated in Nigeria’s Terrorism Prevention Act in 2011, 2013 and 2022 have broadened the counter-terrorism responsibilities of ONSA,” he said.
He said Nigeria recognised the need for contribution to global counter-terrorism policy; giving impetus to internal, bilateral as well as multilateral cooperation and collaboration in tackling the menace of terrorism and violent extremism.