Rising Militia Recruitment in Nigerian States to Tackle Crime Surge

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In response to escalating insecurity and criminal activities, several states in Nigeria are witnessing a surge in the recruitment of militias to bolster self-defense groups. The exact total membership of these groups remains challenging to assess.

This week, the Governor of Zamfara announced the formation of a new force comprising 2,600 personnel to combat criminal gangs in the northwest state. Similarly, the Governor of Kano initiated a training program for 2,500 individuals to strengthen security measures.

In the Plateau state, recently plagued by deadly attacks, the governor seeks to reinforce the local security apparatus. Additionally, in the southern coastal Delta state, the governor unveiled plans for a 2,400-strong militia to counteract the wave of kidnappings.

The reliance on self-defense groups in Nigeria is not a recent phenomenon but gained momentum during the Boko Haram insurgency in the 2010s.

Faced with a multitude of security challenges nationwide, including abductions, banditry, and conflicts between herders and farmers, the federal police force – ill-equipped, undertrained, underpaid, and insufficient in numbers – finds itself overwhelmed.

Emeka Okoro, an analyst at SBM Intelligence in Lagos, emphasizes, “These militias are a consequence of the loss of confidence in the national security system. Nigerians are seeking an alternative to protect themselves. The Nigerian security system is more about protecting the regime than national security. National security forces focus on securing those at the top, rather than ordinary citizens. Self-defense groups and militias serve as a means to fill this void.”

Locally recruited, militia members are perceived as more motivated to restore community security. However, a 2022 report by the International Crisis Group highlighted the risks associated with this approach. The report called for increased regulation to prevent communal deviations, human rights violations, or manipulation by local elites.

As Nigeria grapples with a complex security landscape, the rise of militias underscores the urgent need for a comprehensive and sustainable solution to ensure the safety and well-being of its citizens.

Soukaina Sghir

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