How Nigeria Can Minimize Transnational Threats

How Nigeria Can Minimize Transnational Threats—Ambassador

How Nigeria Can Minimize Transnational Threats

OpenLife Nigeria reproduces a paper presentation to the Nigerian Defence College, Abuja on Tuesday, June 27, 2023 by former Nigerian Ambassador to Mali, His Excellency Ken Nwachukwu, in which he offered anecdotes that would address Nigeria’s transnational security challenges.
Titled “Nigeria’s Foreign Policy And The Challenges Of Transnational Security In West Africa,” Ambassador Kenneth Nwachukwu argued that approaches to insecurity should be patterned along strict compartmentation between foreign policy and defence. His thoughts are presented below unedited

The Nigerian State is beset with a myriad of social and political issues, not least the prevalence of transnational criminality. There is, however, a lack of consensus within the intellectual community on the best way to address this new form of threat.

Whilst a good number of realist scholars posit that the solution to borderless criminality is strong kinetic measures, others take the view that although foreign policy is conceived for a different role, the galloping nature of modern criminality requires enlisting foreign policy into non-characteristic role, one of combating cross-border crimes.

This paper adopts the approach that the solution to insecurity is neither one nor the other; but an approach that dispels with the strict compartmentation between foreign policy and defense. Certainly, one that encompasses the kinetic means as with the soft power reach of the art and science of diplomacy.

Some of the earliest exponents of Nigerian foreign policy had envisaged it as a tool of robust engagement with the international community. This view entailed a state-to-state relationship among bureaucrats, yielding tangible but invisible benefits to the nation in the spheres of political, economic and social relations.

Nigerian governments have in consequence engaged in a wide spectrum of interactions at both bilateral and multilateral levels, namely the United Nations, African Union, Economic Community of West African States, and the Commonwealth amongst others. But the outcomes of this demarche have not always met with the expectations of the average man in the street.

In one of the recent seminars, I participated in Abuja last month, one of the participants loudly wondered why Nigeria should be involved in the ECOWAS if she has to shoulder the bulk of the running cost of the regional body whereas the returns are negligible or nothing to write home about.

The lady in question had some official business dealings with the ECOWAS body which went apparently awry. She wasn’t alone in this rejection. In fact, such sentiment is writ large amongst many average Nigerians who view relations between Nigeria and ECOWAS in zero sum terms.

Some of these are traders and businessmen who have either been harassed or locked out of lucrative deals for just being Nigerians. For them Nigeria has everything to lose in this conjunction and nothing to gain. Such commentaries, however, betray an understanding of the principles on which Nigeria’s foreign policy is predicated.
The founding fathers of the nation’s foreign policy were acutely aware of the cavalier manner in which the former colonial masters carved up Africa.

This realization was paired with the lingering issues of nation building that affected most of the post-colonial Africa including Nigeria. The problems of ethnicity, language, religion, sense of marginalisation, all but presaged conflicts. And Nigeria’s leaders were all too familiar with this scenario and reasoned that the nation’s interest would be well served through collaboration with other independent nations. If only this lady knew about these facts, she probably would have reacted differently.

Foreign policy by way of explanation is the aggregation of actions of a government of a state in the foreign arena in relations with similar entities designed to advance its national interest. James Rosenau describes it as “The authoritative actions which governments take or are committed to take in order to preserve the desirable aspects of the international environment or alter its undesirable aspects.”
Foreign policy arguably is the area of politics that bridges that very important frontier between the nation-state and its international boundary. A country’s foreign policy is also a reflection of the interplay of domestic factors as well as the activities of its various sub national actors. With a multi religious and multi ethnic population of about 35 million at the time of independence, huge natural resources and expansive land mass, Nigeria’s quest for independence from its colonial overlords was as important, as it was fraught.

A forward leaning foreign policy designed to conciliate the domestic environment while embracing the external world was perhaps the best policy option for the nation’s policy makers. Indeed, Sir Tafawa Balewa, the nation’s first Prime Minister and first Foreign Minister appreciated this situation well enough when he enunciated what turned out to be the nation’s foreign principles during his maiden speech at the United Nations on 7 October 1960. Sir Tafawa Balewa stated that Nigeria would not impose herself on any country and shall treat every African territory, big or small as Nigeria’s equal. Other issues espoused by the Prime Minister were:
• Belief in the United Nations (UN) as the only machinery for inducing world peace;
• Maintenance of friendly relations with all nations;
• Respect for colonially inherited boundaries, and discouragement of any adjustments to it whatsoever;
• Condemnation of political independence unaccompanied by stability and economic security;
• Discouragement of the spread of political propaganda or insidious infiltration through technical and financial assistance by big powers;
• Call for joint consultation among geographical groupings on non-political matters in areas of transportation, communication, and research on natural resources;
• Pledge to work with other African states for the progress of Africa and total independence of all African States; and
• Promise of Nigeria’s desire to remain on friendly terms with all nations and to participate actively in the works of the United Nations Organisation.

These policies can be summed up as respect for the territorial sovereign rights of other nations; non-interference in their domestic policies; and commitment to regional cooperation. Except for emphasis, such policies as economic diplomacy or citizens’ diplomacy, which were touted by some administrations, Nigeria’s foreign policy is rooted in the ideals expressed by the late Prime Minister.

They have undergirded Nigeria’s foreign relations from its inception in 1960 to date.
It bears restating that despite the misgivings of some citizens, Nigeria’s foreign policy is anchored on the need to protect the interest and welfare of its people. Section 14 (2) (b) of the 1999 constitution as amended, states that “The security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government…”. The place of national interest in the formulation of Nigeria’s foreign policy is the clearest sign of the nexus between Nigeria’s domestic politics and its external policy. It underscores the importance of the welfare of the people and the protection of the nation’s territorial integrity as well as its core values.

Concentric Circle of Nigeria’s
foreign Policy

As noted in the preceding paragraphs, the young lady who looked askance at Nigeria’s involvement in ECOWAS in all likelihood was uniformed about the predication of Nigeria’s foreign policy. It is one that privileges the interest of Africa at the Centre of Nigeria’s foreign policy with the take off point as Nigeria.

Sir Tafawa Balewa strained to explain this policy by stressing that it is not as though Nigeria is against dealing with other regions of the world; instead, she would prefer this interaction to begin from home. Same policy was explained in the Prime Minister’s address as:
So far, I have concentrated on the problems of Africa. Please do not think that we are not interested in the problems of the rest of the world; we are intensely interested in them and hope to be allowed to assist in finding solutions to them through this organisation, but being human we are naturally concerned first with what affects our immediate neighbourhood.”

This layered approach to engagement with the external world is what has come to be known as the concentric circles of Nigeria’s foreign policy. It implies the application of foreign policy spanning outward from her national interest to her immediate neighbours in West Africa, and through the African region to the rest of the world.

Nigeria foreign policy is teemed with several bilateral and multilateral assistance programmes to her neighbours. The bane of such programmes, however, is that they are neither properly documented for future generations, nor do recipient countries deem it appropriate to recall such gestures. Suffice however to say that some recent actions by Nigeria are quite apposite to this principle of friendliness and illustrate the engagement of the nation with her neighbours:
• Republic of Benin-2016: 15 Hilux 100 motorcycles to Beninese electoral commission.
• Burkina Faso – 1987: There is the construction of Rue Babangida, aside from the donation of vehicles and motorcycles to support the hosting of ECOWAS Summit in 1989
• Niger Republic – 1974 donation of relief materials following severe drought in the country. Nigeria also signed the 1972 supply agreement by which Nigeria offered to provide 30,000 kilowatts of electricity to Niger Republic from the Kainji Dam.

It is fitting to state Nigeria also constructed the Inter African Highway from Lagos to the outskirts of Cotonou. In 1987, the Administration of General Ibrahim Babangida established the Directorate Technical Aid Corp with the clear mandate to furnish a number of African, Caribbean and Pacific states with doctors, nurses, teachers and technical personnel to support their developmental needs.

Needless to state that West African states were the major recipients of this policy thrust. Midway into my tour in Mali as Nigeria’s Ambassador, the government of Ibrahim Boubacar Keita sought and received a donation of ten Coaster Buses, 5 Hilux Vans, 15 motorcycles, Computers and Printers as part of the support towards her municipal elections. That was in 2018.


The creation of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in 1975 was both an economic and political necessity. Economically, it formalised a generations long commercial relationship among states in the sub region. Politically, it bridged the gap between Nigeria and its neighbours who are entirely French speaking. But the construction of this otherwise economic community was not an easy task. Nigeria is bigger in population than all countries in the sub region put together, thereby eliciting some reasonable concern among the neighbours of domination.

Save for Ghana, Sierra, Liberia and the Gambia, the rest of West African region is made up of francophone countries who view Nigeria with askance. Nigeria was seen as a hegemon who could stifle the progress of the rest. Convincing these countries who were dubious of the intention of Nigeria to join a common union was therefore an uphill task.

Further, Nigeria had to overcome the seed of suspicion which was injected into any possible regional union by France. In particular, France still smarted from the action of Nigeria toward her in 1961 in the aftermath of the explosion of nuclear bomb in the Sahara Desert by Paris.

Nigeria not only severed relations with France in this instance, but compelled the latter to close her embassy in Lagos. The thought of a union comprising francophone countries was therefore an anathema. The two most powerful French speaking countries in West Africa: Cote d’Ivoire and Senegal, whose respective leaders, Felix Houphouet-Boigny and Leopold Sedar Senghor were close allies of France, were loath to entering into any union with Nigeria.
It bears remembering that Cote d’Ivoire and Gabon were the two francophone countries which recognized the breakaway Biafra during Nigeria’s civil war.

Other francophone countries understandably bucked at the request of France to support Biafra, preferring instead, to remain neutral. Benin Republic was even encouraged to act as a staging post for the smuggling of arms into the besieged Biafran enclave. In order to stay neutral in the conflict, this request was once again rebuffed by Cotonou. The most significant holdout in this French plot against Nigeria was General Gnassingbe Eyadema.

The Togolese leader stoutly refused to be drawn into the Nigerian civil war. There was therefore this sense that if more francophone countries, especially the proximate states, had lent their support to the Biafran side, the war could have been protracted beyond its brutal 30 months.
Understandably, this realization that Nigeria dodged a bullet through the neutrality of her neighbours, encouraged General Yakubu Gowon to embark post haste for the establishment of ECOWAS. According to Fawole:

The implication of this (war) was that Nigeria had woken up to the reality that its neighbours were its first line of security, and thus should pay more attention to events and occurrences in the territories of its contiguous states.

The culminating events in the formation of ECOWAS implied that it would be a subject of compromise. Nigeria had to balance her need for security against the concern of her neighbours for domination.

Nigeria was ipso facto constrained to accord greater managerial control to other member states including granting them special privileges for which Nigerians grouse about. Unbeknownst to these people, perhaps, is that Nigeria is a net gainer in the ECOWAS experiment. The country benefits from the free movement of persons and goods as enshrined in the ECOWAS Protocol. A lot of Nigerian goods benefit from the free movement of goods albeit vide the parallel market.

Blurring Lines between Making Foreign Policy and Combating Transnational Crimes

The traditional domain of foreign policy as you are aware, is the mediation of interactions between a state and similar entities or its opposite numbers. In other words, foreign policy involves the promotion and maintenance of relations between a country and another.

The job description of foreign policy practitioners appears to have expanded in the post-cold war era with the emergence of globalization. This is a form of heightened interaction across national frontiers which has occasioned interdependence across a wide spectrum of areas comprising economic, political, social and cultural fields.

According to Axel Hulsemeyer, “Political Science literature is replete with economic, political social and cultural definitions of globalization that focus on very different, although related phenomena.” Globalization has brought many benefits to the world in Twenty-First Century.

And this includes greater cooperation across border and interdependence has resulting in a richer, more peaceful world where people, goods, and ideas move swiftly beyond their places of origin. This interdependence has created certain global vulnerabilities, and in some cases, accentuated existing ones in form transnational crimes with consequential effects on the security of persons and the viability of the target states.
Globalization has spawned serious crimes with national and transnational implications. Some of the manifestations of these crimes are:
▪ Trafficking in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances
▪ Trafficking in conventional arms
▪ Trafficking in young men, women and children in form of irregular migration
▪ Smuggling of illegal aliens
▪ Large-scale car thefts
▪ Cyber crimes
▪ Trafficking in human body parts
▪ Money laundering
▪ Tax -evasion
▪ Corruption
▪ Terrorism.

The combined and often cooperative activities of actors in these spheres across national frontiers are combustible and often lead to actions which constitute transnational crimes. Put differently, transnational crimes are a product of transactions by persons or organized group across national borders physically or virtually, with a view to executing illegal activities against the state.

Aside from globalization, other factors that drive transnational crimes include: disparities in socio-economic conditions, high level of poverty leading to social inequalities, demands for illicit goods and services, and uncontrolled demographic growth. Transnational crimes groups fall under what Katrine Petrich refers to as products of ‘deviant globalization.’ The unrestrained activities of deviant global actors over time may lead to a threat to the security of a target state as well as erode the faith of its citizens in democratic institutions.


Large Scale Car Thefts/ Rice Smuggling

Large scale carjacking across the border has emerged as one of collateral concerns of the ECOWAS free movement of persons and goods. These principles are captured in the ECOWAS Protocol of the Free Movement of Peoples and Goods. It ensures unhindered mobility of community citizens from one member country to another.

These provisions are however not without security challenges. In 2003, Nigeria was hit by a raft of high profile carjackings in which expensive cars were routinely snatched from streets of cities in Nigeria and spirited across the borders to Benin Republic. The mastermind of these series of heist was one Hamani Tidjani, a prominent car thief from Republic of Benin.

The then president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, was compelled to seek the extradition of Tidjani from Benin Republic to Nigeria on the pain of shutting out the country from our common border. Indeed, Nigeria would follow through on this threat when Cotonou demurred on the request by closing her common borders with Benin Republic.

Tidjani was eventually rendered to Nigeria in 2003 where he died in 2010. It should be noted that the threat of border closure and the actual rendition of the suspect are part of a diplomatic suite employed by Nigeria in cross border dispute resolution with her neighbour.
Similarly, domestic efforts to increase domestic rice production under the immediate past administration of President Muhammadu Buhari was observed to be under threat through the importation or smuggling of cheaper rice from Benin Republic and other neighbouring countries. By lending their territories to massive importation of rice into Nigeria, they clearly jeopardized domestic efforts at achieving self-sufficiency in rice production.

Nigeria was once again compelled to close her borders in order to stem these nefarious activities. Although this policy was heavily criticized by some in the country for stymying the local economy and going against the grain of ECOWAS protocol on free movements, it achieved the desired goals; there was a perceptible drop in the availability of imported rice into the country and a clear incentive to domestic rice production.

It is a salute to Nigeria’s diplomacy that the shuttering of her borders did not lead to a riposte from other member states or wider diplomatic rupture, which could have augured ill for inter community relations.

Human Trafficking and Irregular Migration

There is an alarming lack of information on the extent of human trafficking and the dangers it portends to the Nigeria. For diplomats who are at the forefront of dealing with this pandemic, the optics are disquieting. As Nigeria’s Ambassador to Mali, my officers and I received on weekly basis between 25-30 Nigerian irregular migrants.

This comprised in large part, young men and women who were ostensibly in search of better life in Europe and America. It was observed that these young adults were procured or lured on this perilous journey through an intricate network of scouts, fake identity traffickers, facilitators, minders and slave-merchants.
Why Mali? Mali is both a gateway to Europe and a destination country for irregular migrants from Nigeria. Often before arriving Mali, the traveler would have exhausted their resources and are unable continue onward to Libya, which is their default route to Europe.

They are then sold off as sex slaves to local vice madams who acting as slave merchants, press the girls into prostitution. In this dastardly trade, the girls are literally forced to sleep with between 10-15 men daily, pending when they are able to offset the cost of their transaction, or what they refer to as ‘buying their freedom.’ Unfortunately, a sizeable number of these girls often come down with incurable diseases which the local institutions are ill-equipped to manage. By the time they approach the Embassy for help it is often too late for most of them.

They succumb to the diseases or are packaged to Nigeria where they are not expected to survive. The degree of fatalities among the women averages 4-5 every other month.
For the men, there is a narrower part to redemption.

They are either sucked into the sex trade as middlemen and pimps or devolve into petty drug peddlers, operating on the fringes of the burgeoning narcotics trade in West Africa.
Estimates of Nigerian prostitutes in Mali range between 25,000-30,000. Our diplomatic Mission in Mali is handicapped in coping with this volume of compatriots who are often in need.
During my stewardship, the problem was as always, the perennial lack of funds. On some occasions we relied on our personal funds to render assistance to distressed compatriots, however meagre.

But for the extricated girls, who had paid steep fees to secure their freedom or were too sick to continue in this flesh trade and desired to go home, the Mission wholly relied on the International Organization for Migration (IOM) for their passages. Even at that, such movements were conditioned on the budget the IOM had for the year or the scheduling of their travels by the world body.

There were some occasions when we were informed that Nigeria had exhausted her quota for the year. This necessitated looking inward for funds with its attendant headache. I can tell you now that this situation was no comfort for the number of girls or boys willing to return home and for whom the Embassy could do nothing much. It is doubtful if the situation has improved from my time in Bamako.
In 2019, the Embassy embarked on a rescue mission of Nigerian girls in Kokoyo, South West Mali, about 200 km from Bamako in collaboration with the leadership of the National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Person and Other related Matters (NAPTIP). The delegation was soon on arrival in Kokoyo surrounded by a posse of armed local militia known as Tomboloma. Their mission was to stop any forceful rescue of Nigerian girls trapped in the sex trade.
The case of irregular migration of Nigerians into Mali and indeed other West African countries responds to the characteristics of transnational crime.

A classic theory of transnational crimes is that low level political institutionalization in a country provides an incentive for the activities of criminal groups and other anti-system gangs to occupy the void in governance as much as they present independent threats to the government. Mali as is widely known, is going through the throes of internal upheavals; and Kokoyo is unmistakably an ungoverned area, and largely unaffected by the administration in Bamako. The rule of gangs is therefore de rigueur.

The Nigerian delegation was besieged and threatened by local militia despite the presence of government soldiers. Allan Castle posits that even where some states find themselves opposed to certain behaviours of criminal groups, they (criminals) are either tolerated or actively supported by local authorities. It took the greasing of palms of the local chiefs as with the giving a firm assurance that no girls would be forced home against their will, for the Embassy staff to extricate themselves from an otherwise tricky situation.

It bears to remind us that prostitution in Mali except for few instances, is legal. Any forceful attempt to rescue the girls would have been tantamount to butting heads with the local authorities. It is a situation that calls for state-state conversation including establishing a protocol on the way forward. It will lend gravitas to any declaration that Nigeria is desirous of putting an end to the wasting of our youth. Or this odium of trafficking in Nigerian youth will continue with unimaginable consequences.


Although Nigerian is conversant with retail criminality as posed by bandits. But this entailed the activities men of the underworld who only dispose citizens of their property for little profits. A new form of banditry however came into force following the return of the country to democracy in 1999.

The nation was at first slow in coming to terms with this new criminal trend whereby gangs of marauders would sack entire institutions and towns, while carting away scores of persons into captivity; or killing of hostages to underscore the seriousness these criminals attach to the act.

In addition to the dismissive treatment of banditry by the authorities, there was the reluctance to recognize the international dimension of this malaise. But the brazen nature of attacks and the share devastation it wrought has apparently forced a rethink about the characterization this group – a grudging transition from banditry to transnational criminality.
The prevailing sense in Nigeria is that large proportion of bandits operating in North central Nigeria are foreigners. This fact was gleaned through the interrogation of a handful of bandits who were apprehended by local authorities.

They were discovered to lack the knowledge local languages or the widely spoken Hausa language in the region. Bandits, it would appear, have leveraged the open borders of Nigeria to infiltrate the country, receive arms and logistics support; and to repatriate their loots. Officially, there are 84 formal border crossings in Nigeria. Informally, however, there are more 1000 of such border crossings. Paired with the open and ungoverned spaces, Nigeria is a destination of choice for any adventurous armed bandit.

Trafficking in Small and Light Weapons

It is difficult assess the quantity of weapons in circulation in Nigeria. But what is known is that the of vast array of weapons in the hands a coterie of criminal franchises and sub national militant groups in Nigeria are illegally procured from abroad. Arms inventory with such groups as the Movement for the emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) in the South South; Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) in the South East; Boko Haram in the North East, the assortment of criminal gangs in the North Central and parts of the South West of Nigeria are supplied through the extensive illegal arms mart in West Africa.

Smuggled weapons present a force multiplier in the ongoing chaos in the nation, as criminal groups sometimes overwhelm security forces through sheer quantity of arms and ammunition or the quality of weaponry.

As often is the case, millions of these arms and ammunition are shipped into the Nigeria on yearly basis via various ports in the nation. A 2018 media report citing data from the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), indicates that 21 million arms and ammunition of different calibres were illegally shipped into Nigeria between 2010 and 2017 through the Apapa port, Tin-Can port and Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA).

This figure is of course far from being definitive as it did not account for weapons shipped from other ports or trafficked across the open the land borders. Somewhat worrying according to reports, is that many times, the weapons are smuggled with the active connivance or complicity of security forces. And that development, if proven, should be a seminal concern for his gathering.


Acts of terrorism and organized transnational crime are the two collateral manifestations of globalization. They may have been birthed by the same circumstance but diverge in terms of characteristics. Whereas terrorism can be characterized as the use or threatened use of violence against an individual, group or property aimed at attaining a political end.

Organized crime on the other hand is a structured group of more than two who come together to perpetrate acts of violence for economic purposes. For terrorists, the objective is always political, but their actions are often couched in social, economic or religious terms. And that does not detract from its raison deter. Both groups: organized transnational criminal groups and terrorists, overlap in tactics and shared operational corridor. They employ violence and utilize the same illicit routes for movement of arms and funds but diverge on objectives. The situation in Nigeria perhaps best illustrates the conflation of terrorism and banditry.

Swathes of the Northwest and North Central Nigeria are teemed with armed gangs who leverage the multiplicity of huge forests and ungoverned spaces in the area to levy terror on the populace. According to confidential findings by soldiers operating with, Operation Hadarin Daji, the anti-terror campaign of Nigerian army, several of these forests have been identified as havens for terrorist and bandits. Among these are Kyambana forest covering Kebbi, Sokoto; Kamuku forest in Kaduna, Niger, Kebbi, Katsina and Zamfara. Niger State alone boasts of a number of other problematic forests including Guaude, Dogo Gona, Gagafada, Allawa and Chikwale.

Membership of bandit groups is composed of a motley of impoverished or unemployed youth from the north of Nigeria whose number has been recently swelled with the massive influx of erstwhile cattle herders. The former pastoralists are those who have been dispossessed of their cattle by rustlers or discovered banditry as a niche industry.

This demographic has accordingly drifted into banditry, engaging in mass kidnappings for ransom, pillaging of towns and killing of those who do not hid their ominous demands. Their targets include but not limited to educational institutions and housing estates, road travelers and farm lands. Vast areas of remote settlements in this region have thus been sacked. Road travels have been rendered hazardous, while alternative options remain unavailable. This situation is rendering living in this part of the country a a nightmare.
The collateral effect of the activities of bandits is the massive population displacements in Benue, Plateau, Nasarawa and Niger States, resulting in growing number of Internally Displaced Peoples’ (IDP) camps in these states.

Despite initial attempts to deny the pernicious influence of banditry in the Nigerian space, its outcome has spawned an unlikely alliance between bandits and the Islamist group of Ansaru. It is an alliance that adds a new flavour of religion to an otherwise retail criminality that was hitherto only a mere irritation.

With the support of the Islamists, bandits have become more daring and their modus operandi has been escalated to include long term incarceration of hostages until ransoms are paid, together with other extreme measures such as executions. In April 2021, 22 students of Greenfield University, a private institution in Chikun Local Government Area (LGA), Kaduna State, were abducted.

Five of the students and a staff were summarily executed to underscore the seriousness of the abductors, while the rest of the hostages were released in batches over a month period following the payment of stiff ransoms by their families of . The attack was the fourth on an academic institution in the region and came just five weeks after a similar one at the school of Forestry, Afaka, Kaduna.

Since then, there have been attacks on the Nigerian Defence Academy in Kaduna in August, 2021 during which two senior officers were killed. Perhaps the most significant was the attack on a Kaduna bound train on 28 March, 20022. Eight persons were killed in the course of that operation while over sixty were held as hostages for more than 6 months. The significance was not so much in the number of causalities as in sheer bravado of attacking a securitized transport system, and the cruelty of holding women, children and the aged hostage for half a year while making the sad situation a media event through periodic brutalization of the hostages.
The nexus between the bandits in North West and North Central with international terrorism was however affirmed by the ruling of his Lordship, Justice Taiwo O. Taiwo of Federal Hight Court, Abuja Division on 26 November, 2021, who held that the activities of bandits of Yan Bindiga and Yan Ta’adda constitute acts of terrorism. This decision put to paid to any doubts as to the status of banditry in the north of Nigeria.
The terror-bandit nexus in the north of the country is closely paralleled by the activities of sub national groups in the South East. Protests against the central government has created an opportunity for all manner of miscreants including ex-convicts who escaped from custody in the aftermath of the nation-wide EndSARS protest against the Police brutality, third quarter of 2020, to wage war against the region.

These criminal elements have teamed up with other faceless troublemakers in the Southeast under the guise of ‘Unknown Gunmen’ to visit violence on the populace. In the course of this violent agitation, tens of police stations, Local Government offices, and private homes of presumed collaborators have been torched, while a yet to be ascertained number of innocent people have lost their lives.

IPOB has further instituted a Monday ‘stay at home’ order during which all businesses in the Southeast are shuttered and vehicular movements impeded. Penalty for disobeying this odious exaction is often death. The IPOB agitation has all but worsened the business outlook in the Southeast. Although the leadership of IPOB/ ESN has rescinded this order, many of its renegade members and sundry miscreants have bucked the appeal and have continued to enforce the illegal order with disastrous consequences on lives and properties of citizens.

Worthy of note is the provenance of finance for the group in context of logistics, arms and ammunition. As much as kidnappings and raids on police formations may have yielded some arms and ammunition, external remittances by its members and sympathisers have been key to sustaining the operations of the separatist group.

This collaboration between the group and international criminal syndicates has added a deadly edge to its operations. According to Emma Powerful, the shadowy spokesman of the group, the activities of IPOB are sponsored through voluntary donations from their members worldwide.
In the context of this troubling spectre of uncontrolled violence in several parts of Nigeria, forces external to her is at issue, it is evident that adherence to the prevalent orthodoxy which stipulates only internal solution, may require an urgent review.

Security of life and property is often viewed by security puritans from a Realist perspective, that is, the employment of kinetic means as standard operating procedure. But there is a growing understanding that a borderless threat will require the concert of interest by all states impacted by it, through the hallowed principles of the art and science of diplomacy.


Following the blistering campaigns of the Boko Haram between 2013-2014 in which the insurgents occupied about 20 Local Government Areas in the North East, the erstwhile government of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan made strenuous efforts to reach out to Nigeria’s neighbours. The aim was to join forces with Nigeria in what would be a common front against transnational threat in the region. Unfortunately attempts by President Jonathan at rapprochements were flatly rebuffed.

The feeling among the proximate states was that the attacks were Nigeria’s problems. Deft diplomatic approaches by the Buhari administration, coupled with the overflow of terrorist violence into these countries, was enough to convince Benin Republic, Cameroon, Chad and Niger to enter into a pact with Nigeria that seeded the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) whose headquarters is in Ndjamena, Chad.

The force is a frontline striking force for combating the menace of Boko Haram in the northern tip of Nigeria and environs. It is an experiment that has largely proven to be successful and is worthy of sustenance.


Regional Intelligence Fusion Unit (RIFU) is an intelligence sharing outfit that brings together Nigeria, Cameroun, Chad, Benin Republic together with external partners composed of the US, UK and France. It was founded in 2014 with operational headquarters in Nigeria. RIFU is designed to assist the contributing nations, especially Nigeria, stay ahead of the curve in the war against terror.

The presence of RIFU in Nigeria represents a significant diplomatic success when it is considered that these countries had hitherto forsworn all official relations with Nigeria in her fight against terror.
Sustenance Of Bilateral Assistance
Many would recall the donation of $2.7 in 2022 to Niger Republic by the outgone administration of President Mohammadu Buhari. The donation was to enable government of Niger Republic procure operational vehicles for the combat of criminality including cross-frontier crimes.

There is a body of thought that much of the upstream threat against Nigeria comes from across the border, particularly Niger Republic. Funding Nigerien security is therefore an enlightened form of self-interest. Yet the donation was greeted with uproar and disapprobation by the Nigerian public, especially as it was made against the backdrop of budgetary constraints. This model of bilateral intervention is nonetheless a desideratum for Nigeria, one that should be escalated to other proximate states, if Nigeria is to checkmate such cross-border terror from sauce.


It is gratifying that Nigeria has found a new interest in the Lake Chad Basin Commission which comprises Nigeria, Niger, Cameroun and Chad. Indeed, the Commission has been rejuvenated and strengthened with a Nigerian career Ambassador, Mamman Nuhu, as its Executive Secretary. The exponential rate at which the Lake Chad basin is drying up has been implicated in the growth of militancy in the North East of Nigeria. This is because it has resulted in the loss of livelihood for its 45 million inhabitants.

Consequently, its youthful population comprising mainly fishermen, pastoralists and farmers have taken to banditry as the most cottage industry and way of venting on administrations that seem to have forsaken them. The Lake Chad area has thus become a crucible for the production of insurgents, many of whom are affiliated to the dread Boko Haram in the Northeast of Nigeria. By seeking a solution to the issue of desertification, coupled with necessary kinetic measures, it is hoped that the issue of cross-border insurgency can be blunted if not arrested all together.

Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution

The West African sub region has witnessed a raft of unconstitutional changes in government from Guinea, Burkina Faso to Mali. These unconstitutional changes however cut against a standing resolution of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Governments which expressly forbids military takeover of governments.

This position was reinforced by the resolution of the 36th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on 19 February, 2023, which vowed Zero Tolerance to Undemocratic Change in Government. The sanctions against offending nations envisage diplomatic isolation among others.

Yet Nigeria has continued to maintain diplomatic relations with these countries. One could conclude that by engaging the putschists diplomatically, Nigerian government is hedging for a people-to-people contact with the ordinary citizens of those countries who otherwise could be pushed into criminality if their countries are completely isolated.


Nigeria has continued to prosecute active engagement with other countries at both bilateral and multilateral levels. Although the cross-border attacks have been blunted and largely restricted to the fringes of the nation’s borders.

More is still required to be done. One of the main drivers of terrorism is funding. Money laundering is a predicate crime which supports operational capabilities of terrorists and bandits in procuring arms, recruiting and maintaining pool of staff. Terrorist groups are known to move funds from one jurisdiction to another.

Following the money or trail of money is the favourite maxim in tackling financial crimes. The application of this tool will be critical in Nigeria’s fight against transnational crimes. And diplomacy remains one of the most veritable means of following movement funds in real time.

It will afford the country’s interdiction agencies to close ranks with their counterparts abroad to trace illicit funds and to deny criminals the financial wherewithal without which they will be unable to levy war on the populace.
Nigeria needs to constructively engage other countries so as to soften resistance by adversaries, win over hearts and minds of others in order to deescalate the suspicions that have dogged relations with her neighbours.

Foreign policy of course depends on internal situation of any country. There are for Nigeria some low hanging fruits in form of soft power. If properly harvested, could give a fillip to its transborder relations. Placement of students in professional institutions such as the National Defence College, sports exchanges, concessional loans are still feasible, and can be considered as part of diplomatic suite in dealing with transnational threats. It is a received knowledge that acts of charity, much less diplomacy, are never conditioned by state of abundance.
Thank you for listening.

How Nigeria Can Minimize Transnational Threats
Former Nigerian Ambassador to Mali, Kenneth Nwachukwu


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