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SME Guide

Improving Security: How Nigeria Can Effectively Combat Crime and Terrorism

Nigeria faces major security challenges including violent crimes, kidnappings, banditry, militancy and terrorism. Tackling these threats is critical for citizen safety, economic progress and national stability. A multi-pronged strategy is required spanning law enforcement, justice reforms, border security, diplomacy and addressing root causes.

This extensive article analyses key security threats confronting Nigeria, reviews current government efforts, identifies capability gaps, and offers comprehensive policy recommendations across policing, tech-enabled intelligence, community-oriented counter-terrorism, anti-corruption measures, legal justice and economic initiatives.

Key Security Threats in Nigeria

Nigeria faces interlinked challenges on both crime and terror fronts:

Violent Crime

Armed robbery, rape, gun violence and related homicide rates are high. Weak law enforcement enables criminality. Lagos, Rivers and Kano see frequent violent crime.


Kidnappings for ransom occur nationwide, especially in Kaduna and along the Abuja-Kaduna highway. Mass school abductions by armed groups also take place. Over 1,500 were kidnapped in 2021 per SBM Intelligence.


Organized groups of bandits rampantly attack and loot communities and travellers in northwest states like Zamfara, Katsina and Kaduna. They have killed thousands of civilians and security forces as per Crisis Group.

Oil Pipeline Vandalism

Gangs sabotage and steal oil from pipelines in the Niger Delta, causing spills and lost state revenue. Pipeline vandalism has surged over 80% between 2021-2022 says Nigerian National Petroleum Company.

Separatist Militancy

Groups like the pro-Biafra IPOB and Yoruba nationalist Oodua People’s Congress have attacked security forces and threatened secessionist revolt, when their concerns are not taken seriously by the government in power.

Jihadist Terrorism

Radical Islamic groups Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa Province are waging an insurgency in northeast Nigeria. Terrorist attacks have claimed over 35,000 lives according to the United Nations.

Communal Clashes

Inter-ethnic and sectarian strife between farmers and herders as well as religious violence has resulted in large-scale displacement in middle belt states like Plateau.

This complex array of security challenges demands a concerted response prioritizing both law enforcement and addressing root causes.

Review of Government’s Current Approach

The Nigerian government deploys security forces to counter these multifaceted threats:

Police and Law Enforcement

Federal and state police undertake crime prevention and response. However limited capabilities, understaffing and corruption undermine effectiveness.

Nigerian Armed Forces

The army, navy and air force conduct counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations, provide VIP protection, and secure borders, maritime assets and oil infrastructure. But prolonged deployments have lowered morale.

National Intelligence Agencies

The Department of State Services (DSS), National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) gather intelligence against crime and terror. But coordination issues persist.

Vigilantes and Hunters’ Guilds

Governments have recruited these informal armed groups to assist with community security in places like Zamfara and Borno states. However, lack of oversight raises human rights concerns.

Regional Multinational Joint Task Force

This force with contributions from Niger, Chad and Cameroon fights Boko Haram insurgents around Lake Chad. However, cooperation and resourcing challenges remain.

While extensive security assets are deployed, optimal performance is impeded by deficiencies in strategy, structural challenges and limited capabilities.

Key Capability Gaps

Nigeria’s security institutions have critical limitations across areas like:

Operational Intelligence

Ineffective intelligence generation and analysis leads to lack of actionable insights on criminal gangs and terror groups. There is over-reliance on confession-based intelligence. Regional and global intelligence sharing is also inadequate.

Surveillance Technology

Limited surveillance equipment like CCTVs, drones and Geo-Int systems hampers monitoring of remote hideouts and border areas. Inadequate forensic data collection and storage affects investigations.

Weaponry and Equipment

Obsolete weapons systems, vehicles and protective gear lower operational effectiveness and endanger personnel during engagements. Maintenance issues also affect availability and readiness.

Funding Constraints

Inadequate budgetary allocations limit facilities, training and equipment modernization for security agencies. Corruption also erodes resources.

Motivation and Morale

Overworked conditions, lack of rotation, limited welfare support and delayed compensation payments negatively impact motivation. This affects operational performance.

Targeted capacity building across these fronts is imperative to enable Nigerian security forces to effectively secure communities.

Recommended Measures to Improve Policing

Reforming and strengthening core policing capabilities can substantially improve law and order:

Increase Police Numbers

Expanding recruitment and training of new constables is needed to meet UN-recommended police-population ratios through more academy intakes.

Modernize Training

Updating curriculums to focus on community policing, human rights, intelligence-led policing, forensics, cybercrime etc. will develop the required skill sets.

Strengthen Accountability

Robust oversight bodies like the National Human Rights and Police Service Commissions must sanction abuses. External performance reviews should be mandated.

Technology Adoption

Tools like integrated case management systems, bodycams, GPS vehicle tracking etc. will enhance investigations, evidence gathering and response coordination.

Better Forensics

Scaling forensic labs, tools like Automated Fingerprint Identification Systems (AFIS) and training more personnel will aid scientific crime investigation.

Crime Data Analytics

Centralizing digitized pan-Nigeria crime data coupled with analytics software can reveal patterns to assist predictive policing.

Community Engagement

Regular local community meetings, neighbourhood watch programs, and civil society partnerships will build trust and obtain tips to prevent crime.

Targeted investments and oversight reforms in these areas can transform Nigeria Police into an efficient, rights-respecting service.

Leveraging Tech for Intelligence-Led Operations

Prioritizing intelligence-driven operations can strategically direct security resources against top threats:

Strengthen Analysis Capacity

Hiring professional analysts and training personnel in analytical techniques like link analysis, predictive analysis etc. can generate actionable intelligence.

Modern Surveillance Infrastructure

Deploying more drones, CCTVs, and phone intercept technologies requires higher budgetary allocations. But the return on security outcomes outweighs the costs.

Expanded SIGINT Capabilities

Enhancing signals intelligence (SIGINT) electronic surveillance teams and direction-finding equipment will boost the monitoring of terrorist communications.

Centralized Databases

Integrated nationwide databases on criminals, terrorists, fingerprints, DNA data, ballistics etc. enable accelerated identification and locating threats.

Increased Global Cooperation

Partnerships with Interpol, advanced country agencies, and regional bodies to share terrorism intelligence, cybercrime data and best practices must be prioritized.

Proactive Cybersecurity

Building cybersecurity capacities to tackle online radicalization efforts, disrupt terrorist communications and financing, and counter cybercrimes requires focused investment.

Elevating intelligence-led operations is essential for transitioning towards targeted deterrence of Nigeria’s key security threats.

Adopting Community-Oriented Counter-Terrorism

Militarized responses alone cannot fully defeat ideologically rooted terror groups. Communities are vital allies:

Improved Civil-Military Relations

Oversight and accountability for military conduct in northeast regions impacted by Boko Haram is vital to prevent the alienation of citizens. More joint civil-military rebuilding projects will help.

Targeted Development

Expanding roads, power, cell phone connectivity and economic projects in marginalized northern communities counter drivers of extremism like poverty and illiteracy.

Local Informants Networks

Covert informant networks in vulnerable communities, leveraging traditional leaders, can provide critical human intelligence on terror cells.

Strategic Communications

Countering terror propaganda via religious leaders and local radio in local languages is essential to prevent radicalization. Peacebuilding messaging must prevail on the information battlefield.

Youth Rehabilitation

Programs to rehabilitate and reintegrate radicalized youth and former Boko Haram members back into communities provide alternative paths. Counselling and skills training are vital.

Community Policing

Building police-community trust via neighbourhood advisory forums improves tip flows. Joint patrols and early warning systems also help secure localities against terror infiltration.

Grassroots partnerships and targeted development are central to a sustainable counter-terrorism strategy.

Implementing Holistic Anti-Corruption Reforms

Tackling corruption among security agencies aids effectiveness:

Increased Oversight

Empowering Ministry monitoring, external audit, parliamentary committees and civil society to scrutinize budgets and performance makes institutions more transparent and accountable.

Limit Cash Transactions

Transitioning salaries and payments to digital transfers reduces opportunities for graft compared to physical cash. However, personnel may need bank access awareness.

Stronger Anti-Corruption Laws

Amending laws to allow wiretaps, sting operations, whistleblower rewards, witness protection etc. equips anti-graft agencies with additional tools to prosecute corrupt officials.

High-Profile Prosecutions

Convicting and publicizing punishment of grand corruption cases involving political and security leaders signals seriousness and deters misconduct by others.

Merit-Based Promotions

Basing promotions purely on performance metrics rather than subjective criteria limits nepotism and improves leadership quality over time.

Automation to Reduce Discretion

Digitizing manual processes like postings allocation benefits disbursal reduces the human discretion element that enables bribery. But system controls are necessary.

Systemic safeguards are imperative to reduce corruption’s drain on resources and morale.

Advancing Legal Justice and Human Rights Protections

Reforms to Nigeria’s justice system and human rights institutions can also augment security:

Swift and Fair Trials

Providing adequate funding, streamlining procedures and appointing more judges will reduce case backlogs. Ensuring due process is followed will build public confidence.

Prison and Detention Centre Reforms

Decongesting overcrowded facilities via probation, bail and parole options decreases radicalization risk. Improving inmate conditions also upholds rights.

Law Enforcement Training

Mandating human rights training at police and military academies, and making it part of promotion criteria, will reduce violations and extrajudicial killings over time.

Enhanced Legal Aid

Increasing legal aid funding to expand access for disadvantaged defendants protects rights. Supporting wrongful arrest lawsuits also deters abuses.

National Human Rights Commission Empowerment

Alleviating NHRC resource constraints and ensuring its recommendations get implemented will improve compliance. A transparent reporting approach aids accountability.

Amnesty Consideration

Offering conditional amnesty and re-integration support for low-risk detainees, as part of potential wider negotiations, can halt some cycles of violence. But public opinion concerns exist.

Prioritizing justice, lawful detention and rights cultivates trust in government and rule of law. Terror groups exploit grievances over violations to radicalize and recruit. Eliminating impunity for offenders within the security apparatus is essential.

Tackling Underlying Socio-Economic Factors

While law enforcement tackles immediate threats, policy measures to address root causes are vital for long-term resolution:

Youth Unemployment Programs

Funding skill development and job placement schemes provide gainful employment alternatives to vulnerable youth prone to criminality or extremism.

Improved Education Access

Building more secondary schools and improving teacher quality in underserved northern regions counters ignorance. Life skills and civics must be part of curriculums to build tolerance.

Poverty Alleviation

Rural development projects, agricultural subsidies, microcredit support and social safety nets counter destitution that feeds conflict and radicalization.

Natural Resource Management

Strengthening local participation, transparency and ecological protections in the Niger Delta oil extraction industries improves sustainability and reduces grievances.

Drug and Small Arms Controls

Stemming narco-trafficking and cross-border small arms proliferation though maritime interdictions, border fencing and regional cooperation limits terrorist and criminal access.

Infrastructure Investment

Expanding roads, electricity and cell phone connectivity integrates marginalized zones into the mainstream economy. But this requires securing projects from attacks.

Redressing socio-economic contributors is a long-term endeavour but remains indispensable to prevent recurrence of security threats.


Nigeria requires an urgent and holistic national security strategy encompassing military action, policing, tech-intelligence, community partnerships, anti-corruption, justice reforms and addressing socio-economic root causes.

While external assistance in areas like border security is useful, ultimately Nigerian institutions must drive reforms. Adequate resourcing, accountability and building public trust are central to success. With political will and sustained effort, Nigeria can effectively combat crime, defeat terror groups, and achieve enduring peace.

The multidimensional solutions outlined can significantly bolster Nigeria’s security apparatus to protect citizens, encourage economic development, and build social cohesion across all regions.


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