Economic cost of Nigerian insecurity
The Boko Haram insurgency started as another insurgency, in the Niger Delta, was thawing following the amnesty programme of the federal government in the same period. A decade after, Nigeria’s numerous internal security crises have intensified. Most notable among the myriad of issues is the Boko Haram insurgency in the North East that has given birth to other challenges in the north such as breakaway Islamist factions such as the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) and Ansaru; and a pastoral conflict in the North West and North Central, a resource war that is threatening to turn into a full-fledged ethnoreligious war especially in the old Northern capital of Kaduna.
In virtually all sections and geopolitical zones of the country are a form of rising violence or another, often challenging the Nigerian state for territorial control. Kidnap for ransom which was once the strategy of Niger Delta militants threatening to cripple the country’s oil-based economy, is now being carried out as a full business venture by youths and other organised armed groups operating in large ungoverned spaces and forests across the country.
Sambisa Forest in Borno state which is now used as one of Boko Haram’s key staging areas is a symbol of the tragedy of economic revenue lost to violence and insecurity. The British colonial administration had gazetted the Sambisa Forest as a reserve in 1958, making it one of the conservation legacies bequeathed to the Nigerian state by the colonial government. In 1977, the area was re-gazetted as a National Game Reserve for the preservation of rare animals and also as a way of generating funds from tourism. The forest, which was home to a variety of wild animals such as bush elephants, leopards, lions, hyenas, baboons, monkeys of various species, and gazelle, as well as about 62 different species of birds is now home to squadrons and battalions of troops from the Multinational Joint Task Force from Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon, as well as Boko Haram.
The earlier violence in the South has left the country’s oil facilities under a shoddy amnesty that preserves an uneasy peace, but the uneasiness of the peace is being felt in hot capacity across Nigeria’s territorial and international waterways in the Gulf of Guinea. According to the International Maritime Bureau, pirates kidnapped 27 crew members in the first half of 2019 alone, and one in four global piracy incidents in 2018 happened within Nigeria’s territorial waters, according to international insurance carrier Allianz Global. About 45 percent of global piracy occurred in the Gulf of
Guinea in the first quarter of this year, according to Allianz. There were 47 reported incidents, up from 38 a year ago, mostly targeting container ships and bulk carriers.
According to Aljazeera, the economic cost of this piracy in the region in 2017 was $818 million, a notable increase from the $793.7 million it was in 2016. Out of the $818m, a quarter was spent on paying for maritime security in a report from Oceans Beyond Piracy (2017). Previously in 2012, the cost of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea due to stolen goods, security, and insurance was estimated to be about $2 billion. These figures are a totally different discussion about the impact of violence in oil producing areas that somehow affect oil production, leading Nigeria to lose about 400,000 barrels of oil to crude oil theft, which amounted to at least N4.8 billion in 2015. Maintaining the same amount in theft in 2019 when Nigeria became the world’s capital on oil theft, the country lost about N1trillion.
In a country squeezed for revenue thus leading to questionable tax policies such as the stamp duty on rent as well an anti-business policy (now suspended) that sought to make NIPOST a competitor to, as well as a regulator in the logistics sector of the economy, we are yet to take into account how rising levels of violence affects our image, which in turn affects the economy. Nigeria has an image problem. The US State Department’s travel advisory for 2019 totally advises its citizens against travelling to at least 24 out of 36 states in Nigeria. When the US embassy announced an immediate indefinite suspension of interview waivers for visa renewals for applicants in Nigeria, the reason given was not just because Nigerians overstay their visa. It was also due to the fact that non-nigerians were using Nigerian passports to apply for American visas which constitutes a security threat to the US.
There are a lot of things Nigeria needs to fix, but if it would seek to command respect globally, it must fix its internal security apparatus.