At the Quincy Institute’s Responsible Statecraft blog, I had a post yesterday about the recent approval of a $997 million sale of American-made attack helicopters to Nigeria.
The Nigerian military’s appetite for more airpower fits with its penchant for flashy, high-casualty operations against both jihadists and bandits. Such operations produce high body counts but do little to break a long-running stalemate in the northeast or to stabilize the increasingly unstable northwest. Selling Nigeria attack aircraft feeds a dangerously exterminationist mentality within the military, whose press releases now constantly trumpet the number of jihadists and bandits who have been “neutralized” or “eliminated,” including from the air.
More broadly, Nigeria’s inability to contain either jihadism or banditry has much to do with politics: a wealthy and disconnected political and business elite sits atop a growing population suffering from widespread poverty. Even in the face of multiple severe security crises, politicians at both the federal and state levels are often more consumed with intra-elite power struggles than with meeting citizens’ basic needs.
Here is some useful background. And here are a few recent stories:
New Telegraph, 29 July: “A new development was introduced into the killings in Zamfara State, yesterday, as armed bandits sacked 18 communities, killing 42 people and displacing over 12,000 in Zurmi Local Government Area of the state.”
Leadership, 29 July: “A renewed attack in Zamfara State has ransacked 15 communities in Mashema district of Zurmi local government area, resulting in the death of many people. LEADERSHIP Sunday gathered that not few than 37 persons were killed after a similar attack on Thursday. An official of Zurmi local government, who did not want his name in print, said inhabitants of the villages have relocated to Zurmi town. The official said thousands of displaced persons have abandoned their communities, even as a team of combined security agents has been dispatched to the villages to scout for the littered dead bodies for burial. ‘Dead bodies were yet to be counted as at the time I am talking to you. A team of security agents were sent to search for the dead bodies and bury them’, he added.”
Vanguard, 29 July: “Some irate youths in Zurmi town, Zurmi local government area of Zamfara attacked the community police station demanding that officers should hand over the three suspected bandits arrested by the army to them.”
Channels, 29 July: “The Federal Government has assembled a 1000-strong military force to launch fierce attacks on the bandits terrorising the villages and towns of Zamfara State.”
Premium Times, 25 July: “The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) says it is deploying more helicopters and fighter aircraft to Zamfara State to enhance air operations in the state.”
Premium Times, 30 July: “The Speaker, Zamfara State House of Assembly, Sanusi Rikiji, has said that 15 persons were kidnapped by unknown gunmen on Saturday in Maradun Local Government Area of the state. Mr Rikiji told journalists in Gusau on Sunday that the security situation in the state called for serious review.”
And a few tweets: