Strategic Futures: Nigerian Air Force Requirements In The Post Insurgency Era

The following is content from our partners at the Conflict Studies And Analysis Project at the Global Initiative for Civil Stabilisation.  During 2019 you will occasionally see their content on our website and vice versa.  The original content can be viewed here.  

Mohammed Mohammed is an officer in the Nigerian Armed Forces, and a recipient of the General Service Medal, the Operation Lafoya Dole Campaign Medal, and the Operation Zaman Lafiya Medal. He tweets via @Google_12point7.  

While Conflict Studies And Analysis Project and other GICS content may feature writing by serving military and intelligence officers and other government officials, either under their own name or pseudonyms, it does not contain information of a classified or otherwise official nature. Conflict Studies And Analysis Project and other GICS content, do not represent the views of any government or organisation.


Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy, and most populous country, possessing a population estimated to be above 200million people, and covering an area of 923,763 sqkms. It is situated in the middle of an increasingly restive region, with chaos in the Western Sahel and Libya to its north and west, a longrunning Islamist insurgency in its own northeast periphery, an increasingly violent secessionist conflict in Cameroon to its east, and fragile states in Chad and Central Africa, with the former country its only buffer from the chaos in Sudan.

Historically, Nigeria has been one of Africa’s preeminent continental powers, and the leading power in the West African region, with its military leading stabilising interventions in other African countries wracked by conflict including Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea Bissau. In addition, it has also played a strong role in supporting United Nations Peacekeeping Operations globally, with deployments in theatres from Darfur to East Timor.


Mohammed Mohammed Nigeria Partner - Conflict Studies And Analysis Project

Strategic Futures: Fostering Turkish-Nigerian Strategic Cooperation

The following is content from our partners at the Conflict Studies And Analysis Project at the Global Initiative for Civil Stabilisation.  During 2019 you will occasionally see their content on our website and vice versa.  The original content can be viewed here.  

Fulan Nasrullah is the Executive Director of the Conflict Studies And Analysis Project at the Global Initiative For Civil Stabilisation. He focuses on Nigeria’s national security architecture, the conflict in the Lake Chad region, the Nigerian military and strategic futures. He sometimes tweets via @fulannasrullah. Ken’an E. Toprak is a Turkish researcher focusing on Turkish-Nigerian relations. He tweets via @kenanebubekir633.


As both the Turkish and Nigerian governments pursue reorientations of their countries from previous courses they were following, it has become imperative that they seek partnership and cooperation outside the traditional areas, they were tied to, in order to sustain the trajectories they are setting their countries on.

In an era of increasing great power competition, where large powers increasingly use a variety of coercive means (sanctions for the US, and debt for China) to compel small states into their respective camps, middle powers that are too big to be easily coerced into submission by great powers, and yet too small to challenge the great powers directly, can balance out pressure from the larger powers and their poles and also project out of their areas, by aligning strategically with like minded middle powers.

Such an arrangement is more beneficial as it allows powers of equal capabilities in geographically divergent regions that cannot otherwise project power, into each others spheres of influence, to work together to achieve mutually beneficial goals of maintaining strategic autonomy, and playing on a global strategy. For example we currently see a growing alignment between Japan, India and Australia, to balance out China, and France and Germany to shepherd European integration and stability in the face of American uncertainty and also balance out the threat posed by Russia.

To that end, we decided to examine what a strategic partnership between two middle powers i.e Nigeria and Turkey would look like. In putting together this paper, we interviewed private actors and government officials, especially diplomats and businessmen, in both countries, and from our conversations plus our assessment of the state of bilateral relations etc, we have written what we hope is a road map of sorts, to serve as a reference on fostering a strategic partnership between Nigeria and Turkey.

Download the rest of the report from here.

Fulan Nasrullah Ken’an E. Toprak Partner - Conflict Studies And Analysis Project

#PartnerArticle Assessing Nigeria’s Vulnerability To Extreme Weather Events

The following is content from our partners at the Conflict Studies And Analysis Project at the Global Initiative for Civil Stabilisation.  During 2019 you will occasionally see their content on our website and vice versa.  The original content can be viewed here.  

Assessing Nigeria’s Vulnerability To Extreme Weather Events

Note: This paper is also downloadable in PDF format from the bottom of the page.

Authors Point Of View:  Sola Tayo is a Senior Associate Fellow at the Conflict and Analysis Project at the Global Initiative For Civil Stabilisation, a Broadcast journalist with the BBC and an Associate Fellow at The Royal Institute for International Affairs (Chatham House).

Murtala Abdullahi is a Junior Associate Researcher at the Conflict Studies And Analysis Project at the Global Initiative For Civil Stabilisation, focusing on the impacts of climate change and environmental/ecological degradation on stability and security. He tweets via @murtalaibn.

Summary:  Nigeria’s recent heatwave saw temperatures climb beyond 40 degrees Celsius in coastal areas, while in more arid areas of its north, temperatures of 45 degrees Celsius were recorded, between March and May.

As a developing country with multiple developmental challenges and a fast growing population, infrastructure and economic development have been the main focus for successive governments. But while the current administration grapples with how to increase electricity generation and improve transport connectivity one thing that is not discussed as much is Nigeria’s preparedness for dealing with the effects of climate change and minimising the damage caused by extreme weather events.

This paper attempts to assess how Nigeria is affected by climate change and what measures the government has put in place to protect the population from the health and economic risks associated with it.


Climate Change Vulnerability

According to a recent Pew Research poll[1] 41% of Nigerians see climate change as a major threat to their nation compared to 71% of Kenyans. While there are caveats for polls from Nigeria, it is however undeniable that climate change is not the biggest concern of many Nigerians, however its effects are felt by the population, with extreme weather events impacting directly and indirectly on their employment, education and health.

As the population grows and demand for resources increases there is a risk that Nigeria’s ability to secure food supplies for its 200 million population, which is rapidly growing is increasingly coming under strain.

Excessive heat and other extreme weather events also pose threats to the long term future of the healthcare system– with mass outbreaks of dehydration, heatstroke and all kins of diseases during such periods of national emergencies occasioned by extreme weather events, further burdening a chronically stretched and underfunded healthcare system.

Then there is the issue of climate related conflicts which have contributed immensely to violence between elements of the nomadic and settled population in the central part of the country, as well as an increase in migration from conflict-addled rural areas  to relatively safe urban areas which is creating sprawls of camps for displaced persons.

Also as agricultural communities increasingly suffer from erratic weather that has seen the rains this year delayed by as much as three months into the planting season this year, people are forced to abandon the farms and head to the towns, thus fueling a demand for land for building. Like much of Africa, access to and ownership of land is a highly emotional issue in Nigeria and change of land usage as a result of climate change will only contribute to increased tensions and conflict within communities.

Nigeria’s president, Muhammad’s Buhari stressed Nigeria’s commitment to tackling climate change in his 2015 inaugural speech.[2] Nigeria became a Party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1994 and ratified its Kyoto Protocol (which set international emissions reducing targets) in 2004. So while Nigeria’s international commitments aren’t in doubt, it is not yet clear how active the government is in dealing with events at home, or preparing for the future.

The Difficulties Of Responding

A C40 study called “The future we don’t want”[3] found that 354 major cities across the globe already experience average summer temperatures over 35C.  This number is predicted to climb to 970 by 2050. On days when temperatures reach 35C, a marked increase in hospital admissions and deaths occur in most countries.  The research shows that only a few cities in Africa are dealing with extreme heat currently but this is set to increase dramatically, particularly for southern, western and northern Africa. By 2050, many of the most at risk cities with large urban populations in poverty will be in West Africa, including Nigeria which the regions most populous country..

According to the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet), Nigeria experienced extreme temperatures this year between March and May. The worst hit states were Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina, Kano, and Jigawa. The situation also prompted fears of outbreaks of diseases such as meningitis, cholera, among others[4]. The three states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa are at the epicentre of the Boko Haram conflict which has raged since 2009. Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara and Katsina States, have been plagued by a decade long series of low intensity conflicts revolving around rural banditry, which has recently started to pick up steam, leading to the depopulation of many communities.

The Nigerian government’s ability to tackle climate related issues is hindered by active internal conflicts, weak political will and, in some cases, poor governance. Nigeria’s main internal conflicts are in regions heavily affected by climate related environmental degradation. In the Northeast, an insurgency by militants linked to the Islamic State group is one of many factors disrupting efforts to restore the biodiversity and halt the degradation of the Lake Chad. In the North Central a reduction in available grazing land is fueling violence between farmers and nomadic cattle herders.

In the South, the Niger Delta, home to Nigeria’s oil producing states, has long been a hotbed of armed conflict between militants and a government they hold responsible for allowing oil companies to pollute their region’s land and in turn destroy the livelihoods of local farmers and fishermen. Although many of the region’s environmental problems are man made (in the form of oil spills and air and water pollution as a result of the activities of the extractive industries) the Niger Delta states are also vulnerable to the effects of rising sea levels and coastal erosion.

Nigeria increasingly experiences floods, and heatwaves, and is considered one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to the effects of climate change[5].

Land degradation is also a problem as Nigeria’s population increases putting stress on the availability of several resources. Almost a quarter – 24 percent – of the population live in high climate exposure areas[6] according to the USAID.

The southern coastal areas are vulnerable to storm damage while its internal network of rivers are at a constant risk of flooding. Flooding is one of Nigeria’s biggest environmental concerns and a cause of large scale internal displacement. In 2012, Nigeria saw some of the worst flooding in its recent history. 431 people died and 1.3 million were displaced when unexpected heavy rainfall caused rivers to overflow[7] Farms, communities and critical infrastructure were destroyed or washed away.

2015 brought more deadly flooding when more than 1200 people were displaced and 4,500 farms destroyed by flooding in Cross River State in the coastal area. In the North of the country 53 people died and 100,000 were displaced.

Farmers in the South of Nigeria, are familiar with the effects of flash flooding – common during Nigeria’s “rainy season” –  which waterlogs farmland and renders it infertile. However a bigger problem may come in the form of salt water which can enter farming land as a result of a rise in sea levels and ruin crops and make land useless for conventional farming.

Research is being carried out to try and turn this negative into a positive with some encouraging results that could see farming with salty water as more of a help than a hinderance in the war on food insecurity. The Netherlands has had success with growing saline tolerant crops and in 2016 invested in research in Ghana.[8] Food is now being grown on previously abandoned farming land[9]. In Senegal, farming communities are adopting a different approach by building dykes to keep out salty water and protect their supplies of fresh water[10]. However, there is no discernible government-led effort to study and adapt any of the aforementioned innovations, to aid Nigerian farmers in adapting to the challenges posed by climate change in food production.

Small scale farmers will be the hardest hit by the effects of climate change. They are vulnerable to a reduction in productivity, the loss of crops and lack of stable employment, and there is no discernible long term planning or programming by the Nigerian government, yet, to prepare these farmers for the inevitable future.

According to Nigeria’s submission to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change(UNFCCC) in 2015 if nothing is done to protect farmers from the effects of climate change, agricultural productivity could decline between 10 to 25 per cent by 2080 and in parts of the north, the yield from rain fed agriculture could see a drop of up to 50 percent. [11]

Southern Nigeria’s coastline is already changing as a result of erosion caused by sea surges and tidal waves. Nigeria’s submission to the UNFCC warns that global warming attributed sea level rises would result in the loss of 35 percent of the Niger Delta. This could rise to 75 percent by 2100 if current trends continue. If action is not taken to combat rising sea levels the Niger Delta will lose land which will increase climate and resource induced migration, to other area. Given Nigeria’s long history of intercommunal and ethnic violence, it is hard to imagine such a future without imagining large scale violence between such migrant communities out of the receding Delta, and the indigenous populations in the areas they migrate to.


Fewer than 40% of Nigerians have access to potable water.  Unpredictable weather brings variations in rainfall often resulting in a wetter south and a much drier and less humid north. This can increase the risk of drought and dry up water bodies in the north while flooding areas of the south.

In the far north east of Nigeria, the Lake Chad, which is also shared by Chad, Niger and Cameroon is the main source of water, food and employment for tens of millions of people.  But the lake has fluctuated in size since the 1960s as a result of an increase in population and the impacts of a global rise in temperatures which have contributed to an increase in already high rates of evaporation. The changing size of Lake Chad has had a catastrophic effect on the region’s food security and has contributed to the destabilisation of the region.

The local biodiversity has suffered as a result of the reduction in surface water.  But in recent times the region has suffered droughts and combined with the fluctuating lake and ongoing insurgencies, has led to a reduction in pastures for herders. This has led to a southward migration of cattle herders which, in turn, has created local internal conflicts between landowners and nomads along the routes the herders have followed south.

The governments of the nations that share the Lake Chad have, for decades, tried to address the depletion of the local ecosystem. The Lake Chad Basin Commission was created in 1964 by the four countries bordering the lake and was later expanded to include Central African Republic, Libya, Sudan and Algeria. The Commission’s aim is to coordinate the development of the region and sustainably manage the use of water, land and natural resources.In the immediate Lake Chad basin, more than 4 million people suffer from food insecurity.

The Lake Chad Basin Commission has launched public awareness campaigns advising on the best means of preserving natural resources as well as holding high level conferences with heads of governments, multilateral agencies and civil society groups.   But the challenges remain and the region continues to suffer the effects of desertification, insecurity and mass migration.

The International Conference on Lake Chad – a meeting supported by the Commission, UNESCO and the Nigerian government –  with the aim of restoring the depleting ecosystem was held in February 2018. The member states of the Commission agreed to an action plan with the aim of educating and empowering communities on how to build resilience to climate change.

The insurgencies led by Boko Haram and groups affiliated with the Islamic State group have further complicated efforts to address the problems of the region and are the cause of large scale internal displacement of sections of the population. A pan regional approach to promoting a more efficient use of water is crucial to rebuilding the lake’s ability to continue to serve as a provider of food, water and employment for millions of people.

Nigeria’s Actions In Combating Climate Change

The most recent estimates show that Nigeria is responsible for 490 metric tonnes of green house gas emissions  annually which equates to just over 1 per cent of global production. Thirty nine per cent of this arises from land-use change and forestry; 33 per cent from energy production (oil and gas extraction, and the power sector); 14 per cent from waste (incineration of municipal waste); 13 per cent from agriculture; and 2 per cent from industry.

As a party to the Paris Agreement, Nigeria has committed to reducing its green house gas  emissions by 20 per cent relative to a business-as-usual scenario of economic and emissions growth by 2030, and to pursuing a 45 per cent reduction if sufficient international support is received. It intends to achieve this by ending gas flaring (burning of excess gas from oil and gas production), increasing the use of renewable energy, implementing climate-smart agriculture and championing reforestation efforts.

As part of the Nigeria Climate Change Policy Response (adopted in 2012) the government pledged to increase public awareness and increase public sector participation in addressing the challenges of climate change.

The government also pledged to strengthen institutions to better develop a functional framework for climate governance. A series of strategies, measures and policies were published that include:

  • The increased usage of irrigation systems in agriculture
  • An increase in access to drought resistant crops and livestock feeds
  • Iimproving the management of forest reserves and enforcement of low impact logging practices
  • Expanding sustainable energy sources
  • The incorporation of Climate Change into business planning
  • Eliminating gas flaring by 2030
  • A revival of Nigeria’s railway networks to reduce emission caused by trucks using the roadways

Nigeria’s commitment on paper, to contributing to global efforts to combat climate change is evident. However its many societal challenges may not allow for rapid changes to be seen at home. During the recent heatwave a lot of advice was centred around drinking plenty of water and staying cool in shaded and air conditioned areas and seeking medical assistance where necessary. This advice was double-edged as Nigeria’s power supply is notoriously erratic and many people who can afford to, rely on diesel and petrol generators, thus exacerbating the problem of global warming through the release of greenhouse gases.

End Notes


[2] “I also wish to assure the wider international community of our readiness to cooperate and help to combat threats of cross-border terrorism, sea piracy, refugees and boat people, financial crime, cyber crime, climate change, the spread of communicable diseases and other challenges of the 21st century”.











Nigeria Partner - Conflict Studies And Analysis Project

#PartnerArticle Assessing The Impacts Of A Potential US-Iran War On Nigeria

The following is content from our partners at the Conflict Studies And Analysis Project at the Global Initiative for Civil Stabilisation.  During 2019 you will occasionally see their content on our website and vice versa.  The original content can be viewed here.  

Assessment Paper

First Published May 2019

Assessing The Impacts Of A Potential US-Iran War On Nigeria

Note:  This paper is also downloadable in PDF format.

Author’s Point of View:  Fulan Nasrullah is the Executive Director of the Conflict Studies And Analysis Project At The Global Initiative For Civil Stabilisation. He is a national security policy and strategy advisor and conflict researcher. He sometimes tweets via @fulannasrullah.

Conflict Studies And Analysis Project’s content does not contain information of a classified or otherwise official nature, neither does the content represent the position of any governmental or non governmental entity.

Summary:  With US-Iranian confrontation seemingly spinning closer to all-out war, Nigeria’s current administration and the national security establishment, are worried about the potential fallout of a US-Iran war on national and regional stability and security.

Text:  Relations between the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Islamic Republic of Iran, which were established during the regime of the Shah, while nominally cordial, are underlined by Nigerian efforts to counter Iranian moves to initiate a proxy war with Israel and the United States on Nigerian soil. This silent confrontation began when Iranian-backed converts to Shi’ism led by Ibrahim Az-Zakzaky[1] established a group called the Islamic Movement of Nigeria- which organised and propagated the Khomeinist doctrine of Wilaayatul-Faqih, starting from the 1980’s, and was soon recognised as a nascent Iranian proxy[2].

While the Az-Zakzaky-led Islamic Movement of Nigeria(IMN), initially tried to develop an extensive armed capability, an intense coordinated security campaign to ensure the group was kept disarmed – which ran through the 90’s and 2000’s during both military and civilian governments – ensured that by 2012 the group was largely demilitarised.

In 2010 a weapons shipment containing 107mm rockets, assault rifles, rocket launchers and associated ammunition, from Iran was intercepted at the Port of Lagos, in Southwestern Nigeria[3]. This shipment, although destined ultimately for the Gambia, was routed through Lagos by a Nigerian Shia with links to Az-Zakzaky, acting as an agent for Iran’s Revolutionary Guards-Quds Force (IRG-QF)[4].

At the time the head of the Quds Force’s Unit 6000 (the section responsible for African operations of the IRG-QF) Ali Akbar Tabatabaie was in Nigeria on a non-diplomatic passport, and together with the head of IRG-QF operations in Nigeria, Azim Adhajani who was directly fingered in the investigation, fled to hide in the Iranian Embassy in Abuja, escaping arrest by mere minutes[5]. Mr Tabatabaie remained inside the Embassy, until with tacit approval of Nigeria’s government[6], he was exfiltrated out of Nigeria on the plane of the Iranian Foreign Minister when he came for a visit four months later. Mr Adhajani would later be surrendered by the Iranian government, held by the Nigerians for two years before being tried and sentenced to five years in prison[7].

Three years later, the State Security Service (SSS), Nigeria’s internal security agency, arrested three Iranian assets, part of a locally recruited terror network, for plotting to attack American and Israeli interests in Nigeria. This cell was also accused of plotting to kill the Saudi Arabian ambassador to Nigeria[8].

In the past ten years, Nigeria has expelled or asked to be withdrawn, two Iranian Ambassadors, for their involvement in covert Iranian operations deemed detrimental to Nigeria’s national security[9].

Iran’s efforts in the late 2000’s and in the last decade, to coopt the government of the Gambia, (a small West Africa country long considered a Nigerian satellite state[10]), prompted Nigeria to prevail on the then Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, to severe diplomatic ties with Iran in 2010 after the Iranian arms shipment was intercepted in Lagos. From 2015, with Iran’s intelligence and covert operations networks in Nigeria largely considered degraded, Nigerian-Iranian relations mostly shifted from being governed by the security agenda to a new foundation on economic ties.

On assuming office in 2015 Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, had to simultaneously deal with the falling oil prices and decreased revenues for the Nigerian government which is largely dependent on oil, along with the return of Iranian oil to the international market as sanction reliefs under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action(JCPOA)[11]between Iran and world powers worried about its nuclear programme, kicked in. In addition, Nigeria’s dream of becoming a supplier of cheap Liquified Natural Gas(LNG) to European markets was also threatened by the lifting of sanctions on Iran.

To smooth over the various points of potential conflict, Nigeria’s president visited Tehran ostensibly in November 2015 to attend a summit of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum(GECF)[12]. While billed for a bilateral working meeting with President Hassan Rouhani, President Buhari would however be received in a special audience by Supreme Leader Khamenei[13], including a closed door meeting between the two leaders with only their translators present.

US-Iran Confrontation

Reduced Iranian oil exports on the international oil scene, since the withdrawal of the United States from the JCPOA and the reimposition of US sanctions on Iran, is benefiting Nigeria through increased revenue from oil sales. However a potential war between Iran and the United States, comes with a mixed bag of expectations for Abuja.

Nigeria is for religious and historical reasons[14] closely aligned with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates and for cultural and historical reasons it is also firmly tied to the Western powers. In addition, Nigeria has long running and strong security relationships with Israel and Jordan, two countries that have not been shy about their anti-Iran credentials in recent times. However while Nigeria ultimately believes that although Iran is an unconventional anti-Westphalian state, it also see Iran as very much containable and open conflict should be the last option to be used in confronting it[15].

Recent American moves that seem to signal an escalation toward open conflict, unnerve Nigerian national security officials, as there is a strong belief that pro-Iran elements – IRG-QF assets and linked cells that are still existing across the country, and Hezbollah’s extensive West African infrastructure particularly in Southwest Nigeria and the neighbouring Republic of Benin – might be activated to carry out terror attacks against US and Israeli interests in Nigeria and its immediate environs. Thus straining even more, already stressed counterterrorism resources of the Nigerian government.

In addition, Hezbollah’s extensive infrastructure in Côte D’Ivoire, Sierra Leone and Senegal, could be used to carry out attacks in those countries against Western interests. In both Sierra Leone and Côte D’Ivoire there is a growing pro-Iran Shia population fueled by Iranian proselyting. An insufficient local counterterror capability means Nigeria will be expected to provide support to stabilise these two countries which are fragile, perhaps together with France (in Côte D’Ivoire) and the United Kingdom(in Sierra Leone), depending on domestic politics in those countries. This is a potential responsibility that will further drain on Nigeria’s heavily strained resources.

However, a positive side-effect of a US-Iran war on Nigeria, will be the expected collapse of Iran’s oil and gas economic sectors for a period of time, which will inevitably drive up global oil prices to Nigeria’s benefit. Currently, Nigeria’s government spends about 60% of its income on debt repayments[16]. Increased global oil and gas prices will expand its margin of income and impact on what it has available to spend on big ticket infrastructural projects in the next four years of the current administration.

End Notes

[1] Loimeier, Roman, “Islamic Reform and Political Change in Northern Nigeria”.

[2] In the late seventies and early eighties, a young Az-Zakzaky who had been an activist affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood current, had led protests against Nigeria’s secular state dominated by a military and political elite that were mostly split between Capitalists, Socialists and Marxist-Leninists. Arrested multiple times and largely shunned in polite society, Az-Zakzaky had found the 1979 Iranian Revolution to be an inspiration, and by 1982 he had converted to Shi’ism and began leading the clarion call for a revolution emulating Iran’s to happen in Nigeria, in addition with working with other converts to Shi’ism, most of whom had studied in Iran, to propagate the Shia faith, and also build the necessary structure to carry out the hoped for revolution. This organisation, the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, while portrayed by its members as Islamic and not specifically Shia, was however, by the early 90’s, identified by Nigeria’s intelligence services, as a proxy for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force.

[3] Tattersall Nick. Reuters 2010. “Weapons Seized In Nigeria, Came From Iran: Shipping Company. Retrieved from:

[4]US Treasury Department. “Treasury Targets Iranian Arms Shipments”. March 27, 2012. Retrieved from:

[5] Author’s conversation with officials in the know of details of the operation to shut down IRG-QF network in Nigeria post 2010.

[6] Ibid

[7]2013. Nigeria Gives Iranian, Nigerian, Fives Years For Arms Smuggling. Retrieved from:

[8] Mazen, Maram. Bloomberg News. “Nigeria Arrests Iran Linked Suspects Planning Attacks.” Retrieved from:

[9] Hussein Abdullahi, a known Iranian Revolutionary Guard-Intelligence Organisation operative was forced to leave in 2010, officially for permitting Tabatabaie and Adhajani to receive sanctuary in the Embassy and thus posing a direct threat to Nigeria’s national security. However some sources the author spoke to, say that he was an operative of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence rather than the IRG-IO. Saeed Koozechi, was expelled/or was withdrawn on Nigerian insistence in 2016 when he made comments deemed inimical to Nigeria’s national interests, by interfering through his words on the Nigerian Army’s 2016 crackdown on Ibrahim Az-Zakzaky and his followers. Koozechi was said to be an IRG-QF operative, and is said to had personally overseen the subsequent rebuilding of the structure to support IRG-QF operations in Nigeria following the near total destruction of that network between 2010 and 2015.

[10] Over the course of the Gambia’s history since its independence in 1965, Nigeria has played a large role in its affairs, acting as a balance to Senegalese influence. The 1994 coup which brought Yahya Jammeh to power, was reported backed by Nigeria’s military ruler at the time, General Sani Abacha, and his removal in 2017 was negotiated and signed off on by Nigeria’s current president, Muhammadu Buhari. From 1965, Nigeria has continuously provided technical state building assistance to the Gambia, sending doctors, teachers, judges and bureaucrats to serve in that country’s service, and also training Gambians to be able to take over these roles. This is in addition to providing training and advisory support to the Gambia’s military.

[11] The JCPOA was negotiated by Iran, the United States, Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom, Germany and the European Union, to address Iran’s nuclear enrichment programme, which was viewed as posing a threat to international peace and stability. As part of the terms of the ndeal under which Iran agreed to restrictions on its enrichment programme, the US and the other parties committed to lift specific sanctions on Iran, including sanctions targeting Iranian oil. In 2018, US President, Donald J. Trump announced that his country was withdrawing from the JCPOA, automatically bringing back US sanctions on Iran.

[12] Vanguard NG. 2015. “President Buhari Arrives Tehran For 3rdGECF Summit”. Retrieved from:

[13] 2015. “Leader meets with Nigerian President in Tehran”. Retrieved from:

[14] In addition to being a Muslim majority country, Nigeria is currently being governed by an elite from Muslim parts of Northern Nigeria. Muslims from Northern Nigeria, also form a relative majority within the defence and national security establishment, and a significant minority in the foreign service.

[15] Author’s conversations with Nigerian national security and foreign service officials.

[16] Stears.NG. 2018. “Nigeria Is Going Broke”. Retrieved from:


Nigeria Partner - Conflict Studies And Analysis Project

#PartnerArticle GICS Report: Survival and Expansion, the Islamic State’s West African Province

The following is content from our partners at the Conflict Studies And Analysis Project at the Global Initiative for Civil Stabilisation.  During 2019 you will occasionally see their content on our website and vice versa.  The original content can be viewed here.  

The Global Initiative For Civil Stablisation (GICS), and the Conflict Studies And Analysis Project at GICS (CSAAP) in a bid to further expand the general understanding of dynamics around the conflict in Northeast Nigeria, is releasing this report. Headlined by the Executive Director of the CSAAP, Fulan Nasrullah, this report collates and presents research spanning the period from 2016-early 2019.


Almost three years after the new Islamic State’s West African Province was separated from the Abubakar Shekau BH, it has grown to become the major group in the immediate area of the Lake Chad, posing a long-term threat to regional stability.

The greatest success for ISWAP, has been its ability to co-opt local grievances, economic activities and networks into its campaign to establish a state-appendage of the Global Islamic State in the region. No other actor, including regional governments and BH, come close to the level of success ISWAP has experienced in this regard.

While Islamic State financial support was crucial to the survival of ISWAP in 2016, and to the expansion of its resources and capabilities in 2017, by 2018 that support had sharply dropped to just 3.41% of ISWAP funding by 2018.

We estimate, based on data we collected in both ISWAP controlled and government-controlled territories in Niger and Nigeria, that ISWAP in 2018 earned as much as $35.2m in Naira, US Dollars, and West African CFA France, from taxes, fees charged local traders, smugglers, transporters, and involvement in the trade and production of dried fish, dried pepper and rice. A large part of this income went into paying salaries, providing for the civilians in territories it controls, and fueling its war machine.

Taxes in 2018 brought ISWAP some 45% of its income, the fish trade provided another 30% of its income, and the trade in dried pepper and rice provided 10% and 11.39% each.

From interviews with ISWAP affiliated individuals (regional states’ military, military intelligence and civilian intelligence officers with extensive knowledge of combat engagements with ISWAP over the past three years), analysis of data collected on attacks and numbers involved in ISWAP combat engagements we estimate that currently ISWAP has between 18,000 and 20,000 fighters in its ranks. This ties it for numbers with the strength of Nigerian Army troops in the immediate theatre  (Northern Borno, Northern Yobe), which we believe (with caveats explained within the report) to be about 18,000 troops.

However, the Nigerian government forces have more than 30,000 Civilian Joint Task Force militiamen in Borno State alone, of which a significant but indeterminate number are deployed alongside the Army in Northern Borno, absorbing casualties as much as the Army in some instances. When Nigerien troops in Diffa Prefecture are factored in, it becomes clear that the balance of numbers is firmly in the favour of regional states, although it is not enough to seize, hold and dominate territory in the area.


– Over the past two years, the landscape of the Islamist insurgency in Northeast Nigeria and the wider Lake Chad region, has largely changed, with the Islamic State’s West African Province gradually becoming the leading insurgent grouping.

– The Islamic State’s West African Province has evolved into a largely competent and disciplined (in the local context) fighting force.

– The Global Islamic State’s effort in enabling and moulding ISWAP is targeted, directed, and enduring. It increased substantially in the last quarter of 2018 and is on track to rise exponentially in 2019.

– ISWAP is evolving into a major part of a global machine, the Global Islamic State, that particularly seems to invest in co-opting local organisations with deep community ties.

– The main success of ISWAP has been its ability to effectively appeal to, and seamlessly and gradually co-opt local networks, while blending a globalist caliphate messaging with local grievances and competently use it to establish legitimacy in the eyes of local communities. ISWAP has deliberately adopted a strategy of avoiding unnecessary violence and exploitation against civilian populations.

– When necessary, ISWAP will visit harsh punishments on erring individual civilians.

– Although ISWAP’s primary target for now is locally focused, the machinery to attack Western interests in the region currently exists, and should conditions be determined to be right, such attacks will occur.

– The infrastructure to target Western homelands if a future need arises, is currently being developed by ISWAP. While ISWAP by itself currently doesn’t have the capabilities to carry out attacks against Western homelands, findings indicate that resources are being dedicated to developing such capabilities for the future.

– Regional militaries unless substantially reformed, do not possess the capabilities to decisively defeat and eliminate the group, nor will they be able to contain it.

– Clamping down on trades critical to the local economy around the Lake area, is breeding resentment among the civilian populations, against local government, as livelihoods are destroyed and no alternative provided in their place.

– There is a widespread intense hate within ISWAP ranks for the United Nations and its various agencies working in the Lake Chad area, and this hate – should opportunity present itself – will transform into active targeting of UN-affiliated aid workers.

You may download the entire report from the Divergent Options website by clicking here.

Africa Fulan Nasrullah Islamic State Variants Partner - Conflict Studies And Analysis Project

#PartnerArticle – Q & A: Assessing a Second Buhari Presidency in Nigeria

The following is content from our partners at the Conflict Studies And Analysis Project at the Global Initiative for Civil Stabilisation.  During 2019 you will occasionally see their content on our website and vice versa.  The original content can be viewed here.  

Q & A: Assessing A Second Buhari Presidency in Nigeria.

Compiled and Edited by:  Sola Tayo, Senior Associate Fellow, CSAAP and Fulan Nasrullah, Executive Director, CSAAP

Nigerians have voted to give President Muhamadu Buhari another term in office. The presidential and legislative elections that took place on the 23rd of February 2019 were seen as a referendum on his leadership and that of his governing party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).

That the APC has managed to solidify its position is reflective of the cut throat, winner takes all system of Nigerian politics. Although the party initially appeared cohesive when it was formed in 2013, cracks soon began to appear and it fell into the same spiral of power struggles and Machiavellian politics that brought down the previous governing People’s Democratic Party (PDP). But after a series of high-profile defections to the PDP it managed to regain its focus and keep its position as governing party for another four years.

One of the APC’s strengths lies in its national appeal -it was initially seen as an inclusive party with representation across all regions. But the clear regional divide in votes in the South and the drop in share of the popular vote for Buhari in the South West might recast the APC as a party of the North and may impact on its performance in the 2023 polls.

As for the PDP which finds itself in opposition for the second time, there are decisions to be made about its future direction. Will it allow itself a much-needed period of introspection and reform into an effective opposition capable of challenging the APC at local and national level or will it continue to rely on defections and possible further discord within the APC?

The PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, is preparing a legal challenge to overturn the result. Should he win, it will be unprecedented as no presidential election result has been successfully challenged since Nigeria’s return to democratic rule in 1999.

Assuming the PDP is unsuccessful, Nigerians have another term of a Muhammadu Buhari led government. But what have the past four years of his leadership meant for Nigeria and what can we expect to see in his next term?

Prior to the elections, and after a noticeably slow start, his government has commenced a number of big infrastructure projects – largely focusing on road and rail building. There are also LNG projects underway while the electricity sector reform is continuing.

However, questions remain over his protectionist economic policies and inward looking approach to Nigeria’s development at a time when other African states are adopting a more open approach to intercontinental trade. Nigeria remains one of a handful of African nations that has not signed up to the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCTFA). The AfCTFA will create a single market and free trade area which will supposedly improve and enhance intra–African trade and Nigeria (the continent’s largest economy) will not be a part of it.

To better help the policy and strategy community understand what four more years of a Muhammadu Buhari administration will shape up to be, the Conflict Studies And Analysis Project (CSAAP) at the Global Initiative For Civil Stabilisation(GICS), reached out to a cross-section of the Nigeria experts community, to find out where they think Nigeria is heading.

Below are their views of on Muhammadu Buhari’s management of a number of policy issues from economic and infrastructure development to security and the rule of law.


Rotimi Fawole – Lawyer and Columnist

“He is not a believer in the supremacy of the Rule of Law. This is not surprising given his military background on the one hand, but also the reason he gave for his conversion to being a democrat, on the other. According to him in his pre-2015 rebranding, he converted to democracy because he was amazed at how the Soviet Union fell without a single bullet being fired. Of course, he did not elaborate.

However, what we have seen from his Presidency is an egregious disregard for the Judiciary. Supported, either tacitly or explicitly, by the Attorney-General, the chairman of his anti-corruption committee and his Vice-President (all Senior Advocates of Nigeria), orders of court have been routinely ignored, it has been canvassed that the constitution be suspended to facilitate the so-called War on Corruption, and Justices of the Supreme Court have been assaulted. In his second term of office, the destruction of the pillars of justice is assured.

Some people genuinely believe that the economy nose-dived because “Buhari blocked corruption money”. Government spending as a fraction of GDP between 1999 and 2016 averaged less than 10% (the Federal Government’s is probably only half of that) but somehow, withholding a fraction of this tiny fraction has killed the rest.

And as for the war on corruption, the administration is quick to cite the number of ex-officials who have admitted to looting and refunded all or part of their booty. This is a good thing, to be clear. The problem is with the contentious matters, where the accused put the government to the strictest proof of its allegations. The government has shown itself completely hapless at building cases that meet evidentiary thresholds and well-inclined to dispense with rights and constitutional safeguards. In a Buhari second term, these precepts will be tested more audaciously than ever before.

The anti corruption fight has to stop being selective to be credible and he needs to respect the rule of law and separation of powers of the arms of the government.”


Ronak Gopaldas – Director, Signal Risk

“There needs to be an urgent change in relations between business and the private sector. The current haphazard approach adopted by the government with regards to the regulatory environment (particularly in relation to foreign businesses and how they operate in Nigeria) has rattled investors and created an environment of distrust and unpredictability.

Given the current state of the Nigerian economy, clear, consistent and coherent economic policy direction and messaging is important to get investors back onside. There needs to be a recognition that Nigeria’s problems are too significant to overcome alone, and that the private sector should be a partner rather than an adversary in solving the country’s developmental challenges. The current antagonistic relationship is not sustainable.

It is important too, that Nigeria also ratifies the continental free trade agreement which could be a game changer for the African continent.”

JOHN ASHBOURNE – Capital Economics

“Another term for Mr Buhari will probably mean the continuation of the current policy framework – including the multiple track exchange rate system, Foreign Exchange rationing, and a focus on state-driven economic management. As a whole, we think that this will cause growth in Nigeria to fall far below its potential over the coming few years.”

Matthew Page – Associate Fellow, Chatham House

“Buhari is a leopard who is unlikely to change his spots at this late stage. His insular and undynamic governing style will ensure his second term resembles his first. Infrastructure development will remain state-driven and won’t meet the country’s pent up and ever-growing demand. Foreign investors will remain focused on engaging in those few states that are realising governance and ease of doing business improvements instead of waiting for federal level reforms that failed to materialise in Buhari’s first term.

On the AfCFTA: Nigeria appears to be on track to sign on to the AfCFTA, but President Buhari might ultimately decide against joining. Even if Buhari signs the pact, it is unclear whether his government would implement it. Nigeria, for example, has yet to fully implement the ECOWAS Common External Tariff adopted back in 2013. Overall, Nigeria is well positioned to reap huge economic benefits by joining the AfCFTA, but the parochial interests of some powerful businesses and Buhari’s penchant for protectionism could influence Nigeria’s final decision on the AfCFTA.

For President Buhari to make progress developing Nigeria and growing its economy, he needs to govern more dynamically and empower a wider network of talented, reform-minded Nigerians to energise and professionalise the country’s key institutions. He needs to rein in wasteful spending, cut red tape, right-size government, deliver public goods and push back against the patronage-based narratives that underpin Nigeria’s deeply flawed political culture.”

Feyi Fawehimi – Accountant and Public Affairs Commentator

”To an extent he has a much freer hand now. He is no longer seeking re-election and this mandate seems even more resounding than the 2015 one. For a man whose ideas have been held in aspic for a long time, there really is no incentive for him to change course. So I expect more of the same but this time, since everyone knows what to expect, they will find ways to work around him.

I don’t expect more changes except perhaps he takes a more hands off role and delegates more powers to his VP who has a more liberal approach to economic matters. But as 2023 campaigning will begin almost immediately, President Buhari will wield enormous powers over the process as he is the only one who can unite the north in a bloc vote so his endorsement is going to be priceless for anyone who can secure it and they will fall over themselves to do so. So Buhari’s ideas – a more active role for the state,focus on agriculture, fx and fuel price stability, hostility to the market economy – will continue to dominate going forward.”


Chidi Nwaonu – Defence and Security Expert, Director of Peccavi Consults

“The question is:  How do you see the next four years of the Buhari Admin shaping up in the following areas?

Rule of Law:  We have the benefit of the last few years to make judgments, the Buhari Administration has shown a willingness to ignore court orders and due process in issues it believes to be vital to its core interest such as the Nnamdi Kanu, Dasuki, Zakzaky cases or the Chief Justice of Nigeria cases and the detention of journalists and commentators. Without the worry of reelection and having obtained a comfortable margin f victory, it is likely that this pattern will continue as there is no reason or incentive to change.

What could they do differently?  They could change the narrative by adhering even cosmetically to court rulings, very little would be lost by releasing Zakzaky to house arrest etc. From a selfish point of view as the Administrations term comes to an end they would have to consider how they would be treated if another party takes power. A good project for the Vice President to build his own patronage system (see below) would be judicial reform, using his offices and experience to reform and improve the Judiciary

Politics:  Politics will be fascinating, a cabinet reshuffle should logically follow a win, what will be interesting will be seeing how the different members of the coalition (ACN/ CPC et al) as well as PDP defectors are given The overarching political imperative is the fight for the 2023 Presidential slot, whilst this should naturally fall to the Vice President, it is likely he will be challenged by several prominent politicians from the North and the South East. How far the Northern challengers go will be key to how politically stable the next few years will be. Indicators will be how much of a free hand the VP has during any medical or other absences of the President and how many important or critical portfolios he is given to oversee. Without any of these he is unable to build up a patronage network or the necessary alliances to face down a challenge.

The opposition PDP will remain in disarray attracting disgruntled APC members and others whose brand is too toxic to cross carpet. By Nigeria’s rotational system their next candidate should be from the South East, however that would almost certainly end in electoral defeat, thus further internal tensions will arise when it appears the party reneges on this agreement. This apparent disenfranchisement of the Igbo’s gives another window to the neo-Biafrans of IPOB to regain the credibility they lost with their farcical performance this election cycle.

What could they do differently?  Logically the party would aim for an orderly transition and telegraph this early by increasing the Vice President’s powers and giving higher profile jobs to his recommended candidates. The President could also use his street credibility to sell the VP to the masses as someone who will represent their interest. At the same time, a concerted effort to reach out and mollify other Regions such as the South and South East with policies that would assist the people or large-scale infrastructure projects would help temper the narrative of the Buhari Administration of being sectional.

Public Safety:  Public safety will continue to decrease, outside of the main conurbations, the risk of kidnap and robbery, will continue to increase as the overstretched security forces fail to arrest the increasing criminality. Response to issues such as communal clashes, farmer/ herder clashes, armed robbery and banditry will continue to be reactive with the military being used to reinforce or replace the police as is the norm currently.

What could they do differently?  They should address deteriorating public safety as an urgent national emergency, setting up a Task Force led and coordinated at Ministerial level bringing together the various public safety and internal security agencies to stem the tide. Foreign assistance can be sought to reform the police and expand it to deal with the security threats. Local vigilantes in each state should be brought into the Police chain of command as local auxiliaries, with training, legal authority, uniforms and pay. Domestic intelligence gathering must be better streamlined and focused, with better coordination

Defense and National Security:  National security will continue to deteriorate, many of Nigeria’s problems remain beyond the control of the security forces, nor has there been any indication of a move towards a joined-up approach to defence and security. A key moment will be when/ whether the Service Chiefs are replaced, which will see yet another shake up in key staff positions in the Defence Headquarters and the Army. President Buhari has intimated that regime protection is at least part of his calculations in keeping the Service Chiefs in place however in order to maintain the loyalty of the wider cadre of General Officers, opportunities for upward advancement must be created, non of which can happen until the Service Chiefs are retired.

Operationally, the North West will continue to increase in lethality, it is likely that 2019/20 will see an organised defined anti-government armed group emerging in that region. General lawlessness will either increase or coalesce around this group or groups. The North Central crisis is likely to rumble on, and the cycle of violence will continue.

External threats include spillover of conflicts from Nigeria’s neighbours, Niger and Cameroon. Nigerian security forces will continue to be overstretched with a heavy reliance on firepower to solve problems. But there are likely to be more bilateral engagements in the regional security area, with neighbouring countries.

What could they do differently? A national defence review to look at Nigeria’s security problems holistically. However a massive expansion of the ground forces will be needed, with an appropriate uplift int he capabilities of the Armed Forces’ sustainment efforts. In addition to increasing numbers, training, equipment and doctrine should be changed to reflect current realities.

Foreign Policy:  Nigeria’s foreign policy such as it is will continue as it does now. There will be a lack of focus on African issues, rather the focus of this administration will be on relationships with China, the United States, the United Kingdom, and France.

What could they do differently?  Nigeria would need to once more take a proactive and robust position on West African and African affairs. As Nigeria does not need to hew to any particular power bloc, it can identify its central foreign policy positions and manoeuvre relationships around that rather than reacting to events as they come up.

The Boko Haram Conflict:  Without a major foreign intervention or the recruiting and mobilisation of significant forces, it is likely that Nigerian forces could mostly cede Northern Borno and Yobe, holding only token positions. It is likely that ISWAP will tolerate these token positions as they (and their logistics chain) will serve as a source of supplies for them.

Boko Haram is likely to continue with its current level of violence, the question would be if Shekau died or became sufficiently weakened would it lead to infighting amongst junior commanders, wholesale defections to ISWAP, disintegration into smaller groups of fighters/ bandits or surrender to the security forces?

What could they do differently? Well built, well defended Forward Operating Bases would adequately resist enemy forces and deny them freedom of movement, while a well led, well equipped, and highly mobile group of forces would be able to chase Boko Haram or ISWAP into their safe areas and destroy them.

This would require a radical reform of training and deployment of troops, including recruiting a large number of fresh soldiers in order to continue the campaign and eventually relieve the troops in theatre. The reliance on air power should be refined to ensure response times improve and air strikes can be controlled by ground troops. Artillery use and accuracy needs to be increased and improved enabling troops to provide their own operational support.”

Jacob Zenn – Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University(USA), Associate Fellow at the Conflict Studies And Analysis Project at GICS

“President Buhari did not put new, innovative ideas on the table about countering Boko Haram before the elections and, if anything, the incentive he had was before the election to quell the violence to help his chances to win. Now that he has won there is no extra incentive to keep the insurgency down as much as he would like to do so in an ideal world. The Chadian forces in Borno may pressure ISWAP but their mandate has not been well articulated.

ISWAP, and to a lesser extent Boko Haram, is a strategic actor, and they will likely develop their lines of control slowly and gradually and benefit from learning from the mistakes IS “core” made in attracting too many foreign enemies; at the same time ISWAP will increasingly interact with the “core”, including receiving “advisors” from the Syria and Iraq theaters. There is no reason to foresee a weaker ISWAP four years from now while Boko Haram will likely remain stable, but what may be new is a resurgence from Ansaru (Ansarul-Muslimeena Fee Bilaadis-Sudan) to capitalize on unrest in Zamfara and mix with local populations and receive support from its Al-Qaeda allies in Mali.”

Vincent Foucher – Research Fellow, Centre Nationale De La Recherche Scientifique (France)

“The Northeast needs to be given priority again. This is not 2015-2016 anymore. Al-Barnawi’s faction ISWAP has survived the Nigerian Army’s pushback and has adapted. It now seems even Shekau is adapting, and many observers suspect the two factions may be coming closer. ISWAP is waging a guerrilla war while offering governance and services to civilians in and around the Lake. It is building credibility, an arsenal and an experienced force. It also seems contacts with, and possibly support from, the Islamic State have increased. This is a serious challenge, and the trend is worrisome. Key steps are fairly obvious:

  1. There needs to be a serious improvement of the operations of the Nigerian Army. It needs to provide a credible response, key to keeping the neighbouring countries involved. Military leaders need to be made accountable to the very top and on both their results and their use of the resources allocated to them. A serious recruitment drive seems necessary to allow for a better rotation of troops. Improvements in management seem necessary. Coordination between Air Force and Army needs to be drastically improved. While more airpower will come in handy, it cannot be a solution by itself.
  2. ISWAP is gaining recognition from the population, and even some support, partly because it punishes abusers within its ranks. The Nigerian Army has improved its human rights record, but it should do more, and publicly so. No guerrilla war can be won through massive human rights abuses.
  3. ISWAP is good at offering business opportunities, using the natural resources of Lake Chad and a comparatively light quasi-taxation to encourage people to produce and trade in the areas it controls. It provides a modicum of public services, including some justice, some education and some health (I hear it even recently embarked on a campaign to build latrines). The state needs to compete and provide solid services in the trench towns it controls.
  4. The Nigerian authorities suffer a serious credibility gap when it comes to cooperation with regional or international partners. They need to show commitment and welcome cooperation, even if that comes with some embarrassment, criticism and soul-searching.
  5. While there does not seem to be much room for serious talks right now, they will come at some point, and the authorities must keep that in mind. Meanwhile, offering decent, credible exit ways for Boko Haram fighters and supporters who want out (for there still are some, notably with Shekau) is essential – this includes Boko Haram wives under government control, who can offer a way to their husbands.
  6. War is too serious a matter to be left to the military, said French World War I Prime Minister Georges Clémenceau. There needs to be a greater opening of the public sphere in the northeast – journalists, academics, national and international NGOs, UN agencies, politicians must feel they can operate without pressure from the military. Their criticisms, even if at times unfair, must be borne and indeed should be encouraged – they can play a key part in improving the response. The security forces themselves need to be more transparent about developments on the ground. The recent insistence by security officials that the rockets fired by ISWAP on Maiduguri were actually a security training may seem like a minor episode, but over time, these episodes mean nobody trusts security officials, not even their own subordinates.

What is likely to happen?

Given the seriousness of the challenges in the northeast and the many other pressing issues in Nigeria, I fear that the regime may be tempted to rely too exclusively on expected improvements in air power rather than tackle the difficult but necessary improvements to the Army and to the government’s operations in the North east.

A reunification of Boko Haram and ISWAP would be surprising, given the bad blood – the division was not just a feud between Shekau and Nur. But some mutual tolerance and local cooperation is possible. Beyond that, the dynamics between the two factions is hard to predict. I suspect ISWAP will try to expand operations in Yobe and Adamawa, maybe even try and build up capacity in other northern states. It would make sense for ISWAP to look for better anti-aircraft systems than the guns it has for now – if they succeed, it could be worrisome.”

Africa Fulan Nasrullah Lake Chad Nigeria Partner - Conflict Studies And Analysis Project Sola Tayo

#PartnerArticle – Briefing Note: Insurgent Activities In Northeast Nigeria And The 2019 Elections

The following is content from our partners at the Conflict Studies And Analysis Project at the Global Initiative for Civil Stabilisation.  During 2019 you will occasionally see their content on our website and vice versa.  The original content can be viewed here.  

On February 23, 2019 the Nigerian Presidential and Federal Parliamentary Elections were finally held after being postponed for one week by Nigeria’s elections commission.
Prior to the elections, the Conflict Studies And Analysis Project at the Global Initiative for Civil Stabilization initiated a process led by Fulan Nasrullah to track developments regarding the insurgent organisations in Northeast Nigeria as these developments related to the elections.
This Briefing Note contains the first part of the results of this process and once complete will also cover the Governorship and State Houses of Assembly Elections, which will occur on March 9, 2019.

This briefing note may be downloaded from Divergent Options by clicking here.

Africa Nigeria Partner - Conflict Studies And Analysis Project

#PartnerArticle – Sexual Enslavement of Women from the Lake Chad Conflict, through the Gidan Drama System

The following is content from our partners at the Conflict Studies And Analysis Project at the Global Initiative for Civil Stabilisation.  During 2019 you will occasionally see their content on our website and vice versa.  The original content can be viewed here.  

In 2018, the Global Initiative for Civil Stabilisation commissioned research into the rumoured trafficking and sexual enslavement of women and young girls displaced from the raging conflict in Northeast Nigeria, and the wider Lake Chad region, to ascertain the veracity of these rumours and how widespread the issue was.

The sum of this research process is contained in the briefing note “Sexual Enslavement of Women from the Lake Chad Conflict, through the Gidan Drama System.”  This report has to a large extent peeled off the surface of the underworld trafficking and trade in female victims of the conflict in the Lake Chad across Southern Nigeria and parts of the West African coast.

This briefing note may be downloaded from Divergent Options by clicking here.

Africa Lake Chad Nigeria Partner - Conflict Studies And Analysis Project

#PartnerArticle – Assessing Nigerian Air Power Employment In Counter Insurgency Operations

The following is an article from our partners at the Conflict Studies And Analysis Project.  During 2019 you will occasionally see their content on our website and vice versa.  The original article can be viewed here.  

Fulan Nasrullah is the Executive Director of the Conflict Studies And Analysis Project At The Global Initiative For Civil Stabilisation. He is national security policy and strategy advisor and conflict researcher. He sometimes tweets via @fulannasrullah.

Murtala Abdullahi is a Junior Associate Researcher with the Conflict Studies And Analysis Project at The Global Initiative For Civil Stabilisation. His areas of focus are on Nigeria’s military, local conflict drivers across Nigeria, conflict prevention, and effects of climate change on national security. He tweets via @murtalaibin.

Conflict Studies And Analysis Project’s content does not contain information of a classified or otherwise official nature, neither does the content represent the position of any governmental or non governmental entity.

Summary – The Nigerian Air Force (NAF), deployed air power in support of the Joint task force: Operation Restore Order and has sustained operational support to Nigerian Army as operational mandate changed. This is in addition to supporting regional Multinational Joint Task Force operations against Boko Haram groups, as well. The performance of the Nigerian Air Force has greatly improved compared to when operations in the Northeast first began, as it has taken on varied missions from Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance( ISR), to close air support to the Army’s manoeuvre units in theatre. However, air operations efficiency is affected by scarce national defence spending and a shortage of aircraft.

Text– Nigeria’s counter insurgency area of operations covers the three northeastern states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, or over 125,000 square kilometres of land area. This complex terrain encompasses the Nigerian side of Lake Chad with hundreds of islands, the massive Sambisa Forest Area, the Gwoza Hills, and the Mandara Mountains range which mostly hem in the region from the east.

The Nigerian Air Force, began operations against Boko Haram groups in 2010, as military operations under the Joint Task Force (JTF) of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Police and State Security Service were initiated (in succession) under the code names, Restore order I, II and III, to flush out insurgent fighters from built up areas of Borno between December 2011 and mid 2013.

As the conflict escalated, the Nigerian government on May 14, 2013, declared a state of emergency in the three worst affected states (Adamawa, Borno and Yobe) and expanded the JTF operations into Operation Boyona with the objective of securing the nation’s borders and asserting territorial integrity.

As part of Operation Boyona, the Nigerian Air Force conducted air strikes targeted at insurgents camps in July-September 2013 employing NAF’s Mi-35P Hind attack helicopters, in the opening salvo of what was evolving into a campaign of aerial bombardment against insurgent held territory.

Operation Boyona was later renamed Operation Zaman Lafiya with the Nigerian Air Force providing the aerial component in August 2013. The air component was under Boko Karam threat to it’s fixed- and rotary-wing operations, with NAF’s Mi 24V/Mi-35P attack helicopters, F-7NI and Alpha Jets fixed wing attack planes, coming under enemy anti-aircraft fire of up to 30mm caliber, forcing them to fly higher in order to deliver strike packages. This also required the Nigerian Air Force to fit longer-range rockets, removed from its MiG-21s, onto the attack helicopters [1]. By August 2014, the Nigerian air force had carried out 2,468 ground-attack missions against Boko Haram, in addition to conducting 1,443 surveillance missions with its DA-42s, ATR-42s and King Air 350Is, plus 1,479 airlift transport missions [2].

The Boko Haram conflict soon reached its peak between the last quarter of 2014 and early 2015 as the insurgents overran towns and military bases across Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States. The Nigerian Government followed up with a counter-offensive campaign, in tandem with offensives launched by troops of neighbouring Lake Chad countries, to retake the territory overrun by the insurgents.

The Nigerian Air Force component of Operation Zaman Lafiya, played a key role in assisting ground forces in rolling back Boko Haram groups from territories they had occupied. The MI-35P helicopters flew over 900 combat sorties within this period [3]. In July 2015, Nigerian forces, launched Operation Lafiya Dole, replacing Zaman Lafiya.

As part of the new Operation Lafiya Dole, the NAF component of the joint military forces battling the Boko Haram insurgents, was expanded to an air task force with leeway to conduct independent missions [4]. This was in addition to carrying out missions in support of Nigerian Army troops engaged in the Army specific Operations Deep Punch I&II and Operation Last Hold, while also providing air support to the regional MNJTF’s Operations Rawan Gada and Gaman Aiki.

Between Dec. 25, 2015 and the end of January 2016, the Nigerian Air Force conducted 286 strike missions against Boko Haram targets, for a total of 536 flight hours. During the 18 months between July 2015 and mid-January 2017, the air task force (ATF) carried out 2,105 missions across the entire aerial spectrum [5].

From the beginning of Operation Zaman Lafiya and now Operation Lafiya Dole, the Nigerian air force has suffered relatively few losses directly related to the Combat. Two Chengdu F-7Nis, one Alpha Jet, two Mi-35Ps, one A109LUH, and at least two Mi-17s have been shot down or destroyed in accidents over active battlefields.

The Nigerian Air Force’s combined aircraft inventory is estimated at between 200-250 aircraft[6], comprising an estimated three operational C-130Hs, sixteen Alpha Jet E trainer variants acquired in the ‘80s and around twenty Alpha Jet A[7] ground attack aircraft, thirteen Aero L-39 ZA Albatross, ten used Mi-24Vs acquired from the Ukraine, around twenty Mi-35Ps and MI-35Ms acquired from Russia, 10 Pakistani Super Mushshak trainers, two Bell 412, four EC-135 and over a dozen Agusta Westland helicopters. In addition an unknown number of Chinese-built CH-3 rainbow unmanned combat aerial vehicles and indigenous Gulma|Tsaigumi UAV are in service, along with Austrian DA-42 Twin Star light patrol aircraft, ATR-42 maritime patrol aircraft, Super Puma, MI-17 and Beechcraft Super King Air 350i ISR-optimised turboprop aircraft [8].

In addition the Nigerian Air Force is expecting delivery of six AgustaWestland AW109, unknown number of Yabhon Flash 20 unmanned aerial vehicle, and an unknown number of CAC/PAC JF-17 fighter-bombers from Pakistan[9].

The Nigerian Air Force has also ordered twelve A29 Super Tucanos, a turboprop aircraft built for the kind of engagements it has to carry out currently, i.e a counterinsurgency. The much criticised $593m deal for these planes, however comes with 100 GBU-12(500lb) Paveway II(PW-II) Tail Kits, 100 GBU-58(250lb) PW-II Tail Kits, 400 laser guided rockets with Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System, 2,000 MK-81 (250lb) bombs, 6,000 Hydra 70 unguided rockets(70mm, 1000 of which are practice rockets), 20,000 rounds of .50/12.7mm calibre machine gun ammunition, seven AN/AAQ-22F electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensor and laser designators [10]. Also, these planes will be equipped with software to support forward-looking infra-red targeting pods.

Service operable aircraft increased from about 36 per cent in 2015 to between 78 and 82 per cent currently [11]. This contributed to the Air Task Force in Operation Lafiya Dole’s ability to, from June 1 2015 to October 31 2018, fly 51,852 flight hours in 39,807 day and night sorties including close air support, strike, ISR and humanitarian support missions.

However, despite these improvements, the Nigerian Air Force still faces significant challenges in asserting aerial supremacy over the terrain, despite insurgent air defence capabilities being limited largely to varied calibre anti-aircraft guns (including ZSU-23-4 quad-barreled self-propelled platforms). This is due to the size of the terrain in question, plus a lack of systems to set up and maintain an integrated kill-chain from finding the enemy to maintaining ISR presence over him, to ultimately finishing him off and gathering information to be exploited for analysis purposes. There are improvements to be made in this regard.

Also, logistical challenges including a lack of spare parts, inadequate number of precision guided and stand-off weapons, and a shortage of personnel trained to standard to maintain increasingly complex modern weapons of war will continue to prove a major hindrance to the Nigerian Air Force, at least for the foreseeable future.

End Notes:

[1] Chris Pocock. February 2, 2015.Nigerian Air Power Hindered in Boko Haram Fight. Retrieved from:

[2] Same as No. 1 above

[3] Author’s conversations with ranking NAF officers involved with pertinent operations

[4] Author’s conversations with ranking NAF officers involved with pertinent operations

[5] Author’s conversations with ranking NAF officers involved with pertinent operations

[6] Global fire power. “Nigeria military strength”. Retrieved from:

[7] Murtala Abdullahi. Options For Supporting Nigerian Air Operations In The Lake Chad Conflict. Conflict Studies And Analysis Project. Retrieved from:

[8] Same as No.7 above

[9] Author conversations with ranking Nigerian Air Force officers for this paper.

[10] FederalRegister.Gov. “Arms Sales Notification”. Retrieved from:

[11] Author conversations with ranking NAF officers, confirmed by the Nigerian Chief of Air Staff during his presentation at the International Air Power Seminar in Abuja, Nigeria. Chief of Air Staff remarks retrieved from:


Africa Nigeria Partner - Conflict Studies And Analysis Project United Kingdom

An Assessment Of Britain’s Relations With Nigeria In 2018

The following is an article from our partners at the Conflict Studies And Analysis Project.  During 2019 you will occasionally see their content on our website and vice versa.  The original article can be viewed here.  

Sola Tayo is a BBC journalist, a Senior Associate Fellow at the Conflict Studies And Analysis Project at the Global Initiative For Civil Stabilisation, and an Associate Fellow at the Royal Institute of International Affairs/Chatham House. Sola tweets via @tayos02.

Conflict Studies And Analysis Project’s content does not contain information of a classified or otherwise official nature, neither does the content represent the position of any governmental or non governmental entity.

Summary: Nigeria, one of Africa’s largest economies is facing several internal security threats. Violence has devastated the northeast in the form of an insurgency with Islamic State linked groups while bloody resource based conflicts have at varying times wreaked havoc on the oil and agriculture industries and contributed to wide-scale outbreaks of violence.

Nigeria has traditionally played a role in conflict resolution and its military has been deployed on peacekeeping operations across the continent. But Nigeria’s military has been increasingly deployed to tackle its own internal conflicts. Underfunded ad overstretched,  its military at times struggles to battle better equipped militants.

Although Nigeria is considered a regional powerhouse, it receives a lot of assistance from its western allies – the United Kingdom, the United States and France.

This paper discusses the defence and security relationship between Nigeria and the United Kingdom in 2018.


Since gaining its independence in 1960, Nigeria has maintained strong relations with the United Kingdom, its former colonial master. The United Kingdom is now one of Nigeria’s strongest allies and as such its security issues are of great concern to London. Nigeria’s location on the edge of the Sahel – a region that has seen an alarming rise in the activity of Islamic State linked insurgents – leave it vulnerable to cross border activity by insurgents. Its struggles with home-grown insurgents are considered a potential threat to global security. The UK, like many of Nigeria’s allies, is worried that the increased presence of the Islamic State in the country could become a threat way beyond Nigeria’s borders.

2018 was an important year for British-Nigerian official relations. Of particular significance was the visit of the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, to Abuja and (Nigeria’s commercial capital) Lagos in August. Nigeria was one of three African countries (including Kenya and South Africa) visited by Mrs May as part of a mission to reset the United Kingdom’s relations with former colonies in Africa as it prepares to leave the European Union this year.

The focus of her visit was to discuss improving bilateral relations between the two countries. Security was very much on the agenda and both countries signed a defence and security agreement[1].

In addition the UK’s Defence Secretary, Gavin Williamson, visited Nigeria in November.  He reiterated the UK’s commitment to the agreement stressing that it was in his country’s interest to help keep Nigeria secure to avoid insurgents establishing a caliphate and plotting attacks against the West.[2]

Nigeria is a key area for defence engagement for the UK and most of the work involves training and intelligence sharing. The British Army and Royal Air Force send Short Term Training Teams (STTTs) to provide infantry training to the Nigerian Army and Air Force.

Most of the UK’s work in Nigeria is focussed on the North East where the insurgency by insurgent groups has claimed more than 100,000 lives since 2009[3]. The insurgency has also displaced more than 2 million Nigerians and, in 2016, put more than 5 million people in the region at risk of food shortages when aid workers were unable to enter the region with supplies[4].

 The United Kingdom says the defence and security agreement will transform the way both countries work together to combat shared threats. The UK will expand its current programme of training for Nigeria’s military as well as offering a broader supply of equipment.

The provision of training and equipment is centred around protecting soldiers from the threat of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and includes the gifting of a range of £775,000 worth of counter IED equipment to the Nigerian army.

The UK also pledged to – for the first time – train full army units (as opposed to the current system where individual soldiers are trained) before they are deployed to the North East.

The UK has avoided providing Nigeria with arms because of allegations of human rights abuses by its military so the Prime Minister’s pledge to review this will give the Nigerian army a boost in its fight against the militants.

Education has suffered as a result of the insurgency.  Schools have been destroyed or closed, there is a chronic shortage of teachers (many have fled) and there are few crisis response systems in place to protect civilians from attacks by terrorists. Under the agreement both countries will work together on a £13 million programme to educate 100,000 children living in the affected areas of the region.

The UK under this agreement, committed to help Nigeria to implement a crisis response mechanism to help civilians keep safe. In addition the UK has offered to help with teacher training in conflict zones.The United Kingdom also hopes its investment in education will help to reduce the ability of insurgent groups to attract impressionable people by engaging communities to counter the propaganda used as a recruitment tool.

The agreement also encompasses cooperation on improving policing (which is chronically under-resourced in Nigeria), tackling kidnapping, human trafficking and other organised crime, corruption (through the creation of a civil asset recovery task force to help recover stolen assets) and the ongoing issue of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.

The UK’s Defence Secretary in 2018, also announced the establishment of the UK’s first specialist army training team to tackle sexual violence and the use of female and child suicide bombers.  The team will primarily work in east Africa where the militant group Al-Shabaab has brutalised civilian populations in Somalia and the region. It is expected that afterwards the training will expand to Nigeria which has seen a rise in the use child and female suicide bombers by Boko Haram insurgents.

Nigeria is also experiencing another devastating conflict in the form of violent clashes between farmers and cattle herders.  Although the roots of the violence is largely resource based, the demographic of the parties involved and the way it has been reported by the media has led to it being labelled a conflict based on religion.

The herder/farmer violence is said to have claimed at least 2000 lives in 2018 alone[5]. The outbreaks of violence are not new but have taken an increasingly bloody turn in recent times.  So concerned is the UK that British parliamentarians – through a cross party parliamentary group on religious freedom –  have been engaged in debates on the subject.

The UK parliamentarians – many of who see it as a conflict based on religious discrimination – are pressuring UK government ministers to get tough on Nigeria for not doing enough to protect mainly (but not exclusively) Christian farmers against violence from armed Muslim herders from the Fulani ethnic group.

Although a reaction to the farmer/herder violence has yet to form a part of the UK’s engagement with Nigeria, it has been the purpose of visits to affected areas by UK parliamentarians.  The UK’s Minister for Africa said it was something she and the Prime Minister discussed with president Buhari and during their visit to Nigeria[6].

At the end of 2018 the UK Foreign Secretary commissioned a review into the persecution of Christians around the world[7].  The review will cover particular countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Officials from the Foreign Office have said the aim of the review is to eventually produce policy recommendations to protect religious minorities.

It is expected that Nigeria will be one of the countries studied in the review – despite Christianity not being a minority religion.

Last year saw a lot of activity and interest in Nigeria and the Sahel region from the United Kingdom, as it seeks to increase its footprint and extend its influence in Nigeria’s immediate region.

End Notes:

[1] UK. UK And Nigeria Step Up Cooperation To End Boko Haram Threat. Retrieved from;

[2] Daily Mail. British Defence Secretary Warns Nigerian Jihadists Pose Growing Threat To Britain. Retrieved from:

[3] Premium Times. 100,00 Killed In Boko Haram Conflict. Retrieved from:



[6] “Colleagues have asked about the role of the UK Government, who are of course extremely concerned about the violence. It is destroying communities and poses a grave threat to Nigeria’s stability, unity and prosperity. It poses significant risks to the peaceful conduct of next year’s important presidential elections; so we take every opportunity to raise our concerns with the Nigerian Government at every level. When the Prime Minister and I were in Nigeria in August, she discussed the issue with President Buhari, and I was able to raise it with the Vice-President and Foreign Minister.”    —


Nigeria Partner - Conflict Studies And Analysis Project United Kingdom

Partnership Announcement: Conflict Studies And Analysis Project (CSAAP)


Fulan Nasrullah is the Executive Director of the Nigeria-based Conflict Studies And Analysis Project (CSAAP).  The CSAAP is an intellectual exchange platform created to provide open source information and analysis on conflicts and security policy issues in the Lake Chad-Sahel region.  In addition to being the Executive Director of CSAAP, Divergent Options counts Fulan among our ranks of writers when in March 2018 he wrote “Options to Build Local Capabilities to Stabilise the Lake Chad Region.

Screen Shot 2019-01-04 at 7.56.57 AM.png

The CSAAP is part of the Global Initiative for Civil Stabilization (GICS).  The GICS is a mediation, humanitarian support, advocacy and research foundation, established to uphold the principles of responsibility to protect, impartiality, confidentiality, and independence.


In 2019 Divergent Options is partnering with CSAAP.  From a readers point of view, twice a month, on days other than when we publish our regular content, you will see CSAAP content posted on Divergent Options and Divergent Options content posted at CSAAP.  Additionally, CSAAP will provide writing prompts to support our Call for Papers efforts.  Writers who write to the CSAAP writing prompts will be published at both Divergent Options and CSAAP.  We are pleased that a relationship with one of our writers has blossomed into something more and are excited about what awaits both efforts in 2019!

Announcements Fulan Nasrullah Partner - Conflict Studies And Analysis Project