Is Landmass Powering Violence in Northern Nigeria? Here’s What the Data Says

Landmass may be contributing to the increasing ungoverned areas breeding terrorism and banditry across Nigeria’s northern states.

The steady rise of violent extremism and its resulting conflicts has rendered Nigeria unsafe. In the past decade, the terrorist group Boko Haram, and its splinter organisations, ANSARU and the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), have caused the deaths of over 30,000 people and the displacement of another 2.2 million.

HumAngle analysed data suggesting that factors beyond economics and religion are at play. Landmass may be contributing to the increasing ungoverned areas breeding terrorism and banditry across northern states.

Professor of Law and human rights activist, Chidi Odinkalu, drew public attention to this point in a recent interview with the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR). States such as Borno, Kaduna, Taraba, and Adamawa headline the hottest theatres of insurgency, banditry and sectarian upheavals.

Another connection to draw is that they are equally the frontline states in landmass. Kano state, with its heritage of robust, often combustive, religious activism, has remained a sort of a sleeper cell for insurgency. Data shows that Kano—together with Gombe state—profiles the least in terms of landmass in that part of the country.

Making a correlation between ungoverned landmass and its breeder feed status for insecurity in Nigeria, Prof. Odinkalu asserts: “Niger state has 25 Local Government Areas and is over 15 times the size of Imo state. Basically, the average size of a Local Government Area in Niger state is close to the size of Imo state.

“What does that mean? You have so much territory, you can’t deploy protection assets effectively. Niger state is over 20 times the size of Lagos state. Lagos state has over five times the number of police assets than Niger (state).”

“So, when you have a crisis, you can’t deploy assets of protection effectively, and any assets you have to deploy are invariably overwhelmed by territory and landmass. They can’t effectively cover everywhere, they are outnumbered. That is the crisis we have in the North.”


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