Nigeria : Between insecurity, intercommunal violence and economic challenges Spécial


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Several recent incidents have highlighted the growing insecurity in the country. Indeed, at least 47 women were abducted by members of the Islamic State in West Africa (ISWAP) in Borno State, while a mass kidnapping took place in the rural region of Ngala, with over 100 women reported missing. Meanwhile, nearly 300 students were abducted in the northwest, and at least 15 were taken from an Islamic school in Sokoto state. Wave after wave of kidnappings has led to growing concern for the safety of civilians, particularly children, in various parts of the country. In response, Nigerian President Bola Tinubu has ordered security forces not to pay ransoms for the release of victims. This decision comes as criminal gangs, locally known as "bandits", regularly carry out mass kidnappings in north-western and north-central Nigeria, targeting schools, villages and highways to demand ransoms. In February, twelve anti-jihadist fighters were killed in clashes with gang members. These bandits have worrying links with terrorist groups, fuelling concerns about security in the region.

In the north-central part of the country, the town of Mangu was rocked by inter-community violence, a relatively rare phenomenon in this hitherto unspoilt region. The attacks, which took place at the end of January, targeted churches, mosques and schools, resulting in the death of at least 25 people. The violence rekindled ethnic and religious tensions in Plateau State, where Muslim and Christian communities have traditionally coexisted. 

Alongside these security challenges, Nigeria is also facing a humanitarian crisis in the northwest of the country, where malnutrition levels are described as "catastrophic" by the organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). This crisis has led to epidemics of preventable diseases, endangering the lives of thousands of children. Despite this, the situation seems to be largely ignored by donors and aid organizations, according to MSF.

On the diplomatic front, a controversial agreement between Nigeria and the UK has provoked a strong reaction in the country. The agreement, signed in Abuja, allows British lawyers to practice law in Nigeria without any restrictions, which has been perceived as an interference in the national legal system, but also as a painful reminder of the country's colonial past. The President of the Nigerian Bar Association denounced the agreement, pointing out that it could threaten the livelihoods of millions of Nigerians. 

In addition, Foreign Minister Yusuf Tuggar affirmed the country's willingness to maintain its collaboration with Russia, particularly in the commercial and military fields. The statement was made at a joint press conference with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in Moscow. At the same time, Tuggar stressed that this long-standing cooperation would continue, while Lavrov assured that Moscow would continue to support African countries in strengthening their militaries and security. Elsewhere, Nigeria announced the reopening of its borders with Niger and the end of economic sanctions, underlining the importance of trade between the two countries. However, this announcement comes at a time when communal clashes in the south have led to the death of at least 16 soldiers.

On the economic front, Nigeria announced a ban on the street trading of foreign currency in the country as part of new regulations established by the Central Bank. These measures are aimed at reforming the foreign exchange market, which has suffered from a chronic shortage of dollars in recent years. A decision which is also accompanied by the imposition of higher minimum capital levels for bureaux de change operators. With these moves, the Central Bank is seeking to stabilize the foreign exchange market and curb speculation in the national currency, the naira.

Nigeria has been the scene of a crackdown on fraud in that it will ban street trading in foreign currencies and establish new regulations setting higher minimum capital levels for bureaux de change operators, as part of wider reforms of the foreign exchange market. These actions have been prompted by the country's anti-corruption agency, which accuses operators of speculating on the currency. These measures come in the wake of a dollar shortage due to the flight of foreign investors in particular.