Insurgents and Terror in Jos, Nigeria: Where Next?
The bomb explosion witnessed in the city of Jos, capital of Plateau State, Nigeria on Tuesday, May 20, 2014, cannot be separated from the larger challenge of insurgency and terror, perpetrated by Boko Haram. Bomb explosions have become a dominant part of everyday life in northern Nigeria (particularly the northeast region), and the reality of the situation is that Boko Haram’s acts of terror are well coordinated, sophisticated, and consistently unpredictable in terms of both location and victims. There is no doubt that these attacks constitute serious setbacks to consolidating the peace dividends being experienced in Plateau State, after a decade of ethno-religious tensions marked by intermittent conflict.
Just prior to the twin bomb explosions that went off Tuesday in Terminus Market near Murtala Mohammed way, three persons were reportedly arrested by the Special Task Force (STF) for their connection with suspected attempts to bomb some key locations in Jos.1 So far, Plateau State has suffered huge humanitarian losses in four separate bomb explosions over the past several years, which are all directly linked to Boko Haram, as shown below:
Location 1: Kabong/Gada Biu/Angwan Rukuba, Jos North Local Government Area
Date: December 24, 2010
Bomb count: Four
Casualty count: 30 persons dead and 80 injured2
Location 2: Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN) Headquarters Compound Church, Jos North Local Government Area
Date: February 26, 2012
Bomb count: One
Casualty count: 3 persons dead and 38 injured3
Location 3: St. Fimbarrs Catholic Church, Rafield, Jos South Local Government Area
Date: March 11, 2012
Bomb count: One
Casualty count: 11 persons dead and 14 injured4
Location 4: Terminus/Murtala Mohammed Way, Jos North Local Government Area
Date: May 20, 2014
Bomb count: Two
Casualty count: 122 persons dead and 32 injured5
Beyond the identity-based conflicts that placed Plateau State on the front burner of the discourse on violent conflicts in Nigeria, the real threats to stability include criminality and rural banditry associated with cattle rustling, overnight attacks against defenseless communities, and threats, as well as acts of insurgency and terror by Boko Haram.
The Nigerian Federal Government should support the Plateau State Government at two levels, by helping to strengthen community coordination, resilience, and vigilance against insurgency and terror, as well as other forms of criminality. At the same time, it should work with the international community to support and overhaul the human resource capacity of the security sector in terms of intelligence and emergency response.
The most likely place for insurgency to thrive is wherever there is a weak political economy, as evident in Nigeria's northeast region. Hence, discontent and insurrection against the state have become a typical occurrence. State response to insurgency in the northeast, however, is having serious humanitarian consequences for Plateau State, particularly in terms of its location as a major link between northern and southern Nigeria. As these insurgents are increasingly displaced from the northeast, the search for safe havens makes Plateau State a key target for further bomb attacks.
As national and international attention is mainly focused on Sambisa forest in the search for the girls that were abducted by Boko Haram from Chibok in Borno State, it is important not to overlook the dire fact that other parts of Nigeria are vulnerable to coordinated attacks by Boko Haram. It happened in Kano and Plateau State—but there is no telling where it will happen next.
- The point was made by Senator Victor Lar during the plenary session of the Senate at the National Assembly, May 21, 2014. ↩
- Bussyfocus. “30 Killed as Explosions Rock Jos.” http://oceanrisee.wordpress.com/2010/12/25/30-killed-as-explosions-rock-jos/ (Accessed May 20, 2014). ↩
- Premium Times. “Christians caught attempting to bomb COCIN church in Bauchi.” www.premiumtimesng.com/news3953-breaking_news_boko_haram_bombs_jos.html (Accessed May 20, 2014). ↩
- Premium Times. “Death toll rises to 11 in Jos bomb last.” www.premiumtimesng.com/news/4174-death_toll_rises_11_jos_bomb_blast.html (Accessed May 20, 2014). ↩
- This information was provided by the Executive Secretary of the Plateau State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) Alhaji Alhassan Barde via a phone conversation with the author on May 20, 2014. ↩