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Nigeria is increasingly prominent in the international media in the context of security issues, especially in light of news regarding the abduction of the school girls in the north-east by the terror organization Boko Haram. The repeated terror attacks raise questions about the government’s capacity to deal with multiple domestic threats.
Internal difficulty in coping with Boko Haram has led Nigeria to seek for assistance from the United States, France, Britain and other western countries. This might be one of the reasons for the pronounced increase in the attention the international community has paid Nigeria recently.
Over recent years, Nigeria has faced numerous security threats, sabotage of oil pipes, terror actions on behalf of organizations as Boko Haram and other groups in the Niger Delta region, abductions, pirate attacks,rising urban crime and additional threats on its critical facilities (airports, harbors, etc.).
Violence in Nigeria has known its ups and downs, yet it does not look like it is about to subside any time soon. During the past year dozens of attacks against civilians have occurred, increasing in frequency since the end of 2013.Since the beginning of 2014, more than 2600 people lost their lives in attacks against civilians.Although the number of Boko Haram’s violent events dropped towards the end of 2012, it is climbing back up since early in 2013.
Although security issues definitely keep Nigeria’s leaders busy, economic and civil matters are of great concern as well. Decrease in oil revenues, high levels of corruption, unemployment and a lack of institutional civil services,all add to religious and ethnic tensions already simmering in the area.
Adequate budget allocation is a difficult task under these circumstances. Defense forces thus need to cope with a twofold challenge: to provide better security under budget cuts. This is a major challenge of ‘providing more for less’, and so far it seems defense forces did not manage to hold the lines. The government, nevertheless, plans on cutting down the defense budget again: According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI),the government had already cut military expenditure in 2012 and 2013 by 5.1% and according to other estimates, a drop of 6.5% in Ministry of Defense budget is expected in 2014.
Despite the government’s prior investment, the army’s performance and efficiency is still far from adequate for the nation’s security needs. Investment in procurement of platforms and weapons is sparse and the army lacks the tools needed to maintain existing equipment. Moreover, the battle against violent guerrillas requires a clear and concise doctrine that must be accompanied by counter-terrorism training. Unfortunately the military does not possess an anti-terror doctrine and thus cannot practice according to one. In addition, defense forces suffer from ethnic and religious divisions, as well as from corruption.
Despite what seems as low prioritization of security issues, new opportunities arise for the international community for investing in Nigeria especially now that the local government has clearly asked for assistance. Technology-wise, companies which specialize in means of defense that require relatively modest resources may benefit from exploring the Nigerian market.Companies specializing in retrofitting military equipment might also find the local market lucrative.The military also lacks radio and communications equipment, therefore relevant players may seek potential clients in this field.
The intelligence market also holds a positive outlook for entry. Companies specializing in knowledge, rather than equipment and products, may become of special value to the country in its effort to improve security. Nigeria requires know-how and insights on fighting guerrilla warfare in populated areas, as well as training on remodeling its doctrine.
The uncertainty and challenges lie ahead for Nigeria, yet it also unravels creative opportunities both governments, private companies and the international community. It remains to be seen who of the foreign players will manage to turn this potential into real coins, while enhancing the country’s capacity to provide security for its citizens.
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