Overview: ISIS-West Africa (ISIS-WA) and Boko Haram (BH) continued attacks against government and security forces and civilians in the North East region of the country, which resulted in deaths, injuries, abductions, and the destruction of property.
BH attacks did not appear to discriminate between civilians and government officials, whereas ISIS-WA generally focused attacks on government and security forces and expanded efforts to implement shadow governance structures. Following BH leader Abubakar Shekau’s death in May, BH’s attacks in Nigeria decreased and thousands of BH fighters reportedly surrendered in the largest wave of defections since 2002. The Nigerian Air Force deployed A-29 Super Tucanos purchased from the United States against BH and ISIS-WA, beginning in September.
The Nigerian Army largely succeeded in preventing terrorists from overrunning forward operating bases for extended periods of time. However, BH and ISIS-WA exploited the military’s absence outside the “super camps” and abducted aid workers, attacked humanitarian operations hubs, and controlled security along many of the major roads. The deteriorating security environment exacerbated conditions for civilians and severely constrained relief operations in northeastern Nigeria.
Nigeria worked under the MNJTF with neighboring countries to counter terrorist activity in the region. ISIS-WA continued to enjoy a large degree of freedom of movement throughout Borno State and eastern Yobe State. BH and ISIS-WA terrorist actions contributed to the internal displacement of an estimated two million people in Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe States, and the external displacement of more than 328,000 Nigerian refugees to neighboring countries, principally Cameroon, Chad, and Niger.
Attacks and kidnappings in the North West and North Central regions of the country by criminal gangs colloquially known as “bandits” reportedly caused more civilian deaths in 2021 than BH and ISIS-WA in the Northeast. Nigeria designated these groups as terrorists under domestic law on November 25 to maximize a federal security response, including the increased use of the military. The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), separatists designated by the Nigerian government as a proscribed terrorist group in 2017, reportedly conducted violent attacks in the Southeast.
Nigeria is a member of the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Program. U.S. Mission Nigeria coordinated with the Nigerian military at the Nigerian Defense Intelligence Agency’s (NDIA’s) Joint Intelligence Fusion Center (JIFC), Geospatial Intelligence Directorate Analysis Center, and Nigeria Defense Intelligence College. NDIA leadership requested assistance from the embassy to help build the JIFC’s capabilities.
Terrorist Incidents in 2021: BH and ISIS-WA carried out hundreds of attacks in Nigeria using small arms, captured military equipment, improvised explosive devices (person borne, vehicle borne, and animal borne), ambushes, and kidnappings. The following list details a fraction of the incidents that occurred:
- On February 23, a BH rocket attack in Maiduguri, Borno State, reportedly killed at least 16 civilians, including nine children.
- During March 1-2, ISIS-WA attacked a humanitarian hub in Dikwa, Borno State, forcing dozens of NGO staff to flee and take refuge while the attackers burned several NGO compounds.
- On April 5, gunmen believed to represent IPOB and its Eastern Security Network attacked a jail in Imo State, reportedly freeing nearly 2,000 inmates and killing one police officer.
- On April 9, fighters believed to be BH insurgents attacked in Adamawa State, killing at least five civilians and abducting around 30 women. The fighters set fire to approximately 50 homes, as well as churches, government buildings, schools, and other property, before withdrawing. At least 5,000 people were displaced to neighboring communities.
- On December 23, rockets reportedly fired by ISIS-WA exploded near the airport in Maiduguri, Borno State, minutes before President Buhari was scheduled to arrive by plane. Four civilians on the ground were reportedly killed.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Nigeria uses the Terrorism Act of 2011, as amended in 2013, to criminalize and prevent terrorist acts and financing. Although there were no changes to Nigeria’s counterterrorism legal framework in 2021, on October 21 UNODC and the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies launched a user guide to the Terrorism Act for law enforcement and judicial officials.
The Office of the National Security Advisor is responsible for coordinating all security and enforcement agencies, including the Department of State Security (DSS), the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC), the Ministry of Justice, and the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), which has a Counterterrorism Unit and Terrorist Investigation Branch. Border security responsibilities are shared among the NPF, the DSS, the NSCDC, Customs, Immigration, and the Nigerian military. Coordination among agencies was limited.
The Nigerian government has cooperated with the United States and other international partners to prevent further acts of terrorism in Nigeria.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Nigeria is a member of the Intergovernmental Action Group Against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA), an ECOWAS regional body and affiliate of FATF. GIABA published a report in August assessing Nigeria’s counterterrorist financing measures. GIABA concluded that Nigeria has not adequately prevented BH and ISIS WA from moving revenues through its financial system, noting that Nigeria largely prefers intelligence, military, and law enforcement responses to terrorism, as opposed to methods that counter terrorist financing. Nigeria is seeking FATF membership and is working toward meeting its requirements, including by addressing GIABA’s findings. Nigeria’s Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) was readmitted to the Egmont Group in 2018 after the NFIU became an independent agency, a change intended to make the NFIU more effective at combating money laundering and corruption.
Countering Violent Extremism: Nigeria’s disarmament, deradicalization, and reintegration efforts are not currently well developed or coordinated.
International and Regional Cooperation: Nigeria continued high-level participation in regional security and counterterrorism conferences. The country participated in several CT trainings sponsored by the United Nations. In May, participants at the 30th session of the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice organized an event focused on the effective criminal justice response to terrorism in northeastern Nigeria. Nigeria is a member of the GCTF and co-chairs its Criminal Justice and Rule of Law Working Group with Switzerland. Nigeria also is an International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law Board Member.