Policing terrorism in Nigeria: challenges for the 21st century

Mbaso, Chijioke Theophilius (2021) Policing terrorism in Nigeria: challenges for the 21st century. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


The policing of terrorism is a global issue. Terrorism up to date continues to destroy lives and property globally. The response to terrorism can be described as ranging from lacklustre approach to a systematic/comprehensive approach. Terrorism and Counter Terrorism research continues to present extraordinary challenges due to the secretive nature of terrorism and indeed, issues of national security by those charged with preventing and disrupting it. It means evaluating what works in terrorism and counter terrorism policing is inherently, difficult. A question of effectiveness arises as to what is it that works, whether it is working and how best to achieve it.

This is evident in Nigeria, where counter terrorism policing was not fully understood, and a lacklustre approach was applied to its understanding and response. The implications are the thousands of lives that continue to be lost, humanitarian crises in the Northeast of Nigeria and insecurity which has hindered foreign investment and continues to impoverish the country.

The thesis goes beyond policy documents, literatures, theories and approaches by providing original accounts of the policing challenges faced by the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) and the collaborative nature of the organisation with international organisations like United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), in capacity and capability building. Their views were significant in understanding policing approach and practice in the prevention and response of terrorism in Nigeria. The research project identified and analysed problems of policing terrorism from the country’s precolonial era to 2018. The study focused particularly from the emergence of Boko Haram (BH), around 2000.

The findings confirm the NPF did not take the issue of terrorism seriously and ascribed it to a local issue requiring a local response. The findings demonstrate issues of collaboration, under funding, inadequate resources, porous unsecured borders and lack of training present serious challenges to the prevention and disruption of terrorism in the country. In addition, the findings confirm that the NPF and similar agencies know they lack the skill set needed to bring the issue of terrorism to a minimum.

Hence, training needs have been identified and embarked on. The findings confirm that international and regional organisations continue to play a big role in capacity and capability building with NPF and other LEAs in Nigeria. The findings confirm the big gap that exits between Nigeria and the United Kingdom (UK) in terms of the overall fundamental principles of policing, like evidence-based research, policing doctrines, criminal investigation, counter terrorism strategy, training and police professionalism geared towards policing terrorism.

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