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Tinubu demands swift justice following soldier slaying

The president has vowed to punish the 'cowardly offenders'

A spate of murderous attacks and kidnappings is vying for President Bola Tinubu's attention alongside the continuing cost-of-living crisis (AC Vol 65 No 2, Abductions prompt security alert). Over the last month in Kaduna state alone, over 450 people have been abducted, including 287 students.

Many are comparing this wave of attacks by criminal gangs and jihadist groups to the kidnapping of 276 girl students at Chibok in Borno. The campaign to free the Chibok girls became an international cause and damaged President Goodluck Jonathan's government which lost national elections in the following year.

Most of the attacks have been in the northern states but recently more incidents are being reported in the south.

Clashes in Delta State in the south-south region have shown have how overstretched and poorly equipped Nigeria's security forces are. This week, 17 Nigerian soldiers were ambushed and killed on a mission to halt inter-communal clashes in Delta.

Tinubu has given carte blanche to Nigeria's security and defence authorities to pursue the killers. 'The cowardly offenders responsible for this heinous crime will not go unpunished,' he said.

The soldiers had been deployed to control clashes between the Okuama and Okoloba communities, stemming from disputes over land and fishing rights, but were reportedly ambushed by youth from one of the communities.

Violent disputes over land or compensation for oil spills by energy companies are a regular occurrence in many Delta State communities, but these latest killings are a serious escalation.

Any suggestion of heavy-handedness by the military in response could risk inflaming tensions. There are reports of homes being set ablaze in the villages close to where the attack took place, prompting villagers to flee amid fears of reprisal attacks from the military.

The tempo of attacks – launched by jihadist groups, criminal gangs and vigilante groups on rival communities – has risen over the past six months. Earlier this year, at least 30 people were killed in central Plateau State, following clashes between Muslim herders and Christian farming communities.

Atiku Abubakar, the People's Democratic Party candidate in the 2023 presidential polls, has attributed the spike in attacks and insecurity to rising levels of poverty and hunger. Both he and Labour Party leader Peter Obi, are now trying to use the twin crises to rebuild political support and profile.

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