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The role of informants and implications for Nigeria’s fight against terrorism

By Lami Sadiq

In July 2021, troops of Operation Hadin Kai arrested scores of Boko Haram fighters, informants and logistics suppliers in Nigeria’s northeast. The Director, Army Public Relations, Brig-Gen. Onyema Nwachukwu, said at the time that some of the suspects had confessed to working as informants for the terrorists, by providing them information on troops’ movements, locations, deployments, strength, calibre of weapons and other activities. He said, “they also admitted to have supplied the terrorists with basic logistics for their daily survival, ranging from supply of petroleum and lubricants, drugs, mosquito nets, kola nuts, recharge cards and foodstuff.

Nigeria is presently faced with several security challenges and experts say that informants who collaborate with these criminal gangs continue to hinder success in the fight against terrorism. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), there are four types of informants: a member of the public, a victim of a crime, a member of an organized criminal group, and police officers themselves. In Nigeria currently, the word informant is used to depict collaborators of criminal gangs especially the terrorist group, Boko Haram in the north east and criminal gangs locally referred to as bandits in the north west.

Recently, the Commissioner of Police in Katsina State, Sanusi Buba in an interview with Daily Trust described these informants as not only those who provide criminal gangs with information but also other essential commodities like motorbikes, fuel, food stuff, recharge cards, and many others. CP Buba said dealing with such people has been difficult and continues to undermine the fight against banditry in the north west. 

Alleging that most informants reside in communities where criminal atrocities are committed, the CP said information from previously arrested suspects reveal that most, if not all the information available to bandits and terrorists before they invade villages to abduct people, are predicated on information they secure from people living within the communities.

Suspicion between communities and law enforcement agents 

Another major challenge in the war against insurgency in Nigeria has been hostilities and suspicions between host communities and law enforcement agencies; both of which often are casualties of criminal gangs. For instance, security agencies sometimes accuse host communities of withholding vital information that could lead to the success of their operation. They also accuse communities of shielding the insurgents. Host communities on the other hand say security agents must keep a tight noose around information shared between them to build confidence.

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