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Major Security Concerns As Jihadi Fighters from Africa’s Sahel Begin Settling in Nigeria – Reports

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Jihadi fighters, who had long operated in Africa’s volatile Sahel region, have now found a new home in North Western Nigeria, several media sources have reported, raising security concerns.

This migration, they say, followed a trend of militants seeking refuge in wealthier West African coastal nations.

Reports say that the situation poses significant security challenges and raises more concerns about the safety of local communities and wildlife in the West African country.

According to the reports, these extremist fighters are believed to be linked to al-Qaida. Over the past year, they crossed over from Benin’s hard-hit northern region into Nigeria.

The jihadi fighters have settled in Kainji Lake National Park, one of Nigeria’s largest protected areas. Unfortunately, this park also hosts one of West Africa’s fast-declining lion populations.

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Residents close to the park told The Associated Press that the facility, which holds one of West Africa’s fast-declining lion populations, has been closed for more than a year because of security threats from armed groups attacking neighboring villages and roads.

Rangers patrol at the Kainji Lake National Park in Nigeria's Niger State
Rangers patrol at the Kainji Lake National Park in Nigeria’s Niger State

“Before, it was like a tourism center (but) now, people find it difficult to pass through there,” said John Yerima, who lives near the park in New Bussa town. “You cannot enter that road (leading to the park) now. It is dangerous, seriously.”

The security situation at the 2,000-square mile park in Niger state and along the nearby border with Benin is “getting out of hand” and is “a much more explosive situation than we had anticipated,” said Kars de Bruijne, one of the authors of the report and a senior research fellow at the institute.

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Security Threats

As armed groups have gained access to the park, residents in nearby towns reported increased danger due to attacks on villages and roads. File photos of militants and Insurgents

Security experts have warned that the situation is “getting out of hand.” The sustained presence of armed groups in the park signifies a connection between Nigeria’s homegrown extremists and al-Qaida-linked militants from the Sahel.

Implications of Jihadi Fighters Migration

Large-Scale Success:
The presence of these fighters offers an opportunity for extremists to claim success in both Nigeria and the Sahel, regions already plagued by deadly attacks.

Security Crisis:
The Sahel region faces a worsening security crisis, with military coups destabilizing democratic governments. Traditional partners like France and the United States are being replaced by Russia as a security ally.

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Remote Territories:
North West Nigeria’s remote territories, rich in mineral resources but lacking government presence, provide an ideal environment for jihadi groups to expand their influence.

In summary, as Nigeria grapples with this security challenge, it must find effective ways to address the settlement of jihadi fighters within its borders.

The situation in Kainji Lake National Park underscores the need for coordinated efforts to combat extremism and protect both human lives and wildlife.

Media sources

1: Jihadis from Africa’s Sahel settle in Nigeria as militants move to wealthier West African countries (Fox News).
2: Jihadi Fighters Settle in Nigeria’s Kainji Lake National Park: A New Security Crisis (Devdiscourse).
3: Jihadi fighters have settled in Nigerian national park popular with tourists, report claims (The Independent).

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