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Examining the Crisis in Nigeria: The Struggle for State Control and the Rise of Private Forces

Reevaluating the Security Crisis in Nigeria: Beyond a Lack of Will

The ongoing deterioration of security in Nigeria, marked by 2,423 fatalities and 1,872 abductions since President Bola Tinubu took office, is often attributed to a simple lack of will by the government. This perspective suggests that the Nigerian state needs to shake off its inertia to effectively address the threats from various violent non-state actors, ranging from self-determination groups to ransom-seeking kidnappers. However, an alternative viewpoint suggests that the issue is not merely a lack of will but a fundamental deficiency in the state’s capacity to manage these challenges.

The Paradox of State Power and the Failure of Monopolized Violence

According to Weberian theory, a state ideally holds a monopoly on legitimate violence, yet in Nigeria, this theory falls short in practice. The Nigerian state, while maintaining a facade of authority, often fails to apply its power where most needed, instead misdirecting its efforts towards oppressing the most vulnerable through excessive law enforcement measures. This paradox highlights a misalignment in priorities, where the state demonstrates efficiency in less critical areas while faltering in crucial responsibilities.

The Privatization of State Functions and the Consequences for Security

The privatization of state roles, driven by a narrow political elite, has blurred the lines between public service and private gain, transforming governance into a predatory enterprise that prioritizes personal enrichment over public good. This shift has profound consequences, injecting violence into political competition and fostering a cycle of predatory politics and mass deprivation. The resulting insecurity has further encouraged the privatization of security, creating a contentious arms race of unauthorized violence. This privatization includes the rise of vigilantism, the emergence of violence entrepreneurs, and the misuse of state security resources for personal agendas, all of which challenge the sovereignty and efficacy of the Nigerian state.