In my column in BusinessDay today, I talk about the cost of insecurity.

Look at it this way, Boko Haram started at about the time the Niger Delta militancy were getting their amnesty. A decade after, we are still paying amnesty to creek boys, and Nigeria’s numerous internal security crises have intensified.

In pretty much all geopolitical zones of the country we are seeing rising violence, often challenging the Nigerian state for territorial control. Kidnap for ransom is now a full business venture aided by lots of ungoverned spaces.

Sambisa Forest is a good example of how this violence affects the economy. Now used as one of Boko Haram’s key staging areas, the British colonial administration had gazetted Sambisa as a reserve in 1958, making it one of the conservation legacies bequeathed to the Nigerian state by the colonial government. In 1977, the area was re-gazetted as a National Game Reserve for the preservation of rare animals and also as a way of generating funds from tourism. The forest is/was home to a variety of wild animals and 62 different species of birds. Now it is home to squadrons and battalions of troops from the Multinational Joint Task Force from Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon, as well as Boko Haram.

In the South, Allianz Global recently published a report that showed that about 45% of global piracy in Q1 2020 occurred in the Gulf of Guinea. There were 47 reported incidents, up from 38 a year ago, mostly targeting container ships and bulk carriers.

These figures are a totally different discussion about the impact of violence in oil-producing areas that somehow affect oil production, leading Nigeria to lose about 400,000 barrels of oil to crude oil theft. Maintaining the same amount in theft in 2019 when Nigeria became the world’s capital on oil theft, the country lost about ₦1 trillion.

In a country squeezed for revenue thus leading to questionable tax policies such as the stamp duty on rent as well an anti-business policy (now suspended) that sought to make NIPOST a competitor to, as well as a regulator in the logistics sector of the economy, we are yet to take into account how rising levels of violence affects our image, which in turn affects the economy. Nigeria has an image problem. The US State Department’s travel advisory for 2019 totally advises its citizens against travelling to at least 24 out of 36 states in Nigeria. When the US embassy announced an immediate indefinite suspension of interview waivers for visa renewals for applicants in Nigeria, the reason given was not just because Nigerians overstay their visa. It was also due to the fact that non-Nigerians were using Nigerian passports to apply for American visas which constitutes a security threat to the US.

There are a lot of things Nigeria needs to fix, but if it would seek to command respect globally, it must fix its internal security apparatus.

Using big data to understand West Africa one country (or is it region?) at a time.