Taking Our Security into our Hands: The Role of Vigilante Groups in the Fight against Boko Haram Terrorist Group in the Lake Chad Basin

The rise of Boko Haram in Nigeria and its spread to other parts of Lake Chad Basin has triggered the proliferation of several community defense forces, otherwise known as vigilante groups. This policy brief reveals that faced with Boko Haram attacks, the local population reinvented effective indigenous self-defense groups for their survival. The brief further states that though proven effective in the fight against Boko Haram, the quest by vigilante groups to provide security to their communities can become a source of insecurity if not properly handled. The author, therefore, recommends the need for Security Sector Reform within the Great Lakes region that will minimize the risks posed by these groups, optimizing their gains in fighting Boko Haram and addressing other security threats within the region. This policy brief interrogates the geostrategic situation of the Lake Chad Basin and explains why the area constitutes a fertile ground for Boko Haram activities. It also briefly highlights the origins of the vigilante group, their composition, age factors, eligibility criteria in joining these groups, their activities, and their relationship with the government, the traditional rulers, the population and other security sectors. It goes a bit further to examine the modus operandi of these groups and how their attempts and quest to provide security can be a source of insecurity. The policy brief ends providing policy options.