Lagos, one of the largest cities in the world and the heart of Nigeria’s modern economy, has not been the venue for Boko Haram or other radical jihadi terrorism. The sole episode occurred in 2014 and was small in scale. However, Nigeria’s Department of State Services (DSS), which has some similarities to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, is raising the possibility that Lagos’ immunity may be about to change.
According to the BBC, the DSS claims that it has arrested twelve Boko Haram operatives in Lagos since July, and there have also been arrests in Enugu, in the southeast of Nigeria. A DSS spokesman says that the spread of Boko Haram’s activities is the result of increased pressure from the Nigerian security services in the northeast, its usual operational venue.
It is true that Boko Haram activities in the northeast have become more scattered since the group has shifted its focus away from occupying territory. However, according to the Nigeria Security Tracker, deaths involving Boko Haram had fallen to 557 in May and 445 in June, jumping to 1,389 in July.
President Muhammadu Buhari has launched a military offensive against Boko Haram, and shifted the locus of the counterinsurgency efforts to Maiduguri. In his speech on August 13, President Buhari charged the military service chiefs with the defeat of Boko Haram in three months. In July he fired the previous service chiefs appointed by former President Goodluck Jonathan. The new service chiefs know that they have no guaranteed security of tenure in the event they fail against Boko Haram. Similarly, Buhari appointed a new DSS director general in early July. He, too, will be under pressure to show results. Such pressure could result in the military and the DSS overstating their success. However, as Boko Haram is decentralized and increasingly geographically scattered in its operations, a future attack on Lagos or other large cities in the south cannot be ruled out.