Boko Haram Insurgency in Nigeria
By David Ayeni
There has been a worldwide increase in terrorism since the September 11 attacks on the United States, resulting in the introduction of various terrorist groups. According to the 2018 CIA World Fact book report, there are currently 84 acclaimed terrorist groups in over 33 nations. According to the United States Patriot Act of 2001, terrorism is defined as an act that violates the rights of an individual and threatens the policy of a government. The harm it has caused internationally ranges from loss of lives and properties, to the destabilization of entire governments.
Nigeria has faced a particularly dangerous problem with terrorism. The country is home to 191 million people and 250 ethnic groups who are mainly of the Christian or Islamic faith. Among them, three major tribes dominate the population; the Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba. Boko Haram is the most feared terror group in Nigeria and was labelled the world’s deadliest terrorist group in both 2014 and 2015. The group has killed more than 20,000 individuals and is responsible for the displacement of 2 million people in the country. These statistics place Boko Haram among the most destructive terrorist groups to arise in recent history. Some of the attacks committed by the Boko Haram group are the UN Nigerian Headquarters, Nyanya bombing on Christmas day, Bama killings, Abuja police headquarters bombing, Damaturu attacks, Baga massacre, Gamboru gala attack, Gumsuri kidnapping, Dalori attack, Dikwa suicide bombing, Maiduguri attack, Mubi suicide bombing, Borno attacks and Bombings in Damaturu village
The name “Boko Haram” is of Hausa origin. Boko means a “book” while Haram is defined as something that is forbidden, evil and ungodly. It is an allusion to western education, which the organization forbids and endeavors to eventually eliminate. Boko Haram’s headquarters is located in Sambisa Forest, which is south of Borno State where the group chiefly operates. The forest has a land coverage of 518 square kilometers and is within reach of seven local government areas in Borno State; Chibok, Askira Uba, Damboa, Gwoza, Konduga, Dikwa, and Bama. The Sambisa forest is home to various wild animals and serves as the groups’ training field, where strategies are developed and practiced prior to an attack.
Research suggests that the introduction of Boko Haram can be traced to independence by the colonial British masters. Studies opine that the pioneer leader of the sect (Yusuf) perceived the effects and impact of colonialism in contemporary society and felt the northerners had been unduly marginalized and subjugated by the British in the 1900s. Consequently, he saw a need to conserve the purity of Islam while protecting it against systems that could manipulate or corrupt it.
Another contributing factor involves the disparities that exist between the three ethnic groups in Nigeria. Poverty, educational inequality, unemployment and political dissatisfaction between the North and the rest of the country has led to economic divide and strain. Most youths in the northern part of the country are unemployed when compared to other parts of the country. Statistics suggests that over 73 percent of the Northern population in Nigeria live in extreme poverty. This ethnic divide acted as a catalyst for Boko Haram’s growth and existences in Nigeria
Ruthless bombings, abductions, and assassinations perpetrated by Boko Haram have wreaked havoc on Nigeria and have aroused keen interest from nations around the world. The illegal militia seems determined to overthrow the legitimate government of Nigeria and impose an Islamic state. This is unacceptable and the ongoing violence executed by Boko Haram is an affront to humanity and international law. At present, the United Nations has provided inadequate assistance to Nigeria as it pertains to curbing Boko Haram’s terroristic activities. Effective methods may involve empowering the Nigerian economy, such that the local populace is dissuaded from involvement with the group for economic gain. Local programs that foster community efficacy could also be development and properly funded. Theoretically, greater attachment between communities could decrease alienation and frustration within the population, two of the major factors leading to Boko Haram membership.
Nigeria’s northern region suffers the poorest economy within the country and is most in need of income-generating investment. The UN should act neutral while indulging in the intervention measure by avoiding direct involvement of the Nigerian government as opinion suggests that Boko Haram is more political than it seems. Security, education, health, good roads, and water should be provided to the people in that region. The national government has been unable to provide these amenities thus far, causing people to feel alienated and eventually join Boko Haram. Implementation of these suggested strategies could significantly reduce recruitment into Boko Haram, and would weaken the group over time.