Terrorism In Nigeria: A Glance At The History And Menace 

By Ogungbile Emmanuel Oludotun

Some days ago, In there regular habit, the Islamic extremists released a video showing the slayings of five aid workers who were abducted last month in northeastern Nigeria. The abductions which came around the same time that a Boko Haram splinter group said it would begin targeting Nigerians who work for international aid groups as well as those who help the military. The workers are said to be the aid workers had been traveling by a main road between Monguno and the state capital of Maiduguri when they were kidnapped. Once again, I became heavily provoked and infuriated as innocent ones yet lost their lives again. Is someone not outliving his patience already?

Quite agreeable, we can say the world became familiar with 'popular terrorism' on 11 September 2001, as that terrible day did change the world. The attacks on the United States that claimed the lives of nearly three thousand innocent people showed us that terrorism had transposed into a global phenomenon that is already causing an everyday massive pain and destruction anywhere. Consequently, studies made it clear that the word terrorism originated from the reign of terror instigated by Maxmilien Robespierre in 1793 following the French revolution. This implies that terrorism is not a child of modernity; it is as old as the existence of man. Little did I know why the International Terrorism and Security Research (ITSR) alluded to the fact that terrorism is not new, and that even though the word has been used since the beginning of recorded history it can be relatively hard to define. Terrorism according to the ITSR has been described variously as both a tactic and strategy; a crime and a holy duty; a justified reaction to oppression and an inexcusable abomination.

Today, many will agree that terrorism is now generally viewed as a leading global security threat. It's suffered in the Asia, a little in Europe amd most especially the continent of Africa. This has spurred broader thinking about its causes, what it entails, and how it impacts on people and society. However, the complexity of terrorist behavior and the diversity of root causes and objectives make it difficult to answer these questions.

The Knowledge of what constitutes the root causes and objectives of terrorist organizations continues to evolve in response to the needs of governments, international organizations and security experts to develop strategies to prevent and manage terrorist attacks. For example, regarding root causes, there is growing evidence that terrorism is largely explained by socio-economic, political and most evidently religious factors. Although extensive writings has been written on the various underlying factors on terrorism, however one key missing element in these writtens is failure of these writers to make in the adequate findings on the sources of terrorism thinkings. Most especially here in Nigeria where it's activities are domineering in the Northern part, where Boko Haram, ANSARU, and ISWA the discomposing terrorist organizations are making marks due to its territorial ambition and regional focus. Hence, this study shall take a look into the some causes and effect of active terrorism in Nigeria and it's relative solutions.

Without much ado, it's necessary to take a background look at the history of these most popular terrorist groups in the country. A June 2018 Journal on Law and Crimal Justice published by American Research Institute for Policy Development decribes Boko Haram was founded in 2002, with official name as ‘Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad which literally means the ‘Association for propagating the Prophets’ teaching and Jihad’ has become one of the most dangerous terrorist groups in the world which evokes insecurity and fear. Allegedly formed by Muhammad Yusuf, the group have carved a niche for itself in Nigeria as the most vicious and violent religious group ever witnessed by the country. Ideologically, Boko Haram is geared at imposing strict sharia law across Nigeria and abolishing western education.

This fact is further compounded with the literal meaning of Boko Haram which comprised of the combination of Hausa word ‘Boko’ meaning book and ‘Haram’ an Arabic word translated to mean forbidden words suggest that ‘western education is forbidden’. Collectively, both While this appears to represent the widely held perception of Boko Haram, it seems however that, clarification on the extent to which western education is rejected has been made by the group. An instance is from the deceased leader of the group who stated that, while western education is not totally forbidden, if it contravenes with the provision of the Holy Quran, such western beliefs will be rejected . On a similar vein, according to Onuoha, a leader of the group has proffered the view that Boko Haram does not necessarily oppose western education but rather affirms their belief in the supremacy of Islamic culture over education. Someone might want to get confused here, maybe I am.

Evidently to sights and records, In terms of mode of operation, Boko Haram has engaged in diverse diabolical attacks following the death of its leader Muhammad Yusuf in 2009. Although prior to his death, the group has engaged in altercation with the security representatives such as the police, however, the death of its leader marks the dynamic transformation of Boko Haram into a full fledge terrorist group. Popular instances of the group’s attack include the use of suicide bombing: a practice alien to Nigeria. Other attacks comprise of the kidnap of 276 Chibok girls in 2014, bombing of the Nigerian Force Headquarters in the same year and the kidnap of over 100 Dapchi school girls in 2018.

Today, a Raymond Okoro study on terrorism showed that the Boko haram has a membership composition which includes: disaffected northern youths, professionals, unemployed graduates, Islamic clerics, ex-almajirai children who constantly migrate for the purpose of acquiring Quranic education in the Hausa language, drop-outs from universities, plus some members of the Nigerian political elites. It also includes some members of the state security agencies who thus assist the group with training and useful intelligence reports. The sect claims to have over 40000 members altogether in Nigeria and some neighbouring African states including Chad, Benin, and Niger.

Evidently in July 2013, Boko Haram was officially proscribed terrorist organisation in the United Kingdom, and since November 2013, a designated terrorist organisation in the United States. In May 2014, the UN Security Council added the group to its al-Qaeda sanctions list. Boko Haram has a loose operating structure, with disconnected cells provided with spiritual guidance by one overall emir, Abubakar Shekau, who has been killed many times by the Nigerian military but kept making variant public appearance mysteriously. This has made it hard for the Nigerian authorities to detect and defeat the group. The group has benefited from state corruption and has been able to infiltrate the government, the army and the security services.

A study of Henry Jackson Society, In 2002, Osama bin Laden dispatched one of his aides to Nigeria to distribute $3 million to sympathetic Salafi groups. Among the recipients was Mohammed Yusuf, Boko Haram’s founder. Documents discovered in bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound in May 2011 show Boko Haram’s leaders had been in contact with top levels of al-Qaeda, including potentially even bin Laden himself. Shekau, Boko Haram’s emir and Yusuf’s successor, very obviously backs al-Qaeda rhetorically; a message released in November 2012 featured Shekau praising al-Qaeda, its leaders (including bin Laden and Musab al-Zarqawi, the former leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq) and its fighters across the world, and threatening the US, Britain, Israel and Nigeria.

Consequently, it was reported that in August 2016 that the group splited into 2 factions of Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA) and JASDJ or Boko Haram. ISWA which is affiliated with ISIS core in Iraq and Syria and has expressed an intention to target Nigerian government, Christian and western interests. ISWA have launched a series of successful attacks against Nigerian military locations, increased their freedom of movement across Borno and Yobe states, and taken multiple hostages, including two humanitarian hostages who they executed in 2018.

Another is the Ansarul Muslimina Fi Biladis Sudan (Vanguard for the protection of Muslims in Black Africa) (Ansaru is also another sister terrorist organization operating in Nigeria. Ansaru is an Islamist terrorist organisation based in northern Nigeria, and is proscribed by the UK. It emerged in 2012 and is motivated by an anti-Nigerian Government and anti-Western agenda. Ansaru is also broadly aligned with Al Qaeda. Since 2012, the group has kidnapped at least numerous hostages, mainly Europeans. They are believed to have killed a number of hostages, including 2 British nationals. Today, one cannot be certain of the numbers of the terrorist operating on the shores of the country and around the western part of Africa. There are a number of terrorist groups active in the region. These include Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM), Islamic State West Africa (ISWA), Islamic State Greater Sahara (ISGS), Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Al Murabitoun, Ansar Dine and Boko Haram. These groups are capable of carrying out attacks and kidnaps over long distances. Kidnapping for ransom is the primary source of finance for Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM). Criminal gangs also carry out kidnapping for terrorist groups in return for financial rewards.

Wherein, it's painful that the menace sourced by terrorism on our land is overwhelming. Hence, I've made many findings on the popular causes of terrorism through the help of studies and observations. First, some studies believed that many people in Nigeria call for the restorative justice paradigm because they are aggrieved and hurt socially, politically and economically; and could not explain why some people who stand in plenty of water should wash their hands with spittle. Similarly, the grievance theory instituted by John Omale of the department of Criminology and Penology, Salem University, Lokoja, Nigeria, averred that it appears to support the assumption of some people in Nigeria, that the violent dimension of Boko Haram is a reaction to job creation opportunities granted to the Niger Delta militants in the Amnesty Programme. For this reason, the unemployed youth in the north are aggrieved and want to benefit from same. He further agrued that where the Boko Haram members missed their mark is from their name ‘Boko Haram’ 'western education is evil'. How do they intend to benefit from international and local trainings like the Niger Delta militants when their supposed ideology already defines western education as evil?

A look into a May 2016 Journal of Criminology and Justice studies also backed the theory of Aggriveness as a relative absence of democracy. Democracy, in its truest sense, is supposed to be representative of the people, their wishes and interests. However, because this is not always the case in reality, terrorism can arise in a democracy in two occasions: when there is a case of a minority whose basic rights and liberties are denied or taken away by arbitrary action of the government or its agencies; and when one minority is attacked by another minority and does not receive adequate protection from the state and its forces of law and order. In other words, those who are the subjects of a liberal state, but who are not admitted to its rights of citizenship cannot be morally bound to show allegiance or obedience to the state.

Ostentatively, from a two month research I conducted online from people on why there youths actively join terrorism on the daily basis, some set of people tell me that it is the inability of people to get education which might have opened their eyes to early civilisation; some also agreed that it's because of the rate of poverty in the Northern part of Nigeria, making people invest their mental strength into terrorism. Yet again, some people also have averred in their own conception that terrorism could be triggered by disgruntled and disaffected, intelligentsia who are in a social and moral crisis unable to mobilize the masses. When rigid social stratification shatters hopes for social transformation, then the ingredients are present for a start or rise in terrorist activities in an attempt to reconnect with the masses who they claim to represent and aspire to lead.

Furthermore, some school of thoughts have also agreed on greed as a cause for terrorism. Apparently, greed as the outcome of rational individual choices to maximise economic, social or political benefits. Rebellion is only feasible when the opportunity and potential gain from joining an armed group outweigh the benefits of not fighting and pursuing alternative income-generation opportunities. Hence, the costs of organising rebellion are lower where there is a large youth population (which is relatively cheap to recruit), where there are high levels of poverty and illiteracy or where there is an abundance of easily lootable resources.

As unfurled by Hilker and Fraser in 2019, the social and political exclusionism perspective is also a cause. Hence becomes a product of the social and political marginalisation of young people. The authors argued that there is a growing sense in the literature that ‘the social and economic statuses required for adulthood are increasingly unattainable for young people. Some authors also argued that a number of ethnographic studies of young people in a number of different conflict-affected countries have identified various social, economic and political barriers that block young peoples’ transition to adulthood, and highlighted the central role these barriers can play in driving violent conflict. For example Sommers’ 2006 work on ‘youthmen’ in Rwanda and on blocked youth transitions in West Africa research on ‘waithood’ in the Middle East and studies of youth violence in Sri Lanka all emphasize a blocked transition to adulthood emerging as a result of a complex combination of demographic, economic, social and political factors. Consequently now, Religion is a 'big big' factor that's promoting terrorism in an averagely ignorant world, most especially Nigeria. Where the world Religion is quite ambiguous to the users. Hence religion has become a vital opiumthat some groups feed on to misinterpret the requirements of their religion and to carry out their fundamentalist beliefs which are generally aimed at conquering. It's this provoking.

Wherefore, maybe of recent we can trace the peril of the daily activities of these different terrorist groups in Nigeria. This year alone, the pages of the Nigeria Newspapers has reported many uncomfortable incidence instigated by these terrorist sects, such as a January 2020 incidence, where the al Qaeda-linked terrorist group Jamaat al Ansar al Muslimeen fi Bilad al Sudan, better known as Ansaru, killed at least six people and destroyed several vehicles during an ambush along the Kaduna-Zaira highway in Kaduna State. One even gets provoked, is another February 19 lauch, where Insurgents are reported to have killed at least 30 people and abducted women and children. Victims were killed and abducted while sleeping in their vehicles during an overnight stop in Auno town, on a major highway near Maiduguri. Series of attack also came in June where Insurgents attacked Monguno town, killing at least 38 civilians, and targeting the humanitarian hub located in the town and also Insurgents are reported to have killed around 81 civilians in Felo village, Gubio LGA around that same months.

True, in wagging war against these nameless group, the Federal Government of Nigeria in some regards has somehow 'equiped' the Nigerian security forces appear well equipped to track down Boko Haram and her sisters groups, efforts have been made to improve training, equipment and co-ordination of the Nigerian military and security services. Records shows the Nigerian military is approximately 200,000 people strong, operates over some combat aircraft and possesses helicopters and other heavy military hardware. Hence, tackling Boko Haram-styled terrorism and any form of terrorism in Nigeria goes beyond the resources and capabilities of government and its agencies. The hydraheaded terror monster, with its international allies and financing, requires more commitment, resources and support from many more stakeholders including government and its security agencies but extending to regional bodies, the international community, civil society, business community and faith organizations.

Now, it's obvious that terrorists are young minds with sharp brains, a study once carried out that terrorists organisation possessed professionals such as software developers, engineers who are practically young men. Hence the Nigeria Government must be ready to look into the shelves with of her unemployed youths, exploitative politicians, radical clerics; population prone to violence and weakened national and community cohesions, offers competitive advantage for militant and terrorist organizations, criminal networks and evil political leaders alike. Nigerian government must be ready to prioritize quality education, vast employment especially to the 'non-beliving' youthsof the Northern part of the country, thus they might be opened to their fundamental human rights and civilisation.

Seemingly, since Nigeria by constitutional provision is a secular state. By this it is meant that there is no one nationally accepted religion or way of worship. Everybody is free to practice any religion of choice provided the rights of others are not infringed. Now, there should be a check on the extremists of these religions that teaches hatred or war, religion leaders must teach the followers the right attitude to religion, thus having a better society. While government must address the variant issues of corruption, youth unemployment, illiteracy of many citizens, poverty of the vulnerable sectors, 'ineffective democracy', environmental pollution, poor governance processes and the different weaknesses of the state, already identified as the problems that initiated and have sustained the incidence of terrorism in Nigeria, it is swiftly important that government accedes to the request by interest groups within the polity to convene a truly national conversation to determine the terms of engagement of the nationalities that make up the Nigerian commonwealth.

Government must also be ready to boost the efficacy of the law in combatting and reducing terrorism, the Judiciary and the police to work collaboratively in ensuring suspected terrorist cases are brought before the court and prosecuted. They must be also ready to fund massively the Nigeria Security forces, as of recent, over 300 military men left the battle field, complaining of poor financing and less equipped equipment to fight terrorism. Something must be done. Finally, we must all be vigilant to terrorism by reporting any strange event to the necessary quarters, if we see something, let's say something.

Ogungbile Emmanuel Oludotun writes from University of Ibadan

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."