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Sept 2019


Terrorism & Insurgency

Our society is getting more and more insecure, more people are getting into various forms of crimes and terrorism and they are getting more desperate, ruthless, and sophisticated. Since the independence, the act of terrorist activity have ranged from the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) group, Oodua People Congress (OPC) group, Movement for Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) group, the Maitatsine group amongst others. In Nigeria today, new forms of violent crimes have been common. These include, armed banditry, kidnapping for ransom, pipeline vandalism, ritual killings, armed robbery and ethnic clashes. Similar the sect activities of both Boko Haram, the Shiites and herdsmen/farmers crises presently make Nigerians live their lives in fear without knowing when or where crisis will erupt.

We are in this mess largely because Nigeria’s political leaders in the past have failed to map-out/profile extreme individuals and radical religious or social groups that were radical, but not yet violent, allowing them to grow in force. From independence, Nigeria had experienced conflict along ethnic and social lines, but mostly over resources like land and power. The country is also nearly evenly divided between Muslims and Christians, with three distinct languages corresponding to linguistic divisions, which became a recipe for political turmoil but not religious extremism. However, the arrival of the Maitatsine’s movement in the 1980s was a sign that the dynamics were changing, and that religious extremism was becoming more prominent in the Middle East in the 1970s was also finding a home in northern Nigeria. That was the best time for Nigerian Government to commence Conflict Mapping/Profiling with the aim to predict a coming generation of conflicts fuelled by ethnicity, social, religious, political, communal or otherwise; and address their root causes. That is why in addressing the root cause of any conflict, it is important to map-out the conflict first, profile some extreme individuals/groups to identify their grievances. Profiling of terrorists and groups will vary greatly from the state, region, the country, circumstance and state of being. Today’s online statistics show that the most common profile of northern Nigeria trained or recruited terrorist/insurgent or bandit including kidnappers do not have higher than secondary school education; often young and jobless or a labourer by occupation; and who became a bandit-terrorist, kidnapper etc., as a result of despair, being unemployed or stripped of his means of livelihood and ways of life, someone who has lost hope and vulnerable. This type of information is useful to security forces and also to the government, which can consider taking steps to reduce unemployment while providing equal opportunities and access, as an anti-terrorism measure.

On Maitatsine’s crises of the 80s, Nigerian Government only cracked down on the movement after its sermons became increasingly anti-government in the late 1970s. The crackdown culminated in an uprising in 1980 with the death toll in 1982 Kano-riot reaching over 4,000 and Maitatsine leader Mohammed Marwa, himself killed. The movement, however, lived on killing additional 3,300 people in Bulumkutum Borno State and nearly 1,000 in the former Gongola State; and hundreds more in Bauchi State between 1982 and 1984.

On Boko Haram, the Islamic State in West Africa or the Islamic State’s West Africa Province (abbreviated as ISWA or ISWAP formerly known as Jama’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’wah wa’l-Jihad and commonly known as Boko Haram until March 2015 is a jihadist terrorist organization based in north-east, also active in Chad, Niger, and northern Cameroon. The group clawed its way back from a failed uprising in July 2009 against the government leaving more than 1,000 dead, including the group’s founder, Mohammed Yusuf who was executed, to re-emerge as a full-fledged insurgency under the command of one of Yusuf’s lieutenants, Abubakar Shekau, a year later. Shekau was reported to have been “fatally wounded” during an airstrike in Taye village on 19 August 2016 by Nigerian Air Force which also killed some senior leaders of Boko Haram. Since the early 2010s, the jihadist armed group wielded power and influence in in the region and parts of adjoining states in the Lake Chad basin. According to the Center for Counter-Terrorism and Preventive Diplomacy, over the next five years, and at an unusually rapid pace between 2013 and 2015, the group seized control of much of Nigeria’s Borno state and began operating in border areas of neighbouring Niger, Chad and Cameroon. They plundered villages and bombed markets and churches, as well as mosques it deemed “infidel.” In April 2014 it staged the kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls in Chibok, Borno state. This mass abduction, which earned it global condemnation, was only one in a long series of violent incidents of striking brutality.

This sudden rise of religious fundamentalism (Boko Haram) is not unconnected with the “Settlement of 1960”, in which Muslims traded away the right to impose Sharia law across the board, because around the time of Maitatsine’s movement, Philip Ostien and Sati Fwatshak wrote in their book on Sharia in Nigeria, “…by the mid-1980s the idea that Muslim consent to the Settlement of 1960 had been a terrible mistake… was widespread and firmly entrenched in the North” as illustrated by Capt. John Ford, US Army. Although, later the 1999 Constitution has re-opened the door to impose Sharia by granting significant power to Nigeria’s States and creating a system of appellate courts to hear appeals from Sharia trial courts, some northern states took the opportunity to impose relaxed Sharia law over their territory. This relaxed Sharia law prompted some groups to start opposing certain law in a non-violent way, with the likes of ISWAP (Boko-Haram), which says that people should not expose themselves to modernity and western education, living in denial.

As its name suggests, ISWAP is affiliated with the Islamic State, or ISIS, caliphate in Iraq and Syria, whose remnants count their victories as their own victory. Boko-Haram appears to be working hard to gain enormous favour from its namesake organization, and it has obtained some support already, both from Al-Qaeda and ISIS notably in the form of training and otherwise. This is when the sect leaders began manifesting their groups in violent uprisings that are being witnessed today. Unfortunately, there are currently so many more of such groups gradually emerging led by extreme individuals.  

As the war on Al-Qaeda by USA intensified after Sept 11, Al-Qaeda was on the run but also began exploring new ways to bypass the daunting maze of deterrents already in place. They sought to entrench and spread where there is poverty, ignorance, and despair; and they found Africa: Northern Nigeria, Somali, etc.; a potential terrorist breeding ground especially with institutional weaknesses that allow terrorists to operate freely, with non-coherent and effective ways to forecast or address their menace. The Libyan crisis also fuelled the so-called terrorist partnership of convenience, flourished illicit drugs, training on use of explosives and arms supply in Nigeria to groups like the ISWAP, that started out as non-violent and turning horribly violent; all under the watch of the state. Such religious threat to the region has existed for decades, right from Maitatsine, unfortunately, it has taken, as mentioned earlier the kidnapping of nearly 300 Chibok schoolgirls to get the international community to take notice.

A clear clarification is very important to note though that both religion of Islam and Christianity are not be associated with terrorism. The economic impact of Boko Haram activities in North East is estimated at $9bn (N274.5bn). The loss of agricultural production in the North East caused by Boko Haram activities is estimated at $3.5bn (N107bn). With an increase in their attacks and the displacement of nearly two million Nigerians, agricultural production has plummeted, and staple food prices have sky-rocketed. “Northeast Nigeria now faces one of the world’s worst food security crises, with around 3.8 million people who will face critical food insecurity and approximately 7.7 million in need of life-saving humanitarian assistance this year alone. Hunger is ravaging the land. Worse, there is no end in sight as the latest forecast by the Food and Agriculture Organisation strongly projects that Nigeria’s efforts to achieve zero hunger by 2030 are being seriously undermined. At the 2018 World Food Day, the Rome-based agency warned of the dangers ahead, citing the conflicts plaguing the country. The Boko Haram conflict is driving away farmers from their homes in the North-East, while the fear of being killed or kidnapped is driving away people from their farms in other part of the North-West and North-Central. All this leaves Nigeria in a desperate situation” according to the report. Though we remain optimistic for where there is a will, there is a way.

However, if contemporary terrorism is to be accurately and thoroughly understood in a clinical and impartial fashion, it is necessary to dispel one current myth: Islamic fundamentalism in the context of terrorism, since a true Muslim who adheres to the fundamental tenets of Islam must view terrorism, insurgency, kidnappings, armed banditry, and communal, ethnic and religious violence as a serious crime and a blasphemy. Islam not only forbids the killing of innocent persons, women, and children and unarmed or surrendered combatants, but also forbids the destruction of buildings, public places and other-religion places of worship; even the felling of a tree, if it has a single green leaf on it. Thousands of victims of terrorism in the World were of both Muslim and Christian religion, and several hundred thousand Muslim security officers and soldiers, from all over the world, are directly engaged in fighting terrorism, and have taken substantial casualties in so doing.

However, in the circumstances in which some Muslims have been indicted or convicted like in the case of September 11th, 2001, Maitatsine, Boko-Haram, the numerous acts committed in Borno, Adamawa, Zamfara and many others in Nigeria and the world reflect two facts: Firstly, that some terrorist acts are committed by persons who incidentally happen to be Muslims but their religion is not relevant to the terrorist act. Secondly, some Muslims commit terrorist acts, misusing, distorting and projecting the name of Islam to achieve their selfish un-Islamic goals. This differentiation is not always appreciated by some sectors of the media who tend to equate all terrorism by Muslims as so called fundamentalist Islam and under the banner of a Jihad, holy struggle or war. This is entirely inaccurate. Other media sources automatically attribute Islam to any terrorist who happen to be ethnic Arab, Muslim or of Middle East origin; a result of a widespread misconception that all Arabs are Muslims. This is also incorrect as national and ethnic Arab populations include Muslims, Jews and Christians among their numbers, a likely situation, considering that these three great religions have one origin, all born in the Middle East. A large number of Israeli Jews are ethnic Arabs. Other related widespread misconceptions are that Iranians or Persians are also Arabs, which is incorrect and that anti-Semitism is hatred of Jews, when in fact it is hatred for the many different Semitic races, including Jews and Arabs. One of the results of these misconceptions has been to wrongly simplify some conflicts and boil them down to facile slogans such as Islam versus the West, and Islam versus Jihad, which is also very wrong. It should further be noted that the word often incorrectly attached to Islamic terrorism is Jihad (Arabic - meaning to make an effort or struggle). The word means, by translation and theological tradition, a holy struggle, especially spiritual, against evil, injustice or personal imperfection. It may be fulfilled in four ways; by using the heart, tongue, hand or sword. In contemporary use, except by terrorists, it denotes an effort against something either personally negative or detracting from the common social good, and is used mostly as a last resort, as in self-defense. There are many such Jihads. For example: A Jihad on litter in order to clean up an area, or a Jihad on one’s self when encountering difficulties achieving a personal goal, such as studying. In simple terms, it can be considered as a self-motivating effort to do some good, underpinned with prayer. But to attribute terrorism to Islam is totally wrong and unjustified. History has equally shown that there are terrorist acts committed by individuals or groups who incidentally happen to be Christians but their religion is not relevant to the terrorist act at all. Terrorism in general, is motivated for individual reasons of greed, egotism and a wide range of vices related to intolerance, especially religious, ethnic and class intolerance under induced illicit drugs. Intolerance is often the primary motive behind genocide and depopulation, running in tandem with wholesale looting and dispossession.

The conclusion we may draw from these points is that blame for the majority of terrorism today can be attributed neither to the adherents to any single religion, but that a significant number of the more outrageous terrorist acts may be attributed to a small number of terrorists, who are entirely divorced from their own religion, who distort it, and use it as a convenient cover to try to legitimise their actions in the popular minds.


a.      Humanitarian Issues

It is a welcome development that President Muhammadu Buhari created the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, headed by Hajia Sadiya Umar-Farouq to provide solutions to the plight of millions of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) as well as coordinate humanitarian affairs and social development in the country.

The country, in the last 10 years, has been in the throes of insurgency in the North-East, especially in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States. This insurgency has created a lot of social dislocation and millions of IDPs. According to an August 2019 report from Médecins Sans Frontières, (Doctors without Borders), “It is estimated that about 35,000 people have been killed since 2009, 1.8 million people are internally displaced, and 7.1 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance across the north-eastern states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe. Around 230,000 people have fled to the neighbouring countries of Niger, Chad and Cameroon”.

The Hon Minister Sadiya Umar Farouq, an experienced past Federal Commissioner, National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Person is well positioned to address the challenges of the Ministry’s enormous task ahead by constituting the core team she would work with and establishing their presence strongly for direct and immediate impact across the states.

Towards rebuilding the North East, President Muhammadu Buhari encouraged the World Bank in partnership with the European Union, philanthropists and other foreign organizations interested in rebuilding the North East to be more committed to erecting structures and physical presence in those areas to aid the smooth and effective returning of displaced persons to their settlements. Rather than giving out cash and other monetary gifts which over time has been reported that the displaced persons and supposed beneficiaries of humanitarian crisis and disaster issues often find it difficult to receive these aids and donations from individuals and organizations because of some atrocities committed by those responsible for the management of those resources such as food, water and clothing.

Things are sometimes easy to destroy than to rebuild, this is the current situation of the North East in Nigeria. Rebuilding the North East remains a huge project to be completed but it is possible with the efforts of the government, the people and international organizations committed to making this happen. The creation of a ministry to take care of humanitarian affairs, disaster management and social development has thus made the pathway for the rebuilding of the North-East much more visible as there would be more accountability and responsibility for actors and non-actors towards humanitarian issues in Nigeria.


To effectively address these Problems our northern governors must have a multi-faceted approach, a proactive human intelligence collection strategy in place, comprehensive plans to tackle not only physical security but also the grievances that fuel the problems in the first place. They need to include monitoring, along with improved emergency preparedness using modern technology with instruments of an asymmetric warfare in place backed by efficient policies and legislative armoury; and increased vigilante and effective law enforcement welfare and funding.

All these have to be done in a concerted effort and manner, widely publicized and in global collaboration. To this end, Northern Governors may consider creating Northern Anti-Terrorists Agency (NATA) to drive this, or advise the FG to create Nigerian Anti-Terrorists Agency (NATA). NATA can carry-out conflict mapping/profiling/ and even monitor the Herdsman-Farmer conflict/crises among others.

The creation of a ministry to take care of humanitarian affairs, disaster management and social development has thus made the pathway for the rebuilding of the North-East much more faster and sustainably.




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