Insurgency and National Security. The Case of Boko Haram in Nigeria

Academic Paper, 2021

25 Pages, Grade: 2.5



1.1 Background to the Study
1.2 Statement of Problem
1.3 Research Objectives
1.4 Research Questions
1.5 Significance of the Study

2.1 Literature Review
2.2 Methodology
2.3 Theoretical Framework

3.1 Data Presentation
3.2 Discussions of Findings

4.1 Conclusion
4.2 Recommendations




This research examined the impact of Boko Haram insurgency on Nigeria’s national security. The objectives were to determine the nature of Boko Haram insurgency on Nigeria’s security; examined the impact of Boko Haram insurgency on the national security challenges confronting Nigeria, and determine the cost of tackling insurgency by the federal government of Nigeria. The resurgence of Boko Haram attacks before, during and after the 2019 general elections showed that Boko Haram insurgency has not been ‘technically defeated’ as claimed by the federal government of Nigeria. As at May 31, 2019 when this work was concluded, the daily update from the Nigeria’s Security Tracker (NST) of the Council of Foreign Relations (CFR) showed that, more than 200 Nigerian and Multinational Joint Taskforce (MJTF), comprising Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroonian troops, Civilian Joint Taskforce (CJTF), insurgents and civilians were killed in just May, 2019 (May 10 – May 31, 2019). These deaths were possible through suicide missions, guerilla attacks, bombings, communities’ massacre, gun battles, ambush, sporadic shooting, kidnappings etc. From 2011 to 2018, Boko Haram insurgents carried out over 3,346 incidents (attacks). From these incidences, over 37,530 people were killed, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED). The Council of Foreign Relations (CFR) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated that over 2.4 million people have been displaced as a result of the insurgency and 7 million people are at the risk of starvation. The Anomie Theory and the Relative Deprivation Theory were used to provide theoretical substance and direction in the interpretation and analysis of the impact of Boko Haram insurgency on the national security concerns of the Nigerian state. This research made use of descriptive design. The synergy between Boko Haram insurgency and threat to Nigeria’s national security was determined through this process. Secondary data (textbooks, cyberspace, magazines, journal articles, Newspapers etc.) were mostly used. Statistical tools (table, charts) were used in the presentation and analysis of data. Content analysis was used to interpret data through a comprehensive review of relevant literature. This research observed that trillions of naira has been spent in the fight against insurgency by the military as released by the federal government and donor agencies. Countries with strategic economic, political and social interests in Nigeria have also supported financially. However, lack of transparency and accountability on the part of the military, abuse of human rights and lack of transformative approach in tackling the Boko Haram insurgency have undermined the general support (especially morally) needed to ensure that Boko Haram insurgency does not pose any security threats to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Nigerian state. This research recommended the injection of new blood with fresh ideas in the command chain of the military by the new administration of President Mohammadu Buhari, considering the devastation of the North-East region by the insurgents. A structural master plan to address the unresolved root causes of youth’s radicalization in the North by Islamic extremists by the North-East Development Commission (NEDC) is highly advocated. This will help to curb poverty, illiteracy and unemployment, variables that triggered radicalization of youths in the Northern part of Nigeria.



1.1 Background to the Study

From July 26, 2009 when the first police confrontation of the Boko Haram insurgency to date, the Nigerian government has recorded over 3,346 incidents carried out by the insurgent group (ACLED, 2019). From 2011 to 2018, the United Nation’s Refugee Agency (UNCHR) estimated 2.4 million people displaced and 7 million people at the risk of starvation (Campbell and Harwood, 2018). Reports from the Council of Foreign Relations’ Nigeria Security Tracker (NST) and the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED) indicated that an estimated 37, 530 people have been killed from 2011 to 2018 by Boko Haram insurgency. These were recorded deaths of mostly civilians. The military and insurgents’ casualties notwithstanding, the impact of Boko Haram’s insurgency on Nigeria’s national security is negatively unprecedented.

Available statistics to buttress the devastating nature of Boko Haram’s insurgency in Nigeria by the Council of Foreign Relations (CFR) showed that the insurgent’s brutality led to the deaths of over 500 people in 2011. The death tolls moved to 2,000 in 2012; then to 5,000 in 2013. However, the crisis escalated in its deadliest form under the leadership of Abubakar Shekau who took over from Mohammed Yusuf (the founder) who was killed in 2009. Through Shekau’s leadership, and the support of other internationally recognized terrorist groups, like al, Qaeda, Al-Shabaab, Taliban and Islamic State of Iraq, and the Levant or Syria (ISIS), the death toll rose to about 13, 000 and 11,000 in 2014 and 2015 respectively.

After the general elections in Nigeria in 2015, with the insurgent group becoming more dangerous to tackle, extending its tentacles to Cameroon, Niger and Chad, and aligning with other terrorist groups, the Nigerian government constituted a Multinational Joint Task Force (MJTF) of over 7, 500 personnel. The MJTF helped to drive back the insurgents into Sambisa forest (Lake Chad). With this offensive, the death toll dropped to just about 3,000 in 2016 and 2,000 in 2017. The drop in death tolls through limited attacks could also be attributed to the division between the Abubakar Shekau’s Boko Haram group and dissident’s faction led by Abu Musa al-Barnawi called the “Islamic State of West-Africa Province” (ISWAP). The infighting also led to about 1,000 recorded deaths in 2018. These statistics notwithstanding, Boko Haram sect is still very potent, and may not be rightly described as “technically degraded”.

From 2015 to date, the federal government of Nigeria, through the Multinational Joint Task Force (MJTF) and the combined military assaults of the Army, Air Force and the Police, have tried to reclaim occupied territory, pushed the insurgents deep inside the forest (Lake Chad), and limited their capacity to launch large scale deadly attacks. This resulted in the insurgents’ concentration of their attacks on military formations, using ‘ambush tactics’ to some results. The capturing of some parts of Northern Cameroon (2012), Southeastern Niger (2014), and Western part of Chad (2014) have all been reclaimed by the MJTF. Some of the kidnapped Chibok school girls and the Dapchi school girls have also been released through negotiations and compromises between the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Boko Haram insurgents.

With the recent offensives launched by both the Boko Haram and the ISWAP insurgents, there is the need to ensure a thorough reappraisal of the security apparatus of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MJTF), the Nigeria Arm Forces, and other intelligence gathering services agencies and the technical and financial supports from the international community. This is important to ensure that new approaches are used to tackle the asymmetric (non-conventional) warfare, consolidate on the gains and ensure a post rehabilitation mechanism (reorientation) for a sustainable peace and security of the North-East region in particular and Nigeria at large. This research is therefore aimed at a critical examination of the impact of Boko Haram insurgency on Nigeria’s national security and the mechanisms needed to address it.

1.2 Statement of Problem

From 20111 to date, the most difficult national security challenge affronting the federal government of Nigeria has been how to tackle the Boko Haram insurgency. From 2011 to 2018, deaths attributed to Boko Haram’s attacks and counter attacks by the military have reached 37,500 in about 3,300 incidents. This has pushed more people into poverty, increased the illiteracy index, displaced millions and devastated the states of Bornu, Yobe and Adamawa etc. The impact of Boko Haram’s insurgency on the peace, security and development of the North-East region, and the national security architecture of the Nigerian State is, to say the least, alarming. Unfortunately, with human and material resources invested in tackling the insurgency, resurgence in attacks by the group and its factions, calls for a security overhaul and tactical adjustment through policies and strategies by the government and the military to ensure lasting success against the insurgent group. As it is now, this has not been achieved.

The United Nations (UN), through its Council for Human Rights (UNCHR) had, in 2014, called Boko Haram the world’s deadliest terrorist group, especially in relation to the number of people killed by the insurgent group. In its May, 2019 report, the International Crisis Group (ICG) observed that, the Boko Haram faction called Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP), an affiliate of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), led by Al-Barnawi, has been consolidating, sinking its roots strongly in North-Eastern region’s communities in Nigeria, carrying out humanitarian works and becoming an active part of the residents’ lives (ICG, 2019). This is alarming, judging from the fact that its over 6,000 members are carrying out frontier governance and rudimentary services which allowed them to build networks, spread its influence, muster resources and bleed the Nigeria’s and the (MJTF) armies, while working assiduously to keep its core territory modestly and successfully working to attract ISIS support (ICG, 2019). There is therefore the need to ensure that the resurgence of the insurgents’ prowess recorded in 2014 and 2015 is not allowed to resurface. Tactical appraisal through governmental interventions on the well being of the people vis-à-vis military intervention to avoid the rebirth of the Boko Haram’s caliphate in the North-Eastern part of Nigeria is urgently needed to nip this new dimension of communities’ penetration in the bud. Unfortunately again, this has not be adequately considered by the government and the military.

Furthermore, from 2011 to date, the federal government of Nigeria has budgeted and made available trillions of naira to both the Nigerian Military (Army, Navy, Air Force and the Police), and the Multinational Joint Task Force (MJTF) through statutory allocations, foreign aids and supports, and special intervention funds for rehabilitations of the North-East region. Not too long ago (last year), the National Assembly (Senate and the House of Representatives) in Nigeria, approved the President’s request of One Billion Dollar ($ 1 billion) from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) to tackle and consolidate on the gains recorded against the Boko Haram insurgency. Unfortunately and regrettably, the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), a medicare intervention agency raised alarm about miserable living conditions; lack of food, water and health care delivery in the Internally Displaced People’s (IDP) camps and communities across the North-East region (ICG, 2019). This is worrisome, and something urgent should be done about it. However, this latest report showed that not much has been achieved in this regard.

In 2017, the President Muhammadu Buhari’s led federal government of Nigeria, constituted a panel to investigate alleged military abuses, especially holding military troops who commit human rights violations (mostly extra-judicial killings) accountable. The panel’s report was submitted on December, 2017. However, the contents and recommendations in the report have not been made public. The military’s lack of accountability in its fight against the insurgents has not helped either. Lack of publicity of the court martial processes and lack of public awareness on citizens’ rights and privileges in the fight against insurgency have made the situation even more worrisome. The need to ensure a citizens’ conscious mechanisms, through efforts to protect and defend citizens’ rights, property and lives, while ensuring security and safety of institutions and military personnel in the fight against Boko Haram insurgency cannot be over emphasized. The need to refocus and reposition the Nigerian government and the military in the areas of policies and strategies on how best to tackle Boko Haram insurgency and ensure peace, security and development of the North-East region in particular, and Nigeria generally, has given this research the necessity and urgency it deserves at this critical moment of Nigeria national security concerns. These perspectives are the areas around which, the research objectives will be formulated.

1.3 Research Objectives

The following research objectives will guide this research endeavour:

1. Determine the Nature of Boko Haram Insurgency on Nigeria’s National Security.
2. Examine the Impact of Boko Haram Insurgency on Nigeria’s National Security.
3. Determine the Cost Tackling Boko Haram Insurgency by the Government and People of Nigeria.
4. Identify Mechanisms (Measures) Government and the International Community Should Utilize in Addressing Boko Haram Insurgency in Nigeria.

1.4 Research Questions

This research is anchored on the following research questions:

1. What is the Nature of Boko Haram Insurgency on Nigeria’s National Security?
2. What is the Impact of Boko Haram Insurgency on Nigeria’s National Security?
3. At What Cost to the Government and People of Nigeria is Boko Haram Insurgency Tackled?
4. To Address Boko Haram Insurgency in Nigeria Squarely, What Mechanisms (Measures) Should Government and the International Community Adopt?

1.5 Significance of the Study

This research endeavour will be very significant in the following ways:

1. The Nigerian Populace: Policy makers in government and the organized private sector, groups especially Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs), concerned stakeholders in the Nigerian project, security agencies and the general public, will benefit immensely from this work particularly in the area of understanding the nature of Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria. The Boko Haram faction (ISWAP) has been going from community to community, penetrating the locals in a humanitarian and ideological re-orientation. A critical and systematic review of this new dimension of Boko Haram insurgency would help in ensuring that proactive measures are put in place to address it.
2. Security Agencies: This research will help to examine the impact of Boko Haram insurgency on the security and will being of Nigerians. Thousands of lives and properties worth billions of dollars have been destroyed in the past ten years of the insurgency. This research will make a thorough review of the impact of this insurgency in Nigeria to aid security agencies in re-strategizing and reappraising their tactics in the fight against Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria.
3. Academic Community: This research will help to determine the socio-economic and monetary cost of the war against Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria. With trillions of naira invested in tackling this insurgency, the academic community is required to intensify research on measures to ensure lasting gains against the insurgents and promote sustainable development in the North-East region and Nigeria. This research is one of such research endeavours that would aid further researches in this direction.
4. The Government: This research will identify mechanisms the Nigerian government and the international community should adopt in succeeding in the fight against insurgency in Nigeria. It is particularly regrettable that Boko Haram insurgency has been allowed to linger for this long, devastate the economy of the North-East and destroyed lives and property. This research’s significance is its aim of proffering practical solutions on the best approach required to put to an end Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria.



2.1 Literature Review

Conceptual and theoretical review of relevant literature will be carried out in this research in order to comprehensively understand the literary applications of concepts and postulations used.

Conceptual Literature Review

Insurgency according to the Merriam Webster Dictionary (2019) is “a usually violent attempt to take control of a government, a rebellion or uprising.” It is basically a condition of revolt against a government that is less than an organized revolution and that is not recognized as belligerency. Those that fight against established government or authority are called insurgents, from a 1765 Latin word “insurgent” (rise up). Sometimes, insurgency is used interchangeably with rebellion, insurrection etc. However, belligerency is a state of being at war or in conflict within a legal framework or recognition internationally.

Robert and Timothy (2009) observed that insurgency recognizes a political motivation of participants. There is an underlining interest behind any act of insurgency. However, it is an unlawful movement by virtue of its being unauthorized and illegitimate. That is to say, insurgency is not backed or sanctioned by existing laws of the land. Boko Haram insurgency in Nigerian operates in illegality and recognized as such (terrorist organization) by the United Nations (UN) and the international community. Unfortunately, there is no consensus on what constitute insurgency, against belligerency (lawful combatants). The Hague convention of 1899 and subsequent conventions were unable to provide a consensus. The “Martens Clause” seeks to protect belligerents as lawful combatants within the principles of international law with the laws of humanity and dictates of the public conscience.

The United States Department of Defense (UNDD) defined insurgency as, “an organized movement aimed at the overthrow of a constituted government through the use of subversion and armed conflict. Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria fits in within this definition as its intention was to overthrow the legitimate government of Nigeria, and by extension, part of Niger, Chad and Cameroon, and established an Islamic caliphate.

On the other hand, national security which was originally conceived as protection against military attack, as now understood to mean protection against terrorism, crime, insurgency, militancy, rebellion, insurrection and other concepts as economic, energy, environmental, food, cyber and political security. Sovereign states protect their national security that forms part of the domestic and foreign policy. They use political, economic, military and diplomatic measures to enforce and direct national security. In this case of Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria, security measures include legal framework on how to tackle insurgency, constitution of a Multinational Joint Task Force (MJRF) of countries within the Lake Chad Basic, tackling climate change, economic inequality in the North-East, political exclusion and nuclear arm proliferation.


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Insurgency and National Security. The Case of Boko Haram in Nigeria
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insurgency, national, security, case, boko, haram, nigeria
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Leo the Great Ebenezer Ph.D (Author), 2021, Insurgency and National Security. The Case of Boko Haram in Nigeria, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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