Internally Displaced Persons and Boko Haram Activities in Nigeria

Essay, 2016

10 Pages



1.0 Introduction

2.0 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)
2.1 Boko Haram
2.2 Boko Haram as an Islamic Sect
2.3 Boko Haram as a terrorist group
2.4 Boko Haram as Guerilla force
2.5 Boko Haram as an insurgent group

3.0 The impact of Boko Haram activities on internally displaced persons
3.1 Impact of Boko Haram activities on IDPs women and children
3.2 Impact of Boko Haram activities on IDPs men

4.0 Conclusion


1.0 Introduction

Internally displaced persons (IDPs) are people who flee their homes because of conflicts, communal clashes, war situations, terrorist’s activities, systematic violation of human right, natural disaster, etc. and are further exposed to risk, within their own country. In Nigeria, people are currently displaced mainly due to the terrorist activities of Boko Haram (Cohen, 2004; Stepputat & Sorensen, 2001).

Boko Haram is popularly referred to as an Islamic extremist group but prefers to be known as “Jama'atu Ahlissunnah lidda'awati wal Jihad” which means “people committed to the propagation of the Prophet's teachings and Jihad” (Onuoha, 2012, p. 2). In 2009, the Boko Haram group took arm took arms against the Nigerian state to pursue their cause of establishing a pure Islamic state in the Northern Nigeria (Cilliers, 2015).

The main objective of this essay is to examine the activities of the Boko Haram as it relates to the internally displaced people in Nigeria. The motivation for this paper is twofold. First, there is growing concern about the persistent Boko Haram activities which have not only led to the loss of many lives and property but also, displaced more than 2 million people in Nigeria. Second, the activities of the Boko Haram have recently attracted a considerable scholarly attention at both National and International level.

The remainder of this paper is organized as follows: Section 2 discusses the IDPs and Boko Haram. Section 3 relates Boko Haram activities to the plights of the IDPs and Section 4 concludes.

2.0 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)

Internally displaced persons (IDPs) have been an issue of national and international concern since the 1980s. It attracted more attention in the 1990s especially at the introduction of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement into the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in 1998 (Cohen, 2004; Stepputat & Sorensen, 2001). IDPs are people who flee their homes because of conflicts, communal clashes, war situations, terrorist’s activities, systematic violation of human right, natural disaster, etc. and are further exposed to risk, within their own country (Tajudeen & Adebayo, 2013; Daudu, 2010; Stepputat & Sorensen, 2001). In the view of Ibeanu (1998), IDPs are people who involuntarily migrate, because the continue stay in their homes have become intolerable as a result of the failure of the state to protect their lives. In order to protect their lives, IDPs trek to long distant places where they assume to be safe with little or no hope of getting succour (Galadima & Aluaigba, 2015). This implies that IDPs are physically vulnerable and exposed to further attacks and violence within their own country since the state cannot protect them or guarantee their security.

The plights of the IDPs are perceived to be worse compared to other Moving and Vulnerable people (MVPs) because they are not recognized legally and internationally in terms of the legislature (Mapiko & Chinyoka, 2013). Thus, they are neglected both within and outside the shores of their country. In terms of origin, the majority of the IDPs are from the Northeastern Nigeria, with as much as 75% of them coming from Borno state and more than 9% coming from Adamawa and Yobe states (IOM report, 2015).

2.1 Boko Haram

Boko Haram is an Islamist extremist group which, according to Onuoha (2012), literally means “western education is sin” (p. 2), and which, according to Walker (2012) had been referred to as the “Nigerian Taliban” (p. 3). As an Islamic extremist group, they prefer to be addressed as “Jama'atu Ahlissunnah lidda'awati wal Jihad” which means “people committed to the propagation of the Prophet's teachings and Jihad” (Onuoha, 2012, p. 2). However, a statement allegedly credited to the acting leader of the group, Mallam Sanni Umaru, in August 2009, allegedly clarified that Boko Haram actually means “western civilization is forbidden”. Although the sect has operated with different names, their basic ideological mission has consistently been to impose a strict Islamic Sharia law in Nigeria (Onuoha, 2012; Walker, 2012). Further, the nature of their activities has left people confused on its true objective as they kill both Christians and Moslems (Galadima & Aluaigbe, 2015).

2.2 Boko Haram as an Islamic Sect

Boko Haram as an Islamic sect has its origin in Maiduguri, Borno state of the North Eastern Nigeria, as a fanatic Islamic movement and later spread to other northern states (Walker, 2012; Shuaibu, Salleh, & Shehu, 2015). It is not clear when the activity of the Sect started (Okoro, 2014). However, scholars traced its early start to the time of the radical Maitatsine movement between the 1970s and 1980s in Kano, which basically existed as a religious fanatic group (Akpomera & Omoyibo, 2014; Rogers, 2012). It is also traced to Mallam Lawal and later Mallam Aminu led Ahlulsunna wal‘ jama‘ ah hijra in 1995, also in Maiduguri, Borno state, which existed peacefully as an Islamic movement (Onuoha, 2012; Emmanuelar, 2015). The activities of the Boko Haram sect have also been traced to a more recent time in 2002, when Mohammed Yusuf, instituted an Islamic sect which became more attractive to the poor and unemployed Muslims of the state and nearby countries (Onuoha, 2012; Walker, 2012). The sect believes that the Nigerian state has failed as a result of the looming political and economic corruption, social insecurity, poverty, injustice, and relative deprivation; which is influenced by westernization (Onuoha, 2012; Roger, 2012). Consequently, they excluded themselves from the ‘corrupt society’ to enable them to attract membership through radicalization, and then, come back to violently establish ‘pure’ Islamic State (Walker, 2012; Onuoha, 2012; Campbell; 2014). Thus, they attracted some students from Borno and Yobe states, who withdrew from school, tore their certificates, and joined in the fight to establish a pure Islamic state (Meagher, 2014; Walker, 2012).

2.3 Boko Haram as a terrorist group

The Boko Haram Sect started exhibiting the characters of a terrorist organization after the arrest and summary killing of their leader Mohammed Yusuf and hundreds of its members in 2009 (Onuoha,2012; Akpomera & Omoyibo, 2013). In 2010, under the leadership of Abubakar Shekau, the sect resurfaced with sophisticated and coordinated attack strategies such as hit and run, suicide bombing, and producing high and effective improvised explosive devices (Walker, 2012; Akpomera & Omoyibo, 2013). This suggests that they have connections with larger terrorist groups that assist them with expertise and training in bomb making. As terrorists, the suicide bombers are directed to deliver and detonate the bombs in selected places where they can record more civilian casualties (Jenkins & Butterworth, 2014). This enables them to elicit emotional and irrational responses to their violent attacks on innocent civilians and also makes them attract attention to themselves and to their cause (Hoffman, 2006). In August 2011, Boko Haram bombed the UN building in Abuja, which experts interpreted as part of propaganda to attract global attention (Walker, 2012; Maiangwa & Agbiboa, 2014). They also kidnapped over 200 school girls in April 2014 to further propagate their global outlook and enjoy mass publicity so as to elicit recognition from the government. They also capitalize on the fear and anxiety they have created, to intimidate and manipulate the Nigerian government (Hoffman, 2006; Omale, 2013). This means that as terrorists, the activities of Boko Haram are premeditated and the lives of their victims do not matter. They unleash terror as much as they can; as long as it conveys the message.

2.4 Boko Haram as Guerilla force

As guerillas, Boko Haram was able to mobilize a large number of sympathizers and supporters, who were recruited and trained as foot soldiers, to enable them effectively engage in guerrilla warfare and propaganda (Hoffman, 2006). Despite the presence of security forces, they were able to successfully conduct attacks such as assassinations, abductions, kidnapping, armed robbery and public shootings, using motorcycles and trucks (Reeve, 2015). They are well armed with sophisticated military weapons; and were able to capture some of Nigeria military’s arsenals such as armoured vehicles and heavy artilleries (Reeve, 2015). They have well-organized bases, from where they ambush and engage effectively the Nigerian military (Hoffman, 2006; Reeve, 2015). Recently this has resulted to mutiny from junior soldiers of the Nigerian military, because of alleged lack of financial motivation and sufficient military support from Defense Headquarters (Reeve, 2015). As guerillas, Boko Haram has proven to be strong enough to prompt the Nigerian government to ask for regional and international military supports.

2.5 Boko Haram as an insurgent group

Boko Haram began to take on the form insurgents when they started engaging in mass mobilization and recruitment hundreds and thousands of people into their as foot soldiers. The people recruited include almajiris (Islamic street boys), unemployed graduates, school dropouts, disaffected youths and mercenaries from nearby countries amongst others (Onuoha, 2012; Walker, 2012). The aim of the mass recruitment is to continue to engage in guerrilla warfare and propaganda (Hoffman, 2006). To this end, they started taking over local government areas, declaring caliphate and instituting strict Islamic laws (Aghedo, 2015). They use any tactics to demoralize the government forces, to gain widespread support from the people, so as to gain political advantage (Young & Gray, 2011). Boko Haram insurgents want to continue engaging the government forces in battle, so as to prove their formidability in maintaining their hold on the seized territory (Young & Gray, 2011). Thus, as insurgents, Boko Haram appears to have the required soldiers and supports to carry on the fight.

3.0 The impact of Boko Haram activities on internally displaced persons

One dimension to the impact is the vast majority of the IDPs that were displaced as a result of Boko Haram activities. According to IOM DTM report (2015), out of 2,151, 979 IDPs identified as at December 2015, 84.5% were displaced because of Boko Haram activities, while about 12.9% and 2.6% were displaced as a result of communal clashes and natural disaster respectively (p. 3). Another dimension to the impact of Boko Haram activities on IDPs is the frequent attacks and bombings right inside the IDPs camps. For example, according to Marama, a female suicide bomber recently had her way into the IDPs camps killing 8 and injuring about 7 (2015). This clearly suggests that there is a negative and significant causal relationship between Boko Haram activities and the plights of IDPs.

3.1 Impact of Boko Haram activities on IDPs women and children

There are gender and age disparities in the plights of the IDPs, with women and children under 18 constituting a higher percentage of the displaced people than men. For example, the IOM DTM survey results indicate that out of 20738 IDP households included, 51.8% of the IDPs are female while 48.2% are male. The results further indicate that 55.7% of the IDPs are children below 18 years, and more than half of them are within 0 – 5 years age bracket (2015, p. 2). Because women and children under 18 are more displaced than men, they bear more burdens of the effects and are exposed to further risks even as displaced people. According to UNFPA report, some of the IDPs women and girls are victims of sexual abuses; and are infected by various sexually transmitted diseases including HIV, with some of them being pregnant for Boko Haram insurgents (2015). For more than one year, many IDPs children have been out of school and are scared of going to back school, because of the terror they experienced while in school (Galadima & Aluaigba, 2015). Thus, women and children are more vulnerable to the activities of Boko Haram than the men.

3.2 Impact of Boko Haram activities on IDPs men

IDPs Fathers and brothers mostly have been killed by the insurgents as infidels or by the Nigerian security forces as suspected members of the Boko Haram sect (Galadima & Aluaigba, 2015; Walker, 2012). Some of the IDPs men have watched their household violated, maimed, abducted or kidnapped, and could not help it (Galadima & Aluaigba, 2015). Most of them have been depressed, because apparently, they can no longer protect and cater for their families. Some of the IDPs men have joined the “civilian JTF” to help fight Boko Haram, and with their brave support, the fight against Boko Haram has recorded huge success (Blanchard, 2014). They IDPs men in most cases, pay the ultimate price; as they take their fate into their own hands. They have lost their joy and means of livelihood as men.

4.0 Conclusion

Scholars seem to agree that the emergence of Boko Haram insurgency is as a result of the failure of Nigerian state in terms of looming corruption, social insecurity, injustice and relative deprivation. Boko Haram as an Islamic sect simultaneously operates as terrorists, guerrillas, and insurgents, and their activities generally suggest that there is a political motive behind the movement.

The scourge of Boko Haram insurgency, which is still ravaging the northeastern Nigeria, displaced more than 2 million people, with women and children constituting greater percentage than men. This suggests that Nigeria is facing a serious national security challenge. This has impacted negatively on the people of the northeast; who constitute the greater percentage of the IDPs in Nigeria.


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Internally Displaced Persons and Boko Haram Activities in Nigeria
National Open University of Nigeria
School of Management Science
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IDPs, Boko Haram, Nigeria
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Michael Joseph Arochi (Author), 2016, Internally Displaced Persons and Boko Haram Activities in Nigeria, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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