Boko Haram poses a significant security threat to Nigeria and its neighbours in the Lake Chad Basin. The fighting in the country’s northeast has generated a devastating humanitarian catastrophe that has affected more than seven million people in the region.
Although Boko Haram has connections to the Islamic State and other extremist organisations in Africa, the primary causes are domestic. The country’s federal and state governments should work together to confront them. This includes governance problems in the North East and Nigeria generally; a poorly planned, mostly military response; numerous security difficulties stretching the army to the breaking point; and elite reluctance to confront an untenable status quo.
The over-reliance on a military approach to tackle Boko Haram is at the root of the state’s incapacity to deal with the terrorist organisation. As a result, despite the almost 11 or 12 years into the counter-insurgency campaign, there have not been any significant achievements. The military can remove the terrorists, but since they can still exert influence, recruit, produce funds, and obtain weapons, they will regroup and reorganise their activities.
Many people in the northeast, according to experts, are not sympathetic to Boko Haram or its offshoot organisation, the Islamic State’s West Africa Province, but rather are driven to the militants’ ranks by a combination of indifference from authorities and despair. According to analysts, the chronic poverty in certain areas of the region, combined with the rebels’ brutal tactics, allows the recruitment of generation after generation of militants to continue indefinitely.
To defeat insurgency or terrorism, more than only military operations are required. To defeat the insurgency, there is a need first to address the underlying causes of the conflict. Unfortunately, there have not been enough concerted attempts in this direction.
In the fight against Boko Haram, there is the issue of weapons to contend with. Corruption may be one of the factors holding down the military’s ability to upgrade its weapons systems and other equipment. It is believed that a significant amount of money intended to strengthen the fight against Boko Haram has ended up in the wallets of government officials.
As a result of their apparent understanding and adaptation to the pattern of military airstrikes, the rebels in Nigeria’s northeast take advantage of the tough terrain to avoid military assaults. In addition, the Boko Haram insurgency, which was once confined to the northeast, appears to be spreading to the rest of the country.
The security forces are overstretched. There are several significant security problems in Nigeria, and Boko Haram is just one of them. The Islamist insurgency in the northeast is accompanied by extensive violence between herders and farmers in the country’s Middle Belt, the resurgence of armed militant groups in the Niger Delta, and increasing pro-Biafra agitation in the country’s Igbo-majority southeast.
EJ Hogendoorn (2018) To Help Defeat Boko Haram, the EU Should Push for Good Governance and Accountability.
Ishaq Khalid (2021) Nigeria’s Boko Haram militants: Six reasons they have not been defeated.