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Boko Haram has perpetrated its terrorist acts within Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin since 2009. This has drawn local and international attention. The modus operandi of the sect has taken the forms of shootings, kidnappings and use of Improvised Explosive Devices. The Nigerian government has responded to the Boko Haram quagmire. However, despite government’s response, the sect has continued to unleash its terror. This study seeks to assess government’s counter-terrorism policies against Boko Haram. This culminated into the generation of salient questions like what the policies are, factors that informed government’s rationale for adopting these policies, how effective the policies have been and how government can have pro active strategies to address the Boko Haram crisis.

Systems and state fragility theories were used as the theoretical lens that guided the study. The systems theory was used to explain factors that informed the adoption of government’s counterterrorism polices and why feedback is necessary. The feedback is necessary in order to discover flaws in a policy so that such flaws can be addressed and better polices can be made and implemented. This is the thrust of this study. The state fragility theory was used to explain how the weakness of the Nigerian state aided the emergence of Boko Haram and has also affected Nigeria’s counter-terrorism policies in mitigating the excesses of Boko Haram. The weakness of the Nigerian state is hinged on weak state institutions which has manifested through economic inequality, poverty, porosity of border, brutality of the security apparatus and political instability.

The study adopted qualitative data analysis method. This was actualised through the review and assessment of journals, books, reports, newspapers and media reports. The study assessed National Counter-Terrorism Strategy and the Legislative Acts directed towards counter-terrorism in order to have a robust assessment. The policies are deemed weak due to poor implementation caused by weak state institutions. The manifestations of a fragile state were seen as factors responsible for the non optimal performance of these policies in the course of implementation. The need to strengthen state institutions was given as suggestion on how to make the policies work effectively.




1.1 Background of Study


Since the attainment of statehood in 1914, Nigeria has been engulfed in different ethno-religious and political crisis resulting in substantial casualties (Aborisade and Mundt, 2002; Isichei, 1987; Ojie and Ehwhrujakpor, 2009; Suberu, 1996). Prior to the year 2000, several lives and properties were lost to ethno-religious crisis. The post-2000 era has witnessed other forms of violent confrontations; the most devastating has been terrorism, perpetrated by the Islamic group, Boko Haram. Successive Nigerian administrations, since 2009, have had to deal with the menace of terrorism.

After decades of military rule, Nigeria returned to civil rule and the fourth democratically elected president was sworn in on May 29th, 1999 (Nkechi, 2013). Despite the advent of democratic rule, the inability of political leaders at all levels to address germane developmental issues has led to the emergence of ethnic militias from different regions in Nigeria which have in turn threatened the nation’s security architecture (Ahokegh, 2012; Isyaku, 2013). According to Omitola (2012), the state’s inability to effectively perform its functions resulted in the gradual loss of interest in the national project and a shift in the people’s allegiance to other groups that are filling this vacuum created by the Nigerian state. These contradictions led the populace into the waiting arms of several insurgency groups, (who later embraced absolute violence) deriving support from ethnically characterised allegiance and those using religion as a mobilisation strategy (Omitola, 2012). Hence, the country has been enmeshed in the quagmire of ethno-religious tensions and an insurgency in the oil-rich Niger Delta (Brinkel and Ait-Hida 2012).

Ikelegbe and Okumu (cited in Akinola and Uzodike, 2013) attributed this endemic occurrence of violence to the poor conflict resolution mechanism of the Nigerian state. The government ignored the socio-political demands of several groups hitherto made in a peaceful way. According to Abiye (cited in Patrick and Felix, 2013), these groups took advantage of  the government’s inefficiency and inactions in dealing with the fundamental elements of nationhood such as internal security, resource control, injustice, corruption, ethnicism, overlordship and marginalisation. Some of these groups later became organised and militarised under different militias like the Oodua People’s Congress, Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), the Niger Delta Volunteer Force, the Arewa People’s Congress, Egbesu Boys, Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), Ijaw National Congress and for over a decade now, Boko Haram (Audu, 2015; Omitola, 2012). These groups consistently protested against marginalisation, environmental degradation, poverty, political freedom, demand for federalism, autonomy and political leadership (Olowoselu et al., 2014). For instance, MOSOP and other groups in the Niger Delta demand for resource control, fiscal federalism and agitating against environmental degradation caused by oil exploration. MASSOB demands for political freedom while Boko Haram’s demand is an Islamic state (Brinkel and AitHida, 2012; Felix et al., 2014; Olowoselu et al., 2014; Omitola, 2012). These are just some of the groups and their demands. The means for the achievement of these objectives include bombings, killings, kidnapping, vandalism among others (Akinola and Tella, 2013). However, what distinguishes the Northern originated Boko Haram terrorist group from among others are the motives behind its vices which seem political, social and/or religious in nature (Akinola and Tella, 2013).

Boko Haram’s agenda has a strong religious mandate (Brinkel and Ait-Hida, 2012). Akinola and Uzodike (2013: 392) recall that ‘Northern Nigeria has witnessed the emergence and resurgence of revivalists, extremists, reformists, radicals, fundamentalists and revolutionary Islamist movements since the early 19th century’. This reveals that the desire for strict Islamic values is not a new thing in Northern Nigeria. Historically, the Nineteenth-Century Jihadist legacy of Usman Dan Fodio and his abhorrence for paganism can be adjudged as the root of radical Islam in Nigeria (Azuma, 2015). International influence as evidenced in the 1979 Iranian Revolution further fuelled the quest to smother the secular status of Nigeria and incline it to a pure Islamic system (Chaliand, 1987; Loimeier, 2012). An obvious effect of this was the Maitatsine crisis in the early 1980s to late 1980s which were repressed by security forces (Loimeier, 2012; Schweitzer and Shaul, 2003; Udounwa, 2013).

These Islamic groups have been violent and the response of the government has always been military/police deployment, commission reports on each crisis (which may never be implemented) and arrests (Onuoha, 2010). However, the moment such crisis are quelled, little is heard about the prosecution of suspects and the government even ignores the root causes of such movements (Onuoha, 2010). This is why Adesoji (2011) submitted that there has always been a de facto succession even if a group is contained. The Boko Haram group is an ideological movement that appeals to the poor masses (especially in Northern Nigeria) exploiting social and religious fault lines in the country (Udounwa, 2013). Boko Haram terror has its root in such domestic factors as acute poverty, state and leadership failures, ethnic nationalism and power struggles (Onapajo et al., 2012). However, the phenomenon cannot be isolated from the global trend of religious terrorism (Onapajo et al., 2012). Put differently, Boko Haram is a product of Nigeria’s domestic, political, socio-economic and to some extent religious problems (Ahokegh, 2012).

Boko Haram is a militant Islamic sect based in Northern Nigeria and  otherwise known as Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad (people committed to the propagation of the Prophet Mohammed’s teachings and Jihad[1] ) (Popoola, 2012: 46-47). The group was formed around 2002 and is guided by the name ‘Boko Haram’ which when loosely translated from Hausa means ‘Western education is forbidden’ (Okemi, 2013: 2). Boko Haram operated in a relatively peaceful manner in its first seven years of existence as it engaged in low-level conflicts with the police and unco-operative villagers (Olowoselu et al., 2014; Uchehara, 2014). The group utilised bows, arrows, knives, petrol bombs and machetes as tools for violence (Solomon, 2012). In this early stage, the government’s response focused on utilising security agencies to tackle the uprisings in the absence of any formal policy specifically directed at terrorism (Dasuki, 2013; Onuoha, 2010). This inevitably led to failure in addressing the root causes as government saw the matter as requiring pure law enforcement (Dasuki, 2013; Onuoha, 2010).

The sect became popular in 2009 when it participated actively in the insurgency and violence which occurred in Northern Nigeria (Patrick and Felix, 2013). This can be adjudged as the beginning of the sect’s history of violence (Johnmary, 2013). They attacked a police station in Bauchi city in July 2009 which resulted in shifting violence to Maiduguri in Borno, Yobe, Kano, Gombe and other states in Northern Nigeria from Adamawa to Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Niger, Kaduna, Kogi and so on (Johnmary, 2013). After the violence settled, its leader, Yusuf Mohammed was arrested and murdered by the Nigerian Police Force in a mode which was reviled by the global community (Onuoha and Ugwueze, 2014). This once again suggests that the government did not adopt concrete policy actions but used physical force as a panacea against those considered political dissidents (Onuoha and Ugwueze, 2014).

The operational tactics of Boko Haram have become sophisticated and it now encompasses hitand-run attacks, targeted assassinations, drive-by shootings, use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDS), suicide bombings, surprise attacks on security establishments and gun attacks on some civilian locations (Onuoha, 2014). In addition, Akinbi (2015) noted that the most recent method was kidnapping (like the case of 276 Chibok girls’ kidnapping), shooting of victims at close range, throat slitting as well as daylight and nocturnal attacks. They also invaded communities, killed some of the residents and took over territories within the Nigerian boundary (Isine, 2016; Marama, 2016). The activities of the sect particularly since 2009 have constituted a major security hazard to the nation and made Northern Nigeria, in particular, the North East (where their activities are widespread) the most unsafe place to live in Nigeria (Akinbi, 2015). The viral destruction of lives and properties perpetrated through terrorism in the Northern part of Nigeria has weakened the once vivacious economic bastions and the tourism life of Kano and Plateau states respectively, as some cities and towns in the North now live in perpetual fear (Isyaku, 2013). This has negatively affected the lives of women and children and has crippled the socio-economic and political activities of the region (Isyaku, 2013). Official figures put the death toll originating from Boko Haram violence at over 20,000 and properties lost worth over 40 million Dollars (Akpan et al., 2014 and Vanguard, 4th June 2016).

A Further contributing factor to the failure of these measures is the limited adherence to the rule of law. A good example is the unlawful detention of suspects including women and children in deplorable military facilities without being charged to court (Dasuki, 2013; Punch, 18th July 2016). In order to have documented policy documents that can bring about a framework, rule of law and accountability, the government further initiated the National Counter-terrorism Strategy (NACTEST) and Countering Violent Extremism (CVE[2] ) Programme, Terrorism (Prevention) Act 2011 (TPA 2011); Terrorism (Prevention) (Amendment) Act 2013 (TPA 2013); Money

Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 (MLPA 2011) and Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012 (MLPA 2012) (Dasuki, 2013).

The government’s response to the continued destruction of lives and properties by Boko Haram and the threat they portend to the security of the state remains the focal point of this research. That is to say, despite the steps taken by the Nigerian government, the menace of the terrorists continues to undermine the authority of the state over its territory as well as the capacity of the state to protect its citizens – a very fundamental attribute of a state. The research will assess these policy measures to ascertain if they have significantly curtailed terrorism. To achieve this, the study will be structured into seven chapters.

1.2   Statement of Problem

There has been an appreciable number of scholarly works on the Boko Haram phenomenon. These range from the origin of the sect, factors leading to its emergence, their modus operandi and extent of the damage inflicted by the sect. The Nigerian government has responded to the sect’s menace. The activities of Boko Haram which is over a decade seems strange to the security framework of Nigeria as a result of its terrorism dynamism.

There have been some policies that have been implemented by the government on counterterrorism ranging from executive pronouncements, presidential orders, acts and policy documents. These policies include inter alia declaration of a state of emergency, creation of the 7th Division of the Nigerian Army, the relocation of the military command centre to Maiduguri, TPA 2011, NACTEST (Akinbi, 2015; Campbell, 2014; Dasuki, 2013). These studies have created avenues to ascertain if these policies are effective in neutralising the strength and prowess of Boko Haram. There has been limited research on NACTEST and the legislative Acts that has to do with counter-terrorism in Nigeria. It is important to give these a consideration based on the fact that NACTEST and these Acts are the pillars upon which other measures are constructed. Consequently, this study seeks to examine the performance of Nigeria’s counterterrorism policies amidst continued destruction of lives and properties by the Islamic sect.


1.3         Research Objectives

The primary aim of this study is to assess the effectiveness of Nigeria’s counter-terrorism policies against Boko Haram while the research objectives are to:

  1. Examine the counter-terrorism policies made by the Nigerian Government;
  2. Assess the motivations behind the choice of such counter-terrorism policies;
  3. Evaluate how effective government-led counter-terrorism policies against Boko Haram have been; and
  4. Proffer sustainable policy options and pro-active counter-terrorism strategies to combat the Boko Haram reign of terror in Nigeria.

1.4         Research Questions

The main question addressed in this study is to ascertain the effectiveness of Nigeria’s counter- terrorism policies on the activities of Boko Haram. This is broken down into the following:

  1. What are the counter-terrorism policies made by the Nigerian Government?
  2. What are the motivations behind the choice of such counter-terrorism policies?
  3. How effective are the government-led counter-terrorism policies against Boko Haram?
  4. How can government implement proactive counter-terrorism strategies?



Horgan defined counter-radicalisation as:

“policies and programmes aimed at addressing some of the conditions that may propel some individuals down the path of terrorism. It is used broadly to refer to a package of social, political, legal, educational and economic programmes specifically designed to deter disaffected (and possibly already radicalised) individuals from crossing the line and becoming terrorists” (cited in Counter-terrorism Implementation Task Force 2008: 5).

1.8         Significance of the Study


The Nigerian government’s response to the nefarious activities of Boko Haram has made tackling terrorism appear to be the government’s only function or pre-occupation while its other functions seem to go unnoticed. Boko Haram poses tremendous threat to the Nigerian state and its citizenry. The sect did not just emerge suddenly; a lot of factors led to their emergence and by extension their nefarious acts. According to Ahokegh (2012), the threat faced by the Nigerian government from the Boko Haram menace remains unique in all spheres. This is because it is different from conventional or well-known security challenges. It is pertinent that any response of the government to this sect must be informed by the factors which led to the latter’s emergence in the first place. International best practices on counter-terrorism should also be taken into consideration. There have been counter-terrorism policies which the Nigerian government has either initially or recently promulgated as a result of the Boko Haram menace. This study is geared towards understanding the strengths of these policies in order to ascertain if their content and implementation are well positioned towards tackling the said terrorists.

Through the systems theory, the rationale behind government’s policies on counter-terrorism is explained and how the government’s successes or failures with regard to its policies are measured via feedback on its policies. The state fragility theory serves as a yardstick for examining the effectiveness of state institutions in counter-terrorism. The study x-rays how systems and state fragility theories can be utilised to assess Nigeria’s counter-terrorism policies. This will also be an avenue to join the existing number of literature (Cilliers and Cisk, 2013; David Easton, 1965; Dye, 1981; 1983; Eneanya, 2009; Erasmus, 1994; John, 2008; Kaplan, 2014) on the two theories.

The menace of Boko Haram has been restricted to Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Kano, Kaduna, Bauchi and Gombe states as well as the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. This study becomes important to proffer practical suggestions on how well-targeted government policies could effectively/decisively deal with the Boko Haram terrorism in Nigeria.

1.9     Limitations of the Study

Carrying out a study on terrorism has its challenges and Boko Haram is no exception/is not exempted. With reference to Boko Haram, some of the secondary data sources available pose great challenges in distilling accurate information. However, this study carefully employs the use of relevant literature and other reliable information sources. Another challenge is the difficulty in gaining access to members of the terrorist group which militates against the utility of personal interviews, and more importantly, due to the insecurity located in the crisis zone.

The rich data from both primary sources like internet resources, institutional reports and newspaper reports are adequate for quality research. Therefore, this study stimulates a robust assessment of Nigeria’s counter-terrorism policies with respect to the Boko Haram menace.


[1] Jihad is an inner struggle of the individual believer to obey God’s commandments and avoid worldly temptations. However, there is an outward aspect of Jihad as well. In this sense, the concept refers to the defence of the Islamic religion which is a duty of each believer. The concept of Jihadism is oriented towards this latter meaning. Jihadism can be an extreme political ideology characterised by the divine endeavour to spread Islam over the whole world by waging war against all unbelievers (Brinkel and Ait-Hida, 2012).

[2] CVE is a programme meant for counter-radicalisation and deradicalisation. Counter-radicalisation includes religious, cultural, communication and governance components. It is religiously and culturally focused by creating inter-faith dialogue, implementing an Imam training programme, empowering research on Islam, creating a database on Islamic institutions and focus on extracurricular activities for youths like sports. The deradicalisation aspect is prison based. The objective is to engage violent extremists, convicts/suspects in theological, ideological, physical and entrepreneurial value change that leads to positive transformation in their behaviour (The Nigerian Observer, 17th October 2014). However, this programme will not be evaluated because it is not in the public domain owing to security reasons.

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