General Overview of the Crisis
Boko Haram was founded in 2002 in Nigeria, and has become one of the largest Islamist militant groups in Africa. In 2009, they started carrying out attacks against the military and police, as well as attacking various civilian populations and various ethnic and religious groups. Since then, they have continued carrying out violent attacks and kidnapping children, all the while promoting the importance of an Islamic state. In the late 2010s, Boko Haram split up into the larger group called the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), who have spread their influence across the country. Meanwhile the former leader Abubaker Shekau was still leading a smaller section still called Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad (JAS). These groups have been highly suspected to be tied to various other extremist terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda and ISIS. Furthermore, it has been suspected as of the end of May 2021, that Boko Haram’s leader of almost eleven years, Abubaker Shekau, may have been killed by rival jihadist groups. This leaves the country and the international community to wonder if anything will change with Boko Haram, and how a change in leadership may impact Nigerians. Nevertheless, Boko Haram has a stronghold on Nigerian politics, so it is unlikely too much will change. For true change to occur, experts are suggesting that greater international pressure and support is e needed to help implement some of the policies that the Nigerian government has been struggling to implement over the past twelve years. It is also going to require more frequent information to be made available regarding the crisis, as well as providing support to civilians who have been directly affected by Boko Haram’s actions.
Addressing the boko haram insurgency in Nigeria - Economic Aspect:
The COVID-19 pandemic in addition to the insurgency have resulted in economic challenges in Nigeria. In 2019, the National Bureau of Statistics revealed that over 40% of the Nigerian population lives below the poverty line. One of the main causes of this is unemployment, as roughly one-third of the population at the working age is unemployed. The economy has also been declining since 2015, when the current government came to power and was not suited to deal with to the poor economic situation. Another economic recession occurred in 2020 as a result of the pandemic, and it has only made the economic situation worse. Stay-at-home orders resulted in the entertainment and aviation industries being greatly affected, as well as smaller businesses who could not afford to stay open. Furthermore, Nigeria is Africa’s largest oil supplier. The pandemic led to oil prices falling, which affected the Nigerian GDP and revenues fell. Another key cause of the high poverty rates in Nigeria has been inequality. Corruption in the government and amongst people in power has resulted in not enough resources being allocated to the education of people in poverty, specifically women, resulting in them struggling to break out of the cycle of poverty. Another key economic aspect of the issue is famine. The World Food Program is warning that famine may become a serious issue in Nigeria if drastic actions are not taken. In fact, some studies suggest that there is already an ongoing famine in northeast Nigeria. UN agencies and various NGOs and non-profits play a key role in providing northeast Nigeria with food, however Boko Haram is making it more challenging for them to provide food to these vulnerable populations. The imminent famine combined with the high poverty rates means that many populations struggle with food insecurity, and will likely continue to struggle until a change is made in government. This relates to the sixteenth sustainable development goal as corruption and weak institutions have been attributed to be the main cause of poverty in Nigeria. Tackling corruption, and strengthening the government institutions and ensuring that they treat all their citizen equally and work towards ending inequality, would help solve this crisis.
Addressing the boko haram insurgency in Nigeria- Social Aspect:
The current insurgency in Nigeria major impacts socially. One of the main social impacts has been a rise in ethnic and religious tensions. Northern Nigeria’s population is primarily Muslim, and have more Middle-Eastern influences. While the south has greater ethnic diversity and is primarily Christian, with African and Western influences. Divides between the two regions have existed since the country’s foundation, and have only been exacerbated since the rise of Boko Haram. Common issues occur such as Christians and other religious groups expressing their concerns about the country following Sharia law under certain circumstances in court. The result has been increase in conflict and tensions between ethnic and religious groups, as one’s religion and ethnicity plays a key part in their political beliefs in Nigeria. Some of the results of these tensions have been disastrous, with either side reportedly killing and murdering the other. The Middle Belt, the term given to the area between the north and south regions, has been a site where many of these murders occur. Although most experts agree that Boko Haram does not target one ethnic or religious group over the other, they have made tensions worse in the region. This has been a primary motivator to an increase in conflict and mistrust amongst civilians. Furthermore, Nigeria struggles with mismanagement of various resources, including oil, this has resulted in religious groups and various communities blaming the other for the current situation. The South is more oil-rich, and the North is more agriculture-rich, and both sides blame one another for the mismanagement of such resources. The social aspect of the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria heavily relates to the sixteenth sustainable development goal of peace, justice, and strong institutions. A lack of transparency on the government’s side, in addition to increased violence, discrimination, and lack of justice all violate the aims of this goal. Addressing the social aspect of the issue would help address the goal as a whole.
Addressing the boko haram insurgency in Nigeria - Humanitarian Aspect:
The crisis in Nigeria has had a major humanitarian impact on the country and the region. UNHCR estimates that around 2.9 million people in Nigeria are internally displaced persons (IDPs), and there are around 304,000 Nigerian refugees. Countries in the Lake Chad Basin, including Cameroon, Niger and Chad have had to deal with the Nigerian refugee crisis that has been occurring for the past seven years. The reason for the high numbers of refugees is the violence that has occurred in the country, forcing people to flee and seek safety. Some of the violence they are escaping from includes Boko Haram’s attacks, the kidnapping of schoolchildren, banditry, and violence amongst civilians. There are also not enough adequate resources and measures in place to protect the vulnerable populations. IDPs have been subject to recruitment into Boko Haram, and there has been a rise of violent crimes in such displacement
camps. As of 2020, roughly 7.9 million Nigerians are estimated to require some form of humanitarian aid, which will require an international response. In addition to the refugee crisis, one of the most prominent humanitarian issues in Nigeria has been the kidnapping of schoolchildren. This likely started with the 2014 kidnapping of 200 girls by Boko Haram, and the kidnappings have continued to occur. Except this time, the kidnappers are often bandits, a term given to kidnappers, robbers, or other armed militia; many of whom are motivated by certain monetary gain. Poor infrastructure in Nigeria results in these kidnappings occurring frequently. Between December 2020 and March 2021, roughly 600 students have been kidnapped from their schools in northern Nigeria for ransom. This puts the lives of students at risk every time they go to school. In addition, Nigeria faces gender-based violence with women and girls being trafficked and raped in exchange for basic items such as food and water. The humanitarian aspect of this crisis heavily relates to the UN SDG of peace, justice and strong institutions. By 2030, the UN aims to significantly reduce violence, exploitation, torture, human trafficking, organized crime, and corruption. However, achieving this goal would require addressing the issue in Nigeria, as it is clear that they are currently facing all of the aforementioned issues.