Created in the early 2000s, Boko Haram quickly rose to fame as a formidable terrorist organization that did not play around when it comes to the prices they are willing to pay in order to squelch the “evil influences” of the western civilization. Boko Haram seems to have faded in the background in recent years however, overshadowed by certain significant organizations such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda. Does this unusual silence from Boko Haram mean they have lost their prominence and power?
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If Boko Haram was truly a threat, wouldn’t the media be reporting every exploit and every time they wreaked havoc on both surrounding countries population and economies? On the contrary, silence does not equal stifled in this case. Just because Boko Haram does not seem to be in the spotlight in 2021 should not at all give anyone the impression that they have lost their authority in the least. If anything, this blind eye the world has turned toward Boko Haram has embolden them to become more ruthless and deadlier than ever before in history.
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The Quiet but Deadly Terrorist Organization
The nature and concept of insurgency normally initiate the spirit of rebellion, evil, and terror against an instituted authority by those who want to subvert the incumbent regime’s effort. Actually, in its usual meaning, they are terrorists. The Nigeria Boko Haram situation is a genuine instance where an organized terrorist group has unleashed chaos that has shocked the security, economic, and political foundation of the country. Boko Haram is a sect of Islamic fundamentalists that has been affirmed as a terrorist organization at around 2011, during the country’s general election, when the group was highly active (White, 2017). The Nigerian-based terrorist group is said to have connections with other international terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda. There are charges and insinuations that the crafty Boko Haram terrorist group was established by the political opposition in the northern part of Nigeria, with stout support from the Islamic terrorist elements in the Middle East to destabilize the peace, national security, and the government of Nigeria (Okoroafor & Monday, 2015). The deadly group has unleashed a terror reign that resulted in cruel destruction of lives both small and great especially in the northern region, comprising of people of different religious divides. Also, the group has not spare foreigners who come to invest in the country. Boko Haram has destroyed properties worth millions of dollars, with the Nigerian government failing in most of its attempts to stop the group.
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Boko Haram was highly active in the 2000s where it wreaked havoc in the country, especially in northern Nigeria, Chad Lake Basin, and surrounding regions. It also extended its activities to the 2010s with most of its destruction being experienced around 2011 where it was responsible for over 450 deaths in the country, bombing activities in 2012, in 2014 where it kidnapped 215 girls in a public school, and in 2015 it also executed gun attacks. The group has since kept a low profile with the main activities being filming girls or women they kidnapped in the past and releasing them in phases. Although their actions are currently lightly published, the group continues causing terror, especially among the kidnapped women and children, with some released girls reporting back with young children, which is a clear indication of sexual harassment and rape among those in captivity. This paper discusses Boko Haram, giving more information that helps the reader to understand what it is, its origin and history, its contribution to the destruction of people’s life in Nigeria and surrounding areas, its impact on the economy, and its probable future.
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History of Boko Haram
Boko Haram refers to an insurgent Islamic sector established in 2002 by Mohammed Yusuf. The organization is based in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital at the end of the northeastern part of Nigeria. The group adopted the name Boko Haram which means “Western education is evil, a sin, or sacrilege” in Hausa Parlance. It strongly stands against man-made laws. Therefore it fights to abolish the secular government system and create a Sharia system in Nigeria. The group initially came into the limelight after the religious violence in 2009, in Nigeria. The group lacks a clear-cut organizational structure or an obvious chain of command. By 2013, it was not clear whether the group had any link with any international terrorist group, though it was found to use different tactics that mimicked the Arabs terrorist groups while they have continuously been at logger’s head with the Nigeria Federal Government. Boko Haram has adopted the name of people committed to the propagation of jihad and teachings of the prophet, though Maiduguri residents where the group was formed nicknamed it as Boko Haram. Boko in Hausa stands for ‘western education’ and haram is an Arabic word that figuratively implies forbidden, literally or sin. Therefore, the name is loosely translated as “western education is forbidden”. The group earned the nickname following its strong opposition to westernization that it claims to corrupt Muslims (Olusegun, 2013).
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Boko Haram is a native Salafist group that only converted to the Salafist Jihadist group in 2009. It publicized that not just interaction with the western nation is banned by also against the Nigerian government and the Muslim establishment. The group exalts its ideology publicly even though Muhammad Yusuf, his former leader, and founder was a highly educated man who drove a Mercedes Benz and lived a luxurious life. The group members do not interrelate with the local Muslim population and have in past assassinated those who critique it including Muslim kadhis. The sect started with Mohammed Yusufu, a charismatic Muslim Cleric establishment of a religious complex that comprised of an Islamic School and a mosque. The school enrolled a huge number of children from poor Muslim families across the country and the bordering nations (Hentz & Solomon, 2017).
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However, the sect was not just interested in education. On the contrary, it had an Islamic objective which was to develop an Islamic state. Therefore, the school turned into a jihadists’ recruiting ground. Based on its founding belief, the jihadists were to battle the state. This mission started in 2009 when Boko Haram conducted a series of attacks on police stations among other state facilities in Maiduguri. This resulted in shoot-outs on the streets of Maiduguri where hundreds of Boko Haram members were killed, as residents flee the city in thousands. Boko Haram continued launching more attacks after the 2009 incident (Thurston, 2017). After this incident, Boka Haram continued launching more attacks some in police stations, and prisons trying to free its people, churches, and entertainment joins. The sect also started practicing kidnapping, with the most recent incident involving over 200 school girls. The sect activities have currently seemed to subside with major activity being kidnapping and negotiating for the release of some of its followers in exchange for citizens in its captive. The group has demonstrated a change in how it conducts its operations with fear of indulging in sex trafficking among other silent crimes.
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The Acts of Boko Haram
Boko Haram turned into a highly lethal and destructive group, after the violent 2009 crackdown by the government, displacing millions and killing thousands in Northeast Nigeria. The sect used brutal tactics that included bomb explosions, suicide bombings, kidnapping, assassinations, car hijacking, and roadside shooting to wage war against “enemy targets”. Also, the group wreaked havoc at government properties, public institutions, police forces, and civilians. They were also known to assault and abduct students and teachers, burn and bomb villages, and kill several citizens, in their attacks (Adelaja, Labo & Penar, 2018).
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The group has also subject a huge number of women to sexual violence sometimes resulting in the birth of children. Women are experiencing sexual abuse, emotional and physical abuse at the hand of Boko Haram. This is causing the development of serious psychological health issues, with those who manage to escape from their captive being unable to cope with their new life as parents to children born out of rape (Roberts, 2019). The majority who directly experience Boko Haram terrorist acts or who were directly affected by their actions were exposed to a traumatic event that may have a long-term effect on their psychological health. The group has also instilled a high level of fear, especially among the school-going kids, specifically girls, and their parents. Boko Haram which is mostly against western education has developed a habit of raiding schools and kidnapping girls, some of who are held captive years before they are released, while others die on their hands (Ezeh, 2018). This has instilled fear of attending schools among girls in the northern parts of Nigeria and other surrounding regions. Although the group seems a bit silent based on its initial level of operation, it still seems highly powerful as the government has failed to keep up with its activities. In most cases, girls kidnapped in schools escape on their own or remain in their custody for years, which a reflection of how powerless the government is compared to Boko Haram.
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Their Effect on Economy
Boko Haram has highly distracted normal life in the country. Based on the global terrorist database, Nigeria experienced a total of 2592 terrorist attacks from 2009 to 2015, of which 64% were caused by Boko Haram (Ekhato- Mobayode & Asfaw, 2018). These terrorist activities disrupted the country’s economic activities resulting in long-term human and economic development in the country. The attacks destroyed government structures, schools, and other public institutions. This eventually costs the government to rebuild. Most foreign investors especially in the northern region got scared and withdrew their investment. This resulted in great economic loss in terms of foreign direct investment. Boko Haram activities have also been associated with a decline in child health in the country. According to Ekhator-
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Mobayode and Asfaw (2018), disruption of economic engagements resulted in a decline in household wealth and income, and hence consumption. Displacement or loss of family members lowered investment in time-intensive inputs in child health care. Boko Haram also interfered with public health services delivery, obstructing access to vital curative and preventive services. This has generally increased the cost of public health, as most children and the general population miss opportunities to employ preventive health measures. This results in to increase in unhealthy people in the country, reducing their participation in economic activities and personal economic development. The interference with life of young people who include young men recruited in the sect and young schools girls kidnapped interfere with their social-economic growth in life, especially by interfering or stopping their education. This reduces their future ability to have a sustainable source of income, increasing the level of household poverty in the country. The sect is also believed to be interfering with the oil economy, which is the main source of income in Nigeria and hence negatively impacting the economic development of the country (Alozieuwa, 2016). Boko Haram activities in the country have therefore highly impacted the socio-economic activities, increasing fear of raising the household poverty level in the country.
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Boko Haram and the Future
Since its establishment, Boko Haram has negatively impacted the lives of Nigerian people especially those living in the northern parts and around Chad Lake Basin. The worse is that it focused on capturing the mind of young people, who are mostly the future of society. Today, the sect is deep-rooted with advanced activities including international connection with other powerful terrorists in the world (White, 2017). Its low-key damaging activities are quite worrying as the sect continues damaging life of young people in the country, not just by recruiting young men into the sect, but also by kidnapping young girls and subjecting them to sexual violence. This creates a dysfunctional society, with psychologically impaired members whose fate lies in mere luck of survival without direct contact with Boko Haram members. The future is not bright for children and youths in northern parts of Nigeria (Ezeh, 2018). More may need to be done to give hope to young people in the region to citizens in the region. In Matthew 21: 12-13, Jesus decided to use physical force to drive sellers who defiled his holy place to restore sanity (King James Bible, 1769/2017). This a good example that the government that is responsible for protecting its citizens should not bury its head in the soil. Negotiating with criminals gives them a higher bargaining power since they got very little to lose. Moreover, jihadists have already chosen chaos (Olusegun, 2013). The government has the sole responsibility of restoring sanity in Nigeria. It should restore hope for young people in northern Nigeria by addressing Boko Haram amicably. Thinking the sect is losing its power could be an illusion intentionally created to distract the government. The underground economic operations including human trafficking may be a strategy to build financial resources that will empower the sect to have a higher competitive advantage in the war field with the government in the future. Moreover, the sect’s primary goal has never been met. This means it may still be figuring out how to achieve it. Rather than ignoring and negotiating, the government should consider fighting and destroying Boko Haram for the future of the country.