Terrorism in Nigeria; Overview, Causes, Effects, Possible Solutions

What is Terrorism in Nigeria

In this post, we look at Terrorism in Nigeria. Here you will see the meaning, causes, effects and possible ways to combat it in Nigeria. This article is useful for curious knowledge seekers, researchers as well as policymakers in Nigeria.

Terrorism is a grave threat to any nation’s growth and development, as well as the welfare of its citizens. The aggressively violent activities of terrorist groups threaten the peace of mind of a nation’s populace – leaving them in a state of constant unrest – and, therefore, destabilizes the social, cultural, and economic systems of the nation.

A nation is essentially its people. And, for any nation to thrive, its people must have a sense of security as they go about their civic duties.

Read Also: Punishment For Terrorism Under Nigerian Law

Terrorism in Nigeria; Overview, Causes, Effects, Possible Solutions
Terrorism in Nigeria – Photo Source:

Any threat to this sense of security, no matter how minimal, will result in an equal decline – if not more – in the nation’s development.

As such, terrorism – and indeed, the violence of any sort – must be dealt with before it eats too deep into a nation’s core, and renders it a failed state.

Terrorism, in a nutshell, is the use of violent force, that brings about the destruction of lives and property, to coerce the population of a society to submit to the will of a terrorist group.

A recent UN document also defines terrorism as “any act which is intended to cause death or bodily harm to civilians or noncombatants with the purpose of intimidating a population or compelling a government or international organization to do or abstain from doing any act.”

Terrorism aims to strike fear in the hearts of a society’s populace, and it is this fear that is its the major weapon used in carrying out its activities.

No society can thrive while living in fear and dread, as such terrorists aim to bring a society to its knees by striking them with fear.

Terrorist groups usually have ideologies – or underlying issues within the region they operate – which motivate their activities, and which they want a society/nation to conform to or address. These ideologies/issues could be political, religious, ethnic, ethno-religious, racial, philosophical, and ecological.

Read Also: 10 Causes of Terrorism in Nigeria

Terrorism in Nigeria

Nigeria has in recent years been threatened by terrorism and insurgency. The motivation behind the terrorist groups that have threatened the nation’s peace and security have mostly been ethnic, religious, or political.

Terrorist organizations like the Movement For The Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC), the Northern Arewa Groups, and the more recent Boko Haram have sprung up in recent years with various ideologies that motivate their violent activities.

They have, through violence and fear, tried to impose these ideologies on the Nigerian populace or to get the government to address the issues that influence their violent activities.

The history of insurgency in Nigeria can be traced back to the days before the civil war, with the Niger Delta experiencing its first uprising.

Then, Major Isaac Jasper Adaka Boro established the Niger Delta volunteer force (NDVF), and declared the Niger Delta republic as a revolt against the then military government, and to stake a claim for a more equitable share of the wealth from the nation’s oil resource.

Although a brief threat – General Yakubu Gowon would later crush the group 12 days later and arrest Boro – it would set the pace for insurgency in the Niger Delta and in the country, because the major issues that roused the establishment of the NDVF – poverty, and politics – remained.

Over the course of the following years during and after the civil war, other terrorist groups like the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOP), the aforementioned Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), Oodua People’s Congress (OPC), The Northern Arewa groups, The Boko Haram, and the Jama’atu Ansaril Muslimina fi blades Sudan (Vanguard for the protection of Muslims in black Africa), which broke out of the Boko Haram in 2012, would rise, all with either the same reasons for their violent acts, or newly found ideologies.

The reasons and ideologies that fueled the activities of these groups were poverty, land use and property rights, the desire for equality, discrimination, political alienation, and religion.

Read Also: Updated: Nigerian troops repel Boko Haram attack near Maiduguri

Issues behind the insurgency in Nigeria

Terrorism is usually caused by underlying issues that eventually culminate over time to lead to the violent activities of terrorists.

These issues form the ideologies of terrorist groups and could be ethnic, religious, ethno-religious, political, etcetera.

In Nigeria, the issues that have led to the insurgence of terrorist groups are poverty, political alienation, discrimination, desire for equality, religion, and land use and property rights. We’ll look at these issues briefly.

1. Poverty

Poverty, which is the inadequacy of an individual in a society to meet his basic needs for survival, can lead to frustration, bitterness, hate, and anger.

When the poverty rate of a society is very high due to a system of corruption and government incompetence, the individuals in the society become frustrated at the system, especially when those in government seem to channel the wealth to their coffers, leaving out the frustrated masses.

This could eventually lead to a revolt against the government and the system. Poverty was the underlying cause of insurgent activities in the Niger Delta by groups like the Niger Delta Volunteer Force (NDVF), and the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND).

2. Political Alienation

Political alienation happens when an individual or group of individuals in a society have been involuntarily withdrawn, or prohibited from participating in political activities like voting, contesting for elections, campaigning, etcetera.

When people in a society are alienated from the political landscape of their society, they could feel frustrated as a result, and this could lead to contempt towards the government, and eventually violent conflict.

The Niger Delta region has also been in the middle of violent conflict as a result of political alienation, with militancy in this region down to a combination of political alienation and poverty.

3. Discrimination

Discrimination is a situation where an individual or group is looked upon unfairly as irrelevant or treated as a minority, and therefore denied certain rights and privileges as a result.

In a society or nation, certain tribal or religious groups could sometimes unfairly be seen as not good enough economically, politically, or otherwise, and these groups could then be denied certain political, economic, and social rights as a result of this unfair treatment.

This kind of treatment could overtime eventually lead to a feeling of frustration within the marginalized crowd, and this frustration could eventually lead to violent conflict within the society.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta was formed as a result of the marginalization and discrimination of people in the Niger Delta region, as those in the region felt unfairly cut off from basic amenities in the nation, despite contributing greatly to the nations economic growth through their abundant oil resource.

Read Also: Delta State Govt Urges Military to Stop Insurgency In North-East

4. The Desire for Equality

Inequality in a society has to do with an unfair difference in class status in the hierarchy of that society. A society usually consists of a lower class, a middle class, and an upper class.

A situation where there is an unfair difference between these three classes, say where one class, like the upper class, is preferred or more favoured above the other two classes – who are tossed aside in the running of the society’s affairs – and so gains more than them, a sense of inequality would eventually creep into the fabric of the society.

Once this sense of inequality finds it’s way into the psychology of the society, frustration, anger, and hate towards the more favoured upper class eventually follow.

In other to achieve the desire for equality, factions might form within the aggrieved classes which would then voice their anger, and demand justice through violent terrorist activities. The Niger Delta militancy and the settler situations in Jos are as a result of this.

5. Religion

A society consists of people from different backgrounds, and with different beliefs and religious ideologies coexisting together.

These varying belief systems are bound to occur in any region with a large population of people from different climes.

And, as a result, conflict may arise, as these belief systems could sometimes clash. When this happens, one group, with its own belief system/religion, might seek to dominate the other and gain the upper hand, while the other might refuse this dominance.

Violence might then ensue between both factions, threatening the peace of the society. Also, religious groups in society sometimes use violence to impose its a belief on that society and force it to do things according to the religious tenets of the group. Insurgency in the Northern part of Nigeria, most especially the Boko Haram insurgency is as a result of this.

6. Land use and property rights

Insurgency and terrorist activities have, many times, sprung up in Nigeria over ownership and use of land. When two separate ethnic groups occupy the same geographical space of land, conflict might sometimes ensue over the ownership and use of that land.

This conflict, if not settled immediately, might become violent and lead to the destruction of life and property. This has been one of the major causes of conflict in the Niger Delta, and among the Fulani and the Tiv people of Benue state, as well as the Tiv and Junkun people of Taraba State.

Effects of terrorism in Nigeria

Terrorism does not just spring up from the blues. Neglected underlying issues in a society culminate over time to lead to the conflict and violent activities that are the hallmark of insurgency.

These violent activities have obvious negative effects on society and its populace. Economically, Socially, and otherwise, a country threatened by insurgency is stifled, and withheld from growth, and runs the risk of becoming a failed state if the threat persists. Nigeria has experienced some of these effects, and quickly, we’ll discuss them.

Read Also: Boko Haram invades Tchakamari area, kills 11 while at sleep

1. Loss of lives and property

The violent activities that follow insurgency and terrorist activities result in a massive loss of lives and public/private property.

Hundreds, and, indeed thousands, die from bomb blasts, gunfights, ethnic/religious clashes, etcetera. Terrorists aim to get their message across by any means necessary no matter the collateral damage that follows, and so, they do not hold back from using violence as a major weapon to do this.

In Nigeria, especially in the North, there has been a countless number of lives lost, and properties destroyed, including major religious centers in the region.

In the Niger Delta, pipelines are constantly being vandalized whenever there is a violent uprising by militants in the region.

2. Hindrance to growth and development.

When a nation faces a constant threat of insurgency and terrorism, the growth and development of that nation are stifled.

The social, religious, economic, and educational activity is hindered, as that nation’s people live in constant dread and fear of terrorist attacks, and so, are unable to go about their civic duties.

Terrorist activities also force the government to impose curfews on the people, stifling their freedom and movement, and in this situation, activities are put on hold in that nation or region, and, as such, growth and development is hindered.

In the northern part of Nigeria especially, the freedom of movement of those in the region is reduced because of the activities of the Boko Haram sect, and so, economic, social, religious, and educational activities do not have their usual free flow, and thus, development is hindered.

3. Hinderance to tourism

Tourist activities are put on hold in nations plagued with the violent activities of terrorists. Nations with the heavy flux of tourist activities no longer experience such activities because of the security challenges they face.

In severe cases, entrance into these nations is prohibited completely, and when it is allowed, it is followed by an intence security protocol.

This has been the case, again, in the northern part of Nigeria where people are afraid of visiting the region because of the activity of terrorists.

4. Hindrance to economic activity/growth.

The economy of nations facing the threat of insurgency usually suffers the most loss, as economic activity is heavily stifled in these nations.

This is major because citizens of these nations are held back from engaging in economic activities because of fear of terrorist attacks.

Also, the focus of a country plagued by terrorist attacks is tuned more towards combatting their security challenges, and less towards economic growth and stability, and so, the economy suffers as a result.

The Fulani herdsmen crisis in Benue and Jos states in Nigeria is a good case study for this, as those affected in this region were hindered from the farming activities which formed the mainstream of the economy in these regions.

Measures are taken to combat terrorism in Nigeria

The federal government of Nigeria has, in the battle against terrorism, not sat with arms folded, allowing the threat to continuously eat deep into the nation’s core.

They have been actively involved in counter-terrorism, and several measures have been taken to combat insurgency, most especially in recent years with the threat of the Boko Haram.

For example, the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan deployed a total of over 8000 troops to the affected areas in the northern part of the country, although there was no clearly defined military strategy for their operation, despite the killing of over 200 suspected Boko Haram members in the invasion of Baga community in Borno State.

There was also the special training and deployment of the antiterrorism combat squad to the affected areas in the northern region of the country to curb insurgent activities.

The federal government had also acquired and developed military hardware and weaponry for the nation’s armed forces, while there were also steps taken towards international collaborations with the nation’s military, as well as authority is given to fellow African countries – Chad, Niger, and  Cameroon – to deploy troops on Nigerian soil to help combat terrorist activities. States of emergencies were also declared in the three most affected northern states –  Adamawa,  Borno,  and  Yobe.

It is also worth noting that citizens of Nigeria have been encouraged to come forward with useful information on terrorist activities.

Possible solutions to combatting terrorism in Nigeria

Terrorism and terrorist activities usually stem from discontent and anger amongst a nation’s populace towards the government and the system.

Corruption, poverty, unemployment, discrimination, and inequality can eventually lead to insurgency and terrorist activities.

Good governance, a functioning economy, and equality at all levels, including ethnic and religious, is one of the major ways to avoid an insurgent uprising.

Also, international collaborations with armed forces from other nations could also help combat the menace of terrorism.

Nations with well trained military forces and state of the art weaponry could supply insurgent ridden nations with both the adequate counter-terrorism expertise and weaponry to combat the threat.

Counterterrorism is a war, and wars are won with strategies. Sound and clearly defined military strategies should be devised by the nation’s military and put in place to combat the threat of insurgency.

Boko Haram and other related terrorist groups should have their support lines cut off completely, thus rendering them vulnerable to invasion and attack.

The battle against terrorism is a long drawn, but not impossible one. With clearly devised strategies, terrorism can finally be brought to an end in Nigeria.

Read Also: 10 Causes of Insurgency In Nigeria


Terrorism remains one of the gravest threats to a nation’s growth and development, but it does not spring up on its own. It is mostly a response to underlying issues – poverty, unemployment, corruption – already threatening a nation.

The battle against terrorism first starts with good governance and addressing these underlying issues, so as to avoid the anger and contempt that inevitably leads to terrorism.

A swift military response is also required to snuff out the threat in its early days, and this swift response can be achieved through international collaborations, and adequate equipping of a nation’s military.

As earlier stated, the battle against terrorism can be a long drawn out one, but victory is not impossible. Has this article been helpful? Let us know.

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