Impact of Ethnic Militancy and Internal Terrorism on Nigeria’s National Security, 1999 to 2012



1.1              Background to the Study

In a time of terror, in the face of terrorism, the Nigerian state articulates itself as a domain of security for the populace. The presidency, lawmakers and security agencies openly condemns terrorist attacks as illegitimate action used by non-state actors. Accordingly, the Nigerian government, through the National Assembly (NASS) embarked on a legislative pathway to criminalise terrorism via the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act in 2002. However, the inchoate nature of counterterrorism provisions in the Act led to the exploration of a more comprehensive legal framework, and in turn to the presentation of the Prevention of Terrorism Bill to the Senate in 2006 (Isaac, 2011: 42). Five years later, the Terrorism Prevention Act of 2011, was passed by the Senate and the House on June, 1, 2011 and on June 2, 2011, it was forwarded by the Clerk of the National Assembly to President Goodluck Jonathan who signed it to law on June 3, 2011 (The Punch Newspaper, November 22, 2012).

Since 2009, internal terrorism in Nigeria moved from ethnic militancy to suicide bombing, a situation that has claimed over 3,000 lives, led to the declaration of state of emergency in five northern states, and the sack of the Defence  Minister,  Police  Chief  and  National  Security  Adviser (Olalekan, 2012: 1). The erstwhile unpopular national phenomenon  of  suicide  bombing  have  suddenly  become  dominant  in  the country,  with  several  attacks  on  the  elected  political  leaders  and  traditional rulers  in  the  North – Eastern region of Nigeria; the nation’s capital, Abuja; the  commercial  city  of  Kano  in  North-western  axis  and  formerly  serene Plateau State in North – Central region (Tony and Kolade, 2012: 1)..

The nature of internal terrorism in Nigeria assumed international outlook, with the bombing of the UN Building at Abuja on Friday, 26 August 2011 which killed at least 21 and wounded 60 people. The international community grieved as  suicide  bombing  rocked  the  St. Theresa’s Catholic Church, Madalla, Niger  State,  on  Christmas  Day  killing  innocent  worshippers (Olalekan, 2012: 23). These are aside from the spate of bombings of several other churches, public  infrastructures  and  civilian  gatherings  in  Kano,  Kaduna,  Okene,  and other local government councils in the northern parts of the country.

According  to  the  United  States Department’s Global Report on Terrorism, Nigeria ranked 2nd with 593 deaths in 2011 from terrorist killings on the African continent, second to only the failed state of Somalia. On the global level, Nigeria was placed 5th  in the  ranking  of  casualties (Country Report on Terrorism, 2010).

Nigeria  is  not  a  stranger  to  terrorism,  having  experienced  the activities  of  the  extremist  Maitatsine  sect  movement  that  became  violent  in the early 1980s during the regime of the first democratically-elected civilian government  of  Alhaji  Shehu  Shagari.  The  Yan  Tatsine  (followers  of Maitatsine)  was  actually  a  quasi-Muslim  fringe  group  that  preached  Islamic doctrines  that  were  contrary  to  the  teachings  of  the  orthodox  Islamic  and societal  leadership.  Muhammadu  Marwa  Maitatsine,  the  leader  of  the  sect, was  a  Muslim  scholar  from  Marwa  town  in  Northern  Cameroun  who migrated to Kano in Nigeria (Danjibo, 2000: 3). The ideology of the Maitatsine sect  was  appealing  to  the  poverty  –  stricken  youths  who  sought  an opportunity  to  confront  the  conservative  traditional  Islamic  rulership  and State  governments.  The  directive  by  the  federal  government  to  the  Police Force  to  crush  the  movement,  which  had  large  followership  of  the unemployed  youths,  led  to  clashes  with  the  police  in  Kano.

Encouraged by the ‘defeat’ of the police,  the sect marched in Kano city chanting “Yau zamu sha jinni”, meaning “today we shall drink blood” in Hausa. By December 19, 1980 the sect took over strategic places in Kano city including the Fagge mosque, some schools, a cinema house and the Sabon Gari market. For eleven days, the police was unable to bring to control the sectarian riots. When the situation was getting out of control, ex-President Shehu Shagari had to invite the Nigeria Army to intervene. It took the army two days to dislodge the sect while their leader was killed in the operation. More than 1,000 members of the sect  were arrested and detained in prison where they received agonizing treatment from the police. The crisis lasted for 11 days, claimed the lives of more than 4,179 people and hundreds of houses and shops were either torched or destroyed (Danjibo, 2000). This  religious  crisis,  which  later  took  a denominational  dimension  in  Zaria  with  the  Muslims  directing  their  attacks on Christians and their property, later spread to Maiduguri, Yola, Bauchi and Gombe,  in  the  north-eastern  parts  of  Nigeria.  The  leader  of  the  sect  was killed in the uprising.

Thus, national security becomes the language in and through which terrorism is mediated as a threat which invariably make the state to create and implement national security policies. It is not only international or global terrorism that threatens Nigeria’s security, internal terrorism is equally perceived to threaten directly  the national security of Nigeria. In other words, the threat requires the Nigerian government to protect the  citizens but also to defend the constitution and  its  national interests, including its interests and allies abroad.

Seen as the  systematic  use  of  violence,  or  the  threat  of  violence,  against governments  or  individuals  to  attain  a  socio-political  objective, terrorism has been practised throughout history and throughout the world.  Terrorism  is  a  long-standing  political  and  religious  strategy  that  has  gained  renewed international  awareness  following  the  devastating  and  unprecedented  attacks  in  the United States (US) on the 11th September 2001 (9/11). Although the events of that day have come to represent a turning point in international concern with the issue, the 9/11 attacks were not isolated events. Nor did these events reflect an unexpected new threat; they  were  the  representative  reaffirmation  of  a  tendency  that  had  been  apparent for several  years.  Where  terror  had  previously  been  a  painful  accessory  to  anarchism, liberation wars, counter-insurgency campaigns and the battlefields of the Cold War; the events of that day took terrorism to a new, global level.

Historically, no terrorist group has ever emerged in a vacuum; there are dynamic  contexts—political,  social,  economic,  temporal,  spatial,  even religious—that must be taken into account. Thus, a considerable amount of emphasis is placed on identifying the array of environmental conditions and grievances among members of the local population that facilitated opportunities for internal terrorism in Nigeria to muster support and orchestrate acts of political violence. The government of Nigeria has struggled to deal effectively with these grievances and sources of tension throughout the country, and there is a pervasive belief particularly among northern Nigerians that the government continually fails to address critical needs of those who aspire for a better future. While resources are surely constrained, it is the inequitable distribution of those resources, and the widely acknowledged levels of corruption among elites, that detract from the government’s effectiveness. In turn, patronage and corruption fuels a general perception that government officials (to include law enforcement) cannot be

trusted, and this further undermines the government’s ability to influence the behavior of local community members in positive directions, away from the lure of radical extremist ideologies like that of Boko Haram.

1.2       Statement of the Problem               

Internal or domestic terrorism has a long history in Nigeria. Both the southern and northern parts of the country have experienced acts of terrorism.  Some of the groups that posed the greatest challenge to Nigeria’s security between 1999 and 2012 include Movement for Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND), Oodua People’s Congress (OPC), Bakassi Boys, Boko Haram, among others.  These groups adopted various strategies which included arson,  kidnapping,  extra-judicial  killings,  looting,  unlawful  detention, disappearances, and at worst, suicide bombing. While some of these groups receive considerable support from the local people, the fact is that their tactics sometimes constitute terrorism and pose a special challenge to Nigerian military.

Since  the  return  to  civil  rule  in  1999,  Nigeria  has  been  battling  with  series  of  violent agitations from various geo-political zones in the country. These violent agitations which have taken  terror  dimensions  have  contributed  to  national  security  threat  that  is  capable  of disintegrating  the  country.  Terrorists’  attacks  have  resulted  in  the  killings  of  hundreds  of people and wanton destruction of property that worth billions of naira through bombings.

The strategic implication of these terrorist acts on Nigeria’s national security is the major thrust of this thesis. While literature abound on the terms ‘terrorism’, ‘national security’, more research is needed to unravel the connection between terrorism and national security in Nigeria. Outright confrontation with police and military officers,  violent attacks on the populace,  pipeline  vandalisation,  bombing  of  oil  installation,  armed  resistance against the agents of the Nigerian state and the transnational oil companies operating in the region, kidnapping and hostage taking have serious strategic implication for Nigeria in the international community. Since the activities of these terrorist groups especially since 1999 have not only constituted a major security threat to  the nation, but has also make the country one of the most dangerous place to live in the world. The activities of this sect are capable of disintegrating the country. Thus, the need to find lasting solution to the grievance of these groups is very paramount

This thesis  hopes  to  shed  light  on  why  internal terrorism arose as well as its implication for Nigeria in the 21st century.  Further,  this  thesis  will  look  at  the  effects  of  their  coming  into  being  on democratic  consolidation.  It  is  hoped   that  this  thesis  will  contribute  to  the  future  work  on resolving  Nigerian  conflict  by  putting  forth  a  new  perspective  based  on  using  a  holistic perspective

1.2              Research Questions                                     

By explaining how   the militias as well as terrorist groups came  into being,  and by showing that they posed serious threat to national security, the central research questions are:

  1. How did ethnic militias and terrorist groups emerge?
  2. What is the nature of their operations?
  3. Have they had any significant impact on Nigerians?
  4. Have their patterns of attacks affected the Nigerian political economy?
  5. Have they become a major threat to the security forces?
  6. Have their activities led to internalization of terrorism in Nigeria?
  7. Could their dangerous activities undermine Nigeria’s national security?

1.4       Purpose of the Study                       

In  order  to  formulate  viable  long  term  solutions  to  combat  terrorism in  Nigeria,  it  is  necessary  to  investigate  the  root  causes  of  internal terrorism in the country.  Investigating  the  political,  economic,  social  and  environmental  causes  of

internal terrorism  will  be  the  primary  objective  of  this  study.  Also,  the correlation  between  internal terrorism and national security will be investigated.

Hence,  a  specific  objective  will  be  to  illuminate  and  explore  the  concept  of  internal terrorists and to look into how they influence the Nigerian society.

Also the study will investigate the physical manifestations of terrorist acts from 1999 to 2012. Establishing  the  modus  operandi  of  terrorist groups  will  enable  relevant  actors  to  establish  viable short term solutions to combat internal terrorism.

Lastly, the likelihood of terrorism spreading to other parts of Africa will be investigated.

1.5       Scope of the Study 

The study examines internal security and its strategic implication for national security in Nigeria. The research begins from 1999, a year which is significant in Nigerian history as it ushered in the Fourth Republic under the democratically elected government of President Olusegun Obasanjo. The research terminates in 2012 as much of the terrorist activities up to date featured between 2009 and 2012. To this, the research analyse  the  concept  of  internal  terrorism and national security. The  analysis  will  explore  why  internal  terrorism occurs in Nigeria, and the factors which facilitate this. Hence, the study will focus  on  aspects  such  as  the  historical  background  of  internal terrorism in Nigeria; the Nigerian security environment;  and  the counter-terrorist  policies  which  the Nigerian government pursued to maintain national security from 1999 to 2012.

1.6       Limitations of the Study

In producing such a work like this, the problem confronting the researcher is not the scarcity of materials but its availability some of which are bias in their presentation. Moreso, this research work is contemporary and politically sensitive.  The researcher therefore is confronted with the problem of interpretation of the actions of terrorist groups as well as counter-terrorist approach of the Nigerian government as some of the policies initiated are still an on-ongoing process.

            Finally, there is the question of time and fund which may serve as impediments to this research.  Nevertheless, these limitating factors will greatly be managed to make the research work more objective in its presentation.

1.7       Significance of the Study               

The problem of internal terrorism and its implication for national security in Nigeria is central to this research. It analyses the implication of internal terrorism for Nigeria in the international community. It is on this basis that this study is important for certain reasons.

First, the study is of paramount importance to decision makers and the citizens for it traces the historical development of internal terrorism in Nigeria, emphasizing how corruption, ethno-politics, resource control, bad governance, poverty, coups and counter coups, etc have all added to the rise of internal terrorism in Nigeria.

Second, the importance of Nigeria as a global source of energy inevitably has resulted in a significant international presence in the country; in particular the USA, China and Britain who depend on Nigeria for a large part of their oil imports have a significant political and economic presence. It is no coincidence that these countries in particular have been pivotal  to  the  counterterrorism  policies  of  Nigeria  and  in  training  their  military  for specific counterterrorism functions. Thus the international involvement of stakeholders in  internal terrorism in  Nigeria becomes critical to this study as it raised  more  questions  about  who  counter-terrorism policies  are  enacted  for,  for  what  purpose. In essence, the research will provoke further questions on internal terrorism in Nigeria.

Third, this research work will help in providing information on the internal factors that affects counter-terrorism in Nigeria, and what it holds for other countries undergoing the challenges of internal terrorism. With successful amnesties and dialogue having taken place in the Niger Delta with the Movement for the Emancipation  of  the  Niger  Delta  (MEND) and the recent ceasefire announcement of the Boko Haram terrorist group, it means that internal terrorism could be won by the government through peaceful dialogue.

Fourth, it is useful to scholars’ especially diplomatic historians, political scientists, economists and international relations experts who are conducting research in related fields.

Finally, the political and military class will learn, through this study, the need for them to be patriotic.

1.8       Research Methodology

Historical research method was used in carrying out this study. A critical examination of the dramatic evolution of ethnic militant groups to the rise of a more violent Boko Haram, was analyzed using findings from both primary and secondary sources. The primary sources include written documents such as government publications, letters, correspondence, documentaries and newspapers. Moreover, this study depended on secondary sources such as books, journals, conference proceedings and internet sources which are to be explored to enrich this work.

Furthermore, this research work depended largely on archival materials to gather relevant materials on the study. Field trips will also be employed to access information from the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs and other centres in order to get relevant information regarding the research work.

This was complemented using other research instruments. The research instruments used were questionnaires and purposive sampling. The data gathered through the questionnaire were analysed using the frequency of responses and percentages while the outcome from data were presented in form of tables. Each table was analysed using descriptive analytical method. Interpretations and useful inferences were drawn from the analysis which formed the basis of conclusion and recommendations.

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5 comments on “Impact of Ethnic Militancy and Internal Terrorism on Nigeria’s National Security, 1999 to 2012

  1. Hi,
    I’m interested in this and i’m doing my masters on international relations. I want a project of 1000pgs. How do I know u are for real?? Boys are nt smiling u knw, anytn for the money…hope u undrstnd Wht I’m sayin

  2. Please I need help with my project, the topic is partly politics and democratic consolidation in Nigeria a case study of Yar’dua and Jonathan regime

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