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The Root Causes of the Crisis in Northeast Nigeria: Historical, Socioeconomic and Environmental Dimensions



Nigeria is confronted with numerous conflicts throughout the country. In the northeast part, a humanitarian crisis has been playing out for the past ten years, mostly caused by the insurgency of the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram. In this paper, we examine the root causes of the crisis based on its historical, socioeconomic and environmental dimensions. We examine available literature and draw conclusions and recommendations based on interviews that we conducted with experts in Nigeria. The results show that even though poverty may constitute a strong reason for many youths to join the insurgency, it is not a sufficient factor to explain the conflict. Furthermore, the results also show that the historical legacy of northeast Nigeria as well as the socioeconomic neglect of the region and its harsh environmental conditions may have created favorable conditions for the current crisis. We recommend a reinforced education system that significantly increases school attendance and that aims at educating young individuals on the historical legacy of the region. The identification of the various conflict actors in order to better understand the reasons behind their involvement is also recommended. In conclusion, the causal link between poverty, environmental change and past history contributing to the region’s crisis is not easily drawn, but the evidence suggests that the lack of economic opportunities and the lack of education may contribute to the development of the conflict that leads to the crisis.
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Research Article
© 2020 Kamta
This is an open access article licensed under the Creative Commons
Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
The Root Causes of the Crisis in Northeast Nigeria:
Historical, Socioeconomic and Environmental Dimensions
Frederic Noel Kamta
Hossein Azadi
Jürgen Scheffran
Research Group Climate Change and Security (CLISEC),
Institute of Geography, Center for Earth System
Research and Sustainability (CEN),
University of Hamburg, Germany
School of Integrated Climate System Sciences (SICSS),
University of Hamburg, Germany
Doi: 10.36941/mjss-2020-0033
Nigeria is confronted with numerous conflicts throughout the country. In the northeast part, a humanitarian
crisis has been playing out for the past ten years, mostly caused by the insurgency of the Islamist terrorist
group Boko Haram. In this paper, we examine the root causes of the crisis based on its historical,
socioeconomic and environmental dimensions. We examine available literature and draw conclusions and
recommendations based on interviews that we conducted with experts in Nigeria. The results show that even
though poverty may constitute a strong reason for many youths to join the insurgency, it is not a sufficient
factor to explain the conflict. Furthermore, the results also show that the historical legacy of northeast
Nigeria as well as the socioeconomic neglect of the region and its harsh environmental conditions may have
created favorable conditions for the current crisis. We recommend a reinforced education system that
significantly increases school attendance and that aims at educating young individuals on the historical
legacy of the region. The identification of the various conflict actors in order to better understand the
reasons behind their involvement is also recommended. In conclusion, the causal link between poverty,
environmental change and past history contributing to the region’s crisis is not easily drawn, but the
evidence suggests that the lack of economic opportunities and the lack of education may contribute to the
development of the conflict that leads to the crisis.
Keywords: Crisis, Conflict, Insurgency, Historical, Socioeconomic, Environmental, Nigeria, Climate Change, Poverty
Over the past decade, northeast Nigeria has been subject to a humanitarian crisis that has caused
millions of people to seek humanitarian assistance (WHO, 2018). The states of Borno, Adamawa and
Yobe are the most affected (UNHCR, 2018). Since September 2018, based on UNHCR estimations, 1.8
million people were internally displaced, and further 5.8 million people were in need of assistance.
Furthermore, over 80 % of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) were in Borno State, the epicenter of
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the crisis and over 60 % of them were living in host communities, exerting pressure on the already-
stretched resources of these communities (UNHCR, 2018). These numbers of IDPs have been
constantly increasing since 2014 as it has been impossible for them to return to their communities
(Sydney and Onwuemele, 2019). The study by Sydney and Onwuemele (2019) found that around a
third of IDPs in northeast Nigeria had tried to return to their homes, only to be displaced again by
further violence. The UNHCR (2018) further reported that from November 2017 to mid-August 2018,
nearly 153 000 new IDPs and 36 000 returnees were numbered in Adamawa and Borno states, keeping
the overall population of IDPs in the region on the rise.
In this paper, we seek to examine the root causes of the crisis in northeast Nigeria. Such root
causes include the historical legacy of the region, its socioeconomic conditions and the gradual
environmental degradation in the region. We consider lessons from past studies and provide
recommendations for policy makers. Such policy may seek to address the root causes of the current
crisis, which will prevent future crisis in the region. We draw on the results of qualitative interviews
that we conducted with research experts in Nigeria, and supplemented by a review of available
literature to validate findings.
The crisis in northeast Nigeria owes its origins mostly to the insurgency of Boko Haram, a
terrorist group responsible for attacks on local communities across Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, and
Niger (UNHCHR, 2015). The activities of this terrorist group and the counter-insurgency by the
Nigerian state caused the worse humanitarian crisis in the history of Nigeria (Hamid et al, 2017). The
precarious socio-economic conditions of this region caused by its sensitive climate conditions and
neglect by the central government are suspected to have created a fertile ground for Boko Haram to
prosper (Rizzo, 2015). The strategic location of the area occupied by Boko Haram’s troops did not
only provide them with shelter away from state security forces, but also available manpower from the
desperate youths that struggled to make a living. Boko Haram recruits its members mainly amongst
disaffected youths, unemployed high school and university graduates, and destitute children, mostly
from but not limited to northern Nigeria (Onuoha, 2014).
The debates on the underlying causes of the rebellion have revolved around climate and
environmental issues, poverty, Islam, community allegiance, poor governance, and corruption
(Magrin and de Montclos, 2018). Furthermore, although the work by Magrin and de Montclos (2018)
failed to reach shared conclusions, it has largely inspired the responses of civilian and military
authorities, including at international community level, where antiterrorist experts have opted for a
religious interpretation of the conflict by promoting a “deradicalisation” strategy to get Muslims back
into mainstream Islam. It is believed that the history of the region occupied by Boko Haram today
played a key role in the genesis of the crisis and that Boko Haram draws, among other things, upon
historical references to the Islamic empire of Dan Fodio’s Sokoto Caliphate in the 19th century (Cold-
Ravnkilde and Plambech, 2015) which is said to have introduced and institutionalized Islam in
northern Nigeria. To a certain degree, the emergence of Boko Haram can be traced back to the
historical antecedent of a Muslim state controlling northern Nigeria during the 19th century
(Torbjörnsson and Jonsson, 2017).
Northeast Nigeria and the Lake Chad basin in general once hosted a kingdom that served as the
center of trade in the region and where a pure form of Islam was practiced (Hiribarren, 2016; Doi,
2006; Seignobos, 2015). The fall of this kingdom marked the end of its long-lasting influence over the
region and somehow the end of good Islam practice as it was claimed by its successive leaders
(Seignobos, 2015). It is therefore important to understand the role that the historical legacy of this
region along with environmental and socioeconomic factors played in the current crisis.
While violence in this region is still causing a lot of harm to the local populations, there is very
little research available on the causes of violence in the region. Several studies have previously
assessed the environmental change in the region and its socioeconomic condition, while many have
also narrated the history of the region and its influence up until the 19th century. So far to our
knowledge, only few studies have attempted to link the historical legacy of the region to the current
crisis. In this study, we attempt to create a link between the daily living conditions of the people in
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the region in relation with their socioeconomic and environmental conditions, and the history of the
region to the current crisis.
Historical Dimension
Northeast Nigeria was once home, or rather partially home to one of the longest-lasting and
influential empires Africa has ever known, the Kanem-Bornu Empire. First known as the Kanem
Empire (700 AD – 1617 AD) and later came to be known as the Kanem-Bornu Empire (1617 – 1893 AD),
this empire existed over a thousand years (Singh, 2017). The Kanem-Bornu was extended on the areas
belonging to today’s southern Chad, northern Cameroon, northeast Nigeria, eastern Niger, and
southern Libya.
A royal artefact of the Kanem Empire called the ‘Girgam’ has provided a written
historical record of the Empire, which includes the names of Kings and Queens, the length of their
reigns and the major events within the Empire. The Girgam claims that the Kanembu people, the
main tribe in the kingdom, moved from their land to the land around Lake Chad for two key reasons.
First, the lands around Lake Chad were fertile unlike their previous lands, which suffered from
dryness and second, because there was political pressure. The lands around Lake Chad were also
attractive because of the existing infrastructure and walled cities that belonged to the Sao civilization
(Singh, 2017). The Kanem kingdom was first ruled by the Sayfwa dynasty for 771 years, the longest
known reign in the history of the empire (Bilow, 2008).
Throughout its existence, the Kanem-Bornu or the Kanem Empire shifted geographically quite
significantly. These shifts were triggered by events such as war or changes in environmental
conditions. Between c. 700 – 1376, the empire occupied an area corresponding to Chad, Nigeria and
Libya (Sindima, 2017). The Sayfawa Dynasty and their subjects later fled to Birnin Gazargamu when
the Bilala or Bulala people attacked them (Abubakar, 2017). Birnin Gazargamu remained as capital
even after the reclaiming of the city of Njimi in the 16
Century. However over the years, towns and
cities like Monguno, Kukawa, Dikwa, Old Maiduguri and now Yerwa (Maiduguri) were all capitals of
the Kanem-Bornu Empire at different times since the last 1000 years back (Abubakar, 2017).
On its socio-economic structure, the Kanem-Bornu gathered agriculturalists and pastoralists,
from various ethnic groups and ruled by the Duguwa, an aristocracy who chose a king among
themselves (Hiribarren, 2016). The Kanem-Bornu became very powerful due to its strategic location
at the crossroads between northern Africa and Sub-saharan Africa (Hiribarren, 2016). In the 13
century, due to deteriorating climate conditions and the continued progress of the Sahara Desert, the
center of the empire shifted from the north of Lake Chad to the west of Lake Chad in the Bornu,
where the land was more fertile. The Bornu was already the economic center of the empire by the 14
century despite the fact that the Sayfawa still reside in Njimi, north of Lake Chad. They will finally
leave Njimi in the second half of the 14
century after this old capital being captured by the Bulala
warrior aristocracy (Hiribarren, 2016).
Table 1 summarizes some of the major events and achievements in the Kanem-Bornu Empire
between the 11
and the 19
century. Such achievements and events illustrate the economic, religious
and military domination of the empire over the region and subsequently its downfall. It is later
shown how such events relate to the current crisis in the region.
Kanem-Bornu Kingdom: New World Encyclopedia
Bornu_Kingdom Retrieved 05 April 2019.
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Table 1: Major events and achievements in the Kanem-Bornu between the 11
and the 19
Period Major event/achievement
End of the
Islam was accepted for the first time by the Kanem ruler, Umme-Jilmi, through a scholar
named Muhammad B. Mani, credited for bringing Islam to Kanem-Bornu (Doi, 2006).
Ali Gazi, the leader of the Bornu, traditionally called the Mai, after a major victory, built a
fortified capital at Ngazargamu, to the west of Lake Chad at present Nigeria (Lovejoy, 2011).
The Sayfawa had conquered the Bornu and reconquered the Kanem, hence the name Kanem-
Bornu (Lovejoy, 2011).
Late 16
The Sao merged with the Kanembu giving birth to the Kanuri tribe that became the largest
tribe in the Kanem-Bornu (Hiribarren, 2016). Today, the Kanuri still form the majority ethnic
group in northeast Nigeria.
Early 19
The practice of pure Islam was subject to controversy and conflict in the region. In 1808,
Osman dan Fodio who was the sultan of the Sokoto caliphate, carried on a Jihad that failed to
conquer and integrate Bornu within the Sokoto caliphate (Hiribarren, 2016).
Late 19
The Kanem-Bornu Empire had the reputation of a powerful Islamic empire, known for
religious piety and unity. Its remarkable cohesion over a millennium is said to partly have
been forged through a commitment to Islam (Hiribarren, 2016).
1893 The influence of this long-lasting empire ended after its invasion by a Sudanese warrior. The
kingdom was then divided between Cameroon that was under German administration and the
British colony of Nigeria (Hiribarren, 2016).
The Agence France Presse (AFP, 2015) reports that Boko Haram in its propaganda sometimes
mentioned the legacy of the empire to justify attacks on targets that were considered to be un-
Islamic. Boko Haram claims to embody the authentic legacy of the early Muslim community (al-salaf
al-salih, or “pious predecessors,” the phrase from which the term “Salaf-ism” derives) and as such,
they reject several aspects of mainstream Sunni identity, such as adherence to recognized legal
schools, which refers to western civilization (Thurston, 2016). Although the kingdom of Bornu has
disappeared, its symbolic grandeur and founding pedestal, namely Islam, remains unique in a largely
animist world (Seignobos, 2015).
P. Gwaza, a researcher from the Institute of Peace and Conflict Resolution in Abuja interviewed
by the authors on May 15,
2019 states that the area where Boko Haram mapped its caliphate
corresponds almost perfectly to the area occupied by the ancient Kanem-Bornu empire’.
This correlates with the assumption that Boko Haram leaders are driving towards the formation
of the old Kanem-Bornu Empire. Furthermore, most Boko Haram soldiers are recruited from the
Kanuri tribe, the same tribe that was dominant in the Kanem-Bornu Empire. Testifying on the
complexities of the genesis of Boko Haram, P. Ochogwu also from the Institute of Peace and Conflict
Resolution interviewed on March 21, 2019 argues that societies in northeast Nigeria are formed on
a specific social networking system generated from the Kanem-Bornu Empire and conflict
evolves from this traditional networking system which is different from the modern
networking system that we understand’.
The Kanuri intellectuals and the Kanembu-Kanuri in the broader sense had earlier dreamt of a
Bornu Empire, reinvigorated by a new wellspring of faith around Lake Chad that could encompass
the former Bilad al-Sudan to lead the Umma (all Muslims) (Seignobos, 2015). Seignobos (2015) further
argues that the Kanuri and the Kanembu-Kanuri experienced a kind of religious surge, a veritable
conflagration of which Boko Haram is only the most visible and violent component.
Situation Analysis
3.1 Socioeconomic dimension
In Nigeria, income inequalities between rural communities and urban communities are suspected to be
very high. Agriculture as the main source of income in rural communities is today not a thriving sector
due to the fact that oil has taken over the economy of Nigeria (Ucha, 2010). As such, uneven distribution
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of natural resources, difference in climate across the country and a weak institutional capacity all
contributed to inequalities between regions of the country (Raheem et al., 2014). Furthermore, Raheem
et al (2014) explain that regional problems get manifest through several symptoms such as difference
among capital development, access to education, property acquisition and so on.
A study by Akpoilih and Farazibi (2012) found that the northeast of Nigeria had the highest
poverty index in the country of about 49%. Meanwhile, the south presented the lowest poverty rates
in the country between 21.5 and 26.6%. Such disparities between regions of the same country can
partly be explained by the uneven distribution of natural resources in the country (Raheem et al.,
2014). Also, the role of education on development especially for a highly populated country like
Nigeria cannot be dismissed. Ada and Ojone (2018) state that education certainly is one of the ways
through which a nation develops. One of the objectives of education is to adequately equip learners
with the necessary skills and knowledge needed for effective participation and contribution to
national development (Chima, 2006). Northeast Nigeria is characterized by a very low access to
education. According to the Nigeria National Population Commission (NPC, 2016), the literacy rates
were 56% for secondary school attendance in 2015 for the whole of Nigeria, and 31% across the
northeast states (Borno, Yobe, Gombe, Bauchi, Taraba, and Adamawa). Northwest (32%) and
northeast (31%) show the lowest national school attendance ratio.
The correlation between education and poverty cannot be dismissed. Statistics on employment
in Nigeria show categorization of unemployed persons on the basis of age groups, educational
qualifications and occupation (Danaan, 2018). Unemployment according to Danaan (2018), has a
strong correlation with poverty. This may explain the fact that in northeast, northcentral and
northwest Nigeria where education rates are very low, the poverty rate is higher (JICA, 2011). With
regards to the analysis, it is safe to assume that the rate of poverty in a region at least for the Nigerian
case, is a function of the education attendance ratio.
Based on an economic analysis report of the World Bank (2016), it can be noticed that in 2004,
northern Nigeria was the poorest region of the country, widening the gap between north and south in the
last decade (2006-2016) (World Bank, 2016). Within the same period in the northeast, poverty reduction
stagnated, while poverty levels remained particularly high at 47.6% (World Bank, 2016). It is also noticed
by the World Bank (2016) that 75% of households that are in chronic poverty reside in the north, while
only 25% are found in the south. Furthermore, chronic poverty is very rampant in the northeast at 22.2%,
making northeast the second highest in the country followed by north central (19.3 %). Meanwhile, all
southern regions show much lower chronic poverty rates, below 10% (World Bank, 2016).
Peace can be achieved by addressing the structural imbalances in the socio-economic conditions
of the people (Hettne, 2010). Furthermore, Katsina (2012) emphasizes that root causes of conflict such as
inequality and poverty should be identified and removed from the society. To establish a clear nexus
between development and security, there is a need to remember that it is impossible to establish peace
and order in any society in which there exists fundamental contradictions in its economic structure
(Katsina, 2012). Such contradictions are suspected to sustain feelings of alienation, marginalization,
frustration and resentment among the poor class of the society, with the potential of translating into
anger, radicalization and violence (Oyeshola, 2005). While the latest statement may still be subject to
argument among researchers, the evidence suggests that economic factors (such as poverty and low
income) that lead to rebellion have a greater impact on the occurrence of conflict than those associated
with political grievances (Braithwaite et al., 2014). Among causes of terrorism, poverty and
unemployment have frequently been identified (Ayegba, 2015). However, several studies have found no
link between poverty, unemployment and terrorism (Krueger and Maleckova, 2003), the general belief is
that people who are economically disadvantaged are more prone to resolve to violence as a way to
express their grievances (Adelaja et al., 2018). A. Garba, a senior officer at the Ministry of environment in
Nigeria, interviewed by the authors on May 7, 2019 stated that while the government has not been
comfortable talking about issues related to youth allegiance to Boko Haram and poverty in
northern Nigeria, civil society organizations have been able to put to light such issues. It then
came to light that many people join the insurgency because of the poverty level’.
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The demography of northern Nigeria is also seen by some experts as a factor contributing to the
poor socioeconomic conditions of the region and to the crisis. Dr S. Onazi from the ministry of Labor
in Nigeria, interviewed by the authors on May 6, 2019 addresses the demographic pressure in
northern Nigeria in the following terms: ‘Nigeria is highly populated. According to the World
Bank, poverty indices in Nigeria indicate that the poorest people in Nigeria are in the north.
As such, poverty can be considered as a push factor for the crisis.
The CLEEN Foundation (2014) argues that the sympathizers of the Islamist group in northeast
Nigeria are usually unemployed youths who live in hostile environment and suffer economic, social, and
political deprivations. A study by Ewi and Salifu (2017) also shows that most Nigerians believe that many
youths join the insurgency in the northeast of the country for financial reasons. Basically, they do so as
they lack economic opportunities and want to make money by all means. Ewi and Salifu (2017) found
that the majority of those who joined Boko Haram voluntarily were significantly influenced by financial
incentives, and not by religion. Furthermore, a survey conducted by Adelaja et al, (2018) found that the
leading personal causes for joining terrorism in Nigeria were poverty, unemployment, extreme religious
ideology and ignorance. Socioeconomic factors with their potential to trigger conflict can be
accentuated with poor environmental conditions leading to resources scarcity which in turn will have
direct implications for the functioning of the economy and the cost of essential products (ISSA, 2014).
3.2 Environmental dimension
In Nigeria, the majority of rural populations are employed in the agriculture sector and as such, the
dominant role of agriculture makes it obvious that even minor climate deteriorations can cause
devastating socioeconomic consequences (Olaniyi et al., 2013). The Sahara Desert is observed to be
expanding to all directions with an annual expansion of 1-10 km, engulfing the Sahelian region of
Africa (Odjugo, 2010). This makes northern Nigeria the most climate sensitive region in the country.
Northeast Nigeria therefore faces the issue of how to reduce desert encroachment that renders most
land unusable for agriculture (Agbebaku, 2015). These challenges directly impact on the activities of
the local populations that are either forced to migrate or to seek for alternative sources of income. C.
Nwanelo from the National Commission of Refugees, Migrants and Internally displaced Persons,
interviewed by the authors on April 4, 2019 declares: ‘desertification is approaching faster and
wider into northern Nigeria. The side effect is that drought hits these communities and in
terms of sustaining themselves, they would embark on gradual movement from one
community to another community. This movement could also be international in the sense
that this region of Nigeria shares borders with Cameroon, Chad, Niger and some of them
could easily cross borders and sometimes becoming asylum seekers in these countries’.
Crop production in northern Nigeria is heavily vulnerable and affected by climate change
through droughts (Dahiru and Tanko, 2018). The World Bank Group (2017) estimates that the
regional concentration of poverty in northern Nigeria is likely explained by factors such as the poor
climate condition characterized by low rainfall and high temperatures, distance from the sea, and
poor and dilapidated infrastructures. It was also found that migrating sand dunes have buried large
expanses of arable land, thus reducing viable agricultural land and crops production in northern
Nigeria (Odjugo, 2010). Scarcity of land and water in areas where agriculture is the principal activity
and source of income can have direct impacts on the quality of life. Dingyadi, (2012) estimates that
over 154,725 people in five frontline states in northern Nigeria lost their farm land within seven years.
Local populations consisting mostly of farmers and nomad herdsmen largely depend on these land
and water. As a result of resources scarcity, the young generation is despondent and frustrated, hence
abandoning farming for alternative activities (Nwokoema and Kingsley, 2017).
In response to environmental degradation, young people in northeast Nigeria begin by
migrating from rural to urban areas in search of a better life (Onyia, 2015). However, their lack of
formal education and skills necessary to integrate the urban life system, added to the poor
institutional capacity and sovereignty across the country makes it quasi impossible for them to gain
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employment in the blue collar sector (Onyia, 2015). The induced poverty according to Onyia (2015)
forces them to turn to mosques and their resident imams who provide them with basic needs,
including shelter, food and clothing, thus presenting themselves as their only hope for survival. This
fortune situation presents ample opportunities for discontented religious bigots to indoctrinate these
poor people with anti-state, anti-western semantics (Onyia, 2015).
A Garba, believes that as northeast Nigeria is characterized by high humidity and lower
rainfall due to global warming, agriculture as the highest employing sector in the region has
become less and less rentable. As a result, young people involved in agriculture tend to
abandon this sector to join the Islamic insurgency to reduce their poverty level. Furthermore,
P. Gwoza emphasizes that across northeast Nigeria, impacts of environmental change are
visible through animal’s carcasses and dryer land, which deems many people jobless and
turning many into street beggars. These people, according to S. Onazi, ‘easily fall under the
temptation of making some money by joining Boko Haram as farming is no longer profitable.
4.1 On the historical dimension
This study found that in northeast Nigeria, the historical past of the region coupled with the strong
Islamic ideology portrayed by the insurgent group may have contributed to the current conflict
situation. It was also found that the charismatic leader of the Boko Haram group Abubakar Shekau at
times exploited the legacy of the former Kanem-Bornu Empire to reinforce his ideology. The region’s
Kanuri language born from the merge between the Sao and the Kanembu in the Kanem-Bornu has
also been used by the leader of Boko Haram as a tool for his propaganda. P. Gwaza goes a step further
and emphasizes that when Abubakar Shekau took over the leadership most fighters were
recruited among the Kanuri tribe to which he belongs himself.
Under the leadership of Abubakar Shekau, the group has carried out most of its attacks in a
region that corresponds to the territory of the former Kanem-Bornu Empire (Barkindo, 2018).
Furthermore, Barkindo (2018) argues that Abubakar Shekau presented the Kanem-Bornu Empire as a
perfect Islamic state, governed on the principles of sharia, equity, and justice. He further emphasized
the socio-economic and political dominance of the empire and constantly referred to the influence of
the Kanem-Bornu’s Islam outside the empire. It can therefore be strongly assumed that the historical
legacy of the region as claimed by Boko Haram is relevant in the context of the current crisis, even if
the relevance is limited to a propagandistic level.
4.2 On the socioeconomic dimension
This paper showed that northeast Nigeria being the poorest region of the country with
underdeveloped and decaying infrastructures, has a high concentration of unemployed youths. This
region also presents low school attendance rates among male and female household members. While
the nexus between poverty and conflict is very complex, areas with most people living under the
poverty line can be more vulnerable as the survival instinct may create tendencies of violence.
Braithwaite et al. (2014) finds a causal relationship between poverty and conflict. Sub-Saharan Africa
is quite illustrative with many conflict frontlines. In 2002, 38 low-income countries identified in sub-
Saharan Africa were all curiously involved in conflict (Draman, 2003). In Somalia for example, Somali
clans had often clashed over resources such as water, livestock and grazing land, long before Somalia
became a sovereign country (Lewis, 2002). In the Horn of Africa in general, the spatial distribution of
conflict indicates that poverty and youth unemployment are predominant in areas with conflict
(Mengistu, 2015). Although, poverty may not be the only reason behind radicalization in northeast
Nigeria, the evidence suggests that poverty may have played as an important factor for young people’s
decision to join the insurgency, given the subsequent financial reward.
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4.3 On the environmental dimension
Opinions on the nexus between climate change and the resulting impact on resources and conflict or
instability are still very variable. While media and NGOs have easily proclaimed such a link, none of
the studies finds a simple causal link between climate change and societal instability. However, this
paper showed that in northeast Nigeria where most youths are uneducated and depend on
agriculture for survival, environmental change that rendered most of their land unusable and water
unavailable can actually be a push factor for them to seek for other sources of income. In an area with
less economic opportunities, these youths can easily become soft targets to Islamist ideologists who
offer them small stipends in exchange of their manpower. This may explain why the insurgent group
in the region managed to enroll a large number of fighters (Ewi and Salifu, 2017).
The causal link between environmental change through its economic effects and conflict is
often dismissed by many scholars, arguing that poverty may lead to conflict when other factors are
present and that poverty alone is not a sufficient condition for conflict (Goodhand, 2001, Ganepola
and Thayasingam, 2004, Scheffran et al., 2019). A two-way causality between poverty and conflict
exist in the sense that poor countries have a greater disposition to conflict and poverty is also a
probable outcome of conflict (Ganepola and Thayasingam, 2004). This is because different factors
matter in different regions of Africa and the overall link between climate change (and the adjacent
poverty) and violent conflict in Africa is likely to be indirect, complex, and related to multiple
political, economic and social factors (Scheffran et al., 2019).
The aim of this paper was to determine whether the history, the socioeconomic status and
environmental changes in northeast Nigeria significantly contributed to the development of the
current crisis in the region. The causal link between poverty, environmental change and past history
as factors of conflict in this region is not easily drawn, but the evidence suggests that the lack of
economic opportunities and the lack of education may contribute to the development of conflict
hence accentuating the crisis. It is often argued by scientists that the reasons for joining arm groups
are usually external, rather than internal to the individuals and that a reason why people join conflict
may differ from county to country. In the case of northeast Nigeria, it is safe to assume based on
findings in this paper that the historical heritage of the Bornu, the low socioeconomic standard of the
region and the existing poverty may have created a good breeding ground for an insurgent group.
The findings in this paper also highlighted the opportunistic nature of the Boko Haram group.
They are opportunistic in the sense that even though the historical heritage of the region might not
have been the principal cause for their radicalization, they make use of it in a propagandistic manner
to indoctrinate young people. They are also opportunistic in their ability to enroll economically
vulnerable people in their troops in exchange of small stipends. Finally, in an area where school
attendance is the lowest in Nigeria, Boko Haram found uneducated youths that can easily be
manipulated and indoctrinated, and given weapons to fight for a reason they often do not understand
themselves. This may explain why most attacks by this group have been turned against local
communities, churches and mosques alike.
The need for further studies in understanding the driving factors of insurgency in Nigeria and
around the world arises. A throughout assessment of the various conflict actors can significantly
contribute in giving a better understanding of the conflict drivers and its root causes. In addition, the
following policy recommendations can be essential in preventing future crisis of the same nature in
the region:
- Education: the education system in the region needs to be improved significantly in order to
increase attendance among young men and women. This can be achieved through the
creation of schools in all local communities. The education system should be able to educate
young pupils on the historical legacy of the region.
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- Agriculture: a throughout transformation of the agriculture system is necessary, given the
current environmental conditions in the region. New crops with a shorter cycle should be
introduced and local communities are to be trained on new farming techniques. It is also
very important to create seed banks where farmers will deposit their seeds for the next
sowing season.
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... Northeast Nigeria has seen increasing numbers of IDPs in the main cities of the region, in response to the violence perpetrated by the insurgency of the islamist group Boko Haram (Kamta et al., 2020a). Villages in northeast Nigeria in the states of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba, and Yobe are severely hit by the Islamist insurgency of Boko Haram (Jacob et al., 2016). ...
... Schilling et al. (2013) found that the potential of conflict can increase in the receiving area of migrants, especially if the migration is internal, forced and largescale. Such conditions are similar to those present in northeast Nigeria, where large numbers of IDPs migrated within Nigeria as a result of the insurgency of Boko Haram and the counter-insurgency by the state forces (see also IOM, 2016;Mukhtar et al., 2018;Mbiyozo, 2017;Kamta et al., 2020a). It is expected that Africa will most likely experience high impacts of climate change including water scarcity and food security (Niang et al., 2014), with the potential of aggravating conflict, instability and insecurity (Borderon et al., 2019;Scheffran et al., 2019). ...
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In this study, we aim to analyze social networks in which internally displaced persons (IDPs) are involved in northeast Nigeria, after they have been displaced by the insurgency of the Boko Haram group. While IDPs usually resettle in camps operated by the government, contacts with host communities are common. We further analyze the potential that such contacts may lead to conflicts between IDPs and their host communities in the Lake Chad region. Data for this study were collected by interviewing IDPs in the Bakassi IDP camp in Maiduguri and by interviewing members of the host community in Maiduguri in close proximity to the Bakassi IDP camp. A Social Network Analysis approach was used to analyze the data, by constructing social network graphs and computing network attributes, mainly the betweenness centrality of actors. The results of the study show on the one hand a mixture of friendly and conflicting relationships between IDPs and the host community from the IDPs’ perspective, and on the other hand, only few contacts between members of the host community and IDPs in the Bakassi IDP camp, from the host community's perspective. The analysis suggests that in the context of conflict present in the Lake Chad region, IDPs and members of the host community mainly use closed networks, to keep available resources and economic opportunities within their communities. We recommend a better service delivery to IDPs but also to members of the host communities who feel neglected as more attention is given to IDPs with the distribution of humanitarian aid.
... Boko Haram has been trying to establish an Islamic State in the Lake Chad Basin since the early 2000 by introducing new laws, collecting taxes, and practicing what they call a 'pure' form of Islam [62]. Communities in the study area were exposed to the brutality of this terrorist group. ...
... This may explain the use of force by the government, which has not been successful in resolving the conflict for over ten years now. Many studies suggest that young people join the insurgency as they lack economic opportunities (e.g., [62][63][64]). We therefore recommend that the poor socioeconomic and environmental conditions of the study area should properly be addressed by the government. ...
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For almost two decades, the Lake Chad Basin (LCB) in general and northeast Nigeria in particular have been subject to the insurgency of the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram. This region is also known for its poor environmental conditions that mostly manifest in land desertification and water scarcity. We analyze the impact of the insecurity and conflict on migration from the most affected rural areas of northeast Nigeria to Maiduguri. We also explore the role that water scarcity and land desertification play in the decision of local people to migrate. Data were collected by interviewing 204 internally displaced persons (IDPs) at the Bakassi IDP camp in Maiduguri between March and May 2019. Experts were also interviewed at various governmental, non-governmental, and international institutions in Abuja. Respondents at the Bakassi IDP camp came from Guzamala, Gwoza, Marte, Monguno, and Nganzai. Though insecurity created by the conflict between Boko Haram insurgents and government forces was mentioned by all respondents as the main factor that triggered migration, this study shows that the decision to migrate was also a function of other factors that differ between communities. These factors include the geographical location of the community, land ownership, the socioeconomic status of the migrants, access to water and land, and wealth. This study reveals that in some communities, it was possible for people to live with conflict if they were still able to practice farming or if they had additional sources of income such as small businesses. The decision to migrate was only taken when the practice of such activities was no longer possible and they had nothing to hold on to.
... On domestic terrorism in North-East Nigeria, some studies blamed the emergence of Boko Haram on the country's elite politics. Kamta et al., (2020) argued that "Boko Haram is a political construct, sponsored by politicians." According to Udama, 2013:113) Boko Haram emerged from the struggle among northern and southern political elite to gain control of state political power, especially after the death of President Yar'Adua. ...
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Issues bothering on national security are very crucial for the material progress of any polity. This assertion is against this framework of truism that sustainable development is a function of an enabling environment. It is against this backdrop that this study examined the effects of terrorism on peace and national development in the South-South geopolitical zone of Nigeria. The study employed qualitative and quantitative methods of drawing data from primary and secondary sources, reviewed existing literature from journals, online articles, and research projects. The research adopted the Frustration-Aggression theory. A cross-sectional research design was adopted and data was collected via a survey of 300 respondents in the South-South geopolitical zone of Nigeria using non-probabilistic sampling techniques. Data collected were analyzed using percentages, Pearson’s Coefficient of correlation and linear regression analysis with the aid of Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) Version 23. The correlation coefficient (r) values are -0.369 and -0.353. The results showed that there is a strong negative relationship between terrorism and peace and between terrorism and national development. On the basis of these findings, the research recommended that the Nigerian government should create employment for youths, who are unemployed in the South-South geopolitical zone and should come up with programmes that will provide infrastructural facilities and genuine women empowerment. Corrupt politicians should be punished to serve as a lesson to others who intend to loot the nation’s wealth. Government at all levels must eschew corruption in the fight against criminality, terrorism and insecurity. The democratic system in place must begin to deliver the needed social goods so as to improve the standard of living of Nigerians and deliver many citizens in the South-South geopolitical zone from absolute poverty to which they have been subjected for a long while. Government should plug all the holes through which scarce resources are being siphoned so as to free resources for national development and equipping of the military to fulfill its functions of providing peace and security to Nigerians.
... The Lake Chad region is a crisis hot spot suffering from a nexus of interconnected problems, including the lack of essential infrastructures like water, food or energy, and multiple drivers of social and political fragility, such as poverty, unemployment, inequality or exclusion of communities. Together, they contribute to insecurity, violent conflict and forced displacement, providing a fertile ground for armed groups like Boko Haram [1] Human livelihood conditions are aggravated by climate change and other environmental stressors, such as rainfall variability, droughts, desertification, deforestation and declining soil, water availability, and arable land in a degraded Lake Chad basin. Unsustainable management and violent conflict aggravate the disruption of water infrastructure and access to clean water for households and agriculture for a growing population, contributing to food insecurity for millions of people and displacement of hundreds of thousands in northeast Nigeria. ...
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The Lake Chad region is facing a nexus of interconnected problems including fragility, violent conflict, forced displacement, and scarcity of water and other resources, further aggravated by climate change. Focusing on northeast Nigeria, this study aims to answer the following questions: (1) What role does access to water and farming play in out-migration and return in northeast Nigeria? (2) What is the potential of tensions between internally displaced persons (IDPs) and host communities? Data for this study were collected between March and May 2019 by interviewing 304 local residents and IDPs in northeast Nigeria, as well as experts on migration, environmental, humanitarian and conflict-related issues in research centers and governmental institutions in Abuja. Given the pronounced water scarcity in the region, the results show that between 47% and 95% of rural community members interviewed in northeast Nigeria would be willing to migrate in cases of water scarcity. At the time of study, only 2.5% to 7% of respondents had migrated previously in response to water scarcity, indicating that insecurity and conflict were, however, more relevant drivers of displacement. Regarding our second research question, we find a potential for tensions between IDPs and host communities, as 85% of the interviewed host community members oppose the presence of the IDPs. Hence, measures are needed to improve relations between the two groups. In order to avoid a future scenario where water scarcity becomes a significant driver of migration, efficient management of water resources is paramount. Such action would not only address the issue of migration, but also strengthen the resilience of communities in northern Nigeria.
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This paper examines the issue of climate change and its impact on the environment. The effects of man's activities as well as those of natural phenomena on global warming, climate change and the environment are presented and discussed. The options that are available as response to global warming: mitigation, adaptation and possible human suffering as consequences of what cannot be avoided by mitigation and adaptation are presented. An overview of the Nigerian environment, preparedness for the impact of global warming and related problems are also presented. The status of environmental data and the need for environmental baseline survey and the creation of a comprehensive database for the country driven by geographical information system are presented and discussed. The paper then underscores the need for governments at all levels to adequately fund geo information production and cultivate the culture of its usage for adequate and proactive response to global warming, sustainable environmental management and national development.
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Since about the year 2009, Boko Haram, a territorial terrorist organization, has wreaked havoc on communities in Northeast Nigeria and beyond. Significant debate has ensued about the reasons for the Boko Haram insurgency and their objectives. The government's response to Boko Haram has largely focused on the need to stamp out the insurgency through strong military response and heightened activities in intelligence and security agencies. Some have espoused the Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) approach of mounting strategies that at least recognize the root causes of the problem and the angst amongst citizens that contribute to their decision to support terrorist organizations. In this article, we investigate public opinion about the root causes of terrorism and the objectives of terrorists. The results suggest that the majority of the public agree with the following: (1) the root causes of Boko Haram are unemployment, poverty and economic problems, dislike for government, extreme political ideology, extreme religious feelings and manipulation by some politicians; and (2) a major objective of Boko Haram is to seek revenge against security forces. However, more respondents disagreed than agreed about the following objectives of Boko Haram: fighting political inequality, fighting economic inequalities, and addressing political imbalance. Given these findings, it appears there is divergence in public opinion about Boko Haram and that some aspects of public opinion differ from perspectives held by government agencies.
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Various indicators suggest that poverty is a major obstacle to Nigeria’s socio-economic development. Poverty has persisted and several interventions have failed to yield significant improvement in Nigeria’s Human Development Index even in periods of economic growth. Plagued with the challenges of unemployment crises, climate change, conflict, fragility and violence, Nigeria (the most populous country in Africa) stands at a grave risk if poverty is not tackled. This paper explores seven theories of poverty in literature: The Culture of Poverty, Individual Deficiency Theory, Progressive Social Theory, Geographical Disparities Theory, Cyclical Interdependence Theory, Poverty Individualisation and the Theory of Social Exclusion /Cumulative Disadvantage. It reviews these theories by employing a qualitative and descriptive research approach in order to broaden the understanding of the complexities of the phenomenon of poverty from a global worldview and examine how these relate to the nature of poverty in Nigeria. It corroborates the fact that poverty in Nigeria is complex and multidimensional in its conceptualization and measurement, encompassing economic, social, cultural and psychological indicators. The paper therefore attempts to explore the phenomenon of poverty within the Nigerian context by examining these theoretical paradigms. It suggests an understanding of underlying causal factors of poverty in designing pro-poor programmes and a hydra-headed approach to tackle its menace effectively and progressively. It argues that poverty reduction is realizable by empowering people to develop resilience to cope and overcome it within the scope of their resources and capabilities.
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Climate change discussion has primarily focused on the physical manifestation, mitigation, adaptation and finance issues. However, little attention is given to the social consequences of climate change impact especially its relationship to crime in society. Specifically, little or no research has been focused on its impact on crime, especially in developing societies. This study which examined the impact of climate change and its consequences on crime specifically terrorist activities in the Northeast of Nigeria is an effort to fill this research gap. The study adopted a cross-aged design which involves in depth interview of 200 farmers in four selected states of the zone. The outcome is that climate change awareness in the zone is very low. The climate change events identified are rapid desertification, excessive heat and drought. The consequence is that most farmers lost farmlands and agricultural products to these climate change events. Also most of the farmers who are youths were rendered redundant due to the negative impact of these climate events on crops and agriculture. Consequently they engage in alternative activities like menial jobs, while some engage in criminal activities like drug addiction, theft, political thugery, armed robbery, kidnapping and terrorism. They become ready tools for recruitment by Boko-Haram terrorists who are active in the area. It is recommended that massive enlightenment and effective mitigation program should be conducted, youth who are not in school should be convinced to embrace education. Also measures and projects to re-engage the youths back to agriculture should be promoted. DOI: 10.5901/mjss.2017.v8n3p171
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Economic growth is expected to lead to economic development and increase in the welfare of the masses. This is hoped to reduce the existing level of inequality. However, the most central problem in Nigeria economy today is that there is a sharp disconnect between the level of growth and development. What is rather obtainable is that there is growth without development because of the wide gap of inequality existing in the society. In this study we examine the phenomenon of growth-inequality nexus by employing trend analysis to examine the magnitude and the challenges of the prevailing inequality scenario in Nigeria. This paper therefore recommends good institutional framework and policy consistency to rectify the unwholesome situation of the high level of poverty and inequality prevailing in Nigeria.
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Central to the discussion in this paper is the issue of the crisis of unemployment and extreme poverty prevailing in Nigeria, particularly in the Northern region where it is endemic. It is the contention of this paper that contrary to expectations and dreams nourished by many that the country’s abundant resources will help alleviate poverty from among the citizenry, lack of judicious utilization of these resources by the country’s leadership has undoubtedly created a vicious circle of poverty among Nigerian masses. More importantly, the expectations of the citizens in 1999 that democracy will afford them good job opportunities with improved standard of living has been proved unrealistic. Rather, the gap between the rich and the poor widens as the level of official corrupt practices exacerbated. Although, while it is unarguable that unemployment and poverty are not sufficient variables in explaining heighten insecurity in Nigeria vis-a-vis Boko Haram insurgency in the northern part of the country, this paper establishes that there exists a strong connection in unemployment, poverty and prevailing insecurity in the region. The experience of Muhammed Bouazizi’s self-immolation in Tunisia in December 2010 arising from unemployment which later sparked popular uprising in Arab world dubbed ‘the Arab Spring’, confirms the position of this paper that there is a nexus between poverty, unemployment and widespread discontent. Therefore, the paper adopts the combination of Marxist, Relative-Deprivation and Frustration-Aggression theoretical frameworks for analysis. Key words: Unemployment, poverty, Boko Haram, insecurity/terrorism.
Boko Haram and Lake Chad An extension or a sanctuary? In January 2015, Boko Haram destroyed Baga Kawa, a village on the southern bank of Lake Chad. After the April 2015 election of President Muhammadu Buhari, the Nigerian government emerged from its apathy and, despite a still-faulty military apparatus, sought to take back territory from Boko Haram. Nigeria asked its neighbours in Chad and Cameroon to contain Boko Haram’s excesses on their respective borders. Only Chad was authorized to give chase. A sharp decline in property values hit the shores of Chad Lake, formerly an unequalled centre of economic development. In addition, indigenous groups demanded control of the area, a situation that Boko Haram would exploit as it tried to rally the population of what was once the Bornu Empire under its aegis. Boko Haram’s eruption in this swampy land, a place so particular that no form of government – past or present – has succeeded in controlling it, represents a real threat to the region. What will happen if Boko Haram turns the lake’s shore into a sanctuary?