Boko Haram and Kidnappings in Nigeria

International Mar 15, 2021

Last week, unidentified gunmen killed a student in an overnight attack on a boarding school in Nigeria north-central Nigerian state. They kidnapped 42 people, including 27 students. In December, more than 300 boys were kidnapped from a school in Kankara, this incident took place when the president was visiting the region, the boys were later released, the incident triggered outrage and shocked the world.

Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the kidnappings in Kankara and heightened the fears in the minds of people and also questioned the power of Abuja (Government of Nigeria).

What is Boko Haram?

Yusuf established the group in Maiduguri the capital of the northeast state of Borno, Nigeria. Although the original name of the group is Jama Ahl al-Sunnah li-l-Dawah wa al-Jihad (people committed to the Prophet’s teachings for propagation and Jihad) the name Boko Haram means “Westernization is sacrilege”, was the name given to the group. Ideologically Boko Haram is against Westernization, which it views as it is negatively impacting Islamic values. The group blames western countries for Nigeria’s culture of corruption, which has contributed to a wide gap between the few rich and many poor.

Early activity

Boko Haram got into the news in 2009 when an incident in which the group launched attacks on police posts and other government property, killing police officers the situation was so chaotic that they had to call the army. The Joint Military Task Force left more than 700 Boko Haram members dead and destroyed the mosque that the group used as its headquarters. Yusuf and other leaders were arrested by the military and were handed over to the police. Since then Boko Haram has been on the rise kidnapping, extortion is just a few ways, in 2012 Boko Haram joined ties with other militant groups the prominent being al-Qaeda.

In 2020 the group has taken responsibility for 13 major incidents in the area including the Kankara kidnapping.

For years, Nigeria’s leaders have claimed victory against Boko Haram. It is true that Boko Haram has been defeated to a certain extent. The group controls less territory and has also claimed fewer lives than it did during its peak when it was considered as the world’s deadliest terrorist group. However, these claims of victory are immature as casualties and attacks are on a rise. Defeating Boko Haram will require a fundamental shift in how the Nigerian Government has handled the insurgency. To date, policymakers in Abuja have relied on a combination of neglect, ruthlessness and overconfidence and lowering the scale of the problem. Claiming that Boko Haram has been defeated, makes it easy for the group to undermine the narrative with every attack. Instead, authorities should be realistic. The government has been at its most effective when it has worked closely with the Civilian Joint Task Force, a constellation of militias and community defence groups that have cooperated with the security forces to locate, fight, and evict Boko Haram from areas that it controls.

All of this will take time. Then, policymakers in Abuja need to accept that defeating Boko Haram is a long-term challenge. Efforts are being done by security forces to drive insurgents out and “stabilize” the areas.

This article has been written by Siddhesh Patil for The Paradigm

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