Christopher Zambakari (MIS, MBA, LP.D.), Founder & CEO, The Zambakari Advisory, Phoenix, AZ
With its 181 million inhabitants, Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country, composed of more than 250 ethnic groups. After achieving independence from Great Britain in the 1960s, Nigeria’s politics was characterized by coups and mostly military rule, until 1998, when its last military ruler died and a political transition soon ensued. The general elections of 2007 witnessed the first civilian-to-civilian transfer of power in the country’s history. Since then, the Nigerian government has struggled to institutionalize democracy, reform its petroleum-based economy, and tackle the various security, societal and economic challenges faced by the country. Along with the myriad of economic woes, Nigeria has been dealing with violent incidents, terrorist attacks, secessionist movement, and rebellion in peripheral states.
This article provides an analysis and evaluation of the violence in Nigeria by focusing on suicide attacks between 2014 and 2015. The objective is to provide insight into the stability and impact of that violence on the country through analyzing suicide attacks. Data used in this analysis comes from The Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism (CPOST). A longer report which focuses on the Niger Delta Region in Nigeria is available for purchase. The report includes more analysis, both political, economic and various forecasting on Nigeria and its troubling oil-rich region in the South.
Like many conflicts in Africa, the root causes are many: the institutional legacy of colonial rule, ethnic and religious tensions, widespread corruption, breakdown in the Presidential Amnesty Program (PAP), failure to demilitarize, demobilize, and reintegrate former combatants. The ruling elites failed to ensure and build a developmental state that benefits the citizenry. Over time social, political, and economic marginalization of peripheral regions in Nigeria led to discontent which has fuel civil war in the past and frequent insurgencies throughout the country.
II. Suicide Attacks 2014-2015
Suicide is defined as an attack in which an attacker kills himself or herself in a deliberate attempt to kill others such as detonation of an explosive vest or explosives in a vehicle the bomber is driving in the CPOST database. Only use suicide attacks perpetrated by non-state actors are included in the analysis. It excludes all attacks that are authorized by national governments. In order to be included in the database, suicide attacks had to meet two criteria for it to be included within the CPOST database: “1) At least one attacker must kill him or herself to kill others, and 2) suicide must be verified by two independent sources.”
Two types of attacks that were not included: when the attacker either failed to kill him or herself, or another person killed the attacker. Attacks are also only counted when they are not sanctioned by a government. To verify suicide attacks, CPOST relies on open-source news websites. To be included in that database the incident be verified by two independent sources, such as either a news web site or archive, such as Lexis Nexis and Opensource.gov.
Table 1 and Figure 1 show the aggregate number of suicide attacks by year. Roughly twice as many people were wounded in 2015 than in 2014 from suicide attacks. There were a total of 29 suicide attacks (22.8 percent) in 2014. These attacks wounded and killed 1,013 (31.8 percent) and 573 people (29.6 percent). The number of suicide attacks tripled in 2015, reaching 98 attacks (77.2 percent). These attacks wounded and killed 2,169 (68.2 percent) and 1,365 people (70.4 percent).
The group’s official name is Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad, which in Arabic means “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad.” Residents in the north-eastern city of Maiduguri, where the group had its headquarters, dubbed it Boko Haram Farouk Chothia. The group has caused great havoc through bombings, assassinations, abductions, and vows to overthrow the government in order to create an Islamic state.
Most of the attacks are claimed by Boko Haram, a militant group founded by Mohammed Yusuf, a Muslim cleric and formally established in 2002 in northern Nigeria. The group objective is the establishment of an Islamic State in Nigeria. Up until 2009, the remained generally non-violent. Then a confrontation with Nigerian security in which the group was brutally suppressed and its leader killed pushed the group underground. According to Rahmani and Tanco, after Yusuf’s death, Boko Haram “resurfaced in 2010 – this time under the leadership of Yusuf’s former deputy, Abubakar Shekau.” Since then the group’s attacks have been directed towards two types of targets: Nigerian state and civilians.
Boko Haram have carried out various attacks in Northern part of Nigeria while old and emerging militant groups such as The Niger Delta Avengers are now carrying out new waves of attacks in the Greater Niger Delta Region. For a copy of our analysis on the Niger Delta crisis and its impact on economic development in Nigeria, visit our website and blog.
Our analysis shows that there was more than a triple surge in suicide attacks in Nigeria between 2014 and 2015. Between 2014 and 2015 the number of wounded people doubled while the number of those killed from suicide attacks tripled. Most of this is attributed to Boko Haram. The group overtook other Islamic militant groups like the
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) as the world’s deadliest group. The group members have received training and funds from outside in far-away Afghanistan and Mauritania
The joint collaboration between these militant groups acting in Africa in collaboration with international terrorist groups like ISIL raises greater concerns for countries in the region where groups like al-Qaeda have active branches in places like Mauritania, Morocco, Mali and Niger and Nigeria. As with most political violence, without resolving the root-causes of the issues fueling the violence the problem may be resolved in the short-term through military suppression but returns in the long-term. Social, political, and economic strategies that address the problems that spark the insurgency stands to provide durable peace and stability in Nigeria.
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