RETHINKING MILITARY RESPONSES TO TERRORISM AND INSURGENCY IN NIGERIA by Maurice Ogbonnaya National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Nigeria
Since 2003, terrorist insurgency in Nigeria has occasioned complex security and humanitarian crises, especially in the northeast region of the country. Boko Haram, a radical Islamist group from the region, has killed over 30,000 people and caused the displacement of more than 3 million others within the Lake Chad Basin region. Military responses by the Nigerian state and in collaboration with multilateral security agencies have achieved limited success. This paper not only questions the adequacy of military responses to terrorism, as a standalone approach, but it also advances the argument in the extant literature on the obsolescence of excessive militarization of counterterrorism operations as a security management strategy. It suggests the adoption of a more comprehensive and broad-based strategic approach. This is predicated on the limitations of purely military operations in counterterrorism, noting that military responses alone are structurally not designed to deal with the fundamental root causes of terrorism. In this regard, the paper advocates for a combination of military and other non-military counterterrorism approaches that seek to address the fundamental factors that give rise to terrorism.
The Western world is not only in relative decline, but also faces the inevitable ‘rise of the rest’ (Zakaria), as well as an increasing level of instability and unruliness in many parts of the world. Although there has already been a lot of research in post-colonial studies and intercultural communication, the binary code between the imaginary West and the multiplicity of non-Western approaches was yet to be resolved. Given the relative decline of the West, the dissolution of identities throughout the world, and the rise of the newly industrialized nations, there is an imminent urgency to address and overcome this binary code because it is not only situated in discourses but also manifested itself in all our living environment and within ourselves.
This approach is based on the assumption that the West, as well as the non-Western world, have their shares of dark sides in history. When it comes to the Western world, we cannot deny brutal colonialism, the religious wars, the two world wars, Auschwitz, and the sheer luck of averted atomic world war, which would have destroyed all living being. On the other side, there is often an unbearable degree of intra-societal violence in the Non-Western World. – peoples in a lot of countries face a living hell. For them, hell is not an afterlife. They experience it already in their own life.
As we are all living on one planet featuring more connectivity, we become more and more aware that there cannot be any more islands of prosperity, peace and well-being within a sea of violence, hatred, extreme poverty, and the dissolution of the fabric of societies. In some parts of the world, they experience something very close to the Hobbesian war of all against all, or Carl Schmitt’s never-ending civil wars between communities.
In order to cope with these developments, a dialogue about the civilization foundations of our world society is needed. I explicitly use the concept of civilization in the footsteps of Karl Jaspers, Shmuel Eisenstadt and Peter J. Katzenstein, because civilizations are much more inclusive than religions. This is particularly clear with civilizations that descended from religions. In my view, the contrast is based on that of the Western billiard game model versus the model of concentric circles. Of course, we can easily differentiate these models. For example, when the balls in the billiard game attract each other, we are in the theoretical domain of idealism and cooperation; if they push off each other we are in the realm of competition, conflict and war. And, of course, if the balls cooperate, we are in the realm of all kinds of institutionalism. But the main concept in this model is the importance of rule and methods. The model of concentric circles on the other side can be distinguished by the relation of centre, semi-centre, semi-periphery and periphery (by slight modification of proximity and distance to the centre). In case that we have a transfer of goods, people, ideas, raw materials from the periphery to the centre we label this imperialism, the other way round, from the centre to the periphery I’m tempted to judge this as a form of civilization.
Traditional forms of societies can be explained by overlapping circles of politics, societal relations, economy, economy and the environment:
In such a traditional society there is a great correspondence and overlapping of the different spheres – identity is based on an ostensible core and seems to be related to culturally determined values that were handed over from generation to generation.
A “modern” society (first modernity, Ulrich Beck) to the contrary can be characterized by the assumption that the different circles are much lesser overlapping, they are forming different spheres which have their laws and logics – we may label this a kind of functional differentiation (Niklas Luhmann) and it could either be characterized by the interaction and different functions of the organs of a body or the Olympic Rings.
The spheres in which these rings are overlapping are the institutions in modern societies like the state, the political system, law and the judicial system, the church as an institution, labour unions and civil society.
In liquid globalization and as a result of military interventions, civil wars, these rings of political, social, economic, and cultural and security spheres are separated from one another and could no longer be held together by a core identity.
Within this model, there is a sphere that remains blank and could be characterized as a kind of emptiness. In such an understanding the social fabric is increasingly dissolved and especially the young generation is set free from all social norms. This concept is able to overcome the binary alternative which characterizes the discussion about the causes of terrorism, whether these actions are either related to an aggressive ideology or the social disintegration in societies and failed states, as in the ring of fire around Europe, mainly in the Arab-Islamic states, but also in Africa as a whole. It also explains why identity and recognition count so much in a lot of conflicts throughout the world.
Based on this concept it becomes obvious that this emptiness can be filled with different content, for example with radical ideologies, private enrichments, drug, weapons and human trafficking, but also with the recourse to ethnic and even tribal identities, masculinity and patriarchy and finally violence itself which gives the excluded, superfluous (population growth) and uprooted young generation in these countries and regions the feeling not to be absolute powerless but all-powerful.
The rise of the others in a globalized world is inevitable (Zakaria) – our task is to develop forms of recognition that centre on the civilizational foundations of Islam, Buddhism/Taoism, Confucianism, Christianity and Hinduism and African kinds of solidarity.
The alternative to such a violent filling of the emptiness caused by liquid globalization is the mutual recognition of the civilizations of the earth. The rise of the others in a globalized world is inevitable (Zakaria) – our task is to develop forms of recognition that centre on the civilizational foundations of Islam, Buddhism/Taoism, Confucianism, Christianity and Hinduism and African kinds of solidarity. Only by recognizing their civilizational achievements, the uprooted, excluded and superfluous people of the world, which are the vast majority of mankind, can build an identity by their own in fluid globalization.
Assuming that we all are already living in such spheres which are not overlapping, producing a kind of emptiness, the two different solutions might be to solve this problem by constructing a core as identity, which leads to thinking in categories of we against the rest of the far-right, whereas a different attempt would be to develop a discourse in which identity is constructed as a kind of floating (Clausewitz) and progressing (Hegel) balance or harmony (Confucius), understood as unity with difference and difference with unity.
Dr Andreas Herberg-Rothe is an internationally recognized Clausewitz scholar, working as a senior lecturer at the faculty of social and cultural studies at the University of Applied Sciences, Fulda. He is teaching and doing research in the field of ‘Violence and Peace in World Society.’
Violent extremism and Jihadism in Western Sahel are the result of interlocking conflicts. Civil strife and regional (or global) conflict form a nexus. Conflict becomes intractable. And the inability of government to resolve normal social tensions, let alone the challenges caused by the effects of climate change, youth unemployment, poverty and food insecurity, make them open to intervention by outside players motivated more by geopolitical calculations than local concerns. Foreign players can be divided in two main categories.
Firstly, Jihadists, by exploiting local situations, can make civil strife more deadly than their own actions. Secondly, global powers use Africa as a surrogate terrain for their global power play. As this paper argues, this architecture of complexity leads to the conclusion that there is no one terrorism in the Sahel but many and each requires a different approach. By the same token, the theoretical debate about whether we are witnessing a radicalization of Islam or an Islamization of Radicalism is irrelevant. This paper argues that there a continuum between the two extremes.
This paper is a reflection on the influence of time and space on Africa in geopolitics. It proposes that, while history, in the long-run is perceived as linear, in the short-term it is granular. To make sense of events, one must connect the dots between cluster of times. The analysis builds on the May 1898 statement of the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Lord Salisbury, assessing the geopolitics of his time as made of living nations and dying nations. He characterized the living nations as having the tendency to encroach on the territory of the dying ones. The statement implies a combination of geography and a reference to biological processes with implication of space and the vicissitudes of time involved. The processes of living and dying take time and imply occupying a space. As the living states encroach on the territory of the dying, borders become, beyond their internationally recognized physical demarcations, breathing, and living entities with expanding (or shrinking) virtual borders. This concept is referred to as peri-corporal space in the paper. To test this hypothesis, the United States’ international influence and the global status China now enjoys are analyzed. Also, the de facto Franco-African state (Françafrique lost its legitimacy due to a combination of events in the 1990s), as a typical case, is used to illustrate when, why, and how the expansion of one nation’s virtual border reduces the margin of action of other states.
Shortly after Nigeria’s 60th Independence Anniversary celebration on October 1, 2020, nationwide protests fueled by demands to reform a dreaded unit of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), broke out in several major cities across the country. Largely staged by the youth, and trending on social media, the #EndSARS protests started on October 5, 2020 following the killing of a young man in Ughelli, Delta State by operatives of SARS. By October 10, 2020, the street protests had spread across the country. The protests have also gone global with solidarity protests held in Accra, Frankfurt, London, Toronto, and Washington DC,1 attracting Nigerians in the diaspora and persons of note, including music and sports stars like Wizkid, Drake, Kanye West, Mesut Özil, and Alexander Iwobi,2 among others, demanding an end to police brutality in Nigeria.
The protests are the result of pent up frustrations following years of human rights violations, extortion, torture, brutality, and extra-judicial killings by SARS operatives and the police in general. Established as a special unit of the NPF under the Force Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department (FCIID) in September 1992, SARS was formed to investigate, detain, and prosecute people suspected of involvement in high caliber crimes such as armed robbery, motor vehicle theft, kidnapping, cattle rustling, and illegal possession of firearms. In 2018, its operational jurisdiction was expanded to include cybercrime.3
This is a presentation by Marcel Kitissou at a symposium organized by the Department of Africana Studies at the University at Albany on October 23, 2019 in commemoration of “400 Years of Inequity” and of the celebration of the Department’s 50th anniversary. The main argument of the presentation is that, without the West, Africa would be less westernized (or at least in its own terms) but certainly more modernized. In Africa south of the Sahara, unlike any other parts of the world, the colonizer “decolonized” but never left. Therefore, “westernization,” as can be observed today, is not a free choice. With the constant presence, and constant control by the West (Francophone Africa particularly), Africa is more westernized than modernized. Westernization, in its current form in Africa, is likely to perpetuate dependency and prevent Africa from being a global power player as was the case in the past. Read more at
The world is engulfed in the ‘Corona Virus’ pandemic. As national health
systems are being stretched to their limits, countries are closing their
borders, banning travel, and isolating themselves…all in an
international co-operative strategy to contain its spread and eliminate
Andreas Herberg-Rothe sees valuable lessons in this international
co-operation to be used to contain war and violence. Taking a leaf out
of the broad ‘containment theory’ articulated by the late George Kennan
in an anonymous article published in 1947 in the FP magazine, Andreas
proposes a containment strategy for the world from the scourge of
terrorism, religious fanaticism, and wars for world dominance (both
proxy as well as interventions). This strategy for ‘common security’ can
succeed only if it respects pluralism of cultures, religions, and social
Despite massive expenditure by the Nigerian government over the past decade, counter-terrorism operations by security forces have achieved limited success and the country is still ranked on the Global Terrorism Index as one of the states most affected by terrorism. Is the problem one of bad policy, strategy and tactics, or is corruption in the leadership ranks of the security forces also to blame?
It is estimated that terror groups have killed over 30 000 people in Nigeria since 2003, causing the displacement of more than 2.4 million people. These groups include Boko Haram, operating in the Lake Chad Basin region, Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) and Ansaru, also called al-Qaeda in the Lands Beyond the Sahel.
In December 2019, ISWAP beheaded 11 Christian hostages to avenge the killing of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi by United States forces. In January this year the group killed the chairman of the Adamawa State chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Lawan Andimi. It also kidnapped three university lecturers in Yola in eastern Nigeria, and carried out several coordinated attacks in Borno State.
Nigeria’s government allocated over N6.7 trillion to the security sector between 2010 and 2017 to strengthen its capacity for counter-terrorism operations. This amount doesn’t include extra budgetary allocations such as the US$1 billion the government borrowed in 2013 to fund counter-terrorism operations and the US$21 million approved for the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) in June 2015.
The secrecy surrounding military spending for counter-terrorism encourages misappropriation
Despite increased money for the security sector, counter-terrorism operations by the Nigerian military in collaboration with multilateral agencies such as the MNJTF of the Lake Chad Basin Commission have achieved limited success. The military did for a time succeed in pushing terrorist groups out of major cities, as was seen when the frequency of attacks in urban centres dropped between late 2015 and early 2018.
However, terror groups found operational bases in the large civilian populations in rural and remote areas from where they launched a barrage of attacks on poorly secured villages, military units and critical state infrastructure. After suffering a ‘technical defeat’ by the military in three local government areas in Borno State, a resurgence by extremists has given them control of these regions.
Why are Nigeria’s counter-terrorism operations failing? Some say it’s because of strategic and tactical imprecision due to poor intelligence and rivalry among security agencies involved in the operations. However, evidence suggests that corruption in counter-terrorism operations in Nigeria may also be to blame.
Conflict entrepreneurs within the hierarchy of military leadership and the ministries, departments and agencies in the security sector apparently use military funds meant for counter-terrorism operations to enrich themselves. Military spending is usually not audited due to its sensitive nature. The secrecy that surrounds it encourages misappropriation.
Unless conflict entrepreneurs are stopped, terrorism will continue in Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin
Examples include the probe into the alleged diversion of US$2.1 billion meant for arms procurement by the Office of the National Security Adviser, and another N3.9 billion by the office of the Chief of Defence Staff, both in 2015.
In 2017, US$43 million cash meant for covert operations by the National Intelligence Agency was discovered in a private building in Lagos. And in 2018 there were investigations into US$1 billion that went missing after being appropriated to the Nigerian Army for arms procurement from the Excess Crude Account.
Conflict entrepreneurs in the security sector also allegedly operate through the award of fictitious procurement contracts, and illegal extra-military activities such as extortion and collusion with militants in illegal fishing in the Lake Chad area.
These activities undermine effective security force action by hollowing out the military’s capabilities. For instance, because they don’t procure by approval, and sometimes procurements aren’t even made, the military may be lacking in weapons and logistics, making it difficult to adequately counter terrorism.
Corruption has undermined effective security force action by hollowing out the military’s capabilities
Despite huge financial allocations for arms procurement and logistics supplies, military sources blame the death of 83 soldiers in a 2016 Boko Haram ambush and a similar 2018 attack on the 157 Task Force Battalion in Metele, Borno State, on equipment shortfalls, poor weapons and logistics supplies, and low morale among combatant officers, who sometimes aren’t paid. Over 118 soldiers including the battalion commander died in the attack.
This failure of counter-terrorism operations may account for the resurgence of terror attacks in Nigeria’s north-east, especially Borno State. And despite significant financial allocations for these efforts, the terror threat in Nigeria remains huge.
Questions need to be asked about whether counter-terrorism funding is being used wisely, and whether the operations themselves are effective. Unless Nigeria’s government stops the activities of conflict entrepreneurs, violent extremism will probably remain a major security threat in Nigeria and across the Lake Chad Basin region.
To do this, the state needs to strengthen legal and institutional frameworks for dealing with corrupt practices in the security sector, especially in counter-terrorism operations. It also needs to investigate and prosecute those who have taken advantage of their positions in the counter-terrorism campaign to enrich themselves.
Most fundamentally, a strategic change in the leadership of the military may be needed, along with a rethink of the excessive militarisation of counter-terrorism operations in the country’s north-east zone.
Maurice Ogbonnaya, Senior Research Consultant, ISS Pretoria
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In an article published in Africa Times on December 22, 2019 by AT editor, we learned that Presidents Ouattara and Macron announced the end of the CFA franc.
Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara, speaking alongside his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, announced the reform of the long-disputed CFA franc on Saturday, a currency that is used in eight nations in West Africa.
Below is an analysis by Dr. Jibrin Ibrahim. As a reminder, the article below represents the work of the author. It has not been reviewed by the entire Sahel Consortium and does not represent the position of the organization.
Why France Kidnapped West Africa’s Eco Currency
Jibrin Ibrahim, Deepening Democracy, Daily Trust, 27th December 2019
Last Saturday, France, through the instrumentality of their most faithful poodle in West Africa, Alasane Ouattara kidnapped the West African currency that was to be launched next year for the 15 countries in the region. In a press conference in Abidjan, Presidents Macron and Ouattara announced that the 8 West African countries using the CFA Franc currency would adopt the Eco as their new currency next year. The announcement was done the day ECOWAS was meeting for a final adoption of Eco, also decided for 2020. The French move breaks up the 30-year struggle by ECOWAS to establish a regional currency to promote trade and development. What France has done is that it takes over the responsibility of establishing and even printing the new currency and presents the other countries in the region with a fait accompli. France is also keeping the new currency attached to the Euro and therefore aligning it with its colonial interest as it has always done with the CFA. This means that the other seven West African countries can only join on conditions established by France. The implication is that Nigeria is essentially kept out of the currency because the country will not accept the conditionalities established by France.
The long delay in establishing the Eco has been caused by the inability of the 15 ECOWAS countries to meet the convergence criteria they set for themselves. These are that the inflation rate of less than 5 percent is maintained. The budget deficit is not more than 3 percent of GDP and that each country has enough foreign reserves to cover at least 3 months of imports. The problem now is after failing to meet these conditions over the past two decades, the eight countries have now adopted the currency without meeting them. This means economics has been set aside for political reasons. There are three political factors that motivated the French decision to take over the baby ECOWAS has had great difficulty in delivering.
The first reason is that over the past five years, a successful campaign has been on-going castigating the CFA Franc as the instrument through which France maintains total control over the economic affairs of its colonies – the argument being economic decolonization never occurred. The Francophone countries have to keep 50 percent of the foreign reserves permanently with the French treasury and they cannot make international transactions without going through Paris. There were demonstrations that French board members in the West African (French) Central Bank must be removed, which is the reason that France has finally agreed that it will not have direct representatives in the Eco Central Bank. What France is trying to do now is to argue that the “colonial” CFA Franc established is now dead and the Eco is a new currency that is not French controlled. It’s the biggest lie of the year.
The second political reason is related to recent developments on the war on terror in the Sahel. It will be recalled that on 11 January 2013, French warplanes attacked jihadist convoys that were advancing on Bamako, Mali’s capital. The jihadists were already in control of two thirds of Malian territory having successfully defeated and evicted the Malian army from northern Mali. Initially, the three jihadist groups involved, namely Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), its offshoot The Movement for the Oneness of Jihad (MUJAO by its French acronym) and Ansar Dine were confident that they would takeover Bamako but the French stopped them. I visited Mali shortly after and France was super popular in Mali and ordinary people were flying the French flags in their houses and cars.
Over the past few years however, France became very unpopular in the Sahel because of widespread belief that they were pretending to fight the jihadists in public but supporting them in secret. People are saying with their vast array of drones, planes and satellite cover, how are convoys of hundreds of terrorists able to drive over hundreds of kilometres and attack soldiers without warning from the French. These attacks have been happening with increasing regularity and devastating effect. President Macron has been very angry that Sahelians were criticizing his country and ordered the Presidents of the five Sahelian countries to report to Pau in southern France to be told off for not convincing their citizens that France was a good friend. The meeting which was to hold this December has been postponed to January following the killing of 71 soldiers in Niger by the jihadists. France is therefore using the Eco currency launch as a public relations gimmick to rebuild its battered image.
The third political motive for the Eco move is to ensure that Nigeria is permanently kept out of the currency. As Professor Ibrahim Gambari has always said, France has always defined itself as the main power block in Africa and so has always seen Nigeria’s self-definition as an African power as a threat to its interests. It is therefore surprising that Nigeria, which is the main target of this French action has been quiet about what is going on. Meanwhile, the French are trying to woo Ghana to join Eco so as to completely isolate Nigeria. The fact that Nigeria has closed its borders with its three Francophone neighbours also created conditions to push the Francophone countries to join this plot against Nigeria. In this tenth year of the battle against Boko Haram in which France is a major player with troops, planes and drones on the ground, understanding the French role in West Africa is very important and my hope is that we have a strong working group following the issues.
Jibrin Ibrahim, PhD
Senior Fellow, Centre for Democracy and Development