Securitization in Northern Nigeria


Ever since the 2014 abduction of girls from a remote high school in Northern Nigeria, the activities of the popular group that claimed the abduction have received global attention. Just as the Nigerian Government has devised strategies to deal with the group, so have international governments increase their effectiveness in handling the situation with most techniques involving intelligence, law enforcement assistance and diplomatic policies to assist Nigeria’s economy from Boko Haram’s disturbance. From the perspective of political economy, this paper looks into how global political economy could guide and inform US policies with regard to the economic disruption in Northern Nigeria as a result of Boko Haram activities. In addition to guiding policies, this paper also discusses how the suggested informed policies would invite a cooperative employment of Airpower.


Boko Haram has developed into a deadly organization that conducts terror activities and apparently the apparatus and strategies used by the group supersede what Nigeria has as a state. Topping the list of terrorist organizations, Boko Haram has now posed significant threat to regional security of Nigeria. Together with external partners, the Nigerian government has responded to the crisis mostly using military strategies.  Security forces in Nigeria have received intensive training in counterinsurgency and counterterrorism from the US and the country has also increased it budget towards security as a way to counter the activities of the group. Unfortunately, all these techniques have failed to stop Boko Haram from performing attacks daily in the Northern parts of Nigeria and even in other regions within the state. This article suggests a strategy that might inform and guide US policies in dealing with economic disruptions caused by Boko Haram in Nigeria and discusses also how the strategy could help invite cooperative effort in Airpower employment.

US Policy

The US attention has been on increasing defense budget for Nigeria and this has the state’s administration has not run short of resources in its fight against terrorism. Rather than pouring huge funds into the state’s administration, the US needs to address issues of poor governance, re-create consensus in national politics and reduce the evident Muslim marginalization. An international response from the US should revolve around an immediate goal to neutralize Boko Haram in the coming years even if they fail to defeat the group. Without the above mentioned political initiative, a strong security initiative might tilt the scales of Boko Haram. Therefore, the US government should urge as well as assist Nigeria to adopt policy changes that will make the region less appealing thus eliminating Boko Haram. Northern Nigeria becomes a target because of the existing human rights abuses and with the presence of these abuses, US policies might be unable to change anything in the security realm as far as Boko Haram is concerned in the Nigeria-US partnership. If Nigerian administration were to take steps then in this partnership, they should first fight against these abuses and the result would likely assist alienating the area from Boko Haram threat. The US needs to realize the unpalatable realities of the region before they can develop a policy that runs for a longer term. However, the credibility of the policy would be dependent on whether there will be military intervention.

Given the regional security issue, this US policy will guide and inform international relations about the problem by holding the Nigerian government accountable for all human rights abuses in the security service. International relations will be guided and informed by this policy every time when the Nigerian government is called upon to respond to any claim of abuses by human rights organizations as well as the media dealing with security service of human right violations. In the event of abuses in the security service, media houses should publish the results and have the alleged perpetrators prosecuted. The White House and the particular affected state department of Nigeria should have credible reports distributed to give account of any human rights violation by security services just like it is done in Boko Haram massacres. At the same time, senior elected officials from the US government must also include discussions on human rights violations in every agenda with Nigerian officials.

Other than spotting security service biasness, this particular US policy could also expand appropriate programs that help professionalize security services in Northern Nigeria and also device necessary steps to help address any issues of human rights abuses. The US-Nigeria Binational commission regular meetings should be the vehicle behind diplomatic consultations for any effective approaches that can help curb instances of terrorism. Such a strong policy is necessary bringing in other humanitarian organizations who will also help in providing an avenue in this dialogue. A policy that reveals a weak agenda in Nigerian Human rights services could strengthen the Muslim perspective that the US is ready to look the other way when human rights abuses are being orchestrated by a Christian government. In a nutshell, the most effective policy for ending economic disruption in Nigeria’s Northern state lies in the pursuit of an agenda that involves diplomatic human rights with all parties involved. Any new or existing policy should not result in an additional cost in the security budget. This means the US government should not shoulder any additional costs in solving the Boko Haram crisis because the only policy that has not been tried is the bringing together of International Humanitarian Organization efforts in the fight against human rights abuses in the region and this policy has few or no additional costs.

One of the best practices that can help reduce Boko Haram insurgencies is addressing the root causes of the group’s activities. The above mentioned policy makes it easy for the US in conjunction with the Nigerian Government and other involved organizations to deal with the issue from its roots. Most Boko Haram insurgencies arise from realities that place a particular population at an open disadvantage compared to other areas. Such realities include unfair distribution of the country’s resources, religious and ethnic discrimination and even economic marginalization. Such like conditions play into the hands of Boko Haram group members as a way of pointing to the government’s inability to address such issues. Marginalization and human rights violations in areas of conflict can be used by the group as powerful tools to recruit new members. Therefore in order for any policy to work, perceived injustices and imbalances in appealing areas must be addressed. Endemic corruption amongst economic elites touches the Northern area mostly and most government officials are said to accept payments directly from Boko Haram administration as permission to attack residents. This interagency approach would reflect a better understanding of the complex political, economic and social drivers that cause conflict and easily seen to improve on governance, education and have northern Nigeria citizens empowered with education.

Cooperative employment of Airpower from Policy

Just like any other strategy, air power might not be a one size fit all solution. There are areas where air power can cause coercive and cooperative employment of airpower while there are instances where the parties involved must constrain the use of airpower. As it has been discussed before in this article, this proposed strategy entails having many organizations working together. In this manner of strategy, coercive and cooperative employment of airpower will be made possible especially when drones are used to monitor what happens in target areas and check for any instances of threats. The US in solving similar situations in Somalia, Pakistan and Yemen have used drones to help strike against terrorists in their camps. However, there are more sensitive and nuanced instances where airpower could not fit and could be deemed counterproductive.

Instances where Nigerian’s administration’s response to the group has been hampered include the misallocation of resources, corruption, lack of sufficient training for judges and prosecutors and the slow pace of the state’s justice system. The ability of Air power to respond to these issues has been constrained by the country’s judicial system and the government but the cooperative strategy mentioned above can help address the issue. The US has previously designed human rights laws and systems that follow the rule of law upon treating fellow citizens. The Department of Defense has created the Institute of International Legal studies found at Rhode Island where routine courses of human rights violation training occurs to teams and other nations willing to protect its citizens from terrorist activities and unfair treatment by civil servants from the Defense team. This already is an existing cooperation and a template that can also be used together with the proposed policy with regard to addressing human rights violation problems and the fight against Boko Haram.


Boko Haram is evidently and extremist group that has spurred growth of insecurity problems in Nigeria and other regions in the country. The group has performed several kidnappings and attacks that are similar to those performed by ISIS and al Qaeda. Because the US sees al-Qaeda and ISIS as dangerous terrorist groups as well as Boko Haram, they have no reason to treat any of these groups differently. Among many other strategies put in place by the US in response to these groups, an effective strategy involves bringing together humanitarian organizations to report on issues human rights violations in these areas as a way to deal with the problem from its roots. In as much as the air power strategy could cause casualties and collateral damage like it has been the case with drone strikes before, this time drones can be used to monitor any operations of the group and respond by giving a terrorism alert. At the same time, the US in seeking to assist Nigeria fight Boko Haram should consider improving any other kind of assistance to the country. This assistance could still be linked to the use of drones to monitor, alert security, deter planned actions and eventually help in destroying the negative impacts caused by group.

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