The Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria has alarmed not only the Nigerian government, but also the international community, particularly after they bombed the United Nations headquarters in Abuja in 2011. Following this attack, the sect carried out a number of other attacks in Nigeria, killing hundreds of people.

There have been numerous reasons given for this development. Some opinion and political leaders in and outside Nigeria attribute the Boko Haram insurgency to poverty, injustice, and a lack of civil liberties, while others disagree.

Based on this, the causes of the Boko Haram insurgency will be determined using both quantitative and qualitative methods of analysis. The research discovered that the insurgency was not as a result of Although poverty, injustice, or a lack of civil liberties may have played a role, it was deep-seated ideology rooted in Islamic fundamentalism that was to blame for the sect’s chaotic development.




The emergence of Boko Haram, an Islamic extremist sect agitating for the implementation of strict Islamic laws and the Islamization of Nigeria through violent activities such as killing, bombing, and suicide bombing, has taken on a concerning dimension. Nigeria, on the other hand, is no stranger to crises caused by violent extremist groups. These include the Maitatsine riots in Northern Nigeria in 1980, which killed thousands. To name a few, there was the Kano riot in 1982, the Ilorin crisis in March 1986, the crisis over Nigeria’s membership in the Organization of Islamic Conference in 1986, the Zangon-Kataf riot in Kaduna State in May 1982, and the recurring Jos crises from 2001 to the present (Abimbola 2010: 97; Kalu 2008: 77 – 85; Bah 2008: 49 – 52). Furthermore, there are agitations. The various ethnic nationalities that comprised Nigeria became violent at times. In the South-South of the country, for example, the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) and the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) are fighting for a fair share of the oil revenue from their lands. In the south-east, there is the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), which advocates for Igbo independence. In the south-west, there is the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC), whose cause is to protect the Yoruba race’s interests in Nigeria. In the North, there is also the Arewa Youth Organisation (AYO), which advocates for the region’s interests (Kalu 2008: 173 – 185).

Bah 2008: 49 – 52).

As a result, Nigeria is not new to agitations from the country’s various ethnic nationalities for a fair share in governance and equitable distribution of its wealth and resources. It took on an unprecedented violent dimension, however, when Boko Haram, a lethal Islamic sect, emerged to demand the introduction and imposition of Sharia, an Islamic penal code, not only in the Northern part of the country populated by Muslims, but also throughout the country. The rise of Boko Haram and its demands ushered in a new era of ethno-religious conflict and insurgency in Nigeria. Although Boko Haram began as a benign Islamic organization providing social services and preaching strict adherence to Islamic injunctions, it has since evolved into a terrorist organization.

However, along the way, they took a detour by engaging in violent activities that not only undermine the legitimate authority of the Nigerian government, but also pose an existential threat to the country’s cooperative existence and unity.

According to a November 30, 2011 US congressional report on Boko Haram, the sect is a “emerging threat” not only to the US, but also to its interests. In an interview, the Chairman of the Congressional Committee, Mr Patrick Meeham, stated that the “rapid evolution” of Boko Haram was concerning. He went on to say that there was little evidence at the time to suggest that Boko Haram was planning an attack on the US, but he quickly added that the lack of evidence “does not mean

It’s not going to happen” (BBC).

According to the US Congressional findings (homeland.house.gov/files/Boko Haram: 4):

Boko Haram has rapidly evolved and now poses a new threat to US interests and the US homeland.

Boko Haram intends and may be developing the capability to coordinate rhetorically and operationally with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and Al Shabaab.

The evolution of Boko Haram’s targeting and tactics closely parallels that of other Al Qaeda affiliates that have targeted the US homeland, most notably Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and Tehrik – I – Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

The United States intelligence community vastly underestimated the potential for Al Qaeda affiliate groups to target the United States homeland, incorrectly assuming they only had regional ambitions and threats.

against the U.S homeland were merely “aspirational”.

The US should collaborate with the Nigerian government to develop counterterrorism and intelligence capabilities to effectively combat Boko Haram.

Based on the above scenario, it is reasonable to conclude that Boko Haram is a threat not only to Nigeria, but also to global peace. This was clearly demonstrated when, on August 26, 2011, a suicide bomber drove a vehicle laden with explosives into the United Nations headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, killing 23 people and injuring more than 80. In condemning the attack, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon called it a “assault on those who have dedicated themselves to helping others” (The guardian).

Apart from the bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Abuja, Boko Haram has carried out a number of deadly attacks in the North. The Boko Haram sect is estimated to have killed over 1000 people and injured thousands more.

Problem formulation: How did Boko Haram, a peaceful Islamic sect, become a terrorist organization?

To fully investigate the preceding question, one must first examine the definition of terrorism. Some researchers would include both state actors and non-state actors in their definition of terrorism, while others would exclude state actors as potential terrorists. Other definitions of terrorism limit it to attacks on civilian targets. Some definitions limit terrorism to acts with political goals and exclude criminal intent, while others include both.

Both political and criminal goals are served. Most definitions regard terrorism as an illegitimate method or means, regardless of its goal, while a few definitions consider it legitimate if it is for a just cause, thus the aphorism “one person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter” (Martin 2008: 11). Nonetheless, there is widespread agreement that, no matter how altruistic, terrorism is an extreme method or tactic.

Terrorism is defined as “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents” in the United States Codes prepared by the US House of Representatives. According to executive branch codes, it is “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property in order to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of a political goal.”

“political violence perpetrated by a group” (Mahan and Griset 2008: 4).

To fully understand Boko Haram ideology, I will define terrorism as a premeditated act of violence carried out by extremist organizations or individuals against unarmed or defenseless civilians, civilian targets, soft spots, and passive military and police targets, with the intent of instilling fear, confusion, and apprehension in the minds of people. Furthermore, in pursuit of a political, social, religious, or ideological agenda.

It is critical to note that the preceding definition excludes terrorism from the top, that is, terrorism perpetrated by states. It only addresses terrorism from the ground up, that is, terrorism perpetrated by non-state actors.


To put Boko Haram in context, it is important to distinguish between terrorism, extremism, and freedom fighting at this point. Between these three ideas, there is a fine line. An extremist has a radical opinion or view about a belief or political ideology that does not allow for opposing views. Extremists are intolerant of other belief systems; they believe that their cause is absolutely just and good, and that any other cause is evil. The fact that extremists hold such beliefs or ideologies does not translate into terrorism; however, when the Rubicon is crossed by forcibly and violently imposing their beliefs and ideologies on others through killings, bombings, kidnapping, and so on, it becomes terrorism. As a freedom fighter

is someone who is perceived to be fighting for a just cause, such as a people’s liberation or emancipation, or any other just cause. Terrorism occurs when freedom fighters begin to use unconventional means to achieve their goals. The Provisional Irish Republican Army in the United Kingdom, for example, and the Basque Separatist Organization known as Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA) in Spain both declare that they are fighting for the oppressed and a homeland. These causes are noble, but the manner in which they are carried out has resulted in these organizations being labeled as terrorist organizations.

Although terrorism is not a new phenomenon, it has existed for centuries in various forms and modes.

From the frightened group known as Thugs, also known as Phansigars or stranglers, existed in the seventh century and committed violent acts and atrocities by killing and dismembering their victims’ corpses to avoid cremation or proper burial in order to appease Kali, the Hindu goddess of death and destruction. To the Assassins, also known as Ismailis-Nizari, who existed between 1090 and 1275 with the goal of purifying Islam and hastening the emergence of a Mahdi or Messiah who would eventually lead a holy war or Jihad against the traditional establishment. Furthermore, the Jewish group known as Zealots-Sicarii, whose activities eventually led to exile and the ultimate destruction of Jewish ways of life and structures and institutions, was feared as a violent group (Rapoport in Horgan and Braddock).

2012: 9 – 11).

Terrorism, on the other hand, became a hot topic following the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center. That is not to say there were no terrorist attacks prior to 9/11; in fact, the Israeli athletic contingent at the Munich Olympics in 1977 were kidnapped by Palestinian militants from the Black September Organization. Eleven Israelis, a German police officer, and five militants were killed in the attacks (Jackson, et al. 2011: 54). Pan American Flight 103 was destroyed by a bomb over Lockerbie, Scotland, on December 21, 1988; the attack killed all 259 passengers and 16 crew members. Eleven Lockerbie residents were also killed when plane parts fell from the sky.

and destroyed several town houses (Mahan and Griset, 2008: 97).

Terrorism, on the other hand, has taken on a global dimension in which either you support America’s adventure in the war against terrorism or you are labeled an enemy if you do not. After September 11, 2001, there were several terrorist attacks. On July 7, 2005, there were coordinated suicide attacks in London subway that killed 56 people, including the four suicide bombers who carried out the heinous act, and injured 700 others. On March 11, 2004, an attack on a train in Madrid killed 191 people and injured approximately 1,600 others. On July 11, 2006, seven bombs exploded on the Mumbai Suburban Railway, killing more than 100 people.

200 people were killed, and 700 were injured (Williams and Mockaitis in Shemella 2011: 298 – 329). If we have to talk about terrorist attacks since 9/11, the list is endless.

After identifying Boko Haram as an extremist sect that uses terror to achieve its ideological beliefs, it is critical to comprehend the reason(s) for Boko Haram’s chaotic transformation, as stated in the problem formulation. To thoroughly investigate the problem field, various perspectives or schools of thought on the root causes of terrorism must be investigated. Could Boko Haram’s transformation into a dreaded terrorist organization be attributed to poverty, inequality, and economic disequilibrium, as advocated by strain and deprivation theorists (Forst 2009)? Alternatively, are the operatives of Boko Haram psychopaths? who simply kill for the sake of killing because they are mentally ill and insane? Boko Haram is most likely just a social movement in Nigeria’s political firmament claiming legitimacy for the recognition, accommodation, and integration of its ideological beliefs into Nigerian governance. Perhaps Boko Haram was the creation of Northern political elites who see Nigerian governance as their birthright and threatened to make the country ungoverned if one of them did not emerge as the country’s president during the country’s last presidential election. Alternatively, Boko Haram’s transformation could be attributed to social conflict between the haves (ruling elites) and the disenchanted have-nots. Could it, on the other hand, be a reaction to the extrajudicial killing of their leader, Yusuf, and over 700 of their followers by Nigerian police and security forces during the sect’s first uprising in 2009?


The study will attempt to identify the root causes of the Boko Haram insurgency.

The study will look at various narratives, particularly the issue of poverty and injustice as expressed by leaders as the root causes of the Boko Haram crisis.

To ascertain, if any, role of the political system or politicians in the emergence of Boko Haram.

To decipher the ideology driving the Boko Haram insurgency.


Why has Boko Haram, once a peaceful Islamic sect, become a terrorist organization? Boko Haram’s activities have had a negative impact on Nigeria, which is a secular state. In fact, Nigeria is on the verge of religious conflict, which could devastate the country’s cooperative existence. As a result, this research will attempt to provide an answer to the pertinent question posed in the problem formulation.


Given that the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria is the focal point of this research, and given that hypothesis is the cornerstone or foundation of any scientific research, it is appropriate to consider the following hypotheses:

H0: Poverty and inequality fueled Boko Haram’s transformation.

H1: The chaotic development of Boko Haram was caused by injustice and a lack of civil liberties.

H2: The Boko Haram insurgency, a political ideological conflict.

The aforementioned hypotheses will be thoroughly and methodologically examined in order to gain a better understanding of the reason(s) for the sect’s anarchic development.


Because they are relevant to understanding the problem formulation, the following questions will be addressed in this research. Why has Boko Haram, once a peaceful Islamic sect, become a terrorist organization?

Did poverty play a role in the Boko Haram insurgency?

Is it fair to blame the Boko Haram crisis on injustice and a lack of civil liberties?

What role do revolutionary and radical Islamic ideologies play in the Boko Haram insurgency?


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