AN INTERROGATION OF THE ECONOMIC MOTIVATIONS OF TERRORISM IN AFRICA: THE CASE OF BOKO HARAM IN NIGERIA

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ABSTRACT

For a decade now, the Boko Haram terrorist organization has continuously caused insecurity within the northeastern part of Nigeria where it emerged and other areas around the Lake Chad Basin. The motivations for the group’s uprising and persistence continuous to be a source of academic debate. Religion, politics and economics have become the main factors which many have used to explain the complex phenomenon of Boko Haram terrorism. This research specifically interrogates the economic motivations of Boko Haram terrorism in Nigeria to find out how economic factors and conditions in the country’s northeast impact on the sect. The research based on the Rational Choice Theory to assess the motives of the group based on its actions and decisions. Data for the research were obtained from primary sources, mainly interviews, as well as secondary sources including books, reports, journal articles and the internet. The research finds that, while there are contending explanations for the motivations of Boko Haram, grievances of the dire economic conditions and underdevelopment of Nigeria’s northeast relative to the south, gave impetus for the emergence and persistence of the sect. Particularly, poverty was found to be the single biggest contributor to the local support for the group. Religion was however found to be only a vehicle through which leadership of the sect stoked the sentiments of the aggrieved Muslim majority. Elements of economic crimes introduced to the sect was also observed to have turned the group into a criminal organization benefiting from “war economy”. The research concludes that it will take both hard and soft approaches to deal with the threat of Boko Haram in Nigeria, but in the long-term, terrorism must be prevented from the community rather than being fought on the battlefield.