The effect of Boko Haram to Nigeria Economy cannot be overemphasized. Boko Haram made its presence known in 2004, in Yobe State. And by 2011, it made its presence known to the global community by bombing the United Nations headquarters in Abuja. Especially in the last two years, it has wilfully attacked hundreds of buildings and killed many innocent Nigerians. Until recently, very few – including the Nigerian security and intelligence agencies – knew very little about the group’s origin and philosophy, its raison d’être, and its goals and endgame. Eight years after it came into existence, and in spite of the calamity the group has caused, the government seems not to know how to clip the group’s wings. There are many groups in Nigeria and, for the most part, the government does not know how to classify them. And because the government does not know how to classify them, it does not know how to deal with them. Many of these groups are ethno regional in nature. And while many have secessionist tendencies, others are criminal in nature. In the case of Boko Haram, some Nigerians believe that it is a criminal enterprise (with political, religious and ethnic agenda). From publicly available records, however, the government seems to think that it is a terrorist organization.
Either way one looks at the group, its activities have been very damaging both physically and psychologically. Its real leadership and financiers are largely unknown. And because its theatre of operation is very wide, no one can predict where it is going to strike, next. Or, at whom. On the home front, other groups may be emboldened by Boko Haram’s extrajudicial adventures. Seeing that the group is running circles over security and intelligence agencies in the country, they may be tempted to take to the streets instead of expressing their grievances through the appropriate channel. And of course, there may be copycats who may deem it fun to outgun and outman the government.
Second, Boko Haram’s successes make the security agencies look inept. As a result, there is a growing perception that the police and their allied organizations are weak, corrupt, and poorly trained. Above all, it paints these units as cowards who are unable to arrest, dismantle, and bring to justice a ragtag group running wild at the edge of the Sahara Desert. This perception, whether true or not, will most likely have a negative impact on the trust and confidence level of those who see the police as their defenders.
Third, the daily trouncing of the security and intelligence services is likely to have a demoralizing impact. Low-ranking members may begin to doubt the ability of their leaders to make the right calls; and the senior ranks too may begin to doubt the vision and the ability of their superiors. These and other factors are likely to have a negative impact on the cohesiveness of the security and intelligence agencies. In addition, civilians and non-civilians may begin to doubt the leadership capability of the government. What’s more, a government that can’t, or that is unable to secure lives and property, will find it difficult to govern or command respect from the electorate. In the end, therefore, the stature of the President will diminish: he is likely to be seen as weak, lazy, incompetent, and undeserving of his office. This may further lead to a crisis of leadership. Considering the history of Nigeria, this may trigger extrajudicial takeover of government by the military or other forces, which is very undesirable.
And finally, the incessant bombings may lead to equivalent retaliation: Boko Haram (a Northern group) may provoke one or two other groups or groups of individuals in the South to avenge the killing of their brethren – or the bombing of their churches. On the other hand, if Boko Haram were to bomb Lagos, such an act would most likely provoke equivalent retaliation and mass exodus of Nigerians of northern extraction from Lagos and adjacent cities/states. And if the bombing and counter-bombings are prolonged, the country may witness pre-1967 conditions. A pre-1967 condition will give rise to nationwide political instability. We already know that unstable political spaces are characterized by uncertainty, unpredictability, and suffocating apprehension and, ultimately, to economic deficits. For a country that is vastly underdeveloped, another bout of instability is likely to push it to the brink of anarchy and collapse. In the end, therefore, one of the unintended consequences of the Boko Haram’s rampage may be the weakening of the state or the breakup of the country. Prolonged anarchy or the breakup of the country will definitely have a dire consequence on the African continent and beyond.
Secondly, without being told, one can safely deduce that Nigerian and foreign governments are watching the in and outflow of cash and weapons and ideologies into Northern Nigeria. The concern here is the importation and exportation of terrorism. The proximity of Northern Nigeria to Chad and Niger and other alleged hotbeds of fundamentalism has been a concern to western governments for many years. Related to the issue of terrorism is the safety of foreigners living in Nigeria.
A third and final consequence is the fact that the ongoing bombings make President Goodluck Jonathan appear incompetent (in the estimation of western capitals). (Did I even hear in some quarters that he was rejected as the African Union chairman last weekend in preference to Boni Yayi of Benin Republic, even though the Presidency denied such reports yesterday?) While criminality and terrorism are global scourges, many countries have mechanisms in place to deal with such. It does not bode well for Nigeria when week after week, and month after month, Boko Haram operates at will. Should this continue unabated for several more months, Foreign Direct Investments in Nigeria are likely to decrease. And this has wider implications for a government that has promised its citizens transformation. Boko Haram, the militant Islamist group, has made a mockery of peace and security in Nigeria, and its threat to regional security is well-known. So far, a lot has been written about the political consequences of the group. In fact, almost all that has been written on Boko Haram both in popular media and academic journals, address its deleterious consequences from a political perspective. More often than not, these reports fail to highlight that apart from the tragic loss of lives and property, the terrorist activities of Boko Haram constitute a major threat to the Nigerian economy. How these ongoing threats will affect the economy is worth analyzing.
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