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The root causes of terrorism : an appraisal of the socio-economic determinants of Boko Haram terrorism in Nigeria.

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Since 2009 the Nigerian state has been under the throes of the deadly terrorist activities of the Islamic sect formally known as Jama’atuAhlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad (Association for propagating the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad). The sect, popularly dubbed Boko Haram, meaning Western civilization/education is forbidden, claims to be on a mission to Islamize the Nigerian State. Prima facie Boko Haram’s motivations appear to be religious; however, considering factors such as the dismal socio-economic conditions that prevail in the northern region, the epicentre of the sect, a religious explanation alone is reductive. Accordingly, using the root cause theoretical framework and a qualitative method of data analysis, this study investigates the socio-economic determinants of the emergence and persistence of Boko Haram terrorism. The alarming socio-economic inequality and deprivation manifested in pervasive poverty across the nation, but particularly in the northern region is accentuated as one of the main factors that predispose the teeming disenchanted and jobless populace, particularly the youths in the region to take arms against the state. Fundamentally, Boko Harm terrorism pivots on the growing anti-state tendency in Nigeria, a state arguably losing its legitimacy as a result of her inability and failure to meet the political, social and economic needs of its populace. Among the reasons for this failure include pervasive corruption and maladministration largely entrenched by the monocultural nature of the oil centric national economy. Based on the interdisciplinary nature of this degree program – Politics, Philosophy and Economics – this study philosophically engages the concept of terrorism; situates the debates on the socio-economic determinants of terrorism within the particular context of the Nigerian political economy; contributes to the body of literature that seeks to provide an understanding of the Boko Haram phenomenon from the perspective of its socio-economic determinants; and suggests some relevant policies for addressing this particular crisis as well as those of other like-minded groups in the country. Given that the state’s militarised approach to the crisis has hardly been able to efficiently stall the sect’s terrorist activities, this study accents the need for a long term solution characterised by addressing the root causes, especially through the socio-economic development of the mostly affected northern region.


Thesis (M.A.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, 2013.


Terrorism--Nigeria., Boko Haram., Theses--Political science.