Nigerian Borno state’s Governor Kashim Shettima attacked by militants linked with Islamic State

On 12 February, the convoy of the Nigerian Borno state’s Governor Kashim Shettima was attacked by militants linked with Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP). The Governor was going to a village of Gamboru from the state capital of Maiduguri to attend an election rally. The terrorist group has claimed that at least 42 people were killed in the attack. But according to official estimates, as many as 10 people have been killed in the attack. The group’s attack was part of the larger aim of hindering the presidential elections scheduled to be held on 16 February in Nigeria.

In 2002, Mohammed Yusuf who was an influential Islamist cleric created the Boko Haram in Maiduguri in the state of Borno. The aim was to establish a fundamentalist Islamic state in Nigeria. The group is based in Nigeria’s northeast but has a good influence in northern parts of the country. The rise of the group is mostly attributed to deep religious and ethnic differences in the country. Nigeria can be roughly divided as Muslim dominated population in the North and a Christian dominated population in the South. This religious divide has led to several violent incidents mostly concentrated in the northern states of Nigeria.

A police crackdown in 2009, set off an armed uprising in Bauchi State which spread over the northeast part of the country. The ensuing bloody conflict killed hundreds of the people on both sides in the region. After the death of Boko Haram leader Yusuf, the group got splintered into two factions. One of the factions was led by Abubakar Shekau which is fighting against the Nigerian government in the northeast while another one is led by Yusuf’s son Musab al-Barnawi.In 2015, Shekau led faction declared allegiance to the Islamic State thereby rebranding itself as the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP). Since 2015, this group has conducted a slew of terrorist attacks, kidnappings and executions concentrated mostly in northern parts of Nigeria. The group is also active in parts of Cameroon, Chad and Niger which border the north and northeast regions of Nigeria.

Even though the northern states of Nigeria are rich in oil reserves and other minerals, the living standards are poor and poverty is high in the north. In a Center for Global Development article, Zuhumnan Dapel highlighted four key reasons for the poverty divide in Nigeria:

  • The instability during military dictatorships from 1970-1999.
  • Literacy rates are more in the South than in the North.
  • More federal financial resources available to oil-producing states in the South.
  • Household size is more in the North which is directly related to the poverty rate.

The terrorist groups like ISWAP use these problems to incite hatred among the local population towards the democratic system in the country. Due to these terrorist organizations, there have been limited investments in northern and northeastern parts of Nigeria.

With the decline of ISIS in Syria and Iraq, many of the fighters are coming into Nigeria to fight against the Nigerian government. Since July 2018, the attacks have slowly reduced due to the power struggle among the militant factions and increase in offensive attacks by Nigerian security forces in certain militant strongholds in the north. But there is a possibility of an increase in terrorist attacks with presidential elections around the corner. The solution to this problem lies in the effective implementation of developmental programs which are people inclusive and people-centric.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Kootneeti Team

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