Labelling conflict groups in Nigeria
A comparative study of Boko Haram, Niger Delta, IPOB and Fulani militia
in Armed non-state actors and the politics of recognition
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In 2011, Nigeria established its first anti-terrorism legislation and Boko Haram was listed as a terrorist group in 2014. In 2017, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), a secessionist movement in the southeast of Nigeria, became the second conflict group or social movement to be proscribed by the anti-terror law. Unlike Boko Haram, IPOB’s struggle is underlined, to a large extent, by genuine grievance and its modus operandi is largely non-violent.

Unsurprisingly, the proscription of IPOB did not generate the same worldwide recognition and support as that of Boko Haram. Rather, it attracted national and international condemnation. Yet, the Nigerian government has not reversed its action. This raises important questions regarding the motivation for proscribing IPOB and the impact on the group’s transformation, as well as on other conflict groups and situations across Nigeria. Interestingly, the current government led by President Buhari, a Fulani, has been noticeably silent or at best has expressed a weak response to the ‘terrorist’ acts committed by the Fulani militia group. Also, the government’s reluctance to proscribe the militant groups in the oil-rich Niger Delta region counteracts any argument regarding fairness in the application of the anti-terrorism law.

This chapter therefore analyses the characteristics of each conflict group and why they are recognised or mis-recognised, and attract a certain kind of labelling, as well as the implications of such on the transformation of the conflict group and the benefits or drawbacks to the government and the conflict actors.

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