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Boko Haram

News Analysis

Many countries are saddled with the fact of coping with threats of terrorism, performed by various religious extremists. These fundamentalists operate with such sophistication that governments have had to step up their security measures to be able to cope with the growing menace of terrorism around the world. Today, the most notable among these terror organizations are spread deep within the Middle East, with increasing influence in the Muslim part of West Africa.

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In 2002, almost immediately after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre in the United States, a radical Islamist group called Boko Haram began to develop in the northern part of Nigeria and transformed radically in 2009. The name of the radical Islamist group Boko Haram, which translates as western education is forbidden, was chosen because the founders of the group were averse to western education and wanted a strict application of sharia law in Northern Nigeria, despite the country being evenly split between Christians and Muslims (Mark, 2012). Although members of the group claimed they started out as a peaceful movement, it was said that Boko Haram was a group of urchins, brought together to cause mayhem at the elections of one of the northern politicians in Nigeria, who was a gubernatorial aspirant at the time. It was not long before the extremist group spiraled out of control and began to blow up churches and both national and multinational buildings, leaving in their wake tens of hundreds of people maimed or killed. In a complete show of audacity, the Muslim extremists blew up the national police building in the heart of the capital of Nigeria and to prove their point, hit the United Nations building, located in the capital a couple of months later, injuring and killing tens of people.

The government of Nigeria realized after these attacks, especially after the bombing of the United Nations building, that Boko Haram had radicalized from being a disgruntled religious organization into a terrorist one. To make matters worse, both hits were carried out by suicide bombers who crashed into the buildings with Improvised Explosive Devices strapped tightly around them. This was strange to the Nigerian authorities as suicide bombing had never been recorded in the country prior to the time of Boko Haram (Maiangwa & Uzodike, 2012). With time, the extremists became more confident and extended attacks on mostly churches, media houses and institutions of higher learning. Their menace grew and they killed with impunity while the Nigerian government was struggling to cope with the situation. Insecurity began to spread in the country as people feared they could have been attacked anytime by the dreaded sect. In the northern part of the country, where the extremists based their operations, fear became the order of the day. Businesses suffered greatly as people either fled down to the south or refused to step out of their homes for the fear of being killed. It was perhaps the blood chilling execution of forty-three Christian students in the northern city of Mubi, Nigeria, that forced the government to consider a dialogue with the sect.

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Mubi is a city in Adamawa state, Nigeria. Like some of the northern Nigerian states, Adamawa has a Christian population which co-existed peacefully before the advent of Boko Haram. With increased number of attacks on higher institutions by the schism, Christian students greatly feared for their lives since it was almost predictable that they would be attacked. On the 2nd of October, 2012, Boko Haram struck the Federal Polytechnic, Mubi, and killed forty-three students. The killings raised lots of questions not because it was just another Boko Haram killing, but because of the brutal, horrifying manner in which these students were murdered coming particularly just one day after the country had celebrated the anniversary of independence with many calling for unity, love and reconciliation. Disregarding the peaceful mood of Mubi citizens, Boko Haram carried out their attacks, and by the time they left, forty students had been murdered in cold blood. While the students were sleeping, Boko Haram gunmen assaulted them. In a war-like theatre, the bandits invaded the off campus hostel where the students had retired for the night, shooting indiscriminately into the air. They torched everything on their way, including a church building. When the terrorists gained access to the hostel, they continued realizing their plan. The sleeping students were marched out of their rooms and ordered to say their names; what followed was an atrocious act of mans inhumanity to man, as the Christian students were shot at close range with automatic weapons and some stabbed, while the Muslim students were spared (BBC News Africa, 2012). The gunmen also murdered two security guards on their way out, adding two more victims to the massacre they had just perpetrated in the room.

The Mubi killings once again brought to fore the threat and danger terrorism brings to the society. Since Boko Haram became radicalized and started killing people. Over three thousand lives were lost to its insurgency. It threatens not only the peace and stability of Nigeria as a country, but also the peace of West Africa as a sub-region, Africa as a continent, and the world at large (Security Council Report, 2012). Since critics have argued that Boko Haram was born from the injustice, poverty, illiteracy, corruption and lack of an adequate judicial system, which are all peculiar to Nigeria, the government must tackle these shortcomings and nip the Boko Haram insurgency in the bud before it becomes totally uncontrollable. Dialogue with the sect will make the government seem weak and send wrong signals to other terrorist organizations. Any form of negotiation with a group like Boko Haram must be performed by the way of covert operation and should be initiated by the government and not the other way round (Aborisade, 2012).

To achieve peace, humans must learn to be tolerant and table their grievances in a peaceful manner. We live in a diverse world and to achieve world peace, the developing world will only truly develop when the dignity of the human person is universally respected (Telegraph View, 2009). There must be a collective effort made by all concerned members, a structure of a real partnership between police, citizens and agencies and an effective judicial system in place to stamp out terrorism and insurgencies and ensure that the world becomes a less dangerous place to live in.

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