Boko Haram: a Literature Review

SubhanAllah! What! I think another bomb just got detonated in my area. It shook the living daylight out of my house which is close to police headquarters, Bompai. From my room I can hear fierceful gun battle.” Friday 20th January, 5.13pm local time

Another bomb just went off, shaking the very foundation of our house. Now I see walls cracking and ceiling loosing grip. Gun fight is getting intense.” Friday 20th January 5.40pm local time

Rains of bullets and tornado of explosions…! We’re in a war zone! I’ve never experienced anything close.” Friday 20th January, 6.09pm local time

These were some of the frantic messages posted on Facebook Aisha Mohammed on Friday evening in the city of Kano Nigeria as the Islamist insurgency group Boko Haram unleashed a series of bomb attacks in one evening and engaged in fierce gun battle with security forces. The deadly onslaught on Kano city claimed over 200 lives with estimates by medical personnel placing the figure at a much higher lever. While this is just one of numerous other onslaughts by Boko Haram in recent times, it is so far its most vicious, deadliest and most sophisticated yet. The numerous attacks it has unleashed in the last few months, each one more deadly and daring than the previous have made it quite difficult to keep track. It would seem examining the latest spate of attacks, the surrounding circumstances  and making comparisons with previous ones to find out the missing pieces of the puzzle would be in order, just like a literature review of sorts to find out what key points we are missing.


On this occasion, one discernible difference is the size, scale and magnitude of the attacks. Over 20 bombs were reported to have gone off in different locations in Kano city, which several police stations, the Immigration headquarters, the Department of the State Security Service (SSS) and other government buildings. As if the deadly bomb blasts were not enough, the attackers are reported to have engaged in fierce gun battle with police officers especially at the SSS headquarters and at  the Police headquarters Bompai. The blasts were reported by witnesses and many living in the vicinity of the targeted building to have been heard within a radius of up to two kilometres. Such buildings in the vicinity of the attacks, were said to have shattered, ceilings of houses caved in, walls cracked. The level of sophistication, precision and co-ordination is incredible as well as hair-raising. Attacking Kano, the commercial and cultural heart of the North surely struck a nerve. If the aim was to strike fear, terror and indelible emotional and psychological scarring, then mission fait accompli.


It is also clear that substantial resources were invested in carrying out these attacks. Not only was this in terms of the level of sophistication, planning and coordination in the onslaught on major security installations in the city, but also in terms of the calibre of army-grade weapons and explosives used. Eye witnesses reported the use of rocket-propelled launchers by the attackers. The way Boko Haram was able to stake out its targets – security installations to be precise – plan and strategically place explosives begs the question as to how come there was no prior intelligence or inkling that alerted anyone of such plans, least of all the security agencies.

The explosives used were obviously not the locally-made, home-made Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) used by the group in its previous campaigns. These bombs whose impacts were heard and felt within a reported 2km radius are neither cheap nor easy to come by. When all these are considered, it raises the question of whether Boko Haram as we know it (what little is known of it anyways) an isolated group that abhors western education and all trappings of modernity can on its own afford such expensive gadgets and logistics. What comes to mind is that there are big financiers and sponsors behind this group – certainly people with enormous resources, clout, influence and a bloody vendetta. President Goodluck Jonathan himself said this much when he confirmed what many have long suspected: that the group’s sympathisers have infiltrated his government. If so the key question remains, who are they and what do they intend to achieve with this bloody campaign?



In light of all this information, it is clear that the Boko Haram sect and its activities have clearly gone beyond being a mere security challenge by a group which aims to “impose the adherence to strict shariah law”. This is clearly a deeply political problem which requires appropriate political solutions. This perhaps explains why the security measures adopted so far to contain the insurgency have proven futile: attempts at negotiation have been blatantly rejected by the group’s members; the deployment of a Joint Military Task Force to Borno state, the group’s stronghold, has simply resulted in arbitrary killings and other human rights violations of the civilian population and the recent state of emergency declared in states regarded as Boko Haram strong hold have similarly failed as it neither stopped random attacks in Maiduguri and Bauchi nor did it prevent the Kano blasts from occurring. All the group’s top members who have been arrested have either been murdered or have escaped in mysterious circumstances.

Consequently, the recent appeal by the National Security Adviser (NSA) General Andrew Azazi, encapsulated in his article in the Washington Times for US assistance in tackling Boko Haram has been viewed with scepticism. This is because there is only so much the most efficient police organizations and intelligence agencies in the world can do in a terrain where little information and little intelligence has been gathered. M15 or CIA can do little in an environment they are not familiar with or where they will stick out like sore thumbs.

After conducting this literature review of sorts, the underlying fact here is that there are deep underlying political issues that need to be resolved. The top echelon of the government clearly has sufficient information to work with, apprehend these sponsors/sympathisers and deal with them accordingly. Whether this means negotiating and sorting out the deep political problems which are clearly bedevilling Nigeria, or apprehending and prosecuting them, ordinary Nigerians simply want an end to the carnage, mayhem and bloodshed lest the looming anarchy descends and prevails.

By Zainab Usman


  • him, na like this we go dey?

  • Freemind says:

    The BOKOM HARAM menace and indeed most problems/menace in the Nigerian society can be easily solved by applying the rules of MINIMUM AND MAXIMUM and RIGHTS and RESPONSIBILITIES. For there to be minimum wage there has to be maximum wage in every place of work so that the top people do not just pay themselves and leaving the lower people empty. If there is minimum voting age/18yrs or for holding political posts/25-45 there also has to be maximum age say 60-65yrs so that people like ATIKU, IBB, TINUBU, OBJ,old politicians, military people, religious fanatics etc can give Nigeria peace. For you to be demanding for your human right you must also be humanly responsible. What human right do BOKOM HARAM mass killers, Murderers, kidnappers etc want from the society? The JUDICIARY should think twice before considering any human right excuses from violent killers/financiers and sponsors.

  • Simon opara says:

    Please mr president employ many people as recruiter in this year like 13 thousand to stop all this boko harm of a thing please

  • ayonthedot says:

    Boko haram!!! when Rev King brutalized one of his church members the other time, Muslims were saying all sort of things concerning the Christians (badly). And Boko Haram even when they are claiming to be Muslims, yet, Muslims are denying them, if they are not Muslim, who are they then?, are they christian? And if Boko Haram have issues with FG, why can’t they bomb Aso Rock or Nat. assembly? why killing innocent Nigerians.
    This advert on any pharmaceutical product, they will say ”if this problem persist, consult your Doctor”. If we cannot handle this people called Boko Haram, it is better if we break up, by then Boko Haram will have all those Northern states for themselves and have their sharia law because Sharia cannot work for every Nigerians.

  • Diran Davis says:

    God is able to deliver us as a nation from all these suicide bombers.

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