African Journal of
Political Science and International Relations

  • Abbreviation: Afr. J. Pol. Sci. Int. Relat.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 1996-0832
  • DOI: 10.5897/AJPSIR
  • Start Year: 2007
  • Published Articles: 390

Full Length Research Paper

Insurgency and humanitarian crises in Northern Nigeria: The case of Boko Haram

Imasuen Emmanuelar
  • Imasuen Emmanuelar
  • Department of Politics and Governance, Kwara State University, Nigeria.
  • Google Scholar

  •  Received: 01 April 2015
  •  Accepted: 13 June 2015
  •  Published: 31 July 2015


Insurgency has become a threat to global peace and security in the 21st century due to the fact that it constitutes the highest contributor to humanitarian crises in the form of rise in human casualties, internally displaced persons, refugee debacles, food insecurity and the spread of various diseases. The paper sets out to analyse the impact of Boko Haram insurgency on humanitarian crises in Northern Nigeria with Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states in focus. It further establishes how the increase in the activities of Boko Haram, continues to generate dire humanitarian consequences to the North East region, the Nigerian society and neighbouring nations at large. This paper adopts the State Fragility theoretical framework as well as the survey method involving the use of questionnaires (the regression technique) and in-depth interview (index matrix and table technique) which focuses on three internally displaced Camps in the region for analysis. The empirical findings indicate that, there is a significant relationship between Boko  Haram insurgency and humanitarian crises, when variables such as impact on human casualties (IHC),  food insecurity (FI) and internally displaced persons (IDP’s) are held constant, while no significant relationship exists when the variables such as loss of livelihood (LoL) and government response(GR) are held constant. By way of recommendation, the paper advocates the need for the Nigerian government to focus more on reducing human casualties, loss of livelihood, food insecurity and more focus on the rehabilitation of internally displaced persons back to the society, in order to nip the threats emanating from the humanitarian crises and Boko Haram insurgency in the bud in the region.


Key words: Boko Haram, insurgency, humanitarian crises, state, security.


Armed conflict prior to the cold war era was seen as war between sovereign states, but since the end of the cold war, the phenomenon armed conflict has transformed into the rise of non-state actors against their own government (Laqueur, 2004). Insurgency which has been seen as the  most  common  type  of  armed  conflict  has posed the greatest threat to global peace and security in the 21th century. Few years ago, insurgency was limited to a few isolated places, such as Northern Ireland, the Basque country in Northern Spain and some areas in the Middle East, but due to the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks as well as the  rise  of  the  Arab  spring, insurgency has degenerated into a global menace (Awake, 2008).

This worldwide manifestations of insurgencies include Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, Hezbollah in Lebanon,  the Syrian Islamic liberation front in Syria, Hamas in Palestine, the Taliban’s in Pakistan etc; Africa which has not been left out from these menace, has become a breeding ground for various insurgencies such as the Al- shabaab in Somalia, the Lord’s Resistance Army in Central African Republic, the M23 Rebels in Democratic Republic of Congo, the National Movement of Azawad (MNLA), the Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb(AQIM) in Mali to mention a few. Thus, the most devastating effects of these insurgencies all over the world have been the high toll of humanitarian crisis in the form  of rise in internally displaced persons(IDP’s), refugee influx, food insecurity, spread of nefarious diseases,  gender and sexual based violence (Hughes, 2012).

The phenomena of insurgency in Nigeria have been evident since her independence in 1960, ranging from the twelve-day revolution by Adaka Boro (1964), to the civil war (1967-1970), to the various ethnic militias such as the O’odua People’s Congress(OPC), the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta(MEND), the Niger-Delta insurgency and the most recent the ”Ahl al sunnali al alDa’wawa al Jihad”, popularly known as Boko Haramwhich has been operating in Northern Nigeria since the early 2000, with its origin linked with the wide spread of socio-economic and religious insecurity among certain communities in the North. Whose activities have unleashed terrible humanitarian crises in North East Nigeria (Fwatshak and Larab, 2004; Ikelegbe, 2010).

The continued increase in the spread of the nefarious activities of the Boko Haram sect in North East Nigeria since 2009 has created adverse humanitarian consequence to the North East region. Life in the various communities of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states, such as Kawuri, Baga, Konduga, Bama, Shuwa, Ajigin, Gamboru, Giwa, Chibok, Gwoza  to mention a few, have been  characteristically nasty, brutish and most times short (Salkida, 2012). The region has ceased to know civil normalcy as a result in the dire humanitarian situation as evident in human casualties, human right abuses, population displacement, refugee debacle, loss of means of livelihood, food insecurity, limited medical facilities and other social amenities. The increasing influx of refugees and the spill over of Boko Haram violence to neighbouring countries over the years had resulted to serious regional security implications, despites the establishment of a Joint Border Patrol Command to address the increasing security challenges attributed to the insurgency (This day, April 16th 2014).

The humanitarian situation in North East Nigeria has further deteriorated, due to the lack of access by various humanitarian agencies to rural areas where these displaced people are, due to indiscriminate violence. This has made it difficult for most humanitarian agencies to respond to the needs of internally displaced persons within these rural areas, making thousands of IDP’s with little access to food, clean water or healthcare in North East Nigeria (IRIN, 2014:14). It is against this backdrop that this paper seeks to examine the various dimensions of humanitarian crisis posed by the Boko Haram in North East Nigeria with Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states in focus.It also seeks to examine the response of government to these humanitarian crises. It further aim at making policy recommendations and proffering sustain-able solutions to these humanitarian crises as well as measures in nipping the Boko Haram menace in the bud, in order to prevent a future re-occurrence of this catastrophic menace in Nigeria.



According to Powell and Abraham (2006), Insurgency refers to a violent move by a person or group of persons to resist or oppose the enforcement of law or running of government or revolt against constituted authority of the state or of taking part in insurrection. Insurgency as defined above becomes violative of the constitution’s criminal law and the international treaty obligations of a nation in the following circumstance:

When it constitutes an attack on defenceless citizens and other property resulting into injuries, loss of lives and properties as well as forced or massive internal displacement of people out of their habitual places of residence. When it drives business/investors away from an insecure area and also when it constitutes domestic and international crimes punishable by law such as treasonable felony, terrorism, murder, crimes against humanity and genocide (Powell and Abraham, 2006).

Traditionally however, insurgencies seek to overthrow an existing order with one that is commensurate with their political, economic, ideological or religious goals (Gompert and Gordon 2008). According to Kilcullen, “Insurgency is a struggle to control a contested political space, between a state (or a group of states or occupying powers), and one or more popularly based, non-state challengers”. He further draws a line between classical and contemporary insurgencies indicating that the latter seek to replace the existing order, while the former sometimes strive for the expulsion of foreign invaders from their territory or seek to fill an existing power vacuum (Kilcullen, 2006).


Humanitarian crisis

Humanitarian crisis is seen as any situation in which life or well-being will be threatened unless immediate and appropriate action is taken and which demands an extraordinary response and exceptional measures. The concern is with the prevention of threats to life or well-being through timely and appropriate action (Macrae, 2002). Similarly, Harmer (2003) identifies humanitarian crisis as any situation in which there is an exceptional and widespread threat to life, health or basic subsistence that is beyond the coping capacity of individuals and the community. This implies the need for intervention and response that go beyond the relief of symptoms and that might extend to support to livelihoods and the diversification of coping strategies.

Ahumanitarian crisis is seen as a singular event or series of events that are threatening in terms of health, safety or well-being of a community or large group of people. Humanitarian crisis can be either natural disasters, man-made disasters or complex emergencies which occur as a result of several factors that prevent a large group of people from accessing their fundamental needs, such as food, clean water or safe shelter (Alexander, 2002).



This denotes a situation which provides national and international conditions favourable to the protection of a nation, state and its citizens against existing and potential threats (Held, 1998). This is seen as the acquisition, deployment and use of military force to achieve national goals. It cuts across many disciplines covering military protection, surveillance, protection of national values and human rights. It is also seen as the absence of threats to acquired values and the absence of fear that such values will be attacked.

Baldwin (1997) conceptualizes security from the traditional perspective, where he notes that traditional security is equated to state’s commitment to enhance its military in the defence of national core valves such as sovereignty and territorial integrity. Nwolise(2009) notes that security involves the deployment and use of military resources by society to sustain its valves in the face of threats and challenges from both internal and external sources (Nwolise, 2009). Richmond (2012) sees the modern perspective of security as a shift from the state-centric to people-centric approach, where the human population are regarded as reference for security. He advocates efforts to neutralize threats to human security by ameliorating the effects of poverty, unemployment, armed conflicts(diseases, hunger, refugee debacles) and human rights violation on the population (Richmond, 2012).



This is the supreme legitimate authority entrusted with the exercise   of   violent   force   over   a   group    of   people (Rasmussen, 2001). A state is a permanent specialized organization of men armed with rules and means of coercion for maintaining order over a population in a defined territory over which this organization exercise power (Ekanem, 2001).  A state is composed of a set of interconnected and coordinated institutions that are concerned with the organization of power and the structured domination and ordering of society. States essentially monopolize certain powers and rules, the making and execution of binding rules, the control and utilization of institutional of organized violence, the legitimate use of physical force, the extraction of resources including taxation of citizens, the right to political allegiance of citizens, the right of adjudication and mediation in disputes between citizens and the right of representative in the international community (Ibaba and Ikelegbe, 2010).

This study is anchored on theState fragility theory. The UK Department for the Development(United Kingdom, 2005) sees state fragility from the humanitarian point of view, where the government cannot or will not deliver core functions to the majority of its people including the poor. He further sees a fragile state as the insecurity of the ruling elites which leads to the victimization of some or all of a nation’s citizens as experienced by the Taliban’s in Afghanistan. The state fragility theory stresses the fundamental failure of a state to perform functions necessary to meet citizen’s basic needs and expectations. It also shows the incapability of government in assuring basic security, maintaining rule of law and justice, or providing basic services and economic opportunities for their citizens. The centrality of state fragility theory posits weak and ineffective central government with little practical control over much of its territory; non-provision of public services widespread corruption and criminality; refugees and involuntary movement of populations (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2008).

Rotberg (2003) notes that in a fragile state, there is a tendency for increased criminal violence which further weakens the states’ authority. He further notes that fragile states are usually associated with tensed, deeply conflicted and dangerous warring factions which most times leads to breakdown of law and order, increased humanitarian  disaster, which concerns not only the people directly affected, but also others in the country as well as people in neighbouring states. As Gros (1996) notes, ethnic genocide in Rwanda and the Balkans or flight of Haitians to Florida can hardly be ignored by the international community. Torres and Anderson (2004) argue that conflicts, humanitarian crises, human right violations, constitute to the global and local impact of fragile states.

Collier et al. (2003) identify three ripple effects that emerge from armed conflict: they are the internal effects (as a result of the burdens of internally displaced persons), the regional effects (as a result of the burden of refugees  influx)  and  the  global  effect  (as   a   result  of foreign interventionists). According to him, these three ripple effectsgenerate unique challenges. While the internal effects constitutes problem of food insecurity, loss of means of livelihood, rise in displacement of people, the regional effect constitute spread of contagious diseases across borders from the inflow of refugees and the global effect constitute the growth in narcotics trade across borderssponsored by foreign non state actors. As Hentz (2004) notes that such spill overs have occurred in both West Africa (from Liberia) and East Africa (from Democratic Republic of Congo).

This paper adopts the State fragility theory to explain the phenomena, Boko Haram and humanitarian crises in North East Nigeria. It shows the failure and weakness of the Nigerian state in ensuring security and practical control over her vast territories in North East region which has been threatened by the Boko Haram insurgency. As well as her inability to guarantee the safety of citizens in the North East region, which has led to increase in internally displaced people, refugee debacle and growth in narcotics (in line with collier et al 2003). The failure of the government in promptly addressing the needs of the internally displaced persons in terms of provision of food, shelter, source of livelihood and general rehabilitation back into the society further affirms Nigeria with the fragility syndrome.The  activities of the Boko Haram sect has increased humanitarian crises in North East Nigeria especially in the form of food insecurity, leading to rise in prices of stable foods within the nation and dairy products in neighbouring nations of Chad, Niger and Cameroon. This continues to increase the rate of refugee influx and adverse economic and security implications (in line with Rotberg, 2003). These are all indicators of fragility which the Nigerian government has not adequately addressed.


Overview of insurgency and humanitarian crisis

Since the end of the cold war, there has been a proliferation of humanitarian crisis known as a complex emergency. These are man-made crises as a result of armed conflict or insurgency which further causes human fatalities, forced displacements, epidemics and famine. The rise of insurgency in any nation, is as a result of several indicators such as poverty, social inequality, poor governance, state fragility and food insecurity and its major consequences is the various forms of humanitarian crises ranging from forced displacement, high rates of diseases and food crises (Hughes, 2012).

According to Le Roch et al. (2010), the insurgency and sectarian violence in Iraq led to a deepening humanitarian crisis which created about two million Iraqi IDPs within and over two million Iraqi refugee’s influx into Jordan, Syria and other neighbouring states in the year 2007. He further indicates how in subsequent years, the Iraqi government ministries have helped in providing assistance to the IDPs through the Ministry of Displacement and Migration (MODM), the Ministry of Education  in charge of registering school children whom have been displaced. The sectarian crisis in Mali has increased humanitarian crisis since 2012, where thousands of IDPs compete for scarce resources. The food insecurity constitutes a major challenge to the Malian government in adequately responding to the humanitarian crisis (Collins, Myatt and Golden, 1998). According to Collins (1993), over one million Somalis have become internally displaced as a result of armed conflicts, this has increased food insecurity, limited access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH),  limited  access to medical facilities, outbreaks of diseases and sexual violence among women at various IDP camps (Collins,1993).

The armed conflict in Central African Republic since 2013 has brought about severe humanitarian consequences. The total population in need of assistance is about two million, including 533,000 IDPs. The CAR government responses have been in the provision of an integrated life-saving assistance particularly to internally displaced persons’(IDPs), to reinforce the protection of civilians, rebuild affected communities resilience and to provide reconciliation and rehabilitation of CAR refugees (Gonzaga, 2012). Retaonal and Aedo-Richmod (1998) see education is an integral part of humanitarian responses and stress on the need for children to enhance their education even in the midst of armed conflict. Anderson and Mendenhall (2006) note that a safe learning environment can shield children from everyday physical violence of a conflict, as education provides cognitive protection by supporting intellectual development, conflict reduction and peace building skills.

The international agencies with collaboration with various host government have been responsible for formal education programme for refugees and internal displaced persons in  various camp settings to provide rehabilitation through various educational programme such as, Care international in Afghanistan, Kenya, Sudan and Zambia, the International Rescue Committee in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra- Leone and Uganda, Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), in Pakistan, Plan International in Sierra Leone, Save the Children in Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan (Lindblad and Johannesson, 2002). According to Willie (2005), the Demobilization, Dis-armament and Rehabilitation Programme (DDR) constitutes another humanitarian response programme with education components, aimed to protect school-aged children, youths and adults who have suffered from armed conflicts or have been forcefully conscripted into fighting forces and armed groups. The DDR programme has also been successful in Somalia, Rwanda and Sudan, where child and youth soldiers have been aided into formal schools to disarm and rehabilitate them back into the society (during transition from war to peace).


What is boko haram?

The Islamic group  which  is  better  known  by  its  Hausa name “Boko Haram” was a local radical Salafist group which later transformed into a Salafist-Jihadist terrorist organization after year 2009. The phrase Boko Haram is derived from a combination of both an Hausa word Boko (book) and Arabic word, Haram (forbidden) meaning “Western education is forbidden”. The Boko Haram is also called Jama’tuAhlisSunnaLidda’awatiwal-Jihad which means in English “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad” (Cook, 2013).


The evolution of boko haram insurgency in North east Nigeria

Boko Haram is a fundamental Islamist sect, formed in 2002 in Maiduguri capital of Borno state by Mohammed Yusuf. Prior to the origin of the Boko Haram sect, group of young men began to assemble in the mid 1990’s led by Abubakar Lawan and later Aminu TashenIllimi. The ideology of the Boko Haram sect under Mohammed Yusuf was basically the opposition of Western education, political philosophy which sought to overthrow the government and implement sharia throughout the country. According to Yusuf, he perceived that the system of government based on ‘Western values’ has resulted in the increase in corruption, poverty, unemployment and continued suppression of true Islam (Bartolotta, 2012).

In 2009, a deadly violence broke out in North East Nigeria between government troops and members of the Boko Haram sect, which resulted in huge civilian casualties, the police and the army retaliated with a five day assault against the sect which led to the death of Yusuf and hundreds of Boko Haram members, with the death of Yusuf the leader of the Boko Haram sect in 2009, the sect underwent a period of transformation as the former deputy Abubakar Biri Muhammed Shekau assumed the leadership of the sect in 2010, as the sect re-emerged as a major security threat to the Nigerian stability as since then till date, it has organized series of deadly attacks which has expanded the sect’s area of operation from north east state to all the northern states including the federal capital territory of Abuja, their methods of attacks including development of armed gunmen on motorcycles, suicide bombers, vehicles-borne improvised explosives(VBIEDS) etc. Its attacks targeted at churches, mosques, government agencies, security apparatuses, financial and international institutions (Olafioye, 2013). 


Dimensions of humanitarian crises in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states Nigeria from 2009 to 2014 impact on human casualties

According to the human Rights Watch (2014), Boko Haram insurgency has led to the high rate of human casualties, as thousands of deaths  have  been  recorded from 2009 to 2014. This have turned majority of women into widows and children into orphans in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states. According to the Nigerian Security Tracker 2014, there have been 64 incidence of terror attacks by the Boko Haram sect in the North East region since 2009-2014, with different methods of attacks ranging from Armed attacks, Bombing and Explosions, Midnight/Terror attacks, Mass murder/Suicide raid, Assassination/Murder and Abductions.  These attacks have claimed the lives of not less than two thousand three hundred and twenty people in 2009 and three thousand in 2010. In 2011, not less than three thousand five hundred and sixty lives lost and three thousand seven hundred in 2012. Four thousand four hundred and twenty lives lost in 2013 and in 2014, not less than five thousand lives have been lost (Nigerian Security Tracker: 2014).


Impact on the population

The rise in the activities of the sect has brought about adverse effect on the population especially on women and children evident in the increased number of widows and orphans in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states (BBC News 21st May 2013). The rise in gender and sexual based violence has been on the increase due to the increased activities of the sect since 2009.Gender and sexual based violence is believed to be a widespread phenomenon among female internally displaced persons(IDP’s) both at various camps and in host communities (International Displacement Monitoring Centre, May, 2014).


Rise in displacement of people in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States

Over the years since 2009, the activities of the Boko Haram sect, has increased the displacement of people from Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states in the form of internally displaced persons(IDP’s) fleeing to safer havens within the nation and refugees fleeing into neighbouring nations like Niger, Chad and Cameroun. It has been noted that majority of these persons constitute women and children (International Regional Information Networks, 14 March 2014).

According toUnited Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) 2014report, there have been steady rise in internally displaced persons from Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states. From 2009 to 2010 IDP’s rose to 100,000 and from 2010 to 2011 it increased to 130,000. From 2011 to 2012, the number of IDP’s rose to200,000. From 2012 to 2013 IDP’s grew to 290,000 and from May 2013 to March 2014 it decreased slightly to 250,000. From May-June 2014, it rose again to 436,608 and from August to December  IDP’s  drastically rose to over 600,000 persons (UN OCHA, 2014). The increased activities of the Boko Haram sect have increased the influx of Nigerian refugees into neighbouring nations over the years.

It has been estimated that there are over 30,000 Nigerian refugees in Northern Cameroun, 1,000 Nigerian refugees in Chad (on Lake Chads Choua Island) and more than 50,000 Nigerian refugees in the Diffa region of South East Niger (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, March 2014).


The breakdown of IDP’s from Adamawa, Yobe and Borno states in January/March 2014

Table 1 shows the statistics released in January/ March 2014 by National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), a total number of 66,826 registered IDP’s in Adamawa state, while in Borno state, a total number of 106,098 registered IDP’s and  in  Yobe  state  a  total  of  76,354  registered IDP’s.





The breakdown of IDP’s From Adamawa, Yobe and Borno States in May/ June 2014

Table 2 shows statistics released in May/June 2014 by the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally displaced persons (NCREMIDS), total number of registered IDPs in Adamawa State was 102,560 while in Borno State, the total IDP registered was 257,694 and in Yobe State, the total number of IDP registered was 76,354. 





Rise in foodd insecurity in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States

According to Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWSNET), since January 2014, Borno and Yobe have been facing critical acute food insecurity (IPC phase 3)and Adamawa state equally facing stressed acute food insecurity (IPC phase 2). It further showed how the conflict in the North East had strained the 250,000 internally displaced persons (IDP’s) in the region, who have reverted to negative and unsustainable coping strategies. Meal consumption has reportedly decreased from three meals to one per day and many IDPs have abandoned their farms and agricultural activities due tothe insecurity with many farms in the state. IDP host families have reportedly exhausted their food stocks and have resorted to eating grain reserved as seedlings for the next planting season.


Rise in poor living conditions of internally displaced peoples in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States

An assessment conducted by National Emergency Management  Agency  (NEMA),  in  March   2014,  a report that in Borno state 70% of IDP’s living with host families responded that water and sanitation facilities are overstretched as a result of influx of population from high risk LGAs to low risk LGAs. In Yobe State 60% of the IDP’s living with host families responded that access to good water and sanitation in the LGAs covered is adequate and in Adamawa state, 65% of IDP’s living with host families responded that the per capital availability of water supply had decreased from an estimated pre-crisis availability of 75 liters per person a day to an average of 20 liters per person a day and that access to water treatment chemicals has also become increasingly difficult as well as Water utilities establishments in most parts of the affected local governments have become moribund (National Emergency Management Agency, 2014).

The poor living conditions in the IDP camps has become of great concern. Report from both domestic and international agencies have shown that these camps since 2009 have lacked adequate facilities in addition to their poor sanitation and increase in the rise of diseases such as Malaria, acute watery diarrhea, measles and   pregnancy    related    issues.   (International Regional Information Networks, 29 November, 2013).


Response to the humanitarian crisis in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States

National response

1. The signing of AU IDP Convention by the Nigerian Government on October 2009 in Uganda to protect and assist IDPs especially those in north east Nigeria.

2. The role of National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and State Emergency Manage-ment Agency (SEMA) through the coordination of emergency relief operation to IDPs and the distribution of agricultural inputs to farmers to boost food security in North East Nigeria.

3. The establishment of Strategic Response Plan by National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), since 2013 at various communities in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States to cater for the humanitarian needs such as food insecurity, malnutrition and epidemics to displaced persons.

4. The establishment of a five years developmental plan (2010-2015) under NCFR with the respon-sibility for overseeing all IDPs and refugee matter in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States.


International response

1. The Role of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) through the strengthening of its field operations in communities in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states in the expansion of community-based first-aid programme and the mobilization of urgent water/sanitation initiatives since 2011 to date.

2. The provision of medical aid, clean water, food and other essential household items to help meet the immediate needs of displaced persons at various communities of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states.

3. The upgrading of water/sanitation infrastructures in various camps where IDPs commonly sought refuge, delivering long-term community benefits as well as the donation of medical/surgical materials to various health centers.

4. Helped in the coordination with national/state emergency agencies in various sexual and gender based programmes to help reduce the rate of gender based violence at various IDP camps.

5. The increase in the provision of deliveries of supplies and services such as food, shelter, health, water, sanitation and hygiene(WASH) and nutrition to the growing influx of Nigerian refugees in Chad, Niger and Cameroun since 2013. (International Committee of the Red Cross, 31th July, 2013).


Challenges to humanitarian response in North east Nigeria

Absence of humanitarian law and policy framework in Nigeria to clearly define the roles and responsibilities of humanitarian agencies hampers the coordination of various humanitarian efforts. The lack of systematic data collection continues to pose serious challenge of difficulty in estimating the exact total number of displaced people in need as well as the lack of access to rural areas by various humanitarian agencies due to its volatility (Global IDP Project  9th May, 2014).


This study involves the survey research method, which is seen as a study of the characteristics of a sample through questioning that enables a researcher to make generalizations concerning his population of interest.The data for the study include secondary and primary sources. The secondary data comprise of journals, newspapers, magazines, reports and the internet while the primary data comprise of the use of questionnaires and in-depth interviews (IDIS). Thepopulation of the study comprises of 10,000 internally displaced persons(IDP’s), fromNYSC internally displaced camp in Borno State, Shuwa and Tingo Primary School internally displaced camps in Adamawa state. The purposive sampling technique is used in the selection of the three IDP camps due to the volatility of the North East zone and their easy accessibility to the researcher.

15% was drawn from the population, creating a sample of 1,500 internally displaced persons(IDP’s) and 500 respondents were selected from each from the three camps based on a simple random sampling of Gall and Borg (2002). The instrument for data collection is the questionnaireand in-depth interview. The questionnaire is structured into two main sections, section A focuses on the bio-data of respondents while section B cover questions such asdisplacement, food insecurity, loss of livelihood, living conditions in camps and the responses of government, as they relate to respondents.The in-depth interview is administered to five officials from National Emergency Management Agency and five officials from International Committee of the Red Cross (Adamawa district).

The following hypotheses are stated in their null:

H01: There is no relationship between Boko Haram insurgency and the rise in the incidence of internally displaced persons (IDP’s) and refugees in North East Nigeria.

H02: There is no relationship between Boko Haram insurgency and food insecurity in North East Nigeria.

H03: There is no relationship between the Boko Haram insurgency and violence against women and children in North East Nigeria.

H04: There is no relationship between Non-Governmental Organi-zations  (NGOs),   International   Non-Governmental   Organizations (INGOs) response and reduction in humanitarian crisis in North East Nigeria.

H05: There is no relationship between government response and humanitariancrisis in North East Nigeria.

The data from the questionnaires wereanalyzed quantitatively with the use of regression techniques. The regression technique includes the use of ordinary least squared (OLS) to know the significant or non- significant relationship among variables in the hypotheses raised in the study.The model specified captures the impact of insurgency (Boko Haram) on humanitarian crisis in North East Nigeria. The dependent variable is humanitarian crisis, while the independent variable is the Boko Haram Insurgency evident in various indicators such as the Impact of human casualties, loss of livelihood, food insecurity, internally displaced persons, living conditions and government response, these indicators act as a function to the Boko Haram Insurgency. The functional form of the model is specified thus:

HCS =f (BHI) -        -               -               -               -               -           (1)

HCS = f (IHC, LOL, FI, IDP, LC, GR)     -               -               -           (2)

Therefore, the model is stated as follows:

HCS = d0 + d1 IHC + d2 LOL + d3 FI + d4 IDP + d5 LC + d6 GR + U                -               -      (3)


HCS =Humanitarian crisis

BHI = Boko Haram Insurgency

IHC = Impact on Human Casualties

LOL = Loss of Livelihood

IDP = internally displaced persons

FI = Food insecurity

LC = Living condition

GR = Government response

U = Error term

d1, d2, d3, < 0, d4, d5, d6 > 0: are the a-priori expectations of the signs of the parameters of the model.

The in-depth interview was analysed quantitatively through the use of Index matrix and table technique.


Background demographic information

In the Sex distribution, the female respondents (72, 70 and 74%) constitute the major number of responses from Nysc, Shuwa and Tingo internally displaced (IDP) camps.From the Marital status distribution, respondents within the married bracket constitute major responses of (56, 50 and 48%) from Nysc, Shuwa and Tingo camps respectively (Table 3). From the Age distribution, respondents within 26-50years bracket (54%, 60% and 54%) constitute the major responses from Nysc, Shuwa and Tingo camps respectively. Respondents from the farming bracket constitute the major responses in the Occupational distribution while respondents from the Islam bracket constitute major responses in Nsc and Shuwa camp and respondents from the Christian bracket constitute major responses in Tingo IDP camp in the Religion distribution. From the State of residence, respondents from BornoState constitutes the highest responses, while under the Years of residence, respondents under 16yearsand above, constitute highest responses and lastly, from the Awareness distribution, respondents under yes bracket constitute the major responses from Nysc, Shuwa and Tingo IDP camps respectively.





The outcomes from the questionnaires reveal that 90% of the respondents in the three sampled IDP camps agree that the Boko Haram insurgency has increased the rise in internally displaced person’s (IDP’s).Similarly, 85% of the respondents agree that the Boko Haram insurgency has increased food insecurity. 80% of respondents from the sampled camps agree that  the  Boko  Haram insurgency has increased violence against women and children. 70 and 50% of the respondents agree that the Boko Haram insurgency has increased the rate of Human casualties and loss of livelihoods respectively,  in the three sampled IDP camps. 60% of respondents  agree to the low response from humanitarian agencies and government in reducing the humanitarian crises in North East Nigeria.


Results from the regression analysis and index matrix and tables

The result in Table 4 from NYSC Camp shows the R square value for the model is relatively high at 0.633 and the F-value is significant at the 5percent level. Thus, the hypothesis of a significant relationship among the variables cannot be rejected .In terms of significance, the coefficients of IHC, FI, and IDP are significant at the 5 percent level. This indicates that these factors have strong effects on humanitarian crises in the NYSC camp. The coefficients of LOL, LC and GR fail the significance test and indicate that they do not have significant impact on humanitarian crisis in the camp. The result in Table 5 in Shuwa camp shows that the R square value for the model is relatively high at 0.501 and the F-value is significant at the 5percent level, thus, the hypothesis of a significant relationship between the variables is therefore accepted. The results also show that each of the coefficients is significant at the 5 percent level (except that of GR) thereby indicating that these insurgency outcomes are critical stimulating factors in humanitarian crises. The effect of government response however fails the test at the 5 percent level and therefore indicate that the responses by government do not have significant impact on the humanitarian crises at the Shuwa camp.  





The results in Table 6 in Tingo Camp show that each of the coefficients is also significant at the 5 percent level (except that of GR), suggesting that humanitarian conditions in the area have been worsened by the Boko Haram crisis. The effect of government response however fails the test at the 5 percent level and therefore indicate that the responses by government do not have significant impact on the humanitarian crises at the Tingo camp





Results from the analysed interview schedule show that 95% of officials from National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) agree that the Boko Haram insurgency has brought about negative impact on the population in North East Nigeria in terms of rise in human casualties, internally displaced persons and food insecurity. Similarly, 80% of officials from National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) agree that the living conditions at various IDP camps as well as the responses from humanitarian agencies and government have not been satisfactory and suggest room to do more.


The results obtained from the regression analysis indicate that, food insecurity, human casualty and displacement appears to be the most resounding humanitarian effects of Boko Haram insurgency in Nysc, Shuwa and Tingo IDP camps. Currently, livelihood conditions have not topped the agenda, but when variables like human casualties and displacementare not attended to, they fester livelihood related issues that may lead to more deleterious challenges.

The results from the regression analysis and the index matrix further show that Government responses in addressing the humanitarian crises do not seem to have made any positive impact on those affected, there is the need for humanitarian agencies and government to step up their activities to match the rising humanitarian crises in North East Nigeria. The challenge of Nigerian government would be in boosting food security, educational and vocational programmes among IDP’s in North East Nigeria (in line with Retaonal and Aedo-Richmod, 1998; Anderson and Mendenhall, 2006).


This research work explores the nexus between the Boko Haram insurgency and humanitarian crises in North East Nigeria from 2009-2014. Findings indicate that, there is a significant relationship between Boko Haram insurgency and humanitarian crises, when variables such as impacton human casualties (IHC), food insecurity (FI) and internally displaced persons (IDP’s) are held constant, thus, research hypothesis (HR) is accepted. While no significant relationship when the variables such as loss of livelihood (LoL) and government response (GR) are held constant, thus, null hypothesis (HO) is accepted. To effectively respond to the humanitarian and Boko Haram uprising in Northern Nigeria, especially in the North East region, the Nigerian state should adopt a comprehensive approach which should entail the following;


1. Practical efforts should be made by the Nigerian government through agencies like National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and State Emergency Management Agency(SEMA) in building more internally displaced person’s (IDP’s) camps that are more conducive in terms of availability of proper water, sanitation, hygiene, (WASH)and food accessibility to IDPs as well as the establishment of vocational and educational programmes that would aid internally displaced person’s(IDP’s) in full rehabilitation back to the society.

2. The Nigerian government should carryout Amnesty programs which should include the willingness and readiness of Boko Haram members to surrender their arms, unconditionally renounce terrorism and sign an undertaking to this effect. In return, the Nigerian government must pledge its commitment to institute and adhere strictly to programs that would assist their disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation as well as reintegration.

3. The government should also work towards improving the economy in the North, especially in the North East region. The presence of the Lake Chad and vast number of arable lands should be capitalized to boost Agricultural activities; this would create more employment for youths and   reduce   the  unemployment  menace  especially  in North East Nigeria.

4. The Nigerian government should embark on more viable programmes like free education especially in rural areas in the North East region. More efforts should be put in place to strengthen the establishment of more Almajiri (child street beggar) schools and involve courses like peace education to re-orientate children and youths on the need to live in peace and harmony with each other.

5. The Nigerian government should invest heavily in family planning programmes, this should be concentrated more in rural areas especially in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states where people are often poor, illiterate and with lots of children(ranging from 10-20)  they cannot cater for. This programme would allow for parents to give birth to children they can adequately provide and cater for(maximum of four children) without them constituting a menace of street begging and thereby reducing the tendency of being recruited as foot/child soldiers by the Boko Haram sect.

6. The Nigerian security personnel should be properly enhanced especially when it comes to ranging issues such as welfare packages, salary schemes and post- traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among officers. All these if properly kept in focus would enable the security personnel in effectively carrying out their role in counter insurgency against the Boko Haram sect.

7. The Nigerian government alongside with regional government should work out effective modalities to tighten up border security. These governments should also work out modalities to cutting the sources of insurgents’ supply of arms and funds; this would go a long way in curtailing the Boko Haram activities around the Lake Chad basin.

8. Top Muslim Imams and all other Religious figures in the North also have a great role to play in eradicating the Boko Haram menace. The bulks of the Boko Haram members are destitute without any form of education and are easily hoodwinked and lured into terrorism and suicidal acts by virtue of their Religious inclination. The Imams have a great role in re-orientating the Muslim youth against violence. Both Christian and Muslim leaders should work hand in hand, preaching more on love, peaceful co-existence.


The author has not declared any conflict of interests.


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