Social neglect may be the major cause of terrorism in Nigeria

Terrorism is defined as the deliberate creation and exploitation of fear through violence or the threat of violence in the pursuit of political change. According to Professor Bruce Hoffman, terrorism is specifically designed to have far-reaching psychological effects beyond the immediate victim(s) or object of the terrorist attack. It is meant to instil fear within, and thereby coerce, a wider “target audience” that might include a rival ethnic or religious group, an entire country, a national government or political party, or public opinion in general. Through the publicity generated by their violence, terrorists seek to obtain the leverage, influence and power they otherwise lack to effect political change on either a local or an international scale. Although some might surmise that poverty causes violence, the link between terrorism and development, is by no means self-evident. In fact, many countries the world over are presently battling with this obstacle despite good economic development such as the United States, United Kingdom and France.

The savage killings and wanton destruction of property that characterised the recent terror attacks in some North Eastern states have left a shell-shocked nation and many commentators scratching their heads and searching for answers to the Boko Haram question. The carnage has left in its wake hundreds of dead bodies and charred remains of vehicles dotting streets with many public buildings up in smoke. This is not the Nigeria many of us dreamt of or grew up to know. In the Niger Delta, acts of terrorism have in the past been committed, altering our way of life and affecting our economic development and prosperity. These questionable acts were initiated by what may be described as honest attempts at ensuring the people of the region participated economically in the wealth that was not only obtained from the region but also destroyed its ecosystem. However, like we know purist systems could be hijacked by persuasion and radicals.


Social development, in addition to military operation would bring peace

Obviously there are several causes of increasing acts of violence and there is a need to find the root causes of this growing threat to save the country and to save our next generations from being victims of terrorism. The main causes of terrorism are believed to be poverty, unemployment, injustice, corruption and most importantly lack of education.

The country could take some steps to ensure peace and end to militancy and insurgencies. While the military operation may put a stop to the insurgency, it would only be temporary. Some other things that the government could do simultaneously are to improve on social developments and generate employment.

Social and economic development policies can weaken local support for terrorist activities. Social and economic development policies can contribute to the expansion of a new middle class in communities within the region that have traditionally lent support to terrorist groups. In many cases, this section of the population has recognized the economic benefits of peace and, as a result, has worked to inhibit local support for terrorist activities.

Many terrorist organizations attract new members from communities in which terrorism is generally considered a viable response to perceived grievances. Social and economic development policies can help to reduce the pools of potential recruits by reducing their perceived grievances and providing the members of these communities with viable alternatives to terrorism.

For social and economic policies to be effective, they need to be funded according to the relative size, geography, and needs of targeted communities. If development initiatives lack sufficient financial support, they are likely to act as a double-edged sword, erroneously inflating the hopes and aspirations of local communities. When these expectations are not met, there is a high chance that social and economic policies will backfire, triggering resentment and renewed support for terrorist violence.

The most successful social and economic development policies are those that are developed in consultation with community leaders, based on needs assessments that address the specific requirements of targeted communities, and accompanied by disbursement mechanisms that ensure proper fiscal management and non-partisanship.

Development assistance can be made conditional on the absence of violence, creating a useful “stick” to discourage support for terrorists. Overuse of this tool, however, carries the risk of negating the overall positive effect of development policies.

Although social and economic development—when properly supported and implemented—can inhibit terrorism, development alone cannot eliminate it. Development is most effective when it is incorporated into a multipronged approach that includes wider political, military, and community-relations dimensions. These qualifications aside, there is a noteworthy potential for development policies to reduce the threat of terrorism.

Finally, lack of education generally forces young men to join hands with anti-social elements. There is a dire need to create opportunities for people so that they could educate their children. If youngsters are given education at low or no cost, the threat of becoming radicalised can be reduced. The various state governments should therefore be focusing on building more schools and supporting education more as a necessary action to make the region safe from current and future terrorism.

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