Kidnapping of the Chibok Girls

The abduction of the Chibok girls is probably one of the greatest atrocities meted by Boko Haram on innocent civilians. Therefore, it is important for Nigeria to know the cause of the group’s oppressive behavior and undeterred efforts to undermine any form of modernity so that it can develop effective methods of dealing with them. The direct meaning of Boko Haram is “education is forbidden;” however, its members posit that its mission is to reject all forms of Western culture, including education (Habila, 2016). Accordingly, the kidnapping of the Chibok girls was due to the retrogressive and oppressive nature of Boko Haram that aimed at stopping the spread of modernity, including women education and empowerment.
The name Boko Haram comes from merging two Hausa words, “Boko” which means book and “Haram” which refers to forbidden. Therefore, the literal meaning of the name is “education is forbidden.” However, its broader meaning is “Western culture is forbidden.” According to the group, the latter definition is more appropriate since it represents its members’ belief in the supremacy of Islamic culture (Habila, 2016). Boko Haram’s mission is to fight all forms of Western education and colonial social organization, which degraded earlier forms Islamic jihadist state that existed in northern Nigeria.
In the conservative Hausa community, which has a significant number of Boko Haram members, women are not allowed to mingle with men; however, Westernization permits them to associate with the latter. These interactions, which are emboldened by the increase in cinema and advancement in communication technology, have been accused of introducing non-Islamic behaviors such as prostitution and homosexuality into the region (Onapajo & Uzodike, 2012). Islamic extremists find educated individuals to be tolerant to these behaviors because knowledge promotes the independence of thoughts. Therefore, the attack on the Chibok girls was to some extent an attempt by Boko Haram to fight education.
The chronic poverty, ignorance, corruption, and unemployment in northern Nigeria, where Boko Haram is highly present, is another factor for increased dissent on education. Four of the poorest states in Nigeria have Islam as the dominant religion and are all in the north (Agbiboa, 2013). In 2008, the former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria noted that poverty rates in some northern states were as high as 95% (Onapajo & Uzodike, 2012). The hardships are aggravated by deteriorating social services and a dwindling productive base of the northern economy. In earlier years, 19 out every 20 northerners made their income from agriculture; therefore, economic liberalization, which resulted in the importation of cheap Western goods stifled the region’s economy (Onapajo & Uzodike, 2012). This situation was coupled with the introduction of the Monetary Fund’s Structural Adjustment Policy (SAP), which led to the collapse of the agriculture economy (Onapajo & Uzodike, 2012). The high levels of unemployment, chronic poverty, and limited opportunities in northern Nigeria have made most individuals easy targets for Boko Haram. Also, the increased dissent for Western culture has caused most people to because tolerant of groups that undermine social progress.
Boko Haram does not a represent the entire Islamic faith. In fact, Islam does not advocate the use of violence on non-Muslims or its members (Habila, 2016). In fact, due to the accommodative nature of Islam, there were many churches in the north before the emergence of Boko Haram (Habila, 2016). Moreover, there are even splinter groups in Boko Haram which denounce the combative behavior of the some of its members. Agbiboa (2013) notes that Boko Haram has split into three factions: one that is moderate and advocates for an end to violence; another that wants a peace agreement; and a hard-liner group that wants to establish strict Sharia law. He also says that in 2011, a group called Yusufiyya Islamic Movement denounced other Boko Haram factions as “evil” (Agbiboa, 2013). The continued rejection of Boko Haram by Muslims shows that it does not represent Islam.
Due to the multi-dimensional factors that have led to the emergence of extremism in the northern Nigeria, the government should diversify its approach to the Boko Haram menace. Religious leaders should guide their followers from uninformed terrorist groups. The government should also address the grueling problem of unemployment and poverty in the region. At the state level, the local government should protect local cultures and economies to avoid neo-liberal globalization. Finally, Nigeria should build its military capacity so that it can effectively combat the Boko Haram militia group.
Questions to Professor Habila

  1. Based on your experience in Nigeria, has westernization resulted in more evil than good to northerners?
  2. Can a soft approach such as negotiation and signing of peace agreements be more efficient than the current use of military in stopping the insurgency in north Nigeria and in solving the underlying social-economic problems?


Agbiboa, D. (2013). The Relative deprivation perspective. African Conflict and Peacebuilding Review, 3(1), 144-157.
Habila, H. (2016). The Chibok girls: The Boko Haram kidnappings and Islamist militancy in Nigeria. New York, NY: Columbia Global Reports.
Onapajo, H., & Uzodike U. (2012). Boko Haram terrorism in Nigeria. African Security Review, 21(3), 24-43.

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