How Nigeria’s Boko Haram Crackdown Harms Local Economies

Harsh Trade Restrictions Have Revived Smuggling

A man cycles past a military truck in Maiduguri, Borno State, Nigeria, August 2016. Afolabi Sotunde / REUTERS

Boko Haram’s insurgency against the Nigerian state has devastated much of the Lake Chad Basin. Millions of people have been displaced from their homes in the region, which encompasses parts of Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria, and millions more face food shortages because of the collapse of local agriculture. In 2016, the World Bank estimated that the insurgency’s raids, bombings, and razing of communities throughout the region had caused $9 billion worth of destruction.

The crisis in the Lake Chad Basin has significantly altered the means by which families and communities get by. Less immediately apparent than the insurgency’s destruction are the ways in which the Nigerian government’s desperate attempts to starve Boko Haram of resources has placed an even greater burden on local populations by adding obstacles to the resumption of basic economic activities like farming and trade. In Adamawa State’s capital city of Yola, where Boko Haram has largely been flushed out, conversations with traders, smugglers, and displaced people illustrate the challenges facing communities as they try to rebuild and make do at a time when, regionally, food is scarce and insecurity is abundant. The already difficult tasks of merely finding safe land and sufficient capital to resume farming or trade have been made more difficult by government regulations.

Economic and social redevelopment in the midst of an ongoing insurgency is not easy. Even in areas where Boko Haram has been beaten back, people are struggling to rebuild their homes, restart their lives, and redevelop their economies. The Nigerian government’s advances against the insurgency have been uneven—in some places, control is contested and can change in a matter of days. In the Lake Chad Basin, Boko Haram has made farming difficult and at times impossible for three seasons in some areas, depriving many communities of their livelihoods. Trade routes, too, have been disrupted by the insurgency.

Economic and social redevelopment in the midst of an ongoing insurgency is not easy.

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