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Terrorism as a Means of Coercion

Terrorism is “the systematic use of fear especially as a means of coercion. Its aim is to get people scared.” It is a “strategy of intimidation and violence.”1 Terrorism as a premeditated, political motivated violence, perpetrated against non combatant targets by sub national groups, usually intended to influence an audience; political violence in an asymmetrical conflict that is designed to induce terror and psychic fear through the violent victimization and destruction of non combatant targets. Terrorism is a global menace. It is indeed, a scourge which needs to be frontally confronted. It is a violation of our fundamental human rights, especially the right to life and that of peaceful coexistence.2 The terror and tragedies that terrorists unleash on innocent and unsuspecting citizens pose a serious threat the stability of all societies. It threatens existing democratic institution. Emerging democracies are very vulnerable to tragedies which such terrorist attacks cause, that is why the international community must be very determined and firmed in their resolve to confront and defeat terrorist, their network and collaborators. Increase of terrorist activities has a significant effect on a nation’s security in which they take place.3 

Global Terrorism 

Attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, on September 11, 2001, provided a grim reminder of Osama bin Laden’s reputation as the godfather of global terrorism. The Afghanistan-based millionaire and his umbrella organization of international terrorist groups, al-Qaeda, were soon identified as the prime suspects in the attacks. Intelligence analysts have linked bin Laden and al-Qaeda to a series of attacks, many of them in his self-declared jihad against the United States. American intelligence experts regard Osama bin Laden as a major funder of terrorist groups involved in the following attacks: firefight in Somalia in 1993 that left 18 Americans dead; bombing of a military training center run by the United States in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in 1995; bombing of the Khobar Towers, an apartment complex that housed U.S. servicemen in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, in 1996; the killing of 58 tourists at Luxor, Egypt, in 1997; bombings of U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998; and an attack against the USS Cole while it refueled in Yemen in 2000.4 He has admitted his complicity in the attacks in Somalia; expressed his admiration for the “heroes” responsible for the Riyadh and Dhahran bombings, while denying his involvement; threatened attacks against Americans who remain on Saudi soil; and promised retaliation internationally for cruise missile attacks. In 1998 he announced the creation of a transnational coalition of extremist groups known as The Islamic Front for Jihad against Jews and Crusaders.5

After the September 11 attacks, the United States declared a war on terrorism to capture Osama bin Laden. It destroyed al-Qaeda training bases in Afghanistan, and replaced the Taliban with a government less friendly to terrorists. Aerial bombing attacks destroyed al-Qaeda bases and helped a coalition of anti-Taliban forces called the Northern Alliance gain control of Afghanistan. The whereabouts of Osama bin Laden, however, remained unknown.

Osama bin Laden’s message resonates with the feelings of many in the Arab and Muslim world. A sharp critic of U.S. policy toward the Muslim world, bin Laden has denounced U.S. support for Israel, which he blames for the failure of the Middle East peace process. He has condemned U.S. refusal to censure Israel’s 1996 shelling of civilians in Qana, Lebanon, and U.S. insistence on continued economic sanctions against Iraq, which resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths, especially among children. He has been equally critical of what he dismisses as “new crusades” in the Persian Gulf, in particular the substantial U.S. military and economic presence and involvement in Saudi Arabia. He has embraced populist causes such as the “liberation” of Muslims in Bosnia, Chechnya, Kashmir, Kosovo, and other areas.6 Bin Laden and other Islamic extremists justify their use of violence with the claim that most Muslim and Western governments are corrupt oppressors that resort to violence and terrorism. 

These extremists use Islam to motivate their followers and rationalize their actions. However, they misinterpret and misapply Islamic beliefs. Claiming that Islam and the Muslim world are under siege, they call for a jihad. Although jihad refers to the right and duty of Muslims to defend themselves, their community, and their religion from unjust attack, extremists use the concept to legitimate acts of violence and terrorism.7 

People in various countries would prefer to live in an environment in which business and enterprise can flourish, leading to a healthy economy, a reasonable standard of living. Among scholars, lawyers, and policy makers, there is no general agreement on a clear definition of terrorism. In addition in attracting attention, terrorism also frequently has paid off in concrete terms. Terrorist generally have been remarkably successful in achieving their immediate goals relative to the costs incurred, repaid social and economic change has often been associated with violence. Clearly, the politics of controlling international terrorism is complicated due to the fact that the world’s governments are not universally opposed to terrorism or at least do not all define it in the same way.8 In UN general assembly sessions and in other forums where controls on international terrorism have been discussed states have often taken conflicting positions. In the early 1970s, the United States introduced a draft convention on terrorism requiring the extradition or prompt trial of hijackers and kidnappers, especially in cases in which hostages were government officials.

Generally, the United States and other industrialized states favoured the principle that terrorists are criminals and that the world community shares a responsibility to apprehend them and bring to trials. In contrast, less developed states, while deploring the deaths of innocent victims, tended to argue that terrorism is often the only available weapon of the oppressed, and that before it can be outlawed measures should be adopted to rectify the political and economic injustices perpetrated particularly by industrialized states and their allies. Increased global concern about terrorism was particularly evident after the slaughter of Israeli athletes by Palestinian commandos at the 1972 Olympic games in Munich, this led to the efforts to prevent both kidnapping and assassination especially international protected persons diplomat and other national representatives.10 The UN General Assembly passed a resolution on the status of such persons in 1973, and a UN convention on the prevention and punishment of crimes against internationally protected persons including Diplomatic Agents was opened for ratification in the same year, a UN committee on international terrorism was established.

Terrorism and National Security

Terrorism affects national security in various ways, bombing historically has been the most common terrorist tactic. Terrorists have often relied on bombs because they provide a dramatic, yet fairly easy and often risk-free, means of drawing attention to themselves and their cause. Few skills are required to manufacture a crude bomb, surreptitiously plant it, and then be miles away when it explodes. Bombings generally do not require the same planning, organization, and knowledge required for more sophisticated operations, such as kidnapping, assassination, and assaults against well-defended targets. These play a significant role in exacerbating conflict that exact enormous human and economic cost, the causes of such conflicts lie in political economic, ethnic and religious differences and disparities.11 These factors are often aggravated by governance-related deficiencies, such as exclusionary and irresponsive policies, and lack of or weakness in democratic institutions, respect for rule of law and human rights observance. The accesses to porous international order further compound the problems of widespread proliferation, illicit trafficking and criminal of these weapons. The negative effects of have been far-reaching and diverse. Although most importantly, are the increased threat to global security.12 

Seven countries in Africa have taken a key commitment that they have entered into as part of the Bamako Declaration on an African common position on various terrorist Movements that have bedeviled the continent. Terrorism is by nature political because it involves the acquisition and use of power for the purpose of forcing others to submit, or agree, to terrorist demands. According to her, a terrorist attack, by generating publicity and focusing attention on the organization behind the attack, is designed to create this power. It also fosters an environment of fear and intimidation that the terrorists can manipulate. As a result terrorism’s success is best measured by its ability to attract attention to the terrorists and their cause and by the psychological impact it exerts over a nation and its citizenry. It differs in this respect from conventional warfare, where success is measured by the amount of military assets destroyed, the amount of territory seized, and the number of enemy dead.13 Not surprisingly, the frequency of various types of terrorist attacks decreases in direct proportion to the complexity or sophistication required. Armed attacks historically rank as the second most-common terrorist tactic, followed by more complex operations such as assassination of heads of state or other well-protected people, kidnapping, hostage taking, and hijacking.


M. L. Sondhi, Terrorism and Political violence, (India: Har-anand Publication, 2002), p. 3.

Robert D. Schuizinger, American Diplomacy in the Twentieth Century, 3rd ed., (New York: New York University Press, 1920), p. 8. 

Stephanie Lawson, International Relations: A Short Introduction, (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2003), p. 56 

M. David Ronfeldt and John Arquilla in Networks and Netwars: The Future of Terror, Crime, and Militancy (New York: Peace Efforts, 2011), p. 34.

Sondhi, Terrorism and Political violence, p. 13

Adedeji Ebo, “The Proliferation of Arms and the Niger Delta Insurgency” in Nick Ashton Jones, The Human Ecosystems of the Niger Delta: an ERA Hand Book (Benin City: Environmental Rights Action 1998), p.146.


Chukwusili Akuyoma Small Arms and light weapons: Consensus Attempts to Restrain and control Availability of Arms (Lagos: Nigeria Institute of International Affairs, 2003,), p. 119. 

Ebo, “The Proliferation of Arms and the Niger Delta Insurgency”, p.140.

Andrew Buzuev, Transnational Corporations and militarism (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1985), p. 5-6. 

Ebo, “The Proliferation of Arms and the Niger Delta Insurgency”, p.146.

Ibid., p. 147.

Lawson, International Relations, p. 56.




        The attack of the New York twin towers on September 11, 2001 in the United States by al-Qaeda is the deadliest in the modern era of international terrorism, which began in 1968 (Hoffman, 2009). Tactical, organizational, and strategic national security discourse has shifted from traditional warfare to contemporary and complicated warfare. The modern trend of terrorism is toward loosely organized, self-financed international networks of terrorist groups with religious or ideological undertone. Radical religious groups are adopting religion as a pretext to pose threats to nations around the world. Since the inauguration of a new president in Nigeria on May 29, 2015, the nation has committed itself to fight terrorism working with regional and international agencies and governments. The regional and international security pacts signed recently offer hope to ending the insurgencies in Nigeria. The African Union, the United States, and the European Union have pledged support to Nigeria and other African nations in the fight against terrorism. This is good news, but let examine the root causes of terrorism and ways to fight it in Nigeria.

        Terrorism is the use of violent action in order to achieve political aims or to force government to act (Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary). It can also be seen as using violent or threat to obtain a political objective. Terrorism has become a hydra headed monster characterized by unprecedented and unpredictable threats, both domestically and internationally and has kept governments of developed and developing countries on their toes. It has become one of the most complex and complicated phenomenon of the contemporary world (Stibli, 2010). The current wave of terrorism now poses a greater threat than ever before. It has caused sufficient harm to society in areas of loss of lives and property, economic loss by diverting foreign direct investment (FDI) from target countries to other non-target countries; crowd out government resources meant for development purposes by government channeling a large part of its revenue into security vote.

        The world has recorded a lot of terrorist attacks. Some of these incidents include; the Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA) attacks on hotels and resorts in 1980s in Spain; the Irish Republican Army (IRA) attacks on London’s financial district at the Baltic Exchange (April 10, 1992) and Bishopsgate (April 24, 1993); attacks on London’s transport system in July 7, 2005; the al-qaida attack on the world trade center in September 11, 2001(9/11) (Gaibulloev and Sandler, 2009). Others include recent attacks in kenya, Pakistan, Nigeria, etc.


        The level of insecurity and terrorism in Nigeria both in the northern and southern part has become a major issue for the government. Since 1990 when the activities of the Niger Delta militants started until recent times when Boko Haram insurgents arose in the Northern part of the country, Nigeria has witnessed unprecedented security challenges. These challenges ranges from kidnapping, suicide attacks, bombings, ritual killings, assassinations, armed robbery, and this has led to the destruction of lives and properties, hindered business activities, discouraged local and foreign investors, increases government expenditure on security, all of these stifles and retards Nigeria’s socio-economic development (Ewetan and Urhie, 2014). The events surrounding September 11, 2001 and other recent events of terrorism across the globe especially the current wave of terrorism in Nigeria, has focused our minds on issues of terrorism and insecurity.


1)     To investigate the implications of terrorism on national security        in Nigeria.

2)     To determine challenges of national security in Nigeria  

3)     To examine the strategies of mitigating threats against   terrorism on national security in Nigeria.


        The issue of terrorism in Nigeria cannot be compared to other countries. This therefore poses a great challenge to the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in its combating of crime and maintaining national security. This study therefore will be beneficial to the government of Nigeria in putting in place machineries to fight against this terrorism. It will also be beneficial to security agencies who are directly or indirectly involved in curbing the problem of terrorism and insurgency in the country.

        This study would also add to the existing literature and body of knowledge on the topical issue of terrorism as it relates to the issue of national security especially in Nigeria. It would also be a reference material for subsequent research work.


This study is on the implications of international terrorism on Nigeria’s national security. The study will cover theoretical framework, conceptual clarifications and other areas relevant to the study.


        This study is impaired by the challenge of few materials available for reference on the topic. This has only been a new topic of discuss in the academic setting. Some information which would have been relevant for this research work was not disclosed by security agents who were interviewed.


        This study is primarily a historical one hence the method of data collection for this research relies significantly on secondary sources of data (scholarly texts, bulletins, journals, base line data, conference papers, seminars, Newspapers, Magazines, etc) in analyzing the implications of international terrorism on Nigeria’s national security.

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