Boko Haram has persistently defied all attempts by the Nigerian government to stop the violent spread of its activities from the northern part of the country, and sectarian violence and attacks have assumed new and dangerous dimensions in Africa’s most populous state. Nigerians are currently experiencing an era characterized by intensive military operations similar to those previously launched against Niger Delta militants, and an uncertain mood is prevailing which some have compared to the state of affairs during the Nigerian civil war.
Military regiments of the Joint Task Force (JTF) have been deployed across areas considered to be the country’s “geographies of terror,” from the cities of Maiduguri to Jos, and from Kano to Damaturu, the extent of which is reflected in unprecedented security expenditure figures rising to nearly a quarter of the national budget for 2012. In spite of these efforts, the first half of 2012 has seen a rise in the incidence of Boko Haram attacks. While armed action cannot be totally discounted, its utility as a single tactic has proved futile and has underscored the need for the Nigerian government to unify under a common goal and intensify its efforts at dialogue and mediation.
The excessive militarization of some states in northern Nigeria has resulted in a tense martial atmosphere and a concomitant increase in cases of armed brutalization, civilian intimidation, and human rights violations by members of the Joint Task Force. This situation has inadvertently amplified the level of state-directed grievance among affected citizens, as well as an unfortunate provocation of local sympathies for Boko Haram’s cause. The predominant use of force by the Nigerian government is inherently problematic, and would only work successfully if there is a simultaneous application of other approaches such as mediation, particularly because of the dangerous permutation of ideological, political, and economic issues involved.
The degree to which mediation can be a useful tool in the Nigerian situation depends upon a number of complex factors suggested by analysts such as Jacob Bercovitch. These include: the nature of the issue, the mediators involved, the context, and the parties to the conflict.