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Transhumance Terrorism:  Boko Haram, banditry, Fulani herdsmen attacks interlinked–Research 

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Experts knock Nigerian government’s failure to investigate root causes of violence

Download: Transhumance Causality Final submitted Full

ReadMassacre in Mali: How the ‘war on terror’ fuels tribal violence in the Sahel



Senator Iroegbu 


Security experts, analysts and researchers have called on the Nigerian Government to take calculated but urgent steps to investigate the root causes of rising transhumance-related violence in Nigeria, especially the northern part of the country.

To this end, a recent detailed research indicated a possible link between Boko Haram terrorism, Fulani herdsmen attacks, banditry and kidnappings in parts of Nigeria.

This was the outcome of the research work by United States based Nigerian scholars, intelligence analysts and security experts entitled ‘Terrorist Attacks and Transhumance Violence: The Case of Boko Haram and Fulani Herdsmen’, authored by Profs: Justin George, Adesoji Adelaja, Titus Awokuse and Olufemi Vaughan.

According to the authors, previous investigations into attacks perpetrated by terrorist organizations have identified several root causes, as well as undesirable impacts.


Also, the Nigerian government has instead of taking a holistic look into the root cause of violence ravaging the entire three northern regions of the country have chosen to given them different regional varietied names including Boko Haram terrorists for the North East, unknown gunmen (farmer-herders conflict) in North Central, and bandits or cattle rustlers in the North West.


Global Sentinel has reported that in West African neighbouring countries of Mali and Burkina Faso, there are alleged links between the activities of some Fulani herdsmen and Jihadists leading to bloody tit-for-tat  attacks and reprisals with Dogon tribes and others with a demand for full investigation.

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Stressing, the experts said that “prior investigations into the causes of transhumance and transhumance-related violent attacks have ignored the possible roles of terrorist organizations and their activities in promoting pastoral violence”.

They noted that because both forms of attack often have common socio-economic and geographic origins, there are reasons to believe that they are related.

According to the experts, “the general presumption in the literature thus far is that transhumance and terrorist attacks are unrelated. However, no study has explored the relationships between both”.

“In this paper, we conceptualize how terrorist attacks can relate to transhumance related attacks when both activities are observed in the same geographic area.  Using Nigeria as a case study, we specifically utilize Vector Auto Regression (VAR) models and Granger Causality tests to examine the existence and direction of a potential relationship. Our results suggest that Boko Haram attacks Granger-cause Fulani Herdsmen attacks, but not the other way around.  Impulse response function results indicate the non-persistent nature of a shock to transhumance attacks via Boko Haram terrorist attacks.  Specific policy implications are also highlighted.”

Part of the research work read: “In Nigeria, where both Boko Haram (BH) and Fulani Herdsmen (FH) attacks have characterized the landscape there is a unique opportunity to investigate whether the former is associated with the latter. To date, much of the policy debate about the emergence of transhumance-related violence as a critical national security threat has not benefitted from rigorous empirical evidence about its underlying factors.

“There are several reasons to expect that BH and FH activities are interlinked with each other. Such reasons include common religious roots and ideology, radicalization efforts by BH among herdsmen, knowledge and tactical cooperation, market cooperation and weapon sharing, grievances against common enemy (governments and security forces), all of which represent the possibility of a long-term structural relationship. In addition, by dwindling the land available for grazing and creating adverse economic conditions for pastoralists, BH activities may have encouraged greater transhumance-related violence.”

“In this study, we explore the potential relationship between terrorism and pastoral violence by examining how BH attacks in Nigeria and FH violence might have led to each other. Using real time data on armed conflict events (ACLED, 2018), we test whether increased BH attacks encourage greater incidence and lethality of Fulani herdsmen attacks or vice versa. In the next section, we briefly explore the literature on terrorism and transhumance-related violence and explain why we expect both activities to be related. We then present a conceptual model to further justify our empirical inquiry.  The Vector Auto Regression (VAR) and the Granger Causality models are then used to conduct causality-related tests. Empirical results follow, while the paper ends with a summary and conclusions section, with highlighted policy implications.”


Boko Haram,  Fulani herdsmen-related attacks related

According to the researchers, the term, “Transhumance” describes a unique form of human migration that is centered on animals (International Crisis Group – ICG, 2017).

They noted that the prime motivation for transhumance is access to feed for the animals owned by or managed by herders. Transhumance activities, which for the most part were peaceful in Nigeria, have become more prone to violent conflicts in recent years.

The experts noted that  while thousands of people have been killed in such conflicts, the reasons for such violence are not well understood.

Read also: Over 2,000 civilians killed in Mali, Niger, Burkina in five months: researchers

In their analysis, they stressed the importance of putting the potential relationship between Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen-related attacks in a spatial context.

The report stated: “About 30% of the live animals slaughtered in Nigeria are brought in by pastoralists from other countries (FAO Nigeria, 2018) who come from North of Nigeria’s border and who mostly cross the Northern border into the country. Much of the traditional domain of the FH is the Core North (Northwest and Northeast regions), with the Middle-belt region and Southern Regions (Core South) being the grazing passageways or destination areas.

” Also, the vast majority of cattle sold or slaughtered in the Middle-Belt and Core South come from or through the Core North. Therefore, constraints to grazing in the Core North are expected to lead to spillover grazing to the Middle-belt and Core South.”


They highlighted a map of Nigeria’s States and Geopolitical zones or regions, which shows that Boko Haram’s attacks were mostly in the Northeast but Fulani Herdsmen attacks are mostly in the Middle Belt and Core South.

In addition, the researchers showed figures that suggests the possibility of a correlation and possibly, causality between Boko Haram and Fulani Herdsmen attacks.

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