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The role of human intelligence (HUMINT) in fighting terrorism with specific focus on Boko Haram war with the Federal Nigeria is the core of this thesis. It delves into how HUMINT was deployed in the fight, the strengths and deficits of these strategies and lessons that emerge in their use. Boko Haram, the terrorist organisation that registered its lethality on the global scene of terrorist organisations attracted a good measure of scholarly attention. Much is done on their mode of attacks, their growth, their religious and social significance, what they stand for, what they could do and the tactical strategies the security adopts to contain, deter and defeat them. There is yet to be a keen attention on the use of human intelligence in fighting the war.

The study discovered the use of local assets or spies in the dearth of trained intelligence officers knowing how long it takes to train an efficient intelligence asset. In-depth interviews with past and present intelligence officers and the engagement of experts in security from academia brought a new dimension of locating local assets at the estimated setting of terrorist targets to access asymmetric information for policy could be a new way human intelligence could add on to existing strategies. This is because intelligence assets are mostly constrained by language and in the case of Boko Haram Kanore, culture, geography in very localised conditions. Situations of this nature could reduce an asset to a strategic liability, vulnerable to capture by the enemy and its concomitant compromise of tactical operations.





Reports indicate Boko Haram - Nigeria’s second civil war  (Cook, 2014, p 3) is militarily and technically defeated  (bbc.com, December 24, 2015, bbc.com, November 24, 2016). Nevertheless, they announce their essence through sporadic suicide attacks (news.un.org, January 11, 2015). Indeed, the jihadists firepower that seemed to overrun the federal army some time ago weakened and their Belgium-sized20,000-square-mile-caliphate crumbled in March 2015 by the regional coalition forces of Nigeria, Cameroun, Chad and Niger (bbc.com, November 24, 2016). The Nigerian army raided and drove them from their last camp in the north-eastern Sambisa forest  (euronews.com, December 24, 2016) and the black Salafist flags no more fly on most of the towns captured including strategic Gwoza, the caliphate capital, tactically protected by volcanic peaks of the Mandara mountains (Blair, 2015, Bryman, 2012).

Ethnicity and religious extremism are identified as triggers in most armed confrontations in Nigeria

(Walker, 2012, p 2).  There are vast documented militant religiosity dating back to Sheik Uthman dan

Fodio (1754 -1817) who led a jihad against corrupt and apostate Hausa ruling class to establish the Sokoto caliphate (Agbiboa, 2013). The ideology, the cognitive map and the actions of Boko Haram is not distant from Sheik Uthman.  This is because, Boko Haram believes that northern politics was seized by a crop of corrupt Muslims and waged a war against the Federal Republic to establish a pure Islamic state rule by sharia law (Walker, 2012, p 2). Boko Haram officially calls itself “Jama’ atul Alhul Sunnah

Lidda ‘wati wal Jihad” which translates as “people committed to the propagation of the Prophet’s teaching and jihad” (Forest, 2012, p 1). Viewing terrorism as an effective channel of carving their shariagoverned sovereign entity, Boko Haram began its confrontation in 2009 after the central government of Nigeria launched a counter attack that killed 800 people, mostly the sect members (Mantzikos, 2013, p 10).

In what most analysts observed to have toughened Boko Haram and self-possessed for revenge was the killing of Mohammad Yusuf, the leader of the cult. Series of mayhem on mostly softer targets were unleashed against Nigerians including neighbouring Chad and Cameroun. Among the various attacks, which targeted churches and other perceived enemies of Islam including Moslems were the bombing of the Nigerian Police Headquarters, June 16, 2011 in Abuja, the August 26, 2011 suicide bombing of the United Nations buildings and the abduction of Chibok schoolgirls April 14, 2014  (Tukur, 2017). These atrocious gains shot Boko Haram to international notoriety. Current statistics revealed that Boko Haram killed 100,000 people and displaced an estimated 2,114,000 people, producing 52,311 orphans and 54,911 widows (Tukur, 2017).

If the international coalition, together with the Nigerian army reduced the tactical expansions and strategic effectiveness of the terrorist group. How was it done? What was the role of intelligence in containing the threats? Sect members of Boko Haram in July 2009 after the showdown between the Nigerian security forces fled to neighbouring countries to regroup, recruit, retrain and resurface with renewed pre-emptive experience and stepped up attacks (Maiangwa et al., 2012, p 47). How was human intelligence fashioned to neutralise such schemes to defeat the miscreants decisively?

To answer these questions, the research examines the role of human in intelligence (HUMINT) in the counter-terrorism efforts that perhaps enfeebled the front of the Boko Haram’s military operations and how human intelligence could help wither the front of the terrorists?


1.1 Problem statement

This research digs how security apparatus engaged intelligence in the Boko Haram struggle. Michael Howard (2002 p 10) observed that a struggle against terrorism is primarily a battle for hearts and minds and that without hearts and minds, one cannot obtain intelligence and without intelligence terrorists cannot be overpowered (Howard, 2002, p 10). In essence, intelligence is the handmaiden of a warrior

(Keegan, 2010, p 5) as military strength depends on regular flow of intelligence (Austin and Rankov, 2002, p 1). This explains the important part intelligence assumes in fighting any battle.

My personal motivation for this study leans on my understanding that a vibrant intelligence community has the key to overcoming deadly terrorists’ attacks. As Treverton and Angell (2008) and Berkowitz (2002 p 190-192) have indicated terrorists are human beings not states, they shield themselves by mixing their activities into normal social life and are ready to risk their lives for whatever belief they have. They exploit the weaknesses in social and bureaucratic set ups and with the internet that makes avalanche of information available to them to attack innocent civil society (Berkowitz, 2002, p 190-192, Treverton and Agrell, 2009).

On the battle grounds with the jihadists, the Nigerian army experience many strategic and tactical losses. Were these losses intelligence failures?

Using constructivism, rational choice concepts and Betts (1978) concepts of intelligence failure as framework (Betts, 1978), the study will explore themes in intelligence with specific focus on HUMINT. The research will examine the strengths, weaknesses, dilemmas, risk factors, epistemological assumptions as well as best approaches of HUMINT as applied in fighting the Boko Haram terrorists.


1.2 The significance and scope of the study

It is a practical view that intelligence study as a sub-field is a missing dimension of international affairs but gathered momentum some two decades past  (Scott and Jackson, 2004, p 140). The study will contribute to this hidden discipline taking the centre stage in world security debate.

The scope of the study will be limited to the events connected to human intelligence gathering, collation, analysis and interpretation and dissemination in the war and how effective or weak they were.


1.3 Objectives of the study

The objectives of the study are:

  1. Identify how human intelligence (HUMINT) schemes were applied in fighting Boko Haram.
  2. Examine the success or failures of the human intelligence (HUMINT) strategies engaged.
  3. Suggest some solutions to intelligence lapses if any.


1.4 Research question(s)

How were human intelligence techniques applied in fighting Boko Haram terrorists and how efficient or less efficient were these strategies?


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