The role of traditional institutions in the Boko Haram fight


African traditional institutions have a large potential role to play in countering terrorism, according to a Nigerian sociologist.

Ahmed Aliyu, a lecturer in the Sociology Department of the Federal University in Dutse said the strong public distrust of the Nigerian police and the army is undermining the fight against Boko Haram. However, he believes that the greater public confidence in Nigerian traditional institutions could allow these bodies to play a role in ensuring local security.

Aliyu’s proposal at the second Annual Africa Security and Counter-Terrorism was viewed as inappropriate for Somalia, by the country’s Minister of National Security, Abdulahi Mohamed Ali. Clan divisions meant that their involvement in security would empower them and be divisive, said Ali.

Aliyu, who is from Kano, sees a potential role in security management being played by the Kano Emirate Council. The body brings together traditional rulers and institutions in Kano, a state in the north of Nigeria, in which there have been a number of Boko Haram attacks.

Aliyu is studying the Kano Emirate Council as a unit of analysis with a view to proposing ways for a wider involvement of traditional institutions in Nigerian security. This is part of his doctorate thesis at the National University of Malaysia.

While regarded by some observers as historical relics in a democratic age, Nigerian traditional institutions still command strong respect among about half the population, said Aliyu.

Traditional rulers tend to be close to the people in many communities in Nigeria and continue to play a role in security. Traditional institutions in Kano state are multi-tiered with Emirs on the council and below them district, and village and ward heads. They are often assisted in various roles by market traders and religious leaders. In some communities it is customary for all visitors to be reported to village heads, a practice that made a large contribution to local security.

Ward heads could play a role in security as watchdogs in countering insurgency and even spotting the making of explosive devices. As many ethnic communities are spread across borders, traditional rulers could also help in monitoring cross border movements and crime.