The Impact of Armed Insurgency on the Informal Economy and Implications for Effective Leadership
: Case Study on North-East Nigeria

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The north-east region of Nigeria has along the years been afflicted by many issues of insecurity and a flashpoint for the region was the early 1980s when it experienced many communal clashes. The chief among them being the Maitatsine uprising in Maiduguri and Jimeta, Tiv/Jukun crisis in Wukari, Chieftaincy conflict in Muri and influx of people from Chad to the region who fled the Civil War in neighbouring Chad (Dlakwa 2015). The Chadian civil war likewise brought about massive movement of small arms and light weapons to Nigeria’s north-east fuelling insecurity such as armed banditry, and more recently the region has witnessed clashes between farmers and herders with other communal clashes. Another contemporary occurrence that is of security import was the implementation of the Shari’ah law in some states in northern Nigeria, as this led to some crisis between Muslims and Christians in the north-east. This is the environment in which the Boko Haram insurgency sprouted, adding its own dimension of violence to the socio-political scenario and has been the most destructive of all (Dlakwa 2015).

A total of about 7.1 million people have been affected and need assistance, 1.8 million are displaced, while 40,000 have been directly killed creating a major humanitarian crisis and economic dislocation in the region (Barkindo 2020). The conflict in Nigeria’s north-east has led to the deaths of about 350,000 people (The BBC 2021b; UNDP 2021:5). This is almost ten times the number that have died directly in the fighting as about 314,000 died from indirect causes of the conflict with most of them being children. The impact of the insurgency has devastated communities in the region wiping out the livelihoods of the populace (UNDP 2021:6).

The destructive effect of the insurgency in north-east Nigeria has been tremendous and a qualitative study was engaged in assessing the impact on the informality in the region. In studying the informality in the region, focus was put on the local informal economy and local informal leadership networks to understand the impact of the conflict on the dominant informal economic exchanges and the prevalent informal social exchanges. Case studies were carried out on selected local communities and the dominant informal activities to understand how the insurgency has affected the local informal economy in the rural region. The Leadership Process theory was engaged to understand the effect on the local informal leadership networks.

The thesis demonstrates how economic dislocation due to conflict impacts on the economic exchanges and social exchanges that make up the way of life of the people in north-east Nigeria. The research shows the disruption of the informal economy and highlights that for the local communities, whose livelihoods are hinged on the dominant informal activities, their survival and service needs including economic security is the most important dynamic around which their interaction with the local informal leadership networks is based and hence where leadership is framed. Consequently, the situational change due to the insurgency has affected the local leadership paradigm in the region.
Date of Award1 Apr 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorAbiodun Alao (Supervisor) & Funmi Olonisakin (Supervisor)

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