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National heroes or coming anarchy? Vigilant youth and the “war on terror” in Nigeria


critical studies on terrorismJournal abstract

In this article, I explore analytically how local youth vigilante groups in terror-stricken northeastern Nigeria – locally known as the Civilian Joint Task Force or yan gora (“youth with sticks”) – are responding to threats to their communities posed by the terrorism of Boko Haram and the human rights abuses of the Nigerian security forces. The article argues that vigilantism has been a way for victimised local youth to reclaim a sense of control and agency in a context of risk, radical uncertainty, powerlessness and heightened fear. While one group of victimised and angry youth (Boko Haram) in northeastern Nigeria are violently resisting the state, another group of victimised and angry youth (yan gora) from the same region are joining forces with the state to protect members of their local communities and to restore peace to their troubled region. However, growing concerns that the yan gora are a “coming anarchy” have compelled state-endorsed youth empowerment schemes geared at integrating the militia into Nigerian security service, while regulating their actions and instilling patriotism and discipline in its members. Yet, such hybrid security arrangements may end up reproducing the very insecurity they were meant to forestall.

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