The Politics and Profit of a Crisis: A Political Marketplace Analysis of the Humanitarian Crisis in Northeast Nigeria

by Jared Miller

A manmade humanitarian crisis is a tragedy, but for some, it is also a lucrative opportunity. As the crisis deepens prompting massive security and humanitarian spending, along with the increasing cost of rebuilding, for certain individuals, the ensuing crisis economy becomes more lucrative than the peacetime economy. While some benefit, millions suffer. The crisis in northeast Nigeria epitomizes this dynamic.  In 2015, President Buhari declared a “technical victory” over Boko Haram, yet seven years later, the insurgency raged on, and the humanitarian crisis reached new heights with more than 4 million in the northeast facing critical food insecurity. Using the political marketplace framework, this paper analyses the politics behind the crisis and how competitive, rent-seeking politics caused and have perpetuated the manmade crisis in the northeast. This analysis covers the genesis and evolution of the crisis from the late 1990s through March 2022. The author argues that efforts to end the crisis have been undermined by those who benefit from a continued crisis economy funded by security, humanitarian, and development rents.  This paper describes the evolution and competition of these interests, along with the interplay between the humanitarian response and political marketplace dynamics. 

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This research was completed as part of the Conflict Research Programme, a four-year research programme hosted by London School of Economics IDEAS and funded by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office.

Jared Miller is a peacebuilding, anti-corruption, and governance researcher- practitioner focused on how to strengthen accountable governance in contexts of systemic corruption. He is Researcher with The World Peace Foundation, a Senior Associate with The Corruption, Justice, and Legitimacy Program, and a PhD candidate at The Fletcher School at Tufts University. At The World Peace Foundation, he analyzes political systems where corruption is systemic and how they contribute and respond to major shocks (e.g. humanitarian crises, loss of oil rents, and protests). In his work with the Corruption, Justice and Legitimacy Program, Jared focuses on the relationship between civil servants, social norms, and corruption and the implications for anti-corruption strategies. Lastly, Jared is pursuing a PhD at The Fletcher School at Tufts University where he is focusing on the intersection of peacebuilding and anti-corruption efforts in Nigeria. Previously,
Jared worked on community-based peacebuilding programs with Search for Common Ground in northern Nigeria.

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