Ius Gentium

University of Baltimore School of Law's Center for International and Comparative Law Fellows discuss international and comparative legal issues


Nigeria’s Economy – Help is on the Way!

Carolyn Mills

The economy of Nigeria is the largest economy in West Africa, experiencing massive growth in the last 24 years. While the African continent, as a whole, has experienced rapid growth and development, there is concern amongst the international community regarding the threat of terror organizations, such as Boko Haram and the internal rampant corruption. The economy of Nigeria has recently faced difficulty and has made several appeals to the international community for support. Without this crucial intervention international organizations the threat of collapse could be imminent.

Boko Haram

Currently Boko Haram has taken a large foothold in the northern Nigeria, and is notably known for the kidnapping of 300 school girls in 2014, which sparked the #BringBackOurGirls movement. Boko Haram’s terror is indiscriminate as the organization is known for attacking both Christians and Muslims. Boko Haram began as a peaceful organization until 2009 when the government of Nigeria launched investigations into their activities. [1] The terror group has been credited with the death of nearly 17,000 Nigerians since its reign of terror began in 2010. [2] Corruption has been a further impediment to the growth of Nigeria’s economy. A recently published article, one of the most notable and egregious cases of corruption occurred when $195 billion naira (nearly 10 billion dollars) was pilfered from a pension fund that was intended for retired workers.[3]

CM Blog3_Photo2

2014 was a year of great exploits for Nigeria, as it was named the largest economy in Africa (as well as most populous)[4].  Its largest industries are its growing entertainment sector known as ‘Nollywood’, followed by its large agricultural sector.[5] In the past 2 years, however, Nigeria has experienced a fall in the valuation of their currency (the naira) as oil prices have fallen below $30 per barrel. Initially following the election of President Muhammadu Buhari the stock market peaked at the hope of a new president with a new economic policy, however hopes were quickly dashed. [6] The falling price of crude oil in the country coupled with their need to import refined fuel has put much pressure on the economy and President Buhari. [7]

CM Blog3_Photo1

In an effort to assist the country in its efforts to fight Boko Haram, the European Union has pledged more than $50 million dollars to aide in the fighting against Boko Haram[8]. The European Union has also recently pledged to assist in diversifying its nearly exclusive oil dependent economy[9]. The attractive package comes with many caveats (read strings). The EU Ambassador to Nigeria, based in Lagos, stressed the importance of business owners and investors having protection under Nigerian laws stating.[10] Although how Nigeria will ensure the protection of potential investors is still in flux, Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama remains hopeful that any future agreements with other countries will provide Nigeria with technical assistance to make the transition from a primarily agrarian economy to a fully industrialized economy.[11] The more pronounced role of other states and organizations is necessary to help usher in Africa’s largest economy and assist in sustained growth—rather than a mere suggestion from the EU.

German President Guack

Despite the recent call for help from President Buhari, Germany has been the only state to show interest in contributing to the development and investment in Nigeria’s now lackluster economy. Among other things, German President Joachim Guack has pledged support in the move to eliminate corruption, which is seen as the country’s number one enemy to progress. [12]

The threat of global terrorism should not deter international development. With increased investment comes increased infrastructure—infrastructure that is undoubtedly linked to the safety of the country’s border. Without such investment, the economy will stagnate and most of its resources will be sunk into their safety and defense forces, rather than development.  It is a harrowing catch-22 for government of Nigeria, as they attempt to advance their economic and social strength, while combating terrorism and corruption that seeks to slow progress. Germany’s advanced (and seemingly sole) role in the elimination of terror and the diversification of the economy will hopefully prove to be altruistic and non-imperialistic in nature as Nigeria fights to remain a forerunner on the African Continent.

Carolyn Mills is a graduate from of Bowie State University  and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Carolyn is a 2L at the University of Baltimore School of Law. She serves as 2L Representative for the International Law Society.  Her interests and focus areas are on Central America and West Africa; she has traveled to both Guatemala and Honduras and hopes to visit Ghana this summer. She is currently a law clerk for the Department of Homeland Security’s Human Rights Law Section.  

[1] http://m.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=11250530

[2] http://www.globalresearch.ca/boko-haram-in-nigeria-the-destabilization-of-the-world-through-the-war-on-terror/5504014

[3] https://www.naij.com/402850-top-12-corruption-cases.html

[4] http://leadership.ng/features/502916/nigerian-economy-global-appeal-nwanze

[5] http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/04/how-nigeria-became-africas-largest-economy-overnight/360288/

[6] http://qz.com/595453/the-precarious-state-of-nigerias-economy-right-now-captured-in-two-charts/).

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] ( http://www.thisdaylive.com/articles/eu-pledges-to-assist-nigeria-diversify-economy/232283/)

[10] http://www.thisdaylive.com/articles/eu-pledges-to-assist-nigeria-diversify-economy/232283/.

[11] (http://allafrica.com/stories/201602100215.html).

[12] http://www.vanguardngr.com/2016/02/we-have-lost-lives-economy-because-of-corruption/

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The Drums of War are Beating in… the Vatican??

Matt Matechik

Vatican officials have indicated that the Holy See will support the use of force against ISIL and Boko Haram.

As the Catholic Church observed the solemn Lenten season, Vatican officials considered a solemn question, one rarely broached by the Church in modern times: Should the Holy See endorse war? Specifically, the Vatican is considering backing the use of internationally sanctioned force against violent Islamic extremist groups including the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Boko Haram. The Vatican appears poised to support the use of force.

Any endorsement would mark a dramatic shift in the Vatican’s approach to armed conflict. The modern Vatican has historically been opposed to the use of force on almost every occasion. For example, the Vatican explicitly opposed both the 1991 and 2003 US-led wars in Iraq as well as proposed airstrikes against Syria in 2013. Regarding the 2003 Iraq War, Pope John Paul II commented that war is “always a defeat for humanity.”[i] However, contemporary challenges presented by ISIL and Boko Haram have caused the Vatican to cautiously and reluctantly change course.

Pope Francis, known for his compassionate demeanor and named after the peaceful St. Francis of Assisi, first implied the Vatican might support the use of force in August 2014 when he tacitly approved of American airstrikes against ISIL in Iraq. The Pope commented that “it is licit to stop an unjust aggressor.” He stopped there however and refused to explicitly approve of the US operations. He further qualified that only the international community, as opposed to a single nation, could decide exactly how the aggressor should be stopped.[ii] More recently, on 13 March, Italian Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican’s top diplomat at the United Nations in Geneva, called for the international community to defeat ISIL by “achiev[ing] a political settlement without violence.” He conceded though that such a settlement might not be possible. In that case, Tomasi bluntly asserted “the use of force will be necessary.”[iii] Tomasi appeared to again endorse the use of force on 2 April, this time against Boko Haram, at the Special Session of the Human Rights Council on the Situation of Human Rights in Nigeria. A in the previous statements, he emphasized that any military action must be coordinated by the international community.[iv] If the Vatican does support the use of force outright, the position would be grounded in both international law and Canon law.


Vatican support for the use of force is grounded in international law.

The Vatican has made clear that any Vatican endorsement of the use of force will be fully compliant with international law. The prohibition against the use of force is a fundamental and foundational principle of the UN charter. Article II, paragraph 4, prohibits “the threat of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state or in any manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.” The inclusion of only these two situations implies that force is legal under international law in other situations. At least four have been identified.

First, the use of force is always legal if a UNSC resolution has authorized it. The UNSC might authorize force against ISIL, although crossing veto powers usually preclude the UNSC from agreeing on military intervention. Second, the use of force is always legal when used in self-defense. As the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholic Christians, the Vatican can plausibly claim that its people are threatened. Third, the use of force is always legal by invitation. Some countries in which ISIL and Boko Haram operate have already invited others to combat Islamic extremism within their territory.

Fourth, the use of force might be legal if carried out in support of humanitarian intervention. The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) Doctrine obligates all states to protect oppressed peoples from manmade catastrophes.[v] The Vatican appears to look toward R2P as an international justification. Archbishop Tomasi stated “There is a common human dignity we all share and it should be protected at all costs,” and “We are not fighting for Christians simply because they are Christians. We start from the foundation that they are human beings with equal rights.”[vi] In the R2P context, the use of force is legal if the force is used to support a just cause, with the right intention, as a last resort, is proportional, and offers a reasonable prospect of success. From the Vatican’s perspective, putting an end to the widespread and systematic killing of Christians and other minorities is a just cause. The intentions would be “right” in the sense that the force would be used to stop the killings, not to take territory or achieve a prohibited purpose. The Vatican has made clear that a political solution must be sought out first and only if that failed should force be used as a last resort. The Vatican would only support proportional means that targeted only the violent Islamic extremists. Finally, any internationally-sanctioned use of force like the Vatican is calling for would offer reasonable chances to defeat the violent groups assuming a proper military strategy.


Vatican support for the use of force is grounded in Canon law.

The Church very strongly opposes the resort to the use of force generally. This position is rooted in the Fifth Commandment which states “You shall not kill.” The rule is not absolute however. Catholic tradition has developed guidelines for when force is justified, known as Just War Theory. The theory was first postulated by St. Augustine during the fourth century A.D. when the Church’s growing dominance in the Roman Empire forced the issue. The theory has been modified over the centuries but its principles have remained largely the same. Today, the Church looks to the authoritative text of paragraph 2309 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church which states:

“The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy. At one and the same time:

  1. The damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
  2. All other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
  3. There must be serious prospects of success;
  4. The use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modem means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.

The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good.[vii]

The elements are strikingly similar to the R2P elements described above. The first element speaks to “just cause” and “right intentions.” It also requires that the aggression is lasting, meaning a short-term incident would not suffice. ISIL certainly appears poised to be a menace for the long-term. The second element is a “last resort” requirement. The third element is a “reasonable prospect of success” requirement. The fourth element speaks to proportionality and gives special consideration to the horrific destructive capability of modern weapons.


The Catechism makes clear that endorsing the use of force is a matter of grave concern that demands close and extremely careful consideration. The Catechism also emphasizes moral legitimacy, meaning that force can only be used for righteous purposes to counter aggression.

The Vatican’s position is indicative of dangerous times.

The Vatican normally pursues exclusively diplomatic solutions. The fact that the Holy See is backing the use of force against violent Islamic extremist groups is a sign of just how dangerous these groups have become to the world. Pope Francis may be best known for his compassionate outreach and “turn the other cheek” philosophy but the global situation might offer him no alternative to war.

Matthew Matechik is an Evening J.D. student at the University of Baltimore School of Law (Class of 2016). He currently works full-time for the U.S. Federal Government as a Counterterrorism Analyst. He has a Bachelors of Arts (Magna Cum Laude, 2008) from Florida State University. All views in this blog post are Matthew’s own views and do not represent that of the U.S. Government. 

[i] http://www.nytimes.com/1991/04/01/world/pope-denounces-the-gulf-war-as-darkness.html; http://www.nytimes.com/2003/01/14/international/europe/14POPE.html

[ii] http://www.cruxnow.com/church/2014/08/18/pope-offers-cautious-yellow-light-for-us-airstrikes-in-iraq/

[iii] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/vaticancityandholysee/11473055/ISIL-force-may-be-necessary-says-Vatican-ambassador-to-Geneva.html

[iv] http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2015/04/02/holy_see_calls_for_swift_action_against_violent_extremism_in/1133938

[v] It should be noted that R2P is not yet universally recognized as international custom. For more information about the history of R2P in the UNGA, see http://www.un.org/en/preventgenocide/adviser/responsibility.shtml.

[vi] http://www.cruxnow.com/church/2015/03/13/vatican-backs-military-force-to-stop-isis-genocide/

[vii] http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s2c2a5.htm

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Wake Up World! Boko Haram is Here to Stay!

Annielle Makon

Although Boko Haram (translated means “western education is a sin”) has been functi since 2002, until recently it did not have international name recognition.  Boko Haram is considered a terrorist, militant, and Islamic group, based in northeast Nigeria, but they also carry out activities in neighboring Chad, Niger and Cameroon. [1] Boko Haram, led by Abubakar Shekau, has been linked to al-Qaeda and ISIS.[2] They have caused havoc in Africa’s most populous country through a wave of bombings, assassinations and abductions, they are fighting to overthrow the government and create a pure Islamic state rule by sharia law.[3]  They have been labeled as a terrorist organization by several countries (including the United States), yet that is as far as the international community has gone in dealing with their actions (aside from the infamous #BringBackOurGirls Twitter campaign). Boko Haram acts with impunity. As they continue to gain notoriety, Nigeria and the international community need to start paying attention to them, hold them accountable for their actions, and resolveto prevent any future attacks from Boko Haram.

Boko Haram

Between July 2009 and June 2014, Boko Haram has killed over 5,000 civilians. [4]  Since 2009 Boko Haram have abducted more than 500 men, women and children, famously, including the kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls from Chibok in April 2014.[5] Their most horrific act was the massacre of 2,000 civilians in January 2015.[6] Most of the victims were women, children and elderly people who could not escape after fighters drove into the town firing rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons at local residents.[7] Corruption in the security services and human rights abuses committed by the terrorist group have hampered efforts to counter the unrest.[8] 650,000 people had fled the conflict zone by August 2014, an increase of 200,000 since May; by the end of the year 1.5 million had fled.[9] Yet, Nigeria and the international community have failed to actively thwart Boko Haram efforts.

Should the World Care? Yes, absolutely!

Boko Haram Pie Chart

Boko Haram’s latest attack is part of a growing trend. Violence has drastically increased since 2009.[10] The number of deaths is rising year to year and that is an indication that the threat is growing in a relatively short time span. Boko Haram has killed as many people as the Islamic State.[11] The United States has made active strides to thwart ISIS because they pose a threat to the United States interest abroad and attempting to avoid another Middle Eastern conflict.[12] Yet, nothing has been done about Boko Haram. The violence is increasing because they have been left unattended to wreck havoc in Nigeria. Nigeria’s government is unable to combat Boko Haram alone. Nigeria President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in 2013 and, even after the state of emergency, Boko Haram attacked several military bases, bombed a busy bus terminal in the capital, Abuja (twice), and launched the kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls from Chibok.[13] Nigeria military lacks the modern equipment, training and motivation to sufficiently fight Boko Haram.[14]

As long as the world views Boko Haram as simply Nigeria’s problem, nothing will prevent them from committing more terrorist acts.  Many believe that Boko Haram is focus on Nigeria, with no interest in attacking the West.[15] However, the danger of this belief is that there is no guarantee that they will be satisfied with just turning Nigeria into a pure Islamic state.  What will the world do when Boko Haram is no longer isolated in Nigeria?

Boko Haram Attacks Graph

What Can or Should Be Done?

First, and foremost, reform needs to start within Nigeria.  President Goodluck Jonathan needs to focus on the issue of security and increase funds for the military to adequately train and equip these forces to combat Boko Haram.  Additionally, there needs to more effective allocation of national funds to the areas targeted by Boko Harm. Furthermore, the Nigerian government needs better intelligence gathering resources so that they can better prevent Boko Haram’s attacks. Most importantly, Nigeria needs to request and accept assistance from the international community. The United States has agreed to help combat Boko Haram by providing military and intelligence assistance.[16] France, too, can play role in pressuring neighboring Cameroon, Niger, and Chad to ramp up information sharing and cooperation through the Multinational Joint Task Force.[17] The Nigerian government needs to put the priority of its citizens ahead of its own need to portray itself as a regional power of West Africa in order to combat Boko Haram.

Annielle Makon is a third year student at the University of Baltimore School of Law J.D. Candidate (’15). She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a minor in Sociology from the University of Maryland Baltimore County. While studying Political Science, Annielle developed a passion for human rights and international relations. In addition to being a CICL Student Fellow, Annielle is an Associate Editor on the Journal of International Law. Annielle also interns at Amnesty International in the Sub-Saharan Africa unit.

[1] Andrew Walker, What is Boko Haram?, United States Institute of Peace (March 30, 2012),  http://www.usip.org/publications/what-boko-haram.

[2] Id.

[3] Farouk Chothia, Who are Nigeria’s Boko Haram Islamists? BBC News Africa (January 21, 2015), http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-13809501.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Sophia Kleeman, One Chart Shows Why the World Should Care About Boko Haram, WorldMic  (January 13, 2015), http://mic.com/articles/108328/one-chart-shows-why-the-world-should-care-about-boko-haram?utm_source=policymicTWTR&utm_medium=main&utm_campaign=social.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] Chothia, supra note 5.

[14] Chothia, supra note 5.

[15] Walker, supra note 1.

[16] Jason Warner & Jacob Zenn,  After kidnappings, Nigeria must step up, The Boston Globe (May 15, 2014), http://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2014/05/15/boko-haram-kidnappings-nigeria-must-step/p69X3KAaGqTVpX4WnKMr2K/story.html.

[17] Id.