Nigeria: Trying To Deal With The Devil

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October 19, 2013: The government admits that they have people talking to Boko Haram leaders but don’t know when, if ever, any results will be achieved or announced. Boko Haram leadership does not appear to control all groups operating as “Boko Haram” and many Boko Haram want victory (a religious dictatorship for all of Nigeria) or death. Boko Haram gunmen continue to operate in the northeast terrorizing the rural population. Boko Haram is still able to operate in the cities but at a much lower level than before May, when the army began a major offensive against the Islamic terror group. Some local leaders (tribal, religious, and elected) are trying to work with Boko Haram, but that is proving difficult because Boko Haram is dominated by religious fanatics and leaders who are quick to feud with each other. This sort of internal bickering means that Boko Haram has little staying power, but for the next year or two it will remain a factor in northern politics. Boko Haram has already lost much local support because of its seeming random violence. While Boko Haram tries to spare local Moslems and go after only infidels (non-Moslems), enough Moslems get killed and suffer the economic losses to make Boko Haram less a savior and more of a curse for most northerners. Boko Haram won’t go away until the angry and usually unemployed and uneducated young men who provide the new recruits get turned off. That hasn’t happened yet.

October 18, 2013: A major oil pipeline was repaired and restored 150,000 barrels a day of oil exports. This pipeline had been shut down 5 times in the last 3 months because of oil thieves and deliberate efforts to shut it down. The local tribes, angry at the government for stealing most of the oil income (little of that money gets back to where the oil is produced) blame the foreign oil companies that handle production. The foreigners are used because a Nigerian run firm would be crippled by corruption and not very productive. But the foreign firms depend on Nigerian police and troops for security and the Nigerians have not been able to prevent the damage. Corruption also reaches into the foreign oil companies with employees (usually locals) taking bribes to assist oil thieves. Nigeria is considered a very difficult and unprofitable place to operate oil fields and the foreign firms are always on the verge of leaving and some have already done so. What keeps some in Nigeria is access to offshore oil fields, which have far fewer security and vandalism problems. 

Despite increased scrutiny by the navy and police, pirate attacks are running at about 3-4 a week compared to 2-3 a week last year. A quarter of these attacks are major and involve kidnapping or cargo theft or both, as well as the usual taking cash and portable property from the crew and ship. The pirates are operating off the Nigerian coast (the Gulf of Guinea) and in some of the major rivers and estuaries. The pirates are becoming more thorough in stripping a ship of valuable portable items and even kidnapping ship’s officers and taking them to hideouts ashore to be held for ransom. The gangs are apparently advised by expert fences on what equipment to look for because some of these expensive shipboard electronics are showing up for sale in other parts of the world. The fences often ship the stuff out of Africa or sell it via the Internet to get a better price. As a result, the pirates are gaining more money per ship raided and that persuades more land-based gangs to give piracy a try. There are plenty of tankers and other merchant ships in the Gulf of Guinea and not all are paying attention to warnings about improving their security. While the Somali pirates could gain larger ransoms (sometimes over $10 million per ship) they have not been able to grab a ship in over a year because of more aggressive naval patrols and tighter security on the big ships. That has not happened on the west coast, and the gangs are happy if they can net several hundred thousand dollars in loot (including cargo transferred at sea to a pirate owned freighter or tanker) and ransoms per ship raided. The shipping companies have to pay higher insurance premiums and deal with lower crew morale and are now incurring higher operating costs because of the need for better security. All these additional costs are passed on to the countries adjacent to the Gulf of Guinea in the form of higher shipping rates.

Oil theft also remains a major problem, about 150,000 barrels a day are taken. About a quarter of that is now converted to kerosene in crude improvised refineries out in the bush. The refinery process used is dangerous for the operators and leaves a lot of pollution behind. These improvised refineries cost less than $5,000 to set up, employ 15-20 people, and generate over $7,000 a month in profit. So the operators don’t mind if a lot of them are found by the security forces and destroyed.

Nine of the 37 states have adopted Islamic (sharia) law and try, with different degrees of success, to enforce it. All 9 sharia states are in the north and attempts to enforce lifestyle interpretations of sharia are unpopular. One example is a recent effort in Kano state to prohibit men who work in public from wearing shorts and tight sleeveless shirts. Some clerics consider this immodest and un-Islamic and in Kano police are going to try and force men to dress in a correct Islamic style.

October 13, 2013: In the north (Borno state) the army reported that it repulsed Boko Haram attacks against 3 towns (Bama, Gwoza, and Pulka) and killed at least 40 of the terrorists. Outside Bama troops disabled a truck loaded with explosives, which was apparently to be used by a suicide bomber.

October 9, 2013: In the north (Kano state) police raided and destroyed a Boko Haram bomb workshop. In nearby Adamawa state some fifty Boko Haram attacked a village and killed 8 people but fled before the soldiers showed up.

October 8, 2013: In central Nigeria (Plateau state) tribal violence left over 16 dead when Fulani cattle thieves raided a village, killed 10 civilians and were in turn attacked by police, who killed 6 of the fleeting Fulani. The victims of these raids are often Christian farmers, while the Fulani, who tend herds of cattle and are usually Moslem, are often the attackers. The Christian farmers and Moslem herders constantly argue over land and water.

                                           

 

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