At the end of the year there was a major shakeup in the army leadership. Senior leaders who were not getting results were replaced, with the implication that the new commanders would be lose their new jobs if they did not make significant progress against the Islamic terrorists in the northeast. Also replaced were several intelligence commanders. Keeping tabs on the enemy is crucial in dealing with an organization like Boko Haram. The government has also quietly let commanders know that one sign of failure (and cause for demotion or dismissal) is civilian casualties. Nigerian soldiers and police have long been infamous for their casual attitude towards civilian casualties. This was always a cause for popular animosity against the security forces and with the Boko Haram uprising over the last few years the misbehavior, and public anger, got worse. The government was forced to finally do something about it and now commanders at all levels are being held accountable for civilian deaths due to carelessness or a desire for revenge. This has made a difference, but this casual brutality has been the norm for so long that it is uncertain if the changes will stick.
The government is also working more closely with Cameroon to deal with the Boko Haram men who set up bases just across the border. One of the side effects of driving Boko Haram out of the cities earlier in 2013 was that this forced the Islamic terrorists to move across the borders into Cameroon, Chad and Niger. These three nations have far fewer security forces and Boko Haram tends to behave on the other side of the border so as to avoid antagonizing the local tribes and government. Most of these terrorist camps are in Cameroon, whose border with Nigeria is thinly populated and rarely patrolled. In response to requests from Nigeria Cameroon has increased surveillance of the border posts on the few roads and assigned more police and soldiers to sweep the border area and check for foreigners. Boko Haram tends to keep their weapons hidden while in Cameroon and avoid confrontations with local security forces. This may change if Cameroonian troops come by too often asking too many questions. In anticipation of increased violence Cameroon has organized a rapid reaction force that can reinforce any army or police patrols or border posts that are attacked. Cameroonian police and army units have also established communications with their Nigerian counterparts just across the border. This has led to coordinating border patrols and making plans to deal with Boko Haram men headed for the border from either direction.
It’s been up to Nigeria to greatly improve surveillance on its side of the border but that still leaves a lot of the thinly populated border area unwatched most of the time. There are additional problems with the fact that over 70,000 Nigerian civilians have fled across the border to escape the Boko Haram violence and these refugees are forced to provide cover for some Boko Haram groups.
Then there are the pirates and oil thieves down south. In the last year the navy alone has been arresting 100-150 people a month in the Niger River Delta for oil theft. Each month the navy also seizes over 100 crude refineries (that convert the oil to kerosene or diesel fuel that can be sold locally) and over a hundred boats and barges involved in oil theft. Ashore the police in the Niger River Delta make nearly twice as many arrests and refinery seizures. The navy also deals with about a dozen pirate attacks off shore each month and kills or captures about a dozen pirates each month. The oil thefts continue because it is so profitable and the losses to the security forces is simply written off as a cost of doing business.
December 29, 2013: In the northeast (Borno state) Boko Haram gunmen attacked a village 21 kilometers from the army base at Bama that was attacked on the 20th. The army detected the attackers quickly and came after them with aircraft, artillery and ground troops, forcing the Boko Haram men to flee. The troops noted that the Boko Haram had a lot of vehicles mounting heavy (12.7mm and 14.5mm) machine-guns, apparently bought in Cameroon by black market weapons dealers. Boko Haram keeps coming into Nigeria because that’s where the money is and the Islamic terrorists need cash to survive.
December 28, 2013: Boko Haram released a video taking credit for the December 20th attack but did not mention the aftermath that saw at least fifty of the attackers killed and many more wounded or captured. Also unmentioned was the fact that this year there were no attacks on Christians during Christmas. Back in 2011 there were five attacks on churches during Christmas leaving over 30 dead. The Boko Haram leader on the video denied that his men had eaten portions of their victims, insisting that all Boko Haram did was behead some victims, which is properly Islamic.
December 24, 2013: In the northeast the army and police, along with some local pro-government militias, provided additional security for churches as the Christian minority prepared to celebrate Christmas.
December 23, 2013: In the northeast (between Bama and the Cameroon border) troops caught up with a convoy of Boko Haram gunmen who had attacked an army base on the 20th. Troops killed at least fifty of the Islamic terrorists and destroyed twenty of their vehicles. Several Boko Haram were captured but over a hundred kept going on foot and in vehicles. The army continues searching for the remaining attackers. Since the December 20th attack fifteen soldiers were killed defending the base and then chasing down the attackers. The army got a lot of help from the air force, whose reconnaissance aircraft spotted and tracked the fleeing convoy of Boko Haram man. The terrorists were seeking to get into Cameroon, where Nigerian troops could not pursue.
December 20, 2013: In the northeast (Bama) over a hundred Boko Haram gunmen attacked an army base. The Islamic terrorists used assault rifles, heavy machine-guns and RPGs but were driven off. Several soldiers and at least five civilians (wives and children of soldiers) were killed. The army immediately went after the attackers, who had arrived in several dozen vehicles. This was the second Boko Haram attack on an army base in the northeast this month and because of the first attack security was increased in all bases.
December 19, 2013: In the northeast (Adamawa state, just south of Borno) some 30 Boko Haram gunmen crossed the border from their base in Cameroon and attacked a currency exchange. After killing five of the traders the gunmen grabbed a large quantity of cash and headed for the border. But the police caught up and killed 13 of the Boko Haram men and recovered the cash and lots of weapons.