Nigeria: The War Moves South


May 13, 2016: Oil income is once against threatened by gang violence in the Niger River Delta. Because the new president cancelled the security jobs given many former gang members (who had accepted a 2009 amnesty) there has been a noticeable increase in violence against oil facilities. The security jobs were basically a payoff for gang members to ensure they observed the “no more violence” part of the amnesty deal. The new president is going after corruption wherever he can find it and the Niger Delta has always been a very corrupt area because of all the oil facilities there. The violence against oil production declined substantially in 2009 because of the peace deal. That has changed. So far this year there have been one or more major attacks a month on oil facilities. This comes after hardly any such violence since 2013. Former members of MEND (Niger Delta tribal rebels) are believed to be behind most of the new attacks, many of them now members of a new group; the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), which has taken credit for some of the worst recent infrastructure attacks. NDA is now demanding a separate state in the Delta, just as MEND used to do. That will never happen because the oil is the most valuable natural resource in the country. So the government is shifting as many police and troops as it can to the oil producing areas in the delta. By the end of the month NDA will either make good on its threat or it won’t but either way oil production is in big trouble.

The former MEND rebels have long complained that the terms of the 2009 amnesty deal were not enforced fairly and corrupt officials running the program were (and still are) responsible. In response to the new violence the military keeps attacking remote criminal hideouts in the Niger delta, seizing lots of weapons and equipment, but not making many arrests. The gangsters tend to hear the troops coming (usually by boat), and slip away into an area of numerous creeks and islands they know well. Many criminals in the delta support MEND goals (for more autonomy in the Delta, less corruption and spending additional oil money locally). Even through the government has screwed up their end of the amnesty deal they insist that the rebels keep the peace. But corruption and mismanagement have kept many rebels from getting the amnesty benefits and the government is still seen as unreliable, corrupt and hostile. Whoever is behind the latest violence is determined and effective. The government has been forced to deploy security forces to the oil producing areas of the delta because recent attacks have seriously reduced production and it threatens to get worse. At the end of April production was 1.69 million barrels a day, the lowest it has been since 1994. The fall in production is rather recent as in September 2015 it was at 2.1 million barrels a day. In 2013 oil theft and violence got so bad that daily production fell from 2.3 million barrels a day to about two million at the start of 2016. This was despite years of efforts to fulfill government demands to increase production to 3.7 million barrels a day. The previous peak was 2.6 million barrels a day in 2006 (before the Niger Rebels got going and oil theft became a much larger problem). It proved impossible to get back to 2.6 million because of corruption, government incompetence, oil theft and groups like MEND/NDA.

Meanwhile In The North

In the northeast Boko Haram is no longer a major threat but it is still a problem. Several thousand Boko Haram are still operating on both sides of the borders with Niger, Chad and Cameroon. This 30,000 square kilometer (12,000 square mile) region is thinly populated, normally not well policed and large enough for the Islamic terrorists to establish temporary bases from which to raid on both sides of the border. The biggest problem for the remaining Boko Haram is food. Many of the remaining Boko Haram are starving and this can be seen from the emaciated condition of dead or captured Boko Haram. A growing number of these men are surrendering to avoid death by starvation. Boko Haram could still make a comeback, as they have done before. To avoid that a joint force of some 8,000 troops from Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon are coordinating operations along the borders to find and destroy the remaining Islamic terrorists.

Inside Nigeria the major operation is a two week old offensive in The Sambisa Forest. This large (60,000 square kilometers), hilly, sparsely populated area straddles the borders of Borno, Yobe and Adamwa states and has long been a hideout for the Islamic terrorists and, before that, bandits. Few Boko Haram are believed left in the forest and this operation seeks to find and eliminate the few who might still be there. Troops have found more evidence of Boko Haram presence than actual Boko Haram themselves. That’s because the Islamic terrorists will flee when they detect the approach of soldiers. The fleeing Boko Haram are forced to leave a lot of weapons, equipment and supplies behind which is a victory of sorts because the fleeing Boko Haram are now much less able to survive or offer serious resistance. To eliminate the Boko Haram the troops have to keep at it because many of the remaining Boko Haram are the hard core. Given an opportunity these are the men who can rebuild Boko Haram because the corruption and poor government in the region, which provides popular support for the Islamic terrorists, is still there. Troops have killed dozens of Boko Haram so far but encountered evidence of several hundred being in the area. Troops throughout Borno are still finding remote villages were a few Boko Haram man have terrorized the locals into providing sanctuary. These are usually

Meanwhile the government has another major problem with over a million refugees from Boko Haram violence. Many of these refugees have not been getting food and other aid, usually because they were in remote areas or because local aid officials were corrupt. That last problem is being addressed, or at least an attempt is being made to find and remove the corrupt aid officials. Improved security has made it possible to get aid convoys into areas that were previously off-limits without a substantial armed escort (which was often not available). There are over a million additional refugees in neighboring Niger, Cameroon and Chad who are having an easier time of it because there is less corruption and Boko Haram presence to interfere with relief efforts.

May 12, 2016: In the south a new local separatist group (NDA Niger Delta Avengers) gave all oil companies in the region two weeks to shut down and evacuate their staffs or face even more attacks against those facilities and the people working there. Security officials doubt NDA can greatly expand the current level of violence but oil companies are in a panic and demanding more protection or some will leave. The NDA demand also included a detailed list of who owned the oil rights (and receives fees and royalties) in many of the oil fields and noted that most of these owners were former government officials, many from the north. Governments have long been accused of securing peace with the Moslem north by sharing the loot from the massive corruption in the oil industry. The new government estimated that in the last decade corrupt politicians and government officials stole an average of $15 billion from the government each year via plundering oil income.

In the northeast (Borno state) a suicide bomber was stopped by security from entering a government compound in the state capital and detonated his explosives anyway, killing two policemen and four civilians.

May 10, 2016: In the northeast (Borno state) local defense militias across the border in Cameron claim to have prevented over a dozen Islamic terrorist suicide bomber attacks in the last week, usually by killing the bomber before they can reach a populated area. These attacks are believed to be coming from Boko Haram groups in Cameroon who have to intimidate the locals in order to survive. But there are so many police, soldiers and self-defense groups in the area that the Islamic terrorists are having a very difficult time of it.

May 9, 2016: In the south (Rivers and Bayelsa States) two policemen and three soldiers were killed in two separate attacks.

May 8, 2016: In the south (Rivers State) five policemen were killed in an ambush. No one took credit for this so it was probably local gangsters doing some turf protection.

May 2, 2016: In the south (Bayelsa State) an army raid on a pirate gang resulted in a gun battle that left four pirates dead and one soldier wounded. Nearby another group of pirates tried, and failed, to seize a passenger boat (and rob the passengers.)

May 1, 2016: In the northeast (Borno state) troops on patrol came upon an assembly area for a large group of Boko Haram men preparing to attack a nearby military base. The soldiers attacked the assembled Boko Haram, killed nine, captured or wounded many more and caused the rest to flee into the bush. A lot of weapons and equipment were seized and six of the prisoners turned out to be senior (and wanted) Boko Haram leaders.

April 29, 2016: In the northeast (Borno state) troops acting on a tip captured a Boko Haram bomb making workshop. Four Boko Haram were also killed. Weapons, ammo and bomb making materials were also seized.

April 28, 2016: The government signed a military cooperation agreement with France. This mainly involves the sharing of intelligence. France has long provided military assistance to neighboring Chad and that included satellite and aerial photos of the Chad-Nigeria border for use during recent operations against Boko Haram. France began providing the photos directly to Nigerian forces and that led to providing advice on how to exploit the photos and from that came the new agreement.

April 25, 2016: In the southeast (Enugu State) dozens of armed Fulani tribesmen attacked several villages and killed over 30 people. In central and southeastern Nigeria clashes between farmers and herders (who are usually Fulani) has been on the increase since 2013, when there were 63 dead. In 2014 there were 1,229 and there has not been much decline since then despite more police and soldiers being sent in. In some respects this backfired as many Fulani were angered because soldiers have been catching up with some of their raiding parties, killing some of the Fulani and returning stolen cattle and other goods. Tribal violence in this area has been a problem for generations because Moslem and Christian tribes do not get along. Boko Haram has claimed involvement, but that appears to be marginal. The Moslem tribes have long claimed that the government was sending Christian soldiers and police to persecute them because of their religion not because they were constantly attacking Christian farmers. The settled (farming) tribes have been there a long time and in the last few decades more Moslem tribesmen have come south looking for pasturage and water for their herds and have increasingly used force to get what they want. The Fulani will also attack Moslem farmers.


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