Nigeria: The Politics Of Violence


June 27, 2018: In central Nigeria (Plateau State) Moslem Fulani raiders are still seen as the primary cause of the continuing violence between Fulani and local tribes that rely on farming. In the last week, over a hundred people died because of this violence and most of the victims were Christian farmers. This is part of another spike in this violence. It got going in March when Fulani raiders killed about 25 Christian villagers during a few days of violence that were accompanied by considerable property damage. By the end of March over fifty were dead. Despite growing pressure from the Christian community to recognize the escalating (since 2010) threat in central Nigeria (mainly Plateau, Jos, Kaduna, Benue and Nassarawa states) from the Moslem Fulani herders moving south the violence persists. While these attacks often trigger reprisals by local militias the Fulani are seen as the source of constant tension and violence. Most of the victims of the Fulani violence are Christian. This has been going on for a while. There were over 800 Christians killed in 2016 and far fewer Fulani. The violence declined a bit in 2017 but was not eliminated. To make matters worse the raiders have also been attacking soldiers or police who intervene to protect the farmers. Attempts to negotiate peace deals with the Fulani generally fail.

Tribal violence in this area has been a problem for generations because Moslem and Christian tribes do not get along and, according to many Moslem clerics and religious teachers, never will. The violence has gotten worse lately. There were over a thousand casualties a year since 2013. There have been efforts by state officials to meet with Moslem and Christian tribal leaders to work out peace deals. That has not worked, at least not yet. The federal government sends cash to compensate the families of victims and help with repairing property damage. Some arrests are made but the federal government is seen as avoiding large-scale operations as were used in the northeast to deal with the Boko Haram violence. Christians note that Boko Haram concentrated on attacking Christians, at least until most of them Christians fled the three northeastern states where Boko Haram was most active.

In central Nigeria, some of the murders were apparently carried out by gangs working for politicians, in an effort to make incumbents look bad. This sort of thing is fairly common in Nigeria, where many local politicians have links to criminal gangs that use force and intimidation during election campaigns and the actual voting. This sort of thing is universally condemned but persists. This a worldwide phenomenon that has been around a long time (the Roman Republic and later the Empire noted the practice) and while the practice has declined in the West it has not disappeared.

To further complicate matters the current president (Muhammadu Buhari) is a Moslem, a retired general and a Fulani who cracked down hard on Boko Haram and corruption but has been more reluctant to take on the Fulani violence in central Nigeria. That is changing, if only because Buhari is running for a second term and won’t make it without support from Christian voters. The voting will take place in February 2019

The Cost Of Chaos

A recent international survey showed that Nigeria continues to suffer terrorism losses of nearly half a billion dollars a year. This was nearly twice as large a few years ago when Boko Haram violence at its peaks. The largest GDP loss recently was because of the sharp drop in oil prices after 2014. That caused GDP to fall 28 percent by 2016 after which it began to recover. But it may be a decade or more before GDP returns to 2014 levels (nearly $570 billion a year).

GDP growth depends a lot on oil production as well as the world oil price. By the end of 2017 Nigerian oil production had hit 2.03 million BPD (barrels per day) versus 1.87 million three months earlier. So far in 2018, the average has been 1.8 million BDP because of long-delayed maintenance and refurbishment of the oil production facilities in the Niger River Delta (where most of the production is). At the end of 2016 Nigerian oil production was rising to levels not seen for years. That has been the trend for most of 2017 because the new government had negotiated a peace deal with the local rebels (against corruption and bad treatment of locals in general). Production rose and is on the way to the goal of 2.5 million BPD by 2020. Peace and more oil production are unlikely to be achieved much less sustained unless there are some fundamental economic and political changes in the Niger River Delta oil fields. That is happening, but at a glacial pace because so many of the local politicians and government officials have gotten rich from corrupt practices and are still opposing change. There are still tribe based groups in the Delta that threaten a return to large-scale attacks on pipelines and pumping stations if the pollution is not reduced and local men do not get more jobs with the oil companies. These demands are largely extortion because most of the oil spills are caused by oil theft gangs that puncture pipelines to collect as much oil as they can and flee before troops arrive. There is constant pressure on the oil theft gangs by the security forces but the money is too good and the gangs remain in business. The demands for jobs ignore the fact that many of the jobs require technical skills that locals do not have.

Cameroonian Language War Next Door

Despite assistance from Nigeria, the separatist violence next door in Cameroon continues. Since 2017 over 30,000 English speaking Cameroonians have fled to Nigeria and most are still in Nigeria. The Cameroonian government wants Nigeria to send these refugees back. Conditions in Anglophone (English speaking) areas of Cameroon are grim, with another 80,000 English speaking Cameroonians made homeless by the violence and still in Cameroon. The Nigerian government owes Cameroon a lot because of Cameroonian aid in dealing with the Boko Haram crises. Thus the Nigerians are willing to do whatever Cameroon wants to help deal with the separatist crises. That includes expelling Cameroonians have fled to Nigeria to escape the separatist violence in Cameroon. This is all happening in the southeast where during late 2017 there was growing violence across the border in southwest Cameroon where a separatist movement has turned violent and dozens of people had been killed by the end of 2017. The violence escalated in 2018 and so far more than a hundred civilians and nearly as many police and soldiers have died. Thousands of Anglophone Cameroonians had fled to Nigeria and more keep coming. The issues are more linguistic than tribal and the separatists are largely English speaking Cameroonians (about 20 percent of the 23 million Cameroonians) who protest the bad treatment they receive from the French speaking majority. The English speakers of southwest Cameroon used to be part of Nigeria but as part of the process by which colonial rule ended in the 1950s some groups on proposed new borders were given an option on which nation to belong to. The Cameroon English speakers thought they would be better off as a linguistic minority in Cameroon but subsequent generations developed different attitudes. Ironically the separatist Cameroonians are adjacent to the separatist Nigerian Igbo areas that want to be a separate state called Biafra. The people in these two separatist areas have a lot in common but operating together to form a single new state has never been a priority.

June 25, 2018: In central Nigeria (Plateau State) the state police chief was transferred to another job and replaced by an officer with an intelligence background. This was the reaction of the federal government to more violence over the weekend which left at least 86 people dead, most of them Christian farmers, who were attacked in retaliation for an earlier attack by farmers (from the Berom tribe) in revenge for numerous attacks by Fulani. The Nigerian president is a Fulani and is seen as reluctant to have the security forces hold the Fulani tribesmen accountable.

June 22, 2018: In the northeast (Borno State) a Boko Haram suicide bomber entered a village before midnight and set off his explosives in the midst of some villagers, killing five and wounding six. This was the signal for other Boko Haram to enter the village and loot the place. This included burning down several structures. The attackers also tried to steal a hundred cattle owned by villagers. But apparently, the attackers didn’t know how to herd cattle and abandoned them in the night. The next morning most of the cattle came back to the village where they were born and raised. The continuing use of suicide bombers and roadside bombs has led the military to offer a large reward (nearly $14,000) for information on where to find a large Boko Haram bomb workshop believed to exist in or near the Maiduguri (the state capital). The military has captured a number of these workshops in the last few years and notes that attacks using suicide or roadside bombs decline after each of these workshops is shut down. It is believed that one workshop is supplying most of the bombs currently used for attacks in or near the city. The military commander in Borno is also trying to develop more intelligence sharing between the military and several local police agencies.

June 20, 2018: In the northeast (Borno State) two female Boko Haram suicide bombers were killed while trying to get into a military base outside Maiduguri. In addition to the dead suicide bombers, fifteen bystanders were wounded. Four days earlier six Boko Haram suicide bombers (and rocket fire) killed 43 people in a town southwest of Maiduguri.

June 3, 2018: Soldiers found and rescued 148 civilians (including 48 women) who had been captured and enslaved by Boko Haram some 70 kilometers southeast of Maiduguri, on the Cameroon border. This took place near Bama, the second largest city in Borno. By early 2016 Boko Haram violence had left Bama in ruins. Over 80 percent of its structures had been destroyed or burned out. Nearly all the original population (270,000) has fled since Boko Haram first seized it in September 2014. During seven months of Boko Haram occupation, the economy of Bama was destroyed. Bama changed several hands times as the army kept trying to take it and keep Boko Haram out. That was finally accomplished in early 2016 and all the fighting literally destroyed the city. Bama, once a regional trade center, has yet to revive and that is one reason why the Borno economy has been slow to recover.




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