Nigeria: Losing The North

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September 14, 2020: In the northeast (mainly Borno state) corruption and continued Boko Haram violence have crippled the educational system, as well as the economy and much else. In the last decade Boko Haram has destroyed or damaged over a thousand schools and caused more than 1,500 schools to be closed in Borno. This has crippled efforts to educate about four million students. Efforts to repair the damage are crippled by corruption and continued Boko Haram violence. The Islamic terrorists are finding that the local refugee camps are a valuable resource. There are always some armed gangs in these camps, where the usual local leadership of elders or elected officials is lacking. Boko Haram has become the most powerful gang in many camps, although they do not publicize their Boko Haram affiliation because the army will enter the camp to deal with extraordinary circumstances. The usual poverty, unemployment and lack of schools is considered normal and Boko Haram exploits it to recruit supporters. For uneducated and unemployed teenage boys, joining Boko Haram to be a fighter seems attractive because there is the prospect of loot and sex. Teenage girls are often coerced to be suicide bombers.

A growing portion of Boko Haram income is from extortion payments. In many parts of northern Borno state Boko Haram can make use of the roads impossible for personal and commercial traffic, unless these drivers pay a fee to get past the Boko Haram roadblock. Sharing control of the roads with the military makes it possible for Boko Haram assassins to go after local leaders who are usually tribal chiefs or government officials. In the aftermath of these deaths the replacement leaders tend to be more accommodating to Boko Haram demands. Captured civilians are used as slave labor as well as hostages for ransom. Few families in northern Borno can afford a ransom so the captives are gone until they die, escape or are rescued by the army.

The objective of all this mayhem is to enable Boko Haram to slowly take control of the population and government in the north.

Boko Haram violence in 2014-15 resulted in Boko Haram taking control of many parts of northern Borno. That control was broken by 2017 because of a massive army offensive. Boko Haram was diminished and scattered but not destroyed and the Islamic terrorists changed their tactics, rebuilt their numbers and sought to make a comeback. Boko Haram has been more successful at that than the army has been at destroying them.

The Boko Haram violence has caused nearly 300,000 Nigerians to seek refuge in Cameroon, Chad and Niger. Most of these refugees live in refugee camps, which have become a refuge for Boko Haram members. Back in Nigeria (mainly Borno state) there are still over two million internal refugees from Islamic terrorist and tribal violence in northern Nigeria. Despite years of efforts by the army, Boko Haram has become a permanent presence in northern Borno state and able to regularly carry out attacks in Cameroon and Niger as well.

Northern neighbors Chad, Cameroon and Niger criticize Nigeria for not maintaining discipline in the army and making Nigeria as inhospitable for Boko Haram as Chad, Cameroon and Niger. These three countries are raided by Boko Haram based in Nigeria and the Islamic terrorists have had a much more difficult time establishing bases in these nations.

Cameroon has had the most trouble with Boko Haram in part because it shares a long border with eastern Nigeria. Northern Cameroon is less populous and developed as neighboring Nigeria but the Cameroonian military is more effective. Cameroon civilians have the most problems with Boko Haram in areas where refugee camps for Nigerians are located. There is a growing popular demand in Cameroon for the Nigerian refugees to be forced back into Nigeria because of the way Boko Haram uses the camps as a refuge and source of support.

Since the 2010 Boko Haram violence along Lake Chad, the borders with Niger and Chad have been a major battleground. In that decade there were nearly 30,000 dead and three million refugees. Over 80 percent Most of the dead and refugees from Boko Haram violence have been in this Nigerian border zone.

While the Boko Haram violence is coordinated in an effort to control territory, that is complicated because there are two separate factions of Boko Haram. The larger faction is also called ISWAP (Islamic State West Africa Province) and it is the cause of most of the violence near Lake Chad. ISWAP was once a faction of Boko Haram that declared its allegiance to ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) in 2016. Many of these new ISIL members had been with Boko Haram since 2004. ISWAP personnel are mainly in northeastern Nigeria with smaller numbers in Chad, Niger and northern Cameroon. What remains of the original Boko Haram is about half the size of ISWAP and operates in northern Borno state areas that are not near Lake Chad. The two factions have fought each other in the past, but in the last two years appear to have established some form of ceasefire and an effort to stay out of each other’s way.

Boko Haram also tends to stay away from the tribe-based violence in northern and central Nigeria. This conflict is between nomadic herders and farmers over who controls land and water resources. This conflict was a growing source of violence even before Boko Haram violence appeared in 2004. For a few years (2015-17) Boko Haram was killing more people but since 2018 Boko Haram has declined while the farmer-herder violence has increased. Overall Nigeria has been suffering 400-500 deaths a month from the Islamic terrorists and tribal violence. Most of the dead are civilians. Because of all this violence in the north local and national government is losing control of much of the Moslem north. While that loss of control is seen as a national crisis, it is not as important as the oil fields in the far south, in the Niger River Delta. Security in the oil producing states gets far more attention than anywhere in the north. The semi-desert north has long been less prosperous than the moister south, with its oil, more rainfall and access to the sea.

September 1, 2020: In the northeast (Borno state) Boko Haram gunmen ambushed some soldiers while another Boko Haram group attacked an army base in the same area (Magumeri) near Lake Chad. At least twenty soldiers died plus a number of Islamic terrorists. Boko Haram was able to take their dead and wounded with them when they withdrew. There have been several Boko Haram attacks in the area in the last month. The army is vulnerable to these attacks but is also able to bring in reinforcements quickly. Often the air force has armed aircraft aloft in the area and these are directed to site of the Boko Haram clash and often cause the Islamic terrorists a lot of casualties and destroy vehicles Boko Haram uses to move around with and especially to get away from airstrikes. Neighboring Chad has encouraged Nigeria to use its air force more aggressively and effectively to find Boko Haram camps and go after them and keep going after these Islamic terrorist bases until the Islamic terrorists move somewhere else or fall apart because of the lack of base areas. Chad attributes the chronic and widespread corruption in the Nigerian security forces (military and police) for the inability to emulate Chad.

August 18, 2020: In the northeast (Borno state) soldiers escorted a convoy of trucks taking 1,200 refugees back to their homes in Kukawa (near Lake Chad) on August 2nd. Today Boko Haram raided the reoccupied town and kidnapped several hundred of the returned refugees and stole whatever they could find. Another Boko Haram group attacked the nearby army base that had been established to keep Boko Haram out of the areas. News of this attack gets back to the refugee camps in southern Borno state and discourage refugees from returning to their abandoned homes, businesses and farms in the north, especially near Lake Chad where Boko Haram is still present in sufficient numbers to keep the army on the defensive much of the time.

 

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