Nigeria: Business Before Pleasure

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April 9, 2014: As if Nigeria didn’t have enough problems with Boko Haram and tribal feuds, now the military has to contend with politicians and tribal leaders in the northeast accusing the army of collaborating with Boko Haram. It is unclear how this latest conspiracy works, because there was no reason given as to why the military would collaborate other than greed (bribes) and self-preservation (avoiding combat with the Islamic terrorists). The Nigerian military has a history of corruption, but usually in the form of looting or stealing military assets (cash and property). Taking bribes from the enemy, especially one that slaughters women, children and worshippers in church (the military is disproportionately Christian) seems unlikely. The generals are demanding proof and so far, two weeks after they charges first appeared, none has been provided other than statements by an anonymous Moslem soldiers. Looking closely at how the army operates will reveal some incompetence and cowardice and a lot more corruption and desire for revenge. Corrupt politicians and tribal leaders in the northeast could spin that into conspiracy theories about the army being bought or intimidated by Boko Haram because that sort of thing is attractive to the media. Meanwhile the people are desperate for protection from the growing Islamic violence.

A major reason for the increased Boko Haram violence is the damage the army has done to the group’s leadership and finances. Many senior leaders have been killed, captured or driven into hiding. This means the Boko Haram organization no longer exercises much control. General instructions are now distributed via audio or video material posted on the Internet. Boko Haram has split into many semi-autonomous bands that are now more concerned with basic survival (getting food, ammunition, medical supplies, fuel and so on). Thus more raids that are carried out mainly for loot, with murder and property destruction secondary to getting supplies. This has hampered recruiting and led to more desertions, but there are still several thousand armed Islamic terrorists out there.

There are more practical and important accusations you can throw at the army. The main one is the tendency of soldiers to use indiscriminate violence and arrests when faced with widespread Boko Haram violence (or any kind of uprising). Killing civilians and randomly rounding up young men (of the same age as most Boko Haram) tends to be counterproductive. This behavior makes the army little different than Boko Haram, at least as far as many northeastern civilians are concerned. This is especially true of the Moslem majority up there, because the remaining Christians are treated with more restraint and understanding. That makes sense because the Christians want to defend themselves and often form militias with army help. But many Moslem communities feel the same as the Christians and are also under attack by Boko Haram for being “collaborators”, not Moslem enough or both. The army has been ordered to make the most of this situation, get more cooperation from civilians and behave. Not all commanders, especially at the lower levels (platoon, company and battalion commanders) have successfully adapted to these new orders. These undisciplined and randomly violent commanders are as big a problem as Boko Haram.

There are other Boko Haram conspiracy theories being tossed about at the highest levels. One of the more outrageous one has been used by several senior officials accusing dismissed Central Bank head Lamido Sanusi of secretly financing Boko Haram. Sanusi is under attack because he accused senior officials of stealing billions in oil revenue. In response president Johnson suspended Sanusi on February 20th for unspecified irregularities and federal agents seized Sanusi’s passport. Sanusi’s real crime was supplying anti-corruption investigators with data proving that the government officials have recently stolen over $20 billion of oil revenue. Theft on that scale is believed to involve the highest officials in the national government, especially if Sanusi can provide sufficient documentation on the details. On April 3rd a court awarded Sanusi $300,000 damages (from the government) and the return of his passport. The court found the government accusations against Sanusi groundless. The court had earlier ordered the government not to try and arrest or otherwise harm Sanusi. Desperate government officials then came up with the unproved accusations that Sanusi was somehow financing Boko Haram. Sanusi was appointed to head and reform the central bank in 2009. He got a lot done and was much admired locally and internationally within the banking community. The courts expect to decide in May on Sanusi’s demand that he be reinstated as head of the Central Bank. For senior government officials, shutting Sanusi up is of major importance because it is feared Sanusi knows too much about the decades of oil revenue theft at the highest levels of government. Boko Haram may not be able to bring down the government, but Sanusi and what he knows is a major and very real threat.

April 8, 2014: In the northeast (Borno state near Lake Chad) troops went after Boko Haram who were raiding or besieging villages. The Islamic terrorists are in need of food and other supplies and the troops are out to protect the villagers. Today there were several clashes with Boko Haram which left over 30 Islamic terrorists and five soldiers dead. Many more Boko Haram fled into the bush, still armed, hungry and desperate.  Troops captured a lot of weapons and ammo from dead terrorists or that was left behind because the Boko Haram men on foot could not easily carry it all.

April 6, 2014: The government announced that Nigerian GDP was currently $510 billion. This is twice previous estimates and the change came about because the government undertook to examine the economy in detail. This had not been done since 1990 and the measurements (and data collected) until recently had not been adjusted to account for new industries (movie production, cell phones, the Internet and so on). Moreover, as in the rest of Africa there is a lot of corruption and other illegal financial activity that does not easily find its way into government statistics. In the West it is common practice to conduct special surveys and investigations to measure this off-the-books economic activity. That sort of thing was never popular in Africa where the rulers were the most corrupt and did not want to put any of that in the public record. But times are changing and now Nigeria has the largest GDP in Africa (passing less populous South Africa which has no oil and still has higher per-capital income) and is number 26 among world nations. As expected the new GDP number and the data backing it up is raising a lot of embarrassing questions about who has all that wealth and how they got it.

April 5, 2014: In the northeast (Yobe state) Boko Haram attacked a village and went after worshippers gathered in a mosque, killing 17 people and wounding many more. Boko Haram prefers to kill Christians and other non-Moslems but most Moslems in the northeast now fear and hate Boko Haram and the Islamic terrorists must intimidate those it suspects are cooperating with the government. Many Moslems in the northeast have joined local self-defense militias and will tell the army about Boko Haram activity.

In the northwest (Zamfara state) Faluni tribesmen raided a meeting of Hausa self-defense militias and the resulting battle left several hundred Hausa (mostly) and Fulani dead or wounded. This raid was after cattle and other loot as well as the gathering of Hausa militiamen. Both Hausa and Fulani are Moslem. Starting this month, in north central Nigeria (Benue, Nasarawa and Plateau States), the army deployed several thousand troops in an effort to shut down the tribal fighters who have been raiding each other’s villages for most of 2014 and causing over a thousand casualties and much property damage. The army task force has been ordered to find and destroy several large armed groups responsible for most of the mayhem. Most of these marauders are Fulani tribesmen. The Moslem nomadic Fulani have been fighting with Christian and pagan farmers in central and southeastern Nigeria for years and also raiding rival Moslem tribes in the north. The violence has gotten worse and sending in thousands of additional police did not halt the fighting. The Fulani have long claimed that the government was sending Christian 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 Fulani have come south looking for pasturage and water for their herds and have increasingly used force to get what they want. Christian militias fight back, but the Fulani are doing most of the damage this year. This government effort to shut down the Fulani raiders brought forth accusations from mainstream Moslem groups that the army was picking on Moslems by concentrating on the Fulani raiders and not the Christians self-defense groups and tribal militias the Fulani raiders often run into. The Moslem leaders want attention paid to the growing tribal feuds between Moslem tribes, like the recent battle between Fulani and Hausa in Zamfara. At the moment the attacks on Christians gets more attention because half the population of Nigeria is Christian and Boko Haram has declared war on all Christians, especially the shrinking Christian minority in the largely Moslem north. But in response to the recent Fulani raid in Zamfara state the national police have sent in hundreds of additional paramilitary personnel to deal (or try to deal) with that situation.

April 4, 2014: In the northeast, just across the border in Cameroon, Boko Haram kidnapped three Christian missionaries (two Italian priests and a Canadian nun). They will probably be held for ransom although Boko Haram prefer to kill Christian clergy. But these are foreigners and potentially worth millions of dollars in ransoms. Such ransoms are a major source of funds for Boko Haram.  Business before pleasure.

In the northwest (Zamfara state) about fifty gunmen on motorbikes attacked two villages, burning buildings, looting and shooting. Nearly a hundred people were killed or wounded. Boko Haram was blamed, although the Islamic terrorists don’t usually operate in large numbers this far west. Fulani tribal raiders are more likely to operate like this (lots of guys with guns on motorbikes.)

April 3, 2014: In central Nigeria (Nasarawa state) an army raid on a Boko Haram base left over thirty dead. Many weapons and crude bombs (and bomb making materials) were seized. Locals reported the presence of the Islamic terrorists and the army quickly responded. No word yet on any civilians who might have been hurt. Nasarawa is just north of Plateau state where there has been years of violence between Moslem herders and Christian farmers. The army recently deployed a task force to Benue, Nasarawa and Plateau states to deal with the growing activity of armed groups.

April 1, 2014:  In the northeast (Borno state, outside the state capital Maiduguri) a team of Boko Haram gunmen in four vehicles attempted to attack and destroy a fuel depot. Soldiers and police halted the attack at a checkpoint, where one of the vehicles, rigged as a suicide bomb, exploded and killed 15 people. At least six of the attackers died but failed to set fire to the depot or a nearby gas (petrol) station.

The army announced that just across the border the Cameroon Army had recently raided a Boko Haram base and seized a huge quantity of weapons (288 rifles, 35 RPG launchers, 35 locally made bombs plus pistols, mortar shells, some submachine guns and lots of ammunition). The Cameroon Army discovered this camp after they arrested and interrogated two men who worked for a local arms smuggler.

  

 

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