Nigeria: A Gloomy New Year


January 7, 2015: Boko Haram has increased the frequency and intensity of its attacks in the last month, hitting major military bases in northeast Nigeria and across the border in Cameroon. Dozens of towns and villages have been raided, mainly to kill members of local defense forces and to intimidate the locals into cooperating with the Islamic terrorists. This means the capital of northeastern Borno state (Maiduguri) is surrounded by Boko Haram controlled civilians and soldiers who fear moving from their bases. Maiduguri is where Boko Haram was founded in 2002 and Boko Haram wants it back. The governors of the three northeast state (Borno, Yobe and Adamawa) where Boko Haram is most active want more troops from the federal government. That is difficult to do because the army is weakened by corruption and increasingly public denunciations of that corruption by soldiers and officers. The government does not want to come down hard on the military corruption since it involves most of the senior officers, who are political allies of the politicians.

The government can no longer proclaim that the military is on top of the situation in the northeast. The government has lots of other problems as well. In the north (Kaduna state) and further south (Plateau state) Fulani tribesmen (Moslem herders) have been fighting locals over land and access to water. The government seems helpless in the face of year of Fulani aggression. In the far south (the Niger River Delta) the oil theft and piracy continue unabated. Finally there is the plunging price of oil. Oil accounts for about 14 percent of GDP and the loss of half of that oil revenue will have an obvious impact on the economy. Since so much of the oil income is stolen by corrupt politicians and businessmen and sent out of the country, the impact of declining oil prices will be softened a bit but will still be felt. Even the oil thieves are complaining that they are getting less and less for their stolen oil.

Nigeria has the dubious distinction of being the oil-producing nation suffering from largest problem with theft of crude oil. Not only is this costing the government billion dollars a year in lost revenue, but much of the oil from the plundered pipelines (the thieves just punch a hole to steal the crude) flows into the Niger River delta waterways, polluting the delta and the fishing waters off the coast. In the last decade the government had hired former local rebels to provide pipeline security, but these lads appear to have gone into business with the oil thieves or joined the theft gangs themselves. In southern Nigeria the oil thefts have been going on for decades yet despite government efforts (prompted by media and popular pressure) to curb the thefts the losses have increased. The navy was ordered to find and seize the small tankers that collect the crude oil from the thieves and take it to neighboring countries to be sold to brokers who will arrange for the stolen oil to enter legitimate commerce. Naval officers are now suspected of taking bribes from tanker owners, who can afford to pay large sums to avoid seizure. Oil companies believe about 150,000 barrels of oil a day are being stolen by thieves who tap into Nigerian oil pipelines. That’s several billion dollars a year in lost oil revenue. Most of what the government actually receives from oil production is stolen by politicians and civil servants, so people living in the oil producing regions see themselves as double victims. They don’t get much oil income because of all the theft and also suffer from the pollution the oil thieves cause when a hole is punched into a pipe. Military and police efforts against the pirates and oil thieves are constant, but because of the large payoffs from this illegal behavior, there are always more people willing to take their chances and make some big money.

January 4, 2015: Tribal violence continues in central Nigeria (Plateau State) as Moslem and Christian gunmen attacked each other leaving at least six dead in the last four days as well as destroying property. This is a continuation of the series of attacks that began in 2014. Moslem nomadic Fulani tribesmen have been fighting with Christian and pagan farmers outside the city of Jos for years. The violence has gotten worse now and there were over a thousand casualties in 2013 and nearly as many in 2014. Boko Haram has claimed involvement, but that appears to be marginal. 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.

January 3, 2015: In the northeast (Borno state) Boko Haram attacked the multinational military base at Baga and captured it. Dozens died in the attack, many of them Boko Haram, but the defenders gave up and fled. Earlier in the year the nations bordering Lake Chad (Chad, Cameroon, Libya, Niger, Nigeria and the Central African Republic/CAR) agreed to form a permanent task force to patrol the lake region and coordinate operations against smugglers, Islamic terrorists and bandits. The initial emphasis was on containing the Islamic terrorists, mainly Boko Haram, in the area. The new task force was headquartered in the Nigerian town of Baga, which is on the lake. Baga was the one town in the area large enough to accommodate a new military base. In light of this latest attack Niger and Chad have said they are withdrawing from the joint task force. Elsewhere in the northeast (Borno state) Boko Haram attacked and terrorized a village (killing local defense force volunteers and burning homes.)

January 1, 2015: In the northeast, just across the border in Waza, Cameroon, Boko Haram ambushed a bus and killed eleven people.

December 31, 2014: In the north (Gombe state) a Boko Haram suicide bomber, unable to enter a packed Christian church, detonated his explosives and wounded eight people. Elsewhere in Gombe (Bolari) a female suicide bomber tried to get into a military base but soldiers opened fire on her when she would not halt. Her explosives went off, either because she detonated them or one of the bullets set them off and she was the only casualty.

December 29, 2014: In the northeast (Borno state) Boko Haram attacked a village near Chibok, killing 15 people (most of them local self-defense volunteers), burning many buildings and warning the villagers not to oppose Boko Haram. Chibok was where Boko Haram raided a boarding school in early 2014 and kidnapped over 200 teenage girls.

December 28, 2014: Across the border in northern Cameroon over 500 Boko Haram attacked the major army camp in the area at Achigashiya. The Nigerian Islamic terrorists held the camp for about four hours before being driven out by a counterattack. This was the largest attack Boko Haram ever made in Cameroon and was apparently an attempt to intimidate the army into backing off on counter-terrorism operations. The day before Cameroon soldiers and police has attacked the Boko Haram, killing over a hundred and arresting nearly 200. The Cameroon forces have been successful with operations like this but the Nigerians keep recruiting new men in Nigeria and sending them to camps in Cameroon. While somewhat safer from attack than in Nigeria, the camps in Cameroon are being hit more often and Boko Haram hoped this attack would slow the Cameroon security forces down. The Cameroon government responded by sending more troops north and ordering them to go after Boko Haram more intensively.

December 22, 2014: In the north (Gombe state) a bomb went off in a bus station killing twenty people. Boko Haram was suspected. In nearby Bauchi state two bombs went off in a market killing over twenty. Boko Haram was suspected.

December 21, 2014: In the northeast (Yobe state) Boko Haram men in vehicles raided the town of Geidan, bombed the police station and attacked the local prison releasing Boko Haram men and other inmates.

December 19, 2014: In the northeast (Borno state) troops ambushed and killed 35 Boko Haram men intent on preventing repairs to the local electrical grid. Three soldiers died in the ambush operation.

In the south, (River State) a police waterway patrol came upon gunmen in three speedboats robbing people on a passenger boat. In the following gun battle one pirate was killed but the others escaped. Police captured three speedboats, a machine-gun, an assault rifle, five cell phones and some ammunition.






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