Nigeria: Snatching Defeat From The Jaws Of Victory

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March 14, 2015: In the northeast Chadian troops that had been fighting Boko Haram in Borno state suddenly moved back into Chad, This was apparently so they could move to northern Cameroon to deal with Boko Haram efforts to establish themselves in that thinly populated part of the country. Throughout late February and early March Chadian troops have driven Boko Haram out of several Borno towns and killed hundreds of the Islamic terrorists. Some Chadian commanders have complained that the Nigerian Army prevented Chadian troops from advancing on several occasions. Nigerian commanders deny this but it may indicate that some Nigerian officers are still willing to take a bribe, even while defeating Boko Haram.

Since late February the Nigerian Army and troops from Niger, Chad and Cameroon have cleaned Boko Haram from nearly a hundred towns and villages in the northeast. This has severely disrupted Boko Haram operations, in large part because large stocks of weapons, vehicles and other equipment were captured or destroyed by the advancing troops. Even the Boko Haram propaganda videos released on the Internet are less effective because they are now poorly produced and the loss of skilled personnel who created the better quality ones. The offensive chased Boko Haram from the dozens of northern Borno state towns and villages they had occupied. These conquests (since mid-2014) were believed to be a Boko Haram attempt to eventually surround the Borno state capital Maiduguri, which is where Boko Haram was founded a decade ago. Capturing Maiduguri would have been a huge victory and everyone on both sides of this war knew it. While the offensive is costing Boko Haram heavy losses (several thousand dead, arrested or deserted) the Islamic terror organization is not destroyed and is still out in the bush. The rampant and destruction government corruption is still around to encourage more young Moslems to join Boko Haram.

The current offensive has caused the troops involved about a hundred casualties (dead, wounded, missing) so far. Many Boko Haram fighters were shocked, surprised and disoriented by the sudden presence of so many better trained and led (and un-bribable) foreign soldiers. Even the Nigerian soldiers performed better in the presence of these foreigners. Fewer than 5,000 troops are involved in the offensive and more than half of them are Nigerian. The Nigerian commanders and soldiers are eager for some victories and now they are getting them as the advancing columns overwhelm the Boko Haram ability to react. Hit in so many places at once many Boko Haram leaders and their followers often panic and flee, abandoning lots of stockpiled weapons and other supplies. It will take months for Boko Haram to rebuild, assuming the pressure from the multi-national force slows down. That is always a possibility because the Nigerian leadership (civil and military) has a knack for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

Boko Haram violence has left over 13,000 dead since 2009, much of it in the last year. In 2014 there were many wars in Africa, but the bloodiest one, in terms of civilian deaths, was in Nigeria. Estimates of the deaths attributable to Boko Haram in 2014 range from 6,000 to 10,000. Either one makes Boko Haram the cause of at least half the deaths in the various wars going on in sub-Saharan Africa in 2014. These include Nigeria, CAR (Central African Republic), South Sudan, Somalia and Congo.

Government efforts to suppress an audit of the oil industry has so far succeeded but is again in the news as the government again seeks to quiet media calls for the release of details from the September 2014 report. During 2014 anti-corruption investigators and activists publicized details of how so much has been stolen, how it was done and how corrupt politicians and officials continue to resist prosecution and punishment. A respected foreign auditing firm (Price Waterhouse) was called in to do the official audit and that was turned in by September and kept secret by the government. The audit apparently confirmed a lot of early-2014 allegations by detailing how $20 billion went missing and where it went. The theft of oil income has been going on for decades and the thieves in the government do not make a lot of effort to hide the theft anymore. For example one scam involved foreign oil brokers who arranged for oil exports to be sold at artificially low rates and the difference (between that and the real price) to be shared by the brokers and corrupt Nigerian officials. In 2013 some $7 billion in stolen oil income has been traced to this scheme. Punishing the thieves is time-consuming and difficult because the thieves can afford lots of lawyers and litigation to slow down (or buy off) Nigerian prosecutors. At the highest levels of government officials can simply refuse to release details of damning audit reports and studies and make up any excuses they think might work. So far these delaying tactics (and dismissing any anti-corruption officials who become too effective) have worked although the pressure from international and local media has been relentless, revealing and impossible to suppress. The current suppression efforts are meant to prevent too much damaging data about president Jonathan from getting out until the March 28th elections are over. Many politicians and government officials refuse to admit a crime even took place and just call for more studies, audits and committees but that gambit appears exhausted and apparently no longer works. Some anti-corruption investigators believe that $20 billion may have been stolen in 2013 alone and that’s what the audit focused on.  The World Bank estimates that at least $400 billion has been stolen since the 1960s. What is different now is that the people have real, verifiable numbers and the numbers are huge. Lots of Nigerians are angry about this, so angry that many corrupt politicians are scared but so far the thieves are winning the war despite losing some battles.

One if those battles is the forced reduction in the government budget caused from the oil prince declining by half in the last 18 months. Corrupt officials still want to steal this revenue but the sharp reduction in oil income means there is not enough money to do that and keep essential services (like paying government employees, especially the security services). Many civil servants report that they have not been paid or have been paid late. One popular proposal among politicians is to increase taxes but that is very unpopular with all Nigerians who saw one benefit of all that oil income to be the resulting general absence of taxes. Now most Nigerians see the politicians seeking to not only plunder the shrinking oil income but to steal from individual Nigerians via more taxes. If ever there were a recipe for rebellion this is it.  A rebellion that might likely morph into a civil war because the Christian half of the population still back the corrupt president Jonathan because he is a Christian from the Niger River Delta oil region and more trusted in the south than the north (which has no oil and less economic activity in general). This is one reason why Jonathan expects to win the elections this month despite his inept handling of the Boko Haram crises and corruption allegations.

March 12, 2015: ISIL posted an audio message on the Internet in which it accepted the Boko Haram offer to join ISIL. The Boko Haram offer was also posted on the Internet but it took a week before ISIL responded. This is apparently because of dissent within ISIL leadership about accepting black African Moslem groups as official members of ISIL. For thousands of years Arabs considered black Africans inferior and while Islam tried to change that with some mentions of universal brotherhood the racist attitudes still persist. Slavery also still exists in many Moslem countries and the slaves are invariably black Africans owned by Arabs. This slavery is usually practiced in violation of local laws, which are ignored when it comes to enslaving black Africans.

The army announced that in northeastern Adamawa state troops had driven Boko Haram out of the last town the Islamic terrorists controlled in the state. The army described this as driving Boko Haram out of Adamawa state but that is not true as the Islamic terrorists will retreat to the bush and set up camps when driven out of towns and villages they had taken over.

March 10, 2015: In the northeast (Yobe state) Boko Haram troops drove Boko Haram out of a town the Islamic terrorists had held for seven months and then found a large bomb factory, stocks of bomb making materials and many completed bombs. Four soldiers died from roadside bombs while retaking the town and the bomb factory was apparently where these bombs were built. The factory also produced suicide bomb vests and many other types of bombs. This facility appears to have been a major source of bombs used by Boko Haram throughout the northeast.

March 8, 2015: In central Nigeria (Jos) Moslem gunmen killed seven Christians and later two armed Fulani tribesmen in the area were killed. There had been similar attacks in the area since January. Moslem nomadic Fulani tribesmen have been fighting with Christian and pagan farmers in central Nigeria for years. The violence has gotten worse lately 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.

March 7, 2015: In the northeast (Borno state) Boko Haram set off five bombs in the state capital (Maiduguri) leaving about 60 dead and 130 wounded. These attacks appear to have been carried out by suicide bombers and at least one of them was female.

Boko Haram posted a message on the Internet pledging allegiance to ISIL. This is believed to be an effort to avoid a split in Boko Haram as more radical members declare themselves followers of ISIL or even try to go to Syria to join ISIL. Few African Islamic terrorists have done that, largely because of the cost and difficulty travelling from Africa to areas where ISIL is dominant. But in many parts of the world older Islamic terror organizations are fracturing because their more enthusiastic members prefer the ISIL style of ultra-violence.

March 4, 2015: The head of the navy, which plays a major role in trying to halt oil theft in the Niger River Delta, admitted that the thefts were still common and were costing the country over $2 billion a year in lost oil income. The navy had no comment on allegations that a major reason for the continued oil thefts was the ability of the oil theft gangs to bribe navy commanders to concentrate their efforts on oil thieves who do not pay bribes (or large enough bribes).

March 3, 2015: In the northeast (Adamawa state) Boko Haram gunmen raided and destroyed three villages within 48 hours, leaving at least 27 dead, many more wounded and hundreds homeless.

February 27, 2015: In the northeast (Borno state) Boko Haram gunmen attacked the marketplace in the small town of Mainok, killing at least 14 people, doing some looting and then leaving. This town is only 65 kilometers from the state capital.

February 26, 2015: In the northeast thousands of Chadian soldiers entered Borno state and began attacking Boko Haram fighters controlling towns and villages in the northern portion of Borno.

In central Nigeria (Plateau state) two bombs went off near the University of Jos, killing at least 13. Boko Haram was suspected. In a separate incident a woman in the suspected of working with Boko Haram on a suicide bombing was murdered by an angry mob.

February 24, 2015: In the north (Yobe state) Boko Haram set off bombs at two bus stations killing at least 27 people.

 

 

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