Nigeria: Boko Haram Waits, Prepares And Kills

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June 8, 2015: Since the new president (Muhammadu Buhari) took over on May 29 th there have been a dozen Boko Haram attacks leaving nearly a hundred dead. The Islamic terrorists seem eager to show they have not been eliminated in the northeast. Buhari is depending on the army and police to keep the pressure on Boko Haram while he is also investigating the security forces for corruption, incompetence and a long history of murdering civilians during operations. Because of the participation of so many foreign troops in the recent defeat of Boko Haram it was possible to gather more evidence of civilians killed by soldiers and police who simply shot at every young man in sight or rounded up men and killed many of them when they could not provide any information about Boko Haram, or simply to “avenge” recently killed soldiers or policemen. Boko Haram got its start, in part, because of this murderous behavior by the security forces and general knowledge of this has increased public pressure to force the security forces to change their ways. The new president agrees that it is time, but how do you do that in the middle of a war?

In the northeast troops are still searching the Sambisa Forest for Boko Haram camps, many of them protected by landmines and traps. Because most Boko Haram men have fled the forest the landmines and traps are causing more casualties than Boko Haram gunfire. Troops have been in this large (60,000 square kilometers), hilly, sparsely populated area since April. The forest straddles the borders of Borno, Yobe and Adamwa states and has long been a hideout for the Islamic terrorists. It will take months to carefully search the entire forest and the small (a few dozen gunmen) bands of Boko Haram still there will keep moving. Most Boko Haram appear to have gone off to establish new bases in remote villages where the locals are terrorized into cooperating. From these new bases more bomb attacks are planned, prepared and bombers sent on their missions. A lot of women and children have been used as bombers recently. Some bombs have not gone off, because of poor construction or materials. Many bomb building workshops were captured and destroyed in the Sambisa area but most of the bomb builders got away. Then there are the continued Boko Haram raids. There are still instances of Boko Haram attacking towns and villages. These are actually raids to seize needed supplied (food, fuel and so on). But Boko Haram will try and leave the impression that they are just demonstrating that they are still active. The victims do tend to notice that these raiders do not, as was common in late 2014, take over the place and replace the government. The victims of these raids also note that the security forces are still not able to protect them, despite all the speeches by generals and politicians that the people of the northeast are now safe.

Some Boko Haram appear to have fled to neighboring Niger and Cameroon, but only to seek sanctuary because the security forces in those countries are a lot more efficient (and often just as brutal as their Nigerian counterparts.) Although a new Nigerian general was recently appointed to command the multi-national force fighting Boko Haram in the northeast, many Nigerians consider it shameful that prosperous and populous Nigeria had to depend on foreign troops to deal with Boko Haram. Despite the promises of the new president to make the security forces more effective and less corrupt, that is not something that can be done quickly. Meanwhile the foreign troops complain that they often chase Boko Haram out of a town or village more than once because the Nigerian security forces are unable to keep Boko Haram out of the newly liberated places.

In the rest of the country Boko Haram has not been the major concern for the last few weeks but a widespread fuel shortage. This was caused by fears that the new government would not honor payments to distributors for subsidized imported fuel that had already been delivered. In the last week the shortages have eased as the new government promised to make the subsidy payments. Thus the banks were again willing to deal with the firms that import and distribute fuel. These subsidies have long been a source of corruption and a very public scandal. In 2012 the government tried to eliminate the subsidy system but after nearly two weeks of protests the government agreed to restore a third of the fuel subsidies that were cut on January 1. Eventually most of the subsidies were restored. Back then, as part of a government spending cut program, decades old subsidies on fuel were eliminated at the start of 2012. This doubled the cost of most fuels, with petrol (gasoline) going from 45 cents per liter ($1.70 per gallon) to at least 94 cents per liter ($3.50 per gallon). The subsidies consumed $8 billion a year, about a quarter of government spending. The fuel subsidy cuts caused demonstrations and violence but the government did not back off at first. By 2015 the subsidies were still a financial burden and source of corruption. Thus the decision back then to restore the subsidy system. Then as now the companies getting the government contracts to import and distribute the diesel and other refined fuels kick back some of their profits to politicians who provided the contracts.

June 7, 2015: In the northeast (Kaduna state) a police raid to capture two Boko Haram suspects turned into a gun battle that left one policeman dead while the suspects got away in the night. The defeat of Boko Haram in the northeast has made people more willing to phone in tips about what the Islamic terrorists may be up to and where they are hiding. This has led to more raids like this.

June 6, 2015: In the northeast (Borno state) a Boko Haram suicide bomber attacked a checkpoint leaving herself and two others dead as well as wounding four. Elsewhere in Borno a bomb went off in a village near Maiduguri, wounding two. This is typical of the sort of terror attacks Boko Haram has been carrying out for the last few weeks as they strive to demonstrate that they are still in business.

June 4, 2015: In the northeast (Adamawa state) a Boko Haram suicide bomber attacked a town where many refugees from Boko Haram violence had fled. The bombs killed at least 30 and wounded over 40.

June 2, 2015: Boko Haram posted a ten minute video in which a masked spokesman denied the group had recently suffered heavy defeats in the northeast. This was pure propaganda, especially for Boko Haram members and supporters because the group has taken heavy casualties in May and Boko Haram members are still hiding from continuing heavy patrol activity. Boko Haram apparently believes the foreign troops will eventually leave and the Nigerian security forces will not be reformed and improved by then. Thus the security forces can then be intimidated (by assassinations and suicide bombings) and bribed into ineffectiveness. At that point Boko Haram can quickly rebuild and resume its offensive.

May 29, 2015: The new president (Muhammadu Buhari) was sworn in and pledged to clean up corruption and crush Boko Haram. There are more immediate problems for most Nigerians, like growing shortages of electricity and refined fuels. Nigeria has plenty of oil but corruption has long caused shortages because of corrupt fuel importing contracts. Earlier efforts to solve the problem have been crippled by corruption. That’s what happened to a 2010 Chinese offer to build and operate three refineries (in Bayelsa, Kogi and Lagos states), at a cost of $28.5 billion. These would have eliminated a major source of corruption, because lack of refinery capacity makes it necessary to import most of the refined petroleum products needed for vehicles, electricity generation and so on. The government had no financial stake in these Chinese refineries, which would have made it easier to monitor and control corruption related to the refineries. This was all part of a larger Chinese effort to establish economic, diplomatic and military relationships in Africa, and access to many raw materials, and export markets. Previous efforts to build new power plants has been crippled by corruption.

Boko Haram noted the inauguration by firing dozens of RPG rockets into Maiduguri, the capital of northeastern Borno state. This left at least 30 dead. In the last week Boko Haram attacks in Borno have killed over a hundred people. Many of these attacks were actually raids to seize needed supplied (food, fuel and so on).

May 28, 2015: In the northeast (Gombe state) police found and destroyed a bomb building workshop and arrested three men who were working there. The police are trying to find out of these three were chased into Gombe from the offensive in neighboring Borno state or were always operating in Gombe. Unlike Borno, Boko Haram has had a hard time maintaining an active presence in Gombe which had become something of a base area for attacks in Borno and the other two northeastern states that always had a larger Boko Haram presence.

 

 

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