Nigeria: Trying To Cure The Oil Curse


July 31, 2015: The recently replaced head of the Nigerian armed forces commented that the Nigerian military was not properly equipped or trained to deal with a foe like Boko Haram. Many Nigerians noted that the former commander did not discuss the fact that decades of corruption in the military were the primary cause of the shortcomings in equipment and leadership. The new president recently replaced over 300 senior officers, apparently in an effort to get rid of (by retirement, if not prosecution) the more corrupt and ineffective (or counterproductive) military leaders. Because of the sorry state of the Nigerian military, troops from neighboring countries had to be called in. Ironically the neighboring states do not have the oil wealth of Nigeria and that meant less corruption and more professionalism in their armed forces. This is a common pattern world-wide and the less developed a nation is when it discovers oil the more corruption and less progress that new wealth creates.

The new president recently visited the United States to seek more aid. American officials told president Buhari that the U.S. is forbidden by law from providing weapons to nations with a clear record of abuse by the security forces. There are documented cases of thousands of unjustified killings by Nigerian soldiers and police. Then there’s the corruption problem, with much past military aid quickly becoming useless because corrupt officers stole the money needed to maintain or operate new gear. A less publicized reason is that most American politicians are concerned about the risk of embarrassing headlines if Nigerian forces take new American military aid and use it to slaughter civilians or simply sell those weapons to the enemy or black market arms dealers. Buhari could not guarantee that this would not happen. While Buhari can get any weapons he needs from China, Buhari would prefer a closer relationship with the United States. Wwhat Buhari really wanted was active American help with intelligence and training. The United States has been quietly providing intel assistance but training is another matter. Many Nigerian officers oppose American trainers, not least because the American trainers and advisors tend to find out about corrupt practices and report it. The sad fact is that many Nigerian officers (mainly senior ones, like colonels and generals) are more concerned about prosecution for corruption than anything else. Buhari is a former general and knows how the corruption works. He also knows that there are honest officers but not enough of them to replace all the tainted ones. Buhari’s best option is to get rid of the worst officers via retirement, firing or prosecution and scare the “semi-dirty” but still potentially competent officers into being less corrupt and more professional leaders. All this is difficult to do, which is why the government is depending so much on troops from neighboring states. This is humiliating to many Nigerians, especially those in the security forces, but it is generally accepted as an unpleasant necessity. 

The neighbors have another reason for sending more troops into Nigeria. That is mainly to keep the Boko Haram fighters from operating outside Nigeria. Chad recently reported that during the second half of July their security forces had killed 117 Boko Haram men (and lost two soldiers dead plus two wounded). The intensity of these operations was intended to convince Boko Haram that it was not worth it to operate in Chad, including islands in Lake Chad , which borders Niger, Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon. So far Boko Haram does not seem to be getting the message. Another problem could be the splintering of Boko Haram, especially since they lost all their major bases in the last few months. Some factions believe that the ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) approach of maximum and unrelenting violence is the only way to go. In early July Boko Haram was finally accepted by ISIL as an official affiliate. Many Boko Haram feel it necessary to prove to the Arab dominated ISIL that black African Islamic terrorists have what it takes to kill with the best.

Despite the refusal to provide high-tech weapons the United States is paying more attention to the problems Nigeria is having dealing with Islamic terrorism. Nigeria is not coping well and definitely needs help. For example, according to a U.S. State Department survey terrorist violence worldwide was up by a third in 2014 (to 13,500) mainly due to ISIL in Syria and Iraq and Boko Haram in Nigeria. The number of terrorist related deaths nearly doubled (to 33,000) and the number of kidnappings nearly tripled (to 9,500). ISIL and Boko Haram were heavily into mass killings and mass abductions in 2014. There were consequences and both ISIL and Boko Haram were less deadly in 2015. Both organizations suffered from more retaliation and were more often on the defensive in 2015. The degree of savagery ISIL and Boko Haram exhibited in 2014 motivated more nations and groups to fight back.  While terrorist attacks occurred in 95 countries some 6o percent of it occurred in just five countries (Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and Nigeria). Some 80 percent of terrorist related deaths occurred in just six countries (Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and Nigeria).

Boko Haram continues raiding towns and villages throughout the northeast. In some cases local self-defense volunteers drive away the Islamic terrorists. Boko Haram avoids towns with army garrisons as the troops do not flee as quickly as they once did. This violence has been the norm since the new president (Muhammadu Buhari) took power on May 29th. Many troops and police are tied down manning checkpoints to make it more difficult for the Islamic terrorists to move around and get suicide bombers into densely populated areas. Boko Haram related deaths (mostly civilians) have averaged about a hundred a week since early June. There has been a slight increase in Boko Haram related deaths in the last two weeks and that trend is expected to be reversed as more foreign troops enter northeastern Nigeria to seek out and kill Boko Haram members.

July 30, 2015: The government named an officer (a general formerly in charge of the oil-rich Niger Delta region in the south) to command the new multi-national (Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Benin) force that is ready to begin operations against Boko Haram. This Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) has nearly 9,000 troops, with each nation contributing some of its most effective soldiers. The means the terrorist related violence will continue over the next few months, but with Boko Haram providing more of the victims.

July 29, 2015: In the northeast (Borno) troops drove Boko Haram out of two remote villages and freed 59 women and children the Islamic terrorists were holding as slaves. The troops had received tips from locals about Boko Haram activity and this also led to the capture and destruction of two Boko Haram camps. Over 30 Boko Haram were killed during these four operations and much equipment and many weapons were captured along with a few prisoners.

July 28, 2015: In the northeast (Adamawa State) troops intercepted and seized over 100,000 liters (25,000 gallons) of fuel being smuggled in from Cameroon by gangsters who were selling it to Boko Haram. After seizing dozens of vehicles, several smugglers and over 4,000 containers full of fuel the troops discovered that this was a major Boko Haram supply line. As long as the Islamic terrorists could pay the gangs would provide fuel and other supplies. Several smaller smuggling operations like this have already been found and disrupted but this was the largest one to date. The air force revealed that its reconnaissance efforts (using manned aircraft and UAVs) had noted the suspicious convoys and directed ground forces to intercept. The air force also revealed that it had spotted Boko Haram bases and camps on the Cameroon side of the border and that enabled Cameroonian troops and police to raid and destroy these facilities, often killing or capturing many Boko Haram men in the process.

Cameroon announced that it was sending another 2,000 troops to its northern areas that border Nigeria. This increases the troop strength in that area to 8,000 and most of these soldiers are involved dealing with the threat from Boko Haram. These reinforcements are mainly in response to recent Boko Haram suicide bomb attacks in the area that killed over 30 Cameroon civilians.

Elsewhere in the northeast (Yobe State) the gunfire heard in Damaturu city turned out to not be Boko Haram. The army later admitted that the gunfire was from a soldier who was firing for no particular reason and was subsequently disarmed and arrested.

July 27, 2015: In the northeast (Borno) Boko Haram raided three fishing villages on the Lake Chad coast and murdered (by slitting throats) ten fishermen. This looting and terrorizing is all about supplying the Islamic terrorists with necessities (food and fuel) and convincing the locals to not cooperate with the security forces. Further south in Borno Boko Haram raided a village, killed three self-defense militiamen and fled. But the army was alerted and intercepted the Islamic terrorists and killed eleven of them.

July 26, 2015: In the northeast (Yobe State) a Boko Haram suicide bomber attacked a market place in Damaturu city killing 19 civilians. The bomber was a teenage girl.

July 25, 2015: In the northeast (Borno) Boko Haram raided a village just outside the Sambisa forest (still a favorite hideout of the Islamic terrorists). At least 21 civilians were killed while the Boko Haram men looted and burned the place. Elsewhere in Borno troops, aided by air strikes, drove Boko Haram out of the town of Dikwa. The Islamic terrorists had raided the town and then stayed, which the army saw as an opportunity to kill or capture some of the Islamic terrorists.

July 22, 2015: In the northeast (Gombe state) Boko Haram suicide bombers attacked two bus stations, killing 42 civilians.

In neighboring Cameroon Boko Haram suicide bombers attacked a crowded market place and killed over 30 people.

July 21, 2015: In the northeast (Borno) Boko Haram raided a rural village and while looting and burning their way through the place destroyed the family home of the new head of the armed forces. General Tukur Baratai was not home at the time.

Elsewhere in the northeast (Yobe State) a Boko Haram suicide bomber attacked a checkpoint outside Damaturu city, killing three policemen and four civilians.

July 19, 2015:  In the northeast (Yobe State) the army reopened a main road that had been closed for a year by Boko Haram violence. First it was ambushes and roadside bombs. But after the Islamic terrorists were driven away from the road earlier in the year it took a major effort to remove all the bombs and landmines Boko Haram had left behind. In neighboring Borno State the military lifted two days of curfews and travel restrictions in and around the state capital (Maiduguri).

July 18, 2015: Neighboring Niger reported that a recent Boko Haram raid on a Niger village near the border had left 16 civilians dead. Niger also reported that in the last few weeks its troops had killed 32 Boko Haram men caught in Niger and captured some others as well.

July 16, 2015: In the northeast (Gombe state) two Boko Haram suicide bombers attacked a crowded market area leaving over 40 dead.

Federal intelligence police raided several homes and buildings belonging to the recently dismissed national security advisor Mohammed Sambo Dasuki. The police found five bullet proof vehicles Dasuki had no ownership documents for plus dozens of rifles and other weapons that were unregistered. Dasuki was among the many senior officials fired by the new president (Buhari) since June, because of campaign promises to get rid of corrupt and incompetent officials. Dasuki was suspected of plotting some form of retaliation against Buhari.

July 14, 2015: In the northeast (Borno) Boko Haram raided a town near the Niger border and killed at least a dozen people and burned down several buildings before being driven away. Three other villages in the area was also raided.

July 13, 2015: President Buhari announced that he had dismissed all the most senior military officers and would be announcing replacements soon. A total of 334 senior officers have been retired or dismissed from their positions since early June.






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