Nigeria: Mysteries Sort Of Revealed

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August 8, 2017: The Islamic terrorist problem in the northeast is being sustained in part by competition. Boko Haram has split into two major factions that see each other as rivals, not allies. The two faction leaders spend most of their time staying out of view while trying to rebuild and organize terror attacks designed to attract the most media coverage. The Barnawi faction is recognized by ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) leadership while the Shekau faction (while still claiming to be part of ISIL) is not. Because of this the two factions have been operating quite differently. Barnawi is believed to have established a base in southern Libya, where ISIL still operates and has access to smuggling routes from Libya south (via Niger) to northern Nigeria, Mali and the Atlantic coast. Barnawi is concentrating on training and developing an organization that will last.

The Shekau faction is still in northeast Nigeria doing what Boko Haram has always done; killing as many Nigerians as possible. While the Barnawi faction has been relatively quiet the Shekau faction is killing about a dozen people a week. This includes some attacks in neighboring Cameroon, where Boko Haram often seeks sanctuary from military pressure in Nigeria. Boko Haram also recruits from refugee camps in Cameroon housing refugees from Nigeria.

The Boko Haram split began in August 2016 when ISIL announced that it was replacing Abubakar Shekau with Abu Musab al Barnawi., ISIL accused Shekau of mismanagement, especially because he devoted too much effort to killing fellow Moslems (especially civilians) rather than the real enemies of ISIL (local security forces and non-Moslems in general). ISIL leadership was also unhappy with the Boko Haram use of children and women as suicide bombers. While the new Boko Haram leader has concentrated attacks on the security forces and non-Moslems he has also used children, especially females, as suicide bombers. Barnawi is a son of Mohammed Yusuf, one of the Boko Haram founders. Barnawi was appointed chief Boko Haram spokesman in January 2015 and established himself as a leader. Although Barnawi has developed a following in Boko Haram Shekau refused to accept the ISIL decision.

Shekau attracted Boko Haram veterans who regretted the 2015 decision to become part of ISIL. At the time this was believed to be an effort to avoid a split in Boko Haram as more radical members declared themselves followers of ISIL or even tried 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 (or was) 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. By the time Boko Haram joined ISIL was already on the defensive in the Middle East and by mid-2017 ISIL was facing the loss of its primary sanctuary in Syria and Iraq. For that reason the smaller operations in Africa (mainly Libya and Nigeria) assumed greater importance. ISIL still had resources and Nigeria was now near the top of the list of those who would get them.

The two Boko Haram factions appear to have achieved some kind of truce with each other and continue to operate independently. The intelligence agencies believe the two factions are pursuing different goals because one faction is international while the original one was strictly about Nigeria. This is a common patter with Islamic terrorists groups in Africa.

Boko Haram And The Donate A Daughter Option

Police seeking to discover why so many children and girls were being used by Boko Haram as suicide bombers believe they have discovered the reason. Boko Haram will often “protect” are area from violence (mostly the work of Boko Haram) if the locals pay “taxes.” This is often in the form of cash or supplies (like food), labor or use of structures. In 2015 it became common for Boko Haram to demand children (as fighters or girls for “wives”) but Boko Haram leaders noted that the younger kids could be persuaded to cooperate in suicide bombing operations, especially if you didn’t tell them they were going to be blown apart. These were rural kids that were illiterate and did not have access to electronic news media so were unaware of what they were getting into. This use of kids became very noticeable in early 2017 when it was noted that the use of children as suicide bombers has tripled this year (27 in the first three months of 2017 compared to nine in 2016) was rapidly increasing.

The Other Economy

It appears that Nigeria is recovering from the recession and will end 2017 with some (under one percent) GDP growth. The new government has made some progress on curbing the corruption and helping the economy adapt to lower oil prices. At the same time oil production has grown to 2.35 million barrels per day (BPD). At the same time actual oil income is less than expected because world oil prices remain low. That has been the trend for the last few months. Production rose 22 percent in April to 1.48 million BPD. Production was 1.53 million BPD at the start of 2017 but then declined to 1.43 million in February and 1.21 million BPD in March. The April increase is largely the result of the federal government making acceptable peace deals with the local tribal rebels who have been bombing pipeline and other oil facilities. That violence returned in 2016 because of corruption in the local state governments that became an issue once more. Back in late 2016 the government proclaimed the 1.56 million BPD in November 2016 put Nigeria on the way to the goal of 2.5 million BPD by 2020. Then reality intervened as promises to the locals were broken. Peace and more oil production is unlikely to be achieved much less sustained unless there are some fundamental economic and political changes in the Niger River Delta oil fields. That is happening, but at a glacial pace because so many of the local politicians and government officials have gotten rich from corrupt practices and are still opposing change.

August 6, 2017: In the southeast (Anambra state) gunmen entered a Catholic church during a heavily attended mass and began shooting. Twelve people were killed before the gunmen suddenly left. It quickly became clear that this was not another Islamic terror attack (Boko Haram is rarely encountered in this part of the country) but a gang war. The gunmen were in the church looking for a specific target, who wasn’t there and the gunmen stopped shooting and left when they realized that. Since this happened in a church and only innocent civilians died lots of people were willing to tell the police what they knew. People connected with the shooting were soon found, arrested and confirmed what many had suspected.

August 3, 2017: The government has agreed to legalize many of many of the illegal oil refineries that supply refined petroleum products to several million people in the Niger River Delta and work for thousands. Such refineries are common in the Niger River Delta where they using stolen crude oil but the government will provide crude oil for the legal refineries. For decades gangs have punched holes into pipelines and gathered oil for use in crude illegal refineries that produce low grade kerosene and diesel. In 2016 the security forces destroyed 181 of these illegal refineries and seized oil and refined products worth about $1.3 billion. The government proposal would allow these improvised refineries to be set up all over the country to deal with the chronic shortage of refined petroleum products (another side effect of decades of corruption). The government would supply the crude oil to the legal mini-refineries (that would pay their taxes and not pollute the neighborhood).

August 2, 2017: The United States has apparently overcome political opposition to selling Nigeria twelve A-29 Super Tucano warplanes and given final permission for the sale. This is something the Nigerian military had wanted since 2015 but the U.S. refused to provide because of the corruption and Nigerian security forces tendency to kill a lot of civilians. The A-29 can be used for pilot training as well as air support of soldiers and police. Such support includes surveillance and reconnaissance as well as bombing. The Super Tucano is a single engine turbo-prop trainer/attack aircraft that is used by over a dozen nations. This aircraft carries two internal 12.7mm (.50 caliber) machine-guns along with 1.5 tons of bombs, rockets, camera/signal collection pods or even a 20mm autocannon pod. It can stay in the air for 6.5 hours at a time. It is rugged, easy to maintain and cheap. These cost about $18 million each when you include training, spare parts and support equipment. These aircraft are more useful than jet fighters, which are much more expensive to buy and operate and are not as effective for ground attack.

July 30, 2017: Acting president Osinbajo ordered the senior military leadership to establish a headquarters in the northeast and visit it regularly to deal more effectively with the continuing Boko Haram violence up there. The military chiefs obeyed and visited an airbase near Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state. This is where most of the Boko Haram violence has occurred and Maiduguri was where Boko Haram first became active. The military chiefs know that the acting president (and his boss, who is on sick leave) follow up on things like this. So the Maiduguri air base has been ordered to prepare for regular visits and staff officers stationed at the base were told that their work in the next few months could make, or break, their careers.

July 28, 2017: Boko Haram released a video of three civilian oil exploration personnel (from the faculty of the University of Maiduguri) who were kidnapped in the aftermath of an ambush on the 25th in Borno State. The three men are being held by the Barnawi faction of Boko Haram. This faction is recognized by ISIL and has access to resources Islamic terror groups use to get large ransoms for hostages, especially foreign hostages. So far there has not been a specific demand.

July 26, 2017: President Buhari met in London with governors of seven Nigerian states to clear up some of the mysteries that had developed because he had been in Britain receiving medical treatment since early May. Buhari had not appeared in public since then nor had he made any live media appearances. Today he explained to the seven governors that he was following the advice of his doctors and resting while taking the time to complete his treatments. He did not say (in his own voice, which had not changed) how long that would take. Buhari did appear ill but was alert and confident he would return to Nigeria. The vice president, Yemi Osinbajo, has officially been “acting president” since May because the 74 year old Buhari had been incapacitated and unwilling to communicate. This has happened before but this is the longest Buhari has been on medical leave and the 60 year old Osinbajo (a popular and highly regarded lawyer) has filled in competently. But there was growing unease over the lack of information about exactly what Buhari is suffering from, the extent to which he is disabled and how long it will last. Some lawsuits were filed to compel the government to provide answers. To deal with this the governors were invited to visit Buhari in London.

July 25, 2017: In the northeast (Borno state) Boko Haram ambushed a large convoy headed for Lake Chad. The attack killed 69 people in the convoy including 19 soldiers, 33 local defense volunteers and 17 civilians (most of them senior officials from the University of Maiduguri and the National Oil Corporation). This attack turned out to be the work of the Barnawi faction. In the last few months most of the Islamic terrorist violence in the northeast has been the work of the Shekau faction.

July 24, 2017: OPEC announced that Nigeria’s new production limit was 1.8 million BPD. Nigeria produced 1.7 million BPD in June.

July 11, 2017: In the northeast (Borno state) the military allowed commercial fishing to resume on the Nigerian portion of Lake Chad. Such fishing had been suspended three years ago because Boko Haram was using fishing boats (and pretending to be fishermen) to move weapons, men and equipment around via the lake. Within a week of fishing resuming Boko Haram had killed at least 30 fishermen in retaliation.

 


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