The current Nigerian president (Muhammadu Buhari) is a Moslem, a retired general and a Fulani who cracked down hard on Boko Haram but has been more reluctant to take on the Fulani. That is changing, if only because Buhari is running for a second term and won’t make it without support from Christian voters. The voting will take place in February 2019. As expected some northern politicians warn against the use of the army to curb Fulani violence as that is widely accepted, in the north, as another example of “Christian persecution.” The army has to move in, at least to seize the many illegal weapons (many of them assault rifles) the Fulani have obtained since the 1990s and now use frequently during their attacks on Christians. Over 200 Christians were killed by Fulani raiders in March and nearly as many Christians were killed in April. Given the election hysteria, much is being made about the seeming inability of the security forces to stop the violence or even catch up with the Fulani gunmen. There are growing calls for Christians to form armed militias and defend themselves. There has always been some of that but there are simply too many potential targets in central Nigeria and the Fulani raiders are careful about where they attack. If there is an armed militia, the Fulani will move on to a more vulnerable target.
While Boko Haram has turned into a rural banditry problem in the northeast and the Moslem Fulani are more economic outlaws than Islamic terrorist ones in central Nigeria, the violence is still on hold down south in the Niger River Delta, which is where all the oil is produced. The government has been using a carrot (lots of cash for those who cooperate in keeping things quiet) and stick (increased military and police operations against any group that is not quite) approach in the Delta and it is working, for the moment. The problems of corruption, pollution and widespread poverty are still present.
At the same time, there is another battle raging between the many corrupt politicians and their corrupt allies in the business community fighting growing government efforts to curb the endemic and crippling corruption. The corruption crowd is suffering losses but have massive financial resources to call on and tend to be stubborn and determined. In addition, there are the criminal gangs that corrupt politicians, especially state governors maintain, and often use during elections or any other crises situation. The most powerful (and wealthiest) corrupt politicians prefer to hire and lot of lawyers and publicists (and bribe a lot of journalists and justice system personnel) to escape conviction and prison. The outcome of this war on corruption is still in doubt despite its growing intensity. Nevertheless, victory in this battle is more vital for the future of the nation than dealing with the outlaws, separatists and Islamic terrorists. For example, a primary reason for all the Islamic terrorism and armed mayhem is the corruption. That is where most of the problems begin and where the only lasting solutions can be found.
Since 2016 health experts have been struggling to wipe out polio among the many rural people who spent years living under Boko Haram control. Boko Haram did not allow polio vaccinations. This became a big issue (and a major disappointment) because in early 2016 it was announced that Nigeria had eliminated polio. As part of a worldwide effort, Nigeria had reduced polio infections from over 1,200 in 2006 to none in 2014. But that did not include large areas of Borno State where health officials could not go because of Boko Haram. Once public health officials got access to those people they found polio had survived. Decades of effort to eradicate polio are still being compromised by Islamic radicals in places like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria. In Pakistan and Afghanistan, even the Islamic terrorists have come to agree that polio vaccination is a good thing and vaccination is catching up the few unvaccinated kids. That leaves Nigeria where Islamic conservatives up north have been preaching against polio vaccinations for years insisting that the medicine is actually a Christian plot to poison Moslems. Polio can be wiped out like smallpox was back in the 1970s if you can vaccinate everyone in areas where the disease still exists. Polio and smallpox are diseases that can only live in human hosts. But the Islamic conservatives have been a major barrier to eliminating polio. The government is making yet another effort to wipe out polio in the Moslem north. Some of the poliovirus has survived because of Boko Haram and even with the Islamic terrorists gone it will take another year or more to deal with the polio problem. The problem in the northeast is that vaccination teams have not been able to move about freely in the northeast, especially in northern Borno State, because the Boko Haram is still threat to travelers of all types and the vaccination teams need a security escort and that is not always available. This polio survives in northeastern Nigeria.
On The Bright Side
During 2017 Nigeria received $22 billion in remittances from Nigerians living abroad. This was the largest amount for any nation in sub-Saharan Africa and the fifth highest in the world. The world leaders are India, which received $69 billion in 2017, China $64 billion, the Philippines $33 billion and Mexico $31 billion.
April 29, 2018: In the northeast (Borno state) recent operations near Lake Chad have killed 59 Boko Haram and captured even more, including five known Boko Haram leaders. The captured Islamic terrorists often just surrendered without any prompting. These operations left 22 soldiers of the MNJTF (Multi-National Joint Task Force) dead and 75 wounded. Many of these casualties were from suicide bombers and roadside bombs. The 8,700 man MNJTF is still actively attempting to eliminate any Boko Haram presence in the region. Of all the threats they face what scares the Boko Haram most is the MNJTF. Formed in early 2015 the MNJTF consists of troops from Niger, Chad, Cameroon, Benin and Nigeria. At first the MNJTF was used mainly inside Nigeria but by early 2017 MNJTF was spending most of its time clearing Boko Haram out of border areas. Each member country assigns some of their best troops to the MNJTF and the Boko Haram have suffered heavy losses trying to fight MNJTF forces.
April 28, 2018: In central Nigeria (Benue State) Fulani herders were responsible for most of the dozens of people killed this week in attacks on farming communities. The Fulani want access to the land and water supplies of the farmers. Police in the state capital say that yesterday they arrested Aminu Yaminu, a Boko Haram leader who they accuse of planning the many Fulani attacks in Benue this week. Most Christians doubt there is really a Boko Haram connection. The Fulani were a problem before Boko Haram showed up.
In the north (Kaduna state) Fulani gunmen are believed responsible for the killing of ten gold miners. The Fulani gangs concentrate on stealing cattle but will go after anyone for anything of value. That includes kidnapping
April 27, 2018: In the northeast (Borno state) Boko Haram gunmen and two suicide bombers attacked in a residential area of the state capital Maiduguri, leaving four dead or nine wounded.
Farther north in Borno the Nigerian Air Force located and bombed a Boko Haram supply base in a remote area near Tumbum Gini. UAVs were used to find targets like this and then document the extent of the damage afterword. In this case, several vehicles were destroyed as well as weapons, fuel and other supplies.
April 26, 2018: In the northeast (Borno state) Boko Haram gunmen and a suicide bomber were confronted by police in the state capital Maiduguri. The gunmen were killed in after a gun battle that lasted several hours. As police approached where the gunmen were the suicide bomber detonated his explosives, wounding two policemen.
April 25, 2018: In central Nigeria (Benue State) Fulani gunmen killed 23 Christians.
April 24, 2018: In central Nigeria (Benue State) Fulani gunmen attacked a Christian church killing two priests and 17 Catholic worshipers. The 30 Fulani gunmen then looted the village and burned down 73 buildings and killed four more villagers before leaving with their loot. Hundreds of locals fled as the raiders worked their way through the village. The next day two mosques were attacked and burned down in the Benue state capital. This violence left 11 Moslems (Hausa not Fulani) dead.
April 22, 2018: In the northeast (Borno state) Boko Haram gunmen killed 18 civilians who were collecting firewood near the Cameroon border. Elsewhere in Borno, a civilian vehicle hit a Boko Haram landmine, killing three people and wounding eleven.
April 21, 2018: In the northeast (Borno state) two Boko Haram suicide bombers entered a mosque and detonated their explosives, killing four worshipers and wounding eight. This took place in Bama, a town destroyed by Boko Haram years ago and only recently reoccupied and being rebuilt.
April 16, 2018: In the national capital 115 Shia protesters were arrested as the police sought to break up a demonstration that turned violent. Police have managed to eliminate most armed members of the Shia IMN (Islamic Movement in Nigeria). There has not been much violent activity from the Shia since 2016 when the security forces cracked down hard. There are about seven million Shia in Nigeria and since the 1980s a growing number of them have joined IMN, a group founded and quietly supported by Iran. While relations between Shia and Sunni Moslems have generally been good in Nigeria, local Sunni radical groups like Boko Haram practice the anti-Shia attitudes so common in Sunni terror groups like al Qaeda and the Taliban. IMN always proclaimed itself a peaceful group that welcomed all Moslems but over the years it has become all Shia and a lot more militant. Using Iran as an example (because a religious revolution in 1979 put Shia clergy in charge of the government by the mid-1980s) many Shia in Nigeria became fans of such a religious dictatorship, using Islamic law, for all of Nigeria (which is half Christian). Because of strife between Saudi Arabia and Iran there is a lot more tension and violence between Shia and Sunni worldwide. While the Nigerian Shia are considered less-than-orthodox by the senior Shia clergy back in Iran and Iraq, they are still recognized as Shia, and Iran has provided more and more support, most of it illegal, in the form of cash smuggled in to help sustain Shia organizations.
The Iran connection in Nigeria became more visible since 2005. For example in 2013 Iran denied that it had trained a Nigerian Shia cleric in espionage techniques so he could recruit locals and gather information on the activities of Israelis and Americans in southwestern Nigeria (where the cleric, and many Shia) live. This plot unraveled when Nigerian police arrested and interrogated three Shia Nigerian Moslems who admitted spying for Iran and provided many details. After 2013 the Shia violence increased, as did the Iranian denials that they are involved. The IMN says the increased violence is not their fault and largely triggered by police and army violence against peaceful Shia. The security forces have, for decades, behaved like this towards anyone they perceived of as a threat. Only in the last few years has the government tried to curb this illegal and counterproductive violence. At the same time groups like IMN and Boko Haram would not act any differently if the security forces behaved because both these groups are dedicated to establish religious dictatorships in Nigeria and destroying Islamic groups that do not agree with them. By 2016 the IMN, like Boko Haram, were on the defensive. Since then the Boko Haram have turned into rural bandits with a sideline of urban Islamic terrorism. The IMN has kept it political and relatively peaceful.
With Boko Haram fading from the headlines Shia Islamic terrorism would be difficult because the security forces have become quite good at suppressing any form of Islamic radicalism. After 2016 Iran backed Nigerian Shia radical groups were advised (often via training in Iran) to maintain a low profile, especially if Sunni Islamic terrorists were active. Since the 1980s Iran has been sponsoring (paying for) Nigerian Shia to make religious or educational visits to Iran where many were recruited to receive training in how to form political and para-military organizations. This low key approach paid off as there are now a lot of Nigerian Shia willing to defend Shia Islam in Nigeria with violence (organized or otherwise). At the moment Iran does not seem interested in financing a major Shia uprising in Nigeria, but Iran does encourage their local fans to keep pushing and be prepared.
In the northeast (Kano state) a German engineer was kidnapped by armed men who first killed the policeman who was acting as an armed escort. This was probably the work of Boko Haram, which depends a lot on kidnap ransoms to keep going. While kidnappers seek out high value victims like foreigners, most of the kidnapping income has come from kidnapping large numbers (over a thousand since 2013) children, including teenage female students. This becomes a major political issue and the government has been forced to step in and make deals. The most recent mass kidnapping was on February 19 when 110 students were taken from a northeastern boarding school at Dapchi. There are still a hundred Chibok boarding school students, taken in 2014, who are captives and negotiations to free them have been delayed by the Boko Haram factions holding the girls being unable to agree on what the government should pay as ransom.
April 13, 2018: In the northeast (Borno state) troops killed seven Boko Haram gunmen in two separate ambushes, one of them in the Sambisa Forest.
April 11, 2018: In the southeast (Taraba State) Fulani gunmen attacked a farming village near the border with neighboring Benue state and killed 25 Christians.
April 8, 2018: In the northeast (Borno state) warplanes from Niger and Nigeria carried out a join operation near Lake Chad to destroy Boko Haram base areas at Arege and Tumbun Rago. Elsewhere in the far north troops rescued 149 civilians (including 54 women and 95 children) being held captive by Boko Haram in the Sambisa Forest.
April 2, 2018: In the northeast (Borno state) across the border in Cameroon attacked an army checkpoint, killing five soldiers and then fleeing back to Nigeria after looting the dead. This same group of Boko Haram apparently killed 15 people in Nigeria the same day.