Nigeria: Tribal Loyalties

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July 25, 2018: Although Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram still gets most of the publicity for its continuing violence, most of the religion-based deaths this year were in central and southeastern Nigeria where Moslem Fulani raiders are increasingly active with their attacks on local tribes (most of them Christian) that rely on farming. In the first half of 2018 Fulani violence accounted for over 1,700 deaths, more than five times what Boko Haram caused in the same period. The Fulani violence has been present since January but escalated in March when Fulani raiders killed about 25 Christian villagers during a few days of violence that were accompanied by considerable property damage. By the end of March over fifty were dead. Despite growing pressure from the Christian community to recognize the escalating (since 2010) threat in a band stretching from the northwest (Zamfara state) through central Nigeria (Plateau, Jos, Kaduna, Benue and Nassarawa states) and the southeast (Taraba State). This is largely about Fulani herders moving south to find more grazing land and water for their animals. While these attacks often trigger reprisals by local militias the Fulani are seen as the source of constant tension and violence. Most of the victims of the Fulani violence are Christian. This has been going on for a while and the Fulani suffer far fewer losses because they are usually the attacker. The violence declined a bit in 2017 but nothing was done to diminish or eliminate it. To make matters worse the raiders have also been attacking soldiers or police who intervene to protect the farmers. Attempts to negotiate peace deals with the Fulani generally fail. In the last three years, the Fulani violence is believed to have left nearly 9,000 dead.

In the northwest (Zamfara state) numerous groups of bandits add to the Fulani violence between them have caused at least 3,000 deaths in the last two years. Most of the attacks are raids for the purpose of looting and leaving. The Fulani raiders often run into Hausa self-defense militias and the resulting battles leave many on both sides dead or wounded. The Fulani raids are usually after cattle and other loot. Both Hausa and Fulani are Moslem so religion is not a factor here. Moslem leaders want attention paid to the growing tribal feuds between Moslem tribes, especially like the battles between Fulani and Hausa in Zamfara. The violence in Zamfara state has led to the national police sending in hundreds of additional paramilitary personnel to deal (or try to deal) with that situation. The police have not had much impact.

President Buhari, a Fulani and retired general, was elected in 2015 because he was honest and a reformer. The coalition that got Buhari elected is falling apart largely because the Christian politicians are abandoning him over is inaction when it comes to the Fulani violence. Buhari did motivate the military to finally defeat Boko Haram but the Islamic terrorists are still around and Buhari has been distracted by economic problems (the falling oil prices) and popular unrest in the oil-producing areas (all in the Christian south). Half the population (mostly in the south) is Christian and they are increasingly blaming Buhari for the continuing violence against Christians. Losing much Christian support, plus corrupt (and indictable) politicians fighting back to get rid of Buhari seems likely to prevent Buhari from willing a second term in early 2019. The next president will likely be less effective against corruption but probably take a hardline on anti-Christian violence.

President Buhari proclaims Boko Haram defeated and to a certain extent they are. But Boko Haram is still a problem in the northeast, mainly as bandits that raid for loot so that they can survive. Boko Haram has plenty of places to hide on both sides of the borders with Niger, Chad and Cameroon. Then there is the Sambisa forest which still harbors many Boko Haram even though it is regularly patrolled by soldiers, local defense volunteers and surveillance aircraft. This 60,000 square kilometers of hilly, sparsely populated woodland straddles the borders of Borno, Yobe and Adamwa states and until 2016 was largely inaccessible to the security forces and served as a base area for Boko Haram. No longer safe enough for major Boko Haram bases it still shelters hundreds of the Islamic terrorists operating in smaller groups.

Endless Anarchy Over Oil

GDP growth depends a lot on oil production as well as the world oil price. Production appears to be permanently stalled by a culture of anarchy in the oil producing states. For example it is common for oil fields to be shut down for maintenance or repairs. Worldwide the average is about nine percent of the time. In Nigeria production is shut down 50 percent of the time, mainly because of damage done to pipelines by oil thieves, in addition to riots, strikes and other problems that are worse in Nigeria. The core problem is corruption and a culture of mistrust.

Increased 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. There are still tribe based groups in the Delta that threaten a return to large-scale attacks on pipelines and pumping stations if the pollution is not reduced and local men do not get more jobs with the oil companies. These demands are largely extortion because most of the oil spills are caused by oil theft gangs that puncture pipelines to collect as much oil as they can and flee before troops arrive. There is constant pressure on the oil theft gangs by the security forces but the money is too good and the gangs remain in business. The demands for jobs ignore the fact that many of the jobs require technical skills that locals do not have.

By the end of 2017 Nigerian oil production had hit 2.03 million BPD (barrels per day) and so far in 2018, the average has been 1.8 million BDP because of long-delayed maintenance and refurbishment of the oil production facilities in the Niger River Delta (where most of the production is). At the end of 2016 Nigerian oil production was rising to levels not seen for years. That has been the trend for most of 2017 because the new government had negotiated a peace deal with the local rebels (against corruption and bad treatment of locals in general). Production rose and is on the way to the goal of 2.5 million BPD by 2020 but achieving that level of production depends on keeping the peace in the Delta. Continued corruption and rampant oil theft makes it difficult to increase production and sustain those higher production levels.

July 23, 2018: In the northeast (Borno State) a Boko Haram suicide bomber entered a mosque during early morning prayers and killed eight people while wounding another five.

July 21, 2018: In the northeast (across the border from Borno state in southeast Niger) ten Boko Haram gunmen died when they attacked an army outpost near the border town of Diffa. One soldier died and two others were wounded. Diffa has been the scene of clashes between the Niger troops and Boko Haram forces for years.

July 19, 2018: In the northeast (Borno State) Boko Haram in six pickup trucks ambushed a convoy of 27 vehicles, killing 30 people and looting vehicles before fleeing. Most of the people in the convoy fled on foot during the attack.

Across the border in Chad Boko Haram gunmen raided a village at night, killed 18 men, kidnapped nine women and looted the place.

July 17, 2018: In the northeast (Borno State) a Boko Haram ambush near the Cameroon border killed six civilians in a convoy that was escorted by soldiers. Vehicles were looted and burned.

July 15, 2018: In the northeast (Yobe State) a large group of Boko Haram attacked a military base at Geidam, near the Niger border. Over sixty soldiers were killed and many more wounded or missing. The base held about 700 soldiers. Boko Haram can hide out across the border in Niger or in the nearby Sambisa Forest where they can gather large numbers of gunmen for night attacks like this. Most of the soldiers in the base eventually found their way to other bases

July 14, 2018: In the northeast (Borno State) soldiers clashed with a group of Boko Haram and killed five of the Islamic terrorists.

July 9, 2018: In the southeast (Taraba State) Fulani gunmen raided over a dozen Moslem Hausa and Christian Yandang villages, leaving 73 dead, over 3,000 refugees and enormous damage (mainly from setting fire to buildings). This violence lasted for year days before security forces could mobilize and end it over the last 34 hours.

 

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