Nigeria: Chronic Catastrophes


August 5, 2019: The Boko Haram violence in the northeast has been going on for ten years now. The government insists it has defeated Boko Haram and explains that the violence continues because foreign ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) terrorists have joined the fight and turned one faction of Boko Haram into a revived force known as ISWAP (Islamic State West Africa Province). There is still a Boko Haram faction but it is less than half the strength of ISWAP, whose membership is almost entirely Nigerian. Even ISWAP is mostly Nigerian, as are the leaders. The problem in the northeast is that Boko Haram began in protest to the corruption and lack of economic opportunity. Those conditions still apply so Boko Haram still has plenty of uneducated and unemployed young Moslem men to recruit.

The ten years of violence have left over 27,000 dead so far and, no matter what names the Islamic terrorists in the northeast use, the violence is still substantial although the Islamic terrorists no longer control any territory as they did from 2014-2016. Boko Haram does frequently raid areas they formerly controlled and have prevented the economy from reviving. God’s will and all that.

Despite the greater media attention the Islamic terrorists attract, the major killer remains tribal violence. This is mainly about Moslem Fulani herders advancing south into and seeking to take possession of land belonging to farmers, who are often Christian. The Fulani want the government to give them ownership of land in the Christian south. That is opposed by southerners, who accuse the Fulani of being unwilling to adapt to 21st century life. The Fulani tend to be poorly educated and parents avoid sending their children to school. That means the only livelihood. for young Fulani are herding or banditry. Both of these career choices are usually at the expense of Christians, something the Christians have noticed.

The government is under more and more pressure from the Christian community to reduce violence against Christians in the north. There are also demands that the government do something to free the thousands of Christians Boko Haram has captured and literally enslaved. Using non-Moslem captives as slaves is a common feature of Islamic terror groups. Northern Nigeria has had a slavery problem for centuries. During the British colonial period (that ended in the 1960s) slavery was outlawed and the British enforced the ban. Since the British left Nigerian politicians, especially Moslem ones, have been lax in dealing with the reappearance of slavery. It was never a major problem until Boko Haram came along and reintroduced slavery on a large scale. President Buhari, a reformer who was recently re-elected, is a Moslem from the north (as well as a Fulani and a retired general) has been accused of reluctance to take on the slavery problem. Moslem politicians lose a lot of support among Moslem voters when they attack “Islamic traditions”. The current situation is made worse because it’s not just the Islamic terrorists who are reviving slavery. The ongoing (before Boko Haram showed up 15 years ago) violence by Fulani herders against Christian farmers in central Nigeria now involves incidences of slavery.

A closely related problem is the growth of kidnapping for ransom. In the first seven months of 2019 police arrested 1,053 suspected kidnappers and rescued 506 kidnap victims. Most of those rescued were in the north, where they were held by Islamic terrorists. These kidnap victims are least likely to have the ransom paid and often get sold into slavery and moved out of the country by the slavers that have operated in central Africa for over a thousand years. In the south, more kidnap victims get ransomed. This is particularly true of the growing number of foreigners being kidnapped. Foreigners mean higher ransoms and that has led to the coastal areas of Nigerian becoming where most of the piracy (worldwide) occurs. The Nigeria coast is where, currently, 73 percent of the ship kidnapping attacks occur and where 92 percent of the kidnap victims are held ashore until a shipping company or foreign government pays up. Foreign aid workers and local clergy (mainly Christians) are also lucrative kidnapping victims, but not as much as the foreigners.

And, finally, you have the root of all that is evil and disruptive in Nigeria: corruption. While some progress has been made during the last decade in prosecuting major practitioners of corruption (usually politicians), the vast majority of corrupt acts are felt but not prosecuted. This cripples the economy and efforts to fix the many problems in the economy. The rampant corruption and crime produce some very visible problems, like the inability to build or maintain infrastructure. The roads and railroads of Nigeria are a mess and the local airline service is also marginal. Foreign firms, including the many oil production firms operating in the Niger Delta oil region, find it much more expensive to operate in Nigeria. It is worse for Nigerian business owners, or entrepreneurs seeking to start a new business. Another obvious sign of the widespread corruption is the unreliable electricity supply. If you want a regular supply of power you must have your own generators, which produce electric power that is a lot more expensive than even the highest price charged by a commercial power plant. These plants cannot get a reliable supply of natural gas. In addition, their distributions systems are subject to a lot of damage by people stealing the power or just committing random damage.

August 1, 2019: In the northeast (Borno state), the air force bombed a Boko Haram base in the Sambisa Forest. The base was found because of the constant aerial surveillance of the Sambisa area. This remote and thinly populated area in the north of Borno is still a popular refuge for Boko Haram bases. The air force has obtained more UAVs and manned aircraft that can constantly watch the forest and detect minute differences that indicate a hidden (from aerial observation) Boko Haram base. Once the bombs and rockets hit the ground it becomes obvious whether or not a base is there and in this case, there was. Ground troops are sent to the site of the airstrike to confirm the attack and collect any useful evidence. Boko Haram usually leaves the base after an airstrike and take their dead and wounded with them along with as much gear as they can. The soldiers can sometimes track the fleeing Islamic terrorists and that will lead to more clashes later.

July 29, 2019: In the northeast (Borno State), Boko Haram (ISWAP) gunmen attacked a Nigerian/MNJTF (Multi-National Joint Task Force) base outside the town of Baga (near Lake Chad). MNJTF reported that they had defeated the attack, killing 40 of the attackers, including four suicide bombers. Five MNJTF troops and 20 Nigerian soldiers were killed. ISWAP issued a press release claiming 50 defenders were killed but this turned out to be false and that sort of disinformation is common with ISWAP. The 8,700 man MNJTF has taken the lead in defeating ISWAP and blocking the Islamic terrorist efforts to again control territory in the region. 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, especially the Lake Chad coast. 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. MNJTF has lately concentrated on the areas around Lake Chad and has been successful at curbing ISWAP operations there. Unfortunately, MNJTF is not present in much of Borno State and there are already some areas where ISWAP collects ”taxes” and maintains order. This is actually an extortion scheme but it is how Islamic terrorists or ambitious bandits began establishing control over territory.

July 27, 2019: In the northeast (Borno state), Boko Haram on motorcycles and other vehicles attacked villagers returning from a funeral and killed 65 of them. This was apparently retaliation for an incident two weeks earlier when local Civilian JTF (Joint Task Force or CJTF) defense volunteers defeated a Boko Haram raid and killed eleven of the attackers. The Boko Haram raiders are usually looking for supplies but often kill anyone they encounter and burn down many of the buildings they looted.

July 26, 2019: The Federal High Court banned IMN (Islamic Movement in Nigeria) and declared it a violent organization. IMN is a Shia group that has recently been conducting violent demonstrations to protest what they see as unjust government persecution and imprisonment of their leader since 2015. Several of the recent demonstrations have been violent and over twenty demonstrators have died in the last week. Until recently there has not been much violent activity from the Shia. That changed with the recent protests. Back in late 2015 and into 2016 the security forces cracked down hard on IMN and the group became a lot less violent for nearly three years. 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 IRGC (Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps) . 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. Most Shia are not interested in supporting a Shia Boko Haram but given the Iranian influence on some IMN leaders, there may develop another radical and violent IMN faction. The court ban can be appealed and Nigerian Shia are likely to appeal.

July 25, 2019: In the northeast (Borno state), about 30 Boko Haram gunmen on motorcycles and other vehicles attacked a small army base at Dalori (15 kilometers east of the state capital), chasing the soldiers away. The raiders then went on to loot a nearby refugee camp that housed about 50,000 people. The raiders went after stockpiled food and burned buildings and shot at anyone who seemed to be a threat. Two people were killed and many more wounded. Boko Haram has hit this camp several times in the past and the government has been unable to provide adequate security.

July 22, 2019: In central Nigeria (the capital Abuja), police and Shia demonstrators clashed for the second time this month. The latest confrontation involved over 300 Shia, some of them armed, and police trying to disperse them. Six people died, including a journalist and a policeman. Four Shia died and over fifty were arrested. The Shia insist that the two non-Shia dead were killed by police bullets because police were doing all the shooting. The two demonstrations this month were much smaller than the one in 2018. Back in October 2018 Abuja police killed at least twenty Shia demonstrators and arrested more than 400 over a weekend. The 2018 violence began when police tried to halt a Shia procession from marching into the city. The Shia were celebrating a major religious event as well as protesting the continued attacks on Shia.

July 18, 2019: In the northeast (Borno State), ISWAP ambushed an army escorted convoy headed for Damasak was ambushed and six aid workers were kidnapped. ISWAP later released a video showing the six and the only Christian among them read a statement in which the government was urged to pay the ransom (cash or released Boko Haram prisoners) to free the six. The government was reminded that Boko Haram has already killed Christian captives that refuse to convert to Islam and would continue doing so. Damasak was one of the last Boko Haram strongholds liberated in 2016. The town continues to be attacked because defeated Boko Haram men would flee across the border into Niger and rebuild their strength. Eventually, the Boko Haram were strong enough to cross the border and regain control of Damasak and the surrounding area.

July 17, 2019: In the northeast (Borno State), ISWAP ambushed an army vehicle outside Jakana (40 kilometers north of Maiduguri, the state capital) and killed all six soldiers in it. The ISWAP ambushers, in six or seven vehicles, then attacked a nearby army base but were repulsed. During that attack over a hundred civilians living nearby fled from their homes. Back in April troops ordered 10,000 Jakana residents to leave the town and move to a refugee camp outside Maiduguri for screening to detect Boko Haram members or supporters. After three days about half the refugees were allowed to return to Jakana.

In the south, off the coast, pirates attacked a Turkish freighter, looted the ship for portable valuables and kidnapped ten of the 18 crew for ransom. The entire crew was Turkish and the Turkish government is not happy with the situation.

July 9, 2019: In central Nigeria (the capital Abuja), police killed two Shia demonstrators and lost one policeman as well.

July 6, 2019: In the northeast (Borno state), an airstrike near the Bakassi refugee camp (outside the state capital) killed about ten ISWAP Islamic terrorists.




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