Nigeria: Crawling Towards Salvation


February 11, 2020: Nationwide the economy is still a mess and corruption is usually one of the primary causes. Another factor is that the population continues to grow faster than the economy (GDP). The unemployment rate is over 20 percent and much higher for young people seeking their first job. Unemployment rates have doubled in the last decade to 23 percent. Nigerian economists point out that the unemployment problem is even worse if you also count underemployment. This covers not just those who can only find part-time work as well as those with jobs they are way overqualified for (as college or high school graduates). By this measure, the underemployment rate of the young (under 30) is about 70 percent. That explains the ease with which Islamic terrorists and criminal gangs recruit new members. This has led to northerners joining Islamic terror groups whose anti-Christian violence leads to southerners threatening civil war over the persecution of Christians in the north.

About half of all Nigerians are Christian but most of them live in the south, where the oil and most of the developed economy is. Christians are better educated and more successful economically which strikes many Moslem Nigerians as not right. After all, Christians are infidels and enemies of Islam. Boko Haram is more direct and believes that all Christians must convert to Islam. Those who resist must be killed or enslaved. Most Nigerian Moslems disagree with these Boko Haram attitudes and Boko Haram considers Moslems who disagree with them to be enemies of Islam and subject to death unless they change their attitude.

Most of the religious violence is in the northeast and caused by ISWAP (Islamic State West Africa Province), the ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) faction of Boko Haram that has been active in northern Borno State and neighboring countries. For over a year ISWAP has been considered one of the most active ISIL branches. Most “Boko Haram” violence in Nigeria is usually the work of ISWAP, which accounts for about two-thirds of the Boko Haram gunmen. The less militant mainstream Boko Haram still operate and tend to avoid clashes with their ISWAP rivals.

Elsewhere in the northwest, the Ansaru Islamic terrorist group in Kaduna has returned. This is a relatively recent development. Ansuru appears to have returned from Libyan exile in late 2019. There had been rumors since 2017 that al Qaeda affiliated Ansaru was still around. For nearly a year there were indications that the increasing violence in the northwest (Zamfara State) was the result of Ansaru Islamic terrorists returning from years of exile in Libya.

Islamic terrorists in Libya have suffered an unbroken series of defeats since 2016 and soon the LNA (Libyan National Army), the strongest military force in Libya, had destroyed or chased away most of the Islamic terror groups still operating in southern Libya. At the same time one of the founders of Ansaru, Abu Abdullah Idris bin Umar Al Barnawi (also known as Ansari), a Boko Haram leader also known as “Ba Idrisa”, was forced out as Boko Haram leader. The U.S. added Barnawi to the list of international Islamic terrorists subject to individual sanctions. Barnawi has been a prominent factor in the rise and fall of these African Islamic terrorist groups. In mid-2014 the U.S. announced a $5 million reward for the capture of Barnawi, at the time a former Boko Haram leader who broke away in 2012 to found the even more radical (and openly allied with al Quaeda) Ansaru. The feud between Boko Haram and Ansaru became more public in 2013 when criticisms of Boko Haram appeared on pro-terrorism websites.

Ansaru (for Ansarul Muslimina Fi Biladis Sudan, or "Vanguards for the Protection of Muslims in Black Africa") is a Boko Haram splinter group that became more active after it declared its existence in 2012. Ansaru, and Barnawi, objected to the Boko Haram tactics of killing lots of Moslems and wanted to concentrate just killing foreigners or non-Moslem Nigerians. It is unclear how large Ansaru was back then and how much violence within Boko Haram, if any, resulted from the split. Ansaru appears to have always been very small, perhaps only a few hundred members, and more interested (than Boko Haram) in working closely with Islamic terror groups operating elsewhere in Africa. It was this interest in attacking or kidnapping foreigners (especially Americans) that got the Ansaru leader on the U.S. most wanted terrorist list. After the Americans put the price on his head, Barnawi rejoined Boko Haram as chief spokesman while what was left of Ansaru headed north to Libya. By mid-2016 Barnawi was declared head of Boko Haram by ISIL leadership. That caused a split in Boko Haram as the fellow he replaced, Abubakar Shekau took his loyalists (nearly half of Boko Haram) and continued to lead it while the ISIL faction thrived as ISWAP ( Islamic State West Africa Province) . The recent version of Ansuru appears to be more bandit than Islamic radical and has little to do with founder Barnawi.

While Islamic terror violence continued to get the most media attention, tribal feuds and large-scale banditry continue to kill more people. The tribal conflicts often have a religious aspect, especially in central Nigeria, but there is no mistaking that the main element there is tribal and resource disputes, not religious fanaticism.

Oil Money

The main source of cash for economic development remains oil and gas income. This is running at about half a billion dollars a month for the government. A lot of that is still being stolen or otherwise misused by corrupt politicians. Reformers have, over the last decade, managed to reduce the percentage stolen but this has not yet led to major improvements in the rebuilding of infrastructure or expanding the number of firms creating employment for the growing population.

The trade war between China and the U.S. has caused oil prices to fall below $60 a barrel. Even with most Venezuelan and Iranian oil off the market, new production in the U.S. and Canada has more than made up for it. At the same time, Nigerian oil production is still suffering from rampant oil theft, via gangs tapping into pipelines. That adds the cost of repairing the pipeline to the cost of lost oil. Recently the oil price was further reduced (to near $50) because demand from China, the largest importer worldwide, was having more economic problems plus the current coronavirus epidemic. So far this disease is concentrated in China. But it has spread to other countries, mostly ones with the resources to limit the further spread of the disease. Coronavirus has not reached Africa yet, despite the large number of resident Chinese, including some who have recently traveled back and forth to China.

February 10, 2020: Corruption remains a major problem for Nigeria. Corruption and misuse of oil income are the main reasons Nigeria is such a wreck economically. The global aspect of this can be seen in the international surveys of nations to determine who is clean and who is corrupt. For 2019 Nigeria ranked 146th out of 180 nations in international rankings compared with 144th in 2018. Corruption in the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index is measured on a 1 (most corrupt) to 100 (not corrupt) scale. The most corrupt nations (usually Yemen/15, Syria/13, South Sudan/12 and Somalia/9) have a rating of under 15 while of the least corrupt (Finland, New Zealand and Denmark) are over 85.

The current Nigerian score is 26 (versus 27 2018) compared to 30 (30) for Ukraine, 45 (44) for Belarus, 58 (60) for Poland, 80 (81) Germany, 65 (61) for Taiwan, 39 (40) for Turkey, 41 (40) for India, 28 (28) for Russia, 59 (57) for South Korea, 14 (17) for North Korea, 37 (35) for Vietnam, 85 (84) for Singapore, 73 (73) for Japan, 40 (37) for Indonesia, 38 (38) for Sri Lanka, 29 (33) for the Maldives, 34 (34) for the Philippines, 32 (32) for Pakistan, 26 (28) for Bangladesh, 26 (30) for Iran, 16 (15) for Afghanistan, 29 (30) for Burma, 71 (71) for the UAE (United Arab Emirates), 60 (64) for Israel, 69 (75) for the United States, 41 (39) for China, 44 (43) for South Africa, 20 (18) for Iraq, 39 (40) for Turkey, 53 (49) for Saudi Arabia and 28 (28) for Lebanon.

The Nigerian corruption score has not changed much since 2012 when it was 27.

The state of living conditions in Nigeria can be measured compared to the rest of the world. The effectiveness of governments and the societies they represent is rated each year in the Human Development Index. The UN has compiled these ratings for 29 years. The index ranks all the world nations in terms of how well they do in terms of life expectancy, education and income. In 2019

Nigeria was 158 out of 189 nations. The rank of 0ther nations puts this into perspective; United States is at 15 (tied with Britain), China 89, Israel 22 (tied with South Korea), Saudi Arabia 36, Iran 65, India 129, Pakistan 152, Afghanistan 179, Bangladesh 135, Russia 49, Venezuela 96, Colombia 79, Mexico 76. Egypt 116, Lebanon 93, Syria 154 and Jordan 103. The top ten nations are Norway, Switzerland, Ireland, Germany, Hong Kong, Australia, Iceland, Sweden, Singapore and Netherlands. The bottom ten are Mozambique at 180th place (there are a lot of ties) followed by Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso, Eritrea, Mali, Burundi, South Sudan, Chad, Central African Republic and in last place, Niger.

North Korea was not ranked because sufficient information could not be obtained. Based on conditions of low-ranking nations that could be measured North Korea was at the bottom of the list, perhaps the very bottom.

February 9, 2020: In the northeast (Borno State), Boko Haram gunmen on motorcycles attacked a large group of civilian vehicles halted near a checkpoint and killed 30 civilians before riding off, leaving several vehicles burning. The army disagreed with the nature of this attack and insisted the death toll was only ten and the violence was from bandits attacking 200 vehicles halted on the road when the road curfew start time was changed to 4 PM and many motorists thought it was still 5 PM. Rather than turning around and returning to somewhere safer many drivers just parked by the side of the highway, providing a lucrative target for local criminals.

February 7, 2020: In the northeast (across the border from Borno state in southeast Niger), Boko Haram killed six civilians near the border town of Diffa, which has been the scene of clashes between the Niger troops and Boko Haram for years.

February 6, 2020: In the northeast (Kaduna State), police killed two Ansuru Islamic terrorists while losing one of their own.

February 5, 2020: In the northeast (Kaduna State), police raided the main rural base camp of Ansaru and killed about 250 of them while losing two officers. Helicopters were used along with ground forces.

In the northeast (Borno State), an airstrike near the Cameroon border killed five ISWAP gunmen.

February 4, 2020: In the northeast (Borno State), Boko Haram gunmen killed two civilians near the Cameroon border.

February 1, 2020: In the northeast (Borno State), ISWAP gunmen killed three soldiers near the Cameroon border

January 30, 2020: In the northeast (Borno State), a Boko Haram suicide bomber killed herself and three children in Maiduguri, the state capital. Further north, near Lake Chad troops, clashed with a large group of Boko Haram killing 21 Islamic terrorists while losing three soldiers.

January 29, 2020: In the northeast (Borno State), Boko Haram raiders killed five civilians across the border in Chad.

January 28, 2020: In the northeast (Borno State), Boko Haram killed three civilians while raiding a village near Konduga, which is 25 kilometers southeast of the state capital.

January 27, 2020: In the northeast (Borno State), on the island of Tetewa in Lake Chad Boko Haram killed six Chad soldiers.

January 25, 2020: In the northeast (Borno State), two Boko Haram suicide bombers attacked Gwoza, a town near the Cameroon border, killing themselves and three civilians. That military has repeatedly clashed with Boko Haram in this area since 2014. Elsewhere in the north (Mobbar, near the Niger border) troops clashed with a large group of ISWAP gunmen and killed at least twenty of them.

January 11, 2020: In the northeast (Borno State), Boko Haram, across the border in Chad, raided a town killing four civilians and kidnapping four. Elsewhere in northern Borno the air force and MNJTF (Multi-National Joint Task Force) troops on the ground attacked Kukawa where ISWAP commanders were meeting. Four of those leaders were killed along with fifteen of their armed followers.

January 10, 2020: In the northeast (Borno State), Boko Haram killed three civilians and kidnapped seven while raiding a village 25 kilometers southeast of the state capital, near Konduga.




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