Nigeria: Unacceptable Violence


October 19, 2020: The government faces another national crisis as protests against police violence and lawlessness continue. The immediate cause of this round of protests was the revelations about illegal, and often fatal for victims, SARS (Special Anti-Robbery Squad) behavior. The government has promised to deal with this problem but many protestors are unconvinced. Police misbehavior has been around for decades and survived multiple efforts to reform it. The government has to come up with something new to calm things down, especially since many of the protests have also pushed for a reduction in corruption and an increase in government competence. These issues are what got Boko Haram going in the north. First Boko Haram was non-violent but that changed when the security forces began killing large numbers of Boko Haram leaders and members.

So far 37 SARS policemen are being expelled from the national police and 24 of them are being prosecuted. Many doubt that SARS will stay disbanded. SARS was created in 1992 to go after those responsible for the more outrageous forms of robbery, kidnapping and abuse of power in general. SARS was given wide powers to investigate and arrest suspects. Like the rest of the national police, SARS soon went bad and became notorious for extortion, false arrest, kidnapping and so on. SARS has already been “purged” and “reformed” many times but the current uproar was generated by a current scandal that triggered renewed interest in the many past SARS transgressions that were captured by cellphone photos and videos. While the nationwide demonstrations focused on SARS it was also about the similar depravity and corruption found throughout the security forces (police and military). Decades of popular protests have called for needed reforms. Politicians promise reforms but those reforms never happen. The popular attitude is that the government will allow the police to quietly reconstitute SARS, probably under a different name.

SARS is but one small part of the 360,000 strong national police. SARS, and similar specialist units, were formed since the 1990s to create less corrupt specialist police who would be more reliable in dealing with specific problems. These specialist units were supposed to be monitored more closely to keep the corruption in check. Since there were SARS detachments in each of the states, there were differences and in some states the SARS unit was less corrupt than other SARS units as well as the police as a whole. It’s the violently corrupt SARS units that get the most attention. Such bad behavior is common throughout the national police and several major reform efforts over the last three decades have failed to solve the problem. In part this is because corruption is so pervasive and entrenched throughout Nigeria, especially among politicians and government employees.

Acceptable Violence

During the last three months operations against Boko Haram in the northeast, mainly Borno state, have left 869 Islamic terrorists dead and 1,708 captured. Troops also found 321 kidnapped civilians and freed them. Several major Boko Haram supply centers, hidden in remote areas, were captured and large quantities of fuel, ammo and supplies seized. Borno residents have a lot to hate about Boko Haram, which has left over 32,000 dead and destroyed over $9 billion worth of property in the last decade. This damage included nearly 48,000 buildings destroyed and several hundred thousand damaged. Several million Borno civilians are still refugees, afraid of returning home because of the continued presence of Boko Haram raiders.

In northern and central Nigeria tribal disputes, usually involving the Moslem Fulani, continue to kill more people than the Boko Haram violence.

In the south the security forces continued to shut down oil theft gangs in the Niger River Delta oil fields. New gangs are always formed because stealing oil from pipelines (by drilling a hole in the pipe) remains very lucrative.

October 16, 2020: In the northeast (Borno state), across the border in Cameroon, another 62 schools were closed because of Boko Haram attacks on teachers and students. This comes after Boko Haram burned down 13 schools in the last two months and kidnapped over 200 local civilians for ransom.

October 15, 2020: In the northeast (Borno state) two airstrikes near Lake Chad destroyed Boko Haram camps recently discovered by aerial reconnaissance. Such aerial surveillance has become more common because more UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) have been purchased and put to use.

October 13, 2020: In the northeast (Borno state), 14 kilometers north of the state capital, Boko Haram killed 14 farmers they suspected of telling the security forces about Islamic terrorist activity in the area. Boko Haram violence has angered a lot of civilians with cellphones. It is easy to call in information about Boko Haram activities and many rural areas have formed armed militias to discourage Boko Haram reprisals and activity in general. In some cases that works, but the Islamic terrorists just move to a nearby area that is not as well protected.

October 11, 2020: The government dissolved the scandal-plagued SARS police unit and plans to replace it with some kind of SWAT (Special Weapons And Tactics) unit. This is different because SWAT units are not allowed to operate in civilian clothes or undercover.

October 3, 2020: In the northeast (Borno state) across the border in Niger, troops arrested a Nigerian man in a refugee camp outside Diffa and charged him with being part of a Boko Haram logistical support operation. Despite the diminished size of Boko Haram, the group still creates economic demand for goods and services only illegal suppliers can provide. This supply network includes businessmen who buy (loot) or sell (fuel, ammo and other supplies) to Boko Haram. These suppliers often work mainly with Boko Haram to remain unmolested and also to make more cash trading with the deadliest outlaws around. This illicit trade also includes non-Nigerians. Since 2014 there have been alliances between Niger and Cameroonian gangsters and Boko Haram to build major support network stretching from southern Cameroon to Niger and Chad in the north. This includes a very active arms smuggling operation. Cameroon has been the source of arms because of its excellent ports on the Gulf of Guinea. There’s lots of truck traffic going north to landlocked Chad and neighboring Niger. That provides opportunities to hide weapons and ammo among legitimate cargo. Somewhere near the Nigerian or Niger border the illegal arms are transferred to smaller trucks and run across lightly guarded parts of the frontier. Interrogations of captured smugglers shows that the smuggling also is still a major source of Boko Haram income. Since Boko Haram is constantly crossing the border, taking over the smuggling routes made sense as Boko Haram was armed and ruthless and the smugglers don’t want to lose their jobs. In the last few years the security forces have been paying more attention to these Boko Haram suppliers and have had some success and identifying and disrupting more and more of the supplier efforts.

September 30, 2020: In the northeast (Borno state) outside Marte, a town on the west coast of Lake Chad, Boko Haram ambushed a military convoy, killing ten soldiers and wounding six others. Some of the trucks were looted before the Islamic terrorists fled.

September 27, 2020: In the northeast (Borno state) Boko Haram tried to ambush a convoy that included the state governor. Part of the attack plan involved using a donkey carrying lots of explosives and a remote detonator. Troops spotted the unattended donkey, deemed it suspicious and shot it. At that point Boko Haram triggered the explosion, which was too far from the convoy to do much damage.

Elsewhere in Borno State 13 Boko Haram men surrendered along with some of their families (17 children and six women.)

September 26, 2020: In the northeast (Borno state), near Lake Chad, airstrikes hit three Boko Haram camps.

September 25, 2020: In the northeast (Borno state) near Lake Chad, Boko Haram attacked a convoy and its armed escort. Before the Islamic terrorists fled, 11 policemen, three soldiers and four civilians were killed.

September 23, 2020: In the northeast (Borno state) near Lake Chad found and captured five camps used by ISWAP and killed seven ISWAP commanders and several of their subordinates. ISWAP (Islamic State West Africa Province) is the cause of most of the violence near Lake Chad. ISWAP was once a faction of Boko Haram that declared its allegiance to ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) in 2016. Many of these new ISIL members had been with Boko Haram since 2004. ISWAP personnel are mainly in northeastern Nigeria with smaller numbers in Chad, Niger and northern Cameroon. What remains of the original Boko Haram is about half the size of ISWAP and operates in northern Borno state areas that are not near Lake Chad. The two factions have fought each other in the past but in the last two years appear to have established some form of ceasefire and an effort to stay out of each other’s way.




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