Nigeria: The Bloody Mess

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July 25, 2013: As Boko Haram was driven from areas they had dominated for years a lot of bad behavior was revealed. These were places where police did not patrol, either because it was one of the many out-of-the-way areas not easy to get to or neighborhoods the police avoid because the locals are hostile and too much trouble. In these suburban neighborhoods and villages all who opposed Boko Haram were killed or forced to flee. With only a pro-Boko Haram population in the area, Boko Haram set up base areas, and when soldiers moved in they found that the Islamic terrorists murdered hundreds in order to compel obedience. Some of the victims were people who had been kidnapped for ransom but the family could not raise the money demanded. Boko Haram simply murdered the hostages (often women and children) and buried the bodies in common graves. Boko Haram was particularly harsh against non-Moslems, including kidnapping teenage girls and forcing them to convert to Islam. The girls were held captive in the homes of Moslem clerics during this process and soldiers freed several of these girls during their house searches.

The military has restored cell phone service to all three of the northern states in the last week. This was in recognition of the fact that Boko Haram had been able to adapt to the lack of cell phones (using walkie-talkies and couriers) while civilians were still at a major disadvantage. Boko Haram was taking advantage of the population not being able to quickly call police and report criminal activity. So the Islamic terrorists are not happy with the restored cell phone service. For most people the return of phone service means life, and the economy, can get back to normal.

An epidemic of piracy has developed off the Nigerian coast (the Gulf of Guinea) and the criminal gangs expanding their activities or entering the business have more than tripled the number of ships hit this year. There are now two or three attacks a week and the pirates are becoming more thorough in stripping a ship of valuable portable items and even kidnapping ship’s officers and taking them to hideouts ashore to be held for ransom. The gangs are apparently advised by expert fences on what equipment to look for because some of these expensive shipboard electronics are showing up for sale in other parts of the world. The fences ship (or sell via the Internet) the stuff out of Africa to where it will get a better price. As a result, the pirates are gaining more money per ship raided and that persuades more land-based gangs to give piracy a try. There are plenty of tankers and other merchant ships in the Gulf of Guinea and not all are paying attention to warnings about improving security. While the Somali pirates could gain larger ransoms (sometimes over $10 million per ship) they have not been able to grab a ship in over a year because of more aggressive naval patrols and tighter security on the big ships. That has not happened on the west coast, and the gangs are happy if they can net several hundred thousand dollars in loot (including cargo transferred at sea to a pirate owned freighter or tanker) and ransoms per ship raided. The shipping companies have to pay higher insurance premiums and deal with lower crew morale and are now incurring higher operating costs because of the need for better security. All these additional costs are passed on to the countries adjacent to the Gulf of Guinea in the form of higher shipping rates.

July 21, 2013: The government has ordered police and soldiers be assigned to all prisons holding Boko Haram suspects. These forces will be responsible for an outer ring of security outside the prison to make it more difficult to stage raids on prisons. There have been a growing number of these raids, which usually succeed in freeing some or all of the Boko Haram men held in the target prison.

July 19, 2013: Because of the need for troops to use against Boko Haram in the north, the army is withdrawing 1,200 soldiers from Sudan, where they have been serving as peacekeepers. A similar number of Nigerian peacekeepers will also be withdrawn from Mali. This is a problem for African peacekeeping missions because Nigeria has long been a supplier of high-quality (by African standards) troops for this work. 

 

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