Nigeria: Wanting To Be Good Is Not Enough


September 4, 2013: Because of the continued popularity of Islamic conservatism (as a cure for the corruption and other ills Nigerians suffer from) in the north, there are still new recruits for Boko Haram. But this enthusiasm for Boko Haram is declining and the Islamic radical group is spending more of its time trying to terrorize fellow Moslems (to discourage cooperation with the police). This means fewer attacks on Christians or the security forces. Many Nigerian Moslems are coming to realize that the Taliban approach (which Boko Haram is trying to emulate) is actually a cure worse than the disease. Boko Haram seeks to emulate the 1990s Afghan Taliban and take over the country to cure its problems with a strict Islamic religious dictatorship. Unlike the Taliban, Boko Haram is operating in a country where only about half the population is Moslem and a growing number of those Moslems are becoming very hostile to the Boko Haram solution.

Efforts to halt oil theft in the Niger Delta continue to fail, despite very active military efforts to find oil thieves out in the swamps, arrest them, and seize their boats and crude oil refineries. The problem, as always, is the corruption. Who guards the guards? Boats seized by the troops are sometimes spotted back in use by other gangs of oil thieves. When arrested, oil thieves complain that their efforts are nothing compared to what the politicians and oil companies steal. There’s a certain amount of truth to that but the oil thieves who tap into pipelines waste 70 percent of the oil that comes out of those punctures. These oil thieves live in the area and now they are the major source of oil pollution.

Too many oil theft related arrests in the Niger Delta usually involve shutting down oil theft operations that do not have a politician sponsor (who takes a cut of the profits for providing protection). The foreign oil companies that run the drilling and pipeline operations are threatening to leave if something is not done about the oil theft gangs. The stealing has been so serious that daily production fell from 2.3 million barrels a day to 2.1 million earlier this year. This is despite efforts to increase production. The government hoped to increase production to 3.7 million barrels a day. The previous peak was 2.6 million barrels a day seven years ago (before the Niger Rebels got going and oil theft became a much larger problem). It proved impossible to get back to 2.6 million because of the growing oil theft. Production might get back to 2.4 million barrels a day, but the oil theft is now all the rage in the Niger Delta and the popular enthusiasm for it is not slowing down.

The outbreak of Boko Haram violence in the north and the documenting of the extent of oil revenue loss ($6 billion a year, at least) from theft down south has caused a split in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). There is a lot more enthusiasm about suppressing corruption since decades of dictatorship ended in 1999, but not a lot of progress in curbing this bad behavior. There has been a lot more exposure of the massive fraud and theft, largely fueled by half a century of oil revenue. Many Nigerians take comfort in that trend but are also dismayed at how entrenched the corruption is and how resistant to change many prominent and powerful Nigerians are. Some of the new political parties are run by corrupt politicians while others are reformers and there seems no quick end to this struggle.

In the north (Kaduna state) civilians are continuing to protest the police practice of randomly making arrests in areas where police or soldiers have been attacked. Even when it’s obvious that those arrested could not have had anything to do with a particular attack, the police will not release them or admit making an error.

September 2, 2013: Tribal violence continues. In the north (Kaduna state) a village was attacked by a gang of twenty armed Faluni men, who killed at least ten Atakad people. Police later arrested six Fulani in the area as they shed bloody clothing and prepared to drive off. The tribal violence has been going on for as long as anyone can remember. The Atakad are farmers while the Fulani tend herds of cattle and tend to be Moslem, while the Atakad tend to be Christian. The two groups constantly argue over land and water.

August 31, 2013: In the northeast (Borno state) Boko Haram made several attacks on pro-government groups in the last few days, killing at least fifty people. The army is encouraging the formation of civilian militias to help find Boko Haram camps. The problem here is that Boko Haram is better armed than these civilian vigilantes and has taken to seeking out and killing the pro-government groups in an effort to discourage such activity. The army advises the civilian militias to not go looking for Boko Haram without armed soldiers accompanying them. The civilian groups sometimes go out without waiting for their armed escort and that does not end well if they make contact with Boko Haram. The vigilante activity has made the cities too dangerous for Boko Haram and most of the Islamic radicals are now out in the countryside. The army can usually kill or capture any Boko Haram group they can find, but the northeast is a big area and there’s plenty of forests and bush out in the countryside where the Islamic terrorists can hide.

August 30, 2013: The government believes it is weakening Boko Haram and that by keeping the pressure on they will eventually crush the Islamic terrorist organization.

August 29, 2013: In Central Nigeria (Jos) a group of armed Boko Haram men stopped a bus and killed five passengers who admitted they were Christian. Some of the killers were Fulani tribesmen. Some of the more radical Fulani have always been attracted to Boko Haram and now appear to have joined, or simply took to calling themselves, Boko Haram.

August 25, 2013: Off the coast a navy patrol boat encountered a boat full of pirates who refused to surrender. After a brief gun battle six pirates were dead and one captured, along with the pirate boat. In the last two weeks police have killed eighteen pirates and arrested five in similar incidents.

August 24, 2013: A court charged two local men with working for Iran to help (with Iranian agents) to plan attacks against Israeli targets in Nigeria. The two were arrested last February.




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