President Buhari took power in 2015 and a year later proclaimed Boko Haram defeated. Buhari, a former general and reformer did shake things up in the army, which has long been corrupt and ineffective. But two years later two things are certain; Boko Haram was defeated but not destroyed and the same can be said for the corruption and incompetence of too many army officers. Boko Haram is still a problem in the northeast, mainly as bandits that raid for loot so that they can survive. The continued raiding is made possible by poor leadership and morale among the soldiers providing protection for civilians. The raids have gotten worse during 2018.
In mid-2018 the army morale problem became very public when several hundred soldiers demonstrated at the Maiduguri (the Borno State capital) airport. In northeastern Nigeria, Borno State is where Boko Haram was formed in 2002 and became a major Islamic terrorist threat in 2009 followed by eight years of violence that devastated most of Borno State and left nearly 30,000 dead. The airport demonstration was about how many of the soldiers had been stationed in a battle zone (Borno) for several years and away from their home base (and families) down south. Units are supposed to be rotated at least once a year to give the troops some rest and opportunity to train and integrate new recruits. Despite repeated promises that this would be the policy it hasn’t been and the troops believe corruption among their officers is the reason. Getting rids of incompetent officers has also been promised but it is an effort that is far from complete. The government, led by a reformist former general, is aware of the problem but the military has a hard time carrying out basic reforms or enforcing policies (like the rotation of troops) they are ordered to carry out. President Buhari has held officers in charge of operations in the north responsible for their failures. As a result, there have been five commanders in the northeast during the last two years, replaced in turn when they failed to make needed changes. The latest new commander took over in the last few days. The military has been notoriously corrupt and inept for decades and change has not come easily or quickly. The corrupt officers are winning. Not only are troops not being rotated but many that are killed are still carried on rosters as alive their commanders are taking the pay for the dead soldiers. Parents who complain that they have not heard from their soldier son for months are not told he is dead but are often told nothing. More families are investigating on their own and discovering their son is dead. The army then dismisses it as an administrative error and ignores the problem.
How Boko Haram Survives
In addition to continued corruption in the army, Boko Haram also has plenty of places to hide on both sides of the borders with Niger, Chad and Cameroon. Then there is the Sambisa forest which still harbors many Boko Haram even though it is regularly patrolled by soldiers, local defense volunteers and surveillance aircraft. This 60,000 square kilometers of hilly, sparsely populated woodland straddles the borders of Borno, Yobe and Adamwa states and until 2016 was largely inaccessible to the security forces and served as a base area for Boko Haram. No longer safe enough for major Boko Haram bases it still shelters hundreds of the Islamic terrorists operating in smaller groups. Boko Haram has adapted to these new conditions and is now able to mass over a hundred gunmen for major attacks or raids (for supplies). Boko Haram takes advantage of poor army morale by carrying out their attacks in such a way that the defending soldiers have an open escape route and many soldiers and officers take advantage of that and flee.
Boko Haram persists in the northeast in large part because one of the two rival factions has adopted more effective tactics. The Barnawi (or “Albarnawi”) faction follows the current ISIL doctrine of concentrating attacks on security forces and government officials (preferably the corrupt ones). That makes it easier to extort (raise taxes) cash and other goods from the local population. The Barnawi faction has several thousand active gunmen and operates mainly in the far north of Borno state near Lake Chad and the borders of Niger and Chad. The smaller Shekau faction has about half as many armed men and operates further south near the Borno State capital of Maiduguri and the Sambisa Forest.
November 10, 2018: In the northeast (Borno State), Boko Haram raiders in trucks successfully looted a village five kilometers outside the state capital (Maiduguri). One villager was killed but hundreds were able to flee as Boko Haram looted then burned 65 buildings and made off with over 500 farm animals (including 200 cattle).
November 9, 2018: Oil production for October fell for the second month in a row, to 2.09 million BPD (barrels per day). September was 2.16 million BPD. In April-June production was 1.84 million BPD, which was down from two million BPD during the first three months of the year. By the end of 2017 Nigerian oil production had hit 2.03 million BPD and so far 2018 looks like it will average 1.8 million BDP because of long-delayed maintenance and refurbishment of the oil production facilities in the Niger River Delta (where most of the production is). At the end of 2016 Nigerian oil production was rising to levels not seen for years. That has been the trend for most of 2017 because the new government had negotiated a peace deal with the local rebels (who opposed corruption and bad treatment of locals in general). Production rose and is on the way to the goal of 2.5 million BPD by 2020 but achieving that level of production depends on keeping the peace in the Delta. Continued corruption and rampant oil theft make it difficult to increase production and sustain those higher production level goals. The oil theft gangs continue to flourish with the help of corrupt government officials (civil and military.)
November 4, 2018: In the northeast (Borno State), attackers from the Boko Haram Shekau faction attacked the Kumshe army base southeast of the state capital. Boko Haram released a ten minute video of the attack, which appears to have captured some army equipment.
November 3, 2018: In the northeast (Borno State), attackers from the Boko Haram ISIL faction attacked an army base near Lake Chad and killed or captured about thirty soldiers and stole much army equipment.
November 2, 2018: Casualties due to Islamic terrorism and tribal conflict were up about 20 percent in October (to over 600 dead), mainly because of more Boko Haram attacks. Tribal violence in central Nigeria continues to be a major problem and in some months this year accounted for more casualties than the Boko Haram violence.
October 31, 2018: In the northeast (Borno State), about fifty Boko Haram raiders successfully looted several villages and a refugee camp on the outskirts of the state capital (Maiduguri) killing fifteen civilians and causing hundreds of others to flee in the process. Boko Haram got away before soldiers sent to stop them could get there. There were more than 30 soldiers and police guarding some of these places but they fled along with the civilians.
October 29, 2018: In central Nigeria ( the capital Abuja), police killed at least twenty Shia demonstrators and arrested more than 400 over the weekend. The 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. There is a Shia minority in Nigeria which, with Iranian help, tried to organize a militant faction. That did not go well and by 2018 Nigerian police managed to eliminate most armed members of the Shia IMN (Islamic Movement in Nigeria). Yet IMN was visibly involved in organizing this unarmed (although police claimed there were some fire bombs) demonstration. There has not been much violent activity from the Shia since 2016 when the security forces cracked down hard. 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.
October 27, 2018: In the northeast (Borno State) Boko Haram raiders in ten or more vehicles attacked the army base at Gashigar but were repulsed and fled into the darkness with their casualties. The soldiers lost one dead and one wounded during several hours of shooting.
October 23, 2018: In the northeast (Borno State) Boko Haram raiders attacked a village near the Sambisa Forest and killed two civilians and looted the place.
October 21, 2018: In the northeast (Kaduna State) Christian and Moslem men fought in a marketplace after a labor dispute escalated. Over fifty died before police could intervene and arrest at least 22. Most of the violence in Kaduna and adjacent states in central Nigeria are between Moslems (usually Fulani) and farmers (most of them Christians but Moslem farms are attacked by Fulani as well).
October 20, 2018: In the northeast (Borno State, 17 kilometers from the state capital Maiduguri) at least ten Boko Haram raiders came upon twelve farmers working in their fields. There being nothing to steal Boko Haram killed the farmers using machetes and then moved on.
October 16, 2018: The ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) faction of Boko Haram announced it would not kill its third hostage but would instead enslave the 15 year old school girl. Boko Haram had been demanding that the government free some of their leaders as well as pay a large cash ransom to prevent the murder of two Red Cross employees and the 15 year old female student. The three captives included two Red Cross staff (a nurse and midwife) and a 15 year old female student who is Christian (so her death will not offend many Moslems). The Boko Haram ISIL faction is also known as ISWAP (Islamic State West Africa Province) and has publicized the situation of these three individuals thus putting a lot of pressure on the government to “do something” by today if they want to prevent another murder. The government does not like being played like this and so far has refused to negotiate. One reason for that is the current factionalism and instability within Boko Haram. In this case, Boko Haram backed down and now there are calls from Christians worldwide to rescue the 15 year old Christian girl from Boko Haram and slavery.