Nigeria: The Usual Suspects


July 4, 2023: During the last ten years, over 78,000 Nigerians were killed by Islamic terrorists, bandits, fighting between farmers and herders, and local unrest. Most of the deaths were due to Islamic terrorism, especially against Christians, banditry and clashes between farmers and herders. The worst year was 2014, when over 11,000 died, mainly because of increased Boko Haram violence and the military response. Deaths declined to less than half the 2014 total over the next six years. Then the annual deaths increased to about 10,000 a year in the last three years. Spending on the military nearly tripled because of this but that wasn’t enough to deal with the widespread violence in central and northern Nigeria.

During the last four years, the country continues suffering economic problems despite the oil prices more than doubling since 2020. The nationwide economic disruptions caused by covid19 linger. The inflation rate has risen more than 50 percent since 2020 and is currently headed for 30 percent by the end of the year. The Nigerian currency, the naira, has steadily fallen in value against the dollar. The naira has lost over half its value on international markets and this caused more Nigerians to try to convert their naira for the safer and more stable dollar. While it cost 360 Naira to buy a dollar in 2017, that increased to 460 in 2022 if you had access to the official currency trading market. On the black market, where a growing number of Nigerians must go to get dollars, it costs over 770 naira to buy one dollar. Last year it was 700. The economic crisis has made endemic and epidemic corruption more visible. This is very visible in the oil production industry, which has greatly inflated costs because of corruption. Higher oil prices are canceled by declines in production caused by criminals and corruption. Corruption inflates the cost of everything and reduces the quality of work done by the government, especially when it comes to infrastructure.

On a more personal level, the unemployment rate is now 41 percent compared to 38 percent last year. Nigerian economic growth is only about three or four percent a year. That is not enough to handle over four million young Nigerians entering the job market each year.

Down south in the Niger River Delta not much has changed. This is where most of the Nigerian oil is found and extracted. Most of the rest comes from a growing number of off-shore wells. For over half a century all that oil has brought a lot of economic activity to the Delta and that was followed by lots of criminal activity, largely by locals. Dealing with crime in the Delta was a major problem and beyond what the state government could handle. The federal government sent in the armed forces and now the army and navy have substantial forces based in the Delta where they often coordinate campaigns against criminal activity. The criminal activity usually involves stolen oil, either from taps in pipelines or bulk thefts from trucks or barges transporting oil. The stolen oil is then either moved to a neighboring country for re-sale or turned into commercial fuels (usually kerosene) via crude rural refineries that produce cut-rate fuels for rural customers. These illegal refineries are easy to spot from the air and, when they are located, the army moves in via road or the navy via boat to shut them down.

The illegal refining business is so lucrative that losing several refineries every month or so is an affordable cost for a full time refining operation. The refinery personnel usually escape and build another crude refinery. The outlaws are armed, although they rarely fight back against the military raids. Rival gangsters or troublesome civilians are another matter. The military raids in the Delta collect lots of stolen weapons and munitions. A lot of this weaponry originally belonged to the military but was either captured during fighting or sold by military personnel. Occasionally the serial numbers of recovered weapons are traceable to police or military units that reported them lost or stolen. Other weapons and explosives are obviously of foreign origin and imported by arms smugglers and traders who see Nigeria as an active and lucrative market. Gangsters, tribal militias and Islamic terrorist groups from the north or central Nigeria often go to the Delta to buy weapons. When the army captures Boko Haram or ISWAP Islamic terrorists in the north they are often armed with weapons from the Delta dealers.

In the northeast (Borno state) there is increasing Boko Haram violence in neighboring northern Cameroon because of the continuing pressure on Boko Haram in Borno. The Nigerian military has successfully improvised a force of local and international personnel to keep Boko Haram and Islamic terrorists on the run. Over the last four years the Borno state government and military leaders in the area have sought out experienced hunters and hired them, usually as part of CJTF (Civilian Joint Task Force) “hunter-killer” units. Many hunter veterans of CJTF are willing to work full time for a while to reduce Boko Haram violence. In addition to monthly pay, double pay that for leaders of hunter teams, there is some free food for hunter’s families. The monthly pay is OK for war-torn areas of Borno but also recognizes that the hunters can still hunt and don’t have to abandon their usual work. In many rural parts of Borno the police and army can use someone who will regularly report what they see or still agree to look out for specific things. The CJTF often works with the MNJTF (Multinational Joint Task Force). Since 2015 the MNJTF has proved very effective against Boko Haram and ISWAP. The 8,700-man MNJTF force maintains bases and camps near Lake Chad in northern Borno state and concentrates on hunting down and killing Islamic terrorists. MNJTF has taken the lead in containing local ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) groups, mainly ISWAP and blocking the Islamic terrorist efforts to once more control territory in the region.

Increasing violence across the border in Borno state led to the creation of the MNJTF, which consists of troops from Niger, Chad, Cameroon, Benin and Nigeria. At first the MNJTF was used mainly inside Nigeria but by early 2017 MNJTF was spending most of its time clearing Boko Haram out of border areas, especially the Lake Chad coast. Each member country assigns some of their best troops to the MNJTF and the Boko Haram have suffered heavy losses trying to deal with the MNJTF. This played a role in the 2016 Boko Haram split that turned Boko Haram operating near Lake Chad into ISWAP. MNJTF concentrated more and more on the areas around Lake Chad and has been successful at curbing ISWAP operations there.

In the separatist southeast, the Biafra independence movement is 23 years old and its militant wing IPOB (Indigenous People of Biafra) has become increasingly active. Most recently IPOB sought to prevent locals from voting in national elections. The army and the federal government sought to block these IPOB efforts. In Imo and surrounding states there is an increased army presence because of renewed demands for an independent state of Biafra, dominated by Igbos and consisting of the southeastern states of Ebonyi, Enugu, Anambra, Imo and Abia. Local politicians advised the federal government to keep the army out of this and that the best, and most possible, solution to the Biafra/Igbo separatist movement threat was to offer some autonomy instead. The Biafra separatist movement was revived in 2015 and at first the government ordered police to crack down. By 2016 nearly 200 Igbo had been killed by police attacks on demonstrators and anyone suspected of separatist activity. The violent response was obviously making it worse and after 2018 a gentler approach was tried.

The pro-Biafran separatists have been around and increasingly active since the 1990s. Back in the 1960s the Igbo (or Ibo) people of southeastern Nigeria attempted to establish a separate Igbo state called Biafra. A brutal civil war followed before that rebellion was crushed. Separatist attitudes were silenced but not extinguished. Pro-Biafra groups began to appear again in the late 1990s, trying to revive the separatist movement. Since then, over a thousand separatists have been killed, and many more imprisoned, while the government continues to insist that Biafra is gone forever. But as details of the extent of government corruption during the last few decades came out, Biafra again seemed like something worth fighting for. Senior government officials, including outgoing president Buhari, paid attention, and sought to work out a compromise with the Igbos. The Fulani living in the southeast are less amenable to any compromise, especially since the Fulani are Moslem and consider themselves defenders of Islam against non-believers like the Christian Igbo.

In response to the threats of violence, IPOB took the lead in protecting Igbo from anti-Biafra violence. In areas where peaceful defense measures did not work, IPOB formed an armed security component, the ESN (Eastern Security Network), to defend Igbos in Imo State from Fulani and government violence. The government has responded by sending a battalion of infantry to an area thought to be a base for ESN members. This was unpopular with the locals as Nigerian soldiers are notorious for their violent behavior. These troops had been ordered to behave but that proved difficult for them to do so in the face of Igbo contempt and hostility.

July 2, 2023: In the southwest (Ogun State) five gunmen attacked a Christian church, killed the pastor and kidnapped six members of the church. It’s unknown if the attackers were bandits or Islamic terrorists. Both groups depend on kidnapping for ransom to raise money. The southern half of Nigeria is largely Christian while the north is largely Moslem. There are many radical Moslems who believe all Nigerians should be Moslem and often get violent about. There is some Islamic terrorism in the south, but these groups have a hard tine eluding the police because so many southerners are willing to inform the largely Christian police if they spot any Islamic radicals. Christians enthusiastically embrace secular education, which gives them an economic edge over Moslems. Local Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram considers churches prime targets. Their ultimate goal is to drive all infidels (non-Moslems) out of the north, along with most elements of Western culture, especially Western education, as Boko Haram means "Western education is unclean for Moslems". Most Nigerian Moslems disagree with Boko Haram on education but cannot speak put if Boko Haram is around because Boko Haram will accuse pro-education Moslems of being heretics and try to kill them.

June 29, 2023: The polio eradication campaign is expected to achieve its goal in Nigeria by the end of 2023. Only three states; Sokoto, Zamfara and Kebbi, still have infections and vaccination teams will vaccinate all of those who might have been infected or are likely to be exposed to the virus. polio. In 2020 the government had prematurely declared Nigeria polio free. Because of poor reporting by health officials in several states, it turned out that Nigeria had not been eradicated. This comes after three years with no known new cases of polio. That meant all of Africa was free of polio, along with Europe, the Americas and most of Asia. It was believed that Afghanistan and Pakistan were finally free of polio. Once more, poor reporting concealed the reality that the polio virus was still present. In those two nations the same Moslem intolerance and paranoia that delayed Nigeria from becoming polio-free are in play. Another complaint was that the organization mainly responsible for the “polio free” movement, Rotary International, is an American fraternal charity whose members are largely responsible for the $5 billion effort to eradicate polio by vaccinating enough children so that the polio virus no longer has a human host and, like smallpox, becomes extinct. This polio free effort began in the 1980s and a decade ago ran into problems in northern Nigeria, where conservative Islamic clergy and Boko Haram spread the rumor that the polio vaccine was actually a plot to poison Moslem children. This has delayed eradication of polio in Nigeria for nearly a decade. Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria all share the same problems of poor public health care systems and some lingering resistance to vaccination preached by a few hardcore Moslem preachers. As long as these three nations still have some polio infections it is possible for migrants, especially illegals, to take the virus to virus-free nations.

June 21, 2023: In the northeast (Borno state) an airstrike against a Boko Haram camp in the Sambisa Forest killed or wounded dozens of armed men who had assembled to carry out an attack. A local resident called in the information and the air force quickly carried out their attack with soldiers arriving later to capture the fleeing survivors of the air attack. In central Nigeria, Fulani gunmen attacked Christian communities, killing fourteen civilians and wounding even more. Over 400 Christians have died in similar attacks in Plateau State in the last two months. The Fulani concentrate on Christian farming communities in order to drive the farmers out. This allows the Fulani to use the farmland for the herds to graze. These attacks on farmers have been continuous this year. The Fulani often kidnap farmers in order to coerce them and others to abandon their farmland to the Fulani and their herds.

June 11, 2023: In the last three days the air force carried out a series of attacks against a radical faction of Boko Haram that has been operating out of bases in the Mandara mountains. These attacks led to over a hundred Islamic terrorists killed, wounded or captured by soldiers following up on the air strikes. Aerial surveillance found the camps and tracked the movement of those who survived attacks.

June 10, 2023: In the northeast (Borno state) an airstrike against two trucks carrying members of ISWAP (Islamic State West Africa Province) Islamic terrorists. Eleven men in the two trucks were killed but several others riding motorbikes got away. The army and the air force frequently receive tips from locals about ISWAP activity and the military has found that if they act quickly enough the tips will keep coming. ISWAP is a particularly brutal outfit, especially against non-Moslem civilians.

In the north (Kaduna state) five armed men attacked the compound of a Fulani chief, killed the chief and his four adult children and left with a hundred cattle. While escaping the bandits shot two more people.

This attack us part the banditry problem in Kaduna. It has been getting worse in the last year. In Kaduna State the local bandit problem has reached critical levels. For example, in March 2022 over 200 Hausa bandits attacked the Kaduna International Airport, killing a security guard, and forcing the airports to remain closed until May 23rd. The government upgraded security at the airport in an effort to restore public confidence in local aviation and airports.

On March 28th a coalition of local gangsters and Boko Haram Islamic terrorists used explosives to destroy some of the track and cause a locomotive and eleven passenger cars to derail, halting service on the 190-kilometer track from Kaduna City to Abuja, the Nigerian capital. The train had departed Abuja with 362 listed passengers. The derailment killed nine people and it is unclear how many are being held for ransom because 141 passengers are still unaccounted for. Many apparently returned home without notifying the railroad or police. Rail service was supposed to resume in May but a few more attacks and uncertainty over how many passengers are being held for ransom meant few people were willing to travel on that route until there were assurances that it was safe and there was news about how many passengers were being held by the kidnappers. One hostage, a banker, has been freed but refuses to provide any details. It is suspected that a large ransom was promptly paid. Few of the missing passengers can afford a substantial ransom and the attackers said they were willing to trade passengers for jailed bandits and Boko Haram members.

In response to that the government promised to hunt down and kill the bandits and free the hostages. So far neither task has been accomplished. Paying ransoms is discouraged so families do it quietly to get victims released. There was a similar railroad attack in late 2021. A train was halted when explosives damaged the track. Bandits fired on the train but no one was killed and the bandits fled without any hostages. Kaduna State has the highest number of bandit attacks on trucks and passenger vehicles traveling the highways and secondary roads.

June 8, 2023: In the northeast (Borno state) an airstrike on a Boko Haram camp where Ali Ngulde, a Boko Haram leader and several of his associates and followers were present, left dozens dead. Ngulde escaped.

Fulani bandits often carry out attacks, and concentrate on Christian farmers. The farms are in rural areas where it takes time for police to respond to such attacks.

June 6, 2023: In the south (Rivers state) Nigerian pirates hijacked two passenger boats, each carrying twelve people. The passengers will be held for ransom.

May 29, 2023: Newly elected president Bola Ahmed Tinubu was sworn in as Nigeria’s 18th president. He proceeded to try and boost economic growth by eliminating a number of government bureaucracies and programs that hinder economic growth. This includes eliminating various subsidies. He is also trying to reverse the decline of the Nigerian currency (the naira) against the dollar. This will make it cheaper to import needed goods. The currency problems is one reason Tinubu replaced the governor of the Central Bank. Tinubu also has to try and deal with the problem everyone complains about but are reluctant to back any real action to solve that. That problem is the widespread corruption and favoritism. Tribal and religious differences are still a factor, particularly for a national leader like the president.




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