In the northeast, the Boko Haram violence continues in Borno state, with several violent incidents a week, most of them minor (looting raids on remote villages). This month a new group of army and police commanders have taken over in the northeast to deal with the Boko Haram violence. Nationwide there is a new commander for the Army Special Forces, who are frequently in action against Boko Haram. President Buhari, a former general, is running for re-election in February 2019 elections.
Part of the reason for this increase in Boko Haram activity, especially in the far north near the borders with Chad and Niger, has to do with Chad and Niger. In mid-2018, removing their contingents from the 8,700 man (at its peak in 2017) international force. This force was comprised of troops from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria and was intended to prevent Boko Haram from freely operating in border areas. Most of the international force operations were Borno State and adjacent areas. Three areas got the most attention. There was the Cameroon border area containing the Mandera Mountains. The other two areas are parts of the Sambisa forest in northern Borno State and further north along the coast of Lake Chad. The international force was aided by national forces work the Cameroon, Niger and Chad sides of the border. The international force was a key factor in the defeat of Boko Haram but the Islamic terror group was not destroyed and without the international force to guard the borders, Boko Haram was able to survive and rebuild.
The ISIL (“Barnawi”) faction of Boko Haram has received a lot of useful tips from ISIL, including how to use commercial quad-copters for reconnaissance. Nigerian troops and police have already encountered these. Boko Haram persists in the northeast in large part because of its willingness to experiment and innovate. That is largely because one of the two rival factions has deliberately sought to develop and use more effective tactics and techniques. 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 about 3,000 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. Both factions rely on the fact that the years of Boko Haram violence in Borno State (where the group originated in 2004) has increased the poverty and corruption the Islamic terrorist organization was founded to eliminate. While most potential recruits are discouraged with the Boko Haram approach the most hardcore Islamic radicals are drawn to the more extreme groups and that way Boko Haram persists.
In central Nigeria, the war is between nomads (herders, mostly Moslem) and farmers (mostly Christian). This is an ancient struggle made more intense by religious differences and government corruption. This violence has not declined much at all in the last decade but is still less than the annual death toll Boko Haram is still responsible for.
Happy New Year
In the third quarter (July-September) GDP grew at the rate of 1.8 percent. Most of this came from growth in the non-oil part of the economy, which the government is paying more attention to since oil prices declined after 2013. Foreign economists (IMF) predicted 1.9 percent growth for all of 2018 and Nigeria might exceed that. Corruption is still a major problem but it is not as concentrated as it was when oil was the dominant part of the economy and everything else was secondary.
December 11, 2018: Oil production has been cut to 1.7 million BPD to comply with OPEC cuts that are needed to increase the oil price. In the south (Niger River Delta) the navy has renewed its campaign against oil thieves after a mid-2018 scandal involving three naval officers who were illegally selling seized equipment (from oil theft gangs) back to the gangs. The corruption went deeper than that and had made it easier for the oil theft gangs to survive major navy campaigns to find and shut down them down. The military, especially the navy, has been very successful in finding and shutting down oil theft gangs. Since 2016 this effort has found (via more than 16,000 patrols) and shut down over 1,800 illegal refineries. Much of the refinery equipment was destroyed where found but the navy has seized over 1,5oo weapons, 1,600 boats, 198 barges, 258 outboard engines, 133 tanker trucks, 349 vehicles, 95 generating sets and much more recoverable equipment. The navy was supposed to sell off this stuff with the proceeds going to the government but it was discovered that corruption had quietly crippled naval operations in the Delta. New commanders were sent in to clean up and revive the navy operations. Over the last few months, there has been a noticeable reduction in oil theft gang operations and the surviving gangs has set up camps further from the areas where oil production takes place. This makes it more difficult for the navy to find them but also makes it more difficult for the gangs to get to pipelines, puncture them and steal oil. The threat of corruption returning is still there.
December 9, 2018: In the northeast (Borno State), the ISIL faction of Boko Haram used a suicide bomber and trucks mounting heavy machine-guns to attack an army base. Two soldiers were killed and two wounded. The attack was repulsed with heavy losses as the Islamic terrorists retreated taking most of their dead and wounded with them.
December 8, 2018: In the northeast (Borno State), Boko Haram was particularly active on the outskirts of the state capital (Maiduguri) during the last two days, with four clashes leaving two soldiers and five Islamic terrorists dead. There were many wounded, most of them civilians. The violence halted traffic on the highway to Kano state and many people were stuck in traffic overnight.
December 6, 2018: In the northeast (Borno State), Boko Haram attacked an army base at Rann and were repulsed. But the Boko Haram was also attacking nearby residential areas and destroyed many buildings, including a clinic. Several civilians were killed.
December 4, 2018: In the northeast, across the border in Cameroon village militias are being revived with men being selected for training in the use of weapons and how to establish security. This is to deal with a resurgence of Boko Haram activity along the Nigerian border (especially Borno state.)
December 3, 2018: In the northeast (Borno State), Boko Haram clashed with soldiers leaving five dead on each side. During the last few weeks clashes like this occurred almost daily in Borno although many, if not most, result in no deaths. The Boko Haram men are usually caught looking for loot, not a fight and the Internet flee the security forces as quickly as possible.
December 2, 2018: In the northeast (Yobe State), a large group of Boko Haram attacked an army base, killing eight soldiers and stealing a truck.
December 1, 2018: In the northeast (Borno State), Boko Haram sent two suicide bombers to hit targets in Maiduguri but were detected and killed by security forces. The only casualties were the suicide bombers.
Next door in Yobe State, a battle between the army and Boko Haram left eight soldiers and ten Islamic terrorists dead.
November 30, 2018: In the northeast (Borno State), Boko Haram attacked an army base on the shore of Lake Chad. The attack was repulsed with one soldier dead and seven wounded. The Boko Haram force came in trucks, one of them mounting an anti-aircraft gun. That vehicle was destroyed and at least four of the attackers killed.
November 29, 2018: In Chad senior leaders from Chad, Nigeria, Niger and Cameroon met to discuss how to deal with the increased Boko Haram activity in the region (nations bordering Lake Chad). These four nations, plus Benin, also contributed troops to the MJTF (Multinational Joint Task Force) when it was created in 2015. MJTF initially concentrated on Boko Haram activity in northeastern Nigeria and was a key factor in the defeat of Boko Haram in Nigeria. In 2016 MJTF national contingents returned to their homelands and concentrated on Islamic terrorist activity there, which often involved remnants of Boko Haram. At the same time, some Boko Haram groups were regularly operating on both sides of these borders. Meanwhile, Nigeria proved unable to finish off Boko Haram in Nigeria and now this has become more of a problem for the other MJTF members. There is talk of again concentrating on Nigeria, which is still the source of most Boko Haram recruits and most of the growing activity. It may take a while for a decision to be made on this.
In the northwest (Zamfara State), police encountered a large group of armed cattle thieves and over a hundred (most of them the thieves) died during several hours of fighting. Zamfara state is experiencing the same sort of tribal violence in central Niger except in Zamfara everyone involved is Moslem. This generally involves fighting between Fulani herders and Hausa farmers. To make matters worse the area is notorious for groups of bandits that steal cattle as well as raid farming villages. That, plus the Fulani violence has caused at least 3,000 deaths in the last two years. Most of the attacks are raids for the purpose of looting and leaving. The Fulani raiders often run into Hausa self-defense militias and the resulting battles leave many on both sides dead or wounded. The Fulani raids are usually after cattle and other loot. Both Hausa and Fulani are Moslem so religion is not a factor here. Moslem leaders want attention paid to the growing tribal feuds between Moslem tribes, especially like the battles between Fulani and Hausa in Zamfara. The violence in Zamfara state has led to the national police sending in hundreds of additional paramilitary personnel to deal (or try to deal) with that situation. The police have not had much impact and usually, leave after conducting some operations that are avoided by the local bandits.
November 28, 2018: In the northeast (Borno State), Boko Haram attacked the Abadam army base and were repulsed with the loss of at least twenty men plus many more wounded. In neighboring Cameroon (the border town of Amchide) two female Boko Haram suicide bombers were killed at a checkpoint. They were the only deaths but there were other casualties (29 wounded) when one of the women set off her explosives while the other was killed by gunfire. Amchide is adjacent to a portion of Borno State that has long suffered Boko Haram violence but pressure from Nigerian security forces caused some Boko Haram to establish bases on the Cameroon side of the frontier. Life is not that much easier for Boko Haram in Cameroon.
November 24, 2018: In the northeast (Borno State), Boko Haram crossed the border into Niger and kidnapped 18 girls in two villages.
November 21, 2018: In the northeast (Borno State), Boko Haram crossed the border into Niger and attacked a French sponsored water drilling operation near the border. At least eight people were killed during the night attack, all were from Niger.
November 19, 2018: In the northeast (Borno State), Boko Haram attacked three military bases over the weekend, killing more than fifty soldiers and civilians in the process. Local civilians were attacked because they were suspected of reporting Boko Haram activity to the military. These attacks were carried out by the ISIL faction of Boko Haram. This faction has killed over a hundred people in attacks made over the last week as a show of force.
November 18, 2018: President Buhari, appalled at the recent Boko Haram attacks against security forces in the northeast, admitted that Boko Haram had not been defeated, as he previously claimed. So far this month 39 soldiers have been killed and 43 wounded during five clashes with Boko Haram.
November 17, 2018: In the northeast (Borno State), Boko Haram kidnapped at least fifty loggers who were working near the Cameroon border. The loggers were taken because they were suspected of reporting Boko Haram activity to the military. This operation was carried out by the ISIL faction of Boko Haram.
November 16, 2018: The United States donated $1.3 million worth of patrol boats (for use on Lake Chad) and military trucks to Chad. These are to assist Chad in keeping Boko Haram out of Chad and away from Lake Chad.