Nigeria: Works In Progress

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March 4, 2019: Incumbent Muhammadu Buhari won a second term in the delayed (for one week) February 23 rd presidential election. This means Buhari will be under a lot of pressure to finish dealing with economic, corruption and violence (religious and tribal) problems he did address in his first term. Opponents charged vote fraud and threatened legal action. That is quite common and there is some truth to the accusations because state governors often hire criminal gangs to intimidate voters who oppose them and the national political party they belong to. Most of these state governors are corrupt and their hired gangsters are part of the system that causes much of the state budget to be stolen. Buhari has made some progress against this form of corruption but there are many current and former governors who are willing to fight back in courts and with more bribes. Buhari got elected in part on his success against these dirty politicians and said he would continue the prosecutions for a second term. More voters in the Moslem north were concerned about personal safety as Boko Haram was “defeated” during Buhari’s first term but the group was not eliminated and is now a growing threat to more and more of the northeast. Yet most of the violence is still concentrated in the three northeastern states where most of the mayhem has been taking place for a decade now. These three states have a population of 13 million (Borno; 5.5, Yobe; 3.1 and Adamawa; 4.3). That’s about seven percent of the national population that has endured well over half of the religion-based violence of the last decade. There is some Boko Haram activity in other northern areas making Boko Haram a problem for nearly 20 million Nigerians. There are nearly as many people in neighboring countries who are still terrorized (although to a lesser extent) by Boko Haram and other Islamic terror groups like ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) and al Qaeda. The security forces in these neighboring countries have proved more effective at dealing with Boko Haram, which remains mainly a Nigerian organization. Boko Haram has reorganized since it lost control of much territory in 2016-17. There are now two Boko Haram factions which do not fight each other but do compete to carry out more attacks than each other. Both factions survive by looting and various criminal enterprises (mainly extortion and kidnapping).

In addition to wrecking the local economy and driving most Christians out of the north the ten years of Boko Haram violence wrecked the educational system in the Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states. Borno was the hardest hit but all these states suffered from attacks on schools and teachers. More than 2,400 teachers staffing some 3,000 schools in the area were killed and nearly 20,000 teachers fled their schools and often left the northeast. Over 2,000 schools were destroyed and over a thousand students were kidnapped. Over half the school-age children in the area still have no access to education. There is little indication that schools will be repaired or rebuilt very quickly either. There are still over two million people living in refugee camps and the conditions there are getting worse. There are a growing number of angry demonstrations by these refugees. At the same time, over five million people who returned (or never left) to Borno are going hungry and starvation deaths are an increasing possibility. There is already more disease, especially in the refugee camps where some are suffering from an outbreak of cholera. The worst part of all this is that many farmers in the devastated area are facing the prospect of a sixth year without crops because the seed and other supplies are still not available.

Buhari is a retired Moslem general from the north who is Fulani and long known as a reformer and opponent of corruption and religious intolerance. He has been accused by the Christian half of the population and many of the Moslems of going easy on the Fulani responsible for the growing tribal violence in the north and central Nigeria. Buhari promised voters he would tend to these concerns and after avoiding that during his first term most Nigerians are expecting some action on the Fulani violence, which some months get more people killed than the Boko Haram mayhem.

Buhari has had the most success in keeping the economy going and growing. This involved going after specific corrupt practices that were plundering much of the oil income. Equally important were his efforts to prevent the oil theft gangs in the south from crippling oil production in the Niger River Delta, where most of the oil is. That is still a work in progress, as is most every other needed reform in Nigeria. Despite all these problems, Nigeria became the largest economy in Africa, displacing South Africa (which is in decline because of growing corruption and ethnic violence) in 2014. A year later Buhari became president and was under pressure to ensure that Nigeria held on to its first place position. Buhari agreed with economists that Nigeria had the larger economy because Nigeria has done more to curb corruption than South Africa and that showed up in economic growth. Nigeria could have displaced South Africa economically by the end of the 20th century if it were not for the fact that most of the oil revenue generated in Nigeria since the 1960s has been stolen. That is now generally accepted and investigators, accountants and economists are free to dig up and analyze the evidence. Much of that data is buried in old financial records in Nigeria and the West, where much of the loot was parked. Had most of those stolen billions (hundreds of billions) been spent on national infrastructure, education and investment in new businesses Nigeria would be a much more prosperous and pleasant place to live. There are examples of how to better handle oil wealth in Africa and elsewhere. Norway is probably the best example but throughout the world, there are many more nations that need to handle vast natural resource wealth better. It always comes down to reducing corruption and investing the money in the nation it came from.

February 28, 2019: In the northeast (Borno State), Boko Haram gunmen attacked an army base outside the state capital (Maiduguri). The attack was repulsed but three soldiers and a civilian were killed and many other civilians were wounded.

February 27, 2019: In the northeast (Borno state), there have been three major Boko Haram attacks on the market town of Rann (near the Cameroon border) since December. Because of that violence, nearly a 100,000 Rann residents fled the area to the relative safety of refugee camps in neighboring Cameroon and farther south near the Borno state capital. Some 40,000 had fled to Cameroon, where they were increasingly unwelcome. The Nigerian refugee camps had to be guarded and administered and that was expensive, even though foreign aid covered most of the other costs (food, housing, medical). Despite that, the camps were a magnet for Boko Haram activity, including groups of Boko Haram gunmen using the camps as a base. In response, the Cameroon government recently began forcing refugees to return home, especially the many from Rann. As a result, some 30,000 refugees returned to Rann so far this year. The refugees were often forced to return by Cameroonian security forces.

February 23, 2019: In the northeast (Borno State), a large group of Boko Haram gunmen tried to enter the state capital (Maiduguri) while others fired at the city with rockets. There were at least 13 explosions heard on the outskirts of the city but no one was injured. The Boko Haram who attempted to fight their way in were repulsed but their gunfire killed one soldier and wounded twenty soldiers and civilians. This was all in an effort to disrupt the voting for the presidential election today.

February 20, 2019: In neighboring Cameroon, the government reported that nearly 200 Cameroonian members of Boko Haram had recently returned to Cameroon and surrendered, saying they were fed up with the failure of Boko Haram to achieve anything useful. There were also complaints about the factionalism in Boko Haram which has prevented Boko Haram from coordinating operations. The Cameroon amnesty and rehabilitation program for local Boko Haram members has already attracted over a thousand men (many of them teenagers) who had joined the Islamic terrorist group and then had second thoughts.

February 19, 2019: In the northwest (Zamfara State), fighting between by Fulani herders and local farmers has left over a hundred dead or wounded in the last week. By the end of February, the casualty total had more than doubled. The root cause of the violence is herders and farmers fighting over land (for grazing or crops) and water (for cattle or crops). Both herders and farmers carry out revenge attacks, but the Fulani are generally the aggressors. Zamfara state is experiencing the same sort of tribal violence as central Nigeria except in Zamfara nearly 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 just for the money. The bandits are mainly Fulani but a growing number of Hausa are joining in.

The security forces are supposed to seize illegal arms (especially the cheap AK-47s that became common back in the 1990s) but only the farmers are hurt by this because local defense militias must either bribe local police to keep their AK-47s or be at constant risk of having them seized. Herders are more mobile and better at hiding their weapons. Villagers are demanding that the government allow defense groups to have firearms. Even without that, the Fulani violence has caused over 3,000 deaths in the last two years. Most of the attacks are raids for the purpose of looting and leaving the area. 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. Muslim leaders want attention paid to the growing tribal feuds between Moslem tribes, especially like the battles between Fulani and Hausa in Zamfara. In response, the federal government has ordered the national police to send 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. Soldiers are now being sent in as well but the violence continues to spread.

February 18, 2019: In the northeast (Borno State), Boko Haram killed 18 men who had been collecting wood to make charcoal for sale in cities and large towns. In general, Islamic terrorists don’t trust these woodsmen and discourage them from working in rural areas where Boko Haram has its camps. The army has been cracking down on the charcoal bootleggers (who cut down trees illegally in state forests, convert it into charcoal and then sell the charcoal in villages or urban areas). These guys try to avoid the security forces and if confronted profess ignorance of Boko Haram activities. If caught with goods for Boko Haram the charcoal makers will try to talk their way out of the mess, or even bribe their way out. Hiring more hunters makes it easier to convince the charcoal men that you can’t fool a hunter and if you try the hunters will hunt you down.

February 16, 2019: The presidential election was supposed to take place today but was delayed for a week because of the inability to get voting equipment distributed throughout the country. The order for the delay came a few hours before voting was to begin.

In the northeast (Yobe State), Boko Haram attacked a small army base and were repulsed. Five Islamic terrorists were killed along with four soldiers. Ten civilians were wounded.

February 15, 2019: In the northeast (Borno State), across the border in Niger Boko Haram attacked an army position killing seven soldiers. Five of the attackers died. Other troops arrived and went after the attackers, calling in airstrikes and killed or wounded dozens of the Islamic terrorists.

Further south three Boko Haram suicide bombers attacked neighborhoods in the outskirts the state capital (Maiduguri) killing eight civilians.

February 12, 2019: In the northeast (Borno State), Boko Haram ambushed a convoy that included the state governor and hundreds of his supporters on their way to election rallies. Over 50 civilians and security personnel civilians died. Many more civilians were wounded or kidnapped. At first, the state government played down the number of casualties because the Boko Haram attack was an effort to discourage voting.

In nearby Adamawa State, troops and Boko Haram clashed leaving 11 Islamic terrorists dead along with one soldier.

In the south (Delta State), Fulani gunmen killed two villagers.

February 11, 2019: In the northeast (Kaduna State), Fulani gunmen killed 66 villagers during several attacks.

February 9, 2019: In the northeast (Adamawa State), a Boko Haram attack was repulsed after attackers were killed along with a soldier and a civilian. In nearby Borno State, a group of Boko Haram gunmen attacked an army base outside the state capital (Maiduguri). The attack was repulsed but three soldiers died.

February 8, 2019: In the northeast (Borno State), near Lake Chad and the Niger border a series of clashes between soldiers and Boko Haram left dozens of Islamic terrorists dead and about a dozen soldiers dead or wounded. Nigerian air force aircraft carried out airstrikes on groups of Boko Haram caught in the open or on the road in vehicles.

 

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