[Dehai-WN] Africa-Confidential.com: NIGERIA -The business of terror

From: Berhane Habtemariam <Berhane.Habtemariam_at_gmx.de_at_dehai.org>
Date: Fri, 16 Dec 2011 22:09:16 +0100

 <http://www.africa-confidential.com/browse-by-country/id/38/NIGERIA> NIGERIA - <http://www.africa-confidential.com/article/id/4265/The_business_of_terror> The business of terror

As President Jonathan’s government tries to modernise the economy, it is throwing money at a campaign to defeat the Boko Haram militia

16th December 2011

The government's confused strategy has made little headway against the Boko Haram militia's shootings and bombings across northern Nigeria. The security services have turned the capital, Abuja, into an armed camp replete with spy cameras at major road junctions. On 13 December, President <http://www.africa-confidential.com/whos-who-profile/id/2598/Goodluck_Jonathan> Goodluck Jonathan announced that the government would spend a staggering 921 billion naira (US$5.5 bn.) of the N4,749 bn. budget for 2012 on the armed forces and security services. This is a Boko Haram campaign bonanza for the generals and private security companies but the huge diversion of resources will not achieve its aims without a clear strategy to address the grievances that the militants exploit.

Throwing money and soldiers at Boko Haram may in the short term deter it from more spectacular attacks on landmark buildings in the capital but will do little to hold back operations from its base in north-eastern Nigeria. Well targeted attacks by the Islamist militants exacerbate the growing political and economic divide between the oil-rich south and the barren north. The national impact of this seems to have eluded policy-makers, who have failed to launch any political response to the militia's campaign, let alone provide education and other social services to ameliorate the often dire conditions in Boko Haram's home base.

The security services dominate the response (see Box, Inside the security hierarchy) and want to keep other arms of government out. Poor relations between federal, state and local governments reflect partisan rivalries. Some in the governing People's Democratic Party accuse their political foes in the Congress for Progressive Change of former military leader General <http://www.africa-confidential.com/whos-who-profile/id/2606/Muhammadu_Buhari> Muhammadu Buhari of conniving with elements in Boko Haram to make northern Nigeria ungovernable. When supporters of Buhari and the CPC protested against losing the presidential election to Jonathan in April, the demonstrations descended into clashes with the security forces at the cost of several hundred lives. That spree of death and destruction – particularly the attacks on the homes and business of northern leaders who allied themselves with Jonathan – haunts the region's politics.

Kaduna conclusions
Hardline allies of Jonathan's have gone further, suggesting that northern rivals within the PDP – such as Generals <http://www.africa-confidential.com/whos-who-profile/id/2609/Ibrahim_Babangida> Ibrahim Babangida and <http://www.africa-confidential.com/whos-who-profile/id/2610/Aliyu_Mohammed_Gusau> Aliyu Mohammed Gusau – may have covert ties to Boko Haram. Privately though, some of Jonathan's securocrats have been asking Babangida and Gusau for advice. Northern potentates meeting at a peace conference organised by the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) in Kaduna on 5 December could not agree on strategy. Vice-President <http://www.africa-confidential.com/whos-who-profile/id/3192/Namadi_Sambo> Namadi Sambo, a mild-mannered architect and the most senior northerner in government, admitted limits to government power: 'There are no simple solutions to the complex problems' in the north.

He might have added that northerners show little faith in the government's ability to address those problems. In the April election, Jonathan received fewer votes in the north than anywhere else. The paucity of credible northerners in his government and a disorganised opposition in the north (whose most distinguished figure is Buhari), has made space for Boko Haram. Their plan is to deny territory to the security forces, hoping to provoke massive, indiscriminate retaliation that further alienates local people. This is working with deadly predictability. The movement is backed by the regional clout of Al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which has helped the home-grown militia with weapons and bomb-making skills, and overseen the indoctrination of young Muslims, many taken across the border to Chad, Niger and, we hear, Somalia, for training.

The relative sophistication of its attacks this year on the national police headquarters and the United Nations' office in Abuja (AC Vol 52 No 13) marked the first successes of the Boko Haram-AQIM collaboration and ensured the internationalisation of the civil conflict. A portentous document from a subcommittee of the United States House of Representatives, led by Patrick Meehan and Jackie Speier, claimed last month that Boko Haram represented a threat to the US mainland as well as to Western targets in Nigeria and the wider region and that it has ties to the militants of Somalia's Al Haraka al Shabaab al Mujahideen. Back in 2002, the then President, George Bush, suggested the USA might intervene if oil supplies were threatened by insurgents in northern Nigeria; he said oil imports from the country were 'a strategic national interest' which the US military would be obliged to protect.

Such threats are music to the ears of Boko Haram, which claims to be a grassroots movement against poverty, railing against Nigeria's winner-takes-all capitalism, in which the winners are always the same. It operates from the north-eastern Borno State to Bauchi State and into Middle Belt states such as Plateau and Niger. It targets churches and Christians, provoking violent responses. By exacerbating tension between faiths, Boko Haram promotes social chaos, polarises society and wins recruits or tacit acceptance for its hardline Islamist creed.

A security analyst with a big oil company, Idowu Ogunlade, said the insurgency was driven partly by the loss of political power, which the north held for 40 years. A northern businessman in Abuja spoke of regional resentment against President Jonathan: 'His people have the oil, the money, the media companies… and now, the political power.'

Northerners have been pushed out of their traditional military bastion; there are more Middle Belt and Southern officers in the army than at any time in the last 40 years (see Box, Inside the security hierarchy). Amongst them is the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Onyeabo Azubuike Ihejirika, an Igbo from the south-east. In the Biafra civil war of 1976-70, Igbos fought to secede from the rest of Nigeria, memories of which were stirred on 26 November with the death of the rebel leader, Colonel Emeka Ojukwu, to whom Jonathan offered a fulsome tribute. Now Azubuike leads the defence against the north's Islamist militias; some say history is repeating itself in reverse.

The army's Joint Task Force has been sent to the heartland of the insurgency. In the Delta, the JTF is already seen as an instrument of federal oppression. Northern leaders demand the JTF's withdrawal. Major Abubakar Dangiwa Umar, a former military Governor of Kaduna who remains popular, says military approaches will not solve the Boko Haram problem. Some northerners want Boko Haram to be offered an amnesty like that granted to the Delta militants. Yet they were protesting against environmental despoliation and federal control of their region's oil reserves, as well as demanding money. Boko Haram wants a theocratic state and secession, not piecemeal reform.

The Inspector General of Police, Hafiz Ringim, a close ally of Jonathan's, is under scrutiny for his failure to tackle gross corruption and inefficiency in the force. Boko Haram exploits that. Few accept government claims that 'the attacks could have been more sustained if the national security agencies had not been very proactive'. We hear that Israeli intelligence experts (mostly ex-Mossad officials) may be retained as security consultants. A delegation of Israeli business people visited Nigeria on 11-18 August and Israeli Ambassador Moshe Ram oversees security cooperation. Nigerian (and Kenyan) officials have also been on counter-terrorism trips to Israel.

For years, Muslim military leaders such as Babangida used former Mossad agents for advice and close protection. Buhari hired some to kidnap an exiled politician, Umaru Dikko, from London in 1984 and bring him back to Lagos for trial – a plan whose absurd outcome caused a diplomatic falling out with Britain.

After August's suicide bombing of the UN in Abuja, Jonathan's government consulted US officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Central Intelligence Agency. Some security people suggest that surveillance unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) may be used against the militants, as they were in the Delta. Police chief Ringim has recently been shuttling to Washington to talk to his counterparts.

Security analysts claim that some senior northern officers, sacked after the return to civilian rule under President <http://www.africa-confidential.com/whos-who-profile/id/2592/Olusegun_Obasanjo> Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999, sell their knowledge of training and logistics to the Islamists. Some military-controlled printing presses have been producing religious tracts, we hear.

Making money out of mayhem
The fight back against Boko Haram has been hugely lucrative for some. Contracts for training and security equipment are heavily inflated. So-called security officers and associated political appointees sell questionable services to state security agencies. Private security companies, such as the USA's once again re-branded Blackwater, operating in Iraq, Pakistan and the Middle East, are doing business in Nigeria, along with those who were fighting insurgencies in the Delta.

Down south, the Odua People's Congress, a Yoruba outfit that was powerful during the struggle against the late dictator General <http://www.africa-confidential.com/whos-who-profile/id/2651/Sani_Abacha> Sani Abacha, asked Yoruba leaders for finance during a street protest last week in Lagos. They brandished weapons and called for Boko Haram to restrict its bombing to the north. Security officers stood by, powerless.

In the Delta, the current amnesty programme is said to be another driver of militancy, with ex-militants represented in government by the former rebel Tompolo, who now prefers to be called High Chief Government Ekpemupolo. The JTF, led by Lt. Col. Hassan Mohammed, has done more harm than good in the region.

Very few northern politicians have the moral authority to negotiate on behalf of the government and there is mutual distrust among leading northern politicians in the PDP. Although Boko Haram's attacks are growing more sophisticated, it has no central command or formal structure with which the government can negotiate. This is the view of retired Air Vice-Marshal Lucky Ochuko Ararile, formerly coordinator of the amnesty programme for Delta ex-militants. In September, the federal government set up a committee to open talks with Boko Haram, one of whose members was Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume. He was recently arrested for being a sponsor of Boko Haram; his fellow senators call his trial a witch hunt.

The political confusion over his case mirrors the wider chaos in policy towards the militants. A veteran Nigerian intelligence officer told us the country had been turned upside down: 'You used to have southern militants fighting a northern regime, now we have northern militants fighting a southern one – the difference is the southern militants could use their control over oil as a weapon, the northern militants have nothing to use but mayhem and bloodshed.'


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