NIGERIA 2017: THE BOKO HARAM LEGACY AND THE NIGER DELTA INSURGENCIES
In the last days of 2016 it was announced that Nigeria’s army has captured Boko Haram’s last enclave in the Sambisa forest (Borno state, north-east of Nigeria). According to Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, the capture marked the “final crushing of Boko Haram terrorists in their last enclave in Sambisa forest”. The enclave’s capture followed a several weeks offensive of the Nigerian military.
The Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima has described the outgoing year as one that witnessed a major breakthrough in the fight against the Boko Haram insurgency, saying 2016 has been the best in the last five years, especially with the fall of Sambisa to the Nigerian armed forces.
During its seven-year insurgency aiming to create, in northern Nigeria, an Islamic state governed by Sharia law, Boko Haram has killed 15,000 people and displaced more than 2 million. On March 7, 2015, Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau pledged allegiance to Daesh leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who accepted Shekau’s allegiance and renamed the group as the Islamic State’s Wilayat West Africa.
While undoubtedly a victory for the Nigerian military, some analysts warn that the recent announcements about the defeat of Boko Haram might be over optimistic, due to the group’s resilience. Moreover, the successes against Boko Haram must not overshadow the fact that Nigeria is experiencing its most challenging period since its return to democracy in 1999. The West African country is in recession, confronted by the biggest humanitarian disaster since the Biafran war of 1967-1970, faced by terrorism and militancy, and challenged by internal clashes and protest movements at risk of escalating into destabilizing conflicts.
The resurgence of militancy in the Niger Delta slashed oil production to its lowest level for 25 years, with losses of around 1 million barrels per day (and the corresponding revenue) for six months from March 2016, before rebounding slightly. Nigeria continues to face a crippling shortage of foreign exchange, and at mid-2016 the central bank allowed the currency to float freely. For Nigerians, the drop in revenue and foreign exchange restrictions have meant lost jobs, declining businesses, high inflation, worsening livelihoods, and lacking supplies of imported goods, including medicines. There have been difficulties and delays in paying public servant salaries since mid-2015. Nigeria is still a country where, according to the last statistics, around 117 million people are living on less than a dollar a day.
According to the local media, in 2017 and further on, Nigeria has to address several major actual or potential conflict situations:
- The post Boko Haram humanitarian crisis in the northeast: 480,000 children are suffering severe malnutrition, 800,000 people are severely food insecure and without interventions an estimated 67,000 children under the age of five might die: 184 every day in Borno and Yobe states.
- The resurgence of militancy in the Niger Delta: an economic and security threat from the Niger Delta militants, capable of attacks that have shut down production repeatedly in 2016. They currently have a strong bargaining position and the government can barely afford a redeployment of military resources from the northeast. Also, the clashes between settled farmers and nomadic herdsmen along Nigeria’s Middle Belt and northwards, if mismanaged and securitized, could escalate into a new destabilizing conflict.
- The persistence of the all-scale corruption phenomenon, in spite of the recent measures launched by the government. Read the rest of this entry »