Saturday, 10 May 2014

Nigeria, Oil and the Global War on Terror Redux.

"This is not just a Nigerian issue, it is a global issue,..There are extreme Islamists around our world who are against education, against progress, against equality and we must fight them and take them on wherever they are." -David Cameron, British Prime Minister, Wednesday May 7 2014
"As the mother of two young daughters, Mrs Obama is taking up the opportunity to express outrage and heartbreak the president and she share over the kidnapping,"-White House deputy spokesman Eric Schultz
..the security council should act quickly to designate Boko Haram as a terrorist group."We're working with Nigeria in the security council to secure urgently needed UN sanctions (on) Boko Haram,"Must hold its murderous leaders to account."-Samathan Power on Twitter.
The abduction of 267 girls has been spun into a chorus of denunciation from Western leaders and diplomats is intended as 'public diplomacy' to enable the Western powers to intervene with military aid to shore up the Nigerian state which looks as though it is losing control of the country.

Nigeria provided around 10% of the USA's crude oil imports. Yet the amount of oil imported by the barrel has rapidly diminished since 2011 and plummeted in the latter part of 2013. The start of 2014 saw an upsurge in Boko Haram violence in the north of Nigeria which it has threatened to bring south.

The falling imports of Nigerian crude to the US, due to the exploitation of shale oil, do not mean that Obama's administration is any less concerned about the spread of Al Qaida affiliated terror groups across sub Saharan Africa in what US geopolitical experts term an 'arc of instability'.

For a start, Boko Haram could bring chaos to a nation whose oil still provides a significant proportion of the oil imports of the US's main trading partners in the EU states, especially Britain and France. European demand for Nigerian oil has actually increased between 2011 and 2012.

Sola Tayo, a Nigeria analyst at the London-based think tank Chatham House, has claimed that the effects of Boko Haram attacks spreading south would be "catastrophic" for Africa's leading economy and add to the already damaging attacks from other insurgent group's on pipelines in the Niger Delta.

One reason for the rising conflict in northern Nigeria, of which the abduction of the girls in Chibok is a consequence, is the ruthless determination of the government in Abuja to exploit huge reserves of oil in the Chad Basin and so secure a reduction of its over-dependence on the oil of the Niger Delta.

Should oil in Northern Nigeria be exploited successfully, Nigeria's foreign exchange earnings would increase and it is claimed oil revenue could be used to improve the social and economic welfare of the vastly poorer Nigerians in the region, something that did not happen in the case of the Niger Delta.

In any case, tensions between the predominantly Muslim north and the Christian South are widening and set to widen further with the question of who is going to benefit from northern Nigeria's oil. The Nigerian Joint Task Force units are venal and inept, and have attempted to crack down on insurgents heavy handedly.

Before the global media made a cause celebre out of the abducted girls, the JTF was found to have employed extrajudicial execution and torture in some villages where 'terror suspects' from Boko Haram were believed to operate. The danger is now that the West could get drawn in to the struggle.

Indeed, none of this chaos seems to have abated the willingness of the US, Britain and France to try and step up the 'war on terror' and add their assistance and military aid. As President Hollande said in Abuja in January after 43 boys were murdered in a dormitory school 'Your struggle is our struggle'.

Britain and France have strong bilateral ties with Nigeria. Oil revenues and investments in infrastructure and banking are very important for both of their economies, not to mention the role crude oil imports have on keeeping petrol prices for British and French consumers lower.

The need for stable oil prices and foreign export earnings from the sale of oil makes exploration of the oil in northern Nigeria ever more necessary. Yet in March 2014 the Nigerial oil corporation's head declared that Boko Haram is increasingly stalling all possibilities of it being tapped.

So expect further moves towards intervention from the Western Powers in Nigeria in the coming weeks and months and years.

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