Friday, 9 May 2014

Nigeria, Resource Wars and Boko Haram

Boko Haram's attacks and killings in Nigeria have been going on since 2009. Girls such as Malala in Pakistan have become global media figures for denoucing the Taliban, and now Boko Haram,  for trying to deny Muslim girls an education; the cause has been championed by former British PM Gordon Brown.

But when politicians start adding their voice, questions need asking. Why have Barack Obama and David Cameron have only become more vocally concerned now about such events as the kidnapping of the 267 girls from Chibok ? William Hague talked about the possibility of sending in the SAS if Nigeria asked it to do so.
It was not as if Western statesmen did not know Boko Haram was committing atrocities before. Hollande in February 2014 on a visit to Nigeria, that followed an attack on a school dormitory in Buni Yadi , killing 43, stated 'Your struggle is our struggle' and backing in the struggle against insurgents in Mali.

Part of the answer has to lie in fears that the Nigerian state is failing to be able to protect both its citizens. But also Boko Harem, according to Sola Tayo a Chatham House expert on Nigeria, Boko Harem is threatening to strike Lagos and the country's oil pipelines in the Niger Delta.

Boko Haram is also threatening oil exploration in the Chad Basin, a major aim of the Nigerian government at present which needs to reduce dependence on oil supplies from the Niger Delta where an ongoing insurgency from MEND has continuously threatened oil supplies to nations such as Britain.

Britain's crude oil imports from Nigeria amount to 7% of its total. Back in 2008, the threat to the Niger Delta was a major concern for PM Gordon Brown who feared insurgent activity could disrupt oil supplies and create a price spike for British consumers. Hence the growth of British military assistance to the government.

France has major interests in Nigerian oil too representing 88% of French investment in the country. Military assistance is tied to Abuja's continued friendly relations with Western governments, one that is feared to be under threat from China.

The broader context to Boko Haram's upsurge since 2009 is a combination of climate change causing hunger and poverty along with the Nigerian government's use of extrajudicial killings and torture in the region, something that tends to increase support for Al Qaida affiliated groups.

The relentless and ruthless drive for oil, though it could improve the welfare and economic position of the people of Northern Nigeria, helps to explain what is at stake in the conflicts in Nigeria and why they have contributed towards a deteriorating security environment.

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