Saturday, March 10, 2012

The nature of Nigeria: Boko Haram and the botched rescue of Chris McManus and Franco Lamolinara

The expected denial from Boko Haram spokesman "Abu Qaqa" came last night, in a conference call with reporters.

"We have never been involved in hostage taking and we never ask for ransom" Saharareporters quoted him as saying.

And, for what its worth, I think he may have a point.

Boko Haram is a group that now sustains itself by bank robberies, like this one on the same day as the events in Sokoto. It's a curious side effect of the banking revolution in Nigeria over the last few years, there are banks in the most remote of places. Easy pickings.

I've been trying to map Boko Haram's activities here. The point of the map is not wholly to point out the geographical difference of the attacks to the Sokoto events; There isn't a whole lot of things to attack in between the north east and the north west, so one might expect a gap between the two.

But my question is, look at the density of bank robberies, shootings and general mayhem in north east Nigeria. If the Sokoto group, calling itself Al Qaeda in the Land Beyond the Sahel, is splinter group of Boko Haram, disconnected from the rump, where are its bank robberies? Kidnapping is an expensive business, how is it funding itself?

In reality Boko Haram's denial will have little meaning at this stage. As far as the understanding from outside goes, it makes little difference as to whether it was Boko Haram, or an offshoot of that organisation, or Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

For many in the UK, Italy and maybe the US, it's like picking catfish from a bath at a "point-and-kill" joint (see picture above). They're all about the same size, so pondering over exactly which is the best is unnecessary and only going to delay your meal.

But I think this media attention does open an opportunity to have a shot at explaining why, as it sheds some light on deeper issues of what is wrong in Nigeria.

Richard Dowden is spot on when he writes:

And it is not just Boko Haram which benefits from the global fear of terrorism. My friend went on to point out that a quarter of Nigeria’s budget of almost $30 billion this year will be spent on the military and security services. The service chiefs will now have to find – or create something – to justify that and keep it flowing.

I'm not saying that the murders of Chris McManus and Franco Lamolinara are a conspiracy by the Nigerian government, and nor is Mr Dowden. But he is saying that those in power in Nigeria are well able to play things the way they want, never mind the reality.

After all, at the "point and kill" there is no guarantee the fish they bring is the one you selected.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Tweet Follow @getwalker