News / Africa

Nigerian Lawmakers Boost Funding for Fight Against Boko Haram

An armored vehicle is parked in front of the joint task force headquarters in Maiduguri, Nigeria. (File Photo - September 26, 2011)
An armored vehicle is parked in front of the joint task force headquarters in Maiduguri, Nigeria. (File Photo - September 26, 2011)

In Nigeria, federal lawmakers are establishing a special security fund to help the military fight the radical Islamist group Boko Haram.

Senate leaders say the special security fund will enable Nigerian armed forces to better combat violence blamed on the Boko Haram sect. Several joint military task forces have been established in northern states over the last year in response to a series of bombings and shootings

The chairman of the Senate Committee on Defense, Rivers State Senator George Sekibo, says spending on those task forces was not part of the budget.

“We have not envisaged them in the budget. They are not," said Sekibo. "And then the military is coming out to fight about them. Now if you don't make funds available in the budget, and then such challenges continue or other forms [of violence] come up, you have to now apply for money, look for money, destroying other areas of the budget before you are going to tackle those matters.”

Since Nigeria's return to civilian rule, the military has been receiving a smaller part of federal spending. Army Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Onyeabo Ihejirika says Boko Haram's continuing security threat means that has to change.

“It was expected that the military would be less visible.  And that has not been the situation," said Ihejirika. "In fact, it could be argued that we are more visible now than we were even during military regime.”

Boko Haram is believed responsible for coordinated attacks on police stations, churches, and an army base in small towns across northern Nigeria earlier this month that killed more than 100 people. The group claimed responsibility for the August bombing of the United Nations headquarters in the capital Abuja that killed 23 people.

Boko Haram says it is fighting for the establishment of a separate Sharia-led nation in northern Nigeria, and has refused overtures to open talks with the government, citing the military build-up in the north. The group says it recognizes neither Nigeria's constitution nor this year's election of President Goodluck Jonathan.

President Jonathan says Nigeria's character is being tested by unnecessary killing and destruction. He says the government is initiating a “rapid and robust” process to “fight and defeat that evil.”

“We have lost relatives to these crimes, and we shall bring the perpetrators to book.  We share in your pain," he said. "We stand united as we confront the inhuman actions of the misguided few who seem determined to violate the core values of tolerance and peaceful co-existence.”

Nigerian security forces say the mastermind behind the bombing of U.N. headquarters in Abuja received training alongside al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab militants in Somalia. Algeria's foreign ministry says it believes Boko Haram is now coordinating activities with the Algerian-based al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, which has claimed responsibility for a series of attacks and kidnappings across the Sahel from Mauritania to Niger.

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