News / Africa

Nigerians Face More Violence, Emergency Rule in Northeast

FILE - Nigerian army's armored vehicle in Maiduguri, Nigeria.
FILE - Nigerian army's armored vehicle in Maiduguri, Nigeria.
Heather Murdock
Violence has not abated in northeastern Nigeria despite the military's efforts to quash the Islamist insurgent group Boko Haram.  Officials say militants have been pushed out of urban areas, but attacks continue in the countryside.  Some Nigerians also fear the militants are moving to areas outside the government's emergency-rule zone.  
At an Islamic school in the Nigerian state of Bauchi, children practice the Arabic alphabet.  

Bauchi is not one of the three states where the government has imposed a state of emergency as part of efforts to crush Boko Haram.  
 
But the children's teacher says Bauchi residents are increasingly afraid of the four-year-old Boko Haram insurgency.  

Boko Haram, he says, may claim to be an Islamist militant group fighting to impose it’s version of Islamic law, but with constantly changing tactics and increasing attacks on Muslim communities its hard to say what they really want.
 
“Who is the actual target?  Who is hiding behind this umbrella?  Actually this is what we have noticed with regards to these actions of Boko Haram," said the teacher.

The teacher declined to give his name because of fears the militants will attack him.

This week, there were two attacks outside the security zones.  In Bauchi, police say four officers were killed and one was wounded in a shootout Thursday night.  Nasiru Mohammad, a witness, says he saw gunmen fleeing and bodies piled in a truck.  

The attack was similar to the many hit-and-run attacks Boko Haram has carried out on authority figures over the past four years.  The group is blamed for thousands of deaths in attacks on schools, churches, mosques, security forces, infrastructure and government buildings.  

Before the recent government offensive, many of those attacks were in major northern cities like Maiduguri and Kano.  In recent weeks, violence has moved to remote villages and roads in the northeast.

Thomas Hansen, senior Africa analyst at the security consulting firm Control Risks, says the militants are now targeting villages to prevent locals from supporting civilian vigilante groups operating with government support.

“I think what we’re seeing is that the civilian targeting of local communities has increased.  And I think that’s been quite clear," said Hansen.
 
Some analysts warn the government is alienating the public by shooting suspects rather than arresting them or locking them up for long periods of time without charges in inhumane, sometimes deadly, conditions.
 
This is John Campbell, a former U.S. ambassador to Nigeria and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations:

“The government’s heavy-handed brutal approach, if anything, tends to drive public support to Boko Haram.  Absolutely counter-productive," said Campbell.
 
But Campbell says, in his opinion, there is a way to end the conflict.

"The approach should be one that address northern alienation from the government in Abuja, reaches out to the people in the north, embarks on certain highly visible programs or projects to address the pervasive poverty in the region, the collapse of education, and the almost complete non-existence of medical services," he said.
 
Back in Bauchi, another analyst - a university lecturer that did not want to use his name to protect his safety - is less hopeful, saying anti-poverty measures may increase support for the government, but Boko Haram’s extreme religious beliefs should not be underestimated.   

“The government resorted to using force, and force cannot kill spirit.  That is their objective so the war, it is an endless war.  Only God will take care of it," said the lecturer.
 
On Wednesday, Nigerian lawmakers approved a six-month extension of the state of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states.  


Ardo Hazzad contributed to this report from Bauchi.

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Comments
     
by: CNUO from: Nigeria
November 23, 2013 3:36 AM
John Campbell is not a particularly neutral observer on Nigerian affairs. I think he compromised himself in Nigerian politics during his tenure as US ambassador to Nigeria. He has never shown any sympathy for the victims of Boko Haram the way he does for BH detainees and deaths. What alienation of Northerners in Nigerian politics is he talking about after the North ruled the country for almost the entire lifespan of Nigeria. They created states and local governments to suit their whims and caprices. They are the major beneficiaries of National Youth Service Corp to address their disadvantages in human resources especially teachers. University admission policy is not based on merit but structured to suit the educationally disadvantaged states particularly in the North. Recruitment in Nigerian public service is also not based on merit but rather on Federal character so that northerners would be equally employed even though they were/are not producing commensurate number of experts as the other parts of the country. The list is endless. The result of this structure put in place by Northern prolonged leadership is that Nigeria is not working in its entirety and corruption is official and holding the country down.

Agreed that there is still considerable poverty and illiteracy in the North especially in the North East compared to the more affluent and powerful North West, it does not justify the support for the use of force against the government and the innocent public particularly against a Southern President that is not responsible for this state of affairs. Development and poverty eradication cannot take place in an atmosphere of anarchy and war. Any right thinking person should advocate measures that will first and foremost bring back peace to the parts of the North. This must require military action. Boko Haram has lingered because Jonathan's government is perceived as weak and incapable of containing the menace. Rather than accuse the military of high handedness, I believe that the most important reason why Boko Haram has sustained is because of the unorganized nature of their attacks that has not given the Nigerian military enough room to confront them sufficiently without incurring civilian casualties. Government has however not done enough in terms of security surveillance and in containing these attacks. The much that military and govt has done so far is always over exaggerated as high handedness.

Perhaps people like Campbell would want government to fold its arms and allow BH to carve out a significant part of the North and establish a government starting with places like Bagga. I stand to be corrected.

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