COUNTRY THREAT ASSESSMENT
Violent crime is widespread which includes violent street crime, armed robberies, carjacking’s, kidnapping and rape. Nigerian nationals are most affected, but expatriate personnel without adequate security will be seen as lucrative targets due to their perceived wealth. Crime levels are highest in the Delta regions and Lagos, but the threat remains high nationwide.
There is a strong history of kidnapping in Nigeria where the tactic has evolved away from purely targeting political and expatriate oil sector workers by militant local groups to a more commercially driven model adopted by criminal gangs. Trends indicate that kidnap risk has subsequently spread inland from the traditional hotspots in the Delta region and will continue to do so.
Gunmen attacked a camp for a construction company in rural northern Nigeria in February, killing a guard and kidnapping seven foreign workers, in the biggest kidnapping yet in a region under attack by Islamic extremists. The hostages included three Lebanese workers and a Briton, a Greek, a Filipino, and an Italian, one of which was a woman. The attack happened in Jama’are, a rural town located roughly 200 km (124 mi) north of the state capital, Bauchi, in Bauchi State. The gunmen first killed a security guard to enable access to the company’s compound. The militants then attacked a local prison, burning two police trucks. They then proceeded to attack a workers’ camp set up by Setraco, a Lebanese construction company that is building a road in the area, and then abducted the foreign workers.
The attackers brought explosives with them, showing that they were well prepared. Ansaru, an al Qaeda-linked militant group that broke from Boko Haram, claimed responsibility for the attack and purports to hold the hostages. Shortly after the abduction, the group issued a statement linking the kidnapping to the French intervention in Mali. Prior to this, a similar incident occurred in December 2012, when 30 gunmen attacked a compound and kidnapped a French engineer. Ansaru also claimed responsibility for the attack. Foreigners have long been abducted by militant groups and criminal gangs for ransom in Nigeria’s oil-rich southern delta, and have become increasingly targeted in the north as the violence has grown.
The next day, six foreigners, including three Ukranians, two Russians and an Indian, working on the Armada Tuah vessel operated by the Lagos-based Century Group were seized by gunmen 40 nautical miles off southern Nigeria. In the days after the kidnapping, police announced that the pirates issued a 200 million naira ($1.27 million USD) ransom demand. However, police claim the kidnappers abandoned their hostages unhurt on February 20 while Nigeria’s security forces were in pursuit. This is at least the sixth attack off Nigeria’s coast in the month of February, making it a noticeable upsurge.
Similarly, a French family of three adults and four children were kidnapped on the Cameroon-Nigeria border on February 19, with officials suggesting the involvement of Boko Haram. The family, who live in Yaounde, Cameroon’s capital, was picked up by men riding on motorbikes near the frontier town of Dabanga, where their vehicle was recovered, 6km (3.72mi) from the Nigerian border. While the hostages were taken away from a crowd, witnesses could not assist the family because the kidnappers were heavily armed and they threatened to shoot anyone that approached. The broader area they were captured from, Waza Park, is a natural wildlife reserve which attracts mainly foreign tourists. No one has yet claimed this kidnapping, which was the first such occurrence in northern Cameroon but took place within Boko Haram and Ansaru’s area of operations. The family was then allegedly taken across the Nigerian border into a region of semi-desert where Boko Haram has its base, near Maiduguri. Military helicopters have been used to search for the tourists who were abducted from Cameroon’s Far North Region, according to a Cameroonian government official.
Following the kidnapping, the captors released a three-and-a-half minute video outlining their grievances, which was posted to YouTube on February 25. In the video, one of the hostages, reading from a piece of paper, states that his captors are Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad, the official name for the Islamist militant group commonly known as Boko Haram. Also in the video, the captors say the family will be killed if the hostage-takers’ demands— “the liberation of their brothers in Cameroon and their women imprisoned in Nigeria”— are not met. If the video is actually from Boko Haram, then it shows us how this organization is metamorphosing from being a local group with a mainly Nigerian agenda into a more international jihadist organization. However, the group is not known to abduct Westerners, making some analysts weary of whether they did in fact carry out the abductions. Given that Ansaru, an offshoot of Boko Haram, claimed responsibility for the abduction of foreign workers on February 16, they could also be responsible for this abduction. As of going to print the hostages have yet to be released.
Politically, civilian rule has gained a modicum of resilience with the current Fourth Republic outlasting all previous civilian governments. However, this equilibrium rests precariously and could easily adapt a negative slant if certain catalysts were realized. Weak legislature, courts, police and civil service are all real factors, which contribute towards the problem of governance in Nigeria.
After much debate about President Goodluck Jonathan’s eligibility to run for a second term in 2015, an Abuja High Court has ruled in his favor. The Court, on March 1, ruled that he can contest the forthcoming 2015 Presidential election if he so desires. Jonathan’s assumption of the office of the President after the death of the late former President Umaru Yar’Adua was in line with what the National Assembly aptly described as “doctrine of necessity” and not as a result of emerging winner in any bye election conducted after the death of the late former president. As stated under the country’s 1999 zoning agreement, the country has a power-sharing system designed to prevent any one region from dominating the country over the long term. Under the system the distribution of power is regulated among the country’s six geographic regions. Yar’Adua’s death and subsequently Jonathan’s unexpected assumption of the presidency, the power-sharing dynamic was upset.
Although Jonathan has not openly declared his interest in running for a second term, saying he would wait until 2014 before announcing his decision, his party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) already appears to be divided into pro and anti-Jonathan camps ahead of the presidential race. Outside of his party, Jonathan is facing significant opposition to a possible re-election bid. Apparently, northern leaders have embarked on a plot to checkmate Jonathan. Local sources claim that the anti-Jonathan camp reached out to former President Ibrahim Babangida, while the pro-government group, coordinated by Vice President Namadi Sambo, who is battling to retain his position in 2015, and received briefs from his foot soldiers during the special convocation of the Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria over the weekend.
Alternatively, there are theories that some Northerners might defect to the All Progressive Congress (APC) if the violence that happened in the 2011 PDP primaries repeats itself. The APC just formed on February 7 as the result of an alliance by Nigeria’s four biggest opposition parties—the Action Congress of Nigeria, the Congress for Progressive Change, the All Nigeria Peoples Party and the All Progressives Grand Alliance. Some believe that the merger of the Action Congress of Nigeria into the APC will edge the ruling PDP out of power in 2015.
The merger to form the APC was done to try to defeat the long-ruling PDP in the 2015 elections. The new opposition alliance will likely try to lessen the chances of destabilization by satisfying northern demands for power while safeguarding economic confidence in southern Nigeria. While it is too early to tell whether the opposition alliance will defeat the PDP, the broad-based nature of the merger of disgruntled Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa and political elite will likely pose a significant challenge to the ruling Ijaw.
Terrorism from both domestic and transnational groups is a credible, but largely incidental security risk to operations and personnel in Nigeria. Attacks against both military and civilian targets are commonplace, although largely restricted to the northern states and the capital city. A range of tactics is applied including kidnappings; bombings and small arms fire attacks.
The insurgency in the Niger Delta directly effects the country’s petroleum production, accounting for more than three-fourths of government revenue. The 2003 elections indirectly sparked the growth of insurgency as political players and ‘note-worthies’ armed and financed militant groups to act as proxies in aiding their political aspirations. Post-election, many of these redundant militants formed the basis of what is now the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND). In order to add potency to their mission statement (to attain development, environmental remediation and resource control within the Delta region) MEND has taken responsibility for several high profile bombings and attacks.
The military said that it killed 20 fighters from the Islamist group Boko Haram in the north-eastern state of Borno on March 3, while repelling an attack by the group. According to an army spokesman, the militants were killed as they tried to seize military barracks in the village of Monguno, about 200km (124 mi) north of Maiduguri, left at least 20 people dead on March 3. The attack saw fighters arrive in SUVs and kill a local village leader, which was then followed by an attack on a barracks in Monguno with gunfire and explosives. The military destroyed their four-wheel vehicles and motorcycles, while seizing seven AK-47 rifles, ten RPGs, and a large quantity of assorted ammunition.
Meanwhile, in February, assailants in northeastern Nigeria killed three North Korean doctors, beheading one of them. The attack in Potiskum, a town in Yobe state, comes after gunmen killed at least nine polio vaccine workers from two clinics in Kano, the major city in Nigeria’s predominantly Muslim north. Most of the victims were women and were shot in the back of the head. Following the killings of polio workers and the killing of the North Korean doctors, the US embassy in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, put out a warning.
Gunmen shot dead a senior police officer who was visiting his home state of Enugu in southeast Nigeria, but the motive and identity of the suspects remain unclear. Chinwike Asadu, the police commissioner of Kwara state in central Nigeria, was killed in the evening on March 2 by gunmen in a bus who trailed his car and shot him as his driver was entering his compound. Asadu’s driver, Oliver Omeh, and orderly, Aloha Olaniyi, were also shot, though they survived the attack. Asadu served as the head of the mobile police unit in Kwara prior to being appointed last month as the state police chief. An investigation is ongoing to track down the perpetrators. Factions of the ACP opposition party, said the death reinforces the belief in certain circles that Nigeria is fast becoming a failed state.
Flashpoints to monitor
- Nigeria’s oil industry appears to be at a crisis point because the theft of oil from pipelines and the pollution it causes are reaching intolerable levels, costing the country and oil companies billions of dollars a year. On March 4, Shell raised alarm over “unprecedented” oil theft, particularly related to the sabotage of one of its key pipelines, and called for urgent action to address the problem.
- According to officials from Shell, the problem of oil thieves breaching its Nembe Creek pipeline has gotten so bad that it is allegedly considering shutting it down. This would cut off 150,000 barrels a day of crude supplies worth around $15 million a day at current market prices. The pipeline accounts for 90 km (56 mi) of the 6,000 km of pipelines that Shell operates in Nigeria.
- Oil theft is a longstanding issue in Nigeria, often leading to supply disruptions and environmental pollution when thieves drill into pipelines in order to siphon off the crude inside. The problem has become increasingly troublesome as the volume of oil being stolen in February is the highest in the last three years—with over 60,000 barrels per day from Shell alone.
- Shell’s figures for how much oil is being stolen from pipelines appear to contradict those coming from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. According to the NPC, the volume of oil stolen on a daily basis throughout the country was between 50,000 and 80,000 barrels per day. In the fall, Shell pegged the cost of oil theft at over $6 billion per year, based on estimates that more than 150,000 barrels a day are stolen in the country. It is clear that thieves manage to target hard-to-reach areas where there is a smaller security presence. Meanwhile, activists argue that the company does not do enough to prevent such incidents and effectively clean up the damage when they do occur.
Boko Haram Negotiations
The latest string of Boko Haram attacks this quarter, coupled with the recent kidnappings of foreigners claimed by Boko Haram and its affiliates, offered fresh doubts about the ability of Nigeria’s weak central government to stop the bloodshed, despite its deployment of more security forces in the region.
On March 7, amid mounting pressure to visit Yobe state, the heart of the Boko Haram insurgency, President Goodluck Jonathan visited the region for the first time since he was elected in 2011. His visit followed calls this week from Nigeria’s top Islamic figure, the Sultan of Sokoto, Mohammed Abubakar, for an amnesty deal for insurgents. The Sultan proposed that the Jonathan administration announces an amnesty deal similar to that applied to the Movement for Emancipation in the Niger Delta (MEND) in 2009. During his visit, Jonathan said he could not rule out an amnesty deal in the future, but said it was not feasible to negotiation an agreement with Boko Haram due to the lack of clarity regarding the identities and demands of the militants.
Human rights organizations estimate roughly 3,000 Nigerians have been killed in violence related to the militant Islamist group Boko Haram just over the past three years. Since then, numerous negotiation attempts have been stalled due to distrust on both sides, and the factionalized leadership of the group’s different cells. The recent kidnapping of seven foreigners claimed by Ansaru, an offshoot of Boko Haram, demonstrates the challenges the Jonathan administration is facing regarding negotiations. Given that past attempts at dialogue with the group have not borne fruit, future efforts look to hold little promise. The apparently successful French action in Mali could incline the Nigerian government to adhere to a military solution in its north down the road, rather than pursue dialogue.
As the elections approach, Nigeria will likely continue to face a rising domestic political crisis. National elections in Nigeria are often shaped by extensive violence and intimidation, including the role of militias. To help Jonathan get elected in 2007, the political elite in Jonathan’s home region of the Niger Delta supported militant attacks through the MEND. Pipeline sabotage and expatriate kidnappings in the Niger Delta were part of the campaign and will likely be replayed in the next election cycle.
Since Northern Nigeria feels it had been cheated out of its chance to hold the presidency, due to the death of former President Yar’Adua, Boko Haram has led the way in prompting unrest in the region. They have been waging an increasingly violent campaign to destabilize northern Nigeria in a bid to make the region ungovernable and force the Jonathan administration to sue for peace and yield the presidency. If Jonathan goes ahead and seeks a second term, northern Nigeria will very likely see additional attacks. As the string of recent kidnappings of foreigners and the killing of the North Korean doctors has demonstrated, these attacks could very well target non-Nigerians.
In related news, on March 5, local sources reported there are strong indications that Jonathan will drop Vice President Namadi Sambo as his running mate in the 2015 election. Apparently, Jonathan’s strategists recommended that Sambo be dropped for one of the PDP governors in the northwest zone, as a strategy for grabbing the support of the three northern zones. It is likely that Jonathan’s main worry about Sambo is his inability to organize a strong political base in his home state of Kaduna and the north, given his serial electoral losses in previous elections. As the elections approach, tensions between parties are very likely to intensify alongside the destabilizing forces of Boko Haram.