This is a guest post by Jim Sanders, a career, now retired, West Africa watcher for various federal agencies. The views expressed below are his personal views and do not reflect those of his former employers.
Boko Haram reportedly killed four people in Borno State on Friday in the process of robbing a bank and storming a police station. The raid occurred in Askira Uba, south of Maiduguri and featured two groups attacking the two locations nearly simultaneously with guns and explosives.
Police were overwhelmed--the "gunmen came in droves," a resident said--and the attackers escaped with money from the bank’s vault. Days earlier, suspected sect members freed 14 people in a prison break in neighboring Yobe State.
The sect is also suspected of involvement in an attack on three police stations in Yobe State on Saturday, the killing of a local government official in Maiduguri on Sunday, and possibly in a shootout on Saturday with the military in the Okene district of Kogi State in central Nigeria.
From Seoul, South Korea, where he was attending a summit on the peaceful use of nuclear energy, Nigeria’s president Goodluck Jonathan told the press that, "In terms of security challenges, we have some parts of the country where we have terrorist attacks, but it does not affect the whole country. We are in reasonable control." The President also stated that his government "will end the menace of Islamic sect, Boko Haram in some areas of the north by the middle of the year."
Despite an augmented security presence in Borno State, and house-to-house searches in Maiduguri, Boko Haram continues its attacks, using tactics the group appears to have developed themselves and honed over many months. Thus the basis of Jonathan’s claim that the government will end the insurgency in parts of the north by mid-year is unclear. Last month, talks between the group and the government apparently collapsed. In a review of Noah Coburn’s Bazaar Politics, Power and Pottery in an Afghan Market Town, Alexander Star cites an Istalif saying, "The state does not live here," and judges that stability is created with resources at hand, not from on high or far away. The same may apply to Nigeria’s northeast. as the federal government is making little progress.
Meanwhile, Boko Haram’s attacks are affecting the north’s economy, a key concern of the President as he attempts to attract investment. On March 28, Louise Lucas and Xan Rice wrote in the Financial Times that, "Attacks by Boko Haram...continue to disrupt commerce in northern Nigeria, with truck drivers avoiding some areas and southern traders returning to their home regions in fear. Bottlenecks exist throughout the supply chain, especially with truck drivers balking at driving through the northern states."
Consumer products company PZ Cussons’ stock fell recently, owing to turmoil in Nigeria, while beverage company Diageo has expressed concern (pdf) about the "terrorist uncertainty we’ve seen in the north."