AFRICANGLOBE – In the view of many security experts, the growing terrorist threat in northern Nigeria is turning into the biggest threat to the country’s security since the civil war four decades ago.
The crisis was severe enough to persuade President Goodluck Jonathan to cut short a trip to South Africa and namibia and return to Nigeria to announce on 14 May a state of emergency in three northern states: Adamawa, Borno and Yobe.
Days later, Brigadier General Chris Olukolade said some 2,000 troops were deployed to Borno State, which borders Cameroon, Chad and Niger.
The region has become a crossroads for jihadist groups that are launching hit-and-run attacks in north-eastern Nigeria and linking with groups such as the Mouvement pour l’Unicité et le Jihad en Afrique de l’Ouest and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in Mali.
Head of the Centre for Strategy and Security in the Sahel, Ahmedou Ould Abdallah warns of a toxic political and economic mix in the region: “One significant factor is the perceived arrogance and corruption of urban elites.
The marginalisation of poorer communities and minority ethnic groups has further alienated them from the governing classes.”
But President Jonathan regards jihadist groups in northern Nigeria such as Ansaru and Boko Haram – as a regional, not a national problem and rejects claims that the Joint task Force’s tactics could prove counterproductive and encourage young people to join the insurgents.
This is despite concern from groups such as new York-based Human Rights Watch and from United States Secretary of State John Kerry, who on 18 May referred to “credible allegations” of “gross human rights violations” by nigerian soldiers.
However, the crisis is throwing Kerry and Goodluck together as allies in the fight against jihadists.
The US is providing security assistance and border surveillance technology to track down its highly mobile cadres.
And the $7m reward that the US announced on 3 June for information leading to the capture of Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau suggests how seriously it is taking the crisis in northern nigeria.
By: Patrick Smith