Boko Haram: The Mali, African Sahel Connection – (Part Three) By Maigida Johnson
If you missed the part two click HERE
While the Boko Haram violence continues, influential people in the northeast, mostly politicians and businessmen, have sought some form of arrangements with the insurgents to cut clandestine protection deals. The prospect of an oil discovery in the region implies that some politicians see a Niger delta type situation and the current insurgency is playing right into their hands. This means a cooperation to control the oil resources with Boko Haram providing a “protective base”. This may seem farfetched but considering the discovery of oil in commercial quantities in the Chadian, Cameroonian and Nigerien portions of the Chad Basin, then there is a real possibility of this becoming a reality.
Also especially as the government has intensified oil exploration in the region and will spend at least 16 billion naira to boost oil exploration in the country’s inland basin. Exploration indications from Chad Basin are already positive. A unit of the Chinese National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) is making good progress with its seismic operations in the Kukawa area of Borno state. With increased explorations and funding, there’s a chance oil and gas may be discovered in commercial quantity by the middle of this decade.
Islamists’ Grand Scheme
Boko Haram having joined ranks with AQIM and other Islamists terror groups across the Sahel, it is obvious to see the grand scheme of these Islamist militants. Firstly, the plan is to hold on to northern Mali which will serve as a launch base to continue their expansion in the region, considering the plethora of weak States with significant Muslim populations. The Islamists hope to take over Mauritius with its thriving fish and mineral resources along with its about five million citizens. The Mauritius army is already divided and cannot do much to withstand a militant takeover. Just take a look at Mali. Next will be Niger with its uranium and new-found oil resources.
But the big prize for the militants is northern Nigeria. Its vast arable land, huge population, a real prospect of oil discovery and of course, a corrupt federal system of government, serve as a huge incentive and a believe that a Boko Haram army can conquer that part of the country. Having drawn its first inspiration from Afghanistan, Boko Haram called itself the Nigerian Taliban with Mullah Mohammed Omar as its spiritual head.
Nigeria’s Regional Approach
Until recently, the government have not given much thought to the reality that Boko Haram is linked to other terror groups on the continent, often referring to Boko Haram as “home grown”. Now they do. And the Goodluck Administration is at the fore of sending out a transnational troop to northern Mali to reclaim the region now held by Islamist terrorists. During a security Summit held in Abuja in early November, Sambo Dasuki, the NSA, was unequivocal about Boko Haram’s ties to other extremists groups in the Sahel region of the continent and warned of the growing risk if countries in the region don’t act quickly.
To this end, the Jonathan administration has already taken steps. On November 2, Jonathan told the visiting German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle actions is needed to root out Al Qaida from the region and other extremist elements turning northern Mali into a base for terrorists. And following the Ecowas Summit in Abuja on November 11 where the group resolved to send 3,300 troops to dispel the Islamist in northern Mali, the Chief of Defence Staff Vice-Admiral Ola Ibrahim said Nigeria will send a battalion as its contribution to the Ecowas led and UN-backed intervention force to Mali.
Before this, Jonathan was in Niamey, Niger Republic, on October 18 to firm up a defence pact and joint border patrols to combat Boko Haram. Nigeria shares a 920-kilometre stretch of mostly porous border with Niger. In sending about a quarter of the troop required to intervene in Mali, the Nigerian government is trying to help chase AQIM from northern Mali, to prevent it providing a base, training, funding and support for Boko Haram.
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