Oil not religion at play in Boko Haram attacks: Expert

Nigeria announced in 2012 the discovery of crude oil on its side of Lake Chad Basin within Borno State

Oil not religion at play in Boko Haram attacks: Expert
World Bulletin / News Desk
The recent upsurge of attacks by Boko Haram militants across Nigeria's northeastern Borno State has little to do with religion; rather, it is motivated by oil greed, according to a South African expert on Islam and militancy.

"The motivation here has little if anything to do with religion," Andrea Brigaglia, a lecturer of Islamic studies at the University of Cape Town and director of the Center for Contemporary Islam, told The Anadolu Agency in an exclusive interview.

"The town of Baga, where the last killings occurred, as well as Kawuri, Menari and Gamboru-Ngala, where other such massacres occurred in earlier months, are inhabited almost entirely by Muslims," said the expert.

Boko Haram militants staged a daring attack on the Multinational Joint Task Force stationed in Baga, a densely populated town located some 160km from Maiduguri, provincial capital of Borno State, earlier this month.

Amnesty International asserted that the attacks on Baga and on the adjacent town of Doron Baga had caused "devastation of catastrophic proportions."

It said satellite images of Baga showed that 620 structures had been damaged or completely destroyed, while more than 3,100 structures had been damaged or destroyed in Doron Baga, a town located 2.5km away.

"There haven't been major attacks to churches in big urban centers recently, as there used to be between 2010 and 2011," noted Brigaglia.

"Some of the mountainous villages of Adamawa that were the theater of similar massacres, on the contrary, are inhabited mainly by Christians," he said. "There is a territorial strategy at place here."

For the last five years, Nigeria has battled a fierce Boko Haram insurgency that has ravaged the country's volatile northeast and claimed thousands of lives.

The year 2014 proved to be the insurgency's bloodiest year yet, with increasingly frequent attacks, higher death tolls and a deluge of displaced persons.

A seemingly emboldened Boko Haram recently stepped up its militant activity, seizing several areas of Adamawa, Yobe and Borno states, where it has since declared an "Islamic caliphate."

Boko Haram has taken Gwoza, a local government area of Borno, as the headquarters of its self-styled "caliphate."

"The area under attack coincides with the location of what seemed to be the richest new oil reserve discovered in Nigeria over the last few years," Brigaglia suggested.

"One cannot exclude, therefore, that these events might be connected with the internal Nigerian struggle for the control of oil and the politics of Borno State – or even with the regional geo-politics for control of oil," said the expert.

In September 2012, Nigeria announced the discovery of crude oil on its side of the Lake Chad Basin – an area that falls within Borno State, the epicenter of the Boko Haram insurgency. The lake is surrounded by Chad, Nigeria, Niger and Cameroon.

Since then, huge budgetary allocations have been made to facilitate exploration based on a survey carried out by experts from the state-controlled Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

Not much has been heard of the exploratory mission since, due largely to violence in the area, which, the NNPC says, has served to frighten off workers.

No other oil finds have been reported in Nigeria's northeastern region.

Ideological Failure

Prof. Brigaglia, meanwhile, described Boko Haram's recent use of young girls to carry out suicide bombings as evidence of the militant group's ideological bankruptcy.

"With all its tragic sadness, the use of little girls for suicide operations shows how the movement has been ineffective in raising ideological support for its project," he told AA.

"It seems that many of the few thousands of militants fighting in the ranks of Boko Haram at the moment are mercenaries," said the expert.

A number of suicide attacks have recently been carried out by teenage girls, each of which has claimed several lives and caused numerous injuries.

At least three suicide attacks were reported in Maiduguri last December alone: two in Potiskum in Yobe State, two in Kano State and at least one each in Bauchi and Gombe states.

Militants probably prefer suicide missions in towns to avoid confrontations with security forces and possible arrest, experts say.

Brigaglia also cited increasing hostility towards Boko Haram among Nigeria's Muslim community.

"The campaign by Muslim scholars to delegitimize the movement has been very strong and effective," he told AA.

"In most mosques, at least in the main Muslim urban centers, Boko Haram is presented to the Muslim public as the expression of a conspiracy against Islam," said the expert.

"Although these conspiracy theories are not necessarily true, they have effectively created a climate of hostility that is preventing the group's propaganda in support of their 'jihad'," he asserted.

Brigaglia also cited Boko Haram's recent suicide attack on a major mosque in the northwestern city of Kano that left more than 120 worshippers dead.

"In the Muslim north, Kano is one of the oldest and most prestigious emirates," he noted.

"The mosque that was attacked is attached to the palace of the emir of Kano, who normally leads Friday prayers there," said the expert.

Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, a former central bank governor, was appointed emir of Kano in June of 2014.

"Only a few days before the attack, he had delivered a speech in which he had said that the people of Kano should be ready to defend themselves from Boko Haram without expecting anything from the present government," Brigaglia said.

"When I say the attack on Sanusi was perceived in Kano as an attack on the opposition party, this does not necessarily imply the involvement of the federal government," he stressed.

"Kano State is presently ruled by the opposition All Progressive Congress party, but the ruling People's Democratic Party is also very active in the state, being supported by influential figures such as former Governor Ibrahim Shekarau and Muhammad Abacha, son of former head of state Gen. Sani Abacha," Brigaglia explained.

Salafis, Sufis targeted

Prof. Brigaglia also noted that, while Boko Haram originally had its roots in Salafism, it later parted ways with conventional Salafist groups.

"Over the years, the founder of the [Boko Haram] movement, Mohamed Yusuf, broke with the leadership of Nigeria's mainstream Salafist groups," he told AA.

"Some popular Salafist scholars in the country who spoke out against the movement were murdered by Boko Haram," added the expert.

He cited the recent murder of Sufi scholar Sheikh Adam al-Nafati, who was killed along with his family a couple of months ago.

Sheikh Dahiru Bauchi, another Sufi scholar, recently escaped a suicide bombing attempt that killed 32 people at the closing session of his annual Ramadan tafsir, which is typically attended by thousands of people.

Both al-Nafati and Bauchi belong to the Tijaniyya Sufi order.

Last Mod: 21 Ocak 2015, 17:17
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