May 4, 2014
As business leaders arrive in Abuja, Nigeria for a meeting of the World Economic Forum this week, they will be walking into a civil society under siege from a terror group bent on destroying Western society and a corrupt and unsecure oil sector.
More than 200 girls remain missing in the country’s northeast, kidnapped and in the opinions of some “enslaved” by an Islamist terror group called Boko Haram, which literally translates as “Western education is blasphemy.” Over the weekend, the U.S. pledged unspecified aid in response to the incident.
The insidiousness of Boko Haram, which has claimed responsibility for a string of attacks in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, is difficult to understate. According to Reuters’ Tim Cocks and Lanre Ola, they “want to install a medieval Islamic kingdom in Nigeria.” They have already killed thousands over the course of a five-year insurgency.
Nigerians have lost faith that their government is capable of adequately meeting the challenge. Dozens of protesters marched on Nigeria’s parliament for failing to do more.
“The abduction has also become a symbol of the military’s impotence in protecting civilians against Islamist insurgents whose attacks appear to be getting less discriminating,” Cocks and Ola write.
“If 230 girls can go missing for this long and nobody knows how to find them, thensomething’s very wrong with our country,” Tokumbo Adebanjo, 45, a travel agent and mother, told them. “I feel the pain of those other mothers. Obviously the government are not doing their job.”
Meanwhile, the FT’s Javier Blas reports the country’s fiscal stability is now threatened by a triple whammy of corruption, theft, and falling prices in its oil sector, on which it largely depends for growth. Earlier this year, Lamido Sanusi, Nigeria’s highly respected central bank governor claimed he’d found a $US20 billion hole in the country’s oil account. For announcing this discovery, he was suspended and had his travel rights revoked. A promised investigation into the missing revenues has yet to begin.
Blas says falling prices and a massive theft problem have led to a full-on crisis that threatens the country’s fiscal stability. “The government based its budget on oil production of 2.39m b/d,” he writes. “According to estimates by the IEA, the country has not produced 2.3m-2.4m b/d for any sustained period since 2005-06.”
Last year, a report from Chatham House said Nigerian crude was being stolen “on an industrial scale,” with up to $US8 billion in proceeds getting “laundered through world financial centres”. Major western oil companies have begun shutting down operations.
“The impact of the activities of crude oil thieves and illegal refineries on the environment in the Niger Delta and the Nigerian economy is now a crisis situation, ” Mutiu Sunmonu, the head of Shell in Nigeria, said last year. “We find it difficult to safely operate our pipelines without having to shut them frequently to prevent leaks from illegal connections impacting the environment.”
Some executives have already begun pulling out of the conference. Fernando de Sousa, General Manager of Microsoft Africa Initiatives, canceled his trip “for security reasons following the bombings in Abuja”, a PR company representing the firm told Reuters.
The State Department has warned unspecified terror groups were planning attacks against two Lagos Sheraton hotels this week.