Postponing the Nigerian Election – A Postscript

Postponing the Nigerian Election – A Postscript


Howard Adelman

The Nigerian conflict with Boko Haram has become a regional war. Two days ago, BH hijacked a bus in Cameroon near Koza, 18 km from the Nigerian border. BH kidnapped 20-30 Cameroonian civilians. At the same time, in a firefight between Cameroonian soldiers and BH, when militants attacked Kerawa, several BH fighters were killed and 10 Cameroon soldiers were injured. A third attack took place in the town of Kolofata.

Complementing the spread of the war to Chad and Cameroon, Benin and now Niger have joined the coalition to wipe out BH after Niger’s parliament unanimously approved sending troops to northern Nigeria, provoked in part when a BH suicide bomber heading towards a military base was shot dead by Niger soldiers after militants bombed Diffa, killing five, the third attack in four days. Little Niger alone massed three thousand soldiers in Diffa as part of the new initiative, though only a small part of those troops will enter Nigeria. A joint regional force of 8,700 troops has now been assembled to launch a direct assault against BH strongholds. As you will see, I suggest this as a partial explanation for the six-week postponement of Nigeria’s election. Military success will benefit Goodluck Jonathan, whose support has been declining according to some recent polls.

The day before yesterday morning, I had written that the Independent Electoral National Commission (INEC) and President Goodluck Jonathan were determined to go ahead with elections in Nigeria in spite of enormous pressures to postpone. The very same day, the same INEC announced that the scheduled 14 February elections in Nigeria will be postponed until 18 March. I had written that I had not expected this to happen.

The postponement was not illegal. Section 135 (3) of the 1999 Constitution, provides that if the federation is at war (my italics) in which the territory of Nigeria is physically involved, and, further if the President (my italics) considers that it is not practicable to hold elections, the National Assembly (my italics) may, by resolution, extend the period of four years mentioned in sub-section (2) of this section from time to time; but no such extension shall exceed a period of six months at any one time.

The grounds for postponement is war on Nigerian territory. The initiative to postpone must come from the President. The legislation to legalize the postponement must be passed by the National Assembly. Yet INEC made the announcement. On 14 May 2013, President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in the three northeastern states on the grounds that, “These actions (of BH) amount to a declaration of war (my italics) and a deliberate attempt to undermine the authority of the Nigerian state and threaten its territorial integrity.” Clearly the precondition for declaring a state of war has existed for almost two years.

The Commission resisted pressure from many quarters that had arisen in January. The founding Pastor of a large Lagos evangelical Christian congregation, the Latter Rain Assembly, and former vice presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Tunde Bakare, had urged the federal government to postpone the election. For him, the terrorism in the northeastern states was not even a civil war but an “invasion and annexation of Nigerian territory by insurgents launching attacks from our borders and neighbouring countries.”

Secular human rights organizations had joined the chorus. But instead of appealing to the president and/or the National Assembly, Citizens Advocacy for Social and Economic Rights (CASER) approached the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice to request a suspension of the February 14, 2015 general elections in Nigeria. The Executive Director, Frank Tiete, based the organization’s support for postponement on the early warning system that I had helped set up for ECOWAS that indicated that the situation was getting worse. The ECOWAS Protocol relating to the mechanism for conflict prevention, management, resolution, peace keeping and security permitted ECOWAS to “disseminate the report of the Threat Assessment of the Security Situation in Nigeria.” However, ECOWAS had no power to order a postponement of the Nigerian election. But, based on the deteriorating human rights situation in the three northeastern states, ECOWAS certainly had not only a right but a duty to publish its findings. ECOWAS could put pressure on the Nigerian government on the grounds that such a suspension was needed to protect and preserve a Nigerian citizen’s fundamental human right to life.

Based on security reports and on the actual situation on the ground, in January, prominent politicians had also been pressuring the president to postpone the election. Governor Bala Ngilari of Adamawa State in the third week of January joined the chorus pushing for a postponement of the elections. At the end of October 2014, Ngilari had issued the request to widespread derision after Mubi, the second largest metropolis in Adamawa, had been captured by BH. The Emir had been forced to flee. BH shot and wounded the son of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, a Lieutenant Colonel, when the army tried to recapture the town. The outcome: six Nigerian commanding officers were put under arrest for neglect of duty. The situation was dire then. It had grown much worse since.

Some parties went to court urging postponement. The anti-February 14 group threatened to boycott the election should their demands be ignored. A week ago, leaders of a wide variety of parties, which had previously pooh-poohed any postponement, now threatened to boycott the election if there was not a postponement. 16 out of 28 registered political parties and five presidential candidates joined the campaign to postpone the election. They did not call on the President but on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to seriously consider shifting the date of elections to March or April.

(Although the presidential candidate of the United Progressive Party (UPP), Chief Chekwas Okorie, opposed postponement, the parties favouring were: United Democratic Party (UDP), Citizen Peoples Party (CPP), Peoples Party of Nigeria (PPN), Action Alliance (AA), Peoples Democratic Congress (PDC), Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), Labour Party (LP), Mega Progressive Peoples Party (MPPP), United Party of Nigeria (UPN), Alliance for Democracy (AD), African Democratic Congress (ADC), Advanced Congress Of Democrats (ACD), Democratic Peoples Party (DPP), New Nigerian Peoples Party (NNPP) Peoples Party of Nigeria (PPN) and Independent Democrat (ID). The five presidential candidates who were present at a press conference in Abuja where the demand was made were Godson Okoye (UDP), Chief Sam Okoye (CPP), Prince C.O Allagoe (PPN), Tunde Anifowose (AA) and Ganiu Galadima (ACPN).)

Colonel Sambo Dasuki (rtd), President Goodluck Jonathan’s National Security Adviser (NSA), now advocated postponement in view of the poor distribution of Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs), the biometric registry and machine-readable permanent voter cards designed to curb fraud and duplicate registrations. (Some critics challenged the legality of the PVCs because they were not authorized by current legislation.) INEC would then have enough time to distribute the remaining PVCs so that more than 98% of registered voters would have collected their PVCs. At the time, 80% had been distributed and the expectation was that 90% would be distributed by the time of the election.

Further, the problem was not only the terrible security situation in the northeastern states, but the anticipation of violence following the election however it turned out. After all, 800 died in post-2011 election violence and there was enormous property destruction even though, relatively speaking, the 2011 election had been the best thus far. INEC created and co-chairs the “Interagency Consultative Committee on Election Security” (ICCES), to ensure security before, during and immediately after the elections. Further, these efforts had been supplemented by a non-violence campaign, voter education, citizen monitoring NGOs, and the Abuja Accord among the political parties to desist from incendiary attacks, inflammatory speaches and violent acts, and to focus on issues. Various religious leaders, such as the Sultan of Sokoto and the Cardinal of Abuja, formed the Nigeria Inter-Faith Initiative for Peace to counteract religious divisions during elections.

Nevertheless, Rev. Bakare saw the postponement as only an interim measure to allow the country to create a grand coalition that could decisively counter the enemy. As he foresaw the results of the election, whomever won, “it is certain the country will erupt in crisis.” The president should “commit himself to building a non-partisan coalition comprised of major stakeholders and competent statesmen from each geo-political zone.” In fact, the controversy over the postponement issue itself had grown so heated that the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Suleiman Abba, ordered the Special Protection Unit (SPU) and Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU) to be deployed around INEC officials and to guard election materials.

Commentators have blamed pressure from the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), claiming the party fears losing the election to former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC). John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State, urged that the election not be postponed. It did not help that, upon his visit to Nigeria, he only chose to speak to two presidential candidates. Talk about foreign political eminences interfering in domestic politics! Nevertheless, Buhari urged calm, insisting that the presidential elections now scheduled for 28 March and the state elections scheduled for 11 April must be sacrosanct. “Any act of violence can only complicate the security challenges in the country and provide further justification to those who would want to exploit every situation to frustrate the democratic process.” President Goodluck Jonathan committed himself to finishing his term of office on 29 May. Though, thus far, this had been a hotly contested election in a very close-fought contest, at least there had been no open hostility over the postponement decision by the two leading candidates.

Other foreign eminences than John Kerry had weighed in and may have influenced the decision. Dr. Princeton Nathan Lyman, a former U.S. ambassador to Nigeria (1986-1989) and former Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs (1996–1998), currently an Adjunct Senior Fellow for Africa Policy Studies with the Council on Foreign Relations, not only supported postponement by pointing to the fragility of the electoral process, the inadequate preparations for the election and the disruption caused by BH terrorism in the context of a Nigerian army enormously incapacitated by corruption, but also cited a much deeper structural flaw: “a breakdown of the informal consensus on power sharing between the Muslim north and the Christian south that had guided Nigerian politics for decades.” Falling oil prices did not help. The impact on the Nigerian economy will exacerbate the competition for political patronage. In spite of his membership on the board of the National Endowment for Democracy, Lyman urged postponement.

Six-weeks will not enable the deep corruption of Nigerian society and the weaknesses of democratic protections, even within political parties in selecting candidates, to be overcome or even significantly mitigated. The use of public resources by government officials and the allocation of public funds and services to favour ethnic and religious cohorts in extended patronage networks are bound to continue. So why postpone? No one disputes the enormity of the security and political challenges, but what is gained by a six- week postponement?

The very recent intervention of the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute, which sent a special high-level delegation to report on the electoral process, also recommended postponement in January, pointing to the insecurity in the northeast and the lack of adequate election preparations with the consequence of enormous opportunities for fraud as well as contention and violence following the election. That pre-election assessment mission included Robert Lloyd (Blanche E. Seaver Professor of International Studies and Languages and Professor of International Relations at Pepperdine University), Gretchen Birkle (Regional Director, Africa International at the International Republican Institute), George Moose (a former ambassador and Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs), Christopher Fomunyoh (Senior Associate for Africa and Regional Director at the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs), Brigalia Bam (former chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa), Hon. Patrick Muyaya (MP, the Democratic Republic of Congo), Pauline Baker (former president of the Fund for Peace) and Michael Bratton (University Distinguished Professor of Political Science and African Studies at Michigan State University). Yet, despite the eminence of the delegation, John Kerry and Barack Obama chose to ignore their advice of their 20 January statement in Abuja.

Recognizing the increasing protections for democratic election processes in the four elections since the end of military rule in 1999, particularly the 2011 election, and conscious of the growing and often expressed determination of Nigerians to ensure that the election is peaceful and credible through all phases of the process, including during the campaign period, on election day and in the post-election period after the release of final election results, and in spite of the failure to create an Electoral Offences Commission as long recommended, the goals of the mission of eminent persons were to:

  • assess  the current political  and  electoral  environment in the lead-up to the 14 February presidential election;
  • assess preparations for the presidential election and offer recommendations to enhance citizen confidence in the process and mitigate violence; and
  • demonstrate international support for Nigeria’s democratization process.

A delay certainly will not solve the deeper political, structural and economic problems, but will, as Nigeria’s National Security Advisor Sambo Dasuki pointed out, give time to resolve the short term administrative problems that could be catalysts of much more violence. Lyman went further and echoed Rev. Tunde Bakare’s call for a government of national unity to include representatives from business and religious groups as well as political leaders and raise the battle against Boko Haram above party politics, given widespread accusations of both complacency and complicity by each party against the other. The national unity government would then be able to deal with the issue of underdevelopment of the northeast that Lyman viewed as the deep cause of the insurgency. The government of national unity would also offer time to deal with the problems plaguing the security forces in Nigeria.

Fat chance of a government of national unity! (But recall that I was wrong in anticipating that the election would go ahead as planned.) Election postponement does not even have the support of the Obama administration let alone creating a consensus national unity government. Six weeks cannot deal with the enormous fall off in confidence in a fair electoral process. In 2011, 51% had confidence the elections would be fair; in 2014, that number had declined to 13% percent for the scheduled 2015 election. Lyman is well aware and articulated all the weaknesses of most governments of national unity but, nevertheless, saw this as the only option for the salvation of Nigeria. Aside from what I regard as this forlorn possibility, six more weeks may offer some time for administrative improvements in the election, but will also have a negative impact, giving more time for the fall in oil prices to have an effect. Hope for administrative improvement offers the sugar coating on deep pessimism.

These interim efforts would include developing a much better communication strategy and voter education strategy by INEC as election preparations proceed and many of the technical problems plaguing that process are ironed out. The interim period would be used to offer a concerted effort to ensure that PVCs are in the hands of as much as 98% of voters rather than the current expectation of 90%. But will the security forces be able to protect polling stations, especially in the northeastern states? And, given the legislation, there are no plans underway to re-enfranchise IDP voters who now constitute almost 20% of the 4.5 million registered voters in the three northeastern states (Adamawa 1.5, Borno 1.9 and Yobe 1.1 million). The key variable, however, will be the regional military initiative that will take the war into BH home ground.

It may also determine the outcome of the election.

Boko Haram Atrocities 2012 – August 2014

Boko Haram Atrocities 2012 – August 2014


Howard Adelman

As the 14 February elections approach in Nigeria, Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, a city with a population of at least two million, is once again under siege for the third time in four weeks. The last assault was on 24 January. As in the last two attacks, BH fighters first arrive in the night wearing full-face turbans showing only their eyes, each time from a different direction, but each time on motorcycles and pickup trucks as they shoot their way into the city and shout, “Allahu akbar.” They lock the girls and young women in several houses so they may later choose “wives” from among them instead of kidnapping them all as in April 2013. They also start their campaign of terror by beheading any they consider to be apostates and shoot young men who refuse to join their cause. As you will see from the documentation of the atrocities in 2012, as bad as the situation was then, the targeting of civilian populations has grown enormously since.

Even though BH makes some effort at proselytizing and redistributes some of the food BH fighters have looted, BH is not primarily out to win hearts and minds, just accomplices in its politics of fear and intimidation. Maiduguri is already packed with tens of thousands of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who fled the surrounding countryside overrun by BH primarily in 2014 and its version of terror in the name of justice and faith. The IDPs either live with relatives or are scattered among the 16 IDP camps which bear no resemblance to UNHCR relatively well-ordered camps and, at least, minimally fed refugees.

I expect that BH will be pushed back once again from Maiduguru by the Nigerian Army by soldiers who can only expect execution if they fall into the hands of BH. The armies of Chad and Cameroon have won decisive victories when BH tried to expand in those countries last week. If Chad and Cameroon can do it, why not Nigeria which has the third largest army in Africa and certainly the biggest in West Africa? In 2014, Nigeria ranked 21 among economies in the world and currently beats South Africa for first place in Africa with a GDP of $500 billion.

Whereas Nigerian peacekeeping forces were among the most effective in the world in 1990s, this is no longer true. The operations under ECOWAS authority in Sierra Leone and Liberia that began in 1990 could not be duplicated today. Nigerian forces were almost useless in fighting al-Qaeda-linked forces in Mali in 2013. Yet the army absorbed almost six billion n US dollarsof the 2014 Nigerian budget. The strategy of starving the army by tolerating and even enhancing corruption to prevent a military coup has backfired. The army suffers from a lack of and poorly maintained equipment, low operational readiness, inadequate training, and low military morale, all made worse by poor salaries and conditions for the regular grunts, quite aside from the ethnic divisions and regional loyalties that plague Nigeria’s constant efforts to maintain an army loyal to the federal government.

How does one explain the military deterioration in Nigeria? The simple answer is corruption. The ships of its navy and the aircraft of its air force are, for the most part, inoperative. Most of their ground troops have little capacity to launch offensive operations, though that has significantly improved in the last 20 months. This also explains the decline in American cooperation with the Nigerian armed forces. On the other hand, it is very difficult to deal with an enemy that can launch attacks from many locations across a very large country, for the attacks are not limited to the three northern states. One noticeable pattern after 2012 was the increasing capability of the police and the military to bring the war back to Boko Haram. There have been startling successes in one area – far fewer police stations and army barracks have been attacked – but more civilians have been targeted and territory has been captured and held.

It is not clear whether the reason lay in BH strategy or is to found in far greater intimidation and exclusive targeting of civilians with the clear intent of holding and capturing villages and towns in Borno State. Thus, although military attacks against the police initially escalated in 2012, by 2014 they had fallen off drastically. The police and security forces began aggressively to fight and take the war into BH enclaves and so-called safe houses. Select political leaders were assassinated by BH, but fewer of them and hardly any in 2013 and 2014. Increased numbers of churches continued to be attacked in 2012, but these attacks fell off as BH focused its militancy against whole villages and used suicide bombers and explosives to cause many more casualties.

Far fewer Muslim clerics are now being killed, and BH explicitly announced that it had not been responsible for the attack on the mosque in Kano in June of 2012. The attacks on churches had a double effect, not only killing parishioners of what BH regards as an apostate faith, but provoking mob retaliatory attacks in several cases against Muslim bystanders, thereby deepening the rift between Muslims and Christians even further. But these types of attacks decreased considerably by 2014. Police stations were always attacked in conjunction with an effort to rob a bank, but BH seems to have acquired more sophisticated military equipment and explosives from the spate of attacks on the police and the military in 2012 so that by mid-July they could concentrate on attacking and capturing villages in Borno State. Attacks on civilians continued, primarily against targets seen to be bringing western values into northern Nigeria – pubs, construction sites, schools and even the newspaper, The Day in April 2012. 2                                                                                                                                                                                  Though the military counter-attacks against BH have significantly improved, the prognosis remains depressing as the military failed to capture a few key bases that BH had captured. The advance of BH over the last three years began with the coordinated 2012 attack in Kano against 8 different security facilities (the regional police headquarters, 2 police stations, local headquarters of state security, home of a police official, state police command headquarters), even though the strength of BH is also its greatest weakness. For BH is very decentralized and lacks a forceful unified command structure. However, BH has demonstrated that it is very capable of coordinated assaults. In 2014, it has also shown that it can concentrate sufficient forces to capture towns and villages, especially in Borno State with a highly increased lethality of civilians. Since 2012, the Nigerian army, police and security forces made a concerted effort to take the battle into the warrens where BH murderers and bombers take refuge in the cities. However, the Nigerian security forces have been unable to launch a consistent assault to retake territory captured by BH.

There has been a countervailing interpretation that the primary issue is not military but political. The political issue is not the gain in popular support for BH – which has undoubtedly lost ground. The growing strength and horror of BH has become a prime election issue in this election year in 2015 for a number of very different reasons, quite aside from the likelihood that the recent increase in the number of attacks, their main targets and heightened lethality seem to indicate that disrupting the election and delegitimizing the results may be the main strategy in the recent pattern of BH attacks.

Note the following:

  • Of the 174 million population (Lagos alone has an estimated population of 25 million), and the estimated expected vote of over 40 million, of the 5.6 million population in the three northeastern states, 1.5 million eligible voters reside in Borno, Yobe and Adanowa
  • Of those,18% have been displaced, and Nigerian law requires that voters must cast their ballots in their home constituencies
  • Thus, even though the Independent National Election Commission insists that the vote will go ahead in the northeast as planned, and even assuming that they are true to their word in spite of the increasing rate of BH assaults, to get elected, a presidential candidate must win 25% of the votes in at least two-thirds (12) states to be declared a winner;
  • This suggests that the violence is intended to delegitimize the election, assuming Goodluck Jonathan can win more votes than his rival, Muhammadu Buhani;
  • Further, if the election is contested afterwards over a protracted period, BH will be the only winner.

Below, please find the tables of atrocities for 2012, 2013 and until the end of July 2014. I am grateful to Ioannis Mantzikos, a PhD candidate at the University of Free State in South Africa, who compiled the original uncategorized list and published the compilation in the December issue of Perspectives on Terrorism Volume 8, Issue 6. The categorization and interpretation of trends is solely my responsibility.




22 June Kano Mosque – aborted 4 arrested
2 July Maiduguri Mosque under construction Construction workers killed 9

POLITICAL TARGETS: attacks against politicians, traditional leaders and civil servants

7 Feb. Kaduna Hon. Auwalu Ali Tafoki, former Chairman of the Kaduna South Local Area Bomb discovered and dismantled
9 March Gombe State Traditional ruler Shot 1
12 April Abuja Threat by BH to overthrow government in 3 months U.S. State Department travel alert
21 June U.S. Abubakar Shekau, Abubakar

Adam Kambar, & Khalid al-Barnawi

Declared specially designated global terrorists
Habib Bama (Mamman) Shot when arrested 1
3 August Potiskum Muslim traditional leader Escapes suicide bomber 0

Military and Police Targets

2012 Dead
17 Jan. Maiduguri Military checkpoint Assault 2 soldiers + 2 BH
Army outpost 2
Borno State BH hideout 6 arrested
20 Jan. Kano 8 government security buildings 5 suicide bomber; 20 explosions ???
24 Jan Kano Response to above by JTF 158 arrests 10 cars of explosives 300 IEDs
28 Jan Maiduguri 11 BH
15 Feb Koton-Karle, Kogi State Prison attack by 20 gunmen 119 freed inmates 14
3 March In prison Tiemkenfa Francis Osvwo fumigation 1 BH
7 March Ashaka, Gombe State Police station 7
10 March Bulabilin Ngaura, Borno Police station Gunmen 1
Maidiguri Repelled assault 11 arrested 1 BH
12 March Military patrol Gunmen 5
21 March Tudun Wala 100 km from Abuja Divisional Police Office Explosives failed
31 March Kogi Raid of bomb factory shootout 10
25 April Kano State Raid on bomb factory
30 April Taraba State Senior Police official convoy – survived Suicide bomber 11
4 May Borno State Prison 2 guards
6 May Kano Shootout 4 BH
11 May Kano Suleiman Mohammed + wife + 5 kids Arrest of BH Kano head
12 May Borno State Police station Burned 2 police
13 May Kano Shootout 6 officers
19 May Jos BH enclave destroyed ???
22 May Abuja Security officials foil police station & radio
5 June Kano Abubakar Saleh Ningi, former department chief MC 3 incl. driver & bodyguard
5 -6 June Maiduguri JTF operation 16 BH
8 June Borno State JTF operation Car with explosives 4 + 7
23 June Kano BH hideout Shootout 4 BH
24 June Yobe Prison 40 inmates freed 2 BH
26 June Wukari, Taraba State Regional police headquarters Gunmen 3 police
26-27 June Kano Dalo police division 30 BH with guns 10 BH; I police
30 June Damaturu, Yobe Pre-emptive offensive by police 10 BH       1 police
30 July Sokoto Two police stations Suicide bomber 2
19 Aug. Damagun, Yobe Police station Blown up ???


22 Jan. Tafawa Balewa Bank – foiled
2 March Trader and tailor Knife attack 2
8 March Birnin Kebbi

BH denies it attacked

Italian and British engineer kidnapped 2
21 March 100 km from Abuja Bank – foiled 2 arrested 9 BH
30 March Maiduguri Police station + bank 4
7 Nov. Benishek outside Maiduguri Chinese construction workers attack 2


2012 Dead Inj.
Gombe State Church Parishioners Assault 3-6
6 Jan Yola Church Parishioners Assault 8
26 Feb Jos, Plateau State Church Parishioners Suicide bomber 6
11 March Jos Church Parishioners Suicide bomber 3
Reprisal attacks 10
8 April Kaduna Churh Easter parishioners Explosives 38
3 June Yelwa, Bauchi State Church Parishioners Suicide bomber 12
10 June Jos Church Suicide bomber 0 41
bystanders Retaliation Mob 2
Biu 5 gunmen 1 3
17 June Zaire & Kaduna

Kaduna State

3 churches Car bombs
19 Aug. Damagun, Yobe Church building Blown up ???
23 Sept. Bauchi Church Female worshipper Suicide bomber 1
28 Oct. Kaduna Church parishioners Suicide bomber 10 145

Note that in 2012, the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) ran an ad campaign on 100 buses in New York publicizing the savagery of BH and the targeting of Christians specifically. “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support the Nigerian Christians. Defeat jihad.” Mostly because of the phrasing, the ads were criticized as “anti-Muslim” “hate” ads.


4 Jan. Dalla, Maiduguri Teacher & son Home 2 + 2BH
10 Jan Damaturu, Yobe State Beergarden 8
13 Jan Yola, Adamawa State Pub 2 + 1
Gombe, Gombe State Pub 2 + 1
1 Feb. Maiduguri 30 so-called informers Targeted 7
2 March 4:mother son + 2
4 April Maiduguri Market Gunmen 7
26 April Abuja Off ices of newspaper The Day Suicide attack 4
Kaduna Housing complex with Damugun offices Car bomb
25 June Baluchi Cluster of bars IED Explosive 0 + 9
4 July Abuja Shopping mall explosion 0
19 Aug. Damagun, Yobe School Blown up
16 Sept. Bauchi Ludo game players Shot 6 + 9
18 Oct Potiskum Guns + bomb 23

2013 Charts of Boko Haram atrocities

Military and Police Targets

15 March Gwoza Prison – 170 inmates freed assault 1 civilian
22 March Ganye, Adamawa State Jail, police stn. & bank 127 inmates freed assault 25
11 April Babban Gida, Yobe State Police station shootout 4 police       5 BH
12-16 Baga JTF operation vs BH firefight 187
7 May Bama Security forces –       105 inmates freed assault 55
13 May Borno & Yobe “massive” troop deployment State of emergency Phone signals shut
11 Sept. Ga’anda Village, Adamawa State Police stations Rocket grenades 2 police + 1
24 Oct. Damaturu, Yobe Military barracks and police facilities assault 21 in total 21-70 BH
23 Nov. Gwoza BH hideouts N. military 40 BH
2 Dec. Maiduguru Air force base, military barracks 200 gunmen ???



15 March Kano Senior judicial figure
3 May Maiduguri Ali Monguno, former Nigerian oil minister kidnap



13 Nov Nguetchéwé, Cameroon French Catholic priest kidnap Dead Inj.



22-24 Jan. Maiduguri Many ???
8 Feb. Kano 2 polio clinics gunmen 10 workers
10 Feb. Potiskum, Yobe doctors North Korean assassinys 3
16 Feb Jama’are Construction workers kidnap 7
19 Feb. Cameroon French family of 7 kidnap Video 25 February
5 March Video beheading Alleged informant beheading 1
18 March Kano Bus station Suicide bomber 41
17 June Damaturu Student dormitory attack 7 students 2 teachers
6 July Mamudo, Yobe Secondary school dormitories set on fire attack 41 students 1 teacher
31 Aug. Yaguwa Village, Damboa, Borno BH hideout by nomadic herders in revenge attack 12 nomads + original 2
17 Sept. Benisheik, Borno Town attack 142
29 Sept. Gujba, Yobe school dorm College of Agriculture attack 40 students
4 Nov. Bama, Borno 300 homes burned assault 27
23 Nov. Sandiya Village 85km from Maiduguru Some homes burned assault 12


27 July Dawashe near Baga, Borno Fishers & traders Reprisal attack 20 +

2014 Boko Haram Atrocities

Military and Police Targets

14 March Maiduguru Giwa Military barracks & state security hdqt. 200 BH assault fails
8 July Damboa Military base N. army assault BH counterattack 15 soldiers
24 July Cameroon military Cross-border raid 2 soldiers



23 April Blabili, Borno State politicians ambush 2
25 July Garabula, Borno Alhaji Ibrahim Dawi District leader 13
27 July Kolofata, Cameroon Wife of V-Pres. kidnap 3



30 July Kwajaffa, Tashan Alade 5 churches



26 Jan. Borno & Adamawa 2 markets assaults 78
11 Feb. Kanduga Burn homes assault 23
15 Feb. Northeastern Nigeria dozens
26 Feb. Buni Yadi Federal college assault 29
14 April Abuja Bus station Suicide bomber 75 +
17 April BH mass weddings on 29 April School dorm kidnap 276 girls
20 April Yana Government school fire 5-year-old
5 May BH video Girls kidnapped To be sold
20 May Jos market Car bombs 118 + 56
1 June Mubi Football stadium bomb 40
14 June Borno 4 villages assault 500
17 June Damaturu Football viewing centre World Cup bomb 21
24 June Borno Systematic abductions Kidnap 60 women 30
3 July Konduga, Borno bomb 5
4 July Maiduguri-Mafa-Dikwa Road motorway ambush 15
6 July Krenuwa Village, border Cameroon Dressed in military uniforms assault 7
11 July Maidugurio Damboa Madafuma Biu Rd Main bridge destroyed
14 July Dille Village Torch houses & 3 churches assault 26
Madafuma Village, Biu, Borno capture assault 9
15 July Damboa, Borno Sambon Gari Village assault 27
17 July Gambou Ngala, Borno Bridge to Cameroon Blown up
18 July Damboa, Borno Burn homes 80
23 July Kaduna Suicide bombers 82
29 July Potiskum 2 bombs Suicide bombers 55


27 July Dawashe near Baga, Borno Fishers & traders Reprisal attack 20 +
16 July Gombi, Adamawa German Kidnap

Boko Haram

Boko Haram


Howard Adelman

In the third phase of its evolution as a terrorist organization, last April Boko Haram gained universal infamy when it kidnapped 276 schoolgirls in Chibok in the northern Nigerian state of Borno. The 17 April 2014 attack on the girls’ school dormitories received worldwide headlines, especially after Abubakar Shekau, Boko Haram’s leader, released a video announcing with a smile that he was opposed to the girls being educated and intended to sell them as “wives”. The girls’ kidnapping had been preceded by the 14 April 2014 terrorist suicide bomb blast a week earlier in the capital of Nigeria in an Abuja bus station which killed at least 75.

That earlier event received nowhere near the degree of media coverage. Of course, that story was covered by the BBC, CBC, CNN and other major outlets, but the extent of coverage was not as great nor was it given the same prominence as the kidnapping event. Most of all, the story did not continue much past the date of its occurrence in contrast to the repeated references to the kidnapping. This was also true of the even more lethal attack 18 days later on 5 May against the defenceless town near the Cameroon border of Gamboru Ngala northeast of the capital of Borno State, Maiduguri, in the neighbouring state of Adamawa in which up to 300 civilians were killed.

Just before the national elections scheduled in eleven days, Boko Haram once again launched a frontal assault on Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, this time initially attacking from the south side either as a diversionary tactic or a shift in strategy. The previous attack took place on 25 January. Once again, the initial attack was repulsed by the Nigerian army reinforced by volunteers. It was probably a diversionary thrust since a later assault took place from the east through the Damboa Road. Though Boko Haram recently suffered defeats in both Chad and Cameroon at the hands of an African Union multi-state force, it still probably controls half of Borno State and parts of Abamawa and Yobe states. and Cameroon at the hands of an African Union.

In addition to abducting school children, this latest move reinforces an understanding of a shift in strategy of Boko Haram – capturing and holding vast swaths of territory in the northeast in imitation of Islamic State. In 2014, Boko Haram declared a caliphate in approximately the same area as the Sokoto caliphate which ruled parts of northern Nigeria, Niger and southern Cameroon before the area fell under British control in 1903. Boko Haram, which means “Western education is forbidden” in Hausa, is officially called Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad, “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad” in Arabic, or, in an alternate translation, “The Congregation of the People of the Sunnah for Dawah and Jihad.” Boko Haram is the Nigerian radical Islamist militant movement that first significantly “upgraded” its strategy of extreme violence in 2009 after Obama became president. In the spring of 2014, Boko Haram entered a new phase of malevolence and terror. Governed by the Koranic proposition: “Anyone who is not governed by what Allah has revealed is among the transgressors.” Haram, “forbidden,” prohibits any social activity associated with Western society, including elections, wearing shirts and trousers or receiving a secular education.

A detailed analysis of Boko Haram’s terrorist attacks will be offered tomorrow, but the highlights of its emergence as a radical Islamic terrorist organization are as follows:


  • founded in Maiduguri to oppose Western education by charismatic Muslim cleric, Mohammed Yusuf in a religious complex that included a mosque and an Islamic school
  • Yusuf preached that evolution did not take place, that the earth was not round and that rain was created by Allah and was not the result of evaporation and condensation


  • July Yosuf arrested
  • 26 July Boko Haram storms a police station in Bauchi state
  • 29 July Yosuf escapes with 300 followers but Yosuf is recaptured; 186 killed in the attack on the Maiduguri police station
  • 30 July Yosuf killed in police custody after he was re-captured
  • the week of violence left 700 dead
  • Abubakar Shekau, a former theology student of Yosuf, fluent in Kanuri, Hausa and Arabic, and a specialist in Tawheed, the orthodox doctrine of the uniqueness and oneness of Allah, assumes control
  • Draws its fighters mainly from the Kanuri ethnic group
  • Launches military operations in 2009 to create Islamic state


  • Boko Haram attacks prisons and frees followers held there
  • Bombs Jos killing 80


  • In May, an inquiry and autopsy were ordered into the Yosuf killing and the 2009 week of violence
  • July 2011 five police officers put on trial in Abuja for Yosuf’s death


  • President Goodluck Jonathan declared an emergency in the three northern states – Borno, Yobe and Adamawa
  • declared a terrorist organization by the U.S.
  • Offers reward of $7 million for information on Shekau’s location


  • August Boko Haram declares a caliphate in northeastern Nigeria
  • With 2,924 deaths/injuries for the year, Boko Haram ranks first in lethality worldwide with Islamic State in second place with 1,459 and al-Shabaab third with 1,136

Despite its vast resources, Nigeria ranks among the most unequal countries in the world,

By the end of 2014, Boko Haram had overrun many police stations and military bases in northeastern Nigeria providing the organization with a huge arsenal, including armoured personnel carriers, pickup trucks, rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles. Complemented by the funds received by robbing banks and extortion from businessmen and foreigners who had been abducted, Boko Haam was able to purchase additional arms from the arms bazaar based on released munitions stockpile following Libya’s implosion. The bombs they made were crude and inexpensive as they were mostly made from local materials, though some dynamite had been captured by raids on such businesses as cement factories. Nevertheless, with all their actions, they are a very economic insurgency with an estimated budget averaging $10 million a year over the last five years. Until they began capturing villages and towns, they operated from the vast Sambisa forest along the Cameroon border. That base in the last year was used to attack Cameroon targets as well but there have suffered significant setbacks. The extent and intensity and the breadth of their mayhem since 2009 can be grasped in the ten charts of their murderous domestic activities classified according to the targeted group that I will publish in tomorrow’s blog. As will be seen, their murderous activities vary from drive-by shootings, to the use of bombs and suicide bombers and, more recently, frontal assaults. On Friday, as I described, Boko Haram captured Monguno and then used it as a launching pad against the much larger city of Maiduguri, 146 km south.

Boko Haram has evolved significantly over the last twelve years. Before the death of Mohammed Yusuf in July 2009, the primary targets of Boko Haram (BH) were police, police stations and prisons. With the succession of Abubakar Shekau as leader in 2009, BH became far more lethal. For example, before July 2009, attacks were relatively few and far between, and it was not clear whether the attacks were by Nigerian Taliban or by BH. Afterwards, there was rarely any doubt about which organization perpetuated the assaults. After the death of Yusuf and the 800 dead in Maidiguri in July 2009, BH retreated, consolidated and resumed its attacks on police and military targets. In January and June of 2011, BH began to attack Christians and Christian churches, though most of the targets remained Muslim clerics critical of BH. The evolution of Boko Haram will be documented tomorrow.

Throughout the period, the violence was centred in Maiduguri and the three northeastern states of Nigeria, but Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, was not spared. Further, drive-by assassinations from motorcycles remained a right-of-passage throughout for members of BH. As the list of targets expanded, attacks on police and the military remained the main targets, with assaults of police predominating. Attacks on platoons of soldiers only began in March 2011. Further, though attacks on politicians largely targeted the ruling party, sometimes it was difficult to determine whether assassinations of opposition politicians were simply made to appear as if they were the responsibility of BH, such as the 28 January 2011 killing of Modu Fannami Godio, the gubernatorial candidate of the opposition, All Nigeria Peoples Party.

2011 was also marked by the killing of businessmen and merchants who refused to pay extortion, such as the 30 April 2011 murder of a trader in front of his shop. In May, BH began its assaults on international agencies, beginning with the bombing of the Peace Corps offices in Bwari killing three. In that same month, BH proved it could launch simultaneous attacks by much larger forces. 70 BH gunmen attack a police station, a police barracks and a bank in Damboa, Borno killing 4 police and 4 civilians. That attack marked the beginning of BH attacks on financial institutions to obtain money to finance their insurgency.

What stands out is the collateral damage – neighbours, civilians, even children are often killed in the attacks even though they were not the targets. Further, BH suffers relatively few casualties and appears to inflict far more damage than they endure. From the December bomb attack on Jos, to the March 2011 attack on three villages, the strategy seems to shift. BH suddenly seems to be interested in area cleansing and occupation.

One question haunted me as I undertook my research. Why did it take the federal government of Nigeria until 2013 to declare a state of emergency? It is as if Ottawa permitted the Maritime Provinces to become a free fire zone for three years before any systematic full scale military effort was initiated to quell the terrorists.

Tomorrow: The List and Classification of Boko Haram assaults.

Nigeria and the Obama Administration

Nigeria and the Obama Administration           


Howard Adelman

This past Sunday, John Kerry traveled to Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, to meet President Goodluck Jonathan and show solidarity in Nigeria’s fight against Boko Haram, the radical Nigerian Islamist movement that developed a highly militant program in 2009 since Obama took office. The visit comes just after Islamist Boko Haram fighters captured the north-eastern Nigerian town of Monguno 146 km north of the strategically-located northeastern Nigerian city of Maiduguri. Boko Haram then attacked Maiduguri itself, the capital of Borno State, its population already swollen by thousands of IDPs who had fled to the city. Boko Haram had failed to capture the city in its last assault in December 2013. This latest attack was repelled by a mixture of Nigerian troops and “volunteers,” reinforced by air strikes against Boko Haram positions.

In his press conference, Kerry stressed the importance of the scheduled February national elections being peaceful and setting “a new standard.” He elaborated: “We are prepared to do more [to counter the threat of Boko Haram], but our ability to do more will depend to some degree on the full measure of credibility, accountability, transparency and peacefulness of this election.” Though America has been supplying not only advice, but military training and equipment to help the Nigerian government in its fight against Boko Haram to “professionalize the response of its security forces, including to respond to crime and terrorism,” it has always been with a caveat emphasizing “human rights, civilian protection and adherence to rule of law at all levels.” No such qualifications seemed to have accompanied the supply of Navy Seals to fight the Lord’s Resistance Army.

I am puzzled. Truly puzzled. America has 150 special forces Naval Seals in landlocked Central African Republic (CAR) and has authorized the deployment of 150 more to try to eliminate Joseph Kony when Kony has only 200 followers left and when he is cornered by four African armies. Though America also insists it is fully in support of Nigeria’s fight against Boko Haram in north-eastern Nigeria, the U.S. cut off the resale by Israel of helicopters to Nigeria, helicopters ostensibly crucial to the fight against Boko Haram. Boko Haram, though not directly involved in any war against the West and has no official relationship with other militant Islamicists, openly identifies with Al Qaeda and Islamic State, sometimes imitating their tactics. Boko Haram is part of the loose international network of radical Islamic forces at war against the U.S. and the West. In contrast, Kony is the leader of an exhausted idiosyncratic and isolated Christian militant sect that poses no danger to the U.S. Further, Boko Haram is estimated to have 9,000 fighters, not 200.

I need your help in puzzling through this seeming paradox, but I will make an initial stab at it, first by elaborating on American policy towards Nigeria in its fight against terrorism. Sunday, I will provide some background on Boko Haram itself and recent developments in Nigerian history. Only then will I attempt to answer more fully my initial puzzle.

America’s vetoing of the helicopter sale was explained in terms of “consistency with U.S. policy interests.” Further, the veto was procedurally correct since “requests for one country to transfer U.S.-origin defense items to another country” require American approval in accordance with the U.S. Conventional Arms Transfer Policy and American norms are stricter than the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms to which Israel, de facto, subscribes that restricts transfers “where there is imminent risk that arms might be internally diverted, illegally proliferated and re-transferred, or fall into the hands of terrorists or entities and states that support or sponsor them.”

Third, there were allegations of human rights abuses committed by Nigerian troops. Amnesty International in its August 2014 report claimed to have both video footage and testimonials that suggest that the Nigerian military has been involved in war crimes. American aid is dependent upon and emphasizes “human rights, civilian protection and adherence to the rule of law.” The regulations on arms transfers forbid them when retransfer is to a recipient “who would [not could] commit human rights abuses or serious violations of international humanitarian law.” However, well-founded allegations of human rights abuses by the Ugandan army did not prevent the U.S. from supplying the Ugandan army with equipment, training and seconded training forces.

But what were the policy interests? Human rights? U.S. ambassador to Nigeria, James F. Entwistle, had signaled last October that American was concerned that arms transfers could affect “the human situation.” The U.S. requires that, for the sale of military equipment, such as the Boeing CH-47 Chinook helicopters at $40 million each, “the risk that significant change in the political or security situation of the recipient country” must be taken into account lest the sale result in “inappropriate end-use.”

Is the American State Department worried that the government of Nigeria is so precarious that there is a danger of a takeover by Boko Haram, at least of the three northeastern states of Nigeria? Then, the helicopters could fall into Boko Haram’s hands. But this merely replaces one paradox with another. That is, we can supply Uganda with arms because the government is strong and the LRA is now so weakened that it poses no real challenge to Kampala. On the other hand, the government of Goodluck Jonathan in Nigeria is apparently so weak, militarily at least, that giving Nigerian troops helicopters is too risky. Or is the veto of the Chinook helicopter sale a shot across the bow to signal Israel that such cancellations are at the President’s discretion? Is Obama signaling that he could stop military transfers to Israel itself?

In other words, if your country is strong and your enemy is very weak, the U.S. will supply weapons. But if the government is at all precarious and the enemy is strong – the very reason the government desperately needs the weapons – then that is a situation where America cannot and will not risk supplying weapons. This Catch-22 on the surface seems so absurd as not to be plausible. But is it?

America has a large training program for Nigerian forces in its fight against Boko Haram. However, Barak Obama in his address to the United Nations on the threat of Islamicism stressed education and enlightenment rather than the use of force. “The ideology of ISIL [Islamic State] or al-Qaida or Boko Haram will wilt and die if it is consistently exposed and confronted and refuted in the light of day.” Without asking how exposing, confronting and refuting Islamicist ideology can help or even be critical in the fight against radical Islam, in particular, and against Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria, does such a policy square with the military support the U.S. does provide Nigeria for its fight against Boko Haram and this emphasis on enlightenment?

A partial explanation may be economic not humanitarian or military. In 2008, America imported almost a million barrels of Nigerian crude per day, 44% of Nigeria’s oil exports. Nigeria was the fifth largest supplier of oil for the U.S. market, slightly down from the over a million barrels average per day imported between 2004 and 2007. Because of the shale revolution and the move back to self-sufficiency in oil for the U.S., the U.S. now produces almost 10 million b/d with a large portion from its Bakken, Eagle Ford and Permian Basin fields. This has totally upended the 2001 Cheney report which defined Nigeria as a core national security interest because of its production of oil and American reliance on those oil imports. In the first quarter of 2014, imports of Nigerian crude by the U.S. continued to decline from the old norm of 90 million barrels per quarter to just over 25 million. Then they fell off the cliff altogether. For six weeks, between July and mid-August of 2014, the U.S. did not import a single barrel of Nigerian crude. There was a similar story between mid-October and 7 November. The oil trade between Nigeria and the U.S. is no longer one of “follow the money,” but the reality that there is NO money to follow.

Just recall that in December 2000, the U.S. National Intelligence Council of the CIA predicted that Africa would be supplying 25% of America’s total oil imports by 2015. What a transformed situation! Asian imports have picked up some of the slack, but only some, and at a much lower per barrel price. And the economic drop has not only come from the fall-off in oil exports, but also from the rapid decline in national receipts for bids for exploration blocks and the drop in large sums traditionally invested in oil infrastructure – drilling platforms, pipelines, loading facilities, production machinery, transportation, etc. Instead of West Africa replacing the Middle East as the number one exporter of oil to the world as predicted ten and even five years ago, instead of posting significant production increases, West Africa, and Nigeria in particular, has posted production declines. This has meant not only a significant decrease in income to the federal Nigerian government, but also that the U.S. has lost the ability to strong arm Nigeria using the oil import card. As a result, the U.S. may have had to fall back on the military export card.

But that too has a back side. In the 1990s, when American policymakers foresaw increased dependence on oil from Africa, and, therefore, demarcated Africa as a primary national security interest, the U.S. dramatically increased its military involvement in Africa. As the need for African oil – though not necessarily other resources – has declined precipitously in the last five years, America has been preaching African military self-sufficiency. More particularly, whereas the U.S. provided military support to undemocratic and repressive regimes in Nigeria, the U.S. now declines to do so unconditionally. Just when its economic leverage is lowest, America has increasingly used its 2004 expansion of its 1997 Africa Crisis Response Initiative (ACRI), renamed as African Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA), as leverage. However, the U.S. no longer has the same justification that U.S. military aid was needed to secure its oil supply.

However, U.S. security assistance is also provided to Nigeria through ACOTA, the Anti-Terrorism Assistance program. Is this not sufficient incentive for the U.S. and its war on terror, particularly against radical and militant Islam?

In the beginning of the Obama administration, the emphasis was on the Niger Delta, the source of Nigeria’s oil. The U.S. was concerned with the rise of terrorist and separatist forces there. On 12 August 2009, during her trip to Africa, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Nigerian Foreign Minister Ojo Maduekwe that the U.S. supports the efforts of the “Nigerian Government’s comprehensive political framework approach toward resolving the conflict in the Niger Delta.” Since that was the source of oil, this was understandable. But even then, military cooperation was totally proportionate to Nigerian efforts.

However, the new threat that has been developed since then has been from the northeast sector. The incentive to continue military support for Nigeria raises its head because of the threat of radical Islamic terrorism. So why all the qualms and conditions? Without the issue of protection of the oil interests, direct U.S. military intervention was never on the table. Instead, the policy required the smallest U.S. signature in any initiative. The stress was on capacity building and thickening intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance related to national cooperation, but now conjoined with democratic and human rights improvements.

Thus, even though Obama retained Defense Secretary Robert Gates as well as Army Chief of Staff, General George Casey, their efforts focused on security assistance, even to repressive and undemocratic governments, provided the countries were either direct U.S. allies (Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya and Ethiopia) or rich in resources needed by the U.S. such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo. How does this impact on the increasing threat of Boko Haram to Nigerian stability?

A CNN commentator, satirized in the Nigerian media, was responding to Maj. General James “Spider” Marks clarification on why there was zero (not just reduced) military aid to Nigeria in its fight against Boko Haram. Black West Africa is not a priority, the commentator suggested. Not West Africa! Not Nigeria! But BLACK West Africa. Yet BLACK Uganda was a priority? The commentator said that, although the U.S. has the means and capability to help us combat/possibly rid us of Boko Haram, the U.S. was committed elsewhere.

In a long term effort, the U.S. could, even unilaterally, do almost anything needed to rout Boko Haram. But Nigeria is not a priority. Defeating militant Islamic terrorism is not a priority. Defeating international militant Islam is, though Obama is always careful to dub it terrorism and not Islamic or religious terrorism. It is not because Nigeria is black or the terrorists are black. Racism is not the differentiating factor. The reduction of Nigeria as an economic and, hence, national security priority, conjoined with the Obama priority on human rights and democracy as conditions for military assistance, except where the countries are explicit allies, are key factors.

Kerry at Davos, before he left for Abuja, spoke at length on the threat to the world from Islamist extremist groups, including Boko Haram. But upon his arrival, he did not focus on the insurgency in the northeast, but of ensuring fair presidential and parliamentary elections in the lead up and on 14 February. The United States has even pressed for the elections to proceed despite the raging violence in northeastern Nigeria, even though Nigeria’s national security adviser, Sambo Dasuki, recommended that polling be delayed, especially in the northeast where tens of thousands have been displaced and three million live in fear.

Perhaps Boko Haram had learned its lesson when it brought the wrath of the U.S. down upon itself when it planned a terror attack on U.S.-bound Northwest Airlines flight on 25 December 2009. Don’t threaten America – just Nigerian schoolgirls, the public, the police, the army, politicians, moderate Muslim clerics, and even businessmen and Christians. America’s involvement in anti-terror programs had not evolved in proportion to the increased threat in the northeast because the terrorist threat in the Niger Delta from the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND) significantly diminished.

The decline seems to have had no relationship to the efforts of the Nigerian legislature to pass anti-terrorism legislation between 2006 and 2009. Besides, MEND was always been classified as simply a militant not a terrorist threat. But the anti-terrorism legislation clearly had no impact on a real and growing terrorist threat in the northeast. Nevertheless, critical arms were denied to Nigeria. Boko Haram could wreck all the havoc it wanted as long as Nigeria was not allied with the U.S., was of no overt economic prime interest to the U.S., and the insurgents were not engaged in ‘international’ terrorism. In fact, even as the lethality ratcheted up, military aid could decline.

Bright and promising young security professionals were increasingly sent to Western-sponsored seminars to improve local capacity for effectively countering terrorist threats, but, at the same time, stressing the need for them to protect human rights and enhance democracy. The U.S. Department of Defense’s Counterterrorism Fellowship Program built relationships and developed networks of cooperation. Technology and infrastructure were supplied for detection and recording (early warning), but the supply of lethal force has been inadequate, though aid has been forthcoming to develop appropriate legal frameworks and institutional capacity to counter terrorism.

Ambassador Samantha Power, the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, addressed the Security Council on action to sanction Boko Haram and hold its leaders accountable by adding Boko Haram to the UN’s 1267 sanctions list. The Security Council helped close off funding sources, travel and weapons supplies for Boko Haram. But demonstrations of world unity and such measures, however beneficial, do little to mitigate Boko Haram’s growing strength unless sufficient military supplies of the right type and training are forthcoming.

Samantha Power said, “Last weekend in Paris, the United States and our partners agreed to assist Nigeria in developing a comprehensive strategy to address Boko Haram’s threat to the region by strengthening regional cooperation on counterterrorism, including intelligence sharing and border security. Today’s listing also supports and facilitates regional cooperation in confronting Boko Haram. The United States has been working with Nigeria to provide critical tools and support for confronting Boko Haram, like helping professionalize its military; working on law enforcement so that they can better investigate and assist in hostage situations; and providing economic assistance, including education and job training programs, to help lift people out of poverty and provide an alternative to extremist ideologies.” But one would have to wait eons and arms supplies would not be mentioned. The U.S. is not, counter to what Samantha Power said, “doing everything we can to help the people of Nigeria bring back their girls and…eliminate Boko Haram,” though it will increase its efforts to refute Boko Haram’s “backwards and bloodthirsty ideology,” as if this was an ideological debate. After 17 April 2013, Obama did send “military experts to help track down more than 200 girls seized in a ‘heartbreaking’ kidnapping,” but not the helicopters crucial to freeing them. Outrage and saying NO are just milquetoast.

When the threat is adequately described and analyzed on Sunday, this pusillanimous response will be seen as totally inadequate.

VII Samantha Power: Machinations on the 31 December 2014 Jordanian Resolution

VII Samantha Power: Machinations on the 31 December 2014 Jordanian Resolution


Howard Adelman

In the maneuvers to prevent passage of the Palestinian resolution put forth by Jordan at the end of December, at least two questions arise. First, who? Who did what and how did they succeed in preventing passage of the resolution? In particular, was the UN American delegation headed by Samantha Power instrumental in the failure of the resolution to pass? Second, why? Why did the Palestinians push for a vote when they were virtually guaranteed passage after January 1st when Rwanda and Australia, countries which abstained or voted against the resolution, left the Security Council and countries which supported the resolution, including Venezuela and Malaysia as well as Jordan, joined the Security Council? The two issues are interrelated. But first the question of Palestinian motives.

Two facts are clear. The Palestinians aggressively pushed for a vote before the end of December. Second, they were blindsided by the Nigerian vote to abstain; they expected Nigerian support almost right up to the hour before the vote. Here are a number of propositions vying to explain the situation:

  1. They expected to win and just miscalculated;
  2. They calculated that the risk of losing was very low, but even if they lost, they could simply have a second vote in the New Year, which they would win and thereby double the publicity and triple the exhilaration that came with a win;
  3. They were indifferent to the results since the whole point of the exercise was to deepen the rift between Europe and Israel, and even a loss would do that;
  4. They did not care whether the resolution passed or was vetoed, or even lost, because, ironically, they wanted to help Netanyahu win the March election in Israel, lest the Palestinian Authority (PA) be faced with an Israeli government strongly committed to a two-state solution and, therefore, putting the PA on the defensive internationally for not being able to conclude a deal, and on the defensive domestically against those critical of any deal;
  5. Given the pressure John Kerry as Secretary of State put on President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, they wanted to lose because they would win their case in the world of public opinion, particularly in Europe, without alienating the U.S.A. significantly by provoking a veto that in turn might then even lead to the cancellation or reduction of foreign aid from the U.S.

The first proposition is feasible given the aggressive campaign the Palestinians waged, but, if true, revealed the weakness of their diplomatic intelligence. Further, the loss makes the PA subject to ridicule by its critics. However, it does not explain the rush given a guarantee of success only weeks later. The Palestinian explanation that further delay would have led to a loss of momentum does not initially appear credible. The loss not only weakens the PA in terms of its domestic critics, but wearies the diplomatic UN delegations from other states given that the UN spends a huge disproportionate time on the Palestinian issue, a situation particularly troubling when there are so many other urgent and far more horrific situations on which to focus. This is especially true since, even those who supported the resolution are firmly convinced that, in the final analysis, the only route to peace is through direct negotiations between the PA and the Israeli government.

The second thesis is also possibly true, and we soon may be easier to tell. However, the situation is not as simple as it might appear given the rules of procedure of the Security Council and an understanding of the issue of momentum. There is no prohibition against resubmitting a resolution that has not passed. But the Palestinians had floated the motion in October. It had been worked on and re-worked and had to be approved by the Arab League at each change. Look how much time it took to get a resolution in writing put before the Security Council in a form that would not attract amendments, since amendments are voted on first.  Further, Rule 32 in the procedures and practices of the UN Security Council requires that resolutions be placed in the order of their submission, unless the UNSC itself deems the issue a matter of great urgency, which this resolution is not. Therefore, since a new session starts the clock again, and since there are always other resolutions being put before the Security Council, a vote on a re-tabled Palestinian motion would not take place immediately.

The UNSC deals with an average of two resolutions per week not counting the even more numerous presidential statements brought before the UNSC. For example, when Nigeria, a subject of this blog, was president of the UNSC for the month of April – the presidency rotates month-to-month – 7 resolutions and 11 presidential statements came before the UNSC. The UNSC dealt with topics ranging from Western Sahara to South Sudan, Central African Republic, Darfur, Cote d Ivoire, Syria, Ukraine and genocide. But if you google UNSC resolutions, and even specify 2015, 90% of the items that come up are about the resolution on Palestine that failed to pass at the end of 2014.  And what else comes up is usually historical – an old debate on South Africa or on reforming the UN Security Council. One has the impression that the Palestinian issue is the overwhelming preoccupation of the United Nations.

However, yesterday, the UNSC took up the issue of the horrific attack by Islamic militants in Paris against the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in which twelve were killed. The day before, Mali was the main subject on the agenda that also dealt with Syria and MINUSMA, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali. Today, the UNSC has on its agenda an update report on the situation concerning the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a report of the Secretary-General on the activities of the United Nations Office for West Africa (UNOWA) to be followed by a closed session on UNOWA. In the rest of January, the UNSC will deal with UNFICYP (the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus), UNOCI (the United nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire) and sanctions against that state, CAR (Central African Republic), as well as many others that I will not bother to spell out – UNFICYP, UNMIK, DRC, BNUB, TCC, UNRCCA, MONUSCO, UNIOGBIS, UNFICYP, UNAMI. In addition, full debates will take place on thematic topics: sanctions in general, post-conflict peacebuilding, the whole of the Middle East, maintenance of international peace and security, and the protection of civilians. One has to be in love with the alphabet soup of international relations to follow the workings of the UN Security Council alone. Yet, if your knowledge of the UN comes simply from the media or from google, you might swear that the Israeli-Palestinian issue took up 90% of the UNSC’s time.

In a calculation of gains and losses among various scenarios interpreting the failure to pass the UNSC resolution on Palestine, Israel’s Foreign Minister Lieberman’s claimed that the failure “must teach the Palestinians that the provocations and attempts to force Israel into unilateral moves will not lead them to any gains – only the opposite.” This is sheer rhetoric. Because, whatever the alternative scenarios, none of them was intended to advance the cause of peace, only to advance the position of the Palestinians, in particular, of the Palestinian Authority, in the esteem of their own people and in the international game of diplomatic jockeying. For no deal is on the horizon with this Israeli government or its possible centre-left successor unless three issues are resolved: the status of the Old City; clarification that refugees will largely be compensated and how that compensation process will work, and, most importantly, on how security will be assured for Israel, an issue which has reached the highest in importance given what happened in Gaza after the Israelis withdrew and given the disintegration in general in the Middle East following the Arab Spring.

So gains sought are strategic, most importantly, relative to the shifting sands in the international community, particularly in Europe. That suggests that the third to fifth propositions appear on initial examination to be most relevant. However, since all Palestinian efforts were so strenuous and the Palestinian and Arab delegations expected to secure a majority of nine votes needed for passage of the resolution at the UN Security Council on 30 December 2014, all three are actually implausible because it would mean all the Arab delegation members were superior actors. Not one of them, let alone each and every one, is a Sadat. This pushes us back to proposition1 and possibly 2.

The plausibility of accepting proposition 1 as the correct explanation, that is, the failure to pass the proposed resolution was simply a Palestinian miscalculation, increases because the Palestinians waited to actually table the resolution until both France and Luxemburg had been persuaded to vote in favor of the final version of the resolution. The PA had then clearly calculated that they had the necessary nine votes to win. After all, their claims for momentum is plausible given the wind behind their sails as a result of European developments. Europe had become increasingly feisty about the inability of the USA to push forward a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. In addition to the EU itself passing a strong resolution by a very large majority in support of a two-state solution (498 to 88, with 111 abstentions), Sweden, the British Parliament, Ireland, Spain, Denmark and France had also passed such resolutions. These parliamentary votes on foreign policy issues are not binding on a country’s stance, hence Britain’s abstention. However, such votes do change the political climate.

Further, Israeli delegates at the UN indicated repeatedly that they were expecting the vote to pass by the minimum vote required and that the resolution would be vetoed by the U.S. Was this a feint to hide the knowledge that Nigeria would switch from the approval to the abstention column? It appeared that the Nigerian delegates did not know of the switch until the delegation received last minute instructions directly from Afula, the capital of Nigeria, to abstain. Why did the Palestinians not take this possibility into consideration? Had the Israelis played them to at least deliver a temporary and symbolic defeat?

That takes us to the other half of the story – the backroom manoeuvres to get Nigeria to change its vote. Here Avigdor Lieberman, so at odds with his clumsy rhetorical posturing and exercises in self-promotion, looms large. The Foreign Ministry of Israel in general and Lieberman in particular had targeted African states for diplomatic attention.  Back in September 2009, Lieberman traveled to Africa and visited Ethiopia, Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria and Uganda. In June 2014, Lieberman returned to Africa and visited Rwanda, the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Ethiopia, and Kenya, but, interestingly enough, not Nigeria. For by then, Netanyahu had established a personal relationship with President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria. The latter had visited Israel twice in 2014 alone, the last time in October 2014 when he flew in his private plane to join 3,000 Nigerian Christian pilgrims to Israel. At that time, he placed his own personal note in the Western Wall.  Netanyahu went out of his way to offer Jonathan a gracious welcome and the two, among other things, discussed Nigeria’s votes in the Security Council. Once Netanyahu knew that a vote was immanent in the Security Council, he phoned Jonathan personally to request that Nigeria abstain from supporting the Palestinian resolution in contrast to the usual pattern of Nigeria routinely voting for Palestinian resolutions.

So although Israel had been doing poorly on the diplomatic front in Europe, it had been developing friends and supporters in Africa, in particular in Rwanda, Nigeria and other African states facing the rising threat of radical Islam. Israel had been first off the mark to offer Nigeria help in combatting Boko Haram, President Jonathan’s most lethal internal domestic threat. Though John Kerry also phoned  President Goodluck to convince him to instruct his UN delegation to abstain in the UN Security Council vote on the Palestinian resolution, evidence suggests that he was not successful, not because John Kerry lacked persuasive powers, but because the U,S, has been so up-and-down in assisting Nigeria to fight Boko Haram.

A very brief background first. In 1995, when Ken Saro-Wiwa, leader of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni Peoples (SOP), opposed Shell Oil Company’s polluting the Niger Delta, Saro-Wiwa, along with eight others, was executed by the military rulers of Nigeria. Nigeria was suspended from the Commonwealth and an arms embargo was imposed by the EU and the USA. It was just after that suspension that we (a consortium of university research units and the office of the UN secretary-general) sent our first pilot early warning team to gather information on the struggle between the pro-democracy movement and the military rulers in the belief that the internal tensions might result in a civil war. To our surprise, we learned that the military rulers were strongly entrenched. More important, we learned of a nascent conflict, about which none of our Nigerian experts had any knowledge. A low-level conflict between Muslims and Christians in Nigeria was not only brewing; it was underway and was far more serious than all the inter-ethnic conflicts in that country (there are well over a 100 tribes and language groups). However, out exclusive funder, the government of Canada, decided that the information produced was not “actionable” and discontinued support. We would later revive the early warning effort in other African venues backed by American money.

Since that time, democracy was restored in Nigeria and sanctions were lifted by the beginning of this century, but the new focus in the last six years has not been on arms supplies, but on reinforcing democracy, integrity and good governance.  However, the religious conflict, largely propelled by an anti-Christian insurgency led by radical Muslims, grew. The most famous were attacks by Boko Haram founded in 2002. An estimated 5,000-15,000 civilians have been killed, mostly Christians, by Boko Haram. That terrorist organization reached its greatest infamy this past year with the kidnapping of 200 schoolgirls. After all its infamy, the UNSC finally, on 23 May 2014, imposed sanctions against Boko Haram to close off funding, travel and weapons to the group after attacks against two villages in Boro State killed 30 and twin blasts compounded their heinous crime of kidnapping the 200 girls by killing at least 118 people in a market in the central city of Jos. Samantha Power was a leading voice in pushing for sanctions in the Security Council against Boko Haram. After the unanimous vote, she boasted that, “Today, the Security Council took an important step in support of the government of Nigeria’s efforts to defeat Boko Haram and hold its murderous leadership accountable for atrocities.”

However, at the beginning of last month, the Nigerian government ended its U.S.-sponsored military training program in response to a decision by Washington not to sell Nigeria Cobra attack helicopters which Nigeria said it needed for its battle against Boko Haram. The U.S. explanation for its action: “concerns about Nigeria’s ability to use and maintain this type of helicopter in its effort against Boko Haram and ongoing concerns about the Nigerian military’s protection of civilians when conducting military operations.” James Entwistle, the American ambassador to Nigeria, added that complaints about human rights violations by Nigerian troops in the north-east of the country also were reasons. The United States blocked Nigeria’s ability to purchase any weapons for its military; the U.S refused to even consider the Nigerian military’s request for arms.

Yet in the spring, Samantha Power had said that, “The sanctions designation [for Boko Haram] is the latest step in the international community’s long-term effort to help Nigeria counter this terrorist threat.” SP continued, “We will continue doing everything we can to help the people of Nigeria bring back their girls, and we will work with the government of Nigeria to eliminate Boko Haram, including refuting their [Boko Haam’s] backwards and bloodthirsty ideology, because no child anywhere should ever be afraid to pursue a brighter future.” Helping in a rescue effort, refuting a militant ideology, but not supplying weapons to the government best equipped to fight Boko Haram. This was SP’s and the Obama administration’s strategy.

U.S. Ambassador Entwistle told the Nigerians that U.S. support was “unwavering”. Americaa’s interpretation of its unwavering support for Nigeria was bound to make Israel even more sceptical of America’s unwavering support for Israel. Support for the battle against Boko Haram takes many forms: military training, information sharing and supplying military equipment. Except re the latter, sometimes not. A part of Ambassador Entwistle’s rationale for the cancellation of the helicopter deal is worth quoting at length.

Over the years, the United States has always been willing to share appropriate military equipment with Nigeria.  That remains the case today but must be understood in the context of our global policy on arms transfers.  The U.S. government undertakes a rigorous evaluation process before proceeding with the sale of military equipment to any country, including Nigeria.  The U.S. Departments of State and Defense review all potential arms transfers for their consistency with U.S. policy and interests, as detailed in the U.S. Conventional Arms Transfer Policy.  This includes any requests from a country that we have sold or donated weapons to resell or donate those same weapons to another country, such as Nigeria.  We examine whether an arms transfer makes sense for the needs of the prospective country.  Part of our review considers whether equipment may be used in a way that could adversely affect human rights.

SP had traveled with Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, to Nigeria, as well as Bangui, Central African Republic (CAR) and Chad just two weeks before the 31 December vote, but the agenda did not include Nigeria’s vote on the Security Council on the Palestinian resolution which had been tabled on the day SP left for Africa. Instead, SP focused on promoting human rights and good governance as well as coordinating regional security. On the Security Council, SP clearly supports the Obama administration position of watching Israel’s backside while remaining critical of the front. But SP’s real heart is not in how to deal with state power or how to use diplomacy to win state support, but on rhetorical support for ideals – human rights, democracy, good governance.

So, in the end, the explanation is the simplest one available. The PA miscalculated and the Netanyahu administration, of all parties, outmaneuvered them.  The Palestinian offensive and the Israeli defense were synergistic. The US was totally sidelined in its preoccupation with human rights, democracy and good governance, all the issues dearest to my heart. But unless you also know how to play hardball, you are bound to be impotent even in advancing these ideals.

The emphasis on ideals is not just SP’s. It is that of the Obama Administration.

Tomorrow: Samantha Power on the Responsibility to Protect (R2P)


The Nigerian military is reported to be short of adequate munitions and ammunition. This past week, after capturing a military base in northeast Nigeria and using gasoline bombs and explosives, Boko Haram destroyed Baga, the last town in northern Borno under federal control, and burned down 16 villages. Estimated death toll – 2,000. Thousands of other Nigerians are trapped without food and water.