This article is a section from a report “Investing in Nigeria” and shall be viewed in the context of the title. Please view the report for more information on the subject as well as references for this article.
Boko Haram in the North
It should be recognized that terrorism in Nigeria is a problem, however it’s regional and is not a nationwide threat. The cause of terrorism in Nigeria is economic inequality and terrorists are active in the regions where not much economic activity is happening. A lot of the fundamentals for economic growth and activity are lacking in the North, this makes the north of Nigeria a perfect base for organization such as Boko Haram to rise.
Boko Haram is not considered Muslim by the vast majority of Muslims in Nigeria and it’s very common for Muslim leaders to speak against Boko Haram publicly. The Nigerian population considers Boko Haram an inhumane terrorist organization, rather than a religious group.
The civilian casualty numbers from the attacks are quite high, this is due to Boko Haram attacking isolated villages and using forms of guerrilla warfare. Apart from isolated weak villages, Boko Haram targets religious sites, state infrastructure and in some instances Nigerian security forces.
There have been records of the Nigerian army being afraid to intervene due to Boko Haram being better armed than the army, this was more the case in 2014 however, as Boko Haram was successfully repelled in early 2015 with allied efforts of the neighboring countries of Niger, Chad and Cameroon.
There has been a new wave of Boko Haram attacks, many argue as part of reprisal attacks.
The anxieties induced to the villages by Boko Haram has lead the villagers to take matters in their own hands by forming vigilante groups. Some have successfully repelled attacks from Boko Haram and there have been instances of villagers fighting with arrows and bolts. This indicates that Boko Haram is not as well armed as thought and the perceived success of Boko Haram is due to isolated attacks on civilians that get covered over the media.
There have been instances of crowds of civilians apprehending and beating suicide bombers to death. The intelligence agencies have been able to stop some attacks in the Southern states of Nigeria.
Negative investment sentiment due to terrorism
The attacks of Boko Haram are well covered in domestic and international media, increasing negative investment sentiment over Nigeria. Terrorism is often one of the first concerns when considering Nigeria as an investment destination.
The missing 200 school girl’s case made awareness of terrorism in Nigeria international. Internationally, Boko Haram has been perceived as seizing territory and going the way of ISIL. This perception is mostly driven by the media coverage and cases such as the 200 schoolgirls, without viewing the impact of Boko Haram critically.
Real impact by Boko Haram
There have been a large number of civilian casualties, more than 10,000 people have been killed by Boko Haram since 2009 and 1.5 million have been left homeless. Boko Haram increases the uncertainly and stagnation of the North and should be dealt with an urgency.
Nationwide, the driving engine of the economy is the South where Boko Haram has no impact.
Boko Haram is impacting the economic and business activities in Nigeria only in specific instances, such as if the business relays on sourcing in the north. Some impact has been felt by logistics firms, the truck drivers know their way around in the north and to avoid trouble, but this has increased the length of time each lorry takes to travel between the North and the South. It used to be 5 days, now its 8-9 days. This has increased the costs of each truck and decreased the profitability of each lorry on the road.
To increase the economic condition in the North, some corporations have announced plans to invest money in agricultural and manufacturing plants, to create jobs.
The long term impact might be felt in non-improving education levels in the North, as Boko Haram is against western education in its root ideology and has been attacking schools. This might lead to decreased popularity of education due to students facing the fear of vulnerability of Boko Haram attacks.
Accusations of association
There has been accusations of military officers providing information and weapons to Boko Haram fighters. While the Nigerian military has denied the allegations, a government minister tacitly acknowledged the fact and stated in a BBC interview that the problem officers had been identified. There was a record of a Nigerian businessman who was arrested on charges of helping Boko Haram to plan several attacks and then joining local pro-government vigilante group to gather information.
Considering the Nigerian political landscape and the fact that there is little to non-existing rationale for individual dealings with an inhumane, unsustainable terrorist group driven by poverty, a case could be made that Boko Haram is used as a way to opportunistically incriminate ones political, military or business opponents.
Boko Haram was the main reason the 2015 elections got postponed for 6 weeks, some argue this was done for the PDP to gain more time to gain votes.
There is generally a tendency by politicians and even business people to put blame onto anything else than themselves. Boko Haram is the perfect scapegoat to blame the problems in the North to. One of the interviewees for this report told me of an instance where this was the case – a conference where a top level African nation government executive blamed terrorists for issues terrorists did not cause.
Boko Haram has little impact on the Nigerian nationwide economy and businesses. Their attacks are brutal and high in casualties, so they gain international media coverage.
Investment funds should put emphasis on investment relations, explaining and providing details of Boko Haram to their investors in case of another internationally covered brutal attack or any negative evolvements of the 200 schoolgirl’s case.
Investors should view Boko Haram for what it is – an inhumane terrorist group driven by poverty, destabilizing a few Northern states and leaving some impact on sourcing from the North, instead of making decisions based on media coverage or politician statements.