April 28

Nigerian Finance Minister Indicates New Counterinsurgency (COIN) Focus

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
Ahead of the 24th World Economic Forum on Africa in Abuja Nigeria, Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, recently acknowledged the fact that Boko Haram has become a serious menace which may threaten the nation’s economic growth. One could take this acknowledgement in a negative way; using it is as proof that Boko Haram has become a symptom of a disease that Nigeria cannot cure. However, this recent acknowledgement may be just the opposite; proof that the Jonathan regime is finally ready to take the necessary steps to combat the growing insurgency.

Besides noting that Boko Haram was responsible for reducing the country’s GDP by half a percentage point last year, Okonjo-Iweala recently stated that, “We recognize that this is an inclusion problem … the fact that the human development indicators in that part of the country are among the lowest,” (Fletcher, 2014). This statement may not seem very significant on the surface. However, this is the first time the Jonathan administration has recognized that the Boko Haram insurgency is largely exacerbated by a large sense of disenfranchisement amongst northern Muslims (especially in the northern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa). Okonjo-Iweala noted that the Jonathan administration has begun to implement a host of new measures aimed at stomping out Boko Haram, including increased spending on counterinsurgency (COIN) measures, military recruitment, and, something quite new; investment in the northern states with the aim of reducing poverty and promoting development (Fletcher, 2014).

While all the newly implemented measures are certainly going to make it much more difficult for Boko Haram to conduct its operations, investment in the northern states will be instrumental as it will set the stage for a much more effective counterinsurgency campaign; one which will most likely have a tremendous impact on the operational capabilities of Boko Haram. So far, Boko Haram has managed to stay afloat due to a large amount of support the group receives from disenfranchised northern Muslims, who have become frustrated with the lack of investment in the north and the Jonathan administration’s reliance on heavy handed tactics to deal with the group. Should the Nigerian government begin to invest in the north it may be able to eliminate the underlying factors which have contributed to Boko Haram’s success.

However, while integrating northern Muslims into mainstream Nigerian society through investment in the north is an essential task that must be undertaken to target the root of the insurgency, this investment must be accompanied by the simultaneous targeting of key Boko Haram leaders and financers of the group, the establishment of a uniform legal system throughout Nigeria, the disbarment of politicians who are using Boko Haram as a means to accomplish political objectives, investment in a state security apparatus which is capable of protecting Nigeria’s citizens and increased regional cooperation with other countries such as Cameroon, Niger and Chad to help stem financial support for Boko Haram and eliminate its safe havens. Should all these measures take place simultaneously, Boko Haram’s operational capacity will be seriously degraded to the point where it may find itself unable to survive.
The fact is, Nigeria has an enormous amount of potential. It is currently the continent’s largest economy, largest oil producer and the continent’s second largest recipient of FDI. Should its recent COIN efforts prove effective in both the long and short terms, Nigeria’s economy may experience a subsequent boost; potentially allowing it to surpass its projected growth rate, which is estimated to remain between 5 and 7 percent in 2014 (Fletcher, 2014) (World Economic Forum, 2014). Should this trend continue, Nigeria will become the continent’s economic hegemon. However, Nigeria’s full potential will only be realized if the Nigerian government manages to adopt and implement an effective COIN policy; something it appears to have begun by acknowledging the need to invest in the northern states. With Nigerian elections approaching in February 2015, it will be essential that Jonathan and any potential predecessors continue to pursue an effective COIN policy in order to ensure Nigeria’s future economic prosperity.

Bibliography

Fletcher, P. (2014, April 28). Nigeria can handle Boko Haram, part of ‘raw democracy’, says minister. Retrieved from Reuters: http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/04/28/us-nigeria-security-idUSBREA3R0PG20140428

World Economic Forum. (2014). World Economic Forum on Africa. Retrieved from World Economic Forum: http://www.weforum.org/events/world-economic-forum-africa-0