Can booming Nigeria contain Boko Haram?

Despite Nigeria's renewed military effort and international help, Boko Haram seems to be growing in strength and beginning to administer territory de facto in Nigeria.

Joe Penney/Reuters
People walk by the National Arts Theatre stop of the light rail system under construction in Lagos, Nigeria, May 30. Started in 2009 to ease traffic, Lagos state government is building a rail system with the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation. The first test runs should start in 2015.

In its southwest corner, Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos is booming, but even the country’s own military fears to tread in parts of the country’s northeast.

The Boko Haram extremist group continues to mount attacks in northeastern states like Borno, Yobe, Adamawa and beyond despite the government’s imposition of a state of emergency and offers of help from the United States, United Kingdom, France, and China to help with the crackdown on the group.

Despite rapid economic growth that’s allowed it to overtake South Africa as the continent’s largest economy, Nigeria is beginning to confront the reality that its government has lost control of parts of its northeast to Boko Haram, says Monitor Global Outlook’s correspondent in the capital, Abuja.

“There are certainly places that the military can’t go. There are also stories of towns being taken over,” our correspondent says. “There is evidence that at least they are making it too dangerous for the military to operate in [some areas].”

April’s mass abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls from the northeastern town of Chibok brought international attention to the group. But despite a renewed military effort and international help, the group seems to be, if anything, growing in strength and perhaps beginning to administer territory de facto in Nigeria.

In the local government area of Kala Balge, villagers reportedly killed 200 Boko Haram fighters last month and then fled after Boko Haram retaliated. The villagers who came back were met by Boko Haram, asking them to let them run their villages, our correspondent says.

The tactic smacks of those used by Al Qaeda in the Maghreb when it took over parts of northern Mali after a coup in 2012.

However, it’s unclear how close Boko Haram is to Al Qaeda and its affiliate, and what they would do with territory if they do indeed manage to run the government out of the northeastern districts, our correspondent says.

“They’ve never done anything before to indicate that they have any interest in anything outside of Nigeria,” our correspondent says. “If they really did become closely allied, they would strengthen the militant groups in the rest of the region.”

Nigeria has been down this road before. Prior to the imposition of the state of emergency in May 2013, Boko Haram had succeeded in taking over villages in the northeast.... For the rest of the story, continue reading at our new business publication Monitor Global Outlook.

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