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Boko Haram Attacks Spark Regional Concerns

Whether it is lack of political will or capacity, the Nigerian government has failed to address the threat that the Islamist insurgency Boko Haram poses to its country’s security.

The past week has been a particularly bloody one for Nigeria. Simultaneous attacks against This Day newspaper offices in Abuja and Kaduna killed nearly a dozen last week. Last weekend, gunmen attacked church services at Bayero University in Kano. Yesterday, the U.S. State Department released a statement emphasizing its concerns regarding continuous attacks against Christians. And on Monday, 11 people died in an IED attack against the police commissioner in Taraba State.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan who has frequently spoken out against Boko Haram, has ordered an increase in security throughout Abuja and the north, and has repeatedly attempted to negotiate

Boko Haram Attacks Spark Regional Concerns

Security forces view the scene of a bomb explosion at St. Theresa Catholic Church at Madalla, Suleja, just outside Nigeria's capital Abuja, December 25, 2011. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

with the group. However, Jonathan has yet to generate a strategy for addressing the security threat.

Nigerian civil societies, such as the Christian Association of Nigeria, are running low on patience. According to the group’s spokesman, Elder Sunday Oibe:

It seems that the government of [Nigeria] led by Goodluck Jonathan is helplessly looking on, always telling us that security men are on top of the situation.… We are telling President Goodluck Jonathan if he has not done anything to put an end to this madness, then, he should now that there is trouble in his hand.

Nigerians are not the only ones fearing for their security. Speaking at the Lake Chad Basin Commission, Chad’s autocratic Muslim leader Idriss Deby Itno demanded the creation of a joint deterrence force to stop Boko Haram before the group spreads it influence throughout the region: “Now is the time for action. We cannot save Lake Chad without eradicating this Boko Haram sect.” President of the Central African Republic Francois Bozize echoed Itno’s assertion: “A joint effort is needed to tackle insecurity in the region.”

Regional concerns are not unfounded. Boko Haram militants are known to have received training and resources from al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and al-Shabab in Somalia. Furthermore, documents recovered from Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad residence in Pakistan reportedly reveal that Boko Haram has been in contact with core members of al-Qaeda. Considering the latest instability throughout the Sahel, the opportunity for extremist groups to take advantage of the power vacuum is apparent.

It’s past time that Jonathan and his administration start taking Boko Haram seriously. Ignoring the problem will result only in escalating attacks and regional instability.



Morgan Roach

Morgan Roach is a Research Associate in the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom and the Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation. She currently works on transatlantic relations, Middle Eastern and African affairs. She received her MSc. in European Studies from the London School of Economics and her B.A. in Government from Sweet Briar College.