Nigeria | Boko Haram in Lagos?

Boko Haram is trying to expand its activities beyond Nigeria’s mainly Muslim north to include the commercial capital Lagos as well as other parts of the country. Nigeria’s intelligence agency says 12 members of the Islamist militant group have been arrested in Lagos since July, following a major operation in 2014 that investigated hundreds of suspected collaborators in Lagos.

Major news outlets have regularly tracked the six-year insurgency that Boko Haram has waged, mainly in the north-east of the country, in and around the city of Maiduguri in Borno state.

That Boko Haram are now claiming responsibility for a series of explosions in July that rocked Nigeria’s commercial hub – previously dismissed by the police as gas leak explosions – clearly identifies that the Islamic insurgents have managed to hit the country’s commercial center for the first time, thus creating an increasingly dangerous situation for locals and foreign visitors alike.

The Economist has clearly sounded its claxons on the changing situation in Lagos with their review: ‘Boko Haram lacks the capacity to wage a sustained war so far from home, so attacks would be sporadic. But that’s still enough to be a worry. That expectation of further violence will do little to make Lagos more attractive to foreign investors, who have enough challenges to deal with in the country without the additional threat of Islamist attacks.’

Though support for Boko Haram in Lagos is virtually non-existent, the group’s leader Abubaker Shekau has understood that attacking Lagos would undermine the credibility of new President Muhammadu Buhari who campaigned on a platform that included increased action against the long-running insurgency. As Lagos is the country’s commercial hub, any attack there has the potential to disrupt the economy and would any limit the government’s capacity for a crackdown on Boko Haram.

Certainly this means that security in Lagos will be ramped up – along with the tension accompanying the threat of violence. Additional security points are planned for the city with increasing scrutiny of activity and cargos at the port of Lagos, identified as an easy entry point for weapons, explosives and fighters.

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For companies doing business in Nigeria or for tourists visiting, the increased risk to personal safety is obvious. Much of the sprawling, chaotic city is off limits to tourists while many travel advisory sites warn simply of the danger of being out at night with carjacking and kidnapping highly typical of the dangers facing foreigners in Lagos.

Nigeria has the resources to beat Boko Haram if it was determined to do so. That barrier to doing so is that most of its staggering oil wealth is held by a small politically connected elite who remain insulated from Boko Haram’s terror tactics and seem almost indifferent to the war in the north. However, now that new President Muhammadu Buhari has indicated that he will allocate the Oil Ministry to himself and trace the billions lost to corruption, the signals that the tide against Boko Haram’s grip on the country are turning couldn’t be clearer.

Source: The Economist