Is Lagos next?

Although it is extremely hard to predict the actions of a terrorist group such as Boko Haram, Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, may be a looming target.

The organization’s capacity and ambition have grown swiftly, probably due to assistance from extremist groups in the Maghreb, Somalia, or farther afield.

And, as I wrote in December,

The country’s weak institutions make it ill-prepared to deal with threats like this. It is unlikely to have the capacity to meet the challenge. Expect more attacks in the coming months.


Boko Haram’s Christmas present to Nigeria

The radical Islamist group Boko Haram obviously does not like Christmas:

Five bombs exploded on Christmas Day at churches in Nigeria, one killing at least 27 people, raising fears that Islamist militant group Boko Haram – which claimed responsibility – is trying to ignite sectarian civil war.

Gun battles between security forces and the sect also killed at least 68 people in the last few days in northern Nigeria. Earlier this year, the Islamists struck the capital, Abuja, twice, including a suicide car bomb attack against the United Nations headquarters that killed 26 people.

Nigeria has stark ethnic and religious divisions and a history of Muslim-Christian violence. Such attacks are unlikely to improve matters.

Unfortunately, the country’s weak institutions make it ill-prepared to deal with threats like this. It is unlikely to have the capacity to meet the challenge. Expect more attacks in the coming months.

Illiteracy in Nigeria: the Facebook solution

Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan has hit upon an innovative idea for tackling illiteracy in Africa: publish a book of Facebook chats. His Facebook chats. With the thousands of people who read and comment on his surprisingly frequent Facebook updates (recent posts tell us what a great job he is doing on attracting foreign investment, reopening textile mills, strengthening the aviation sector, containing the crisis in the Ivory Coast (one of his less robust claims), easing tensions in the North (another premature boast) and, perhaps his most astonishing feat if it’s true, eradicating fuel scarcity).

Such a book, Mr Jonathan believes, will ‘revive a reading culture in Nigeria.’ With over a quarter of adult Nigerians unable to read and write, and with the country’s education system recently described by the IMF as ‘dysfunctional,’ efforts to promote literacy are sorely needed. Many of the president’s Facebook friends are in raptures over this visionary move (you will no doubt find some of their comments in the book). ‘Thank you sir for this new development may God bless you and multiply you wisdom to lead 9ger,’ wrote one. ‘Reading maketh a man,’ mused another. ‘In reviving the reading culture, you will make a nation. Keep it up my President.’ Another fan, seemingly oblivious to the misdeeds of Mr Jonathan’s predecessors, wrote, ‘My President this is a wonderful innovation cos without it it means our leaders are going extinct.’ (more…)

Are West Africa’s Islamic extremists beginning to coalesce?

In a talk I gave at Demos early last year, I wondered whether Islamic extremists in different parts of West Africa, who had hitherto acted in isolation, might one day join up to become a cohesive pan-regional force.

Now it seems that Al Qaeda in the Maghreb, whose activities have centered on Mauritania, Algeria and Mali, is making efforts to link up with Nigeria’s Boko Haram movement, now imaginatively renamed the Taliban, to create a broad-based West African terror group.

AFP reports that AQIM’s leader has told his Nigerian brothers that, “We are ready to train your sons on how to handle weapons, and will give them all the help they need – men, weapons, ammunition and equipment – to enable them to defend our people and push back the Crusaders.” So far, negotiations remain at a fledgling stage, but the intent is there and, given the region’s notoriously porous borders, so too are the means.

UKTI admits to pimping out British embassies


UK Trade and Investment’s Mike Gavin has been caught on camera by Heydon Prowse dishing out the following advice to a company offering ‘security’ services:

“You can also use that embassy to present your company. So you can invite people to a reception or a presentation. Again, you pay for the room but it’s all arranged for you,” he said.

“There is a perception that you’re endorsed by the government because it’s a government building. Of course it’s crap, we don’t.

“All we do is due diligence to check that you’re not going to appear in theTelegraph on Sunday embarrassing the hell out of the British Government.”

He explained that in countries such as Nigeria using the embassy was the “easiest way to get everybody together”.

Prowse asked: “Because of the security situation?”

Mr Gavin replied: “No, because in places like Nigeria they love to show off that they have got this card from the British Embassy, it’s got Ambassador invites, British Government logo and they say ‘Look I’m going to a garden party’.

“It’s all bollocks, but everybody in Nigeria wants one because they want to be seen getting out of the car, going into the High Commissioner’s office. It’s all perception and that’s part of what you don’t have at the moment.”