Nigerian school-girl kidnappings done by radical anti-oil-anti-West Islamic group, Boko Haram

Nigerian States which have some form of Sharia Law,
as of December 2006.
Source: Wikimedia

A couple weeks ago over 200 young Nigerian girls were kidnapped from the Government Girls Secondary School in the Chibok area of the north-eastern state of Borno and then apparently sold as slave-wives to Islamist fighters/insurgents.  Since LongTailPipe isn’t a politics blog, what’s the “transportation” connection?  It’s that the insurgent group responsible, Boko Haram, has been, in addition to working to create rabidly fundamentalist Islamic Sharia rule, fighting oil interests in Northern Nigeria.  In other words, Boko Haram is an anti-oil terrorism group.

The LongTailPipe blog advocates for the end of fossil oil consumption, because of the full consequences of our collective addiction to oil.  In this case, the consequence appears to be the kidnapping and slavery of young women by a group with a history of extreme violence against encroachment by the West.

The Guardian of London has a good overview of the kidnapping, and tells how Nigerians are trying on their own to rescue the girls because the Government has been ineffective at combating the group or rescuing the girls.   According to that report, 230 girls were kidnapped and some have managed to escape.  The girls were sold as “brides” to Islamist fighters for $12 apiece.

That report says Boko Haram has repeatedly attacked official schools, setting buildings on fire, killing students in their sleep, and more. The name literally means “western education is forbidden”.

Nigerian States in which Boko Haram have staged
attacks, as of July 2013
Source: Wikimedia

Okay, these guys are nasty, but what about the anti-oil-terrorism connection?  The Daily Independant, a Nigerian newspaper, has an excellent report going over this.   The Boko Haram Wikipedia page is also worth a read.

Oil and Gas prospecting in the Chad Basin (the area that used to be Lake Chad) is showing promising results. But, oil company operations are under continual attack so severe that the the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) announced oil industry activities in that area are retrogressing.

A military “Joint Task Force” is now in operation allowing oil companies to resume work, after they’d suspended oil exploration due to the attacks.  Cost for the task force was $75 million (US) in 2012 and $100 million in 2013.

Boko Haram was founded in 2001 by Mohammed Yusuf to establish a “pure” Islamic state ruled by sharia law, putting a stop to what it deems “westernisation.”  The group has been attacking Christians, government targets, churches, police, kidnapping western tourists, and even attacking other Islamics.  Deaths from Boko Haram violence number over 10,000 between 2001-2013.

However, it may be the group is partially a response to ethnic clashes inside Nigeria. Nigerian law allows regional political leaders broad freedom to qualify people as “indigenes” (original inhabitants), a designation that determines whether citizens can participate in politics, own land, obtain a job, or attend school.  While this is an interesting counterpart to indigenous rights in places like the U.S., in Nigeria it appears Muslims are disproportionally denied indigenes status.

It may also be thast Boko Haram’s Mohammed Yusuf believed there was a campaign of “ethnic cleansing” by Plateau State governor Jonah Jang against the Hausa and Fulani people.

The situation is so bad that in 2012 Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) warned that the Nigerian government might effectively abandon Northern Nigeria. They evoked the ghost of Yugoslavia, which dissolved in a violent civil war wracked by ethnic divisions, claiming the same could happen in Nigeria.

In other words, this is much more complex than just a radical fundamental Islamic group.

That the group is actively attacking oil facilities is clear with a simple Google search:

Deaths in suicide attacks in north Nigeria – Suspected Boko Haram suicide bombers kill at least 15 people in attack on state oil company facility in Borno state. – April 2, 2014, Al Jazeera and another report by Reuters.

Nigeria’s Boko Haram Threatens Oil Refineries, Muslim Clerics – Feb 20, 2014, Voice of America.  Says an attack by the group killed over 60 people in the town of Bama, a place Boko Haram has repeatedly attacked.

Boko Haram chief threatens attacks in Nigeria’s oil region – Islamist leader Abubakar Shekau warns Nigeria Boko Haram will attack the oil producing Niger Delta in an escalation of bloody campaign – Feb 20, 2014, South China Morning Post.  A Boko Haram leader had posted a video online boasting the group would attack oil facilities in the Niger Delta, well outside their usual operation area in the North.  The group is not limited in the area they can operate, he claimed.  He also said they are attacking anyone who practices “democracy” because “whoever follows democracy is an infidel.”

Algeria Attack Poses a Dilemma for Western Oil Companies – Jan 19, 2013,  While Boko Haram wasn’t involved in this specific attack, in which 23 oil company workers were killed during an attack on an oil facility in Algeria, the group has a loose connection.  Both are part of a larger scale backlash against encroachment by the West into these regions.  Both are fundamentalist Islamic groups that may be part of a broader cluster of radical Islamic activity.  Finally, Nigeria’s military sent some troops to join a French-led war in Mali against other Islamic groups.  The group in Algeria claimed to have done this in retribution to events in Mali.

Toll From Nigeria Capital Bombing Rises to 18 Dead, 80 Wounded – May 2, 2014, NDTV, Agence-France Presse.  The group is responsible for a couple horrific attacks near the capital of Nigeria.  While this attack wasn’t directly linked to an Oil Industry anything, it comes a week before a World Economic Forum meeting in Nigeria next week.  In other words, the group is looking to disrupt a meeting of Western economic forces.

British hostage killed in Nigeria: latest – All the latest developments after a British hostage Chris McManus was killed in a Special Forces operation to free him from al-Qaeda aligned kidnappers in Nigeria. – March 8, 2012, The Telegraph.   Boko Haram had kidnapped a pair of Engineers, one from England the other from Italy, who were working on building a “Bank Building” in Northeast Nigeria.  British Special Forces staged a raid to rescue the two, but they were accidentally killed during the rescue attempt.  While this isn’t directly related to Oil Industry anything, it’s clearly related to presence of Western institutions in Nigeria.

Terrorists Dampen Oil Hopes In Nigeria’s Lake Chad Basin – March 17, 2014, E&P Magazine.  This piece discusses a wave of violence committed not only by Boko Haram, but another Nigerian Islamic group, Ansaru.  Both have been attacking oil interests, and oil company geologists, technical personnel, and other workers, have stopped working in Northern Nigeria because of the risk.  That’s had the effect of slowing oil & gas exploration.

B’Haram stalls oil search in Chad Basin – March 6, 2014, Punch Nigeria.  At a meeting of the Nigerian Senate Committee on Petroleum (Upstream), Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Mr. Andrew Yakubu spoke about difficulties in conducting oil industry operations with repeated attacks by Boko Haram.  Oil industry workers have collected “aero-magnetic” readings in the Chad basin and elsewhere, and are aiming to produce 2.44 million barrels of crude oil per day in 2014 from that area.  But, there are 13 phases to developing the region, and work is stuck in phase six, and Boko Haram activities have kept work stuck at that stage.

NNPC to increase crude oil reserves, production – April 28, 2014, The Guardian.  The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) is bravely claiming they’ll increase oil production to 4 million barrels a day, and that they’ll be able to claim a larger amount of oil reserves as a result of geological mapping.

I think there’s more that can be found, but we have a clear pattern here.  Boko Haram, in its zeal to rid Nigeria of Western influence, is attacking all kinds of things, including oil industry infrastructure and workers.

It’s likely the group doesn’t itself hate Oil, but are looking to rid Nigeria of outside influence, and the Oil industry is a big example of outside influence.  I’d think that if these radical fundamentalist Islam people who call themselves Boko Haram were actually in power, that they’d try to develop the oil fields because doing so is a large pile of revenue.  But they might have a hard time doing so without the aid of Western oil companies.

I’m going to go out on a limb and claim this is an example of “blowback”.  That is, negative reaction by local people to outside interference.  The West is so desperate for Oil that political manipulation stuff is required for Western oil companies to have the ability to work in any place which has Oil deposits.

Collectively we in the west get to drive around in fancy cars and enjoy all kinds of creature comforts because fossil fuels are a tremendous energy resource.  But the oil fields in Western countries have largely gone dry, meaning that to keep up the game of modern civilization powered by fossil fuels, the Oil companies have to go further and further afield to get the Oil.  It’s clear that Nigeria is one of those places.

Recently on LongTailPipe we’ve covered how the Oil companies are looking to drill in the Arctic despite not having credible plans to handle disasters, the plausibility that the overthrow of Ukraine’s government is because the West wants to frack Ukraine’s shale deposits to get Natural Gas for Europe, the US State Department is pushing to export Fracking technology to any country with shale deposits, and that Romania is one of the first countries to receive this technology.

All this is symptomatic of how Western Oil Fields (Europe and North America) have largely gone dry.  The remaining oil is in other countries, rather than Europe or North America, and that political manipulation of the countries which have Oil creates radicalization against The West.

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.
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About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

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