Nigeria Seeks Help From Chad In Fighting Boko Haram
Bloomberg Business has made an overview of Nigeria’s cooperation with neighbouring countries in battling against Islamist group Boko Haram, which has endangered the country for 6 years already.
While awaiting the "postponed" elections, Nigeria, the largest economy in Africa, has resorted to the help of the poorer Chad in an attempt to eliminate Boko Haram.
The Chadian army went into the battle with Boko Haram last month, releasing the northeastern Nigerian town Gamboru from the rebels.
Murtala Touray, senior Africa analyst at IHS (Information Handling Services), a London-based agency providing, among other things, information on defence and security, country risk, engineering and overall operational excellence, describes Chadian military forces as profoundly experienced in dealing with insurgents after successful operations in Mali and Eastern Chad.
The Nigerian army, costing almost $6 billion annually (nearly half the value of Chad’s economy) is considered to be much less experienced. The population of Nigeria averages 170 million, and it is 14 times bigger than Chad's. According to the IMF, Nigeria's GDP is approximately $522 billion, and Nigeria’s purchasing power is 3 times bigger than that of Chad's.
“It’s a sad fact that this is bound to emphasize some of the limitations of the Nigerian military, and there are now plenty of people inside the army who can see how bad all this looks,” James Hall, a former UK military attache to Nigeria, describes the situation.
In 2014, Boko Haram killed more than 4,700 people, mainly in the northern regions, doubling the number of 2013 casualties, according to data from UK-based risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft.
On Thursday, at least 7 people died and 15 were injured in a suicide bomb attack at a market in the northeastern town of Biu.
Nigerian military spokesman Chris Olukolade, however, denied that Chadian forces were playing the key role in the attack.
“It is the Nigerian forces that planned and are driving the present onslaught against terrorists from all fronts not the Chadian or other forces as propagated by the Western and some local media. The Chadians are however keying very well into and working in concert within the overall plan for an all-round move against the terrorists.”
Former president Olusegun Obasanjo said on Wednesday that Boko Haram's growth could be attributed to the Jonathan-led administration's failure to respond adequately. “That can only be as a result of inadequate action, both in terms of stick and carrot”.
Analysts say that the demoralised and ill-armed Nigerian soldiers have also contributed to the fiasco.
In December 2014, 54 soldiers were sentenced to death by Nigeria's military court for “conspiracy to commit mutiny”, following 12 death sentences in September in the northeastern state of Borno.
“There is a complete disincentive for them to fight,” Touray said.
Support From Neighbors
Nigeria, Chad, Benin, Niger and Cameroon are planning to build an 8,700-strong force to fight Boko Haram and base it in Chad's capital N’Djamena.
However, Chad’s participation involves risks after its withdrawal from the multinational force in the Central African Republic over its alleged use of violence towards local residents in Bangui in March. Chad, however, has denied the allegations.
“The Chadian army has always benefited from a certain image of being hardened desert warriors,” Marielle Debos, a professor at the University of Paris said. “But this shouldn’t hide the violence they have often been accused of, and the impunity that their leaders benefit from.”
Professor Alex Thurston at Georgetown University assumes that Chadian President Idriss Deby may benefit from fighting Boko Haram.
“Idriss Deby has been in power in Chad since 1990 and faced severe rebellions against his rule, particularly in 2006 and 2008, and relied on French assistance to overcome those challenges,” he said. “He’s had an incentive to present himself as someone who is vital to keep peace and stability in the wider region.”