Nigeria must hold extremists accountable
October 4th, 2013
09:32 AM ET

Nigeria must hold extremists accountable

By Robert P. George, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Robert P. George is the chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). The views expressed are his own.

As Nigeria considers its future following this week’s celebration of its 53rd anniversary of independence, its leaders must confront a real and perhaps growing threat to the nation’s stability – Boko Haram. The radical Islamist group, whose name literally means “western education is a sin,” regards Nigeria’s federal and northern state governments, as well as the country’s political and religious elites, as morally corrupt. It rejects the West and secular democracy and seeks to implement its “pure” version of Shariah law. But overcoming the Boko Haram challenge will take more than a military response – it also requires an approach that addresses Nigeria’s tolerance of long-running sectarian violence, protects religious freedom and enforces rule of law.

For the past two years, Boko Haram has been the primary perpetrator of religious-related violence and gross religious freedom violations in Nigeria. In August of this year, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which I chair, issued a report highlighting the recent toll of Boko Haram’s targeted assaults on religious institutions and leaders.  The numbers are troubling.

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Topics: Africa • Nigeria
Can Nigeria's leaders do the right thing?
August 16th, 2013
10:56 AM ET

Can Nigeria's leaders do the right thing?

By Orji Uzor Kalu, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Orji Uzor Kalu is a former two-term governor of Nigeria’s Abia State and Chairman of SLOK Holdings. The views expressed are his own.

A deadly attack on a mosque in Konduga this week is a reminder of how Nigeria’s bright future is under threat from destabilizing conflict. News of the attack, which claimed dozens of lives and that many believe is the work of Islamist militant group Boko Haram, is just the latest in a string of troubling incidents that the government seems unable to come to grips with. In June, at least 30 people were reportedly killed in an attack on a school, an incident that came soon after a state of emergency was called in three states. This worrying surge in animosity, fuelled by sectarian violence, has left many Nigerians wondering if the government can regain control.

Sadly, our leaders look incapable of rising to the occasion. Nigeria is being crippled by political infighting, creating tensions that too often lead to unhelpful and even damaging rhetoric. Political immaturity, and our failure to address differences amongst our diverse communities, is hurting the nation’s reputation in the international community, and is undoubtedly deterring future investment.

This immaturity was on display last month, when police issued an arrest warrant for lawmaker Chidi Lloyd. His alleged crime? Attacking another lawmaker during a free-for-all in the chambers of the Assembly. Regardless of the rationale, we should be united in our condemnation of such events, and demand that our politicians show greater respect for the rule of law.

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Topics: Africa • Nigeria
Nigeria’s Hezbollah problem
June 14th, 2013
07:30 AM ET

Nigeria’s Hezbollah problem

By Dawit Giorgis, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Dawit Giorgis is a visiting fellow at Foundation for Defense of Democracies. The views expressed are his own.

Nigerian authorities last month arrested four Lebanese nationals in northern Nigeria on suspicion of having ties with Hezbollah. After a raid on one of their residences yielded a stash of weapons, including anti-tank weapons, rocket propelled grenades, and anti-personnel mines, the Nigerian State Security Services (SSS) announced that the compound was hosting a terrorist cell tied to the Lebanese Shia movement. The four accused have denied the charges, and are suing the government for wrongful detention. But even if they are found guilty, other Hezbollah nodes may well remain in Nigeria. The truth is that despite the thousands of miles that separate Nigeria from Lebanon, the country is faced with a growing threat from a Hezbollah doppelganger.

The Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) is a jihadist organization with strong support among the 5 million Shia Muslims, by some estimates, living in Nigeria. Founded in the early 1980s, it has flourished with cash, training and support from Iran. Indeed, the roots of the IMN can be traced to the immediate aftermath of the 1979 Iranian revolution, when Nigerian students belonging to the Muslim Student Society traveled to the Islamic Republic and were trained with the goal of establishing an Iranian-style revolution in Nigeria.

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Topics: Africa • Nigeria
March 7th, 2013
11:55 AM ET

Dreaming of a new Nigerian century

By Orji Uzor Kalu, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Orji Uzor Kalu is a former governor of Nigeria’s Abia State and Chairman of the G37, a non-partisan group proposing alternative policy options for Nigeria. The views expressed are his own.

Reports this week that some economists predict Nigeria will overtake South Africa as Africa’s largest economy, in GDP terms, in the next several years highlights how the country is at an inflection point in its great history.

Over the course of the last few years, the country’s spirit of entrepreneurship has stood at the heart of its integration into nearly every sector of global culture, finance and trade. The country is blessed with a bevy of natural resources and aspires to take its place amidst the BRIC nations. And, notwithstanding the seemingly perpetual squabbling, the country is increasingly looking for leaders that can ensure the government works for the people.

However, despite the dream of a new Nigerian century, citizens from all walks of life scattered across the globe would tell you that there is overwhelming concern when looking at the country’s future.

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Topics: Nigeria • Uncategorized
December 20th, 2012
03:30 PM ET

Boko Haram terror designation plan misses point

By Shobana Shankar, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Shobana Shankar is a visiting assistant professor in the History Department of Georgetown University. She is finalizing a book, ‘Who Shall Enter Paradise? Christian Missions and the Politics of Difference in Muslim Northern Nigeria.’ The views expressed are her own.

The violent Islamist group Boko Haram has escalated attacks throughout Northern Nigeria since last year, murdering civilians and destroying government and private property. Understandably concerned by news reports and appeals from the expatriate community, members of the U.S. Congress have proposed designating Boko Haram a foreign terrorist organization (FTO), a label that would trigger actions affecting business and aid that could hurt many Nigerians. It would also exacerbate religious tensions that Boko Haram itself has fomented, which all who seek peace in Nigeria must steadfastly contest if its people are to rid themselves of violence and fear.

Capitol Hill certainly has cause for concern. Attacks on Christian churches have intensified in the last six months, yet leading traditional Muslim leaders have not publicly condemned Boko Haram since May of this year, when the Sultan of Sokoto – one of Nigeria's most prominent Muslim leaders – denounced the group. No Muslim authority has emerged to clearly champion the rights of both Muslims and Christians to live together peacefully in Northern Nigeria. A great responsibility rests on the shoulders of Muslim leaders to speak out against Boko Haram at this critical moment.
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Topics: Nigeria
January 17th, 2012
10:45 AM ET

The end of Nigeria's strike may not calm oil markets

Editor's Note: John Campbell, the former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria from 2004 to 2007, is the Ralph Bunch Senior Fellow for Africa Policy Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

By John Campbell, Foreign Affairs

On New Year's Day, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan ended the country's decades-old federal petroleum subsidy, which had kept gasoline and other petroleum products available to Nigerians at substantially below market price. In days, a liter of gas more than doubled to 93 cents. Despite the country's abundance of crude oil (it extracts more than 2 million barrels a day), Nigeria lacks refining capacity and has to spend billions (in the first quarter of last year, $1.34 billion, to be exact) importing fuel not only for transportation, but also to power the diesel generators that provide much of the country's electricity. FULL POST

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Topics: Nigeria • Oil
January 10th, 2012
03:40 PM ET

Is a 'Nigerian Spring' next?

Editor's Note: Gordon Bottomley and Marina Grushin are Associates at Ergo, a global intelligence and advisory firm. Follow Ergo on Twitter.

By Gordon Bottomley and Marina Grushin  - Special to CNN

Is Nigeria headed for an Arab Spring-like uprising?

After a turbulent year that saw the collapse of regimes in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya, fears are mounting that the government of Africa’s most populous nation is at risk of being the first to fall in 2012 - and the first outside the MENA region. Two issues are currently intensifying these fears: mounting civil unrest over the removal of a long-standing subsidy on petroleum products, and a sustained insurgency led by radical Islamist terroristsFULL POST

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Topics: Nigeria • Oil
January 9th, 2012
09:28 AM ET

What is behind Nigeria fuel protests?

By Stephanie Busari, CNN

Nigeria, Africa's largest oil producer, ended oil subsidies on New Year's Day that had kept gasoline prices artificially low.

The cost of a liter of gasoline shot up from 65 naira (40 cents) to at least 141 naira (86 cents) virtually overnight.

Furious Nigerians have since taken to the streets, staging 'Occupy Nigeria' protests and mass demonstrations across the country.

Police have responded forcefully with many arrests. At least one person has died amid the unrest: 23-year-old student Muyideen Mustafa was allegedly hit by a police bullet in Ilorin, Kwara State, on January 03.

A police spokesman in Kano State also confirmed to CNN that they fired teargas into a crowd staging a midnight protest last weeka in order to disperse a largely peaceful demonstration by Muslims and Christians.

Read more here.

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Topics: Analysis • Nigeria