Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Economic neglect, corruption fuel militants

Globe and Mail (SA)
30 August 2011

geoffrey york

The latest horrific terrorist bombing in Nigeria is focusing attention on the economic neglect of the northern half of the country, the apparent breeding ground of the militants who launched the attacks.

The widespread poverty in northern Nigeria, largely excluded from the country’s oil wealth, is a key reason for the social unrest that fuels the growing strength of Boko Haram, the radical Islamist group that claimed responsibility for last week’s attack on the United Nations headquarters in Abuja. The bombing killed at least 23 people and signaled a new escalation in terrorism in Nigeria.

By some measures, Nigeria’s economy is booming. With its vast oil resources, and its forecast growth of more than 6 per cent annually for years to come, Nigeria could overtake South Africa as the biggest economy in sub-Saharan Africa within the next 15 years. Multinational companies are scrambling to establish a foothold in the country, the most populous on the continent.

Yet the oil wealth is poorly distributed, offering little hope for impoverished regions like the Muslim north. Nigeria’s huge potential has been sabotaged by one massive problem: corruption. Its oil revenue is monopolized by a tiny elite of well-connected political insiders, leaving only a small fraction for the north.

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