Could Boko Haram’s spread in northwest Nigeria increase opportunities for coordination between Islamist groups in the Lake Chad Basin and Sahel?
On 17 December, 344 schoolboys who had been abducted from their school dormitory in northwest Nigeria were suddenly released after six days in captivity. We saw emotional scenes of parents weeping as they hugged their little ones. Nigerians collectively sighed with relief.
However, the involvement of Boko Haram in the kidnapping is a reason for continued concern across the region. Since 2009, the Islamist militant group has killed an estimated 37,500 people, displaced over 2 million. It has mostly operated in northeast Nigeria, but also around the Lake Chad basin in Niger, Chad, and Cameroon.
Its emergence in Nigeria’s northwest – what would be new territory for it – is a worrying sign and was corroborated by Nigerian intelligence agencies and the US Special Operations Command in Africa in August 2020. There are indications that the Boko Haram faction led by Abubakar Shekau as well as those allied to al-Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State (IS) are all seeking to consolidate their presence in northwest Nigeria.