Nigeria: Shettima Ali Monguno, Boko Haram, Oil, and Amnesty

Shettima Ali Monguno (b. 1926), of Borno State, is a former oil minister. On Friday May 3, gunmen kidnapped Monguno at Mafoni mosque in Maiduguri after congregational prayers. An account of the kidnapping, which includes a biography of Monguno, is here.

Maiduguri is the epicenter of violence associated with the Muslim sect Boko Haram. Most observers suspect Boko Haram of organizing the kidnapping. Boko Haram showed relatively little inclination toward kidnapping for much of the period since its latest guerrilla campaign began in 2010, but the sect appears to have turned more systematically to kidnappings in recent months, partly in order to obtain ransom payments.

Monguno was released yesterday, possibly after a payment anonymously reported as some $318,000. Notably, this amount is much less than the $3 million ransom that Boko Haram reportedly received for the release of a French family that had been kidnapped in Cameroon.

I want to make two points in this post. First, I do not think the kidnapping of Monguno signals a growing threat from Boko Haram to Nigeria’s oil industry. Monguno served as oil minister from 1972-1975 and is currently retired; my conjecture is that the kidnappers targeted him because he is a prominent northeasterner, because they hoped to obtain a ransom, and possibly because he is chairman of the Borno Elders Forum. I do not believe the kidnappers seized him a message to the oil industry. It is always possible that Boko Haram’s activities will spread into the far south, and several suspected members of the sect were arrested in Lagos in March, but I would still at this point be surprised to see Boko Haram attacks in the Niger Delta.

Second, I do think the kidnapping further complicates the politics surrounding efforts to create an amnesty program for Boko Haram. President Goodluck Jonathan’s Committee on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution of Security Challenges in the North, inaugurated April 24, has already caused controversy. Monguno’s kidnapping may weaken some Nigerians’ hopes that amnesty is possible. One member of the Northern Elders Forum told the press that Monguno’s kidnapping represented an effort to sabotage plans for amnesty. While the committee will undoubtedly be heartened by Monguno’s release, the prospect of further kidnappings and ransom payments casts a shadow over the committee’s ongoing deliberations, and may even scare individual members. In my view some form of dialogue will be necessary to end the Boko Haram crisis, but movement toward dialogue faces daunting political and security barriers.

7 thoughts on “Nigeria: Shettima Ali Monguno, Boko Haram, Oil, and Amnesty

  1. Any sense what the cause of the kidnappings is? Have they found it harder to raise money from traditional sources or they need more now? Alternatively, is the lure of easily obtaining the money too great a lure? The first two are interesting, but the third might actually suggest an eventual splintering and weakening of the organization if it starts becoming too criminal.

    • Great questions. I haven’t had a chance to look systematically at the kidnappings yet, but I imagine money and organizational fragmentation are both major factors. And I agree that kidnapping might spur further fragmentation.

      • What if these kidnappings are by criminal elements that have nothing to do with Boko Haram? Not everything in North East Nigeria is due to “Islamic terrorists”.

        There are far too many unemployed young men & kidnapping is endemic in other parts of Nigeria (N.E Nigeria is still part of Nigeria & subject to the same influences).

        Secondly, Boko Haram does not deserve an “amnesty”, it would be a waste of Nigeria’s resources. Please read this: http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/A/AF_NIGERIA_WEAPONS_OF_WAR?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT

      • It’s true that there have been cases of criminals committing crimes that were blamed on political militants (either from poorly informed reporters or from politicians trying to bolster their arguments), and it’s entirely possible that the majority of high profile cases were regular criminals, but this case seems to actually involve Boko Haram. Whether it’s a sporadic thing or an accepted tactic could decide a lot.

    • J Moglen and other Peace Corps Volunteers met the former Minister of Petroleum very briefly in 1965. At the time, he was Minister of Education and worked so diligently to provide educational opporunities for his Nigerian friends and families.

  2. Boko Haram kidnapping a former-‘has been’- minister of petroleum from the 60s/70s doesn’t affect the oil fields in the far south. If anything they have a long list of militias and the military to contend with before getting to the mangrove swamps which they know absolutely nothing about. Mind you if there’s any threat to the industry it is the wealthy Delta militias that have enjoyed government patronage through the emergence of their kinsman as President and the sale of illegaly obained crude oil. The Boko haram issue is taking place in the northeast section of the country, a world away from the oil fields. Both things do not connect. Nigeria has simultaneous conflicts- some more noticeable than others- ongoing. Much in the same way the Delta militias do not affect or have anything to do with the Muslim north, Boko has nothing to do with the oil industry. I guess you’re a foreigner or something, because I dont think you grasp the complexity of the multiple conflicts that arise in a country with 250 plus different ethnic groups. The only time oil is threatened is when it involves the groups residing in and around the fields. That is the south. Borno socioeconomic issues have nothing to do with it. They shouldn’t even be in the same sentence.

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