Crude oil prices could detract from short-term security in Nigeria

Crude oil prices could detract from short-term security in Nigeria

 An economic slowdown due to a decrease in oil revenues in 2016 could contribute to a deteriorating security situation in Nigeria, causing investor apprehension to rise. This article examines the Nigerian security climate after the start of the New Year, as well as the viability of Boko Haram into 2016.

As prices of crude oil currently rest below 40USD/barrel, Nigeria is one of the hardest hit Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) members. How do lower oil revenues impact short-term security vis-a-vis the threat from Boko Haram? In addition, what will be the impact of Nigeria’s invitation to join a Saudi-led coalition against the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS)?


The distribution of over 14,000 deaths through attacks perpetrated by Boko Haram, concentrated in the northeastern Borno State. (CFR)

In October, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari charged his military with eliminating Boko Haram’s operational capability by 31 December 2015. While the date has passed, Boko Haram-led attacks have not been halted. It is the world’s deadliest terror group, and remains operationally capable (albeit diminished) into 2016, as evidenced by attacks in Maiduguri and Madagali on 28 and 29 December, killing at least 52 people.

As of 30 December, Buhari also expressed a desire to negotiate with the group over the return of the more than 200 girls taken from Chibok in April 2014, implying that Boko Haram remains a force to contend with. These events transpired merely one week after Buhari proclaimed to have prevailed over the group, facing self-imposed pressure after his October declaration. This statement was premature, and has repercussions for the coming year.

Boko Haram

Number of deaths per month, and cumulative total of all deaths, attributed to Boko Haram since its foundation. (CFR)


Vital for eradicating Boko Haram’s relevance in the region is increased budgetary focus that tackles unemployment and funds relevant development initiatives alongside kinetic operations that confront the group.

Looking historically at the marginalization of large swathes of the country’s predominantly Muslim North and Northeast, it could be deduced that further lack of resources to apply towards problem areas could enhance alienation. Unemployment and alienation are just two of many drivers that can lead to susceptibility for recruitment by extremist groups like Boko Haram.

An initiative that is important for the future, yet constitutes an immediate budget burden, is the important youth civil service initiative that spreads 250,000 recent graduates across the country each year for national service in the aim of fostering ‘national unity’. Coupled with the ongoing expenses of confronting Boko Haram, a focus on these types of long-term stabilization strategies are essential, though costly in a shaky financial environment.

Further cementing possible volatility in Nigeria in 2016 is the recent request for Nigeria to join a Saudi coalition in a unified Islamic front to battle IS. As Boko Haram has pledged allegiance to IS, chances of IS-inspired or orchestrated attacks within Nigeria as retaliation for engagement in a multinational force would be possible, especially when viewed in tandem with the other factors at play.

The Saudi Arabian coalition also plans to combat ‘terrorism’ without defined targets, which could be used to settle personal scores in the region beyond IS. As economic ties between Nigeria and China are projected to grow, maintaining security and minimizing attacks against Chinese interests in Nigeria is crucial.

The fact that 90% of export revenue in Nigeria comes from the sale of crude oil and gas demonstrates its significance for future economic and social stability. While the 2016 national budget is based on crude oil barrel price of 38USD/barrel, some estimate that prices may sink as low as 20USD/barrel, indicating potential financial uncertainty that could be exacerbated by an ongoing fight against Boko Haram as well as the need to focus on ending endemic corruption.

As it stands, 14% of the Nigerian population has a favorable opinion of IS. Logic would dictate that there are swathes of the population that could be vulnerable to Boko Haram’s recruitment if unemployment and economic malaise proliferate.

It will be interesting to see how Boko Haram’s allegiance to IS plays out in the near future vis-à-vis recruitment as well as direct action. This underlines the necessity for far-reaching approaches to countering the group’s capabilities to wreak havoc in the northeast and beyond.

Amidst uncertain crude oil prices and a struggle to contain unemployment, there are obstacles to fully overcoming Boko Haram in the near future. In addition, only through the provision of sufficient infrastructural and social development projects can Nigeria establish mid-to long term security and bolster investor confidence in 2016 and beyond.

Whether or not the price of crude oil increases enough to enable this will be revealed in the months to come.

About Author

Kira Munk

Kira Munk is a political risk analyst located in the DC Metro area, and has lived in Lebanon and Egypt and the UAE. Kira focuses on topics related to terrorism and counterterrorism, human rights, and the impacts of social and political developments in the MENA. She holds a Master's degree in Terrorism, Security & Society from the Department of War Studies at King's College London.