No oil, no ‘protection’? Boko Haram massacre in Nigeria sees little reaction from US

Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau (AFP Photo / Boko Haram)
Boko Haram has massacred thousands of civilians in Nigeria, but US officials' response towards the horrific crimes have been strangely muted. RT’s Manila Chan explores a potential link to oil, which the US no longer receives from Nigeria.

To many, the lack of Washington's strive to aid the people of Nigeria – the biggest African economy – seems to follow simple geostrategic logic: no oil, no security support. While diverting funds to fight the Islamic State in Iraq, the US seems unwilling to address Boko Haram insurgents in Nigeria.

READ MORE: Satellite images reveal ‘horrific’ scale of Boko Haram attack in Nigeria

As US is trying to master shale gas exploitation; it has moved away from some of its traditional trade partners, with Nigeria – an OPEC-member state – becoming the first country to stop selling oil to the US, statistics from the US Department of Energy reveal. Nigeria was one of the top five suppliers to the US at the height of trade, less than a decade ago supplying it with 1.3 million barrels of oil every day.

Yet despite Boko Haram’s territorial gains and promising outlook for jihadi domination of the whole region, the US – and the world – focuses on terror attacks in Europe and IS advances, completely neglecting the imminent threat stemming from the Nigerian terrorist network.

Some in Washington are already calling for strategy change.

"If we don't stop it in its tracks, we are destined for this horrible group to not step back but to continue to be in power," said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas.

“It is clear that the United States needs a comprehensive strategy to address Boko Haram’s growing lethality,” Reps. Patrick Meehan, R-Pa., and Peter King, R-N.Y., wrote in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry.

While the US spends an average of $8.2 million daily to battle the Islamic State in Iraq in Syria, it is spending almost zero to fight extremism in Nigeria.

Last year, Washington offered surveillance drones and 30 intelligence experts to help the Nigerian military rescue nearly 300 kidnapped schoolgirls. But in December, the Nigerian government stopped Washington's minimal strive to train its troops to fight Boko Haram.

"We regret premature termination of this training, as it was to be the first in a larger planned project that would have trained additional units with the goal of helping the Nigerian Army build capacity to counter Boko Haram," State Department spokesman Rodney Ford said in an email to the Military Times in December.

"The US government will continue other aspects of the extensive bilateral security relationship, as well as all other assistance programs, with Nigeria," he said. "The US government is committed to the long tradition of partnership with Nigeria and will continue to engage future requests for cooperation and training."

Boko Haram fighters parading on a tank in an unidentified town. (AFP Photo / HO / Boko Haram)

Boko Haram, which now controls an area the size of Slovakia, became widely known to the public last spring after kidnapping nearly 300 female students in northeast Nigeria. The US Department of State designated Boko Haram as a Foreign Terrorist Organizations in November 2013, despite it being operational from 2002.

READ MORE: Another ‘Islamic State’? Boko Haram’s captured area about size of Slovakia

In addition to mass murders in the ongoing and brutal campaign against Nigeria's military, government, and civilian targets, Boko Haram engages in massive oil theft from the resource-rich Niger Delta. It is estimated that national losses from oil theft rose from 10,000 barrels a day to 100,000 during the past five years of the current Jonathan administration.

Nigeria, which relies on oil for 70 percent of government revenues while fighting a major Islamist insurgency, is now looking to alternative buyers to compensate the loss of US market share. As a chain reaction, falling global oil prices are threatening Nigeria’s fight against Boko Haram and the overall stability in West Africa.

China – which has become Africa’s biggest trading partner, with some $160 billion worth of goods exchanges a year – is trying to fill in the US-left vacuum in Nigeria. Even though China's demand for raw materials has declined, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang announced in May a plan to double bilateral trade to $400 billion by 2020. Stretching back to 2012, Beijing offered a $1.1 billion loan to Nigeria and announced an investment of over $10 billion for hydrocarbon prospecting close to Boko Haram’s zone of influence.

Despite a promising future of China-Niger relations, security in the African country is lacking. For now, Boko Haram is in de-facto control of much of Borno state – including three border crossings with Niger, Chad, and Cameroon.

Watch the report by RT’s Manila Chan.