As a world economic conference convened in Nigeria last week, the government faced a crisis stemming from the kidnapping of hundreds of girls by a terrorist group that thrust the nation’s security issues to the forefront.
Those issues, some say, endanger Nigeria’s position as a leader among emerging economies.
The crisis gained wide attention when it exploded on Twitter and other social media. Facebook users across the globe were posting and reposting images bearing the caption “Bring Back Our Girls” as the 24th World Economic Forum on Africa convened in Abuja, the Nigerian capital.
Assurances by Nigerian President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan that the summit – which brought together a thousand leaders from politics, business and civil society including Chinese premier Li Keqiang and 11 African heads of state – would go off without a hitch could not have been enough to banish thoughts of the kidnapping of more than 250 Nigerian school girls by the extremist group Boko Haram.
Boko Haram has been around for more than a decade and is responsible for scores of deaths in Nigeria. Yet during that time, Nigeria has become one of the most important countries in Africa and in the emerging market world. It’s been ranked the premier destination for foreign direct investment in Africa and its stock market has been growing.
Even if Boko Haram has been but a nagging thought in the back of investors’ minds, the kidnappings have sounded an alarm for Nigeria, not just because of the episode itself, but also because, as some allege, the lack of a proper response from Nigeria’s government.
“The abductions are a slap in the face of Nigerian security and have escalated the Boko Haram issue to a global audience,” said Daniel Broby, chief executive at Gemfonds, a specialist investor in emerging economies.
The kidnappings aren’t the only violence haunting the nation. They occurred a day after Boko Haram slaughtered 200 Nigerians. Subsequently, the group reportedly kidnapped several more girls after raiding a village in the northeastern Nigerian state of Borno, its stronghold. At the same time, the world was watching a terrifying online video of Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, threatening to sell the girls into slavery.
All this has led some to question the image that some have of Nigeria and its economy.
Nigerian novelist and political commentator Okey Ndibe said the kidnappings should highlight the dangers in the “real” Nigiera – issues that he said have been ongoing but have not been paid the attention they deserve.