Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on 
Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Issue 27 - Evidence - Meeting of May 28, 2015


OTTAWA, Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade met this day at 10:30 a.m. to examine such issues as may arise from time to time relating to foreign relations and international trade generally (topic: the impact of Nigeria's recent election and the ongoing threat of Boko Haram).

Senator A. Raynell Andreychuk (Chair) in the chair.

[English]

The Chair: Honourable senators, welcome to the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, which is authorized to examine such issues as may arise from time to time relating to foreign relations and international trade generally.

Under this mandate, we are pleased to welcome officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development to speak to the impact of Nigeria's recent election and the ongoing threat of Boko Haram. As senators are aware, the issues around Boko Haram and the abductions have certainly caught the attention and the concern of Canadians as well as this committee.

The election and how it proceeded is also of interest due to the significance of Nigeria and its impact in Africa.

While we have been studying many trade issues, we thought at this time toward the end of the session that some updates on some very current important issues would be welcome. Thank you, witnesses, for responding to come and give us a briefing from the department perspective.

Just before I turn it over to you, I remind senators that we're going to have a short in camera meeting at the end of this session for the update on the reports and how we will proceed due to time issues that we have.

I will now turn to Mr. Ken Neufeld, Director General, West and Central Africa Bureau; and Mr. James Stone, Deputy Director, West Africa.

Gentlemen, welcome to the committee.

[Translation]

Ken Neufeld, Director General, West and Central Africa Bureau, Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada: Thank you very much, Madam Chair. Good morning to all the members of the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade. Thank you for the opportunity to address you on Nigeria and its recent elections, as well as ongoing efforts in the country to combat the terrorist group Boko Haram.

Nigeria is Africa's most populous country with some 170 million people, representing roughly half of West Africa's population. It is also the continent's leading oil producer, its largest economy with a GDP of approximately $510 billion, and a linchpin for stability in sub-Saharan Africa.

Nigeria is representative of the emergence of developing countries as engines of global economic growth. Despite the economic impact of low oil prices and the Boko Haram insurgency, GDP growth in Nigeria for 2015 is still expected to hover around 5 per cent.

Given its size and stature, Nigeria plays a strong leadership role regionally, including in the Economic Community of West African States, an Abuja-based regional body that promotes economic integration, democracy and regional stability. Nigeria's international engagement extends well beyond the continent, as evidenced by its current non- permanent seat (for the fifth time) on the UN Security Council and election last year to the 47-member United Nations Human Rights Council for 2015-17.

[English]

Nigeria is a strategic partner for Canada in sub-Saharan Africa. Both countries have increased efforts to develop closer relations on a broad range of issues. The Canada-Nigeria Binational Commission, established in 2012, serves as a forum for high-level bilateral exchanges on politics, including democratic governance and human rights, commercial development and security issues. The first meeting was co-chaired by then-Minister Baird in Abuja in 2012 and was followed by meetings co-chaired by Minister Fast in 2013 and Minister Paradis in May 2014.

In 2014, Nigeria was Canada's third-largest bilateral merchandise trading partner in Africa after South Africa and Angola, and it's a priority country in Canada's Global Markets Action Plan. A bilateral foreign investment promotion and protection agreement, popularly known as a FIPA, was signed in 2014, and it only awaits Nigerian ratification before entering into force.

Our commercial relationship is varied and growing, with bilateral trade valued at nearly $1 billion, and the number of Canadian companies active in Nigeria has tripled to over 75 in the last three years.

I will now discuss elections. On March 28, Nigerians went to the polls in presidential and national assembly elections, which had been delayed by six weeks in order to allow Nigerian security forces to focus on an offensive to liberate towns in the northeast that were occupied by Boko Haram.

In two days of voting that saw millions of Nigerians braving very long lines, heat and rain, the main opposition candidate, retired General Muhammadu Buhari, who was formerly a Nigerian head of state from 1983 to 1984, won by a significant margin. In spite of widespread technical and organizational challenges, the elections unfolded better than expected, under largely peaceful circumstances, with the results deemed credible by both international and local observers.

Despite isolated attacks on voters by Boko Haram in the northeast, the group did not have a discernible impact on voter turnout and did not affect the credibility of the elections.

This election result marks the first time in Nigeria's history that a democratic change of government will see the transition of power from the incumbent party to that of an opposition party, and it demonstrates a significant maturing of democracy in that country.

Incumbent President Jonathan's timely concession of defeat and calls for calm among supporters contributed significantly to avoiding large-scale public unrest and violence, particularly in a region where peaceful transfers of power are not yet the norm. President-elect Buhari has also been widely commended for his efforts in urging supporters to exercise restraint.

The official transfer of power will take place tomorrow, May 29, when Mr. Buhari will be sworn into office for a four-year term. Parliamentary Secretary Deepak Obhrai will be there representing Canada at the inauguration.

Canada is a long-standing supporter of good governance in Nigeria and has provided support to all national elections since the country's return to democracy in 1999. This includes support to efforts to strengthen electoral reform processes, improve the functioning of key electoral and democratic institutions, and foster active citizenship and stronger democratic accountability. These electoral reforms are necessary building blocks to a peaceful and prosperous Nigeria.

[Translation]

Boko Haram continues to be a destabilizing force within Nigeria and the broader region, with attacks in neighboring Cameroon, Niger and Chad. The conflict is estimated to have killed over 13,000 people since 2009 and led to some 1.5 million internally displaced persons. It also continues to hamper much-needed humanitarian assistance for millions in the north.

Since 2010, Boko Haram's campaign of terror in Nigeria and across the Lake Chad Basin region has accelerated with an increase in the frequency and scale of attacks, which have become more sophisticated and deadly. The group has repeatedly targeted women and girls for abduction, sexual violence and forced marriage.

On this note, April 14 marked the one-year anniversary of Boko Haram's kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls from their school in the town of Chibok, most of whom are still missing.

[English]

Canada has condemned, in the strongest terms, Boko Haram's widespread and grave abuses of international human rights law and violations of international humanitarian law. We remain committed to promoting and protecting the rights of women and girls worldwide and continue to call for the immediate release of all victims kidnapped by Boko Haram.

Nigeria's recent efforts to clear Boko Haram from its traditional stronghold in the country's northeast have resulted in the rescue and escape of many hundreds of women and girls over the last number of weeks. Many of them are reportedly pregnant and battered, and all appear to be severely traumatized, highlighting the need for urgent and ongoing psychosocial and community reintegration support.

Boko Haram's recent claim of allegiance to ISIL in March is also of concern, coming as it does on the heels of a similar claim by Salafist groups in Libya. While there is no evidence of significant operational links between the two groups, we continue to monitor any potential impacts of this alliance on Boko Haram's recruitment and capacity as well as being a potential source of radicalization.

In December 2013, Canada listed Boko Haram as a terrorist organization under our Criminal Code. Nigeria and its neighbours, Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Benin are implementing plans to combat the insurgents through a multinational joint task force. A UN Security Council resolution in support of this force is currently being considered. While these plans are being formulated, Chad has deployed approximately 4,500 security forces to Cameroon and Niger in support of regional efforts, and Chadian troops have been instrumental in countering Boko Haram within Nigeria's borders and in assisting in retaking towns previously held by Boko Haram.

While Boko Haram is now on the run in northeast Nigeria, the group has proven itself to be an effective rural-based insurgency and is likely to maintain a significant operational presence. Attacks continue, albeit at a reduced pace, with loss of civilian lives. It may still be years before many of the internally displaced residents can return to their homes.

Canada supports strong coordination among Nigeria and its neighbours to address this regional security threat, and we continue to call on the Nigerian government to ensure the protection of civilian populations against attacks and to tackle seriously corruption in the military.

The Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria will not be defeated by military action alone. Advancing more balanced development across Nigeria and addressing long standing socio-economic disparities, particularly in the northeast, is essential to longer-term stability and prosperity in Nigeria and the broader region.

[Translation]

We are encouraged by early commitments made by President-elect Buhari in this regard and will continue to support appropriate follow-through.

Canada is committed to continue investment in maternal, newborn and child health, and is at the forefront in helping Nigeria to eradicate polio.

[English]

We encourage Nigeria to pursue a constructive dialogue to address root causes of violence, including by addressing the massive youth unemployment problem. Canada is committed supporting the most vulnerable by helping to stimulate sustainable economic growth, including by developing meaningful employment opportunities for young Nigerians in sectors such as agriculture and forestry.

[Translation]

Thank you very much. I will be happy to take any questions now.

[English]

The Chair: I take it, Mr. Stone, you are here to help with any other questions of the committee. Can I ask for a general comment? President Jonathan, when he realized that he was losing, made a very interesting statement that no personal political ego should take over and — I can't remember the exact words — that no Nigerian blood should be lost for a personal political ego, which was an incredibly interesting statement, and I thought it brought a lot of calm to the area.

That was one issue. I understand that with the transfer tomorrow of presidential power, they have worked out a deal that $800 million is going to be returned to coffers for corruption in the oil industry, and that's an undertaking the outgoing president and his party has made.

Those are very positive, hopeful signs of integrating Nigeria into more international governance. Can you comment on whether you think, with these statements and this movement, we should be optimistic about Nigeria in the future? In the backdrop, Ghana has had peaceful transitions from one party to another, and Senegal, despite the outgoing president wanting to extend his term. There's something going on with that coast that doesn't seem to reverberate elsewhere.

We see the Burundi situation that is horrific at the moment, where presidents are trying to extend constitutional capability to continue in office, so is there something unique we should be supporting in this region?

Mr. Neufeld: Thank you very much. The concession speech to which you referred at the outset of your remarks just now, I wish that I had memorized it word for word because it was a very powerful and touching statement.

The Chair: I can just interrupt. My researcher has given the actual quote, which I thought I had memorized:

. . . nobody's ambition is worth the blood of any Nigerian. The unity, stability and progress of our dear country is more important than anything else.

Mr. Neufeld: That statement and the early concession — the fact that it took place early on — is widely credited by analysts and observers as having been instrumental in the quite remarkably peaceful roll-out of that whole event. If you had been following the analysis prior to the election, there was considerable speculation about widespread violence, which did not turn out.

On your question about the commitment of the outgoing government or outgoing party, I'm not sure, to make return to the treasury, I would have to get back to you. I don't have any details on that particular commitment.

Certainly the example that Nigeria set in this particular election has not gone unnoticed at all in the continent as a whole, and in the region in particular, and it raises the bar considerably on the expected behaviour of elections and transition. There are a lot of elections this year and next year.

As you point out, the current situation in Burundi is of great concern to the international community, Canada, its neighbours and, of course, to the Burundian people. I do think that there is a significant change in the expectations that people have about how elections will be conducted in Africa and we will follow with great interest the upcoming elections.

[Translation]

Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Welcome. I enjoyed greeting you and asking you a few questions before the meeting began.

Since the beginning, I have been following the advances made by Boko Haram in the papers. Articles describe the atrocities the group has committed, the destruction of whole villages and the thousands that have died at their hands. When they get to a village, they kill all the villagers and keep the women. I am especially troubled by the group's abduction of young women and girls. It's incredibly worrisome. The atrocities committed against women are horrendous and unacceptable.

The efforts that have been made so far don't appear to be sufficient. How big is Boko Haram's army? Who pays to supply it with weapons, tanks, jeeps and all of its equipment? I'd like to know more about that. Are you able to answer?

Mr. Neufeld: I'm going to let my colleague, James Stone, answer that.

[English]

James Stone, Deputy Director, West Africa, Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada: You asked the question about the size of Boko Haram and where it gets its money. These are questions that have no definitive answer. Boko Haram is a fairly elusive group. It has no card-carrying membership, but certainly in the past three months it has lost all its territories and cities that it occupied in Nigeria. It is largely a rural-based organization now that can attack in cities and small towns.

There are no reliable estimates of how many fighters there are because there is not a permanent core, people drift in and out, but people have estimated it to be around 20,000.

As to the source of money that it gets, it seems to be based on a pillage model of financing. They steal from banks. They steal from ordinary citizens. They steal cattle and sell them. They kidnap people, particularly women, and sell them back to their families.

Many of its heavy arms come from Nigerian army retreats, but that seems to be a thing of the past. The Nigerian army is now much more organized and has the strong assistance of its neighbours, particularly Cameroon, Niger and Chad, in fighting Boko Haram.

[Translation]

Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Has Canada provided humanitarian aid? Have we provided any assistance aside from the support for maternal and child health?

Mr. Neufeld: Maternal and newborn health is a core pillar of our cooperation with Nigeria. We are also working with the international community to combat poliomyelitis because Nigeria, particularly northern Nigeria, is one of the three countries in the world where the disease is still active in the population. That's one of our most meaningful areas of involvement.

In terms of humanitarian aid, we are working with the UN, but I don't have any exact numbers for you. I could get them to you shortly.

Senator Fortin-Duplessis: You mentioned polio.

Mr. Neufeld: Mr. Stone just located the paragraph I was looking for.

Since 2015, we have been working with the Canadian Red Cross through the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the Nigerian Red Cross in northeastern Nigeria. The big problem in the northeastern part of the country, in terms of the conflict, is gaining access to those states. We can't send in Canadian organizations. We have trouble sending foreigners there, even Nigerians who don't live in the region. Working on the ground there is extremely challenging.

The Nigerian Red Cross has branches in every Nigerian state. Our humanitarian aid is provided through the Nigerian Red Cross, so we are able to work in the three states most affected by Boko Haram.

Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Do you know whether any Canadians are going over to join Boko Haram?

[English]

Mr. Stone: We have no reports of such Canadians.

Senator Eaton: Thank you for coming, gentlemen. Could you give me a background on how Boko Haram got its foothold? My second question would be: Is Nigeria a secular state and does it have sharia law?

Mr. Neufeld: I will take the second part of the question, and I will give the first part to —

Senator Eaton: Is it Shia- or Sunni-based?

Mr. Neufeld: Nigeria is such a large and diverse country, it is difficult to generalize too much. But, at the risk of oversimplifying, the north tends to be Muslim and the south tends to be more Christian. In the north, there are states that have Sharia law. It's a federal system, but states have considerable autonomy and are responsible for much, as is the case in our own country. They have very specific responsibilities. So there are states that have Sharia law, but there is no Sharia law at the national level.

As for the question of Sunni or Shiite and how Boko Haram started up there, I will defer to Mr. Stone.

Mr. Stone: The question of Shia and Sunni is quickly answered as Muslims in Nigeria are largely Sunni. They became Sunni following the trans-Saharan trade in the Middle Ages. There has been a growing number of Shia, however, in northern Nigerian.

As to the start of Boko Haram, they started as a fundamentalist group in the early 2000s, and withdrew from society to create their own communes. However, they were largely seen as a threat by the Nigerian government, because they didn't have to have anything to do with Nigerian officials or government, or Western education. Their fundamental belief is that —

Senator Eaton: Are they Salafist?

Mr. Stone: They are Salafist — very strongly Salafist — which means they believe that the only laws with any validity are the ones that derive from original texts relating to Islam.

They also started robbing banks. And the Nigerian government cracked down heavily on them. So tensions between the groups grew very quickly, so that you have a large group that is now Boko Haram.

Boko Haram is a northern Nigerian phenomenon. It occurs in a land that is very poor. Job prospects are quite difficult and youth unemployment is very high. It's a dry, arid area, and it also comes from a history of northern Nigerian caliphates, which are legitimate groups of organizations like Sokoto Caliphate or Kano.

So Boko Haram is yet another tradition of a group uprising. The big difference is that this one is extremely violent. There is no foundation text that you can read to get an idea of what they are all about. There are hints and issues but no general statement.

Senator Eaton: Do they have a leader with a high profile?

Mr. Stone: Yes, they do. You'll see them on YouTube. His name is Abubakar Shekau, and he is always portrayed as the spokesperson for Boko Haram. It's not clear if he is actually the single leader for Boko Haram — there are many indications that Boko Haram is a group of like-minded organizations — but he is the one who is visible and highly seen in the international press. He is also reported to have been killed three times.

Senator Ataullahjan: I have a couple of questions. UNICEF stated recently that there is an alarming spike in suicide bombing by girls and women. The girls are between the ages of 7 to 17 and have been responsible for nine attacks since July.

Why are they using young girls and children? Are these some of the girls that were kidnapped? Do we have an idea of how many girls Boko Haram kidnapped and how many of them are rescued? We keep hearing about kidnappings and about girls being rescued.

Mr. Neufeld: Accurate and consistent information coming out of those northeastern states is very difficult to verify. We know that there are many hundreds, probably thousands, of women and girls who have been kidnapped. We know that many hundreds, perhaps thousands, have escaped or been liberated in the last little while.

But as is the case with the consistent reports of the Boko Haram leader's deaths, it's very hard to verify that information and, because access is so difficult, the press is not there. Our high commission and its people are not able to go there. High-profile NGOs who would often be able to report accurately are either not there or are working with a very low profile, so it's very hard to confirm that sort of information.

Do you have anything to add, Jim?

Mr. Stone: I think you've covered it.

Mr. Neufeld: To go specifically to your question, it is possible that some of those suicide bombers are involuntary suicide bombers. It's possible that they could be people who were converted or otherwise coerced, but it's very difficult to speak definitively about that situation.

With the increased presence and control of the region by the Nigerian military, with the support of the neighbouring countries, we can hope that, as civilian control also follows, we may be able to have more accurate information. But the situation remains very challenging at the moment.

Senator Ataullahjan: I'm referring to an article that was published in The New York Times on May 26 entitled "Former Strongman Taking Over Presidency Raises Hope in Nigeria.'' That article included a quote from Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the spokesperson for the All Progressives Congress:

Never in the history of our country has any government handed over to another a more distressed country: no electricity, no fuel, workers are on strike, billions are owed to state and federal workers, 60 billion dollars are owed in national debt and the economy is virtually grounded.

With the new president taking over, how effective will he be? Are we hopeful that he will push for democratic change in the country, or will he revert back to the military dictator that he was 30 years ago? When he was overthrown in 1985, very few people were sorry to see him go.

Mr. Neufeld: The analysis by observers is that the incoming predecessor has a very strong mandate. The Nigerian people have spoken very clearly about their desire for peace and stability.

He has considerable credibility from his military past. He's a military leader so, therefore, outside analysis suggests that, under his leadership, the recent gains against Boko Haram may be consolidated or perhaps even accelerated. That's something that Nigerians, countries in the region and the international community would very much like to see.

There is also a very clear expectation by Nigerians that the corruption problems in Nigeria will be tackled. Again, the incoming president has considerable credentials in that area. He's very widely viewed as being untouched by corruption, so he comes in with considerable authority in that vein as well.

On issues of development, improvement of social conditions and the economic gains that Nigeria is clearly continuing to make, making those gains more available for the whole of the country, for consolidating democratic institutions, all of those things, time will tell. There was a preliminary meeting with his vice-president designate with the development community in Nigeria earlier this week at which some ideas of plans of the government were shared, concerns by the international community were shared. There was a very positive discussion this week, but it would certainly be too early to tell how that will go.

Senator Ataullahjan: He already hinted that it would not be business as usual. In an interview published recently, he said he would not allow the state governors to choose the ministers as was the custom, and that he would be choosing his own ministers. Maybe there is some hope there.

The Chair: As a supplementary, Boko Haram has been around since 2000 and it was known to be there, but it was also a small group that moved around in the villages.

The problems seem to have gotten out of control when President Jonathan came in fulfilling a term of a president from the north, and as President Jonathan was from the south, he was accused of being hesitant to interfere in the north because he might lose the election. Of course, year in and year out, the situation accelerated. Now, with the president coming from the north, do you think that will be the signal that someone can take on that issue without fear of disrupting all the caliphates, et cetera? And second, will that impetus continue to try to curtail the activity of Boko Haram and is he in a better situation to do so?

Mr. Neufeld: Nigerian politics are extremely complex with not only the religious divisions but also considerable ethnic divisions. It is a very large and diverse country with significant inequalities between different parts of the country. So whoever the president and from whichever region they will face a challenging job in balancing those factors.

I do not feel equipped to comment on why the outgoing president had such a difficult time with what is, to be fair, a difficult insurgency in the northeast, but I do feel that the incoming president has a clear mandate from all Nigerians to tackle this issue. He has a very strong background, which would suggest that he has what it takes with his mandate to actually deliver on his electoral platform.

If I could add to that, despite the fact that the north is generally Muslim and the south is generally Christian — or perhaps because of that — the Nigerian constitution requires that a presidential candidate has to win a certain percentage in each of the 36 states, so it really is a national mandate that he has. Even under President Goodluck Jonathan, I don't think there was much sympathy anywhere in the country for either the goals or the actions of Boko Haram. That certainly has solidified into a very clear electoral mandate.

The Chair: The international community has defined the issue, the election and presidency as north-south. But on the comment that Senator Ataullahjan made about the governors, that the new president was going to take control and that the governors were no longer going to have a say with the ministers, Nigeria's past history led to creating 36 states because of that devolution need, and the turmoil that they have gone through. If he now goes the other way of trying to curtail their influence, isn't there going to be a different disruption than the Boko Haram? I just throw that out to you.

Mr. Neufeld: As I said, it's an extraordinarily complex political environment there. There is a moment of considerable tangible optimism at the moment, but expectations are very high and delivering on those expectations is going to be difficult. We'll be following very closely and supporting as best we can, but I don't think anyone is under any illusion that all of the answers are currently available. There will be trade-offs and consequences, certainly.

Senator Cordy: Thank you very much. This discussion has been very interesting and educational.

I'm wondering, with the actions, the violence, the kidnapping by Boko Haram, what about the women and the girls in Nigeria? Has the situation changed what they're able to do? I have two daughters. If I lived there, I would be nervous to let them outside the door. So what's happening in terms of lifestyle changes or have there been any? Are women and girls walking freely or are they nervous?

Mr. Neufeld: It's very important to understand that Boko Haram has only ever operated in the extreme northeast, which is a very isolated and remote part of a large country.

The impact, particularly of the Chibok girls, on the level of national awareness of that was very high and there is tremendous sympathy, concern and action amongst Nigerian civil society groups and community groups, and people are aware of that. But the threat of Boko Haram to women and children out of that area is not real, nor is it perceived to be real to the best of my knowledge.

That being said, Nigeria is a society where there are still a myriad of social challenges, which often makes it difficult for members of the society. The specific indicators around women and children's health issues in that country, for example, are very poor in large parts of Nigeria. That's one of the reasons that Canada has chosen to put one of its development focuses on maternal, neonatal and child health, because the indicators are so significant.

Senator Cordy: It would just be mainly in the north that this is happening.

Have there been any efforts in fighting against Boko Haram that have actually been successful? Is there one thing that works? You said that they rob banks to get funding, but that really has, if not stopped, certainly slowed down. Are there other things working that have had an effect?

Mr. Neufeld: I will pass that to Jim. Before that, I want to point out that on the territory of operation of Boko Haram, it's the northeast. I should have brought a map. It really is the northeast. The majority of the north is not a Boko Haram area.

Mr. Stone: What is working right now is a military solution. The Nigerian forces, as well as Chadian and Nigerian forces and troops in Cameroon, have been very successful in recapturing lost cities and towns, with large numbers of Boko Haram militants being killed and large numbers of arms being recaptured. The military solution is there. In the future, the government will have to address many of the long-standing economic difficulties and social difficulties that exist in the north.

You mentioned banks being robbed. There was a sustainable solution to that: there were no more banks in the north.

There are other challenges that exist in the north. One is that Boko Haram targeted telecoms and many cell phone towers were destroyed. Then, as a security measure, Nigerians closed down cell phone coverage in the north. This is why it's difficult to get verification of many of the stories that come out of the north.

Senator Cordy: Do we know how many people there are in Boko Haram and how they are going about recruiting, or is recruitment just all the publicity they are getting?

Mr. Stone: From the reports we have seen, there is not much recruitment through ideology. Much of it is through countering poverty by providing cash, food or motorbikes to people to pick them up as fighters. Almost all of the fighters are men. There are reports, of course, of the suicide bombers being a mix of men, women and children. Fundamentally, it's an organization that has its economic origin through poverty in the region.

Senator Cordy: Not fundamentalism.

Mr. Stone: They have a group of people who are strongly fundamentalist. It's based on a rejection of many of the things that Canada values — democracy, ability of people to speak their minds — because Boko Haram believes that these are not consistent with the original founding texts of Islam.

Senator Oh: Do we have any idea about the new government that's coming in? What is the percentage of Christianity and Islam in the north?

Mr. Neufeld: If you are referring to the cabinet —

Senator Oh: The members of Parliament.

Mr. Neufeld: That would be something we could know, but I wouldn't have that figure in my head.

As to the cabinet, we don't know the composition of the cabinet yet. It would be possible to have a breakdown on the incoming members of Parliament, but we would have to get back to you.

Senator Oh: So Christianity on the south side of Nigeria is not feeling any threat from Boko Haram?

Mr. Neufeld: The incoming government was elected on an anti-Boko Haram platform.

Traditionally, in Nigeria, the presidencies alternate between someone from the north and someone from the south. One of the factors playing into a lot of the tension or potential violence around elections is concern about the other community. However, General Buhari and his government won a significant majority and that's not possible without having a considerable bloc of votes from the south as well.

In addition, under their federal system, it's necessary to win a percentage in each of the states, so it's a national mandate that General Buhari and his government has. Of course, that does not mean that there are not people in Nigeria who are bitterly disappointed by this outcome, but that bitter disappointment did not translate itself into violent reaction. I think that is the great sign that came out of this election and is very encouraging.

Senator D. Smith: You have touched on some of the things I was exploring, but I am familiar with the Igbo, the Yoruba and the Hausa in the north.

What intrigues me is that Buhari obviously got some significant vote in the southern areas that are not Muslim, and I'm wondering as to what the thinking was. Were they wanting some tough guy who had a track record from the past that could possibly deal with the fanatics up in the northeast, and they just wanted more stability, and there was a trust level that he could be tough with these guys up there? Because he did get a significant vote — not a majority — in those southern areas. What's your interpretation of why he did as well as he did in the southern part?

Mr. Neufeld: I will share this one with Mr. Stone, who is a long-time observer of Nigeria. There are probably going to be a lot of PhD theses generated over the next little while on this election, and it will be fascinating to read them.

There was clearly a frustration with the difficulty in dealing with the Boko Haram insurrection over a considerable amount of time. I think it's clear that that was a factor. The credentials of ex-General Buhari and his platform on peace, security and stability were attractive to a large portion of the electorate.

Nigeria has a significant corruption problem, and he has very strong credentials in that area and campaigned on a platform of anti-corruption. I think that was very attractive to a significant portion of the electorate.

I will pass to James at this point, I think.

Mr. Stone: One other aspect about the Buhari platform was his selection of vice-president. Buhari, as has been noted, is from the north and is Muslim, so he picked a vice-president candidate who is Christian and from the south. In particular, this is a man from Lagos, which is the economic capital of Nigeria. The economic size of Lagos is important. It is the major port for Nigeria. It has many millions of people — between 10 and 20 million.

Senator D. Smith: I have been there.

Mr. Stone: Winning Lagos was a large influence for southern support for President Buhari.

Senator Ataullahjan: You mentioned poverty as being one of the factors in Boko Haram being able to recruit people. Have you ever had any case of parents sending their children — like they have — to be used as suicide bombers as we have had in other countries?

Mr. Stone: We have had no reports of that.

Senator Ataullahjan: We heard that Boko Haram means "Western education'' — that Haram is "forbidden.'' Does "Boko'' means "Western education'' or is it just the word "Western''?

Mr. Stone: Boko Haram is a Hausa term for "Western education is forbidden.'' The name that Boko Haram chooses to identify itself with is really a group for outreach and Salafism, which is a different kind of thing and gives more of an insight into what its real philosophy is.

The Chair: Thank you for coming and opening a debate and discussion on the issues facing Nigeria, both as a result of the election and regarding the ongoing difficulty with Boko Haram. We are aware of the complexity of Nigeria and its importance within Africa and that we are only starting to scratch the surface. But I think you have pointed us to think as a committee about Nigeria, its issues and its strategic importance to Canada's foreign policy.

Thank you for coming and focusing us in the right direction.

Before I close, I want to acknowledge that the High Commissioner for the Republic of Cameroon has come to sit in on our hearings.

Hon. Members: Hear, hear.

The Chair: I know that the Boko Haram issue is of significance to Cameroon. Thank you for being here.

(The committee continued in camera.)