Nigeria not at war- Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

Abuja – Nigeria is preparing a special development plan for its poor, violence-hit northeast and increasing spending to counter an Islamist revolt there that could dent growth in Africa’s number one oil producer if it worsens, the country’s finance minister said.

Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala told Reuters that although the impact of the five-year Boko Haram insurgency had cut half a percentage point off Nigeria’s GDP last year, she believed it could be contained and insisted the country was not facing a wider conflict as it heads for elections next year.

“There is no war… there is an insurgency,” Okonjo-Iweala said in an interview conducted on Sunday in her car in Abuja as she headed to the airport to fly to New York.

“We are not in a Colombia situation,” she added, rejecting comparisons with the Latin American energy producer which has battled for decades with a major left-wing insurgency that often affected large swathes of its national territory.

Okonjo-Iweala said Boko Haram, who have raided schools, churches, government offices and security posts in their fight to carve out an Islamist enclave, mostly affected around 5 percent of the nation’s territory, the northeast states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa.

But she acknowledged Boko Haram had shown it could strike further south. A bombing at a bus station this month killed at least 75 people on the outskirts of the capital Abuja, which is hosting a World Economic Forum on Africa next week.

“The WEF is still going on,” Okonjo-Iweala said. To host the “African Davos”, which has previously been held in cities such as Cape Town and Addis Ababa, Nigeria was mounting the largest security operation it had ever staged for an international summit, deploying 6,000 soldiers and police.

President Goodluck Jonathan’s government had increased spending to tackle the Boko Haram threat, including more army recruitment, the minister said, without giving specific figures….

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