UK Prime Minister Theresa May, in trying to justify the renewal of Trident nuclear submarines at a current cost of £31bn, plus £10bn contingency and annual running costs of £2bn, claimed that Boko Haram was a threat that the UK needed to confront.
In a statement to the House of Commons before a debate on whether Trident should be renewed May said: “The threats that we face are serious, and it is vital for our national interest that we have the full spectrum of our defences at full strength to meet them. That is why, under my leadership, this Government will continue to meet our NATO obligation to spend 2% of our GDP on defence. We will maintain the most significant security and military capability in Europe, and we will continue to invest in all the capabilities set out in the strategic defence and security review last year. We will meet the growing terrorist threat coming from Daesh in Syria and Iraq, from Boko Haram in Nigeria, from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, from al-Shabaab in east Africa, and from other terrorist groups planning attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan. We will continue to invest in new capabilities to counter threats that do not recognise national borders, including by remaining a world leader in cyber-security”.
This is a bogus argument – almost at the level of the scare stories and tall tales told by then Prime Minister Tony Blair about Iraq’s fabled weapons of mass destruction.
For starters, Boko Haram’s threat is restricted mainly to the Lake Chad area, including northeast Nigeria and neighbouring countries Chad, Niger and Cameroon. There is no indication that they have the will or the capacity to strike at UK interests outside Nigeria.
Secondly, if such a will existed, “full spectrum” defence that includes a nuclear capability delivered from a submarine patrolling the UK’s waters every single hour of the day, has little consequence in dealing with the sort of methods favoured by Boko Haram – suicide bombers, improvised explosive devices, and so on. France, with its nuclear arsenal, was not able to stop a fanatic with a truck killing over 80 people in Nice a couple of days ago.