YOLA, Nigeria (AP) — Before Nigeria imposed a state of emergency in the northeast last May, bar owner Stephen Daniel poured drinks for dozens of people every night of the week. Now, after months of strict curfews and military roadblocks, he is lucky to serve a few stragglers on the weekends.
As a six-month extension to the state of emergency began on Friday, Daniel isn't certain his business will still be around next May.
"I have asked some of my workers to go back home until this curfew is over because I can't pay their salaries from the little sales I make," he said.
President Goodluck Jonathan ordered the emergency rule in three states of Africa's most populous country to push Boko Haram from territories it controlled, allowing security forces "to take all necessary action" to end "the impunity of insurgents and terrorists."
Since May, soldiers and police have largely regained control of urban centers, as violence in the countryside continues. Tens of thousands of people have fled their homes and in the past three weeks alone and hundreds of people have been killed.
But in the relative safety of places like Yola, the capital of Adamawa state, locals say the hardship caused by emergency rule is worse than the Islamic insurgency that the state of emergency is intended to stamp out. Businessmen say the local economy is in tatters in Adamawa state, one of the three affected states, and they grimly hoped to hang on as more soldiers arrived to fight Boko Haram.
"Emergency rule is too much," said businessman Abdullahi Tanko as he browsed mobile phone accessories in a market. "You can't move freely because of unnecessary checkpoints by soldiers. You can't go out at night."
Security in Yola has tightened noticeably in the past few days with military checkpoints in some places every tenth of a mile and an 11 p.m. curfew in place.
Ahmad Sajoh, a spokesman for the governor, said that in the past six months, development projects and other economic activities in Adamawa have ground to a halt. Insurgents are often not religious extremists, but paid thugs or criminals, he asserted.
Little is known about the structure of Boko Haram, and its members frequently change tactics. Popular theories about the true nature of the group include the idea that politicians are behind the insurgency, hiring impoverished youth to intimidate their enemies or blaming ordinary crimes on Boko Haram.
"The attacks in the state were on banks and cattle markets by criminals," said Sajoh. "That is not insurgency. What we have is a clash of interest among politicians."
Yobe state Gov. Murtala Nyako said he even suspects that the extension, which also affects his state, was imposed as punishment for his criticisms of Jonathan.
But former Nigerian ambassador to the U.S. and Adamawa state politician Jubril Aminu said that while heavy military presence may be unpopular, without it, no one is safe.
"This is leadership," he said. "People may not like something, but if you feel it is good for them, you do it"
The U.S. government this week labeled Boko Haram and breakaway insurgent group Ansaru terrorist organizations, a move that imposes financial sanctions.
As he filled his car at a gas station in Yola, resident Usman Abubakar said he hopes the U.S. position will scare militants away.
"Now they know there will be greater force to attack them," he said. "Unlike the Nigerian soldiers, who appear not to be effective."