Buhari’s three-year scorecard

President Muhammadu Buhari will be three years in the saddle by tomorrow. State House reporter AUGUSTINE EHIKIOYA writes on the impact of the Buhari-led administration on Nigerians.

DISENCHANTED with the 16-year reign of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Nigerians voted for a change of government and the symbol of that change is Muhammadu Buhari, who won the presidential election in 2015 under the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

The inauguration of President Buhari on May 29, 2015 for four-year tenure rekindled the hopes and aspirations of many for a better Nigeriansere were great hopes and aspirations for a better Nigeria.

With one more year to the expiration of the four-year contract, many Nigerians are expressing mixed feelings.

To critics of the APC-led administration, Buhari has not lived up to expectation in the delivery of his campaign promises. They argue that Nigerians, who voted the PDP out of office, are yet to reap the much-expected dividends of democracy.

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo is at the forefront of those who have scored the government below average.

In an open letter published in the media in January, Chief Obasanjo gave a damning verdict of poor performance on the Buhari government, alleging increasing poverty, insecurity, poor economic management, nepotism, gross dereliction of duty and tolerance of misdeeds.

Stressing that there was lack of progress and hope for the future, the former president counselled Buhari not to seek reelection next year.

But, to Buhari’s supporters, Nigeria has never had it so good. They argue that those opposed to the re-election of Buhari are those who plundered the nation’s commonwealth prior to the coming on board of the present administration.

The said the Buhari’s administration should be commended and not condemned. A ruin of 16 years under the administration of the PDP cannot be fixed in three years.

So far, it has been so good, they said, listing the achievements recorded in various sectors of the economy within the spate of three years.

According to them, the administration has delivered on its key promises of anti-corruption fight, security and economy.

 

Whistleblowing

 

Under the whistleblowing policy, a whopping N13.8 billion was raked in from tax evaders, N7.8 billion, $378 million and £27,800 from public officials who were exposed by whistleblowers.

The administration through its increased oversight on Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) has uncovered underpayment of N526 billion and attracted $21 billion to the Federation Account by revenue generating agencies between 2010 and 2015.

While addressing the issue of poor levels of remittance of operating surpluses by MDAs, the Joint Admission Matriculation Board (JAMB) remitted N7.8 billion last year as against the N51 million remitted between 2010 and 2016.

Through the activities of the Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit (PICA), 54,000 fraudulent payroll entries have been identified, with payroll savings of N200 billion.

As at March, the Treasury Single Account (TSA) had recorded inflows of a total sum of N8.9 trillion from MDAs.

The TSA has resulted in the consolidation of more than 17,000 bank accounts previously spread across commercial banks in the country and in savings of an average of N4 billion monthly in bank charges associated with indiscriminate government borrowings from the banks.

The use of Bank Verification Number (BVN) to verify payroll entries on the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS) platform has so far led to the detection of 54,000 fraudulent payroll entries.

To boost the anti-graft battle, Nigeria, which joined the Open Government Partnership (OGP) in July 2016 and became the 70th OGP country, has been elected to lead the OGP alongside Argentina, France and Romania. All four new members of the OGP Steering Committee will serve for three years beginning from October 1 this year.

 

The Efficiency Unit

 

The Buhari’s administration created the Efficiency Unit (EU) to spearhead the efficient use of government resources and ensure reduction in recurrent expenditure. The EU’s efforts have resulted in N17 billion in savings on travel, sitting allowances and souvenirs.

With the quantum of stolen funds from the oil and gas sector, the Buhari’s administration pushed for oil and gas reform in line with best international practice,

The controversial Offshore Processing Arrangement (OPA) was cancelled and replaced with a ‘Direct Sales and Direct Purchase (DSDP)’ scheme with reputable offshore refineries.

The Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB) has been passed into law by the National Assembly. It is awaiting the assent of the President. The bill was in the National Assembly for 17 years.

In 2016, the Federal Government exited the cash call arrangement by which the NNPC traditionally funded its share of the crude oil exploration and production Joint Ventures (JVs) with International Oil Companies (IOCs).

The Cash Call obligations consistently put pressure on the government’s finances. A failure to fully fund them has resulted in the accumulation of debt arrears of $6.8 billion as at December 2015.

Besides the achievements recorded in the fight against corruption, his supporters believe the administration has secured the country in the past three years.

The critics, however, see the increasing herdsmen killings in the land since the beginning of this year as a dent on whatever achievement recorded on security.

To fight insurgency in the Northeast, the government revitalised the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) to combat trans-border crimes and the Boko Haram insurgency.

The President’s camp disclosed that more than a million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPS) have returned to their homes and communities since 2015 in the Northeast, which they fled before this administration came into power.

More than 13,000 Boko Haram hostages have been freed from Boko Haram captivity. They include 106 of the Chibok schoolgirls abducted in April 2014 and 105 of the Dapchi Girls abducted in February 2018.

Under the Buhari administration, Boko Haram’s operational and spiritual headquarters “Camp Zero” in the dreaded Sambisa Forest was capture by troops in December 2016.

Following the feat, the Nigerian Army conducted its Small Arms Championship from March 26 to 31 last year, in the forest, a measure aimed at enabling the Armed forces to dominate the area and avoid regrouping by the terrorists.

As part of the achievements attained in security, public secondary schools resumed in Borno State on Monday September 26, 2016. It was two years after closure.  Arik Air also resumed flights to Maiduguri in May last year, three years after it suspended operations to the city.

The Maiduguri-Gubio and Maiduguri-Monguno roads reopened in December 2016, after being closed for three years, while the Maiduguri-Bama-Banki Road was reopened in March 2018, four years after it was seized by Boko Haram.

The chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Borno State chapter was said to have declared the 2017 Easter celebrations in the state as the best and safest since 2009.

With increased insecurity in the Northcentral, the government deployed a Joint Military Intervention Force (JMIF), comprising Regular and Special Forces personnel from the Army, Air Force and Navy, the Nigeria Police Force, Department of State Security (DSS), and Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC).

The administration recorded major arrests and dismantled other crime syndicates in the past three years.

Though critics of the battered economy inherited in May 2015 is far from total recovery, the Buhari camp believe the economy is on a steady path of growth, especially after coming out of recession between 2016 and 2017 and with the 1.95 per cent Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate achieved in the first quarter of this year.

They also believed that the administration’s priority sectors of agriculture and solid minerals maintained consistent growth throughout the recession because of the commitment to diversify the economy.

Inflation has fallen for the fifteenth (15th) consecutive month, while external reserves have hit their highest levels in five years.

The government claimed that the new Forex Window (FX) Window introduced by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in April last year, now sees an average of $1 billion in weekly turnover. It has attracted about $45 billion dollars in inflows in its first year, signaling rising investor confidence in Nigeria.

It also claimed that the stock market ended last year as one of the best-performing in the world with returns of about 40 per cent.

About five million new taxpayers have been added to the tax base since 2016 as part of efforts to widen government revenue sources.

Claiming that the tax revenue increased to N1.17 trillion in the first quarter a 51 per cent increase on the first quarter figure of last year, the N2.7 trillion spent on infrastructure in 2016 and 2017 budgets was unprecedented.

The administration claimed that 14 moribund blending plants have so far been revitalised under the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative (PFI) with a total capacity of 2.3 million metri tonnes (MT) of NPK 20:10:10 fertilizer.

The benefits included annual savings of $200 million in foreign exchange, and ¦ 60 billion annually in budgetary provisions for fertilizer subsidies.

The scheme has also made it possible for farmers to purchase fertilizer at prices up to 30 per cent cheaper than previously available.

The contributions of solid minerals to the federation account have tripled from N700 million in 2015 to N2 billion in 2016 and to N3.5 billion in 2017.

President Buhari, who inherited N12.1 trillion in debt with N5.4 trillion annual service cost on the inherited debt, reduced the service cost to N3.9 trillion by 2016.

Under Buhari, there was $7.3 billion in Eurobond issuances in 2017/18, to fund the 2017 budget and to refinance maturing Treasury Bills and lower the cost of borrowing for the government.

This debt refinancing strategy is paying off as Treasury Bills rates have dropped from 16-18 per cent to 10-12 per cent over the last year.

The oversubscription of the recent Eurobond (the first issuance in 2017 saw orders in excess of $7.8 billion compared to a pre-issuance target of $1 billion) have demonstrated strong market appetite for Nigeria and showed confidence by the international investment community in the country’ economic reform agenda.

Nigeria’s first Sovereign Sukuk Bond, to fund 25 major road projects across the country; raised N100 billion, Diaspora Bond, Nigeria’s first ever Diaspora-targeted Eurobond, to fund part of the 2017 Budget; raised US$300m, while Green Bond, Africa’s first Sovereign Green Bond Programme, to fund infrastructure projects that tackle climate change; raised N10.69 billion.

In the past three years, the Buhari administration extended more than N1.9 trillion to state governments, to enable them meet their salary and pension obligations, especially in the face of dwindling oil revenues.

The Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) introduced by the CBN substantially raised local production of rice in 2016 (yields improved from 2-3 tonnes per hectare to as high as 5 – 6 tonnes per hectare) and produced a model agricultural collaboration between Lagos and Kebbi states.

Besides attracting over N300 billion investments in the Rice Value Chain, the ABP has encouraged the establishment of eight rice mills. It has doubled the country’s paddy production to 2014 levels.

The milled rice production has increased from 2.5 MT to about four MT, while rice exports from Thailand to Nigeria have dropped from 1.23 million MT in 2014 to 23,192 MT by November last year.

To boost the ease of doing business in Nigeria, the Buhari administration has issued three Executive Orders within a year. The orders have positively impacted the local small scale business environment.

The administration has demonstrated a single-minded commitment to upgrading and developing the transport, power and health infrastructure.

In May, the government launched the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF), under the management of the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority. The PIDF is kicking off with seed funding of $650 million.

In March, the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) invested $10 million to establish a world-class Cancer Treatment Center at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) and $5 million each in the Aminu Kano University Teaching Hospital and the Federal Medical Centre, Umuahia to establish modern Diagnostic Centres.

It launched the N701 billion Payment Assurance  Programme (PAP) designed to resolve the liquidity challenges in the power sector by guaranteeing payments to Generating Companies (GenCos) and gas suppliers, transmission expansion and rehabilitation programmes.

All these have resulted in a 50 per cent expansion in grid capacity since 2015 from 5,000 megawatts to 7,125 megawatts at December 2017.

It is expected that more than 2,000 megawatts additional power generation capacity would be added by the end of this year.

The Energising Economic Programme (EEP) was launched to bring reliable and efficient power to economic clusters and markets across the country.

The Distribution Expansion Programme (DEP) was approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) in February to deliver 2,000 megawatts of unused power capacity to consumers.

Scoring the administration high, Buhari promoters believe that the government has invested in people, ensured justice reform, improved diplomacy and international relations and enthroned new vision for the Niger Delta region in the past three years.

They, however, added that with the support of the people, more progress would be made in the next 12 months.

COURTESY: THE NATION

Dwindling Farmland Sparks a Deadly Conflict in Nigeria

Christian farmers, Muslim herdsmen square off in escalating violence that puts President Muhammadu Buhari’s security pledges to the test before elections

A young displaced woman prepares lunch at the Daudu IDP camp.

AYA MBALOM, Nigeria— Bridget Ambua was gathering for Mass with residents of this farming community in April when gunmen surrounded their grass-roofed church and opened fire, leaving two priests and 17 worshipers dead within minutes.

“They killed as many men as they could,” the 65-year old grandmother said, including three of her relatives. “A young boy pointed his weapon at me. I still can’t comprehend why he didn’t pull the trigger.”

The massacre at Aya Mbalom village—the latest clash in what has become the deadliest conflict to roil Africa’s most-populous nation—comes after a year of attacks and reprisals that have left more than 1,500 people dead and pushed more than half a million from their homes across Nigeria’s most-fertile farming regions.

Bridget Ambua sits in her room at her house in Aya Mbalom.
Bridget Ambua sits in her room at her house in Aya Mbalom.

The clashes are the result of a battle over dwindling supplies of farmland between mainly Christian farming communities and mainly Muslim herdsmen who have for centuries lived in relative harmony.

Fighting has intensified in recent months after the government passed new laws to halt grazing in a bid to stop the deadly clashes and raise agricultural output.

Officials fear the conflict could intensify ahead of elections next year that are considered a referendum on how President Muhammadu Buhari has addressed violence in the country, including the war against the government being waged by Islamist insurgency Boko Haram. President Donald Trump raised the issue of Christian killings in this month’s White House meeting with Mr. Buhari.

Nigeria’s media and Christian politicians say the murders are the work of “killer herdsmen”: nomadic cattle farmers from the Fulani ethnic group, armed with machine guns and Kalashnikovs. Fulani leaders say they are defending themselves from farming communities that have formed militias to hunt and kill them.

Nigeria’s government has said criminal elements have penetrated both sides. Senior security officials say some Fulani groups have hired defectors from Boko Haram to carry out killings, a claim the herdsmen deny.

A Growing Conflict

The combination of increasingly dried out pasture land, banditry in the northwest and the threat of Boko Haram in the northeast has pushed many of Nigeria’s cattle herders south, where conflicts with farming communities have risen.

States with highest incidences of cattle rustling and banditry

States most adversly impacted by the Boko Haram insurgency

Area with the highest incidences of casualties from herder-farmer violence

NIGER

Sokoto

Katsina

Borno

Yobe

Zamfara

Kano

Kebbi

Maiduguri

Kano

Kaduna

BENIN

Kaduna

Niger

Adamawa

Plateau

Abuja

NIGERIA

CAMEROON

Aya Mbalom

Ibadan

Lagos

Ido

Detail

AFRICA

Port

Harcourt

Gulf of Guinea

Douala

100 miles

Yaounde

100 km

Source: International Crisis Group

Nigeria’s government this month declared a national-security emergency and pledged to deploy specialized agricultural-protection divisions across thousands of miles. Farmers have been angered by what they see as the tepid response from Mr. Buhari—himself of Fulani stock—who has called the killings “regrettable” and blamed bandits trained by Libya’s former dictator, Moammar Gadhafi.

Some analysts say the clashes could foreshadow broader resource wars across West Africa’s Sahel—the semiarid region bedeviled by a confluence of rising jihadist activity and surging migration—and around the continent.

“Confrontation between the Fulani and other Nigerian groups could have regional repercussions, drawing in fighters from neighboring countries,” the International Crisis Group said in a report: “These clashes are becoming as dangerous as the Boko Haram insurgency.”

The herdsman communities—concentrated in the Sahel but moving their herds across thousands of miles to Central African Republic from Senegal—have traditionally taken cattle south during dry season to graze—and in return fertilize farmers’ land.

But longer dry seasons, the expansion of the desert and one of the world’s fastest-growing populations, has destroyed that equilibrium. In northern states such Sokoto, Katsina, Bauchi and Kano, as much as 75% of land is becoming desert, according to the International Crisis Group, forcing herders further south, often heavily armed. There they have met settled farmers who are harvesting more land as the pressure to feed a population estimated to swell to 400 million by 2050, from an estimated 186 million, larger than the U.S.

A farmer works on his field in Mbalom, Benue state.
A farmer works on his field in Mbalom, Benue state.

Diplomats in the capital Abuja said the land conflict could be politically toxic for the government.

“This is extremely serious—it could make or break the elections. Buhari himself is at risk,” a senior Western official said. “He has been so late to address these issues.”

For now, the crisis is reverberating across Nigeria’s fertile states, known as the middle belt.

In Benue’s capital Makurdi, checkpoints have been erected on roads to affected villages. The production of food—including cassava, maize and soy—has collapsed, local officials said. Villagers are organizing into local defense forces.

Local officials say Fulani herdsmen are occupying farms in more than 70 villages, sending thousands fleeing and rendering more than half of the state inaccessible. On Makurdi’s outskirts, two camps now house 30,000 displaced people, with more arriving daily. At one camp, housed in a dilapidated primary school, two toilets serve 10,000 people.

The Daudu IDP camp, which was formerly a school, started housing people from displaced communities in January 2018 after suspected Fulani herdsmen launched an attack.
The Daudu IDP camp, which was formerly a school, started housing people from displaced communities in January 2018 after suspected Fulani herdsmen launched an attack.

Benue Gov. Samuel Ortom warns that the sectarian dynamic of attacks on churches risked moving the conflict into dangerous new territory.

“Islamic State, Boko Haram or Fulani mercenaries, they are all working toward achieving one agenda—which is invading and taking over our land,” he said.

Fulani groups said the killings are the work of marginal criminal elements and warn that Mr. Ortom’s rhetoric is evidence of prejudice against them.

“The conflict has become uncontrolled, religious and sectarian. Politicians are using it for their own purposes and the language recalls Rwanda before the genocide,” said Usman Ngelzerma, head of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeder’s Association, Nigeria’s largest Fulani advocacy group, as he looked through a book showing bludgeoned corpses of slain Fulanis. “Above all, the media is biased against us. They are uniting each and every community is hatred of our people.”

Mr. Ngelzerma said the 20 million cattle farmers, who own 50 million livestock, demand a repeal of the new laws restricting grazing.

Civil-society groups have proposed establishing grazing reserves that could provide pasture for some 20 million cattle.

Some members of the Catholic Men organization put the deceased in their final resting place, Makurdi.
Some members of the Catholic Men organization put the deceased in their final resting place, Makurdi.

Nigerian Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka has called for international intervention, warning the killings could spiral into the kind of ethnic cleansing seen in Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

On Tuesday, Benue’s farming community buried the two dead pastors in an emotionally charged ceremony attended by 20 bishops and thousands including Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. The site chosen for the burial is heavy with symbolism—a 40-foot cross atop a hill overlooking the farmland.

Mr. Osinbajo urged the community to forgive, promising that the government would apprehend the culprits and rebuild damaged communities.

Iornongu Geoffrey, the 63-year-old pastor administering the slain priests’ dioceses, echoed the community’s anger.

“These priests were killed in their complete dressing. These people knew what they were doing,” he said. “The government has to give us arms so we can have courage.”

Mercy, 16, from Aya Mbalom weeps profusely shortly after she witnessed the burial of some members of her community in Makurdi.
Mercy, 16, from Aya Mbalom weeps profusely shortly after she witnessed the burial of some members of her community in Makurdi.

Write to Joe Parkinson at joe.parkinson@wsj.com

Nigeria military rescues 1,000 Boko Haram hostages

More than 1,000 people held captive by the militant group Boko Haram have been freed, according to Nigeria’s military. Most were women and children, although some men who were forced to be fighters were also rescued.

    
Nigerian soldiers man a checkpoint in Gwoza, Nigeria in April 2015 (picture-alliance/dpa)

Over 1,000 Boko Haram hostages in northeastern Nigeria have been freed, military spokesman Brigadier General Texas Chukwu said on Monday.

Although Nigeria’s military has attempted to rescue captives of the jihadist group before, many remain missing — including some of the school girls abducted from Chibok in 2014.

Read moreBoko Haram has abducted over 1,000 kids since 2013: UN

What we know so far

  • Mostly women and children were rescued, but some men who had been forced to fight for Boko Haram were rescued as well.
  • The rescues were carried out in four villages in the Bama area of Nigeria’s northeastern Borno State.
  • The military spokesman did not say when the rescues took place.
  • Nigeria’s military and the Multinational Joint Task Force — comprised of troops from Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Benin — took part in the rescues.

Read moreNigeria fails to protect schools from Boko Haram’s attacks

Watch video01:32

Boko Haram frees abducted Nigerian schoolgirls

What is Boko Haram? The extremist group’s name roughly translates to “Western education is forbidden.” They are mostly active in northeastern Nigeria where they carry out kidnappings and bomb attacks. Over 20,000 people have been killed during the group’s nine-year insurgency and 2.5 million people have fled the region.

The missing Chibok girls: In 2014,Boko Haram militants kidnapped 200 school girls from the town of Chibok, prompting international condemnation. Although some of the girls have been rescued, other victims remain missing.

Watch video04:15

Boko Haram conflict threatens food security in Nigeria

rs/kms (AP, dpa)

Each evening at 1830 UTC, DW’s editors send out a selection of the day’s hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.

COURTESY: DW

Nigeria: Suicide bombers kill dozens in blasts at Mubi mosque

Police say dozens of people were killed in an attack on a mosque in northern Nigeria. Many are blaming the extremist group Boko Haram, though police have not formally publicly speculated as to the motive for the attack.

Nigerian army in Mubi

Dozens of people died on Tuesday when two suicide bombers detonated their explosives at a mosque and a market in Mubi, about 200 kilometers (125 miles) by road from Yola in northeast Nigeria.

Abdullahi Yerima, police commissioner in Adamawa state, said a suicide bomber had struck at the mosque shortly after 1 p.m. (1200 UTC) and a second attacker detonated a device about 200 meters (660 feet) away as worshippers fled. Bomb squads and security personnel have cordoned off the scene.

Nigeria

Striking health workers returned to the hospital to attend to the victims. “We have evacuated dozens of dead and injured people to the hospital,” Habu Saleh, who was volunteering in the aftermath of the explosion, told the news agency AFP. “And the rescue operation is still ongoing.”

Read more: Fighting Boko Haram with bows and arrows

Boko Haram, which briefly held control of Mubi in 2014 as part of its nine-year insurgency, has repeatedly targeted the town with deadly attacks. The fighting has left more than 30,000 people and forced about 2 million to flee their homes nationwide. On Thursday, the group carried out an attack in Maiduguri, the capital of the neighboring Borno state, that killed four people.

On November 21, a suicide bomber killed at least 50 people in a mosque during early morning prayers in the Unguwar Shuwa area of Mubi. In 2014, about 40 football supporters died in a bomb attack after a match in the Kabang area of the town. At least 40 people died in a 2012 attack on student housing in Mubi widely blamed on Boko Haram.

mkg/rc (Reuters, AFP, AP)

Each evening at 1830 UTC, DW’s editors send out a selection of the day’s hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.

COURTESY: DW

Trump-Buhari state meeting: A chance to mend the US-Nigeria relationship?

The meeting comes shorty after Trump’s unflattering comments concerning the African nation. It’s likely the US will attempt to rebuild trust, while Nigeria has the chance to promote itself on the world stage.

US President Donald Trump and Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari is set to meet US President Donald Trump in Washington on Monday.

The meeting marks the first time President Trump has hosted an African president at the White House after over a year in office. However, Trump’s recent controversial remarks regarding the continent — including referring to African states as “s***hole countries”and claiming that Nigerians would never want to leave the US and “go back to their huts” — hardly sets the stage for a productive and cordial discussion on bilateral issues of importance.

So why is the meeting even being held at all? The official line from White House spokeswoman, Sarah Sanders, is that “President Trump looks forward to discussing ways to enhance our strategic partnership and advance our shared priorities.” But there are a number of possible reasons for the meeting.

Mending fences

In light of Trump’s recent unflattering comments concerning Nigeria, it’s possible the meeting will be used as a chance to make amends.

“This is an opportunity for the US — especially under Trump — to turn a new page and convince Africa that they don’t harbor serious contempt towards us and that a mutual, strong relationship is the key,” Tukur Abdulkadir, a senior lecturer in political science at Kaduna State University told DW.

Trump is likely to use the meeting as an attempt to reset the troubled state of US-African diplomacy. Buhari was notably one of the first African leaders Trump personally called following his election. Since then, however, Trump appears to have shown little interest in the continent — largely indicated by his firing of former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in the middle of an African tour and the fact that he has not yet appointed anyone within the state department to a senior leadership position designed to handle African affairs.

“Generally Nigerians see the US relationship as relatively cordial, but of course it depends on the dynamics of the time,” Abdulkadir told DW.

Read more: Donald Trump’s lack of interest in Africa 

The Nigerian army patrols Borno State in the north-eastern region of the countryThe Nigerian army is likely to receive military aid from the US in the fight against the Boko Haram insurgency

Addressing the Boko Haram threat

Security is one of the highest issues on the agenda for the meeting — particularly with regards to Boko Haram in Nigeria. The Islamic extremist group began a violent insurgency in the country’s northeast nine years ago, with the ultimate aim of consolidating an Islamic state. Tens of thousands of people have since been killed and the group is now active in neighboring Niger, Chad and Cameroon.

Given that Boko Haram has evolved into one of the most serious security threats in West Africa’s Sahel region, it is expected that Buhari will seek further US military assistance. The Trump administration has already made a $600 million deal (€496 million) to supply the Nigerian government with military planes and security equipment, although the US is likely to announce the deployment of more military advisers to Nigeria to assist in the fight against Boko Haram.

Strengthening economic ties

Economic issues are also high on the agenda. According to Nigerian presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, Trump and Buhari will “discuss ways to enhance the strategic partnership between the two countries and to advance shared priorities such as promoting economic growth.” Although no major trade announcements are expected to come out of the meeting, it’s likely the two leaders will discuss ways to further develop their economic cooperation.

Watch video01:09

China and Nigeria tighten ties in trade and currency

“The US has the biggest economy in the world and Nigeria has the biggest economy in Africa. There are ample opportunities on both sides,” Abdullkadir told DW.

Nigeria is an economic powerhouse on the African continent and its leading crude oil exporter. In light of this, the US may be looking to counter the growing economic influence of China.

“If you’re looking at what is happening now, China seems to be the most influential country [in Africa] — they have displaced countries like the US, the UK, and France in Sub-Saharan Africa, especially in Nigeria,” says Abdullkadir.

“They are involved in multi-billion dollar projects in various sectors of the economy. I think the US really needs to do a lot to convince the people of Nigeria that they really mean well.”

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari addresses the UN General Assembly in 2015 (picture alliance/ZUMA Press)Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari addresses the UN General Assembly in New York in 2015. With an upcoming election, Buhari is likely to increase his presence on the world stage

Promoting Nigeria on the world stage

Buhari could also use the meeting as a chance to promote his own political goals.

After announcing his intention to seek a second term in office, Buhari now faces elections early next year. He won office in 2015 in a rare democratic transfer of power — largely based on promises to stem the tide of Boko Haram, which have so far failed to materialize. This trip to Washington, then, is a good chance for Buhari to boost his international profile as a world leader and attempt to shake off his unflattering nickname ‘Baba Go-Slow’ before the campaign season begins.

“The [Nigerian] opposition dismissed [the meeting] as a propaganda stunt by the president,” Abdulkadir told DW.

“But it shows clearly that the powerless status that Nigeria had in the past is gradually giving way to a more respectable relationship with the community of nations, and especially the United States.”

Watch video01:52

What effect has Trump’s presidency had on: Africa?

 

COURTESY: DW

Buhari Blames Gaddafi For Killings Across Nigeria

President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday publicly blamed former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi who was killed seven years ago for the ongoing killings across central Nigeria.

The killings have long been linked to herdsmen, and some herders of the Fulani ethnic stock have claimed responsibility for some attacks.

But the president said Mr. Gaddafi, a dictator swept away by an uprising in 2011, was to blame for the alarming dimension the attacks have taken in recent years.

Mr. Gaddafi was killed in October 2011 following weeks of violent uprising across Libya, ending his 42-year reign. He was 69.

Prior to his death, which was aided by the Western incursion into the country, Mr. Gaddafi reportedly armed his supporters to ward off the rebellion against him. Libya subsequently plunged into a civil war that still lingers nearly seven years later.

In London with the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby on Wednesday, President Buhari said the arms Mr. Gaddafi provided to his supporters had filtered into Nigeria where they are now being used to fuel killings across the north-central.

“The problem is even older than us,” Mr. Buhari said of killings. “It has always been there, but now made worse by the influx of armed gunmen from the Sahel region into different parts of the West African sub-region.”

“These gunmen were trained and armed by Muammar Gaddafi of Libya. When he was killed, the gunmen escaped with their arms. We encountered some of them fighting with Boko Haram.”

“Herdsmen that we used to know carried only sticks and maybe a cutlass to clear the way, but these ones now carry sophisticated weapons,” Mr. Buhari said.

He once again dismissed claims that the attacks might have tribal or religious undertone because they largely occurred at Christian-dominated and minority tribes areas, saying those propagating the assertion are doing so for political gains.

“The problem is not religious, but sociological and economic. But we are working on solutions,” Mr. Buhari said.

The president has faced criticism from for his response in combating the crisis headlong.

Former Nigerian leaders Olusegun Obasanjo and Ibrahim Babangida have criticised Mr. Buhari for not demonstrating the capacity to contain the killings, asking him not to run again in 2019. They had also been joined by Theophilus Danjuma, a former chief of army staff, who admonished citizens to defend themselves rather than wait for security agencies.

Mr. Danjuma said the Nigerian security agencies are complicit in the killings, saying many tribes may be wiped out if they wait for federal authorities to protect them.

Both Mr. Buhari and the military have separately issued statements condemning Mr. Danjuma’s remarks and imploring Nigerians not to arm themselves.

The killings, especially in Benue, Nasarawa and Taraba States, have resulted in over a thousand deaths this year alone. They have also caused humanitarian emergencies in those states, with each of them running camps for hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons.

Mr. Buhari has long implied that the attackers are foreigners and not herdsmen, contrary to the accounts of villagers who insist they are being killed by herders.

In the past, Fulani leaders have openly claimed responsibility for killings hundreds of villagers but said they were provoked by the wanton rustling of their livestock.

Following the killings in Benue in early January, leaders of the group in the state vowed that there would be no peace unless the anti-open grazing law being implemented in the state is immediately abolished.

That position has been repeatedly reechoed by senior government officials, including the Minister of Defence Mansur Dan Ali and the Inspector-General of Police Ibrahim Idris.

Security analysts expressed concerns that Mr. Buhari might not have a good grasp of the crisis, despite how frequent it has manifested in recent months.

“Unfortunately, the president appears to be misinformed,” said security analyst Cheta Nwanze.

Mr. Nwanze, head of SBM Intelligence in Lagos, said while it is true that some of the arms in Libya have found their ways into Nigeria following the death of Mr. Gaddafi, there is little evidence to support the assertion that they are being used in the north-central killings.

“Most arms from Libya that have been tracked end up with Boko Haram by way of N’Djamena in Chad,” Mr. Nwanze said.

He said the arms being used in the north-central have been linked to previously intercepted weapons by the Nigerian government.

On the assertion that the killers are not herdsmen or Fulani, Mr. Nwanze said “the president may need to reassess his statement” because leaders of cattle breeders association have repeatedly claimed responsibility for deadly attacks or warned of impending ones in the past.

Another security expert who weighed in on the president’s comments with PREMIUM TIMES Thursday morning was Mike Ejiofor, a former director of the State Security Service (SSS).

“It is really unfortunate that the president would go outside to tell the terrorists are coming from Libya,” he said. “We have no borders with Libya and there are no similar senseless killings in other countries which have borders with Libya.”

Mr. Ejiofor expressed a splinter support for the president’s assertion that the killers might not be herdsmen, saying he believes some of them are actually terrorists taking advantage of the fluid security situation to further polarise the country.

Nigeria: President Buhari says he will seek second term

The announcement brings to end ongoing speculation over whether the 75-year-old incumbent leader would seek re-election. However, not all Nigerians are enthusiastic about a possible second term.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday declared he would run for re-election next year.

He will seek his ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) party’s ticket to contest the 2019 election.

Buhari indicated his intention to run for a second four-year term during a closed-door national executive meeting of the APC party; however, the public announcement first came over Twitter.

Bashir Ahmad

@BashirAhmaad

BREAKING: President Muhammadu Buhari has just officially announced his intention to seek re-election in 2019. Details soon…

The decision put an end to months of speculation concerning the future of the 75-year-old’s political career following bouts of an undisclosed illness.

Buhari spent a significant amount of time in Britain last year on medical leave, leaving Vice President Yemi Osingajo to lead the country. His time abroad sparked strong criticism from opposition groups, who accused him of being unfit for office and leaving his administration in a state of inertia.

President Muhammadu Buhari returns from a medical trip in LondonPresident Muhammadu Buhari meets with members of the Nigerian government after returning from London where he received medical treatment in March 2017

Supporters back second term for Buhari

“Victory is sure by the grace of God and together we must continue to sanitize Nigeria’s political environment,” Buhari said in a statement issued by the presidency.

On March 1, the APC party passed a vote of confidence in Buhari, although at the time it denied that this meant it was endorsing the president for a second term.

Presidential spokesman Garba Shehu told DW that support for Buhari’s re-election remains strong.

“There has been this huge clamor from all over the country from party men, non-party men and prominent citizens for him to give it a second shot.”

Shehu acknowledged that there is still a lot of work to be done, particularly with regards to ending graft in Nigeria.

“Everyone agrees that corruption is a major problem for this country, and President Buhari has been doing an excellent job [tackling] this — on account of which his peers in the African Union agreed that he would be the champion of corruption this year for the whole continent of Africa.”

“The president is a friend of ordinary Nigerians who see him as an honest leader,” Shehu added.

Demonstrators protest against President Muhammadu Buhari in Lagos in 2017Demonstrators protest against President Muhammadu Buhari in Lagos in 2017. Many Nigerians believe Buhari has not done enough to solve the country’s problems

‘Baba Go-Slow’

But not all Nigerians share the same enthusiasm for President Buhari. He is often jokingly called “Baba Go-Slow” by Nigerians due to his perceived lackluster leadership style.

“Everybody has been complaining about his performance, everyone complains about it bitterly except for those close to him,” one voter told DW. “But we, the common people, we complain about it. His performance is not to our expectations.”

Another local resident believes Buhari has done little to bring about promised change in Nigeria, and someone else should be given a chance.

“The change which he promised to bring [has not come about]. I believe he should just give up on the election. Give the chance to another person, because everything has gone downhill and we need change.”

Read more: Nigeria’s youth ‘ready to run’ for political office

Reformed military leader

Buhari defeated former President Goodluck Jonathan of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in 2015, with his campaign focusing largely on tackling widespread corruption in Nigeria. His win marked the first time in Nigeria’s history that a sitting president lost to an opposition candidate in a general democratic election.

While his supporters credit Buhari with pulling Nigeria out of last year’s recession, he has also been criticized for worsening the economic situation in the first place by introducing a currency peg which drove away investors and depleted foreign reserves.

The APC government has made some gains against the extremist group Boko Haramduring its time in office. However, Boko Haram continues to stage attacks against civilians and the military, especially in the northeast of the country.

Buhari had previously served as a general and military head of state between 1983 and 1985 after taking power in a military coup. He has since described himself as a “converted democrat.”

Nigeria’s political parties must officially select their candidates for the 2019 general election between August 18 and October 7 this year. The election is set to take place on February 16 2019.

Watch video03:48

Fighting corruption in Nigeria: What has Buhari achieved?

Adrian Kriesch and Ubale Musa contributed to this piece

 

COURTESY: DW