President Buhari faces insecurity headache as he wraps up last term

Rising attacks by jihadists and criminal gangs, including a brazen attack near the capital, are giving Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari a headache as he reviews his last six months in office.

LAGOS – Rising attacks by jihadists and criminal gangs, including a brazen attack near the capital, are giving Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari a headache as he reviews his last six months in office.

Last month, the Islamic State group’s Nigerian affiliate ISWAP called for a prison break just 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Abuja International Airport, freeing hundreds of prisoners, including 64 jihadist commanders.

The capital, located in the center of the country, is far from the usual area of ​​operation of jihadists in the northeast – the last major attack in the city dates back to 2015.

In the same month, a military checkpoint on the outskirts of the capital was attacked and a presidential security convoy was ambushed in the northwest of the country.

At least 40 worshippers were killed at a Catholic church in southwest Owo in June and five people were killed in central Kogi state last week when gunmen opened fire on a bus.

Idayat Hassan, director of the Think Tanks Center for Democracy and Development, said security was now at the center of public concern.

“There is growing pressure from Nigerians from all walks of life for the insecurity plaguing the country to be resolved,” he said.

“The problem right now is that nowhere in the country is safe – and no one, regardless of class or position in life, is safe.”

‘HELPLESS’ BUHARI

Presidential elections for a successor to Buhari are due to be held in February next year. The former army general, who was first elected in 2015 and re-elected in 2019, is expected to step down after two terms.

One of Buhari’s big campaign promises was to end insecurity – and the relentless violence exposed him politically.

“Most of us supported Buhari because he is a general,” said leader Frank Kokori, a ruling party member, former trade union leader and human rights activist.

“We think he’s been negligent (with) the security of the country, that’s obvious, and he needs to wake up because he wasted his goodwill.”

A North East-based security source, who asked not to be identified, said: “Buhari is in an unenviable position.”

“Of course, as head of government, he should take responsibility for security breaches, but in reality he is powerless.”

Despite heavy investments in the security apparatus, the situation “continued to deteriorate”, he said.

Opposition MPs threw down the gauntlet last month, threatening to indict Buhari if he failed to stem the violence.

However, given the ruling party’s parliamentary majority, the announcement is widely seen as a hollow threat.

Udo Jude Ilo, an analyst and consultant at Thoughts and Mace Advisory, said the government failed on the security issue.

He pointed to the ambush of a recently inaugurated high-speed passenger train between Abuja and the northern city of Kaduna in March.

Eight people were killed, 26 injured and an unknown number taken hostage.

“No one was fired,” Ilo said. “The department heads are still there. It’s amazing.”

‘COMBUSTIVE’ MIX

Faced with a complex security crisis, the 79-year-old president appeared distant, multiplying trips abroad and communicating as much on the birthdays of members of his cabinet as on the attacks themselves.

Meanwhile, criminal gangs known as “bandits” continue to wreak havoc in the North West and Centre, attacking villages and kidnapping residents every week.

In the northeast, a 13-year-old jihadist insurgency that has already claimed more than 40,000 lives and displaced at least two million people continues unabated. Militants are even expanding south.

Analysts have warned of links between bandits and jihadists – an alliance that could create even more problems for the government and security agencies.

Nigeria also faces a bleak economic outlook as inflation rises due to the COVID pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Since Buhari came to power in 2015, “there has been no coherent policy to tackle not only insecurity but also the drivers of insecurity,” Ilo said.

There is a “burning game of factors: the economy is doing badly, the country does not have enough resources to pay its debts, inflation has been rising for months”.

The lack of jobs also creates fertile ground for “radicalisation”, he warned. “It’s a scary combination.”

  • AFP
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