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Not much magic: Nigeria’s Buhari completes his first year in office 0

After a mixed start, the hope and goodwill on which Buhari was elected a year ago is starting to run low.

One year after Muhammadu Buhari broke the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) 16-year reign and became the first person to defeat an incumbent president at the ballot box, he is still trying to find his feet. The wild chants and jubilation that greeted his inauguration on 29 May 2015 have now died down, and the first-year performance of ‘baba go slow’ – a nickname Buhari picked up thanks to the lethargic pace at which he has sometimes operated –has received mixed reviews.

Of course, one year is not a long time to try to impose change in Africa’s most populous nation and largest economy, but it is perhaps soon enough to assess his early successes and failures. So how has he fared on the main fronts of the economy, security and corruption?

Economy: a broken inheritance and no vision to fix it

Nigeria is currently beset by an economic crisis largely thanks to the collapse in oil prices from around $100 in 2014, down to $50 today. Years of dependency on petroleum exports, which account for 98% of foreign earnings and more than two-thirds of government funding, is coming back to haunt the country. Inflation has hit a four-year high of 12.8%, the price of basic goods has skyrocketed, and the IMF forecasts economic growth at just 2.3% in 2016, its slowest pace in nearly two decades.

Calls for the devaluation of the naira have been resisted, with the Central Bank of Nigeria preferring to tighten the currency and foreign exchange controls with the tacit approval of the presidency. This policy has further weakened the naira and put increased strain on local and foreign businesses who have struggled to foot the bill for their imports. Meanwhile, the much delayed assent of the 2016 budget has compounded the country’s economic problems with its signing taking place almost half way into the year.

“After a year in office, Buhari still has not articulated a vision for streamlining the government and transforming it from an inept, corrupt obstacle to economic growth”, says Mathew Page, International Affairs Fellow at The Council on Foreign Relations. “Although he inherited an economy debilitated by rampant government corruption and declining oil prices, his statist and protectionist strategy to address the crisis does not appear to be working.”

Security: progress on one front, but new ones open up

Key amongst Buhari’s campaign promises was the tackling of rampant insecurity with the pledge to challenge the Islamist militant group Boko Haram “head on”.

On this front, the Buhari administration has reinvigorated the armed forces andoverhauled all service chiefs. Recent offensives have greatly weakened the militants and large swathes of territory have been recaptured. Boko Haram now largely operates from a small area within Borno state and has been resigned to attacking soft targets usingsuicide bombers, a deadly yet defeatist tactic.

This has been one of Buhari’s successes. But with one door seemingly closing, more may have opened.

The resurgence of Niger Delta militancy, for instance, has put the government on the back foot with a new group calling itself the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) adopting the same tactics as its predecessors, accusing the government of continually neglecting the region.  The NDA has sabotaged various oil installations in recent months, with major companies including Royal Dutch Shell, Agip and Chevron having their pipelines destroyed. This has forced oil production down from 2.2 million barrels a day to 1.1 million, a 50% drop in output costing the government hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue.

In the south west and south east, attacks by Fulani herdsman on farmers and locals over grazing lands in the last year have led to the loss of more than 2,000 lives and is seen a major threat to security. Meanwhile, the continued agitation of the separatist Biafra movement suggests that further instability under Buhari is likely.

Continue reading on African Arguments

by Lagun Akinloye

Photo Credits: European Union – European Parliament 2016

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