Deadly Lack of Security Plagues Nigeria as Buhari Seeks Re-election
By New York Times
Tijani Idris heard the roar and rushed inside his home, peeking through the window to spot fighter jets crisscrossing the sky above his forest village.
They were Nigerian Air Force jets, scrambled to battle yet another major security threat in one of Africa’s most populous nations: groups of armed gangs that have made the northwestern corner of the country their haven.
This year alone in the state of Zamfara, hundreds have died in mass murders and more than 21,000 people have been forced from their homes. In total, officials say at least 2,000 people have died from violence in the area since 2011.
Earlier this month, the president responded with force, sending 1,000 troops and jets to fight the gangs.
“I saw the planes, I felt encouraged,” said Mr. Idris, a medical assistant who lives in Mashema Village in the northern edge of Zamfara State.
Nigeria is beleaguered by security threats. In the northeast, Islamist extremists from Boko Haram and its splinter groups are waging increasingly complex attacks on military forces and civilians. In the middle part of the country, more than 1,300 people have been killed increasingly vicious land disputes between cattle herders and farmers. Farther to the south, violence spikes from time to time in the Biafra region, where separatists are pushing to secede. And in various pockets throughout the country, like a major highway between Kaduna and Abuja, kidnappings of prominent figures and regular Nigerians alike have become common.
The threats are becoming a major issue for President Muhammadu Buhari as he tries for a second term in February. Increasingly, critics, and even allies, complain about his failure to take control of the security situation.
After Mr. Buhari took office in 2015, he made advances in pursuing Boko Haram, but he has not delivered on his promise to defeat the group once and for all. Even as the war rages, he has repeatedly claimed victory, prompting outrage by some over exaggerated proclamations. Last year, dissatisfaction with the 75-year-old president grew while he was out of the country for several weeks receiving medical treatment in London for an undisclosed illness.
After almost a decade into the Boko Haram insurgency, security resources on the frontlines of the conflict are increasingly stretched. On Sunday, according to local reports, several soldiers brought an airport in Borno State, in northeastern Nigeria, to a halt, shooting into the air and threatening their superiors to protest working conditions. It is the third time this year that security forces have protested their plight stemming from the conflict.
Recently, security has deteriorated significantly. In July alone, a total of more than 400 people were killed by Boko Haram or gangs in Zamfara, or in the herder-farmer conflict, according to the International Crisis Group.
In recent weeks, Mr. Buhari’s All Progressives Congress party has been hit with a wave of defections. More than 50 lawmakers, state governors and party members have joined the opposition People’s Democratic Party, many of them worried that any alignment with the president could challenge their prospects in next year’s elections.
And bizarre events have left many in the nation concerned about the general state of democracy. Twice in recent weeks, security forces from the Department of State Services, the top spy agency, have appeared in black face masks outside the National Assembly. On Aug. 7, they blocked lawmakers from entering.
Later that day, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo fired the head of the agency. And on Tuesday, he announced that a notorious security agency, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, would be shut down. The decision was widely welcomed; it followed several months of criticism that Mr. Buhari was again deaf to the concerns of Nigerians, after several protests against alleged abuses by the agency.
Analysts see Mr. Buhari’s dispatching of fighter jets to combat the gangs in Zamfara as a belated show of force for a president eager to appear like he has control over security.
Source: New York Time