Muhammadu Buhari
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Nigeria’s President continues to divide opinions

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Muhammadu Buhari

When Muhammadu Buhari was elected as Nigerian President in March 2015; it was the culmination of a long and controversial involvement in Nigerian politics. While many have criticized his record on human rights, others have praised his seemingly incorruptible nature, and efforts to battle domestic terrorism. As recent health concerns have yet to be fully abated, the future of the President remains uncertain.

A history of political struggle

Muhammadu Buhari was born on December 17th 1942, in Daura, Katsina State, to a large family in which he was the 23rd child. By the age of 19, Buhari had joined the military, and within one year he had been sent to the UK for officer training. Buhari returned to Nigeria in 1963 and from here, until his election in 2015, he was rarely away from the political struggles within the country.

After serving the government in the Nigerian Civil War, Buhari was involved in the 1966 Counter Coup, before supporting the 1975 Coup that briefly led to him taking on nonmilitary roles within the new government.

But it is the 1983 Coup, that he led, which threw him into the limelight. Buhari took power from January 1984 until August 1985, in which time he led a fierce stamp down on political corruption, indiscipline and rising crime. While the measures were seen by many as necessary for economic reform, widespread human rights abuses were reported, and press freedom was severely curtailed.

Buhari’s brief stint in power came to an end in 1985, when he was overthrown and put into detention for 3 years. However, his ambitions as a leader saw him return to politics with a failed Presidential bid in 2003, followed by two more attempts at gaining democratic election in 2007 and 2011.

Legitimacy and the Future

Buhari finally succeeded in becoming the democratically elected President in March 2015, when Nigeria elected him to replace incumbent leader, Goodluck Jonathon. Buhari’s commitment to breaking the cycle of corruption within Nigerian politics was almost immediately displayed when he had former national security advisor, Sambo Dasuki, arrested for embezzling $2 billion worth of funds that were assigned for the battle with Boko Haram.

Several other senior government figures have also found themselves in jail, as Buhari looks to cut out the rot that he feels has hampered Nigerian progress for too long. However, this has echoes of similar moves that he made in his brief run of power in the 1980’s, and the world’s leaders are unlikely to be supportive of the other measures that Buhari employed at the time, including executions for drug users, and public floggings for people who did not line up at bus stops in an orderly fashion.

Thus far, none of the obvious abuses of the past have manifested themselves under Buhari’s new leadership, and there has been marked improvement in the security in Nigeria’s north-eastern region, which has borne the brunt of much of the nation’s Islamic extremism.

However, a recession hit Nigeria soon after Buhari’s electoral triumph, and Islamist forces pushed out of the north-east have begun to increase attacks within the nation’s oil rich, Niger Delta region. Buhari has also faced criticism over his recognition of women in government, as his cabinet is only 16% female, compared with the previous regime’s 31%.

Major concerns over Buhari’s health

Most recently, there have been major concerns over Buhari’s health, and whether he would be capable of continuing in power. In January of this year, Buhari traveled to the UK for treatment on an unspecified condition, and remained there for 7 weeks, before returning to Nigeria in March. Buhari then returned to London for more treatment on May 7th, and thus far has not gone back to his nation.

Although his wife has assured concerned Nigerians that he is recovering well, there is a growing demand in Nigeria for him to be declared unfit, and while vice president, Yemi Osinbajo, has been in control during Buhari’s absence, there are several other potential leaders looking for their chance to take the top post.

Buhari is a man who has fought in wars, coups and survived an assassination attempt in 2014; so regardless of ones opinion on his policies, it cannot be said that he is easily broken. The future of his leadership looks uncertain, but if he is physically capable, then we can be assured he is likely to do his utmost to retain his position.

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Is time the only thing that Buhari needs to rebuild Nigeria?

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Muhammadu Buhari

Nigeria’s president inherited a multitude of problems from the previous administration. Does he have what it takes to overcome them?

Nigeria’s President, former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari calls for time and space to achieve the objectives he laid out upon his election last year.

Buhari has openly declared his intentions for Nigeria’s future. He wants to build a country that future generations will be proud to inherit. This is rare in a continent where leaders frequently think in the short term – often selling off natural resources for instant personal gain, rather than investing in long-term solutions for Africa’s economic problems. Buhari’s Nigeria, he claims, is “for its children.” Whether these promises will materialize will depend on his ability to identify and build upon his past mistakes, and those of his predecessor.

Muhammadu Buhari comes from a large family; he was his father’s 23rd child, born in 1942 in Daura, Katsina state. He ruled Nigeria for 20 months in 1985 and has since lost three general elections to the People’s Democratic Party, which has dominated the political landscape in Nigeria since the end of military rule in 1999.

Winds of Change for Nigeria

Buhari’s perseverance has paid off and after waning public support for Goodluck Jonathan, he became the first opposition candidate to de-throne an incumbent leader in Nigeria. The issues inherited from previous governments will not be easy to overcome however, and continuing President Jonathan’s battle to contain the Islamic militants in the north will be Buhari’s biggest challenge.

Originally from Nigeria’s Islamic North, Buhari has alienated many from the mainly Christian south of the country by giving his support to Sharia law. Subsequently, he has had to strongly deny having a radical Islamist agenda. Deep-seated suspicion regarding his religious background and suggested support of Boko Haram has been quelled by a recent failed assassination attempt that left 82 dead, apparently orchestrated by Boko Haram forces.

Boko Haram, unemployment and rampant corruption to fight

Boko Haram

Boko Haram

He was previously mistrusted by the voting populace in the south, but President Jonathan’s failure to overcome the jihadi militia left Buhari with an opportunity to exploit. The 276 Chibok girls missing since 2014 have piled local and international pressure upon Nigeria’s administration. The Boko Haram crisis has left more than 20,000 dead and over 2 million displaced since 2009. Since his inauguration there has been a lot of posturing and even claims to have “defeated” the militant group, but terror attacks, kidnappings and suicide bombings are still rife, particularly in the North of the country. With an agenda to meet, but what appears to be little structural planning, it will take more than time or crude military suppression to overcome “the most deadly terrorist group in the world.”

Boko Haram is unfortunately not Nigeria’s only crisis. Buhari will also have to tackle large scale unemployment and rampant corruption. Buhari’s Deputy Prime Minster estimated that 110 million of Nigeria’s 170 million inhabitants are living in extreme poverty. He also noted that the majority of the wealth is going into the pockets of the nation’s privileged few. For Africa’s most populous nation, these economic issues add stress to the fractures caused by religious extremism and recent spates of violence. Making progress with these issues may also be the key to undermining the militant support among the population, with rampant unemployment being a key factor in their recruitment campaigns.

Buhari: an incorruptible and converted democrat for Nigeria

His biggest election promise is to tackle the fuel shortages that have blighted the population and stagnated the economy over the last several years. His plans are to increase production and improve distribution, while renegotiating terms with the rebel forces. In 2009 President Jonathan’s government agreed to pay militants $400 per month to stop their attacks on the fuel supplies. Once the money inevitably dried up, the attacks recommenced and the supply problems are now worse than ever. On paper, Buhari seems to be well placed to handle this crisis: he was the Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources in 1976 and during his tenure heavily invested in pipelines and created 21 new petroleum storage units across the country. But his ability to negotiate with the Nigeria Delta Avengers is in contention; his rigidity and stubbornness are well known within the administration and beyond. Striking a balance between tackling the underlying issues, negotiations and strategic military moves will be key to eradicating the extremist violence that have dominated the political horizon in Nigeria.

Buhari claims to be a “changed man” and a “converted democrat,” taking full responsibility for all that happened during his short military rule in the mid-80s, and the part he played in the military coup that overthrew the democratically elected leader, President Shehu Shegari. If Buhari’s “incorruptible” and rare reputation for honesty holds true, he may be able to usher in a wave of change, washing away the culture of injustice and corruption, both in businesses and in government. He has appealed for time and patience, but will this be enough, or will the multitude of problems he faces just be too much to overcome?

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Muhammadu Buhari rebukes Cameron for corruption remarks

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Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari

Muhammadu Buhari, the Nigerian President, aimed a subtle attack on David Cameron’s hypocrisy after the British PM’s comments on Nigerian corruption.

Muhammadu Buhari, the Nigerian President, was in London this month for a multinational conference on tackling corruption. The summit was being held at the Commonwealth Secretariat, in the UK’s capital city, and played host to numerous world leaders as well as the US Secretary of State, John Kerry.

While the event was a positive move by different nations to discuss strategies for breaking down corruption, it was preceded by an embarrassing leak regarding the British Prime Minister.

Only days before the scheduled meeting, Cameron was overheard talking to the British Queen and saying, “We’ve got some leaders of some fantastically corrupt countries coming to Britain … Nigeria and Afghanistan, possibly the two most corrupt countries in the world.”

Buhari’s balanced retort

As Mr. Cameron’s comments were widely reported, President Buhari’s office released a statement to say that the President was “deeply shocked and embarrassed” by the Prime Minister’s remarks.

However, there was a much more subtle retort about to come. A retort in which Buhari accepted the issues that his country faces with corruption, but also shone a light on the vein of hypocrisy, that some might see, within Cameron’s words.

When asked by the BBC whether Nigeria was indeed “fantastically corrupt,” Mr Buhari responded “yes,” and then elaborated on Cameron’s remarks by saying, “He was telling the truth. He was talking about what he knew.”

But the real riposte came when Mr Buhari explained that he was not demanding “any apology from anybody,” adding, “I am demanding a return of assets. What would I do with an apology? I need something tangible.”

This was a reference to the billions of dollars of money stolen from Nigeria by corrupt officials, who then took their ill-gotten gains to the UK. The most recent example of this involves former Nigerian state governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, who fled Nigeria as he faced corruption charges, and arrived in Britain with $1.8 million in cash. While Alamieyeseigha was arrested in the UK, and charged with money laundering. £1 million of this money was eventually returned to Nigeria through the Metropolitan Police.

Moreover, this was not an isolated case, or even close to being the largest amount. Funds stolen from Nigeria and siphoned to the UK are nothing new. Almost 20 years ago, the former military head of state, Sani Abacha, was shown to have stolen approximately $5 billion from Nigeria’s coffers, and half of this is estimated to have been laundered in the UK. None of this money was ever recovered by Nigeria, and the incumbent President wonders just where it is and when it will be returned.

The former governor of Nigeria’s Delta State, James Onanefe Ibori, is also estimated to have stolen $250 million from his homeland. Ibori is serving jail time in the UK, but his multitude of British properties has not been processed in order to ensure that the laundered money is sent back to its rightful home.

The reality for both nations

It is of course clear that Nigeria’s corruption problem outweighs Britain’s. However, perhaps one of the largest issues is that Nigeria’s corruption adversely affects its own people, while Britain’s corruption often allows a small number to benefit from theft outside its own shores.

Transparency International’s Corruption Index ranked Nigeria 136th out of 168 nations, and the UK was ranked 10th. However, Transparency International criticized Prime Minister Cameron’s comments, saying that the UK was a key part of the global corruption problem by “providing a safe haven for corrupt assets” and being “by far the most important part of the global offshore system of tax havens and secrecy jurisdictions.”

The recent scandal around the Panama Papers, and the naming of Mr. Cameron’s father in them, is a timely reminder that corruption is not simply a problem in the developing world.

The presence of the various world leaders in London is a positive step, but Nigeria could justifiably argue it is doing more than most to address its problems.

The Nigerian Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has only been operating since 2003, and yet by 2013 it had thousands of convictions. Nigeria appears to be taking corruption seriously, and “embarrassing” comments put to the side, it must be hoped that all the nations at the anti-corruption talks can work together for sustained progress.

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Nigeria’s Buhari signs delayed 2016 record budget into law

Comments (0) Africa, Latest Updates from Reuters, Politics

ABUJA (Reuters) – Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari signed the delayed 2016 budget into law on Friday, ending weeks of wrangling with lawmakers and tripling capital expenditure as Africa’s biggest economy contends with its worst crisis in years.

The 6.06 trillion naira ($30.6 billion) budget is an attempt by Africa’s top oil exporter to stimulate an economy hammered by the fall in crude oil prices. Oil sales make up about 70 percent of national income.

The budget assumes oil production of 2.2 million barrels per day at 38 dollars a barrel, Budget Minister Udoma Udo Udoma told reporters shortly after the signing.

Growth last year fell to its slowest rate since 1999 at 2.8 percent and inflation rose to a near four-year high of 12.8 percent in March while capital imports declined by 74 percent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2016. [nL5N1817H4]

In a speech given after the signing, Buhari said the current period was “probably the toughest economic times in the history of our nation”.

“In designing the 2016 budget, we made a deliberate choice to pursue an expansionary fiscal policy despite the huge decline in government revenues from crude oil exports,” he said.

The president said 350 billion naira would be spent on capital projects, and he compared the 200 billion allocated to road construction with the 18 billion earmarked for that purpose in the 2015 budget.

Buhari withdrew his original budget bill in January because of an unrealistic oil price assumption. Parliament approved an amended proposal in March but only submitted highlights, prompting Buhari to say he would only sign the bill after it was resubmitted.

The lack of a budget, almost a year after Buhari took office, meant ministries were unable to allocate funds to projects in various sectors.

“The passage of the budget has been a long journey, and it has been as much about process as content,” Nigeria-focused PM Consulting’s Antony Goldman, said.

The government plans to generate 3.38 trillion naira this year from non-oil sources, up 87 percent from 1.81 trillion in 2015 [nL5N17E2KU]. But, with the heavy reliance on oil sales, it is unclear how this will be achieved.

Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun has said Nigeria is expected to post budget deficits for the next two to three years [nL5N17E17G]. In 2016, the deficit is seen at 2.2 trillion naira compared with a previously estimated 3 trillion.

She has said Nigeria plans to borrow a total of 1.8 trillion naira from abroad and at home.

($1 = 199.0000 naira)

 

(By Felix Onuah. Writing by Alexis Akwagyiram; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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World Bank and Nigerian president discuss the country’s economic crisis

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ABUJA (Reuters) – The World Bank held talks with the Nigerian president on Wednesday on how it could help Nigeria overcome an economic crisis caused mainly by a sharp fall in crude prices eating into its oil revenues.

On her second day of meetings with Nigerian officials, World Bank Managing Director and Chief Operating Officer Sri Mulyani Indrawati met President Muhammadu Buhari, who plans to stimulate the flagging economy with a record 6 trillion naira ($31 billion) budget.

Nigeria will have to borrow 1.8 trillion naira from abroad and at home to help fund the budget, which has been delayed by several months and wrangling with parliament, if it goes ahead.

Although Nigeria has held talks with the World Bank over a possible loan or credit facility in recent months, Indrawati did not address this when speaking to reporters after the meeting.

“We would like to know how we can help Nigeria to make the very important decisions, whether on micro economic policy and other sectoral policy, that will make this economy move forward to become a strong middle income country,” she said.

Indrawati, who met Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun on Tuesday, said she and Buhari discussed the government’s “commendable goals to improve tax collection and crackdown on corruption.

Nigeria’s economy, the largest in Africa, grew by 2.8 percent last year, its slowest pace since 1999.

 

(By Felix Onuah. Writing by Alexis Akwagyiram; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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Nigerian lawmakers to question presidency over long-overdue budget

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Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari

ABUJA (Reuters) – Nigerian lawmakers said on Wednesday they planned to hold talks with the presidency over the 2016 budget bill, which has yet to be signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari after being passed by parliament last month.

The announcement suggests further delays before the legislation takes effect in Africa’s biggest economy and top oil producer, which is going through its worst crisis in years brought on by the slump in global crude prices.

Buhari withdrew his original budget bill in January because of an unrealistic oil price assumption and flaws in the draft. Lawmakers approved an amended proposal last month but only submitted headline figures rather than the whole document to the president’s office.

That prompted Buhari, who is currently in China, to say he would only sign the bill after checking it thoroughly.

Following closed-session talks by lawmakers in the lower house of parliament, a spokesman for politicians in that chamber said media reports about the contents of the budget submitted to the president last week had caused concern.

“We agreed as a chamber, as a House delegated the Speaker to please go ahead and engage the executive to identify the areas of concern,” said House of Representatives spokesman Abdulrazak Namdas.

He said there was particular concern about media reports that a proposed rail project linking the southwestern commercial capital, Lagos, with the eastern city of Calabar had been removed by parliament as part of their amendments.

Namdas said it “was not among the projects submitted by the President to the National Assembly”.

“Our own area of concern is that people say this thing was in the budget and we removed it. That is why we asked our speaker to liaise with the executive,” he said.

Last month Lai Mohammed, the information minister, said there was no rift between the executive and legislature over details of the budget.

 

(By Camillus Eboh. Writing by Alexis Akwagyiram; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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Buhari to check Nigeria budget “ministry by ministry” before signing

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ABUJA (Reuters) – Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari will check the 2016 budget bill passed last week “ministry by ministry” before signing it, he said on Thursday, signaling further delays before the legislation takes effect.

The budget for Africa’s top oil producer has been held up for months as Buhari had to withdraw his original bill, which set spending at a record $30 billion, in January, due to an unrealistic oil price assumption and flaws in the draft.

Lawmakers approved an amended bill last week that Buhari has yet to sign as parliament has so far only sent highlights of the new document to his office, a government official told Reuters on Tuesday.

“Some bureaucrats removed what we put in the proposal and replaced it with what they wanted,” Buhari said, according to a statement from his office.

“I have to look at the bill that has been passed … ministry by ministry, to be sure that what has been brought back for me to sign is in line with our original submission.”

On Thursday, the information minister said there was no rift between the executive and legislature on details of the budget. A day earlier, a senior lawmaker said parliament might need another week to work out details of the budget.

Buhari hopes the bill will revive the economy but officials have left open how it would be funded. The government has said it might sell Eurobonds or sign a loan deal with China and the World Bank but no deal has emerged.

Oil revenues, which make up about 70 percent of Nigeria’s income, have slumped, hammering the naira currency, halting development projects and leaving budget funding uncertain.

Nigeria has been trying to restart outdated refineries in Port Harcourt, Warri and Kaduna to end its dependency on costly fuel imports for around 80 percent of its energy needs.

Three of its four state-owned refineries were closed for five months in 2015 due to maintenance issues and vandalism.

On Thursday, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation

(NNPC) said it was committed to boosting refining capacity as it opened the technical bid for the location of new refineries within the nation’s existing refineries.

Anibo Kragha, NNPC chief operating officer for refineries, said the open bidding exercise demonstrated the determination of the government and state oil company to increase the country’s refining capacity from 445,000 barrels per day to 650,000.

“The aim is to leverage on the existing facilities to fast track the take-off of the refineries as soon as possible,” he said. NNPC said nine companies submitted bids.

 

($1 = 198.8000 naira)

 

(Reporting by Felix Onuah and Camillus Eboh; Writing by Ulf Laessing and Alexis Akwagyiram; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

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Nigerian red tape prompts South African retailer to exit

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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South African retailer Truworths has pulled out of its Nigerian business citing import restrictions, its chief executive said on Thursday, a sign President Muhammadu Buhari’s attempts to boost local industry are hurting foreign investment.

As well as being unable to fill its shelves, the clothing retailer said it was struggling to pay its rent and get access to foreign exchange which has dried up due to a collapse in oil prices. Nigeria is Africa’s biggest crude exporter.

“We were unable to operate the stores properly any longer because we were unable to send merchandise to the stores because there’s regulation preventing that,” Michael Mark told Reuters in telephone interview.

In an attempt to boost local manufacturing and prop up the ailing naira, Buhari has effectively banned the import of almost 700 goods, ranging from rice to toothpicks, bread and soap.

Even non-banned items are difficult to import due to dollar shortages.

Buhari won an election a year ago on promises to end a brutal Islamist insurgency in the northeast and wean Africa’s biggest economy off oil.

However, Boko Haram militants continue to launch regular attacks and economists have questioned the logic of Buhari’s shock therapy reform tactics, particularly because of the knock-on effects of the slump in oil prices.

 

(Reporting by Tiisetso Motsoeneng; Writing by Joe Brock; Editing by Ed Cropley)

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Nigeria’s New President Inherits a Country Without its Black Gold

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accrareport_nigeria-oil

Paralyzed by gasoline shortages, Nigerian authorities appear close to reaching a solution. The crisis began in early March, weeks before the 29 March election that elected Muhammadu Buhari as Goodluck Jonathan’s replacement. Nigeria has long paid oil importers subsidies to control price and guarantee a steady supply. That, however, no longer seems to be working.

Oil suppliers’ credit lines were tightened amid the falling global price of oil, a slump in Nigeria’s currency, the naira, and the unpaid debt by the former President’s government. Suppliers claim that more than 900 million euros are owed in back-payments of government subsidies.

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Nigeria’s new president vows to fight endemic corruption

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muhammadu buhari

Along with security and unemployment, Nigeria’s new president Muhammadu Buhari, has declared corruption as one of the top three challenges he plans to tackle during his term.

The 72-year-old former military ruler took office on 29 May after defeating incumbent Goodluck Jonathan in the race to run a country struggling with a waning economy, endemic corruption, rampant unemployment, and the on-going security threat from Boko Haram.

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