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Buhari under pressure over Boko Haram abduction, attacks

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Another Boko Haram mass kidnapping has cast doubts on Nigeria ’ s claims to have virtually defeated the jihadists , putting the government under scrutiny as elections approach next year.

Heavily armed Islamist militants abducted 110 girls from their school in Dapchi , in Yobe state, on February 19 .

Parallels were immediately drawn to the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls in Chibok in 2014 , which captured world attention and contributed to the ouster of Goodluck Jonathan .



The man who defeated him in elections in 2015 , former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari , campaigned hard on security , lambasting Jonathan ’ s record and vowing to defeat the rebels .

Certainly Boko Haram is not as strong as it was in 2014 , when it held swathes of territory across the northeast.

But there is a growing sense the government ’ s handling of the insurgency could once again feature prominently in the run – up to next year ’ s vote .

Security consultant Don Okereke said the Dapchi abduction, which Buhari has called “a national disaster”, was a “political game- changer ”.

“The Chibok schoolgirls’ abduction undermined Goodluck Jonathan ’ s re – election bid . I think Buhari is in tow if he eventually makes up his mind to run , ” he told AFP .

“My deduction is that propaganda could help win an election but it takes much more than spin to govern a nation . ”

– Loss of confidence –

Even before Dapchi , there were doubts about whether the government and military ’ s claims in the counter – insurgency matched the reality on the ground.

Buhari ’ s declaration in December 2015 that Boko Haram , which just a year earlier held swathes of territory in the northeast , was “technically defeated” has become a familiar refrain .

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Yet every pronouncement has been followed by a new suicide bombing and raid . Data suggests there has been little change in extent of the violence in the last two years.

On Friday , eight soldiers and three aid workers were killed in an attack in Rann , near the border with Cameroon.

The UN said Boko Haram had “superior firepower” and were armed with automatic weapons , rocket – propelled grenades and gun trucks .

Freedom C. Unuoha, a political scientist at the University of Nigeria Nsukka , said confidence in the government ’ s ability to provide security was being “deflated by repeated attacks ”.

“The questions Nigerians are asking is how come a group that has been defeated … would be able to carry out such an audacious attack to abduct more than 100 schoolgirls in Dapchi , in a region under the control of the military . ”

– Good news needed –

Dapchi can not only be seen as part of a series of setbacks in the northeast but in a wider context of security challenges across the country that are stretching the military , analysts say .

In recent months, Buhari has been blamed for failing to curb a resurgence of violence in central and southern states between nomadic herdsmen and farmers .

Equally , separatist sentiment from pro – Biafran supporters remains high in the southeast while the oil – rich south is still fragile after a wave of militant attacks on pipelines .

Buhari ’ s northern support base is unlikely to be swayed by such issues but could influence voters he needs to win in key southern constituencies , said analyst Chris Ngwodo .

Nigeria ’s economy is limping back to growth after recession while there is little apparent progress in Buhari ’ s much- vaunted anti -corruption drive .

The government is “desperately in need of positive news that can turn the tide ”, said Ngwodo.

AFP

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