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Opinion

Opinion: 'Successes and setbacks' in Buhari's first year in office

President Buhari can boast about his successes against corruption and Boko Haram militants - but the Nigerian economy is still struggling as oil prices have fallen and import costs have soared, says DW's Thomas Mösch.

Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari was sworn into office on May 29, 2015 carrying a huge weight on his shoulders. Expectations were high when voters in the West African country hoisted him to the post in a show of strength against the incumbent Goodluck Jonathan. A member of the opposition has never won in Nigeria before. Jonathan's government performed so poorly that the Nigerian people just wanted change right away and across the country. The expectations were actually so high for Buhari that he was destined to disappoint, but he promised in his inauguration speech that he was going to take on the big issues: terrorism, corruption and power cuts were soon to be a thing of the past.

Boko Haram: Down but not out

The first thing Buhari did was to clean up the military, change its leadership and rid the branch of its rampant corruption. The army drove out Boko Haram in most of its strongholds within a few months and freed hundreds of prisoners of the terror group. Refugees who fled the violence are heading back home. However, the group continues to deploy suicide bombers in towns and cities. Only one of the world-famous Chibok girls has been recovered while the rest are still missing. While Buhari has made many advances in the fight against terrorism, the battle is not yet won.

Human rights still under threat

Buhari promised that the hated state security forces under his control would respect the human rights of all Nigerians. Proof of any balance here has been scant. There have been fewer reports of indiscriminate anti-terror arrests. Human rights groups are finding that criticism of the government is no longer being treated as an affront to the state. Then in December 2015, over 300 minority Shiite Muslims were massacred by government soldiers. Also,countless people who have been freed from the clutches of Boko Haram have disappeared into military prisons. There is still much work to be done by the president.

Positive or negative change?

The situation does not look much better when it comes to Nigeria's economy. The country's main source of income remains oil and gas. But because of the fall in the price for these commodities, very little foreign exchange is flowing into the country. This means that Africa's largest oil producer cannot afford to import refined gasoline into the country as the country's own refineries have not been functioning for years.

The value of the local currency, the naira, has crashed in value at local currency exchanges. The Buhari government has persistently refused to address the issue which has worsened the foreign exchange crisis. Inflation is increasing and rebels are continuing their attacks on oil installations in the Niger Delta. Oil production is now at an all-time low. The new head of the national oil company is trying to get past the times of uncontrolled plundering of the country's oil revenue.

Steps against corruption

Next to the success against Boko Haram, the country's headway against corruption is Buhari's greatest success in his first year as president. Both big and small fish have been captured in the nets of the anti-corruption agency the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The agency that was kept on a short leash under former President Jonathan is now authorized to pursue prosecutions.

DW's Head of Hausa Service Thomas Moesch

DW's Head of Hausa Service Thomas Moesch

This move against corruption is one of the reasons that Nigeria image is rising in the international community. The US is now even considering restarting arms sales to the country, something they had halted under Jonathan.

The shadow of the Biafra War

Even with Buhari's many successes in his first year, questions still persist. One of the government's strategies that is still unclear is how the country plans to deal with the Republic of Biafra, a secessionist state in the southeast of the country which is seeking independence since the elections last year. Their rhetoric though, is unappetizingly chauvinistic and the only answer to these moves from the state has been repression. The state of things is not optimistic. The question remains whether or not this will lead to another civil war. During Buhari's time in the Nigerian army he took part in the last civil war involving the Biafra people.

Belief in Buhari

The fight over the rising price of gasoline in Nigeria shows that the support Buhari still boasts from many Nigerians is far from exhausted. A recent general strike led by union members was barely supported by other Nigerians. However, the grumblings about the falling economy and the daily struggles of most people in the country are getting louder. Buhari should keep his ears open as he starts his second year in office.

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