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From Worst to Worst: Buhari’s six years and the fight against insecurity




For more than a decade,  Nigeria has been embroiled in fatal violent attacks ranging from insurgency, kidnapping and banditry.

President Muhammadu Buhari promised to turn the tide, but his administration has been marred by more killings, despite huge military budgets.

DURING  campaign ahead of 2015 election, Buhari, a retired general who led the country as a military dictator in 1983, condemned Nigeria’s fight against insurgency under former President Goodluck Jonathan, describing his government as  ‘lacking leadership’.

A few months later, Nigerians voted massively for Buhari hoping that a solution had arrived. Six years down the line, Nigerians still seek solution that seems elusive.

In his first term, it took him less than two months to appoint new service chiefs to drive against insurgency in the Northeast.


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As the president settled into his new role, the country recorded a total of 405 attacks, that killed 3,026 civilians across the nation.

The total releases for security affairs according to the Office of the Accountant General in 2015 was N66 billion, but data obtained by The ICIR from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute shows that military spendings for that year was N397 billion.

At the end of 2016, the situation did not improve, Nigeria recorded 790 attacks, that killed 1,196 civilians.

Although there was a reduction in number of civilian deaths, there was still an increase in the kidnapping rate, as 347 persons were kidnapped during that year compared to 2015 where 112 kidnapping cases were recorded.

The president scaled up funds for the military and released N140 billion to the security outfit including the Nigeria Police Force, Ministry of Defence and the Office of the National Security Adviser. Stockholm data shows that the total military spending including interventions was N444 billion for that year.

President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria, center, flanked by former service chiefs and other senior military officers, spoke during the Army Day celebration in Dansadau, in Zamfara, in 2016.
President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria, center, flanked by former service chiefs and other senior military officers, spoke during the Army Day celebration in Dansadau, in Zamfara, in 2016. Credit: Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
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In the following year, 2017, there was no sign of improvement still. Schoolchildren were still being kidnapped, Boko Haram insurgents still attacking civilian communities. In 2017, there were 919 attacks across the country, 1600 civilian deaths, while 484 citizens were kidnapped despite the release of N162 billion to the security parastatals.

Ambivalence began to creep into the minds of Nigerian citizens who had hoped the retired general would infuse his military experience to purge insecurity from their country.

During Buhari’s third year in office, he released N204 billion to the security parastatals and agencies, the highest the nation had spent on security since the return of civilian rule in 1999. But insecurity was still prevalent.

Data shows that in the same year, there were 1,148 attacks resulting into the killing of 1,566 civilians and 987 persons kidnapped across the country.

By the end of his first term in office in 2019,  not fewer than 2,232 civilians had been killed, 1,386 kidnapped and 1,513 attacks recorded, despite a budget release of 98 billion.

That year, Nigerians, again, planted another seed of hope in the President who promised to take them to the “Next Level”. Buhari won his second term in office.

The following year, 2020, as the world battled the COVID-19 pandemic, Nigerians had to contend with the virus, hunger and killings.

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That year, Nigeria recorded 1839 attacks, the death of 2,551 civilians and 2,860 were kidnapped including schoolchildren.

Despite all the spending, a major-general and then commander of operation Lafiya Dole Olusegun Adeniyi, complained about inadequate arms to fight insurgents adding that his men were being killed by Boko Haram insurgents due to lack of adequate weapon.

Adeniyi was eventually court-martialled, convicted and demoted for three years on grounds of violating sections of the policy on the use of social media for personnel of the armed forces of Nigeria.

Nigerians at home and in the diaspora became more concerned as life continued to lose meaning under Buhari’s watch.

In his last six years in office, there have no less than 7,630 attacks. Killing more than 13,608 civilians despite spending over N5 trillion on security.

In a statement issued by the European  Parliament on resolutions about Nigeria with particular reference to the recent terrorist attacks in Nigeria, the Union reminded Buhari that he was re-elected due to the promise of fighting insurgency.

The EU said it ‘deplores that progress has stalled in the fight against Boko Haram, ISWAP and the increased occurrence and severity of suicide attacks and direct attacks against military positions’.

Von der Leyen
Von der Leyen, European Union President Photo Credit: ec.europa.eu

According to the Union,  ‘its investigations in relation to terrorism in Nigeria shows that the Buhari’s administration’s action was ‘limited in depth and in scope’.

Some members of the National Assembly also began to speak up, which led to the summon of the President to answer questions on why the insecurity in the nation had persisted but he did not honour the invite.

Reluctance to sack ‘non-performing’ service chiefs

Agitated by the killings and state of insecurity in the country, many Nigerians, stakeholders and civil society organisations called for the replacement of service chiefs but the president paid no attention to the demands.

Chairman of the Nigeria Governor’s Forum Kayode Fayemi also demanded their sack adding that after spending several years and there was no peace in the country, the service chiefs deserved to go.

Former service chiefs appointed by Buhari
Former service chiefs appointed by Buhari

In response to the demands of Nigerians, whose compatriots were being killed, the Presidency said calls for the sack of the service chiefs were out of place.

It took the President more than one year before he finally replaced the service chiefs in January 2021.

In five months in 2021, Nigeria has recorded 1,016 attacks, 1,437 deaths of civilians, while 2,276 persons have been kidnapped.

As insecurity continues to ravage many communities in Nigeria, schools remain unsafe especially in some part of the northeastern states, offices of electoral bodies and police formations are being targeted in the eastern states, while kidnapping and abduction are rife in southwestern states as well as other regions. It remains uncertain if the situation will improve or worsen within the next two years of Buhari administration.

Author profile

Lukman Abolade is an Investigative reporter with The ICIR. Reach out to him via labolade@icirnigeria.org, on twitter @AboladeLAA and FB @Correction94

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