8 February 2016

Nigeria: German President Visiting a Nigeria Faced With Serious Challenges

Photo: Defence Headquarters/Facebook
Troops pushing Into Boko Haram dens (file photo).

When German President Joachim Gauck visits Nigeria, he will be coming to a country struggling with several issues including the impact of low oil prices. He will be meeting Nigeria's Buhari, who has his hands full.

Nigeria is Africa's largest economy. But this economy is struggling on several fronts. Since the drastic fall of oil prices, the country is struggling with the aftermath and many Nigerians are feeling the impact.

Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari is also not to be envied. Nearly a year ago, many Nigerians pinned their hopes on him and overwhelmingly voted him as their new leader.

Buhari pledged to reform the country, which is plagued by massive corruption and religious divide.

But with Nigeria facing enormous challenges including terrorism and the displacement of tens of thousands, the 73 year-old leader is much more of a crisis manager now than a reformer.

When German President Joachim Gauck visits Nigeria, he will have enough of issues to discuss with President Buhari - issues such as the growing insecurity in southern Libya.

"That [the insecurity in southern Libya] is becoming a strategic time bomb for Africa and Europe," Buhari said last week at the European Union parliament.

"The South of Libya has become a thriving bazaar for weapons and therefore threatens the security of the Sahel, West Africa and other regions," he added.

Buhari said the Nigerian militant group, Boko Haram, gets its arms supplies from southern Libya. Boko Haram, which is seeking to create an Islamic caliphate, is also very active in neighboring Niger, Cameroon and Chad.

The Nigerian militant group has sworn allegiance to the so called Islamic State, which seems to be gaining grounds in Libya.

The German leadership share similar concerns and interest with the Nigerian leader.

Repatriating refugees and internally displaced persons

Buhari's second major problem is connected to his first. The Boko Haram terror forced more than two million people out of their homes.

The Nigerian army however took control of almost all of the regions previously under Boko Haram, but most of the villages were destroyed in the fight to take back the towns from the insurgents.

The destroyed villages need to be rebuilt and security restored in order to repatriate tens of thousands of refugees and internally displaced persons. Most of the refugees now seek for a better life elsewhere, especially in Europe.

President Buhari recognizes concerns raised by European politicians about the increasing number of Nigerians seeking asylum in Europe. Lack of economic perspective at home was identified as a key factor forcing many Nigerian to migrate to Europe.

"We are working with our state and local authorities to strengthen our vocational training institutions," Buhari said.

"Apart from that, we want to also diversify our economy. That's the reason we are putting our priority on agriculture and in the mining of raw materials to create more jobs."

Higher spending on broken income

Buhari's ideas however cost money. That is Nigeria's third major problem. The fall of the price of crude oil, Nigeria's major export, hit the country hard.

The Nigerian leader however introduced a budget that invests largely in agriculture, education, and infrastructure.

But with a reduction of revenue from oil exports, Buhari may need to borrow more money from international lenders to finance his plans.

Buhari is also facing another major challenge from climate change. Due to changes in weather patterns, the huge Lake Chad on the border between Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad is threatening to dry up.

"Nigeria is watching helplessly as the Lake Chad dries up," Buhari said. "That has monumental consequences for the people there."

"Their livelihoods for generations depend on the resources of Lake Chad. These resources are disappearing and taking away the work for the people," he added.

Buhari hopes to discuss these challenges with German President Gauck during his visit.

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