Nigeria’s Buhari fires his military chiefs as he resets for battle against Boko Haram

Oga at the top.
Oga at the top.
Image: Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde
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Nigeria’s president Muhamadu Buhari has fired the country’s military chiefs–his clearest statement of intent in the fight against Boko Haram since taking the reins of power six weeks ago.

Buhari has repeatedly said fixing Nigeria’s security problems is a priority. Within minutes of being sworn in on May 29, he ordered the relocation of the military forces’ headquarters to Maiduguri–one of the worst hit cities by the Boko Haram militants. In the same vein, within his first month in office, Buhari has pushed for an international military coalition with neighboring countries and also committed $100 million in funding to fight the sect.

However, the early decisions have not had the desired results as Boko Haram has significantly stepped up its attacks with a spate of suicide bombings across the country. With over 600 Nigerians killed by Boko Haram under the Buhari administration, the president has come under fire for appearing to be a slow decision-maker in trying times.

The sacking of the military chiefs had been expected, given they were appointed by former president Goodluck Jonathan, but also because they failed badly in dealing with the insurgency. They were perceived to be part of the old administration which Buhari had previously blamed for being complacent and negligent.  Also, given the claims of corruption in the military which left soldiers on the front-lines ill-equipped, the sackings signal Buhari’s ambition to revamp the military which has also been plagued by an abysmal human rights record.

Slowly Slowly

The president has also been criticized for his failure to name a cabinet weeks after resuming office with some suggesting that his perceived thoroughness was simply inertia. This has dampened the high hopes of the electorate since he took office. Similarly, Buhari’s decision to remain noncommittal in the fight for key leadership positions in the National Assembly which has nearly torn apart his All Progressives Congress party has seen some suggest that the new president lacks the necessary political acuity to lead the ruling party.

Hours after the announcement of the sackings, the President moved swiftly to replace the military heads. However, the appointments, while approved by the presidency, still need to be confirmed by the Senate.