President Muhammadu Buhari’s office has responded to the recent The Economist cover titled, “Nigeria: the Crime Scene at the Heart of Africa”, stating that it is has sought to push back terrorism which has been a threat for more than two decades since the first emergence of Boko Haram.

The response was made by Garba Shehu, a senior aide to the Presidency on Monday, in a statement titled, “Economist’s flawed, Anti-Nigeria Cover: President Buhari is strengthening Africa’s democracy.”

The Economist had discussed the country’s poor economic policies and the several threats against its stability, stating that the country may slip into a downward spiral from which it will struggle to emerge.

What they said:

The Presidency admitted that The Economist is accurate in the assertion that the country is facing four key threats to its stability and prosperity.

“The Economist is correct: Nigeria faces four key threats to the stability and prosperity of the nation – namely: ISWAP/Boko Haram terrorism in the North-East; kidnapping and crime in the North-West; herder-farmer disputes in the central belt; and the delusions of IPOB terrorists in the South-East,” it stated.

The Presidency added that the magazine is also accurate that they have come to a head under the administration of President Buhari and the All Progressives Congress, as tough decisions have been taken to fully confront these four threats concurrently.

It stated, “Today, all four threats are being fought concurrently and it is only this President’s administration which has finally had the will and determination to confront them.

“The Buhari administration has sought to push back terrorism which has been a threat for more than two decades since the first emergence of Boko Haram. It is only the Buhari administration that has now sought to intervene against the kidnapping and banditry that has been a simmering threat for far longer.

“It is only this President’s government which has taken on IPOB, the violent terrorist group which bombs police stations and offices of security agencies, while also threatening those who break their Monday-sit-ins whilst claiming the mantle of forebears who half a century ago fought a civil war. And it is only the Buhari leadership which has sought – ever, in over one hundred years – to identify the root causes of the herder-farmer clashes and find durable solutions.”

The Presidency argued that the forms of the challenges have altered, and the threats posed by each may have waxed and waned, but what has been constant is that administration after administration since independence – whether military or democratic – none sought to fully address these threats to Nigeria as President Buhari’s government has now done.

On Military engagements, the Presidency said, “the military is engaged in almost all the states of Nigeria because the President has insisted upon addressing these decade-after-decade-long issues during his time in office.

“In the North, Boko Haram members – many of whom now fight under the breakaway banner of Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP) – have been pushed back. At the start of the President’s tenure, Boko Haram was launching attacks across the majority of the country – including in southern states and Lagos. Today they are cornered and confined along with their ISWAP compatriots in our country’s outermost fringes of the border, unable to spread further.

“In the South-East, IPOB – which The Economist rightly describes as “delusional” – the arrest and present trial of the terrorist leader of the group is the beginning of its demise. The President’s administration is redoubling efforts to have IPOB rightfully designated as a terrorist group by our allies outside of Nigeria – an act which will collapse their ability to transact gains from crime and extortion in foreign currencies. It is important to remind the Economist and the global media that this group’s aggression and widespread presence on social media does not reflect their public support, for which they have none: all elected governors, all elected politicians and all elected state assemblies in the South-East – which IPOB claim to be part of their fantasy kingdom – reject them completely.”

The Presidency also claimed it is the only government of Nigeria that has ever sought a solution to the centuries-old herder-farmer disputes, citing that the Federal ranches programme, launched shortly after the President’s re-election is the first of its kind – and has been working, significantly reducing the clashes in the last 12 months.

It added that the banditry and kidnapping in the North-West is the newest of the organised threats against Nigeria’s stability.

“But this too the Economist inaccurately described: “bandits” who have the resources and technology to shoot down a military fighter jet are not bandits at all – but rather highly organised crime syndicates with huge resources and weaponry. Yet they are essentially no different to Boko Haram in this regard who are now cornered. It will take time, but the President is unwavering in his determination to collapse this challenge to public order,” it added.

The Presidency concluded by stating that the Buhari administration has been concurrently and simultaneously addressing the multiple threats, as it claims that no other prior administration sought to adequately address even a single one.

In case you missed it

The Economist reported that last week that Nigeria is the crime scene at the heart of Africa as urgent action is needed to stop the downward spiral towards lawlessness.

The Economist report partly read, “The jihadist threat in the north-east has metastasised. A few years ago, an area the size of Belgium was controlled by Boko Haram, a group of zealots notorious for enslaving young girls. Now, Boko Haram is being supplanted by an affiliate of Islamic State that is equally brutal but more competent, and so a bigger danger to Nigeria. In the south-east, demagogues are stirring up ethnic grievances and feeding the delusion that one group, the Igbos, can walk off with all the country’s oil, the source of about half of government revenues. President Muhammadu Buhari has hinted that Biafran separatism will be dealt with as ruthlessly now as it was half a century ago.

“Meanwhile, across wide swathes of Nigeria, a collapse in security and state authority has allowed criminal gangs to run wild. In the first nine months of this year some 2,200 people were kidnapped for ransom, more than double the roughly 1,000 abducted in 2020. Perhaps a million children are missing school for fear that they will be snatched.

“Two factors help explain Nigeria’s increasing instability: a sick economy and a bumbling government. Slow growth and two recessions have made Nigerians poorer, on average, each year since oil prices fell in 2015. Before covid-19, fully 40% of them were below Nigeria’s extremely low poverty line of about $1 a day. If Nigeria’s 36 states were stand-alone countries, more than one-third would be categorised by the World Bank as “low-income” (less than $1,045 a head). Poverty combined with stagnation tends to increase the risk of civil conflict.”

The Economist stated that the biggest barrier to restoring security is the complacency of Nigeria’s cosseted political elite – safe in their guarded compounds and the well-defended capital. It added that without urgent action, Nigeria may slip into a downward spiral from which it will struggle to emerge.