Nigerian The Outlook for President Buhari

  • 07 Nov 2015 04:35

Nigerian The Outlook for President Buhari

Soldier in the field

Dominic MacIver, an EMEA Risk Analyst at G4S Risk Consulting, looks to the future for Nigeria as it prepares for a peaceful handover of power with a booming economy and Boko Haram on the run.

Nigeria is deservedly winning acclaim across Africa for its democratic political process, which on 28 May will see President-elect Muhammadu Buhari inaugurated to replace his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, who forestalled the threat of post-election unrest by bravely conceding defeat. The peaceful handover of power will be the first between elected civilian leaders in Nigeria’s history. The contrast with elective counter-revolution in Egypt, an abortive coup in Burundi and President Mugabe clinging to power in Zimbabwe could not be clearer, and shows Nigeria is ready to take up its responsibility as a leader on the continent. Such a role is deserved by virtue of the size and dynamism of its population, not to mention its economic heft, with GDP growth averaging 6-7 percent per year expected to rise even higher if Buhari can lessen the government’s dependence on oil revenues.

That said, President-elect Buhari and his All Progressives Congress (APC) face a daunting in-tray. Most of all, they will struggle to manage voters’ high expectations, as the public opinion demands immediate justice for those who have embezzled exceptional sums from the state under the outgoing People’s Democratic Party (PDP) government. Buhari’s own analysis on the campaign trail centred on a promise to fix Nigeria’s three largest woes: corruption, insecurity and economic mismanagement. In this, he accurately summarised the core challenges his administration will face over the next four years. 

Key takeaways:

Tackling corruption will be crucial if Buhari is to preserve his hard-won reputation for integrity and not lose support via the actions of other APC leaders.

“Buhari must tackle corruption or face losing support of APC”

  • His APC government will prioritise institution-building by empowering the judiciary and revamping anti-corruption investigators.
  • Corruption prosecutions against the outgoing PDP government may well ensnare major corporate brands, along with former officials.
  • A more controversial option under consideration is an amnesty, allowing corrupt officials to surrender their stolen assets and provide intelligence on others in exchange for immunity.
Reducing graft in the dysfunctional oil sector will be best served by root-and-branch reform to the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

“Root-and-branch reform needed by NNPC to reduce graft in oil sector”

  • Buhari’s first step is expected to be imposing oversight over the NNPC, but the incoming administration has yet to clearly signal its plan for the oil industry besides that it is likely to break the company up. 
  • Passing a variation on the Petroleum Industrial Bill (PIB), a reform bill long sought by foreign investors, would demonstrate beyond all doubt that the APC has the vision and pragmatism to move Nigeria forward.
The campaign against Boko Haram’s terrorist insurgency is on the front foot after a regional military offensive, but its early successes are still fragile.

“Campaign against Boko Haram is still fragile despite military offensives”

  • As a result, Buhari’s team will be able to focus on building up Nigeria’s little-known counter-radicalisation programme and reforming military procurement, a major avenue for bribery and embezzlement.
  • At the same time, Buhari must make sure the gains secured through military cooperation with Nigeria’s neighbours are not lost through squabbling and infighting.
After Boko Haram, insurgency returning to the Niger Delta poses the most serious security challenge for the APC government.

Return of insurgency poses greatest security challenge for the Government”

  • Murmurings have begun about a return to the separatist struggle in the aftermath of the defeat of President Jonathan, who was seen as the guarantor of the peace agreed in 2009.
  • A measured and consensual process of pragmatic dialogue and serious investment into the impoverished region will serve best to build security from the bottom up and impose accountability.
  • To do so will be challenging given the state’s financial interest in ending militants’ diverse post-insurgency operations, which range from rampant oil theft to lucrative private security contracts.
Buhari’s challenges for the economy include a fiscal crisis, overreliance on oil revenues and power shortfalls.

“Economy challenges include fiscal, oil revenues and power shortfalls”

  • Building up manufacturing to reduce urban unemployment will be the APC’s long-term goal, but progress will be gradual as the government struggles with infrastructural bottlenecks, particularly the port in Lagos.
  • Reforming the economy in a tight fiscal context would be aided by raising taxes and cutting energy subsidies, both of which would cost Buhari political capital and could set off unrest if mishandled. 

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