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Buhari under pressure over Boko Haram abduction, attacks

President Muhammadu Buhari

Lagos, Nigeria | AFP | Another Boko Haram mass kidnapping has cast doubts on Nigeria’s claims to have virtually defeated the jihadists, putting the government under scrutiny as elections approach next year.

Heavily armed Islamist militants abducted 110 girls from their school in Dapchi, in Yobe state, northeast Nigeria, on February 19.

Parallels were immediately drawn to the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls in Chibok in 2014, which captured world attention and contributed to the ouster of Goodluck Jonathan.

The man who defeated him in elections in 2015, former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari, campaigned hard on security, lambasting Jonathan’s record and vowing to defeat the rebels.

Certainly Boko Haram is not as strong as it was in 2014, when it held swathes of territory across the northeast.

But there is a growing sense the government’s handling of the insurgency could once again feature prominently in the run-up to next year’s vote.

Security consultant Don Okereke said the Dapchi abduction, which Buhari has called “a national disaster”, was a “political game-changer”.

“The Chibok schoolgirls’ abduction undermined Goodluck Jonathan’s re-election bid. I think Buhari is in tow if he eventually makes up his mind to run,” he told AFP.

“My deduction is that propaganda could help win an election but it takes much more than spin to govern a nation.”

– Loss of confidence –

Even before Dapchi, there were doubts about whether the government and military’s claims in the counter-insurgency matched the reality on the ground.

Buhari’s declaration in December 2015 that Boko Haram, which just a year earlier held swathes of territory in the northeast, was “technically defeated” has become a familiar refrain.

Yet every pronouncement has been followed by a new suicide bombing and raid. Data suggests there has been little change in extent of the violence in the last two years.

On Friday, eight soldiers and three aid workers were killed in an attack in Rann, near the border with Cameroon.

The UN said Boko Haram had “superior firepower” and were armed with automatic weapons, rocket-propelled grenades and gun trucks.

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