Tag Archives: Nigeria

Africa and the world – rising but on the margins

ISS

As pressure mounts for Africa to take greater responsibility for development, peace and security on the continent, the question of regional leadership becomes pressing. A recent African Futures paper explores the changing power capabilities of Algeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Nigeria and South Africa (the so-called ‘Big Five’) over the next 25 years. These countries are all leaders in their respective regions and hold some of the greatest power potential in Africa.

Collectively, they represent 60% of the African economy, 40% of Africa’s population and 58% of the continent’s military spending. This is expected to remain the same over the next 25 years. The future of these countries will provide a fairly straightforward answer to the often-evoked question of whether or not Africa is rising. Indeed if these states fall or fail, Africa will not be able to rise.

The authors of the paper, published by the Institute for Security Studies and the Frederick S. Pardee Center for International Futures, use the International Futures forecasting system to forecast future power trajectories. In an increasingly flat world where institutions matter, states that don’t network will have little influence on issues of regional and global governance.

The projections explored in the paper are based on a new index to measure national power, which includes diplomatic engagements in addition to traditional measures such as demographics, economics and technology.

If the world were a democracy, Africans would certainly have a bigger say

Today, the combined power of Africa’s 55 countries accounts for close to 9% of global power. This is more than that of Japan, Russia or India, but less than the United States (US) or China, which represent about 18% and 13% of global power, respectively. By 2040, Africa’s total relative power is forecast to surpass that of the declining European Union (EU) and US – although only adding up to around 11% of global power. This is at odds with the world’s demographic evolution. By 2050, one in four people will be African. If the world were a democracy, Africans would certainly have a bigger say.

In the next couple of decades, Africa is set to remain at the margins of global power. And this is an understatement, as Africa is clearly neither a country nor a union of states with any kind of supranational provisions. Even with significant advances in regional and continental integration, it is highly unlikely that Africa will speak with one voice in foreign policy matters, or be able to act in unison.

Only Nigeria has the potential to become a player with global significance. But this would require far-reaching changes in its current domestic stability, governance capacity and political leadership, which is an unlikely scenario. All other African countries are expected to remain so-called ‘minor powers,’ which affects Africa’s influence in issues of global governance.

For the Big Five, the data tells a story of two emerging powers and three whose potential is waning. The capabilities of Nigeria and Ethiopia are expected to grow considerably in the next 25 years. Those of Egypt, South Africa and Algeria, on the other hand, are forecast to remain stagnant or experience a slight decline.

Nigeria’s economy, already the largest in Africa, is expected to represent almost 3% of the global economy by 2040. Its military spending is set to increase significantly over the next 25 years, ready to overtake Africa’s current military heavyweight, Algeria, in more or less 10 years. By 2040, Nigeria is forecast to account for nearly a fifth of Africa’s total power capabilities.

By 2040, Nigeria is forecast to account for nearly a fifth of Africa’s total power

Ethiopia, the other rising power, is coming from a low base and the country will remain the poorest among the Big Five. Nevertheless, by 2040 it is expected to be the sixth largest African economy due to high average economic growth rates. Algeria, Egypt and South Africa are likely to grow below the African average growth rate of 6.3% per annum. The size of their populations will also stagnate – although this is due to higher general levels of development, which are associated with lower fertility rates.

Among the Big Five, Egypt has traditionally dominated the category of global diplomatic engagement. This can be gauged according to the number of embassies abroad, the number of memberships to international organisations and the number of international treaties ratified by a country. Egypt’s strategic location, and its important role in both Arab and African nationalism, ensures that it is deeply connected internationally. Egypt is closely followed by South Africa, Nigeria and Algeria, while Ethiopia lags behind. Not surprisingly, South Africa made big strides after the end of apartheid in 1994 when the country reintegrated into the international community.

The way the Big Five project power is not necessarily in line with their capabilities. After all, power is as much about potential as it is about concrete projection. Some countries are able to influence more international actors, institutions or regimes than would be expected based on their capabilities, while others don’t live up to their potential.

It is questionable whether South Africa will continue punching above its weight

This is the case for Nigeria, which has been punching below its weight despite a strong set of capabilities. High levels of internal instability and corruption along with a political economy of violence compromise the country’s prospects. There is also a lack of strategic vision in the foreign-policy domain, which has recently been aggravated by the growing threat of Boko Haram.

Algeria’s role in Africa is also at odds with its relatively robust albeit declining capabilities. Faced with significant domestic and regional threats, Algeria remains focused on the need to maintain a large military capacity for internal purposes.

Egypt punches above its weight internationally, but below its weight in the African context. The country is struggling to cope with the aftermath of the Arab Spring as well as spill-over effects of the conflict in neighbouring Libya. Domestic challenges seem to detract from projecting power outside of the country, with external priorities evolving around the conflict in the Middle East and efforts to contain terrorism.

In contrast, both South Africa and Ethiopia have largely punched above their weight. Despite its limited capabilities, Ethiopia is Africa’s largest contributor to United Nations peacekeeping missions and plays an important role in peace and security matters in the Horn of Africa. Indeed, regional security is a domestic priority for Ethiopia.

South Africa, for its part, has capitalised on the miracle of the transition to democracy; Nelson Mandela’s legacy; the international activism of his successor, Thabo Mbeki, as well as several years of healthy economic growth and a benign global environment. Yet it is questionable whether the current context of stagnant or even declining capabilities and a lack of credible leadership will allow South Africa to continue punching above its weight in the medium-term future.

What seems certain is that the distribution of relative power in Africa will remain multipolar, with various countries fulfilling the role of regional leaders.

Julia Schünemann, Senior Researcher and Project Leader, African Futures and Innovation Section, ISS Pretoria; Jakkie Cilliers, Executive Director, ISS; Jonathan D. Moyer, Associate Director, Frederick S. Pardee Center for International Futures.

Nigeria denies 500 people kidnapped by Boko Haram

BBC

Nigeria denies Boko Haram seized 500 children

  • 25 March 2015
Nigerien soldiers patrol on foot in the recently recaptured northern town of Damasak on 24 March 2015
Damasak is reportedly under the control of troops from neighbouring Niger

Nigeria’s government has denied that militant Islamist group Boko Haram abducted 500 children from the north-eastern town of Damasak.

A former resident said on Tuesday that the militants had taken away about 500 boys when they fled the town earlier this month.

Government spokesman Mike Omeri said the number was lower, but he could not say exactly how many had been seized.

Regional forces recaptured Damasak, a trading town, earlier in March.

Mr Omeri said that the militants released some women and children when they fled the town, but not those “they had married in the period of occupation”.

The militants were using them as “protection” and the government had ordered “full military intervention” to secure their release, he said.

Damasak is in Borno state near Niger’s border and is about 200km (120 miles) from the state’s main city of Maiduguri.

A girl drinks water as women queue for blankets and food given out by Nigerien soldiers in Damasak on 24 March 2015
Damasak residents lived under Boko Haram’s rule until regional troops regain control of the town
This screen grab taken on 25 September 2013 from a video distributed through an intermediary to local reporters and seen by AFP, shows a man claiming to be the leader of Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram Abubakar Shekau, flanked by armed men.
Boko Haram’s leaders said kidnapped women had been “married” to militants

Damasak businessman Malam Ali, whose brother is among those missing, told the BBC Hausa Service on Tuesday that young boys had been put in a madrassa, or Islamic school, by Boko Haram when they took over the town at the end of last year.

Following the recapture of the town, those boys, numbering about 500, had not been accounted for, he said, while Reuters news agency quoted residents as saying more than 400 women and children had been abducted.

Chibok girls

BBC Nigeria correspondent Will Ross says the conflict has torn many families apart.

As towns have changed hands it has been impossible to work out how many people have been killed and how many are missing, he adds.

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Map

Is the tide turning against Boko Haram?

Regional force tackles militants

Is Islamic State shaping Boko Haram media?

Who are Boko Haram?

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Last week, the decomposing bodies of more than 70 people were discovered under a bridge near Damasak.

Nigeria’s military has still failed to free more than 200 girls abducted more than a year ago from Chibok, also in Borno state.

The abductions caused international outrage, and foreign governments promised to help Nigeria ‘s military find the girls.

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau has said the girls have been married off.

The group has waged a six-year insurgency in Nigeria to create an Islamic state, killing thousands of people and capturing many towns and villages.

Regional forces launched an offensive about six weeks ago to regain territory ahead of delayed presidential and parliamentary elections, now due on Saturday.

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Boko Haram at a glance:

Wanted poster for Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau in Maiduguri, Nigeria - May 2013
  • Founded in 2002, initially focused on opposing Western-style education
  • Boko Haram means “Western education is forbidden” in the Hausa language
  • Launched military operations in 2009 to create an Islamic state
  • Thousands killed, mostly in north-eastern Nigeria
  • Has also attacked police and UN headquarters in capital, Abuja
  • Abducted hundreds, including at least 200 schoolgirls
  • Pledged allegiance to Islamic State

Nigeria – police warn election troublemakers will be arrested

Punch

Inspector-General of Police, Suleiman Abba

There are strong indications that security agencies may clamp down on “troublemakers” ahead of Saturday’s presidential and National Assembly elections.

The PUNCH learnt in Abuja on Wednesday that the “troublemakers” would be arrested based on intelligence reports on “persons of interest.”

The names of the “troublemakers” could not be ascertained as of the time of filing this report, but security sources said they might be arrested on the eve of Saturday’s elections.

One of the sources, who confided in one of our correspondents, said armed security personnel   would also be drafted to streets where the “persons of interest” reside.

He added, “Security agencies are working hard to ensure a hitch-free election and one of their strategies is to arrest those that may want to foment trouble; already, there is an intelligence report that some people may want to sponsor crisis but this will not be allowed; the suspects and their sponsors will be apprehended.”

Shortly after the security sources spoke, the All Progressives Congress said it was worried about the plot to arrest some of its leaders, especially Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu.

The party said it also learnt there was a move by the security agents to restrict the movement of the Director-General of its campaign organisation and Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi.

The APC, through its National Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed, however expressed confidence that Nigerians would resist any attempt by the ruling Peoples Democratic Party to use security agents to harass, intimidate and arrest opposition figures during the elections.

It said, “Does Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu qualify as a troublemaker? What we are saying is that they must allow a level playing field and not resort to arbitrary arrest of political party leaders to give undue advantage to the ruling party.

“We can tell you authoritatively that we have obtained a court injunction to restrain the Chief of Army Staff and his agents from arresting   Tinubu.”

It will be recalled that some APC governors were prevented by security agents from entering Ado-Ekiti   a day to the June 21, 2014 election in Ekiti State.

The APC Presidential Campaign Organisation, Rotimi Amaechi, who was one of the     governors was reportedly harassed in Odudu, Ondo State, by armed soldiers   as he tried to enter the state capital from the Akure Airport.

The chartered plane that took him   to the Akure was detained after landing

The other governor stopped from entering     Ado-Ekiti   was Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State. A helicopter that was   take him   from Benin to Ado-Ekiti was not granted permission to take off from the Benin Airport.

When contacted on the alleged plot by security agents to clamp down on “troublemakers,” the Force Public Relations Officer, Emmanuel Ojukwu, said anyone who caused trouble or violence during and after the polls would be arrested.

Ojukwu, who reaffirmed the readiness of the police to raid all dark spots, added that people who refused to obey the electoral law would be treated as “troublemakers” and be made to face the law.

He however explained that no member of any political party would be targeted by the police.

Ojukwu added, “We have intelligence report on those that may want to disrupt the elections and we are going to arrest and detain them all to ensure that the election holds without any disruption or hitch.

“Our men have been adequately briefed and they will carry out their duties without bias.   Our duty is to ensure hitch-free and non – violent elections. We are going to arrest every troublemaker wherever they may be found. Anyone who does not obey the electoral law is a troublemaker and we won’t spare them.”

The Department of State Services spokesperson, Marilyn Ogar, could not be reached for comment on the issue as she did not respond to calls to her telephone.

The Defence Spokesman, Maj. Gen. Chris Olukolade, also could not be reached as of the time of filing this report.

Sources at the Presidency on Wednesday told one of our correspondents that there was no order by Jonathan to security agencies to arrest   or restrict the movement of any influential Nigerian during the elections.

They however said since   security agencies had the responsibility of ensuring hitch-free elections, they   were free to take steps within the ambit of the law to forestall a breakdown of law and order.

One of them said, “Do you think that the President will call security chiefs and ask them to arrest or curtail the movement of Mr. A. or Chief B during the elections?

“In the same vein, don’t you think it will be wrong for any security chief to be waiting for a directive from the President when he is confronted with something that can lead to a breakdown of law and order?”

When contacted, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity,   Reuben Abati, said the present administration believed in the rule of law and would not hunt anybody.

Abati said anybody who had not committed any offence should not be afraid of arrest.

The presidential spokesman said, “What everybody has seen is that in the build-up to this election, opposition party has been coming up with a series of lies with the hope of misleading the public.

“Each time one lie is exposed, they come up with another one. This speaks to their desperation, it speaks to their dishonesty.

“If leaders of the opposition party have not committed any offence, if they have not done anything wrong, they have no reason to be afraid of being arrested.

“Coming up with all kinds of tales to mislead the public speaks to their own dishonesty.

“The Jonathan government truly believes in the rule of law. It is not a government that will go and be haunting people for any reason.

“The President believes in free and fair elections and he has always said this. This last minute blackmail will not help anybody.

“Security agents have the constitutional responsibility to make sure that nobody engages in any act whatsoever that can derail or disrupt the electoral process.

“There are laws of the land in that regard. There are institutions that have the responsibility to make sure that nobody disrupts the electoral process.”

Also, the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Olisa Metuh, ruled out the possibility of   clamping down on politicians.

Metuh told one of our correspondents on the telephone that since the   Jonathan administration believes in the rule of law and credible electoral process, no security agent would go out of his way to arrest politicians.

He said, “Our party is not under any pressure. We are confident of winning the election and since we are not running a military government, nobody would order the arrest of any politician who does not fall foul of the law.”

Copyright PUNCH.

Nigeria – Jonathan’s PDP uses election delay to slow APC advance

African Arguments

Nigeria 2015: Too close to call, but postponement drags polls back for PDP – By Joachim MacEbong

JoachimMacEbongThe postponement of Nigeria’s presidential elections served more than one single purpose. Apart from the stated reason, which was that it would allow time to improve security in the North-East, but it also enabled more people to collect their Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs). At the time of the postponement, 66% of PVCs had been collected. Now, it is above 80%. The extension has also allowed for a testing of the card readers in the field, to reduce fears about their performance.

The PDP has also made good use of the postponement, reducing the previously gathering momentum of the APC. Prior to February 7th, it seemed as if the PDP would be swept out of power by the gale force of ‘change’. Of course, we will never really know. What we do know, is that many people were against the postponement, and a lot of things the administration has done since then have been viewed through that lens.

Fourteen local governments – ten in Borno, and two each in Adamawa and Yobe – were under Boko Haram control as at February 7th, but right now, they control just 3, all in Borno. Many expressed doubt that 6 weeks would be enough to carry out what seemed impossible for all of 2014, namely, preventing insurgents from capturing and holding any part of Nigerian territory.

Now, the Nigerian Army has significantly rolled back Boko Haram, with help from the armies of Niger, Chad and Cameroon, as well as other foreign soldiers, either in active combat roles or as technical advisers, depending on who you ask.

It has gone some way to improving Goodluck Jonathan’s abysmal record on security, but for many the timing of the army’s surge is suspect, and they wonder why it has taken so long. The President says he had underestimated the terrorist group. If so, this has brought a high cost indeed: 15,000 plus killed, 3 million plus displaced, and hundreds in captivity, most notable of which are the Chibok girls, who are yet to return to their parents nearly a year later.

On January 18th, Petroleum Minister, Diezani Allison-Madueke, reduced the price of petrol in a move that many felt was aimed at buying a few votes. At the time, low oil prices meant the petroleum subsidy bill was very low. However, with subsequent currency devaluation and a slight increase in oil prices since then, the subsidy bill sharply increased, and queues soon reappeared in major cities in March. The result was a predictable unforced error, as whatever goodwill was acquired by reducing the pump price, was quickly wasted by the stress of getting petrol at the new price.

Jonathan has also attempted to work on his optics, going to Maiduguri – the epicenter of the insurgency – to visit the troops, a place he has only gone to once before since assuming office. He also went to Baga and Mubi, two other towns on the receiving end of Boko Haram’s reign of terror.

There has also been a more aggressive media campaign, first to market what the Jonathan administration deems as its achievements, and also to smear the opposition. In a study of media campaign expenditure carried out by the Center for Social Justice (CESOJ) from January 1st to February 14th, the PDP spent N3.5 billion, while the APC spent N1.4 billion. That gap has almost certainly widened since the postponement.

The extent to which these efforts have been successful remains to be seen. The received wisdom is that there is a pool of ‘undecideds’ who could swing the election for one candidate or other. Whether this number is significant is another matter entirely. In the absence of reliable polling figures, these assumptions cannot be verified.

Another key feature of the last few weeks, from the ruling party’s point of view, has been relentless attacks on Attahiru Jega, the Electoral Commission (INEC) chairman. Jega was appointed in June 2010, shortly after Jonathan became Commander in Chief following Umaru Yar’Adua’s death. He presided over a resounding Jonathan victory at the 2011 polls, in an exercise that passed the credibility test.

That he has now become the target for PDP proxies is a startling turnaround. Speculation that he will be removed before the election has only become worse with several newspaper advertorials calling his credibility into question, and several PDP affiliates calling for his removal.

His innovations, like the PVCs and electronic card readers, have also come under fire. Both are designed to reduce instances of multiple voting, and increase the integrity of the process, but have come under criticism, again from the PDP. Before the postponement, there was a push for the temporary cards to be used, with the argument being that not enough people had gotten their PVCs. Then the battleground moved to the electronic card readers, but a field test earlier this month, appears to have reduced most of the fears about their performance.

In addition to attacks on the INEC chairman, both the PDP and APC have stepped up attacks on each other since the postponement. All kinds of accusations have been traded, and other statements that could be interpreted as hate speech, which go against the Abuja Accord signed by both major candidates on January 14th. Buhari has been attacked on his age and his health status, with some in the PDP saying he would soon die, bringing back memories of Umaru Yar’Adua who died as President in 2010.

The APC have alleged that the PDP plan to scuttle the elections to prevent a Buhari victory, by using all the elements of state power available to them, and even installing an Interim National Government. Given the attacks on INEC’s credibility by prominent PDP party stalwarts, it is hard to believe at this stage that if a defeat for Jonathan is returned, the result will be accepted.

The result is a political atmosphere that feels very charged, and whatever the outcome, there will be a lot of fences to be mended and bridges to be rebuilt. The only hope is that both winners and losers can put the country before their ambitions.

Joseph MacEbong is a freelance writer, commentator and political analyst. He lives in Lagos.

Nigeria – 500 children may be missing from town recaptured from Boko

BBC

Boko Haram crisis: ‘About 500′ Nigeria children missing

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau (12 May 2014)
Boko Haram has pledged allegiance to Islamic State militants who control large parts of Syria and Iraq

About 500 children aged 11 and under are missing from a Nigerian town recaptured from militants, a former resident of Damasak has told the BBC.

A trader in the north-eastern town told Reuters news agency that Boko Haram fighters took the children with them when they fled.

Troops from Niger and Chad seized Damasak earlier in March, ending months of control by the Islamist militants.

A regional force has recently been helping Nigeria take on the insurgents.

Thousands have been killed since 2009, when Boko Haram began its insurgency to create an Islamic state.

The senator representing the north of Borno state, Maina Maaji Lawan, told the BBC’s Nigeria correspondent, Will Ross, the case in Damasak was typical and many hundreds of children are missing.

He said: “The very young ones they give to madrassas… and male ones between 16 and 25, they conscript them and they indoctrinate them as supply channels for their horrible missions.”

Boko Haram caused international outrage in April 2014 after it abducted more than 200 girls from a boarding school in Chibok town in north-eastern Nigeria’s Borno state.

The group’s leader Abubakar Shekau has said the girls have been married off.

Chadian soldiers drive in the recently retaken town of Damasak, Nigeria, 18 March 2015
Regional troops have played a key role in recapturing territory from Boko Haram
A girl stands in front of soldiers from Niger and Chad in the recently retaken town of Damasak, Nigeria, on 20 March 2015
The group is opposed to children receiving a secular education, alleging that it corrupts their religious beliefs

Damasak is a trading town in Borno state near Niger’s border and is about 200km (120 miles) from the state’s main city of Maiduguri.

It was overrun by the militants at the end of last year.

‘Decomposing bodies’

Damasak businessman Malam Ali, whose brother is among those missing, told the BBC Hausa Service that young boys had been put in a madrassa, or Islamic school, by Boko Haram when they took over the town.

Following the recapture of the town, those boys had not been accounted for, he said.

The BBC’s Will Ross reports from Nigeria’s main city, Lagos, that the conflict has torn many families apart.

As towns have changed hands it has been impossible to work out how many people have been killed and how many are missing, he adds.

Last week, the decomposing bodies of more than 70 people were discovered under a bridge near Damasak the town.

It is widely believed that these were civilians killed by the militants, our correspondent says.

Boko Haram promotes a version of Islam which makes it “haram”, or forbidden, for Muslims to take part in any political or social activity associated with Western society.

Earlier this month, the group pledged allegiance to Islamic State militants, who control large parts of Syria and Iraq and are also active in Libya.

Nigerian federal court bans military deployment around polling stations

Reuters

Nigeria court bars military from deploying around polling stations – lawyer

Tue Mar 24, 2015 2:18pm GMT
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A man holds a banner campaigning for All Progressives Congress (APC) Presidential and vice Presidential candidates Muhammadu Buhari and Yemi Osinbajo during a street procession tagged 'March for Change' in Lagos March 7, 2015. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye
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By Oludare Mayowa and Julia Payne

LAGOS/ABUJA (Reuters) – The Nigerian federal high court in Lagos has barred the military from deploying around polling stations during March 28 national elections, the lawyer for the parliamentarian who brought the case said on Tuesday.

Opposition leader Femi Gbajabiamila had argued that any such deployment would violate the constitution, lawyer Ijeoma Njemanze said, amid opposition fears that soldiers could be used to intimidate voters.

The ruling, made on Monday by Justice Ibrahim Buba, does not affect troops already dispatched to northeast Nigeria, where they are needed to battle an Islamist insurgency, she added.

The tight election pits President Goodluck Jonathan against former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. It was meant to take place on Feb. 14, but was delayed by six weeks because the military said it could not guarantee security, especially in the northeast, where Islamists have waged a six-year insurgency.

Jonathan is seeking a second elected term, in the closest-fought election since the end of military rule in 1999.

If the military deploys despite the court order, the opposition is likely to use that fact to dispute the result should it lose the parliamentary and presidential ballot.

The military’s role in the electoral process, including pressing for the vote to be delayed, has alarmed some Nigerians, reminding them of the bad old days of dictatorship, which included the annulment of a 1993 vote by a military government.

The case was brought after an outcry over the heavy deployment of troops in southwestern Ekiti and Osun states last year. Reports in the press alleged that soldiers had conspired to intimidate voters and rig a by-election in Ekiti — a charge the military and ruling party declined to deny or confirm.

Electoral officials said on Tuesday about 82 percent of Nigerian voters had collected the cards they need to present at polling stations to take part in Saturday’s election, leaving 18 percent of registered voters disenfranchised.

After the decision to postpone the vote from February, there has been a concerted push against Boko Haram militants, especially by neighbours Chad and Niger, chasing them out of much of the territory they had previously controlled.

There had been fears that millions of Nigerians in areas affected by the insurgency, including a million internal refugees, would be unable to vote.

“Wherever it is safe and people have resumed normal life, we will conduct elections,” election commission head Attahiru Jega said. “We’ve also got arrangements to conduct elections for internally displaced persons. We have designated centres … where IDPs will be able to vote.”

The commission said about 56.7 million voter cards had been collected by Nigerians. Jega said distribution had now ceased, apart from a handful of cards that had just been produced and would be handed out in the next few days.

Nigeria-Boko Haram: 70 bodies found at Damasak

BBC

Boko Haram crisis: At least 70 bodies found in Nigerian town

Chadian soldiers drive in the recently retaken town of Damasak, Nigeria, 18 March 2015. Chadian and Niger troops liberated Damasak, which is near the border with Niger, on Saturday

At least 70 bodies have been found dumped outside the town of Damasak in north-eastern Nigeria, after it was recaptured from Boko Haram militants.

The victims appear to have been killed some time ago, as the bodies were partially mummified by the desert air.

Troops from Niger and Chad seized Damasak on Saturday, ending months of control by the Islamist militants.

Earlier, Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan predicted Boko Haram would lose all territory within a month.

“They are getting weaker and weaker by the day,” he told the BBC on Friday.

President Goodluck Jonathan: “I’m very hopeful that it will not take us more than a month to recover the old territories”

Damasak is a trading town in Borno state near Niger’s border and is about 200km (120 miles) from the state’s main city of Maiduguri.

It was overrun by the militants, who began their insurgency in 2009 to create an Islamic state, at the end of last year.

Many of those found in Damasak had had their throats slits and some had been decapitated. It is not yet known who the victims were.

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Chadian army Col Azem Bermandoa Agouna told AFP news agency that he had seen “about 100 bodies spread under a bridge just outside the town”.

Together with the Nigerian army, forces from Chad, Niger and Cameroon are involved in an offensive against the Islamist insurgents who began taking over territory about a year ago – after being pushed out of their base in Maiduguri.

Nigeria is preparing to hold presidential elections on 28 March after security concerns led to a postponement of the original date in mid-February.

‘Under-rated external influence’

President Jonathan’s government has been heavily criticised for its failure to end the six-year insurgency in the north-east.

He admitted that the government has been surprised by the group’s progress.

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Boko Haram at a glance:

Wanted poster for Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau in Maiduguri, Nigeria - May 2013
  • Founded in 2002, initially focused on opposing Western-style education – Boko Haram means “Western education is forbidden” in the Hausa language
  • Launched military operations in 2009 to create an Islamic state
  • Thousands killed, mostly in north-eastern Nigeria – has also attacked police and UN headquarters in capital, Abuja
  • Abducted hundreds, including at least 200 schoolgirls