AFRICANGLOBE – Nigeria’s new president, Muhammadu Buhari, vowed on Friday to end a deadly fighting by the Boko Haram militant group and fight corruption in Africa’s largest economy.
“The most immediate [security challenge] is Boko Haram’s insurgency,” Buhari said in his inaugural speech after being sworn in as Nigeria’s sixth democratically elected leader on Friday.
“Progress has been made in recent weeks by our security forces, but victory cannot be achieved by basing the Command and Control Center in Abuja. The Command Center will be relocated to Maiduguri and remain until Boko Haram is completely subdued,” he added.
Nigeria is battling a six-year Boko Haram insurgency, especially in its northeastern region, where tens of thousands have been killed and millions displaced.
Last year, Boko Haram militants seized several towns and villages – across a swathe of Nigerian territory the size of Belgium – while stepping up attacks in the northeastern Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states.
The Nigerian army, however, assisted by troops from neighboring Chad and Niger, has since managed to roll back much of the militant group’s gains, retaking most of the captured towns.
Buhari also vowed to rescue scores of schoolgirls abducted last year by Boko Haram militants from the northeastern town of Chibok.
“We cannot claim to have defeated Boko Haram without rescuing the Chibok girls and all other innocent persons held hostage by the insurgents,” he said.
“This government will do all it can to rescue them alive,” Buhari asserted.
The newly-inaugurated president also said his government would commission a “sociological” study to determine the causes that led to the rise of Boko Haram.
“For now, the Armed Forces will be fully charged with prosecuting the fight against Boko Haram,” Buhari said.
He added: “We shall overhaul the rules of engagement to avoid human rights violations in operations. We shall improve operational and legal mechanisms so that disciplinary steps are taken against proven human rights violations by the Armed Forces.”
Buhari went on to promise to fight corruption at all levels, including in the country’s judicial and legislative branches.
“For their part, the legislative arm must keep to their brief of making laws, carrying out oversight functions and doing so expeditiously. The judicial system needs reform to cleanse itself from its immediate past,” he said.
“The country now expects the judiciary to act with dispatch on all cases, especially on corruption, serious financial crimes or abuse of office,” Buhari said.
The president added: “It is only when the three arms act constitutionally that government will be enabled to serve the country optimally and avoid the confusion all too often bedeviling governance today.”
Buhari also dismissed fears that he would launch a witch-hunt against his political opponents.
“I intend to keep my oath of office and serve as president to all Nigerians. I belong to everybody and belong to nobody,” he said.
“A few people have privately voiced fears that, on coming back to office, I shall go after them. These fears are groundless. There will be no paying off old scores. The past is prologue,” he asserted.
The new president also promised to reform the public service and generate employment, especially for youth, using the untapped potential of the country’s agriculture sector.
He also pledged to redouble efforts to fix the country’s chronic power crisis.
“No single cause can be identified to explain Nigeria’s poor economic performance over the years than the power situation. It is a national shame that an economy of 180 million [people] generates only 4,000 megawatts, and distributes even less,” Buhari said.
“Continuous tinkering with the structures of the power supply and distribution – and close on $20 billion expanded since 1999 – have only brought darkness, frustration, misery and resignation among Nigerians,” he said.
“We will not allow this to go on. Careful studies are underway during this transition to identify the quickest, safest and most cost-effective way to bring light and relief to Nigerians,” he added.