Buhari fires army, navy and air force chiefs as Boko Haram violence roils Nigeria

The spike in violence has sparked concern that gains made by the armies of Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon since February are being eroded.

NIGERIAN President Muhammadu Buhari fired the heads of the army, navy and air force on Monday as the country endures the worst period of violence since he came to power six weeks ago.

Replacements have been chosen and an announcement will be made soon, Garba Shehu, a spokesman for Buhari, said by phone from the capital, Abuja.

It was not immediately clear if the Chief of Defence Staff Alex Badeh and National Security Adviser Sambo Dasuku were also affected by the purge.

But Badeh, Army head Lieutenant General Kenneth Minimah, Adesola Amosu of the air force and the navy’s top officer Usman Jibrin were appointed by former president Goodluck Jonathan in January last year. 

The military command has come under heavy criticism for its handling of the six-year Boko Haram insurgency that has killed at least 15,000 and forced 1.5 million others to flee their homes. 

On the commanders’ watch, the militants captured swathes of territory, including towns and villages in the remote northeast in its quest to establish a hardline Islamic state. In addition, the sacked military chiefs were unable to free more than 200 schoolgirls abducted in the northeastern town of Chibok in April 14 last year, despite repeated promises.  

Africa’s largest economy has been hit by the worst spate of violence since Buhari took office on May 29.

Bombings in the Nigerian cities of Jos and Zaria killed nearly 70 people in the past week. Maiduguri, the birthplace of Islamist militant group Boko Haram, has been the scene of some of the worst bloodshed.

At the start of July the new government suffered its deadliest week after attacks in the Borno state claimed at least 150 lives.

Some 570 people have been killed in Nigeria alone, according to AFP reporting.  

The spike in violence has sparked concern that gains made by the armies of Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon against the rebels since February this year are being eroded.

To compound matters, nearly two months into his administration, Buhari is yet to choose ministers; an announcement the 72-year-old former military ruler who had a reputation for being a disciplinarian and iron-fisted, said he may postpone until September.

That’s left the continent’s biggest oil producer and most populous nation without a finance chief to steer a Treasury he said is “virtually empty” amid calls for a currency devaluation.

So far he has articulated few ideas on how to revive an economy ravaged by an almost 45% drop in Brent crude prices over the past year, Angus Downie, head of economic research at Ecobank Transnational Inc., said by phone from London on July 2.

Nigeria’s government relies on oil for roughly two-thirds of its revenue.

-Bloomberg & AFP

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