President Muhammadu Buhari will visit Maiduguri on Wednesday, at the forefront of the war against the Boko Haram jihadist group in northeastern Nigeria, where large-scale attacks on the army have increased in recent months.
“President Buhari is expected to open the annual Chief of Defence Staff conference on 28 November in Maiduguri, Borno State,” a spokesman for President Bashir Ahmad announced on Twitter.
The conference was initially planned in Benin City, in the south of the country, but in the current context of escalating violence, the presidency decided at the last minute to hold it in the northeast regional capital.
As he runs for a second term as President in February 2019, his security record is now highly criticized, with the opposition denouncing the government’s lack of support for exhausted and under-equipped troops.
When he came to power in March 2015, particularly on the promise that he would put an end to the Islamist insurgency, Muhammadu Buhari, a former general, quickly assured that Boko Haram’s fighters were “technically defeated”.
The armies in the region where the group operates (Chad, Cameroon, Niger, Nigeria), grouped together to form a Multinational Force codenamed MNJTF, had achieved significant military successes in 2015 and 2016, driving insurgents out of most of the territories under their control.
But attacks have resumed on an ever-increasing scale this year, particularly under the leadership of the Islamic State Branch in West Africa (ISWAP), the Boko Haram fraction affiliated to the Islamic State group.
Since July, AFP has documented at least 17 attacks on Nigerian military bases, almost all of which are located in the area around Lake Chad, an ISWAP-controlled area.
The latest, on 18 November, killed at least 43 people – 100 according to some security sources – in Metele, a village near the border with Niger.
Defence Minister Mansur Dan-Ali, who visited Niger in September, is also scheduled to visit Chad this week for a “bilateral meeting” with his Chadian counterpart, General Daoud Yaya.
The purpose of the visit is to “strengthen the operations of the Regional Force (MNJTF) to help it fulfil its mandate to eliminate security threats,” a Nigerian defence spokesman, Tukur Gusau, said in a statement.
More than 27,000 people have lost their lives since the beginning of the jihadist insurgency in 2009 and 1.8 million people are still unable to return to their homes.