TIME Nigeria

Challenger Edges Ahead in Tense Nigerian Elections

Opposition candidate Gen. Muhammadu Buhari holds his ballot paper in the air before casting his vote in his home town of Daura, northern Nigeria on March 28, 2015.
Ben Curtis—AP Opposition candidate Gen. Muhammadu Buhari holds his ballot paper in the air before casting his vote in his home town of Daura, northern Nigeria on March 28, 2015.

Partial results so far give former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari a considerable lead over the incumbent, President Goodluck Jonathan

ABUJA, Nigeria — The second day of vote counting in a bitterly contested presidential vote started late on Tuesday and electoral officials hope to announce later in the day who will be governing Africa’s richest and biggest nation.

Early returns from half the states have President Goodluck Jonathan winning nine states and the Federal Capital Territory and Gen. Muhammadu Buhari winning nine states. Buhari won 8.5 million votes to Jonathan’s 6.48 million. A candidate must take at least 50 percent of all votes and at least 25 percent of votes in two-thirds of the states to win.

Electoral commission spokesman Kayode Idowu told The Associated Press he hopes for final results by the end of the day but results from only “a few” of the remaining states have been delivered.

TIME Nigeria

Nigerians Continue Voting After Violence and Technical Hitches

Millions have cast ballots in an election that analysts say is too close to call

(ABUJA, Nigeria) — Boko Haram fighters attacked poll stations in northeast Nigeria and a governor demanded elections be canceled in an oil-rich southern state Sunday as the count started for a presidential election too close to call.

Two electoral workers were killed Saturday in Boko Haram’s campaign to disrupt the elections, chairman Attahiru Jega of the Independent National Electoral Commission told reporters.

Voting continued in certain areas on Sunday after technical glitches with new biometric card readers prevented some people from casting ballots on Saturday.

The high-stakes contest to govern Africa’s richest and most populous nation has come down to a critically close contest between President Goodluck Jonathan, a 57-year-old Christian from the south, and former military dictator Muhammadu Buhari, 72, from the predominantly Muslim north.

Results are expected by late Monday. If there is no clear winner, a runoff must be held.

Suspected Boko Haram extremists attacked polling stations and destroyed election material in two northeastern towns Sunday, then advanced on Bauchi city, according to fleeing residents.

Soldiers engaged them in heavy gunfire, and a jet fighter patrolled skies above the city, they said.

Police spokesman Haruna Muhammad said security forces had halted the convoy of 10 vehicles holding “unidentified gunmen” at Dindima village, 10 kilometers (6 miles) from Bauchi.

But gunshots erupted in Bauchi before nightfall Sunday, and authorities declared a curfew.

Muhammad said the gunmen attacked polling stations in Kirfi and Alkaleri towns earlier in the day.

Boko Haram extremists killed at least 41 people, including a legislator, and scared hundreds of people from polling stations in three states in the northeast on Saturday.

Voters also are electing 360 legislators to the House of Assembly, where the opposition currently has a slight edge over Jonathan’s party. Voting for 13 constituencies was postponed until April because of shortages of ballot papers, electoral officials said.

Nigeria’s political landscape was transformed two years ago when the main opposition parties formed a coalition and for the first time united behind one candidate, Buhari. Dozens of legislators defected from Jonathan’s party, including Rivers State Gov. Rotimi Amaechi.

Since then, Rivers has become a hotbed of political thuggery.

On Sunday, thousands took the streets of the state capital of Port Harcourt to protest alleged killings of opposition campaign workers and voting irregularities. Police in riot gear and armored cars moved in but the demonstration ended peacefully.

Police reported the electoral commission’s office in Port Harcourt was bombed Sunday, and that three people, including a soldier, were shot dead Saturday. But the opposition coalition said scores of its members have been killed and blames “ethnic militias” working for Jonathan’s party.

It also alleged that about 100 opposition members were detained by police on Saturday. Police did not immediately respond to those charges.

“We are concerned about what seems to be happening in Rivers State (where) there are many alleged cases of malpractices,” electoral chairman Jega told a news conference. He said they were investigating and would respond to a party request for the elections there to be cancelled and rescheduled.

Jonathan’s party charged that the card readers failed mostly in its strongholds and asked if this was contrived. “Sadly the damage that the failure of the card readers has caused to the fortunes of our supporters and party is immense,” media director Femi Fani-Kayode said.

Jega said the commission had been “alarmed” by the number of card reader failures, but that the actual percentage was only 0.5, or 374 of more than 150,000 readers.

He told a news conference that other irregularities being investigated include electoral officials disappearing with results sheets and electoral officials being substituted in Rivers and Lagos states.

While voting has generally been relatively peaceful there are fears that violence will erupt when results are announced, as happened after 2011 elections when Jonathan defeated Buhari. More than 1,000 people died in violence between Muslims and Christians in the north.

The International Criminal Court has sent warnings to Nigeria that it is watching the elections and could prosecute anyone who incites violence.

Contested election results have led to mass ethnic bloodshed in Kenya and brought civil war to the capital of Ivory Coast.

Many Christian Nigerians attended Palm Sunday church services in which they prayed for a peaceful outcome for the elections.

Nearly 60 million Nigerians have cards to vote and for the first time there is a possibility that a challenger can defeat a sitting president in the high-stakes contest to govern Africa’s richest and most populous nation.

A major campaign issue has been Boko Haram’s Islamic insurgency. The failure of Jonathan’s administration to curb the rebellion, which killed about 10,000 people last year, has angered many Nigerians.

International outrage has grown over another failure — the government’s inability to rescue 219 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram nearly a year ago. The extremists have abducted hundreds more people since then, using them as sex slaves and fighters.

Nigeria’s military declared on Friday it had cleared Boko Haram out of its strongholds in northeast Nigeria, a claim that could not be verified and seemed unlikely.

The Islamic uprising has exacerbated relations between Christians like Jonathan, who dominate the oil-rich south, and Muslims like Buhari, who are the majority in the agricultural and cattle-herding lands of the north. Nigeria’s population of 170 million is almost evenly divided between Christians and Muslims.

___

Saulawa reported from Bauchi. AP Writer Hilary Uguru contributed from Port Harcourt.

TIME Nigeria

Nigeria Voting Extended Amid Technical Problems and Violence

Voting in some spots was disrupted by violence

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — Nigeria has extended voting to Sunday after problems occurred as millions turned out Saturday to vote in a presidential election that analysts say is too close to call between President Goodluck Jonathan and former military dictator Muhammadu Buhari.

The polling will continue Sunday in some areas where new machines were not reading voters’ biometric cards, said Kayode Idowu, spokesman of the Independent National Electoral Commission. The areas where voting will be extended include Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city on the Atlantic coast.

In other areas, vote counting has already begun, he said.

Nearly 60 million people have cards to vote and determine the outcome of the first election in Nigeria’s history where an opposition candidate has a realistic chance of defeating a sitting president. The vote takes place amid an Islamic insurgency in Nigeria’s northeast in which thousands have been killed.

Boko Haram extremists waving guns forced voters to abandon polling stations in three villages of northeastern Gombe state, witnesses said. The militants have vowed to disrupt elections, calling democracy a corrupt Western concept.

Two car bombs exploded at two polling stations in southeast Enugu state but did not hurt voters, police said. Police detonated two other car bombs at the scene of the first explosion, a polling station set up at a primary school, said Enugu state police Commissioner Dan Bature. Boko Haram has been blamed for many car bombings but was not immediately suspected in the southeastern blasts far from its northeast stronghold.

President Goodluck Jonathan denied the attacks, saying the state governor told him there were no blasts.

The oil-rich and heavily populated south is deeply contested and has become a political battleground since the main opposition parties united in a coalition two years ago, causing dozens of defections from Jonathan’s party.

The official website of the Independent National Electoral Commission was hacked but was quickly secured, said officials who said the site holds no sensitive material.

Thousands of people forced from their homes by the Islamic uprising lined up to vote at a refugee camp in Yola, capital of northeast Adamawa state, which is hosting as many refugees as its 300,000 residents.

Registration to vote began late in most places, delaying the scheduled start of voting in the afternoon. Men and women formed separate lines at many polling stations.

Earlier, officials rushed across the country delivering ballot materials by trucks, speedboats, motorcycles, mules and even camels, in the case of a northern mountaintop village.

Good humor turned to anger and altercations as people waited hours and temperatures rose up to 100 degrees (37 degrees Celsius) to be registered to vote, only to find that machines were not reading new biometric voting cards.

Even the president was affected. Three newly imported card readers failed to recognize the fingerprints of Jonathan and his wife. He returned two hours later and was accredited without the machine using visual identification. Biometric cards and readers are being used for the first time to discourage the kind of fraud that has marred previous votes.

Afterward, Jonathan wiped sweat from his brow and urged people to be patient as he had, telling Channels TV: “I appeal to all Nigerians to be patient no matter the pains it takes as long as if, as a nation, we can conduct free and fair elections that the whole world will accept.”

Jonathan cast his ballot later in the day.

Social media was abuzz with the problem. One tweeter said they solved their issue by having an official remove the protective plastic film from the screen to read a fingerprint on the card reader.

Voting began promptly in a Christian neighborhood of northern Kaduna city though voters’ privacy was not respected. An AP reporter watched as people milled around a booth where a voter is supposed to be alone. Then, voters handed unsealed ballots to an official who put the papers into the ballot box. Voters are supposed to put their own ballots into the box.

Jonathan and Buhari are front-runners among 14 candidates in the high-stakes contest to govern Africa’s most populous and richest nation. In addition to the Islamic uprising, Nigeria is beset by militants demanding a better share of oil revenues who attack petroleum installations in the south and deadly land disputes across the middle of the country between semi-nomadic Muslim cattle herders and mainly Christian farmers.

“We need many changes in Nigeria,” government worker Lawal Dahiru said in Buhari’s home town of Daura. “We have security problems, no job opportunities, we need infrastructure like roads, electricity, water supply, and to mechanize our agriculture.”

This is only the eighth election since Nigeria’s independence from Britain in 1960. In a country steeped in a history of military coups and bloodshed caused by politics, ethnicity, land disputes, oil theft and, lately, the Boko Haram Islamic uprising, the election is important as Africa’s richest nation consolidates its democracy.

Nervous foreign investors are watching as Nigeria is Africa’s largest destination for direct foreign investment though its oil-dependent economy is hurting from slashed petroleum prices.

Nigeria’s military announced Friday it had destroyed the headquarters of Boko Haram’s so-called Islamic caliphate and driven the insurgents from all major areas in northeast Nigeria. There was no way to verify the claim, which seems unlikely. Critics of Jonathan have said recent military victories after months of ceding territory to the Islamic extremists are a ploy to win votes — a charge the presidential campaign denies.

The failure of Jonathan’s administration to curb the insurgency, which killed about 10,000 people last year, has angered Nigerians in the north.

International outrage has grown over another failure — the rescue of 219 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram nearly a year ago. The extremists have abducted hundreds more since then, using them as sex slaves and fighters.

The Islamic uprising has exacerbated relations between Christians like Jonathan, who dominate the oil-rich south, and Muslims like Buhari who are the majority in the agricultural and cattle-herding lands of the north. The population of 170 million is almost evenly divided between Christians and Muslims.

Some 1,000 people were killed in rioting after Buhari lost to Jonathan in the 2011 elections. Thousands of Nigerians and foreign workers have left the country amid fears of post-election violence.

In 2011, there was no doubt that Jonathan had swept the polls by millions of votes.

Now the race is much closer. The game-changer that transformed Nigeria’s political landscape came two years ago when the main opposition parties formed a coalition and for the first time united behind one candidate, Buhari.

TIME Nigeria

Nigerian Army Takes Boko Haram Capital and Boosts Goodluck Jonathan’s Election Chances

President Goodluck Jonathan is finally leading a strong campaign against insurgents but battlefield victories may not be enough at the ballot box

The Nigerian army said on Friday that it re-taken the town of Gwoza where the Islamist militant group Boko Haram had maintained its headquarters.

“These successful operations have culminated in the dislodgment of terrorists from towns and communities in Adamawa, Yobe and Borno states,” military spokesman Chris Olukolade told the BBC. He said that Boko Haram fighters were seen fleeing to areas near the border with Camerooon.

The perception of military success might give President Goodluck Jonathan a better chance of beating his rival Buhari who has criticized Jonathan’s failure to take action against Boko Haram in the last six years.

When Nigeria’s presidential elections were postponed by six weeks in February for security reasons, many saw it as a thinly veiled attempt by Jonathan to gain time in a race that was turning in his rival’s favor. Had elections been held on schedule, Buhari might have had a very good chance of knocking the incumbent out of power in a first for Nigeria’s electoral history; the two candidates were equal at the polls.

Despite Jonathan’s best efforts to downplay an Islamist insurgency that had plagued the country’s northeast with massacres, mass kidnappings and a spate of terror attacks that has seen more than 11,000 killed during his time in power, his detractors successfully used the issue to raise wider questions about his abilities as leader of a country that is Africa’s economic fulcrum. So when Jonathan pledged to launch a military operation that would wipe Boko Haram from the map, it was widely interpreted as an effort to buff up his defense credentials in the face of a former military dictator who had made security the cornerstone of his campaign. Jonathan’s Peoples Democratic Party was “aware that after an underwhelming electoral campaign, it needed to recover ground,” says Roddy Barclay, senior Africa analyst at Control Risks, a U.K.-based political risk consultancy. “The military offensive was considered necessary to restrict Boko Haram’s ability to destabilize the country in what was set to be a turbulent election. But it was also seen as a way to boost the PDP’s propaganda campaign, showing that it can manage national security.”


It was a risky tactic; failure, after all, would have made for a potent weapons in the hands of his opponents. But now that the Nigerian army, with the help of foreign mercenaries and a coalition of military forces from Chad, Cameroon and Niger, has managed to push Boko Haram out of all but three of the 20 districts the radical Islamists once held, many are starting to wonder if success on the battlefield will lead to Jonathan’s victory at the ballot box.

That question will be put to the test when Nigerians go to the polls on Saturday March 28. In the closest presidential race since the end of military rule in 1999, Nigerians will be voting on several different issues. Chief among them will be the bread and butter basics that any voter around the world can relate to: jobs and the economy, or, in Nigerian parlance, eba and soup, the national dish of pounded cassava with stewed meat. Jonathan’s record is spotty on both: while Nigeria edged out South Africa last year as the continent’s biggest economy, the country’s vast oil wealth has not trickled down to the general populace. And the global decline in oil prices has hampered investment in a country where at least 70% of government revenue comes from petroleum exports. In addition to security, Buhari has campaigned hard on the issue of corruption, another Jonathan weakness.

So, when it comes to issues, Jonathan may have just succeeded in supplanting Buhari’s security credentials. On Wednesday March 25 Jonathan told the BBC that Boko Haram was “getting weaker and weaker every day…I’m very hopeful that it will not take us more than a month to recover old territories that hitherto have been in their hands.” It later emerged that Nigeria’s anemic army required the assistance of some 100 South African, Ukrainian and British mercenaries, (The Nigerian government acknowledged they are receiving “technical and logistical support” from “foreign contractors”) but what matters in the end is that Nigeria, with the help of its neighbors, now appears to have the upper hand over Boko Haram.

The military offensive has reset the balance of power in the northeast and dented Boko Haram’s confidence while boosting military morale in the lead-up to the elections. That will help government standing in the elections, but it will not be the main factor determining how people vote, says Barclay. While some voters may not want to go against the government just as it is gaining ground, others remain skeptical. After all, Jonathan had six years to do something about Boko Haram, only to act decisively when his reelection prospects were under threat.

In some ways, the fact that Jonathan has not been 100% successful against Boko Haram may also work in his favor. The insurgent group is still active in some areas, and it has promised to disrupt the elections. People in the north, a Buhari stronghold, may be scared to vote; depriving Jonathan’s rival a key vote block.

But the bigger issue is that Nigerians, particularly in the rural areas, still vote along ethnic, regional and religious lines, and in that context, Buhari and Jonathan are evenly matched. Buhari is also avidly courting the relatively small number of swing voters that may be persuaded to vote for Jonathan because of his successes against Boko Haram. Jonathan’s military defeats of Boko Haram “may make a difference to the intelligentsia, but to the grass roots voters it doesn’t make a difference,” says Adunola Abiola, a Nigerian political analyst who founded the UK-based Think Security Africa policy group. “There are many who don’t understand or care about the insurgency, and by and large they are the ones who turn out to vote.”

In the early days of the election, a Jonathan campaign strategist dismissed the insurgency as a significant campaign issue, noting that the majority of Nigerians were more concerned about eba and soup,” and that only those directly impacted by terror attacks would vote on security issues. Now that Jonathan has proved his security bona fides, his strategists may be wishing that Nigerians cared a little bit more about defeating Boko Haram, and less about the economy.

TIME Cameroon

More People Are Fleeing Northern Cameroon to Escape Boko Haram

In this file photo taken on Feb. 25, 2015, a family of refugees that fled their homes due to violence from the militant group Boko Haram sit inside a refugee camp in Minawao, Cameroon
Edwin Kindzeka Moki—AP A family of refugees who fled their homes because of violence from the militant group Boko Haram sit inside a refugee camp in Minawao, Cameroon, on Feb. 25, 2015

Cross-border attacks are fueling the exodus

The surge in violence and cross-border attacks by Nigerian Islamist militants Boko Haram has doubled the number of civilians in Cameroon displaced by the conflict, with some 117,000 people from northern Cameroon fleeing their homes in March alone, according to a U.N. survey.

Boko Haram, which has waged an insurgency in northern Nigeria since 2009, has killed 6,400 and carried out 337 attacks since January 2014, according to the U.N. Recently, the group has been launching cross-border attacks into Niger, Chad and Cameroon.

“The northern part of Cameroon was already under severe strain due to deteriorating climate conditions over the last three years. The growing insecurity has further exacerbated that situation,” U.N. Sahel coordinator Robert Piper told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Cameroon also shelters at least 66,000 Nigerian refugees escaping Boko Haram.

[Reuters]

TIME portfolio

See the Nigerian Town Freed From Boko Haram

Bama, Nigeria, is now a ghost of a town

Even before Nichole Sobecki’s helicopter landed in Bama, Nigeria, on March 25, the staggering devastation was visible.

The militant group Boko Haram, which has sworn allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), held the key northeastern town for six months before military forces wrestled control of it about a week earlier. The American photographer, based in Nairobi but recently working in Abuja, was embedded with Nigeria’s army, which took back Bama as part of a multi-pronged effort that also includes forces from neighboring Niger, Chad and Cameroon.

“Corrugated iron roofs lie among charred debris, the walls of houses blackened with soot or in ruins,” she tells TIME. “Dusty roads inside the town offer further evidence of atrocities. The remains of a man lie in a sewer, in the fetal position surrounded by trash and human waste. A nearby bridge was used as an execution site,” she adds. “Soldiers cover their faces when entering Bama’s former prison to protect themselves from the smell of those killed as a final act of vengeance before Boko Haram fled the town.”

Sobecki says Bama is now a shadow of a town.

“It’s empty of all but a fraction of its people; its buildings collapsed; the smell of decay everywhere,” she says. “Most people had fled in the days before I got there, often to Maiduguri, where an estimated 7,500 people are camped out in a makeshift settlement of little more than a few dilapidated buildings in a clearing of Neem trees on the outskirts of the city.”

Those who remain—mainly women and children—sit “huddled together on the roadside,” she continues, “seeking shelter from the harsh sun in what little shade they can find as camouflaged troops roll by in armored personnel carriers.”

Nigerians will go to the polls this weekend, but despite a big push from the country’s military and its allies against Boko Haram, much needs to happen for the country to stabilize.

“This crisis has been years in the making,” Sobecki says. “It’s going to take a much more sustained effort to restore any meaningful sense of security here. When I visited northern Nigeria in 2010, I saw a crumbling education system, poor infrastructure and poverty and unemployment out of line with the rest of the country. Today, it doesn’t look much different.”

Read next: Why Nigeria’s Elections Could Trigger Renewed Violence

TIME Nigeria

Why Nigeria’s Elections Could Trigger Renewed Violence

Incumbent Goodluck Jonathan and challenger Muhammadu Buhari are neck and neck, setting the stage for violence, or worse, in Saturday's election

On Saturday Nigerians will head to the polls in the country’s tightest election since the end of military rule 16 years ago. One-time military dictator Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) is taking on incumbent Goodluck Jonathan of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in a race that has captivated the country, and the continent, for several months. Not once in Nigerian history has an incumbent government lost a presidential election, but this time around there is a strong sense that the opposition actually has a chance. It’s a sign of a maturing political system, but many fear that the tight race could presage a spasm of post-election violence that could send Africa’s biggest economy over the edge, particularly as the security services are preoccupied with an operation against the Boko Haram militant group in the northeast. A recent Afrobarometer poll shows that most eligible Nigerians intend to vote, but at least half are concerned about political intimidation and violence.

Past elections in Nigeria have proven turbulent, but 2015 is likely to prove particularly volatile, says Roddy Barclay, senior Africa analyst at Control Risks, a political risk consultancy. “Nigeria is at a key crossroads as it enters this election cycle. This is the first genuinely competitive election since democracy was restored in 1999, and that challenges the longstanding status quo in the country’s political system. Under either scenario — a Jonathan or a Buhari victory — we anticipate blowback in the form of unrest in the heartland of the losing candidate.” And in a country already beset by a vicious Islamist insurgency, that unrest could have repercussions across the region.

This is not the first time Buhari, a Muslim northerner, has faced Jonathan at the polls. In 2011 Buhari challenged Jonathan, a Christian southerner, and lost by a large margin. But this time around he has a strong national backing, with the country’s major opposition parties coalescing around him. Polls in December indicated that Buhari and Jonathan were equally popular. A six-week postponement of elections, originally slated for February 14, due to insecurity may have given Jonathan, with his deeper purse, an edge in campaigning, but Buhari supporters have been unflagging. In the interim they welcomed several PDP defectors — and their vote banks — into their camp.

Not only are the vote blocks evenly matched, the potential for frustration-fueled violence as one side looses to the other in a tight race is much higher. There is also the issue of regional rivalry. In running for what some Nigerians consider a third term — Jonathan, a former vice-president, came to power in 2010 when President Umaru Yar’Adua died in office — the incumbent is breaking a longstanding political agreement to alternate power between northern and southern candidates. As a result, there is a strong perception in the north that the region has become increasingly politically and economically marginalized under Jonathan, says Barclay. The government has also struggled to meet the expectations of a young and increasingly urbanized society that demands rapid change, enabling the opposition to gain ground. “Buhari supporters really believe that he can win this time around, because he has a credible platform and a high-profile national campaign,” says Barclay. “So if expectations are frustrated, we’re likely to see a violent reaction.”

And the precedent is grim. When Jonathan was announced the winner of the 2011 election, rioting in the country’s north and central regions killed an estimated 800 in violence that broke largely along ethno-religious lines. “That spasm of unrest was largely due to frustrated northern youth taking to the streets in anger at a vote that they saw as impeding their prospects for future prosperity,” says Barclay. “That anger was manifested in the targeting of communities that were thought to favor Jonathan, in particular Christians in the north.”

Adunola Abiola, a political analyst and founder of the London-based Think Security Africa policy institute, was in the northwestern city of Kaduna during the 2011 riots. The stage is set, she says, for a much more widespread outbreak of rioting. In 2011 the violence was disorganized and spontaneous. “People were coming out and expressing their anger and targeting anyone they thought was in the ruling party based on their religion and ethnicity,” she says. “This time around you have an opposition that is national. It’s more likely that we will see violence across the country.”

Abiola is particularly concerned about the potential for accusations of electoral mismanagement and fraud. It is not clear that voters in the three northern states where Boko Haram is strongest will be able to go to the polls, nor is it certain that the estimated one million people displaced by the insurgency will be able to vote. Likely Buhari voters, their exclusion could spark allegations of fraud should he lose. “I am not suggesting in any way that the APC organizes violence, but they do have a passionate support base that may take violent action if they feel Buhari has been cheated in this election,” says Abiola.

Still, she says, a Jonathan or a Buhari win is preferable to the alternative: stalemate. In Nigeria’s constitution the presidency is not won on a majority vote alone. A successful candidate also needs to get at least 25% of the vote in 2/3 of Nigeria’s 36 states. By Think Security Africa’s calculations, Buhari has the popular vote, but Jonathan has the wider regional base. While a runoff is possible, the numbers are not likely to change on a second round, considering how close the two candidates are, says Abiola. “Our conclusion is that a free and fair poll will likely result in a stalemate.” With an economy rattled by the declining price of oil, the country’s main source of revenue, and an insurgency that threatens the region, Nigeria cannot afford paralysis in government, says Abiola. With so much weighing on the outcome of the election, taking Nigeria into the uncharted waters of a political standoff could be the most dangerous outcome of all.

TIME Economy

5 Stats That Explain the Super Wealthy

The Davos World Economic Forum 2015
Jason Alden—Bloomberg/Getty Images Aliko Dangote, billionaire and chief executive officer of Dangote Group, pauses during a session on day two of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, Jan. 22, 2015.

From Nigerian billionaires to Russian oligarchs, numbers that explain how wealth works in politics

The world will always be divided into “the haves and the have nots,” but lately seems the ‘haves’ are capturing more and more of the world’s wealth. Yet, even the super wealthy are feeling the impact of political turmoil. Here are five stats that explore the plight—and flight—of the world’s richest.

1. Nigeria’s super rich

For a country that relies on oil for almost 70% of state revenue, crashing prices spell trouble. The stock index dropped 40% in 2014, while the currency has lost a fifth of its value over the last six months. But the person who has been hit hardest is the person who can most afford it. Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, earned Forbes’ “Biggest Loser” title—his wealth has fallen the most of anyone on earth in dollar terms. Yet he still has a $14.7 billion fortune and his companies account for a quarter of the market capitalization of the Lagos stock market. Even as youth unemployment and corruption remain staggeringly pervasive, economic growth has enriched the country’s elites. Nigeria’s population of high net worth individuals grew 44% between 2007 and 2013.

(Forbes, Forbes, Financial Times, New World Wealth)

2. Oil prices and sanctions hit Russia

Russia has also been battered by tanking oil prices, and sanctions have had an outsized impact on Russia’s wealthiest and those closest to Vladimir Putin (who are often one and the same). The country lost the most billionaires in 2014, down to 88 from 111. Between February and December of 2014, the combined wealth of the country’s 20 richest people shrank by 30%. In other words, .0000001% of Russia’s population lost $73 billion—a sum on par with the annual GDP of neighboring Belarus. It’s no wonder India overtook Russia for third place on the billionaires list last year.

(Forbes, Forbes, CNBC, Wall Street Journal, World Bank)

3. The millionaire exodus

Millionaires have been voting with their feet. Between 2003 and 2013, 76,200 Chinese millionaires emigrated, representing 15% of China’s total and the largest exodus of millionaires of any country. Over the same span, 27% of Indian millionaires, some 43,400 people, left as well. In third place, France saw 13% of its millionaire population leave, perhaps due to what they viewed as excessive taxation on the wealthiest. Russia came fifth in sheer number of departing millionaires; they accounted for 17% of Russia’s millionaire population. Where are they all heading? Mainly the UK, the U.S., Australia and Singapore. The number of UK fast-track or Tier 1 visas (which require a $3 million investment in British assets) provided to Russians increased nearly 70% last year.

(CNBC, Business Insider, Bloomberg)

4. Billionaire cities

A few years ago, New York surpassed Moscow as the top city by billionaire population. Hong Kong, London, and Beijing round out the rest of the top five. Yet, unlike Moscow, where 80% of Russia’s billionaires reside, New York has less than a sixth of America’s. The United States spreads the wealth: 11 U.S. cities have 11 or more billionaires. California itself has 131—if it were a country, it would have more billionaires than any country except the U.S. and China.

(Forbes, Knight Frank, Forbes)

5. Big money in Chinese politics

While many of China’s wealthiest may have left the country, there are plenty who still fill the highest ranks of government. More than one in seven of the 1,271 richest Chinese are serving in Parliament or its advisory body. These 203 delegates are collectively worth over $460 billion. For some perspective, the richest representative in the U.S. government would be the 166th richest member of China’s government. Even as Chinese leader Xi Jinping clamps down on corruption and pressures elites to rein in their extravagance, China’s wealthy are still spending. Chinese now represent nearly a third of the world’s luxury sales, although roughly two-thirds of these sales take place outside the country.

(CNBC, New York Times, NBC News)

TIME Cameroon

Children Rescued From Boko Haram Can’t Remember Their Own Names

They had been freed from a camp in Cameroon

A group of children rescued from Boko Haram have no recollection of their own names or where they come from, according to an NGO official who visited the orphanage where they are being housed.

The 80 children were rescued in November from a Boko Haram camp in Cameroon, to where the militant group has extended its operations from Nigeria, the BBC reports.

“They’ve lost touch with their parents,” said Christopher Fomunyoh, a director of the U.S.-based National Democratic Institute. “They’ve lost touch with people in their villages, they’re not able to articulate, to help trace their relationships, they can’t even tell you what their names are.”

Fomunyoh told the BBC that the children, the youngest of whom was 5 and the oldest 18, were unable to speak English, French or any other local languages.

Security forces rescued the children from a supposedly Koranic school where they were being forced to learn jihadist ideology by Boko Haram, which is trying to establish a hard-line Islamic state in northern Nigeria.

[BBC]

TIME Nigeria

Boko Haram Under Attack by 4 Armies Led by Nigeria

Chad Boko Haram Flintlock
Jerome Delay—AP Chadian troops participate along with Nigerian special forces in an exercise in Mao, Chad on March 7, 2015.

Even if the allies hit Boko Haram hard militarily, it will still have the potential to launch terrorist attacks

With army trucks bristling with weapons, and soldiers boasting that they would catch Boko Haram militant leader Abubakar Shekau alive, military forces from Niger and Chad crossed into northeastern Nigeria on Monday to open new fronts in a war against an insurgent group that has wreaked havoc in the region for several years. Residents from both Nigeria and Niger described door-rattling booms of fighter-jet missiles and the stutter of artillery fire as troops zeroed in on Boko Haram enclaves near the border. Nigerian army spokesman Colonel Sami Usman Kukasheka crowed to BBC World that the joint effort “will definitely see to the end of the insurgency in Nigeria.” What he didn’t say is that it is unlikely to be anytime soon.

Analysts estimate that Boko Haram controls some 20,000 sq km in Nigeria’s northeast, forming a rough square bordered by Niger, Chad and Cameroon. Though Boko Haram originates in Nigeria, much of its strength comes from its ability to cross borders in pursuit of sanctuary. No longer. The multipronged effort, with troops massing on all three sides, appears designed to encircle the group, cutting off supply lines and escape routes, says J. Peter Pham, a Nigeria expert and director of the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center. It’s not the first time the four countries have worked together to tackle Boko Haram, but this offensive, says Pham, may prove to be the most effective yet. With forces from Niger advancing into Nigeria for the first time, from two different locations on the northwestern border, and with Chadian and Cameroonian forces holding the frontier to the northeast and southeast, Boko Haram fighters have nowhere to go. “The noose is tightening around Abubakar Shekau, and if one looks at the map, it is clear that the ultimate goal is to isolate Boko Haram from” cross-border sanctuaries, says Pham.

With Chadian air support and Cameroonian military backup, Nigeria’s army has already recaptured two dozen towns from Boko Haram, a group that gained international notoriety when it kidnapped nearly 300 schoolgirls from a boarding school in Chibok in April. Still, it is unlikely that Nigeria will be able to fulfill the government’s promise that all territory will be liberated before general elections scheduled for March 28. Boko Haram flourishes in the dense jungles of the northeast, and its brutal campaign of kidnappings, executions and forced conscription ensures local support, even if out of duress. The Nigerian army doesn’t have the troop numbers or the equipment for a full-fledged territorial takeover, but the government cannot afford to let foreign forces lead the fight, either. One of the biggest issues in the upcoming election is security, and incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan can’t risk looking so weak that he requires outsiders to secure the country. “It is politically and psychologically important for the government that Nigerian territory is not seen as being liberated by foreign troops,” notes Pham. Instead the neighbors will play a supporting role.

Nigeria’s military spokesman cites Shekau’s pledge of allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) on Saturday as proof that the regional fight against the group is already having an impact. Liking the pledge to the desperate pleas of a “drowning man,” Colonel Kukasheka told the BBC World Service, “There is no surprise that he is craving for support from fellow terrorists across the world.”

Though Shekau is far from drowning, there may be some truth to the boast. Boko Haram and ISIS have been “circling and courting for a long time,” says Pham, noting Boko Haram’s adoption of ISIS’s black flag and anthem in the fall, and ISIS’s citation of Boko Haram’s Chibok kidnappings as precedence for its own kidnapping of Yezidi women and girls in Iraq. But the fact that both groups have been losing territory in recent weeks means they could use a little bit of a propaganda boost. “It was happening already, but the propaganda needs of both groups expedited the process,” says Pham. “For ISIS to acquire a new province, so to speak, is propaganda that benefits them both.”

That propaganda could quickly turn into a black eye for ISIS if Boko Haram does end up being wiped out through the efforts of the multinational force. ISIS has not yet responded to Shekau’s pledge, and given the current operation, leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi may want to take a wait-and-see approach before he commits to a vulnerable ally. But Boko Haram, like ISIS, has two aspects: a military force that can be defeated, and a terrorist reach that is all but impossible to contain. On the same day the multinational forces started rolling into Nigeria, the provincial capital of Maiduguri was hit four times by suicide bombers. That’s something sure to make ISIS proud.

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