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Nigerians Hopeful but Skeptical as Buhari Opens New Year With Promises

By Timothy Obiezu January 01, 2021

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari addressed the nation on New Year's Day, pledging to tackle security problems, revive the economy and distribute coronavirus vaccines. But some Nigerians are skeptical Buhari and his government can live up to the promises.

In his nearly 20-minute televised address, Buhari said his government would take a different approach to key issues in 2021.

"We rapidly have to move to a more proactive and preemptive culture to ensure that these sorts of incidents do not become a norm, and we will not relent in adapting to changing threats to our national security and civic well-being," he said.

Nigeria's economy, hit hard by the corornavirus pandemic, contracted by more than 3 percent last year. Authorities project a recovery in the first quarter of this year and are taking steps toward achieving that goal. In December, the president ordered the reopening of Nigeria's borders, closed in August 2019 to cut down on illegal trade.

Buhari also said his government would promote a "National Food Self Sufficiency" program, to boost local production and reduce dependence on imports.

He also said his administration would acquire and distribute COVID-19 vaccines by the end of the year.

'A lot of promises'

But citizens like Abuja resident Justin Ohanu say the government has failed on its promises in the past.

"I applaud him for the promises he's making, but the only problem with this government is that there are a lot of promises," Ohanu said. "We've been told a lot of things. We've been promised a lot. 2015, we were promised a lot; 2019, we were promised a lot. I don't want to be negative about 2021, but I'm hoping that they put to practice all that they're promising us."

Nigeria also faced serious security challenges in 2020, possibly the worst in its years of battling the Boko Haram insurgency and other armed conflicts.

Issues around police brutality also mounted during the year, leading to widespread, sometimes violent protests in October calling for the dissolution of Nigeria's Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS.

The president during his address promised to honor protester demands for police reforms this year.

Abuja resident Michael Motojesi welcomed the president's pledge.

"The youths were not happy about how the country was being run and they felt they were left out, and most of the policies of the government were not affecting them positively," Motojesi said. "So I want to see a change in that this year."

Buhari said his government would recruit police and soldiers and deploy them to areas often attacked by criminals or Boko Haram.

As the year unfolds, millions of Nigerians will wait and watch to see if the government can fulfill Buhari's promises.

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