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Nigeria’s Buhari Faces Toughest of Tests in the Niger Delta

Here's a piece I co-authored with Dafe Oputu in African Arguments about the volatile situation in the Niger Delta, and how it represents a threat for Nigeria's new president. 

Nigeria appears to finally be making some inroads against Boko Haram, the Islamist militant group that has plagued it for years.  But as one threat looks like it might be starting to recede, another may re-emerge: the conflict in the Niger Delta. That conflict is often forgotten in the shadow of Boko Haram’s headline-grabbing suicide bombings and kidnappings, but it now stands as a potent threat to Nigerian domestic security.

In 2009, before Boko Haram was a household name, Nigeria finally forged a peace deal that stemmed fighting in the southern Niger Delta, bringing hope that it would spell the end of a conflict that had displaced thousands and cost the Nigerian government an estimated $100 billion in oil revenue through bunkering. But that peace deal is set to expire this year, and the conflict could pick up where it left off “” taking the optimism brought about by the 2015 election with it.

Insecurity in the Niger Delta adds to a long list of concerns for Nigeria’s new President Muhammadu Buhari.  He faces a delicate balancing act, trying to hold together a fraying country with strong regional identities.  But unlike his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, Buhari seems ill-equipped to use the two main tools successfully wielded by the Jonathan administration to stave off conflict: patronage politics and paying off militants.