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New Nigerian President Embarks on First Foreign Trip

Nigeria's new President Muhammadu Buhari rides on the motorcade while inspecting the guard of honor at Eagle Square in Abuja, Nigeria, May 29, 2015.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari is embarking on his first official foreign visit, with stops in Niger on Wednesday and Chad on Thursday.

The two countries are part of a joint military offensive against the militant group Boko Haram.

Buhari's trip follows Tuesday attack by Boko Haram against the Borno State capital, Maiduguri.

Garba Shehu, Buhari’s senior special assistant on media and publicity, said the president is fulfilling a campaign promise to have a strong engagement with Nigeria’s neighbors and form a united front against Boko Haram.

“This is a commitment he has given in the course of the campaign to say that, under him, there will be a very strong engagement with the neighbors in order to bring them to the table and to take a common position against the terrorists that have been causing havoc in the sub-region,” he said.

Buhari said during his election campaign that having foreign troops on Nigerian soil was a “national disgrace.”

Shehu said the former general was speaking of his own disappointment in how the Nigerian military had been treated under President Goodluck Jonathan.

“You know that he served in the army and rose to the rank of a full general and had served as head of state. He knew the kind of army that he left behind. His disappointment is not so much that we have the people from neighboring countries coming to assist. His disappointment is in the fact that this is an army that has established its reputation globally from the Second World War to all of the conflicts on the continent and other parts of the world,” Shehu said.

Chad and Niger have reportedly complained of a lack of cooperation from Nigeria, something that has strained relations with neighbors. Garba said improving cooperation with both countries is the key reason for Buhari’s visit.

He said the Nigerian leader is prepared to take on the challenges facing his young administration, which have been identified by polling group Afrobarometer to include unemployment and an unreliable supply of electricity.

“We are talking about his plan upon which he campaigned – the issue of security, job creation and, of course, the war against corruption. These are the major areas on which he campaigned. These are the major plans on which he campaigned, and you are going to begin to see actions along those lines,” Shehu said.

Shehu said the first two days of Buhari’s presidency had been devoted to security, including designating the city of Maiduguri as the new base of government operations against Boko Haram.

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