21 Aug

The week ahead – The National Assembly will anger Nigerians more

This week, the National Assembly adjourned sitting and went on a recess, drawing sharp condemnation from Nigerians who see the lawmakers as selfish and a drain on the nation’s resources. There are a lot of issues which require their attention, many of which are itemised below. In a week where online newspaper, Premium Times released a report comprehensively analysing their hefty pay packets, they can no longer justify their current pay with the low productivity.

Is Abubakar Shekau still alive?
Following last week’s directive by the President on the insurgency, the Nigerian army appointed a commander of the rank of Major General, Yusha’u Mahmood Abubakar, to oversee counter insurgency operations. There are 83 days left on that order, and the NSA and the service chiefs followed up with a visit to the Borno and Yobe state governments, and assured them of the FG’s willingness to end the Boko Haram onslaught within the shortest possible time. However, AFP released an audio recording purportedly from Abu Shekau, the leader of the Islamic State In West Africa. The voice on the audio appeared subdued, but defiant, and dismissed reports of his death in response to Chad president Deby’s claim that he, Abu Shekau, no longer leads the Boko Haram group.

Killings continue in the Middle Belt
In the North Central, the killings and counter killings have continued, seemingly without hindrance. Indigenous people in Barkin Ladi in Plateau state, ambushed, and killed some Fulani men. In the neighbouring Nasarawa state, the Ombatse cult militia group continue to terrorise villages and communities across the state. Some members of the Nigerian Army’s School of Engineering invaded a community in Benue state over the murder of a soldier. Meanwhile in Kaduna, the Special Task Force continues to clear the Birnin Gwari forest. So far, they have recovered over 2000 head of cattle, and have set cattle rustlers in the state on the back foot.

In the South South, the Navy invaded a community in Bayelsa where they arrested men who were stealing crude oil and running an illegal refinery.

ISIS member nabbed in Lebanon en route Nigeria
During the week a foremost terrorist militant, Ahmad al-Assir, who has links with the Islamic State, was arrested in Lebanon en route Nigeria. He had a valid Nigerian visa on his forged Palestinian passport. Intelligence sources say the militant leader may have forged the visa entirely with the help of his extensive courier network in and outside of Nigeria. President Buhari has ordered an investigation into how the fugitive got the visa, and based on intelligence chatter, Kano was al-Assir’s destination, so it will be a place to focus the investigation.

Community policing on the way?
The Nigerian Police hosted a national security summit with calls for community based policing. President Buhari also announced a further recruitment of 10,000 Nigerians to join the Police force in order to increase capacity for the current challenges at hand. Reports in the media claimed that President Buhari is looking for fearless judges who will help to try cases against corrupt officials of the previous government.

…on the economy
The ban on deposit of foreign currency continues to bite small scale businesses hard. Even larger firms are beginning to feel the pinch. Many requests for foreign exchange through the CBN are yet to be considered. Nigeria’s electricity generating capacity has increased to 6000 megawatts.

The Lagos state government released a statement cancelling a multi billion naira concession agreement to redevelop the Falomo Shopping Complex in Ikoyi with Afriland Properties, claiming that the agreement is “grossly detrimental to the interest of the people of the state”.

Recommendations

  • The National Assembly must be in tune with the deteriorating situation in the country and call off their recess to serve the people. We urge civil society groups to focus more attention on the National Assembly, and explore ways of forcing the legislators to sit up.
  • Last week, we called the President’s 90-day order a tall one. We think that the President should not have given a timeline to end the insurgency. But again 90 days (83 days as of today) is plausible if conditions are right; counter insurgency intelligence ops, a credible compact civilian programme in place and very targeted, tactical strikes aimed at displacing Boko Haram from all territories and safe havens on Nigerian soil. It is achievable but we worry about the Chadian sector, given President Deby’s behaviour.
  • Having appointed Major General Abubakar, to spearhead the military aspect counter insurgency operations, we urge the government to also appoint a civilian expert to over see the political and economic approach of the counter insurgency. We don’t trust the current state governors in the region to do a good job.
  • There is the possibility of a rise in suicide bombings following the widespread bombing raids on Boko Haram hideouts in the Sambisa forest. This saw many of the terrorists fleeing the front, and they may infiltrate urban centres and wreck havoc.
  • We agree with intelligence sources within Nigeria’s intelligence and security services that Abu Shekau is dead. We believe that the audio recording was made by an impostor. However, we continue to reiterate that the FG should not negotiate with any group of persons claiming to be Boko Haram.
  • We urge the Special Task Force in charge of operations in the North-Central to develop a workable plan and end the killings in the region especially those by the Ombatse cult militia group in Nasarawa state.
  • We commend the Special Task Force in their effort to rid the North West of cattle rustlers and other forms of criminality.
  • Nigeria needs to increase general alertness at our consular posts around the world, especially in the Middle East and South-East Asia. Nigeria also needs to increase intelligence collaboration with host countries, employ very efficient analysts and specialists in order to guard against future infiltration attempts. We urge the FG to investigate the criminal network that attempted to smuggle Ahmad al-Assir into the country.
  • We urge the police hierarchy to develop a counter terrorism and counter insurgency force especially with the new mandate to recruit ten thousand new officers. The Police and the DSS must come to own the war against the Boko Haram terrorists. It is an intelligence war, not a military one.
  • We advise that the President stop the current attempt to shop for judges. Rather, he should strengthen the Judiciary and allow institutions to work and not persons.
  • Lagos’s cancellation of an already signed agreement, and by executive fiat, is a false step. The Lagos state government must realise the world is watching, and such decisions, without the appearance of due process, is not a good development for the economy of Lagos.
  • We repeat that the President must appoint a Chief Economic Adviser and Minister of Finance to support the CBN to provide a policy direction for the economy.