More than 90 days after he took office, President Muhammad Buhari made three very critical appointments yesterday, choosing Abba Kyari, a former MD of UBA as his Chief of Staff, Babachir Lawal, the National Vice Chairman of the APC, North East, as the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, and Rt. Col Hamid Ali, the former Arewa Consultative Forum Secretary-General, as Comptroller-General of Customs. Also appointed were Kure Martin Abeshi as Comptroller-General of Immigrations, Senator Ita Enang and the Honourable Sule Kawu will serve as the President’s liaisons with the National Assembly.
Boko Haram morph again
Last Saturday, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen Buratai, was on his way to Dikwa, Borno state, in attempt to boost the morale of his men when a radio message came in that the advance party was ambushed by members of the Boko Haram sect, killing a soldier and injuring two. However, Buratai’s party overpowered the insurgents, killing a few and arresting others. In the same week, a 12 year old girl at a bus park in Damaturu, refused to be searched by security officials, but somehow, managed to find her way, forcibly, atop a bus, and detonated a bomb, killing five people and injuring more than fifty. The second bomber, a young boy, almost detonated his as well, but panicked, ran into the bush where the bomb detonated. A few hours later, a suicide bomber hit the airport junction in Maiduguri near a military check point, killing a military guard. The twin attacks underscore the increasing reliance by Boko Haram on person-borne improvised explosive devices as a means of countering the Nigerian military’s onslaught against them. This week also, reports came through that suggest that Boko Haram members are being trained in both the Syrian city of Raqqa and in the ISIS controlled Libyan city of Derna.
Middle Belt bloodbath drips on
The Berom community had continued its fight with Fulani herdsmen on the Jos-Plateau with the Berom community accusing the military of complicity in some of the deaths of the youth. This week, a young father and his cousin were cut down in their prime. The stories emanating from the communities are heart breaking, and can qualify as a genocide. The villagers allege that the Fulani have systematically exterminated many of them and forcefully occupied their land, and this has seen hundreds migrate South to seek a settled life as cooks, drivers, and maids leaving their farm lands fallow. In Nasarawa, Governor Almukura complained of the activities of the Ombatse cult, which has seen them attack some communities and creating a sense of panic in the state. In 2013, the Ombatse cult group murdered more than fifty security agents who were on a mission to arrest Baba Alakyom, the leader of the sect.
The President probes on
President Buhari set up a military panel through the Office of the National Security Adviser, to investigate defence procurements from 2007 till date. It has 13 serving and non serving military officers as members. The attempt is to unravel the true picture of the funds spent on buying equipment for the military in the last eight years, which coincided with an acute shortage of same on the battle field. Also this week, the President, following a briefing from the Chairman of Infrastructure Regulatory Concession Commission, suspended ongoing work at the Second River Niger Bridge in Onitsha.
Small and medium scale businesses, and some relatively large corporates are openly complaining about the hardship caused by the ban on foreign currency deposits by the Central Bank of Nigeria. Many foreign obligations remain unpaid as they cannot access foreign currency through the parallel market except the official window provided by the CBN and the banks. This week, telecommunications giant, MTN, announced that it would be unable to meet some of its obligations, giving the reason as a shortage of US dollars.
While we believe that it is the President’s prerogative to appoint people he deems best to key positions, these appointments do not reflect the federal character principle and has cast the President as sectional. Recalling his infamous 5% and 97% analogy from a few weeks ago, a significant segment of Nigeria’s population have reacted negatively to the President’s latest appointments. We urge the President to gauge the mood of the nation and ensure subsequent appointments reflect both competence, and federal character.
- The attack on the advance party of the Lt. Gen Buratai shows a tactical flaw in Nigeria’s military doctrine. The advancing party ought to have been shepherded by an air reconnaissance team, which would have spotted the Boko Haram column before the ambush. This kind of close threat should not repeat itself again. Boko Haram is seeking to claim a prize, and that prize must not be the army chief. They are likely to try again.
- Last week, we opined that a robust counter intelligence be put in place against Boko Haram because they will be under pressure as the military attack their bases, and most likely to revert to VBIED or PBIED using the vulnerable population of young women and children as couriers. This situation will continue until the ONSA articulates a proper strategy to contain it.
- The National Intelligence Agency needs to be reinvigorated and armed with the necessary mandates to track the paths of Nigerians who are currently in ISIS controlled territories or who are embarking on trips to Turkey and Egypt. We still do not know the fate of the Nigerians who have already joined ISIS, and we do not know the capacity they have developed in the quest to wage war against the State. This generation of Nigerians in the ISIS territory portend greater danger.
- It is very shameful that the Nigerian State has no solution to the lingering genocide in the North-Central, both the past and the present governments have failed the people of that geopolitical zone who are being hacked to death in systematic manner, on daily basis, and with no apparent help in sight. It behoves on President Buhari to evolve a solution to the crisis now as that region is potentially Nigeria’s most productive in agricultural terms, and the continuous insecurity there will only make nonsense of efforts to diversify Nigeria’s economy.
- It is becoming clear that the Ombatse cult in Nasarawa state has the backing of some powerful people in the state. They will continue to wreak havoc in that state, which will affect the local economy. Any visitor to the state is advised to exercise extra ordinary vigilance.
- The probe panel investigating the purchase of military equipment since 2007 has being sitting in Abuja. They have invited all the former service chiefs, defence ministers and National Security Advisers to appear before it. We believe that the trail will lead back to 1999 and prior due to the opaque and over lapping nature of military procurements over the past decades. Limiting the probe to 2007 is a bad call.
- The suspension of work on the second bridge across the River Niger was also a bad call. We believe that the president should have been more circumspect in handling this issue as the bridge is meant to link the two geopolitical zones where suspicion of his motives are at their highest. Any moves that will paint him as sectional should be carefully considered and handled with caution.
- We repeat our calls for substantive appointments of a Chief Economic Adviser and Minister of Finance to derive and shape policy, with oil price dropping by the day.