09 Oct

The week ahead – Senate will play games with ministerial nominees

President Muhammad Buhari’s list of ministerial nominees was read on the floor of the Senate by the Senate President, Bukola Saraki. There was no surprises in the list, leading many Nigerians to question why it took so long to arrive at such a conclusion. Many are of the view that the President could have nominated these people from day one of his presidency rather than claim that he was searching for extraordinary Nigerians that would form his cabinet. Many also asked why the Senate postponed clearing the nominees to October 12, but the reasons became clear as senators went on to modify the rules that
will govern the screening of the nominees, against the backdrop of petitions against some of the nominees being circulated in the Senate.

The wave of terror from the Islamist Boko Haram continued with the suicide bombings in Nyanya and Kuje, satellite towns in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory. Boko Haram claimed responsibility on the Islamic State, West Africa Province, ISWAP, website, with pictures showing three young men, who the terrorists say carried out the bombings. This was the third suicide attack in Nyanya, the second one, last year claimed more than 70 lives and injured hundreds.

Following the bombings, the reactions of the security agencies, and of Nigerians on and off social media, left a lot to be desired. In the days leading to the bombings, a Twitter handle had predicted bombings in Lagos and Abuja, and made an effort to associate the (impending at the time) bombings with Biafran separatists and Niger Delta militant. This diversion was accepted by a lot of people. However, in the aftermath of the bombing, a human rights lawyer, using freely available software tools was able to provide a name, not indigenous to either the South-East or Niger Delta geopolitical zones. The individual behind the Twitter account has deactivated those accounts, but there has been no arrest as of the time of preparing this report.

In Yobe state, Boko Haram invaded Geidam and occupied the town for 12 hours. They shot their way through the garrison, burnt 3 APCs, and sent soldiers scampering for safety. In the same state, coordinated attacks at an estate in Damaturu, the Yobe state capital, killing, according to reports, dozens of people. In a related development, the Nigerian Army warned of the presence of cluster bombs in the North East due to the activities of Boko Haram in the area.

Fulani chiefs in the South West denied that Fulani herdsmen were behind the attack and kidnap of former Secretary to the Government, Olu Falae. The Fulani pleaded with government to provide ranches and grazing reserves for the purposes of cattle rearing and husbandry. Meanwhile, Mr. Falae’s farm was attacked again this week, with a huge amount of crops destroyed. Again the Fulani herdsmen have been blamed.

The power supply crisis appears to have resurfaced with vigour. Over 1000 MW of electricity has been lost to sabotage at the Egbin power station. This has led to citizens resorting to the “more reliable” source: generators to power their homes and businesses. This a huge setback following the last few months where there was a noticeable improvement in power, and that has a direct impact on the cost of living.

Many traders are set to be caught with foreign currency almost on daily basis at the various international airports across the country. This is as a result of the ban on the deposit of foreign currency in accounts in Nigeria. The policy has made traders seek for alternative ways of sending
cash across to their overseas suppliers.

Barclays Bank has signalled its intention to review Nigeria’s membership of its Euro Market Index, this is coming on the heels of JP MORGAN’s removal of Nigeria from its bond index.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Rather than inspire hope for change, President Buhari’s ministerial list, which is a mix of politicians and technocrats, shows that the President is becoming a more astute politician. We believe that the President will give the Senate a free hand to embark on the screening and give fair hearing to all the nominees regardless of umbrage of petitions against the nominees. However, we fear that the powerful state governors will put pressure on their senators to scuttle the President’s plans, which may lead to a stalemate in government.
  • A colossal intelligence failure led to twin attacks in Abuja. We, again, urge the DSS and the police to rethink their ways and deploy proper intelligence gathering and analysis to this war or risk continued suicide bombings.
  • The revelations about Sadiq Hono/Yarima Muazam, who hid behind the Twitter handle @chimaokoro63 to “predict” the bomb blasts, should prompt hard questions and task with our security services on the need to create or establish a social media monitoring team. It is a monumental embarrassment that it took an ordinary citizen to make these discoveries whilst the security agencies sat on their haunches, and even more embarrassing that they have yet to, three days after the revelations, act on them.
  • The Geidam attack reminds us of when Boko Haram overran Bama, Baga and Gwoza without any resistance from the Nigerian military. It is sad that despite having what it takes to defend the town against the onslaught, the garrison troops opted to flee in the face of the terrorists. This shows a deeper lack of motivation within our military, and that must be dealt with.
  • The issue of Fulani Herdsmen and Farmers is a problem that won’t go away any soon. It’s gratifying to note the South West Fulani chiefs recognise the need for ranches. We join them in calling on the government to regulate the practice of cattle rearing and resettle the herdsmen in ranches, lest the misunderstanding and massacres continue to torment every region of the country, and lead to even more unrest.
  • The Federal Government through the ministry of interior must develop a blue print to guard against sabotage in the energy sector. The Egbin Thermal Plant is one of the largest in the country and we must not leave its operations to chance.
  • While we empathise with the government’s attempts to halt the slide in the value of the Naira, we must reiterate our belief that the Naira should be allowed to float so we will know its true value. Stifling legitimate businesses in a country that is import dependent is not helpful, and may not work in the medium to long term.
  • The lack of policy direction and inadequate economic policy options have allowed another foreign bank to make a case for a review of Nigeria’s membership of its Euro Market Index. We call on the Senate to accelerate the screening of potential ministers so that this deterioration will stop.