This week, the Senate commenced the screening of individuals that will constitute the cabinet of President Muhammadu Buhari. But the screening process bordered on farce primarily because of the mundane manner with which the Senate has carried out the process so far. However, the Senator for Bayelsa East, Ben Murray-Bruce, correctly pointed out that since no portfolios were assigned, asking questions may have been a waste of time.
On Tuesday morning as Nigeria was preparing for the ministerial screening, the Managing Director of the Lekki Free Trade Zone, Tajudeen Disu, ran into a mob of omo n’ile, and was murdered. The murderers were part of a mob from Okunraiye in Ibeju-Lekki who were protesting the forceful takeover of their land by the government of Lagos, for the construction of a refinery by the Dangote Group. The Chief Security Officer of Dangote Group, a retired Colonel, sustained injuries during the fracas, and a policeman who was guarding Mr. Disu was killed as well. The Police have arrested the traditional of the area, and a few other suspects.
Still in Lagos, a posse of over 40 armed robbers on Tuesday, raided Access and Diamond Banks in Festac Town, allegedly making away with hundreds of millions of naira. Stray bullets fired during the operation killed a woman and her infant. It is instructive to note that the robbers escaped through the waterways. There are conflicting accounts from the police and residents of the area. While the police claim that they foiled the robbery, residents of Festac dispute this claim.
The Department of State Services paraded two men who they claim are a part of a syndicate of three that kidnapped former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Olu Falae, two weeks ago. The DSS also insisted that the kidnappers were not Fulani herdsmen. However, and in direct contradiction to the DSS, the Inspector General of Police announced they arrested five suspects, of a gang of eight, in connection with the kidnap of Falae. The IGP went on to claim that the police have also nabbed the masterminds of the Nyanya and Kuje bomb blasts.
Reports from Kogi state say the Nigerian army had a gun battle with the Takfiri sect which operates out of Okene. In the exchange, a yet to be ascertained number of soldiers, and sect members, lost their lives.
The United States sent in 300 military personnel to Yaounde, Cameroon, to bolster the fight against Boko Haram in the region. They are to provide airborne intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance to the Multi National Joint Task Force. Meanwhile, President Buhari has, again, expressed confidence that the Boko Haram insurgency will be over by December. In a meeting with the commander of US AFRICA COMMAND, General David Rodriguez, the President proclaimed that with the support provided to the troops, he is optimistic they will get the job done.
Meanwhile, the terrorists continue to attack the population through suicide bombs. This week, a series of explosions hit Maiduguri, the Borno state capital on Tuesday, killing no fewer than 20 persons. Residents say attacks on Ajilari Cross, which have occurred three times in one month, have claimed over 250 lives. They blamed the Borno and Federal governments for not being proactive, alleging that some of the suspected Boko Haram members recently released by the government, as well as others who found their way back to town and settled in the area, may be behind some of the recent attacks.
- The melodrama that accompanied the ministerial screening process has shown up, in lurid colours, the quality of Nigeria’s Senate. It is poor. Regrettably, this is a problem that can only be solved during the next electoral cycle, in four years! The President will have to work with this body, whether he likes it or not, and they will be a problem in his quest to change things around, assuming that that quest is a genuine one. We are disappointed that this President, elected on a mantra of change, has acted no differently from previous elected governments, who have always forwarded the names of ministerial nominees without portfolios attached. We would like to suggest the enactment of a law to compel President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to attach portfolios to the names of nominees to be cleared by the Senate before sending such names. The current joke at the Senate called screening is a disservice to the Nigerian public who would not appreciate the level of competence or otherwise of nominees, and also determine the efficiency of the Senators. But, we have no confidence whatsoever, in the current Senate, to enact such a law.
- The murder of the MD of Lekki Free Trade has highlighted the problem of investments and the character of host communities, especially the group in Lagos who call themselves omo n’Iles, and who in many cases, in cohort with traditional rulers, extort businesses and development companies. However, this gruesome murder also brings to fore the issue of adequate compensation for communities whose land have been taken for such endeavours. This, is not a problem that affects Lagos alone. In a week where tension between the Yoruba and Igbo communities in Akure, Ondo State, spilled into the markets, it becomes clear that this omo n’ile syndrome occurs in one form or the other all over the country, and this indigene-settler dichotomy must be addressed. Addressing it starts with addressing the Land Use Act, but given that sorting that dilemma falls on the lap of the Senate, we have no confidence that it will be sorted until 2019 at the earliest.
- Several months ago, armed robbers, in large numbers, invaded banks in Lekki and Ikorodu, operated freely, carted away huge sums of money, and escaped via the waterfront. The same pattern repeated itself in Festac. A few months ago, SBM Intelligence released a report on the state of the waterways in Lagos, and pointed out the need for security if water transportation were to ever kick into gear in the city. All of these incidents are linked. The current logjam that is Lagos is an inducement for crime. Lagos needs its waterways functioning, but the Nigerian Police Marine Division is dead. Not only that, the police, on land, is grossly under resourced and ill equipped to fight this type of crime. It is bound to continue, and possibly become worse as the festive season approaches.
- Regarding the kidnap of Mr. Falae, the Nigerian Police and the DSS seem to be working on same objective but with different approaches. Both bodies have agreed that Falae was not kidnapped by Fulani herdsmen, but the tardiness with the investigation, the different tales of arrests, and the parading of suspects who are singing different songs, undermines whatever investigation either body is carrying. The time has long since passed, where our security agencies should share information.
- There is a violent extremist group in Kogi state that operates out of Okene. It seems to at, the worst case, be a cell of Boko Haram, and at its most benign, to have links with the terror group. The recent jail breaks in Kogi state has given ammunition to these groups and it is therefore dependent on the security agencies to tackle the menace in Kogi state before it escalates further. Kogi is in close proximity to Benue and Nasarawa States, which feature prominently in the current Middle-Belt security crisis.
- The US deployment of aerial assets is bound to assist the MNJTF with badly needed intelligence, but we urge Nigeria to take a lead and purchase more aerial assets in this task of dislodging Boko Haram. We also advice President Buhari to stop giving timelines to end the menace. As the American president recently found in his u-turn regarding American troops in Afghanistan, giving a timeline over terrorists can only end in one, embarrassing, way.
- The release of some Boko Haram detainees and also some that fled the Sambisa forest are beginning to have some consequences on the communities in Borno state. We urge the military and intelligence services to provide protection and actionable intelligence to be able to counter the terror of the Boko Haram Terrorists.