13 Nov

The week ahead – Nigeria’s unity will be under the microscope

Finally, the President has inaugurated his cabinet and allocated portfolios to 36 confirmed ministerial nominees, he pruned the number of ministries from 29 to 25, and made a landmark statement of intent by merging three ministries, Power, Housing and Works, and handing the new ministry to Babatunde Fashola, a former Governor of Lagos, whom many see as someone capable of anchoring the infrastructural development of the present government. Some observers have however frowned at the removal of budgeting functions from the Finance Ministry, and believe that this will create a dichotomy that would hamper the smooth running of government’s fiscal policy.

While the Executive is on the right track and appears set for the business of governance, the Legislature appears to be in a state of continuous bickering. Both chambers of the National Assembly have had cause to quarrel over the allotment of committee positions, with some APC legislators accusing the leadership of favouring the opposition PDP, and grumbling about the allocation of membership of “juicy” committees. Subsequently, some APC Senators walked out on the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who was presiding, in the absence of the Senate President, and predicated it on the belief that a minority legislator cannot preside over majority.

The Nigerian state has continued to face stress and internal contradictions. The divisive 2015 general elections appear to have sown seeds of geo-political division, and this has not been helped by a seeming lethargy from the new government, and some pronouncements from Election Petition Tribunals. During the last week, there were protests in various cities in South-Eastern Nigeria, and in Port Harcourt, triggered by the arrest of Nnamdi Kanu, the head of pirate radio station, Radio Biafra. The protests resulted in some casualties in Port Harcourt as security forces opened fire on the protesters leading to the deaths of three. The Rivers state governor, has banned all such protests.

The Federal Government has intensified efforts to end the Farmers/Herdsmen/Cattle Rustlers’ crises. The security services have held a series of meetings with stakeholders in Kogi, Ogun, Oyo and Nasarawa states, with a view to fostering friendly community relations and prevent further crises.

The Ebonyi Police Command has confirmed that Afikpo town was on Friday, November 6, invaded by suspected militants from Ikoro-Uko in Cross River state. The Police said the militants came in two speed boats fitted with several General Purpose Machine guns, and were also armed with grenades. Intelligence chatter suggest that these may be the same set of militants whose pipeline protection contract was revoked by the Federal Government. They looted banks within the Afikpo area and kidnapped some residents. Though the police deny that any bank in the area was attacked, as at the time of writing this report, most banks in the region have shut down their business.

Despite the fact that a Federal High Court granted the former National Security Adviser, Col Sambo Dasuki, leave to travel abroad for medical treatment, the security services have prevented him from travelling on the basis of a request that he has to appear before the FG Panel investigating weapons procurement from 2007 till date. Some observers have suggested that Dasuki wants to flee abroad in order to avoid testifying before the panel since he handled a chunk of the arms procurement in the last administration.

The EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Larmode, was asked to proceed on terminal leave this week. Subsequently, the FG appointed Ibrahim Magu, an Assistant Commissioner of Police, and a pioneer agency staff to act in his stead. The move to oust Ibrahim Larmode is not unconnected with the controversy dogging his person and the uninspiring manner he had led the agency.

On the economy, it appears that the Federal Government, States and Local Governments have continued to record a shortfall in FAAC allocations. This appears to be as a result of decline in the prices of crude oil in the international market, with statutory allocation recording a shortfall of N1.32 trillion in the past one year.

The Group Managing Director of NNPC, and the minister of state, petroleum, Dr.Ibe Kachiwu, says the country is on the verge of finding oil in the Lake Chad basin area based on an analysis of recent seismic 3D data generated from the basin. The oil corporation boss said it is key both for geographical balancing of oil production and for the purpose of refinery in the North in terms of access to crude, and concluded that he will inform the nation by year end on any further significant development.

Nigeria’s regulatory authorities appear to have woken up with a rash of fines on defaulting firms. The latest is the N1 billion fine slammed on Guinness Nigeria by NAFDAC. Guinness was accused of revalidating expired products without authorization and supervision by the food and drug administration agency, and also exposing raw materials used in the production of beer and beverages to intrusion and extraneous elements.

The European Union and the United States have raised concerns at the World Trade Organisation about the Central Bank of Nigeria’s restrictions and access to foreign currency. Some members of the WTO are said to have voiced out concerns about the trade related impact of the rules at the WTO’s Council for Trade In Goods.

  • COUNSEL
    President Buhari, a former Head of State, has under the pretext of learning the rudiments of government all over again, has wasted six precious months with the socio-economic and political environment taking a direct hit. It is not too late however, and we urge the newly sworn-in ministers to waste no time in assisting the President to halt the current drift.
  • The Nigerian National Assembly is a disgrace. They claim to represent the people of Nigeria but all their actions so far suggest they are narcissists, only after their special interests. Going by their actions and conduct, we can, without equivocation, say that the people on Nigeria are not going to derive any benefits whatsoever from this current National Assembly.
  • It is the belief of the editorial board of SBM Intelligence that the current agitation in South-East Nigeria is borne out of frustration with the state of affairs in Nigeria. Should our country begin to work as it should, a lot of this agitation will be pushed to the fringes. However, we urge the Federal Government to handle this issue in a manner that departs from how it has been handled by previous governments. Given the video which emerged of Nnamdi Kanu soliciting for arms against the Nigerian state, we support his arrest, and insist on a proper trial, and eventual punishment for the individual. However, the concerns raised by the protesters cannot continue to be swept under the carpet. An atmosphere of high unemployment, and rapidly declining infrastructure will only serve to arm future Nnamdi Kanus, and that has to be taken care of with great speed.
  • The issue of Fulani herdsmen, cattle rustlers and farmers should be resolved through a national security dialogue and policies enacted to put an end to the problem once and for all, otherwise the current strategy by the security services is not going to resolve the deep seated issues. There must also be justice for victims on all sides of the conflict so that ill feeling will not persist, and lead to more violence.
  • The Afikpo invasion represents a grave danger and lays bare the failure of the Presidential Amnesty Programme of the last government. It also highlights the problem of general insecurity in Nigeria. Nowhere appears to be safe, and we predict more militant uprisings in the Niger Delta and adjoining states.
  • Col Sambo Dasuki should respond to the panel’s invitation and clear himself of allegations he was one of those that short changed the military through phony arms procurement contracts. We believe that he has a case to answer. However, we must sound a note of worry about the DSS’s disobedience of a court order.
  • We are not very excited about the insistence on finding oil in the Lake Chad basin. Nigeria’s record in oil producing areas is poor, and we worry about the effects on the local population. We also worry that this may fail to avail Nigeria an opportunity to truly diversify the economy.
  • We approve of the awakening to responsibility of Nigeria’s regulatory agencies, despite the scaremongering that the new environment is “anti-business”. Business needs a properly regulated atmosphere. We however hope to see our regulators demonstrate a measured regulatory activism, anchored on the rule of law.
  • That the WTO is complaining about Nigeria’s economy and trade practices is worrying and we hope the CBN and the Finance Ministry move to avert long term consequences because the prognosis for the future is bad.