15 Jan

The week ahead – Violence continues unabated in the Middle Belt

2015 ended on a rather mixed note for the counter insurgency operations in the North East. The deadline declared by President Buhari’s government to end the insurgency by December 31st never fully materialized as Boko Haram are still very active in at least two local governments areas of Borno state. In effect though, the military has curtailed their supply routes, decimated their camps and kept them on the back foot, but importantly, the terrorists’ freedom of movement and action has not been eliminated completely. On the 28th of December, 2015, the terrorists made an attempt on Maiduguri, but the military effectively countered that effort.

The tense situation between the Islamic Movement of Nigeria and the Nigerian state has not relaxed. The security services are still holding IVM’s leader, Ibraheem Zakzaky. Nigeria’s Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs has called for his release, but this has been rebuffed with the Inspector General of Police insisting they should apply formally for his release. Meanwhile, the police in Kaduna has charged some members of IVM to court.

Attacks against villagers in the North-Central have remained resolutely commonplace. Armed men arrived the village of Agatu in Benue state, hacked people to death and razed houses. Some reports claimed that up to 45 people were murdered. Parts of Plateau have continued to witness an outflow of villagers owing to the brutal attacks on villagers. Some residents who escaped the brutality say the villages have been razed to ground and families decimated.

The Bayelsa state governorship election was concluded on the 9th of January, however it was marred by extreme violence. Reports suggested up to a dozen persons hacked to death. The report also said there were low turnout of voters in the scheduled local government.

Some politicians and public officials in the past government have all continued to be arrested and detained over one form of misappropriation of public funds or outright fraud by the EFCC. The Buhari administration seems unworried about the disregard of court processes. Some intellectuals have surreptitiously provided backing for him, with Prof Itse Sagay, a constitutional lawyer suggesting the anti-corruption war can be fought with “selection of special Judges” that can handle corruption cases, while Prof Femi Odekunle, a criminologist, and a former detainee under the dictatorship of General Abacha also expressing support for the disobedience of court orders. Still on the disregard of court orders, President Buhari, during his media chat, frowned at the bail granted Nnamdi Kanu, Leader of Indigenious People Of Biafra by a High Court, and concluded that Kanu could not be granted bail as a result of alleged subversive action against the State. This has necessitated calls for his release in many quarters, having been granted bail by a law court.

A potential flashpoint is the order by a High Court in Lagos given to the EFCC to arrest former Niger Delta militant, Government Ekpemupolo, AKA Tompolo, and produce him in court by February 8. Ekpemupolo is accused of being involved in fraud at NIMASA, and failed to appear in court despite an order being served at his residence in Warri, Delta State.

On the economy, the naira depreciated to N305 per dollar in some sections of the parallel market following the decision of the CBN to stop dollar sales to BDCs. Prior to the announcement of the new policy on Monday, the dollar exchange rate hovered between N275 and N282 per dollar across the country.

A web of conspiracy is being woven around the circumstances that led to the “disappearance” from the Senate, of hard and soft copies of the 2016 Appropriation Bill presented to the National Assembly last December. The absence of the budget document, it was learnt, led to the failure of the Senate to commence formal deliberations on the budget. The controversy was further stoked at a closed-door session of the Senate where the issue reportedly split senators along partisan lines with Peoples Democratic Party, PDP senators accusing Presidency officials of conspiring with the National Assembly bureaucracy to steal the budget document. Following the closed-door session, President of the Senate, Senator Bukola Saraki proceeded to the Presidential Villa where he met President Muhammadu Buhari supposedly on the issue. PDP senators accused the presidency of silently withdrawing the budget to revise down supposedly outrageous items in the budget bill.

A viral disease, Lassa fever, has been leaving a trail of deaths across the country. With officially recorded cases now 93 with 41 deaths, the Federal Government has announced plans to set up an inter-ministerial committee from which ideas would come, as in the case of EVD, that would rather deliver a final blow on Lassa fever and other related diseases.

COUNSEL

  • It was a mistake to have stated a deadline for the end of the Boko Haram insurgency. What the government ought to do is to carve out long term comprehensive multi-sectoral approach towards resolving the insurgency, and also develop a robust counter terrorism intelligence network in order to curtail suicide bombings.
  • The Islamic Movement of Nigeria, according to security reports, constituted themselves as a state within a State. This is seen as justification in some quarters, of an effort to cut them to size. However, the current situation between the organization and the FG does not bode well for national security, and efforts should be made to resolve it once and for all. Efforts should also be made to bring the soldiers who committed the massacre to book.
  • Agatu is one of the villages visited by SBM Intelligence in the preparation of Terror in Nigeria’s Food Basket. Attacks in that region sometimes go unreported and there is hardly any media presence. Witnesses who survive to tell the stories of massacres and extreme privations are in short supply. It is a shame that the North Central has hardly been paid attention by this government. This, is a major humanitarian crisis that cannot be ignored, and the Ministry of Interior has to respond to this challenge urgently.
  • Bayelsa indicates a regression of Nigeria’s electoral process since the coming of the current administration and also the general development of democracy and free and fair election. INEC could not guarantee a peaceful re-run election in one local government, no matter the terrain. We call on President Buhari to encourage INEC to greater institutional reforms which are necessary for deepening democracy in Nigeria.
  • The EFCC boss flew to Lagos to address media organizations on the ongoing war against corruption, and it is quite a sad development he went on defending the anomaly of flouting court orders and the rule of law. We urge the EFCC to re-brand and restructure itself. The current media war is tiring and will not lead to a conclusive fight against corruption. We also urge President Buhari to respect the judiciary and stop making statements that infringe on their independence. We also urge the obedience of the court order regarding Nnamdi Kanu.
  • It is ironic that the Nigerian government, which has started disobeying court orders, will be forced to enforce a court order regarding Tompolo. We hope that the ex-militant will take the high ground and surrender himself to the court. However, if he does not, we call on the government to use every available means to enforce the court order.
  • The CBN’s forex policies are clearly failing, and tough decisions have to be taken to stem the tide of investors leaving the country in droves. We recommend a free float of the naira in order to preserve scarce forex and enable proper planning based on the true value of our currency.
  • It is clear that there was budget tampering, given statements made by the Senate President over the issue. We do not expect anyone to own up to this, and we do not expect anyone to be brought to book, so we simply ask that the Budget be passed as soon as possible.