18 Mar

The week ahead – Something has to be done about the Middle Belt

The crisis in Benue state continued with an attack on Tombo, in Buruku Local Government Area of Benue state in the afternoon of 17 March which left at least 15 people dead. While the situation, and information from the area are still fluid, the attackers appear to have taken over some villages which were deserted in the wake of the attack. This is coming on the heels of the Agatu massacre and recent attacks in Logo, incidents which have claimed hundreds of lives. SBM Intelligence has documented fourteen attacks in 2016 alone, which have claimed at least 455 lives in an area stretching from Udeni Ruwa in Nasarawa State to Uzo-Uwani in Enugu State.

The current petrol crisis, which has lingered for over two months, may continue until May as a result of the inability of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to meet the daily need of petrol in the country. This is coming in conjunction with the inability of some members of the Major Oil Marketers of Nigeria (MOMAN) and Independent Petroleum Marketers Association (IPMAN), which jointly own 22 percent import allocation of petrol, to meet that quota. Many have stopped importation as they are finding it hard to source foreign exchange. The NNPC, which now controls 78 percent of the market, does not have enough vessels on ground to tackle the existing crisis. Queues at petrol stations in some major cities across the country appear to have stretched as many depots, which depend on NNPC for replenishment have exhausted their stock.

The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) Consumer Price Index (CPI) for February, the national inflation rate in prices of food and services reached a double digit high of 11.4% up from 9.6% in January this year. The February inflation rate was 1.76% points higher than January’s 9.6% rate. The report further indicated that a faster pace of increase which led to the overall increase in the headline index was recorded across almost all the major divisions that contributed to the headline index, with the exception of the Restaurants and Hotels division which increased at a slower pace.

The House of Representatives has queried the growing number of intervention projects executed by the Central Bank of Nigeria in various sectors of the economy, running over N1.233 trillion. While the House observed that the CBN had been executing the intervention projects from the sum of N2.02 trillion it had set aside for such purposes, there was no noticeable impact on the sectors that had benefited from the funds. The lawmakers have resolved to set up an ad-hoc committee to investigate the disbursement of these funds, assess their impact on the relevant sectors of the economy and also the performance of the various schemes undertaken by the CBN within next six weeks.

Tragedy struck in Borno state, as two female suicide bombers detonated IEDs at the Molai-Umarrari Mosque, Ummarari, on the outskirts of Maiduguri, on Wednesday, killing no fewer than 22 worshippers. One of the 18 injured worshippers, who had gathered in the mosque for the early morning prayer, died at the State Specialist Hospital, Maiduguri, where the injured persons were rushed to after the attacks. It was learnt that the Imam of the mosque was one of the injured as he was said to be outside the mosque when the bombers struck. Also, the Nigerian Army confirmed the death of 22 persons in the bomb attacks on Ummarari. The Army spokesman, Col. Sani Usman, confirmed that the attacks were carried out by two female suicide bombers. According to Usman, the first attack targeted a mosque, while the second blast occurred about 50 metres away, a few minutes later.

Fifteen-year-old Patience Paul, who was abducted in Sokoto in August 2015 and taken to Bauchi State has been reunited with her family members. Addressing a press conference in Kaduna, an official of an NGO, Voice for the Girl’s Child Foundation (VGCF) in Jos, Plateau State, Ezekiel Dyagas, said he was briefed about Patience’s case by her brother on March 1, 2016, and with the help of Sokoto state governor, Aminu Tambuwal, the girl was eventually released. This is one of many cases that have reared their heads since Ese Oruru’s abduction and forced conversion to Islam came to the national consciousness following a media storm.

COUNSEL

  • The crisis in the Middle Belt has gotten out of hand, and sadly, successive Nigerian governments have not taken this serious, even when a sitting governor was attacked by herdsmen in 2014. The area which this crisis currently encompasses is at least 160,000 square kilometres, and needs urgent policing. If something is not done urgently, these communities will resort to self-help, and with dire consequences.
  • It continues to be the shame of a nation as the petrol crisis and associated power instability linger on. We believe the various heads of the government agencies and ministries have the needed qualifications to turn around the situation, and we urge them to think outside the box in resolving the crisis. We also call on President Buhari to personally lead this charge and undertake reforms that would end the current petrol and electricity shortages.
  • It is very unfortunate that Nigeria has so far failed to accept the realities of its situation, and follow the lead of Angola, Argentina, and Egypt in adjusting the value of our currency to suit reality. The fact is that all the undercurrents of a devaluation of the naira have taken place, without the country realizing any benefits except pain for businesses, consumers and households. The NBS report is very worrisome and bound to be even bleaker if no visible economic policy is put in place next quarter.
  • The call by the House of Representatives to investigate the various intervention funds by the CBN is timely and warranted. This is due to the fact that most of these funds, as argued by the legislators, have not materialized in any sector, in terms of capacity utilization and job creation. We also urge the House to be thorough and eschew any attempt to compromise this probe because all Nigerians deserve to know how these funds were utilized and by who.
  • Another terrible tragedy has happened in Borno that could have been avoided by round the clock vigilance and a proper counter terrorism strategy. We salute the security services for their recent string of successes against Boko Haram, but urge them not to relent or let their guard down.
  • The kidnapping of teens and forcefully converting them to Islam by some individuals, particularly in the northern part of the country must be condemned. We salute Governor Tambuwal for moving quickly to resolve this latest case of young Patience and urge all traditional rulers, religious and political leaders to work in synergy and protect the girl child in the region.