01 Jul

The week ahead – Calls for restructuring will intensify

Professor Wole Soyinka has called on President Muhammad Buhari to consider the report of the 2014 National Conference convened during the tenure of President Goodluck Jonathan. The Nobel laureate argued that the country is groping in the dark, without direction and concluded that the Confab report is a workable and practical document that could address the myriad of challenges currently plaguing Nigeria.

Driven from its stronghold in north-eastern part of the country, the Islamist militant group, Boko Haram is regrouping, targeting and stepping up attacks in the south-eastern part of the least developed country in the world, Niger. The terrorist group has been raiding villages in the region for food, cattle and weapons. Meanwhile, two suicide bombers have blown themselves up near Sulemanti mosque in Maiduguri. The police in Borno explained that the bombs went off prematurely, killing the two suspects during midnight Ramadan prayers.

Some staff of the National Emergency Agency are alleged to have been diverting relief materials meant for the internally displaced persons, leading to food shortages and severe malnutrition in the North East. Most of food meant for children, and labeled by UNICEF and other donor agencies as ”not for sale” are the fastest moving products in the open market selling, for exorbitant prices.

During the week, shortly after news broke about luxury properties which he acquired in Dubai, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai, accused some unnamed officers and politicians of being responsible for the rumour of a plot to overthrow the government. He also announced plans to take the war against insurgency to cyberspace.

The police in Lagos has commenced a manhunt for the people who invaded the Igbolomu and Ishawo areas of Ikorodu last Friday. The gunmen came in through the waterways close to the communities and started shooting sporadically, killing at least eight people. The following day, in the FCT, there was a prison break at Kuje Medium Prison, and two inmates escaped. The Minister of Interior claimed he observed the security lapses when he visited.

Thirty-five states of the Federation have applied for the Federal Government’s bailout. The Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun said that the 35 states, which have applied for the facility are in the process of submitting the required documentation for the facility. The minister opined that the facility size is not ₦90 billion as speculated, rather ₦50 billion per month for the first three months, and ₦40 billion per month for the following nine months. Monthly disbursements to each state she said, will be conditional on compliance with pre-agreed Financial Sustainability Plan milestones. Adeosun further submitted that the objective is to ensure that States are set on a path towards fiscal sustainability with a clear link between Federal Government funding and necessary reform.

Suggestions

  • A discussion on the future of Nigeria is pertinent. The current system encourages injustice, insecurity and underdevelopment on a large scale level. We reiterate that a restructuring of Nigeria’s federalism is the first step towards bequeathing a just and fair country. We are pleased that the House of Representatives has adopted the 2014 National Conference report. While we do not agree with all that is in that report, it is a necessary first step towards restructuring the country.
  • It is sad that state and federal officials have failed the impoverished residents of the North East, especially children who are suffering from malnutrition. That we have not seen a concerted effort from the Presidency to attend to this crisis speaks to lack of interest in the welfare of the people of the region, and given that the insurgent group appears to be regrouping, the Nigerian state may well be creating more recruits for the insurgents. Coupled with reports of an imminent redeployment of battle-hardened soldiers from the North East to the Niger Delta, we hope that plans have been made to counter any openings Boko Haram might want to take advantage of from this activity.
  • This is the second time we are calling for the resignation of Lt.General Buratai. The first time was as a result of his conduct during the attack on the Shi’ite compound in Zaria. Public officers have to lead by example, and owning foreign properties with questionable source of funds does not a good officer make. We also call on the national security establishment to exercise caution in investigating rumours of coup plots, and ensure that such investigations are transparently and comprehensively done.
  • The Ikorodu and Kuje events are an indictment on the plans and policies of Lt Gen Dambazzau’s Interior Ministry. Under his watch, insecurity has worsened across the country, and he has no visible plans to improve things. The Ikorodu incidents, which SBM has reliably gathered from residents was carried out as a reprisal on residents by Ijaw militants because the residents provided information to security forces, is particularly damning. Residents will be wary of cooperating with law enforcement if they cannot be guaranteed protection from reprisal attacks. We recommend the restructuring of the Nigerian Police Force, with powers of policing communities and localities, given to the state and local governments especially as this was a crucial part of campaign promises of the APC government.
  • The tragedy in the way we operate federalism in Nigeria has continued to manifest in the frequent bailout requests by state governments who cannot pay salaries. This is a shame and we wonder why Nigeria cannot restructure and leave all constituent units to fend for themselves. We state that this is not the last time they will call for bailout, and we advocate for a permanent solution through fiscal federalism, resource control, diversification and fiscal independent of local governments to use their derived funds to attend to local needs. The current bailout is an exercise in futility and bound to leave the states more debt ridden and poor.