19 Aug

The week ahead – Rising discontent needs smart solutions

Labour and Employment Minister, Chris Ngige, has warned that the government will no longer tolerate casualisation by any employer in the country. In his address at the inauguration of the second phase of the Food Union Hotel and Suites in Lagos, a project of the National Union of Food Beverage and Tobacco Employees, he added that any form of indignity to workers would not be tolerated at the workplace. He pointed out that it was the right of workers to belong to a union of their choice and no employer should deny them the opportunity. “Protecting employers/employees relationship is our job, and workers’ rights are well stipulated in our constitution as well as backed by the International Labour Organisation Convention. So to ensure that the organised labour can organise their members without any threat or intimidation, we will back them up with appropriate regulations,” he said.

Armed robbers ambushed a Central Bank of Nigeria bullion van at Hawan Kibo in Riyom Local Government Area of Plateau State on Abuja Road. The gunmen also killed two police sergeants. Hawan Kibo, on the border between Plateau, Kaduna and Nasarawa states, widely considered to be a dangerous spot, has for many years, served as a haven for armed robbers. Similarly, the Abuja-Kaduna express-way has become a favoured route for kidnappers, who waylay private citizens and VIPs, demanding for huge ransoms. It is also discovered that the organised criminal network on this highway is mostly composed of foreigners from neighbouring Cameroon and Niger.

Following the release of a new video showing some of the kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Lt. Gen. Abayomi Olonishakin, has said the release of detained Boko Haram suspects for the return of the girls is a political decision. This is just as two of the persons – Mrs. Aisha Wakil and Ahmed Bolori – who were declared wanted by the Nigerian Army on Sunday for allegedly withholding information on the whereabouts of the girls, yesterday turned themselves in to the military authorities in Abuja and Maiduguri, respectively, to provide information that may help them in the rescue of the secondary schoolgirls who were kidnapped by the terror sect two years ago. A third person, Ahmad Salkida, a journalist who once worked for Blueprint and Daily Trust newspapers in Abuja, but is now resident in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, was also declared wanted for posting the latest video that showed the Chibok girls. Speaking with reporters after a meeting of top security chiefs at the State House in Abuja yesterday, which was neither attended by the president or the vice-president, the CDS said the military was analysing the video released by Boko Haram and would make appropriate comments at the right time. Asked what the meeting dwelt on, he responded: “The meeting was about how we can handle crises, all forms of crises, be it floods or terrorism.”

During the week, more reports emerged of the debilitating hunger situation in the IDP camps in Borno State. The United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has reported that an estimated 134 children may die daily in these camps while the group Medicines Sans Frontiers (MSF) has reported that nearly 200 refugees fleeing Boko Haram attacks have died of starvation and dehydration in the Bama Camp. Videos have emerged of food meant for the IDPs being repackaged and sold openly in markets in Borno State.

A group of armed former militants stormed the Akwa Ibom State Government House demanding payment of allowances which they allege to have been suspended. The former militants, numbering about 40, arrived in three mini-buses and engaged security agents in a gun fight while trying to gain access into Government House, but were repelled by reinforcements. They accused the state government of not responding to their plight by negotiating the payment of their allowances with the Federal Government.

Nigerian soldiers have launched a manhunt for publishers of pro-Biafra newspapers in Aba, Abia State, leading to the arrest of newspaper vendors who were questioned about the publishers and demanding them to disclose the identity of the publishers of the Biafra publications circulating in the city. Similarly, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) has again replied the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Niger Delta (MEND) insisting that unlike MEND, it is not ready to fall to the federal government. IPOB, in a report said Nnamdi Kanu, their leader who had been in detention for many months now, is not ready to surrender to the government or renounce his dream whether in secret or in the open. It warned MEND to stop making deceitful, frivolous, malicious and baseless statements.

As a continuous effort in cracking down on the activities of illegal crude oil thieves and pipeline vandals, the Nigerian Navy on the 13th of August arrested a marine vessel, The (MV) Star Shrimper for trying to evade interrogation about the contents it was carrying, as well as the destination it was headed. Similarly, on 12 August 16 at about 0630 hours, a patrol team deployed by NNS Delta raided several illegal refinery sites along Jones Creek in Delta State.

Suggestions

  • The scourge of casualisation, which has bedevilled Nigerian labour relations for the last few decades is in effect a quasi-legal stamp of an act that trivialises the effort of often hard-working Nigerians. The dramatic rise in the popularity of companies outsourcing their labour requirements for ‘casual,’ menial work such as cleaning, laundry, catering, security and other ancillary services has led to the development of an exploitative, unregulated system that is designed to produce overworked, underemployed and underpaid workers. Government needs to enforce the nation’s employment laws and internationally recognised labour norms in order to bring some sanity – both literal and structural to a chaotic morass.
  • We have made repeated calls for a reform of internal security apparatus in Nigeria. The government must mandate the Inspector General of Police and the DSS to go after these foreign criminals and their domestic collaborators, and stamp out kidnapping on the busy Abuja-Kaduna route. The attempt should also be extended to the South where a similar situation persists. These areas have been identified as flashpoints and deserve special attention. The damning reports that much of the crime in that area is carried out by foreigners speaks to two interrelated things. The first is how porous our borders are. The second is our inability, fifty six years after our independence to have a proper identity management system in place. The NIMC project which seems to have been abandoned by the current government needs to be expedited while a proper system of border controls and identification of undocumented foreigners be put in place.
  • The Chibok Girls became, and remain a global symbol of how humanity has failed its most innocent and vulnerable. More immediately, it also illustrates the colossal inability of the Nigerian state to fulfil its end of the basic social compact to keep its citizens safe as well as the time honoured tradition of Nigerian politicians making and failing to keep their promises. At this point, we want to state that we are not optimistic about the government’s prospects of returning the girls back to their homes, their families, their lives, their promise – an opinion held by an increasing number of Nigerians. The message for every citizen under the age of 25 is clear – this country cannot, probably will not, and definitely does not care about your safety. The government must earn the right to draw on the fast wilting trust that its citizens reposed in it or risk losing its legitimacy.
  • It is a failure of government, both at the federal and state levels that this catastrophic humanitarian disaster is happening in camps run by the government for IDPs. It is a tragedy that those who escaped the murderous Boko Haram militants have been left to die by the government who should be responsible for them. It is also not enough to call for humanitarian agencies to help with the situation. While all humanitarian help is welcome, it is squarely the responsibility of the government to provide care and succour for all IDPs within the camps. The EFCC blew hot when the reports emerged of diversion of IDP funds and materials but over a month later, we are yet to hear of arrests or any prosecution. This breeds impunity in the officials who now see they can get away with their murderous greed. Both the federal government and the Borno State government must act swiftly to salvage this situation and save the IDPs from certain death.
  • Sporadic acts like this only serve to illustrate the parlous nature of internal security in Nigeria. That three bus loads of young men can travel through town and then invade the Government House with arms and ammunition is a development that should require a systematic overhaul and approach to security in Nigeria, but we are of the view that Nigeria’s security establishment operates in the 18th century and do not have the capacity to think and provide a framework for badly needed security reforms. If we imagine for example that these militants invaded a place less defended than the Government House, we can begin to appreciate the security implications for ordinary Nigerians. We urge the government to commence the process for local policing to be a reality. Already, states are circumventing the constitution on the matter and creating vigilante groups outside of the police force. It is important to create the legal framework for this now, before the vigilante groups grow outside the law and become a problem themselves.
  • We advise the FG to handle the IPOB situation with care and avoid an escalation of the crisis in the South East. We caution the FG to make use of counter intelligence measures, as well as dialogue in dealing with pro-Biafran groups in a surgical manner. Regarding the issue of the Biafran Telegraph newspaper, chatter indicates that the newspaper has been in circulation for a few months. Newspapers cost money to print, and we advice that the authorities follow the money trail which will inevitably lead to the financiers of the IPOB movement. The tactics of simply arresting foot soldiers have failed time and again, and this situation where blunt brash force is often used to quell protests and in investigative work will only drive the actors further underground and lead to greater resistance and anarchy.
  • We commend the Nigerian Navy for taking up the task of fighting illegal crude oil thieves. We note also the proliferation of these illegal refinery sites in the Niger Delta, and we have deduced from investigations that they serve the coastal communities with petrol that are cut off from conventional petrol stations, speaking to the broader issues of Niger Delta communities disconnected from much of the Nigerian economy. It is pertinent that while tackling the illegal refineries, government addresses the issues that creates a market for their product in the area – extending the supply chain for petroleum products to the coastal communities.