07 Apr

The week ahead – The ERGP may not help Amnesty funding

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned Nigeria that its economy needs urgent reform. In a report published on Wednesday, it highlighted the risks to growth for the recession-hit country and the dangers of a volatile foreign exchange market. The document, a report from IMF staff, outlines a raft of failings in Nigeria’s handling of Africa’s largest economy and could affect talks over at least $1.4 billion in international loans. It strikes a more critical tone than the Fund’s board adopted in a statement last week, although that also said Nigeria should lift its remaining foreign exchange restrictions and scrap its system of multiple exchange rates. The Washington-based fund’s analysis came on the same day that President Muhammadu Buhari held a launch ceremony for a flagship economic recovery plan. The IMF has said this plan, criticised by economists for including few concrete measures, is not enough to drag Africa’s biggest economy out of recession.

Former oil minister Diezani Alison-Madueke, who held the post for five years between 2010-15, has been charged with money laundering. Three members of INEC “allegedly received bribes” from Alison-Madueke ahead of the 2015 general election, the EFCC said in a statement. One charge read, at the Federal High Court in Lagos, that Alison-Madueke and the officials “conspired among yourselves to directly take possession of ₦2649 million ($867,813)” on or about March 27, 2015, contrary to money laundering laws. Alison-Madueke, who served during the presidency of Goodluck Jonathan, was not in court to enter a plea. She was briefly arrested in London in October 2015, although no charges were brought – and has previously denied any wrongdoing when questioned about missing public funds and corruption allegations. The EFCC has been investigating allegations of illegal transactions in the run-up to the 2015 election for more than a year

A serving member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Salihu Adamu (Boss and Paiko Federal Constituency), in Niger State narrowly escaped death on March 27 when aggrieved youths in his constituency beat him to a point of coma. According to the Daily Times, the federal lawmaker sustained serious injuries and was first admitted to a private medical hospital in Minna before being transferred to a larger facility in Kaduna. His vehicle was damaged by the angry mob before the police intervened. The incident occurred when Adamu drove into one of the villages for a meeting with constituents, the youths expressing their anger against the politician because he had failed to visit them since he got elected almost two years ago.

Suggestions

  • After a launch, and then another formal launch, the general consensus on the insufficiency of the Nigerian government’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan remain the same. The plan is not far reaching enough, does not include concrete details and does not engender confidence in discerning investors and lenders, which would be the first goal it needed to achieve. It is important for the government to cut the jamboree surrounding the document and realize it needs to cut to the chase and deal with the fundamental issues that have been identified as quick wins, chief of which is the currency controls it continues to maintain causing the market distortions in the value of the Nigerian Naira against the dollar.
  • The EFCC is not having a good week. Its most high-profile conviction in the last two years, former Adamawa governor, James Bala Ngilari – who was jailed just a month ago, yesterday secured bail under the most bizarre circumstances that the agency, the Prisons Service and the judiciary are now enmeshed in a probe of significant proportions. Furthermore, a Lagos court on March 6 ordered the commission to unfreeze the bank account of former first lady Patience Jonathan in a $5.9 million case that is fast going sideways. Now, it has filed money laundering charges against Diezani under a media-frenzied cloud that is sure to hamper its prospects at securing what could be the most flagship conviction of its time as the corruption watchdog. We advised in an earlier counsel that Ngilari held very few lessons about the FG’s ability to vigorously prosecute its corruption fight. It has another chance to redeem itself with the Diezani case.
  • The tragedy at Boss/Paiko Federal constituency is partly a reflection of the anger of constituents towards the members of the national assembly, whom they see as not adding value or speaking up for them in Abuja. It may not be unconnected to political opponents but the atmosphere that led to the ugly incident is familiar with many Nigerians. The National Assembly as a whole represent a sorry state of affairs in Nigeria’s government and politics, and the events in Boss/Paiko may be replicated in other constituencies if members do not see themselves as serving the people’s interests rather than theirs, in Abuja.