09 Jun

The week ahead – It’s a race against time

At least ten persons have been confirmed dead and as much as 40 injured as Boko Haram suicide bombers staged multiple attacks targeting mosques where worshippers were praying on Wednesday night, witnesses said. The attack occurred while soldiers were battling to repel another Boko Haram insurgent formation trying to enter the city via its southern flank. According to Premium Times, the attack was in the Jiddari Polo district of the city, with the army saying it repelled the attackers ‘neutralising’ many of them. Several residents in the Jiddari Polo area fled their homes during the attack, but were later asked to return by the army. The online paper reports that the terror group appears to have succeeded at the Maiduguri-Gamboru district, which lies on the eastern axis of the city. Boko Haram insurgents armed with deadly explosives found their way into different mosques in that area and detonated themselves while scores of Muslims congregated to observe nightly Ramadan prayers. A total casualty count has not been officially provided, but residents said about a dozen corpses were evacuated by rescue officials.

The Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF), a coalition of socio-political groups in northern Nigeria, on Tuesday issued a three months ultimatum for all Igbos in the 19 northern states to vacate the region. If the Igbos, who predominantly hail from the eastern part of the country, fail to leave by the October 1, 2017, the group said, it would use force to evict the Igbos. The group also threatened to take over all the landed properties of the Igbos after they had left the region. Though the group did not specifically say how it intends to carry out its threat, it said not even the Arewa Consultative Forum or the Northern Elders Forum would prevent it from carrying out its threat. At a press conference in Kaduna, the AYCF officials led by the group’s National President, Yerima Shettima, claimed that a successful sit-at-home protest organised by Igbo groups, was a threat to the country’s national security. The sit-at-home was organised by two pro-Biafra groups, IPOB and MASSOB, in remembrance of the Nigerian Civil War which led to the death of about three million, mostly Igbo people. When contacted by journalists for comments on the relocation order issued by the AYCF, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, an Igbo umbrella socio-political organisation, called for an immediate arrest of Mr. Shettima for issuing an assault order against the Igbos. Kaduna Governor Nasir El-Rufai condemned the AYCF and ordered the arrest and prosecution of members of the fringe group, a move the group has called “disappointing.”

The National Bureau of Statistics has said that the number of Nigerians who became unemployed rose by 2.1 million to 11.55 million at the end of 2016 from 9.48 million at the beginning of the year. During the period, the unemployment rate rose from 13.9 percent to 14.2 percent. The NBS report said the rate was highest for persons in the labour force between the ages of 15‐24 and 25‐34, which represents the youth population in Nigeria. Unemployment rate was highest for those within the ages of 15 to 24 rising from 25 percent to 25.2 percent. For the 25 to 34 age group, the unemployment rate, according to the NBS report increased from 15 per cent to 15.4 percent. While 16.3 percent of women in the labour force were unemployed as at the end of the fourth quarter of 2016, 12. 3 percent of males were unemployed. “The economically active population increased from 108.03 million to 108.59 million, this represents a 0.5 percent increase over the previous quarter and a 3.4 per cent increase when compared to fourth quarter 2015,” the NBS said.

Data from the NBS shows that Nigeria’s trade value in export is now more than the value of its import as agricultural exports increase by 82 percent in Q1. The export earnings from agricultural goods was ₦30 billion, driven by Sesamum seeds, whose export value was put above ₦5 billion. Nigeria’s trade volume hit ₦5.29 trillion, as imports decreased to ₦2.286 trillion and exports increased to ₦3.0059 trillion. Crude oil accounted for the largest share of total trade with 44.91 percent, followed by other oil products (23.37%), manufactured products (21.93%), raw materials (5.12%) and agricultural products (4.35%).

Suggestions

  • From a strategic point of view, Wednesday’s attack seeks to probe the strategy of the military and the Federal Government. There is obviously a regrouping by Boko Haram going on and they are being more strategic in the way they attack. Coming less than a week after two children blew themselves up near a camp housing displaced civilians in Kolofata, Cameroon, around 10 km (6 miles) from the Nigerian border, this attack shows that they still have some strength. It also exposes the vulnerability of rural and urban areas of Borno state to their attacks. So while they do not hold any territory, they still have a lot of potency in the vast, sparsely populated area outside Maiduguri which they will keep using as a staging point for their attacks. When we add this to recently released commanders reported to be exchanged for the Chibok girls, it is clear that Nigeria must account for a resurgent Boko Haram in its security plans. It is important that Nigeria liaises with Cameroon, Chad and Niger to deny the terrorists space to regroup and attack.
  • In addition to the arrests ordered by the Kaduna State governor, the federal government posted a video on Twitter showing Acting President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo calling for unity and peace, saying, “Nigeria belongs to all of us. No person or group is more important or more entitled than the other in this space that we all call home.” We agree with both moves, to take the wind out of the sails of this group. It is important that when arrests are made, if the government is able to establish a crime, prosecution be swift and transparent to avoid the situation where a fringe group becomes a formidable voice. This was the mistake made in the handling of IPOB. The bigger task however, is to ensure that no one who might have been inspired or influenced by the group is able to follow through with any of the communique’s stated objectives.
  • The reality of an economy dealing with recessionary influences is that it is hard to find jobs. In that context, the NBS’s numbers are not surprising. The context however, makes the report sobering reading. The report confirms that Nigeria is sitting on a demographic time bomb. 40.6 percent of Nigeria’s unemployed and nearly 60 percent of its underemployed are below the age of 34. While nearly 20 percent of the urban labour force is unemployed, a full quarter of rural working Nigeria, where the majority of its citizens live, are underemployed. Young people are running out of opportunities fast, and the growth rate of the workforce is amongst the highest globally, a scenario with clear social and security implications. All this while both the labour force (81 million) and the population of working age (108 million) experienced substantial jumps from 2015. Nigeria urgently needs to begin to make use of its various competitive advantages to focus and export, rather than the current obsession with import substitution and attempts to do all things. The country cannot afford to continue to create a few winners while the vast majority languish.
  • The devil, as always, is in the detail. It is important to note that this data is for only trade in goods, and does not include services. A trade surplus in goods, which Nigeria has always typically had, does not tell the whole story. However, it shows that the economy is getting back to “normal”. We believe that it is less useful to look at items based on the share of total trade, and better to look based on share of imports and share of exports. Doing this, we find that crude oil and crude oil products still account for greater than 90% of exports. Refined fuel and machinery also still account for a large chunk of imports. So the trade pattern is, expectedly still the same as before the crisis. This, is the real trade problem.