23 Jun

The week ahead – There is a need to get tougher, but also to be sensible about it

The Department of State Services has warned groups including northern youths and the Niger Delta militants against hate speeches. The DSS, which stated this in a statement signed by its spokesperson, Mr. Tony Opuiyo, in Abuja on Sunday, said it had observed how some Nigerians had been preaching hate in the last few weeks. The DSS spokesperson described the trend as disturbing and warned those he called desperate and mischievous elements, to stop in their attempt to steer the ship of Nigeria to “calamity and irretrievable destruction.” He also warned all those it said were charting the course of disunity among Nigerians to desist from their divisive actions. A coalition of some Arewa youth groups had in a press statement in Kaduna recently called for the relocation of the Igbo from the North. More than 10 days after the Kaduna Governor of, Nasir el-Rufai, ordered their arrest, none of the security agencies has made an arrest. A hitherto unknown group known as the Niger Delta Watchdogs has issued a similar ultimatum, calling on all northerners to quit the Niger Delta region.

The National Emergency Management Agency said multiple attacks carried out by suicide bombers on June 20 at a crowded location in Dalori, a suburb of Maiduguri, the Borno State capital claimed the lives of 16 people with 30 others injured in the attacks. The attacks occurred with thundering sounds from the blasts echoing across the city as Muslim worshippers began to retire after observing the day’s Ramadan night prayers on Sunday. This was the second attack by Boko Haram in Borno within a 48-hour period, an attack on villages around Konduga left more than 20 people dead.

At least half of Nigerian government food aid sent northeast for hungry people driven from their homes by Boko Haram has been “diverted” and never reached them, a government official said. Some 1.5 million people are on the brink of famine in the northeast, where the jihadist group has killed more than 20,000 people and forced 2.7 million to flee during its eight-year uprising to create an Islamic caliphate. A programme was launched on June 8 by Yemi Osinbajo, acting president while President Muhammadu Buhari is in Britain on medical leave, to distribute grain to 1.8 million people still displaced by the insurgency, many of whom live in camps. The issue of diversion of relief materials, including food and related matters, which has dogged food delivery to the IDPs [internally displaced people] would be significantly curbed under the new distribution matrix, the government said. Osinbajo’s spokesman Laolu Akande said 1,376 military personnel and 656 armed police would guard the food as it was moved from warehouses and distributed to displaced people in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe – the three states worst hit by the insurgency.

Etisalat Nigeria has confirmed changes in its shareholdings structure. Its Abu Dhabi parent company, Mubadala, owners of Etisalat UAE, informed the Abu Dhabi stock exchange this week that it was divesting completely from Nigeria. Moves to change the shareholding structure have begun. Before the pull out of Etisalat UAE, a consortium of banks, led by Access Bank, had taken over the management of Etisalat Nigeria, effective June 15. The takeover followed the collapse of the effort by Emerging Markets Telecommunications Services to reach agreement with the banks on debt restructuring plan in the protracted $1.72 billion (about ₦541.8 billion) debt impasse. However, EMTS Holding BV, established in the Netherlands, has up to June 23 to complete the transfer of 100 percent of the company’s shares in Etisalat to the United Capital Trustees, the legal representative of the consortium of banks.

Suggestions

  • Following events from last week, there was a concerted effort by the Acting President’s office to bring various squabblers to the table. This brought about an intervention by the security services, and left Boko Haram insurgents feeling left out. Still in Borno, the fallout from Boko Haram is taking its toll as officials are behaving badly. Badly behaving officials is also having an effect in Chevron, and Apapa. But the Apapa problem may come under control, because the effect of lack of control is bad. Just ask Etisalat.
  • While the comments by certain ethnic leaning organisations, not to be confused with the ethnic groups they pretentiously claim to represent have significantly poisoned the country’s political climate, we are concerned that the DSS is committing to take an active stake in policing political speech. We believe this is the wrong step because it may set a precedent for the government cracking down on critical voices. Furthermore, the current administration’s track record on handling dissenters reads in part: El-Zakzaky and Nnamdi Kanu – two divisive voices who are not fans of the idea and reality of Nigeria, and who the FG have turned into symbolic martyrs by trammelling on their civic rights. The only solution to the ongoing ‘North vs East’ spat, unfortunately, is political. Any other step would be akin to walking a slippery slope.
  • Two factors appear to have lend credence to the apparent success of Boko Haram’s resurgence efforts thus far; first is the breakdown, both of communications, and of the relationship between the CJTF and the Military. Second is the restructuring of the leadership of the Operation Lafiya Dole. These need to be tackled. It is impossible to conduct the kind of operation needed to end the insurgency without the help and support of the locals in the Borno area, and alienating the CJTF is an exercise in futility.
  • On the WFP programme, the Federal Government should push for a donors’ conference to discuss the issues and raise funds for tackling the problems rather than leaving the funding entirely to the WFP. But there is the issue of trust, which each story of diversion erodes even more. One big problem with the diversion of food materials is that a lot of it happens within IDP camps, perpetrated by state government officials. Heading the Borno State Emergency Management Agency has become a highly sought-after appointment, and staff there have been caught on camera rebagging food items for sale. Yet, there has been no action taken against them by the state government. Rather, Governor Shettima has introduced regulations to make reporting of these incidents more difficult as entry into IDP camps by non-government officials has become more tightly controlled. As long as such officials continue being treated with kid gloves, the refugees, and donors, will remain distrusting.
  • Away from the hysteria about a business of this size pulling out of Nigeria, it is important to keep in mind that businesses come and go. That is an everyday part of a normally functioning economy. The goal should be to ensure that this does not become systematically problematic for the rest of the industry. Having said that, it is saddening that a solution that did not involve a takeover could not be reached in this matter. The end result for everyone involved is a massive erosion of value, for the banks, for Etisalat Nigeria whose valuation around 5 to 6 times current EBITDA would put it at circa $600Million, and for Etisalat UAE. There are important lessons for all in these circumstances and we urge the parties involved to learn them.