14 Jul

The week ahead – There is life in this thing yet

President Muhammadu Buhari is recuperating fast and will return home shortly, his deputy said on 12 July after visiting the head of state in London where he has been on prolonged sick leave. Yemi Osinbajo’s brief and unannounced trip has revived speculation about Buhari’s health and whether he will be able to stand for re-election in 2019. The details of his illness have not been made public.”He is in very high spirits, he is recuperating very quickly and we had a very long conversation. We spoke for well over an hour. His humour is all there. He is doing well,” said Osinbajo, who is acting president. “We discussed wide-ranging issues. I can’t go into specifics,” he said in his first public comments after returning to Abuja on Wednesday morning. Osinbajo then chaired a weekly cabinet meeting.

The Supreme Court on 12 July sacked Ali Sheriff as the National Chairman of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party. The court also declared Ahmed Makarfi, the caretaker committee chairman, as the authentic leader of the PDP, Nigeria’s largest opposition party. Makarfi commended PDP members and the judiciary for the fair judgement, saying PDP never lost faith in the judiciary.“This victory is not just for PDP, it’s for democracy. This affirms the powers of political parties, the powers of convention of all political parties.” He described the judgment as “no victor, no vanquished’’ and said, “we must be open to reconciliation, but there’s a caveat.“Reconciliation does not mean we take what belongs to people and give it to you. It must be based on equity, equality and values. He urged Ali Sheriff and his group to join him in moving the PDP forward.

Nigeria must not borrow more to fund its budget and should instead raise the money it needs by other means, the finance minister said on 11 July, calling into question planned foreign loans of $2 billion from lenders like the World Bank. Nigeria had planned to borrow extensively internationally to fund a record budget, but plans for lenders like the World Bank and African Development Bank to loan at least $2 billion have been stalled for over a year as international organisations’ frustrations mounted at the country’s refusal to impose key fiscal reforms such as allowing its foreign exchange rate to float freely. Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun’s comments, made while speaking at a business forum in Abuja suggest that Nigeria will no longer seek such loans or an additional $1.5 billion it had planned to raise from international debt markets. “We cannot borrow any more, we just have to generate funds domestically enough to fund our budget. Mobilise revenue to fund the necessary budget increase,” she said.

Suicide bombers killed 17 people and injured 21 in the northeast Nigerian city of Maiduguri, the police commissioner of Borno state said on 12 July. The blasts struck four areas in the city, which is the capital of Borno, the state worst affected by the eight-year-old insurgency by Islamist militant group Boko Haram. It is the latest in a spate of suicide bomb attacks on the city in the last few weeks. Witnesses said four suicide bombers carried out attacks in the Molai district, which is around 5 kilometres from the city centre, on Tuesday night at around 10:00 p.m. (2100 GMT). Nobody has claimed responsibility for the attacks. Damian Chukwu, the Borno state police commissioner said the suicide bombers were among the 17 killed.

Suggestions

  • The Acting President’s quick visit to London does not shed any new light on President Buhari’s condition. Asides the controversial 40-second Sallah message he sent in Hausa few weeks ago, he still has not addressed Nigerians directly. There is still mystery as to what exactly ails him and how his recovery is going. This lack of transparency, and the unnecessary drama surrounding the whole affair, will only at best, kick the can down the road. Ultimately, Nigeria will have to answer the question of what is to be done about President Buhari, and the vicious succession battle that looms.
  • For the better part of two years, the PDP has been crippled by the somewhat needless political infighting over its leadership, a situation that has rendered what was hitherto the most successful political party in Nigerian history unable to provide a robust and effective alternative to the administration which deposed it from its 16-year old perch atop the country’s political food chain. Nonetheless, it is always a dangerous thing to write off the PDP, as last weekend’s Osun federal legislative bye-election, where it wrestled a hotly contested seat from the APC, reminded us. The party has more than a decades’ worth of experience coalescing behind its significant figures. The Supreme Court has ensured the prospects for a very competitive election season in 2019 have become significantly brighter.
  • Nigeria’s government is clearly in a conundrum with regards to funding its budget. A key indicator of how the actual budget implementation might play out is to look at the 2016 performance. Funds were scarce as well, and most of the money raised from debt went into funding the recurrent component of the budget. There are therefore three problems stacked on each other. First, the actual budgeting. Second, funding the budget. Third, which component this funding is applied to. Also, from 2016’s antecedents, we believe the government will rack up domestic debt to fund the budget contrary to the finance minister’s position, which was further contradicted by a statement from her ministry on Thursday, driving up already high interest rates further and the first application of these debts will be to recurrent expenditure. This is more in line with the position of the Minister for Budget and National Planning who said the government plans to raise $4 billion domestically and $3.5 billion on the international market. We wonder if the new unwillingness to borrow expressed by Mrs. Adeosun is due to not wanting to impose the strict fiscal measures the international lenders will require. If this is the case, raising funds from any means will result in the same thing – funding the government as opposed to funding capital expenditure.
  • As we alluded to in our report last week, this attack is a continuation of probing action on Maiduguri by Boko Haram, particularly on the outer neighbourhoods and neighbouring communities such as Molai. The ability to continue such action suggests the close proximity of the terrorists to the city. This lends more impetus to a point that we have been making – the military has to be proactive in seeking the terrorists out rather than waiting for attacks to be repelled. In the long term, that is a losing strategy.