22 Sep

The week ahead – #NigerianLivesMatter too

Suspected suicide bombers killed at least 12 people and injured 26 others on 18 September in Borno, epicentre of the Islamist militant Boko Haram insurgency, the chairman of the local emergency agency said. The attacks are the latest in a series of bombings in the restive northeast that have killed at least 200 people since June 1, according to a Reuters tally. “Three suicide bomber infiltrated a settlement called Mashimari, in Konduga Local Government,” said Ahmed Satomi, chairman of Borno’s State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA). The area is around 35 kilometres southeast of the state capital, Maiduguri. Another SEMA official said the suicide bombers joined a gathering of farmers in Mashimari before detonating their devices around 11:45 am (1045 GMT) as they mingled with the group.

President Muhammadu Buhari on 19 September likened the violence in Myanmar against Rohingya Muslims to genocides in Bosnia and Rwanda, urging a halt to the “ongoing ethnic cleansing” and safe return of refugees. “The Myanmar crisis is very reminiscent of what happened in Bosnia in 1995 and in Rwanda in 1994,” Buhari told the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations. Political watchers called the President’s speech ironic largely because in December 2015, months after Buhari took office, a skirmish between the military and the members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, a Shiite Muslim group in the country’s north saw “more than 350 people,” including women and children, unlawfully killed according to rights group, Amnesty International.

Nigeria’s central bank is acting like a “piggy bank” with its funding of the government, according to a member of the Monetary Policy Committee who said he struggles to understand the regulator’s economic rationale. Monetary data showed a “sharp rise” in the Central Bank of Nigeria’s financing of the government deficit this year, Doyin Salami said after the MPC’s July 24-25 meeting, according to a statement published on Tuesday by the regulator. The regulator’s claims on the government had risen “twenty-fold” to 814 billion naira ($2.26 billion) from the end of 2016, while its purchases of government T-bills increased 30 percent to 454 billion naira, he said. “It is clear that the CBN has provided piggy-bank services to the federal government,” Salami said. “Whilst I still wonder what the underlying economics is, I sincerely hope it works.” The MPC has kept its key rate at a record-high 14 percent since July 2016 and is scheduled to make its next policy decision on 26 September.

The Lagos State government on 14 September announced the restriction of inter-state buses and vehicles operating along one of the mega city’s main thoroughfares, Ikorodu Road from going beyond the Ojodu Berger and Ojota bus stations. It also issued a seven-day ultimatum to operators on the Ikorodu Road corridor to relocate to the designated inter-state motor parks, as stiff sanctions would be handed down on defaulters. Speaking after embarking on a joint inspection tour of ongoing construction of Modern Bus Terminal at Yaba and the beautification project at nearby Jibowu, the state’s Information and Strategy commissioner, Steve Ayorinde said the decision of the government was in line with Governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s administration to free the city of avoidable nuisances and instil sanity and civility in the often raucous metropolis.

Suggestions

  • It can no longer be denied that the Nigerian military is having serious challenges in the fight against Boko Haram. The terrorists continue to hit soft targets such as refugee camps and markets. This suggests that they have active cells in the area outside of military-type forces. It bears repeating that there is a need to strengthen intelligence-gathering to be able to halt the planning and execution of attacks, and to weaken such cells.
  • On President Buhari’s UN speech, nearly two years on from the assault on the Shiite Muslims and despite a court order for his release, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, Nigeria’s Shiite leader is still being detained by Buhari, who like most of Nigeria’s 100 million Muslims, is Sunni. This was after the brutal murder of hundreds of the Shiites in Kaduna State. He has also faced criticism for the FG’s hard power crackdown of secessionist agitations from the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in the south-east, a situation which has seen soldiers, and on 20 September, air gunships deployed to the region to alleviate a crisis which could have been handled politically. Up in the north-east, eight years of a brutal insurgency has left almost half a million children severely malnourished, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council, with most of the refugee camps said to be underfunded by the government, and public officials accused of diverting and selling donated relief materials. However noble the President’s sympathies with fellow Sunni Muslims halfway across the world are, the security fissures oozing out of his country’s many pores are in themselves a loud speech about his government’s record.
  • It has been a tough couple of years for the Nigerian economy. It has lurched from crisis to crisis, and while it has finally emerged from recession, growth was much weaker than hoped for. Added to this, according to Central Bank figures, government revenue in the first three months of the year was 36 percent less than what the government budgeted, and was 49 percent short in May. This has forced the government to look for ways to make up for the shortfall, and, as Mr. Salami’s comments indicate, it has, on many occasions, chosen the easier route of simply going to the CBN. Nigeria is on the brink of a debt crisis, and this implies long term pain for the economy. The only way out of this, is painful reforms, starting with the politically risky subject of genuine tax reform. Even this will require the government to cut costs, cut interest rates and allow capital flow to the private sector. Unfortunately, it is increasingly clear that this is something this government has no political will to do.
  • The Lagos State Government with this directive and the reasons given, has demonstrated a disconnect from the reality, and an actual misunderstanding of what needs to be done to ease the traffic on one of the city’s main roads. In a bid to be seen to be taking some action, any action, they have attacked legitimate businesses. Many of those operators built their parks with bank financing based on legal mortgages signed by the state government. This begs the question as to whether this directive impinges on the property rights of legitimate businesses in the state. Punitive measures such as this, when directed towards legitimate businesses, have no place in a democracy in a state which prides itself as open for business. We urge the Lagos State government to reconsider its position.