17 Nov

The week ahead – Decisions and consequences

Annual inflation in Nigeria slowed for the ninth month in a row in October, easing to 15.91 per cent, the NBS said on Wednesday in a report. A separate food price index showed inflation at 20.31 per cent in October, compared with 20.32 per cent in September. “The rise in the food index, in October 2017 was caused by increases in prices of bread and cereals, meats, oils and fats, coffee tea and cocoa, milk cheese and eggs vegetables and fish,” the statistics office said in its report. Last month, CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele said he expected inflation rates to fall at a faster pace and reach high single-digit rates by the middle of 2018.

President Muhammadu Buhari returned to Abuja Thursday after a two-day official visit to Ebonyi and Anambra in Nigeria’s South East, his first since taking office in 2015. He inaugurated various road projects, performed the foundation-stone laying ceremonies of Ebonyi City Mall, another flyover and road tunnel named after him in Abakaliki, the Ebonyi state capital. In Akwa, capital of Anambra, he ordered the police to restore security to Governor Willie Obiano and called for a massive turnout in favour of Tony Nwoye, his party’s governorship candidate, in a keenly fought state election, taking place on 18 November. Calls for secession have become increasingly loud in the last few months in parts of the southeast, where the president is deeply unpopular, prompting Buhari to say he will not allow Nigeria to be divided by separatist groups.

Godfatherism, the IPOB separatist movement, and inter-party wrangling, were some of the highlights of the 2017 Anambra State gubernatorial debate held in Awka on Sunday, as candidates vying for the state’s top job set forth their plans. Although 37 political parties and candidates will participate in a closely watched 18 November election, only the candidates of the five leading parties took part in the debate: Willie Obiano of the ruling All Progressive Grand Alliance; Tony Nwoye of the All Progressives Congress; Oseloka Obaze of the People’s Democratic Party; Osita Chidoka of United Progressive Party; and Godwin Ezeemo of the People’s Progressive Alliance. The Anambra vote is seen as a testing ground for the political fortunes of the major parties in the lead up to the 2018-2019 election season.

Suicide bomb attackers killed 10 people and wounded 30 in the northeast Nigerian city of Maiduguri on Wednesday, an emergency agency official said. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the latest attack, which emergency officials and members of a government-approved vigilante group said, was carried out by four female bombers in the Muna Garage district of Maiduguri at about 06:00 p.m.

Suggestions

  • Headline inflation receding can only be a good thing. The CBN governor’s predictions are optimistic, but we doubt that inflation will fall that fast especially in an election year when campaign spending will increase cash supply in the economy. As inflation reduces, we expect that interest rates for government borrowing should follow suit as well. However, this is unlikely, as government has made domestic debt a crucial source of funding the budget deficit. The food inflation numbers however remain worrisome. Again, this, combined with transportation constitutes the highest component of the average Nigerian’s spend. As long as it continues to rise, Nigerians will continue to feel the crunch.
  • The President spun his visit to the South East as “a demonstration of [his] strong belief in the unity of Nigeria” and a celebration of our unique diversity but it was not clear if that was actually the case. In Ebonyi, he renewed his rhetoric about stomping on the enemies of the country that sought to divide it, foreclosing any dialogue on the IPOB issue, and his second stop in Anambra was less an official visit than a campaign stop in a state deep in the throes of election season. Important questions such as the region’s significant infrastructural deficit, environmental degradation and perceived exclusion from national politics, were not addressed, save in general terms. Aso Rock has spurned yet another opportunity to make substantial overtures to a region which feels abandoned by the current administration, and will almost certainly make that clear at the ballot in fifteen months’ time.
  • If there are no hiccups, we project that the Anambra elections will be a straight fight between Oseloka Obaze and Osita Chidoka. It will be unwise however, to overlook Willie Obiano and the power of incumbency. It will also be unwise to overlook how far power brokers in Abuja may be willing to go to install the APC candidate as shown by the now overturned withdrawal of the security aides of the state governor, and this gives Tony Nwoye a shout. Regarding IPOB, they have more or less been relegated to the role of a nuisance. Given that they’re social media savvy, they will be noticed, but they simply do not have the capability to see their threats through. Election turnout in the region has traditionally been relatively low, so it is important not to conflate a low turnout with any success by IPOB.
  • This is the fifteenth attack on Muna Garage by Boko Haram suicide bombers. The location continues to be a prime target not just because it is located on the outskirts of the city – making it easy for the bombers to access it – but also because of a large camp for internally displaced persons situated there. There is a need for the military to revise the security strategies in place at that location in order to identify would-be suicide bombers before they commit the act. Also, the possible presence of Boko Haram sympathisers among the refugees located there should not be ruled out. It is important that intelligence gathering even among the refugees be intensified.