08 Dec

The week ahead – On the fast lane

The Senate voted on 5 December to launch an investigation into alleged acts of brutality by a specialist unit of the police. The move follows a social media campaign calling for the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (F-SARS) to be scrapped. The campaign, which has gathered pace in the last few days, involves people sharing stories of alleged maltreatment by the unit’s officers. The Senate said lawmakers on a security committee would consider the claims about SARS. The Inspector General, Ibrahim Idris, who heads the Nigeria Police Force, on Monday, announced the immediate re-organisation of SARS nationwide. He ordered an “investigation into all the allegations, complaints and infractions” levelled against the unit.

The Nigerian Air Force said it deployed two fighter aircraft – an Alpha Jet and an EC 135 attack helicopter – to troubled communities in Adamawa State on 5 December to bomb what it called “hideouts of miscreants.” The NAF Director of Public Relations and Information, Air Commodore Olatokunbo Adesanya described the operation as “warning shots” not aimed at killing anyone. For days leading up to this, scores of people had been killed in Dong and Lawura villages in Demsa Local Government Area when Fulani militia attacked some communities, burning down at least five villages. Residents said a district head and another village head were killed by gunmen as the attackers reportedly set buildings on fire and damaged property. The state police command confirmed the violence, although it did not provide any casualty figures. Reacting to the attack, the Nigerian police, backed by local vigilantes, faced the Peuhl militia herdsmen in Kikom, Shawaru, Kodomti, Dong & Lawaru villages, for days, before the air bombardment from the air force to stop Fulani militia from entering into Numan, the main town in the area. The police has confirmed that officers were killed in one of those clashes.

The National Assembly might fast-track the passage of the 2018 budget before the end of 2017, in line with the wishes of the executive. The rush to pass the bill, according to Thisday, is part of the National Assembly’s bid to avoid blame for the delay of its passage, even though the bill was not presented early enough by the executive. The paper reports that Senate President, Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara met with President Muhammadu Buhari on the night of 4 December at the State House, Abuja. The Senate had increased the crude oil benchmark from $45 per barrel as presented by President Muhammadu Buhari to $47 for the 2018 budget on 5 December. The upper house approved the increased benchmark after it considered a report by its joint committees on finance, appropriation and national planning and economic affairs. The lawmakers also reduced the budget’s non-oil projection to ₦5.279 trillion from ₦5.597 trillion while maintaining the ₦305/$ exchange rate as proposed for 2018 budget. They also retained the 2.3 million barrels per day production target proposed by the executive for next year’s spending plan.

Nigerian lawmakers opened an investigation on Tuesday into the finance minister’s suspension of the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), saying they would look into whether the ministry had interfered with the SEC’s work. Lawmakers in the House of Representatives plan to investigate the suspension and report their findings to parliament within two weeks, according to a motion paper. Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun said she was suspending SEC director general Mounir Gwarzo last week while her ministry looked into allegations of financial impropriety against him. Gwarzo’s suspension comes a month after the SEC began its own investigation into the shareholding structure of oil company Oando and froze trading of the company’s shares.

Suggestions

  • The Nigerian police is bedevilled by an institutional culture of coercion, confrontation and control embedded in it by its origins, first as a combination of colonial constabularies in the late 19th Century and the long years of military rule which engendered an unhealthy sense of competition with the armed forces. A rushed mass recruitment drive in 2002-2004 which doubled the size of the force possibly did more to exacerbate than address the problem and four attempts at police reform were stymied by NPF top brass and insufficient political will by the FG. It is unlikely that the political will to push real police reforms exists presently with the President’s telling silence on the issue and Idris’ reassurances of F-SARS being responsible for a “drastic reduction” in crime nationwide notwithstanding. In the interim, some quick wins can be achieved – a proper audit of all police stations to determine the number of inmates in their holding cells, requiring all officers in special units to wear proper uniforms, the use clearly marked vehicles (a notable criticism of F-SARS), proper self-identification by members of SARS in any situation, the actual disbanding of police checkpoints, the use of body cameras by all officers and greater transparency in police-civilian communication. Nigerians would appreciate the effort.
  • Vice President Yemi Osinbajo visited Numan on Tuesday to condole with the people of the area, saying that his visit was to show “the kind of leadership we must provide. If we don’t provide that, then we have lost our rights to be leaders.” Beyond the rhetoric however, the Numan crisis is emblematic of the breakdown of Nigeria’s internal policing. In our report about the specific attack that led to this, we warned that reprisal attacks were coming. The security agencies should have anticipated this, and taken action to forestall. There were reports by residents of militias moving into positions around the villages and no action was taken. This failure to act on intelligence reports and then make platitudes only after attacks have happened will continue to plague Nigeria’s security system for a long time to come, and more people will take the law into their hands.
  • The National Assembly’s expressed position is at variance with the announcement by the House of Representatives spokesman, Abdulrazak Namdas, in which he indicated on 24 November that it would take a minimum of three months for the 2018 budget to be ready because of reconciliation. It will take nothing short of a miracle for the budget to pass within the window available before the legislators close for the year due to the coming holiday season. We believe that Namdas’s position is the more realistic estimation of how long it will take to pass the budget and the pronouncements attributed to the NASS leaders should be viewed as mere politicking.
  • There are three separate issues here and each of them merits action. First, are the issues with Oando, and on these, we are encouraged by reassurances that SEC plans to go on with the planned forensic audit. Second, are the allegations against the suspended DG of SEC. These are serious allegations and deserve to be investigated and if Gwarzo is found guilty, he should be punished accordingly. With this in mind, the suspension is in order in spite of the optics. Third, are the allegations levelled by Gwarzo against the minister of finance, Kemi Adeosun, and the lawmakers’ action is absolutely necessary to establish the facts and where they are found to support Gwarzo’s position, mete out sanctions against the minister. A transparent conclusion of these three are necessary to ensure that shaken confidence in the SEC is restored. It is non-negotiable for the stability of the capital market.