11 May

The week ahead – It’s time for history class

At least 45 people died in an attack on a village in northern Nigeria, a police official told the media on 6 May, the latest in a string of incidents underscoring insecurity in parts of the country. It was not immediately clear why Gwaska village in Kaduna was attacked the day before. “Yesterday we recovered 12 corpses and today we retrieved 33,” Austin Iwar, Kaduna’s commissioner of police, told Reuters by phone. The village, in the Birnin-Gwari area of Kaduna, lies near an area known for banditry, where thick forests provide remote hideouts from law enforcement. Those groups of bandits have for years frustrated authorities’ attempts to apprehend them, and in some cases have amassed thousands of stolen cattle and fought off security agent task forces sent to deal with them.

The 16 Brigade of the Nigerian Army, Yenagoa and the Bayelsa State Command of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps clashed over seizure of two tankers conveying petrol on 4 May. The NSCDC had impounded the trucks along the Ogbia-Nembe Road and was taking them to its command headquarters when soldiers of the 16 Brigade intercepted them and took the trucks to their base in Yenagoa, Bayelsa’s state capital. The soldiers, who outnumbered the NSCDC personnel, took possession of the trucks and forced the civil defence operatives to take to their heels during a clash that ensued. In a similar but unrelated incident, gunfire was exchanged between policemen attached with the Bariga police station in Lagos and yet-to-be-identified personnel of the Nigerian Navy. The cause of the shootings, which occurred between Ijora bridge and Apapa-Wharf Road, and report on potential casualties could not be immediately ascertained.

Former Peoples Democratic Party leaders who defected to the ruling All Progressives Congress in 2013 have written to the national chairman of the party to demand an urgent meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari “within seven days”, TheCable reported on 9 May. They did not state their next line of action, although the online news website reports they may pull out of the party which is already bedevilled by crisis following rancorous state congresses nationwide last weekend. The bloc, known then as the New PDP or nPDP, helped in dislodging the PDP from its 16-year hold on national power the 2015 general election by entering an alliance with the Congress for Progressive Change, the Action Congress of Nigeria, the All Nigeria Peoples Party and a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance to form the APC. The letter was dated 7 May, a day before Buhari travelled to the United Kingdom for medical treatment. The Presidency says he is expected back in the country at the weekend.

Nigeria’s food and drugs agency has shut down three companies manufacturing cough syrup containing highly-addictive codeine. Mojisola Adeyeye, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control director-general, said in a statement that the decision follows an investigation by her agency in which the companies were shown to have refused to abide by regulations on the distribution of certain medications and “insufficient evidence gathered and apparent resistance to provide needed documents”. She said Peace Standard Pharmaceutical, Bioraj Pharmaceutical and Emzor Pharmaceuticals would be shut. However, they could reopen at a later date – although this “will depend on the level of cooperation that is shown during the comprehensive investigation”. Nigeria had announced a ban on the production and import of cough syrup containing codeine after a BBC investigation into its role in an addiction epidemic.

Suggestions

  • The killings in Zamfara and parts of Kaduna states have been going on for a long time, and there is still little clarity as to what exactly are the causes. The uptick in killings has previously been blamed on cattle rustling, and maybe that was the initial cause, but the conflict has metastasised, and now seems to be an attempt at clearing villages in parts of the area of people, likely for illegal mining activities to continue unabated. Previous attempts at stopping the killings through military operations have only been temporarily successful. It remains to be seen if locating an army battalion at Birnin Gwari will be effective in stopping the killings and apprehending the killers. Be that as it may, siting an army battalion there should be seen for what it is – a stop gap. Nothing short of the more sustainable actions of improving the lot of generality of the people, will stop the deteriorating security situation in many parts of the country.
  • On the confrontation between soldiers of the Nigerian Army and members of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps on one hand, and another between policemen and members of the navy on another, the lack of coordination and cooperation between the country’s security agencies, and indeed among Nigeria’s arms of government is a constant cog in the wheel of working to secure the country. It also gives room for insubordination, and allows for speculation to thrive about the involvement of higher-ups within the military in providing protection to those in illegitimate businesses. As shown by the more public spats between the Senate and the acting head of the EFCC, and now the police chief, harmony between various government arms, and security agencies is important to secure the country.
  • The political pieces that coalesced into the APC made a pact with the enemy in absorbing a breakaway faction in late 2013 that left the PDP in part for the reasons they are citing now, almost five years down the line, including not appointing any nPDP member to the FEC except current transport minister, former Rivers governor and chief PDP separatist Rotimi Amaechi, checking the political ambitions of such leading nPDP lights as Sule Lamido and Babangida Aliyu and not furnishing the bloc with “enough significant patronage.” The ruling party, apart from amassing a dismal governing record relative to their promises (or any other discernible governance benchmark) has done little to address the structural contradictions within its ranks, rewarding only a small circle of patrons at the very top and creating the rifts which pre-election political horse trading and fractious party congresses have now expectedly begun to expose. For the party of the Broom, this is neither ideal preparation for a bruising election cycle, nor the end of its internal political skirmishes.
  • While Nigeria continues to tout itself as open for business, actions of this nature speak louder. Scapegoating businesses in this way solves no problems and fails to address the more fundamental issues – it is, instead, a populist expression of the mob justice mentality that often seems to drive a lot of regulatory decision making in this country. Emzor, one of Nigeria’s biggest pharma companies, said in a statement the following day that NAFDAC had only temporarily sealed one of its production sites which deals with cough syrup production, with the rest of its pharma lines operating as normal. NAFDAC is yet to contradict this, hence in addition to the knee-jerk reaction, the agency may have bungled the communication of its actions with the public. We remember the more comprehensive engagement, prevention, value chain controls and clear penalties framework under the late NAFDAC boss, Dora Akunyili. The current NAFDAC will do well to dig into its own history and learn a few things.