22 Jun

The week ahead – Reality takes a back seat

President Muhammadu Buhari signed a record ₦9.12 trillion 2018 budget into law on Wednesday but said it required changes he would seek through a supplementary spending plan. The National Assembly passed the budget last month although the total sum was higher than the ₦8.6 trillion spending plan presented to parliament by Buhari in November because lawmakers increased the benchmark oil price to $51 per barrel from $45. “I am however concerned about some of the changes @nassnigeria (National Assembly) has made to the budget proposals I presented,” Buhari wrote on his official Twitter feed. Buhari criticised the national assembly over some of the changes made in the budget claiming that they have cut down provisions for 4,700 projects that was to cost ₦347 billion and substituted them with 6,403 projects of their own worth ₦578 billion.

The terror group, Islamic State are sneaking battle-hardened jihadis from Syria into Nigeria to train terrorists for possible attacks in Britain. Fanatics, including Boko Haram insurgents, were also being sent to the Middle East for training in a chilling “exchange programme,” The UK’s Sun newspaper reported on 18 June. The paper said there were fears that strong links between Nigeria and the UK would make it easier for IS to send its killers to Britain to orchestrate terror attacks, death and destruction. It noted that more than 150 British troops are conducting counter-terror training with Nigerian forces in an attempt to stem the bloody tide — and stop IS from taking hold in the West African region.

The Indigenous People of Biafra has announced plans to hold a referendum towards the ‘peaceful restoration’ of the defunct Republic of Biafra. IPOB spokesman, Emma Powerful, in a statement on Tuesday, said the first phase of the ‘three-stage referendum’ would take place in 2018. Although the IPOB spokesman did not disclose the date for the planned plebiscite, he revealed that, already, 40 million ballot papers were being printed for the exercise. The said ballot papers would be distributed to all adults in every clan and village in ‘Biafraland,’ the statement said. IPOB said it would consult ‘widely’ towards the success of the referendum, and as well as all its future programmes.

Anglophone separatists in Cameroon have killed 81 members of the security forces and more than 100 civilians in their months-long campaign for independence, according to a new government report, the AFP news agency reported on 20 June. Seventy-four soldiers and seven police have been killed by separatists since clashes erupted in the two regions in late 2017, it said. It added that more than 100 civilians had been killed “over the past 12 months,” and at least 120 schools, a favourite target of the separatists, had been torched. The document calls for an emergency humanitarian aid plan worth $21m, funded from “the state budget, an appeal to national solidarity and contributions from international partners”.

Suggestions

  • The President’s statements that the 2018 budget might be difficult, if not impossible to implement are at best a red herring. The crux of the matter is that first, the executive and the legislature, both from the same party, were unable to find a consensus on what should be in the budget for eight months. Second, is that both the budget proposal as well as the bill that the National Assembly passed, are decoupled from on-the-ground realities. This gulf between the budget and reality has accelerated under this administration. When we compare budget figures with actual budget performance in the past Buhari administration budgets, it becomes clear what we should expect from the 2018 budget.
  • We believe that this is an unlikely scenario. There is no evidence that fighters are being transferred from Syria to Nigeria for this purpose. A question that immediately comes to mind is why would already battle-hardened fighters need “training”? We think that the Boko Haram insurgency is being drawn into the UK’s local politics. Given The Sun’s ownership and the tabloid’s right-wing political allegiance, this report is more reflective of its bias within the context of the ongoing debate over immigration in Britain. The primary Jihadist threat to Britain comes from second generation and third generation subjects of Middle Eastern and Asian descent who are being radicalised within its territory. A secondary threat is from British nationals who are returning directly from participation in the Syrian conflict. The evidence available to us does not indicate that British nationals of Nigerian descent contribute anything more than a very negligible proportion of British Islamic State members.
  • This move will diminish the secessionist cause. Based on Nigeria’s current realities, such a referendum can only be conducted underground, which means it will be of doubtful authenticity, and will certainly be disregarded by the Nigerian state, and all credible international organisations. It is also doubtful that IPOB possesses the logistical capacity to conduct it. After its recent bruising encounters with the federal government, the strength of IPOB vis a vis other secessionist groups such as the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and the Biafra Zionist Force (BZF) has to be reassessed. If indeed the referendum holds, it could, depending on its scale and profile, attract another crackdown by the security forces.
  • The situation in western Cameroon continues to take a significant toll even when the disparity in the figures is taken into account, according to the ICG, at least 120 civilians and 43 members of the security forces have been killed since the end of 2016. Yaounde’s latest thoughts come on the heels of growing international criticism over its crackdown in the Northwest and Southwest Regions, home to most of the country’s English-speakers who account for about a fifth of a mainly French-speaking population of 22 million and has left a dire humanitarian situation. The UN says 160,000 people have been internally displaced, with a further 20,000 seeking refuge in Nigeria. Inflated casualty figures and patriotic platitudes will do little to placate an increasingly radical force or pave the way for necessary political reform.