For the period of 6-12 February 2017, there were 52 critical incidents recorded in Nigeria, resulting in 32 deaths and 67 arrests. In brief:
¨ On the political front, we continue to note the absence of President Buhari, who is officially reported to be in London for medical care. His absence has sparked wild speculations among the media and general public, with rumors of severe health problems following a decision to remain in London indefinitely. Rallies have even taken place in Nigeria by opponents to protest Buhari’s government in his absence.
¨ Nigeria continues to be marred by a number of corruption cases, including this week’s Ekiti State Senate issuing an arrest warrant against former Governor Kayode Fayemi for failing to testify. Rivers State also remains the epicenter of Nigeria’s campaign against corruption. There, the Governor is accused of paying bribes to election officials. In Kano, north of the country, the police detained a former head of NNPC on corruption charges and recovered millions of dollars from his house. In Lagos, former minister Abubakar Suleiman was also arraigned for alleged money laundering, along with a Senior Advocate of Nigeria. In Niger Delta the police arrested several bank officials and former Delta militants for alleged theft of money of the amnesty fund.
¨ On the security front, the Federal Government issued a new warning of potential Boko Haram attacks, stating that a terror cell in Kogi State in the center of the country is actively manufacturing explosive devices to use them against Nigerian targets.
¨ The warning comes as Boko Haram continues to inflict severe damage to Nigeria. Its attacks this week resulted in two deaths in a raid on a military base in Damaturu, the ambush of a military convoy near Mafa, Borno, killing seven soldiers, and the storming of Kaumatayahi village near Chibok.
¨ On the criminality front, the Nigerian security services continue to fight a multi-faceted criminal world. They arrested 21 in Bayelsa, including army soldiers for alleged turbine theft and kidnapping.
¨ In the Gulf of Guinea, off the coast of Nigeria, eight foreign nationals (mostly Russians and a Ukrainian) working on a ship were abducted this week
¨ On the economic front, all eyes are on a Italian court where ENI CEO is facing prosecutors over alleged corruption in Nigeria’s OPL-245 oilfield
¨ Meanwhile, the closure of the Abuja Airport for maintenance is causing new problems for airline carriers, passengers and airport workers. So much so that most major airlines discontinued their service to Abuja to avoid landing in Kaduna. They include South African Airways, British Airways and German carrier Lufthansa.
¨ This is while the Federal Government was forced to take over the operations of the country’s largest national carrier, Arik Airlines, which has been facing imminent collapse.
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Politics & Security: The absence of President Buhari has caused moderate political tension as both the media and the general public felt concerned about the state of governance in Nigeria. However, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has been working as the Interim President and conducted normal business in the absence of Buhari. For instance he has unveiled that the Federal Government is working on a brand new political framework that would govern the highly restive Niger Delta. Although the details of the framework are unclear, the ownership of this major project by VP Osinbajo is proof of normalcy and continuity in the workings of the Federal Government. On the political front, the absence of Buhari does not change the fundamentals of the country’s problems. A struggle for governance is leading to an intense competition between political parties and within them, with the ruling APC party showing the upper hand for the time being. Competition between parties will continue to affect security in many States, a situation we expect to remain front and center going forward. On the security front, although the week did not see any major incidents on the Biafra, Shiite or Nigeria Delta militancy conflicts, these crises remain unresolved and will continue to destabilize the affected regions. Boko Haram remains the biggest source of instability in the north, and warning about a bomb-making site in the center of the country justifies the growing concern about Boko Haram expanding its regional reach.
Human and Social: Criminality and corruption are deeply rooted in the Nigerian political and economic world, and that is greatly affecting the general social mood. However, among Nigeria’s thorniest social problems is its inter-communal conflicts, with the most severe being the ongoing and incessant fights pitting herdsmen against farmers in what is known as the grazing wars. On the policy front, the authorities are not considering any policy in the time being to remedy the current state of insecurity across the country. Efforts to push for new grazing lands have been rejected by state governments due to their internal politics, keeping the status quo and maintaining a heightened state of instability in many regions, as witnessed in Southern Kaduna.
Economy: The Nigerian economy showed mix signals this week, with a Eurobond issue to raise US$ 1 billion. The issue was oversubscribed and although this was greeted by the government as a sign of confidence of foreign investors, the country’s economy remains fundamentally weak and challenged by a series of obstacles to growth. Not only the general macroeconomic indicators remain weak, but many policy decisions also remain questionable and raise concern over how government runs its affairs. The best illustration of such concerns is the closing this week of the Abuja airport, which may have been a decision taken without proper due diligence. Several major airlines withdrew from Abuja and its temporary airport replacement in Kaduna, leaving many business and government travelers concerned about how to reach the Nigerian federal capital.