The curtains at Aso Rock Villa, Nigeria’s seat of power, will be closed against incumbent president, Goodluck Jonathan on May 29. The mega opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) will thereby emerge as the new ruling party with the president-elect, Muhammadu Buhari, taking over the reins of governance. But it will not be a tea party because of over a dozen challenges ahead of him.
Chibok Schoolgirls’ abduction saga
On the night of April 14, 2014, about 276 female students were kidnapped from the Government Secondary School, Chibok in Borno State. The dreaded terrorist sect, Boko Haram, later released a video on May 5, 2014 claiming responsibility for the abduction which drew national and international condemnations. There was a measure of confusion that trailed news of the abduction.
While initial reports had said 85 students were kidnapped in the attack, the military authorities released a contradictory statement claiming 100 of them had been freed, a statement that was later retracted. Over one year after their abduction, the schoolgirls remain in the captivity of the insurgents despite several assurances of rescuing them by the outgoing PDP-led government. One of the dashed hopes raised by government over their rescue came via a purported truce with the insurgents announced by the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Air Marshall Alex Badeh. Not many Nigerians were convinced by the purported truce, especially given the backdrop that it was not the first time the government had claimed a breakthrough in negotiations with the sect. A deal reportedly brokered by a journalist to secure the girls in exchange for prisoners held in Nigerian jails was said to have been scrapped at the late stage on May 24 after President Jonathan reportedly consulted with the U.S., Israel, French and British foreign ministers in Paris where the perceived consensus was that no deals should be struck with terrorists. Last week, the Nigerian military, after an operation carried out in the infamous Sambissa Forest, announced the rescue of 200 girls and 93 women.
But the hope that the Chibok schoolgirls could be among the rescued was, once again, dashed thereby foreclosing the possibility of their rescue before the exit of the PDP government. It is against this backdrop that analysts say the rescue of the Chibok schoolgirls would certainly be a major burden that would be inherited by the incoming APC administration led by Muhammadu Buhari. With the high expectations from Buhari, if the schoolgirls are not rescued soon after he takes over, Nigerians will count it as part of his government’s failure.
One of the recurring decimals of the PDP-led administration of President Jonathan was the incessant crises between farmers and pastoralists in parts of the country, especially in the North Central and North-East regions.
The crises, which stem from years of enduring conflicts over grazing and farmlands between herders and farmers, took a turn for the worse during the last four years of the Jonathan administration. In the North-Central region which served as the epicenter of the crises, states mostly affected were Benue, Plateau, Taraba and Nasarawa where renewed attacks between the two feuding groups had pitched the two groups against each other, leading to the killing of hundreds of people as well as destruction of property worth billions of naira.
While farmers have been displaced, livestock owners have fled the conflict zones, resulting to the displacement of millions of animals. Similarly, fresh outbreaks of disease and rising tensions between pastoral groups and farmers, as well as within different pastoralist communities have heightened security concerns. Although several committees were set up to come up with solutions to the enduring crises, the reports of some of the committees were either ignored or consigned to the dustbins.
The herders/farmers crises appear to have abated, but analysts say the scars created are still very much visible in the affected states and portend potential threat to the incoming APC administration. For instance, residents of some of the communities have since developed hatred and suspicion against each other as opposed and lost is the spirit of communalism. To deal with the situation, experts say a more holistic approach to the farmers/herders question must be adopted by the incoming APC government of General Muhammadu Buhari.
Boko Haram insurgency
With its emergence in 2002, the dreaded Boko Haram sect’s increasing radicalization led to violent uprising in July 2009 in which its founder, Mohammed Yusuf, was executed. The sect, which became a security nightmare to the Jonathan administration, reportedly killed more than 13,000 civilians between July 2009 and June 2014.
Following a mass prison break in 2010, the sect’s unexpected resurgence was greeted by increasingly sophisticated attacks. Boko Haram’s security exploits in the Jonathan administration had led to the abduction of more than 500 men, women and children since 2009, including the kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls from Chibok in April 2014. The sect also captured swathes of territories in and around Borno State and kept them under its control for months before they were eventually recaptured by the military.
Many critics and security experts had blamed the festering of the Boko Haram activities to its poor handling by the Jonathan administration. Similarly, alleged corruption in the security services as well as human rights abuses were identified as hampering efforts to counter the threat. The imposition of a state of emergency by the federal government at the beginning of 2012, which was extended in the following year, resulted in both security force abuses and alleged military attacks
Although the tempo and tempest of its activities appear to have died down as the Jonathan administration winds up, analysts say it will, nevertheless, constitute one of the major challenges that the Buhari-led APC government would inherit from the outgoing PDP administration.
As a retired General in the Nigerian Army, Buhari is certainly not a stranger to the management of security threats. Analysts and security observers say the strategies of winning the war against terror to be deployed by the incoming APC government under Buhari remain to be seen.
It suffices to say that electoral violence in Nigeria has been as long as the country’s political history. But the trend appears to have assumed hurricane proportions during the President Jonathan administration. The desperation for political power had found expression in the recruitment of jobless youths by politicians who deploy them against perceived political opponents. In the build-up to the just-concluded 2015 election the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) had issued a pre-election violence report in which it said no fewer than 58 people had been killed in election- related violence in 22 states from Dec. 3, 2014. Many more deaths were recorded during the conduct of the polls.
The Chairman, Governing Council of the Commission, Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, who made the revelation while representing a report entitled; ‘’Pre-election Report and Advisory on Violence in Nigeria’s 2015 General Elections”, said within 50 days from Dec. 3, 2014, the commission had confirmed 61 incidents of election violence with the majority of the cases recorded in three key economic and politically significant states.
“In Lagos, we have tracked at least 11 incidents producing 22 dead people for each incident, an average of 2 people killed over a span of just 52 days. In Kaduna State, we have three incidents and nine killings; Rivers has six incidents, including the detonation of explosives and attacks on courts”, Odinkalu stated in the report, adding that “this degree of pre-election violence is unacceptable. We have seen too much blood and this must be stopped.’’
With this culture of election violence deeply entrenched within the Nigerian political system, it goes without saying that the incoming administration of President Buhari will have to content with the time bomb. An analyst who spoke on this matter underscored the importance of free, fair, and credible elections as a sure way the Buhari government could stem the tide of election violence in the country.
Under the Presidency of Goodluck Jonathan, corruption appears to have assumed the status of a norm rather than an abnormality. Little wonder that in an attempt to defend corruption, Jonathan was quoted as saying “stealing is not corruption.” The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project and other groups had in June 2012 demanded that President Jonathan should disclose his assets from 2007 to 2012 but he refused to oblige.
Although the Nigerian law provides criminal penalties for official corruption, however, it was observed more in breach during the PDP led administration of President Jonathan. Consequently, government officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. There was also massive, widespread and pervasive corruption that affected all levels of government and even the security forces.
The Constitution provides immunity from civil and criminal prosecution for the President, Vice President, Governors and deputy Governors while in office. Some of the indices of corruption during the Jonathan government included the conviction of former Delta State governor James Ibori in the Southwark Crown Court in London of charges of money laundering and other financial crimes totaling N12.4bn, after he was acquitted by a Nigerian court; and the N1.067trn fuel subsidy fund lost to endemic corruption. Several rights groups and agencies had also rated the anticorruption efforts of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission, as well as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission as “largely ineffectual.”
Over a dozen cases handled by the EFCC under Jonathan administration have remained inconclusive, including the cases against four former governors Gbenga Daniel, Adebayo Alao-Akala, Aliyu Akwe Doma and Muhammed Danjuma Goje, for allegedly misappropriating N58bn, N25bn, N18bn and N12.8bn, respectively. Little wonder that one of the most potent campaign strategies of General Buhari was zero tolerance against corruption. As a man with a demonstrable stance against stealing of public funds not a few analysts say Buhari would tackle the cankerworm. But the degree of its entrenchment in the Nigerian system would make it no less a herculean task for the incoming administration.
Partisan Security Agencies
One of the cardinal promises of the Buhari campaign is that of tackling insecurity. With the elections over, the incoming administration’s task is pretty well cut out in terms of restructuring the security agencies to tackle the security challenges being faced in the country.
The security agencies have clearly been partisan and perhaps nowhere was this demonstrated than in the military, which, added to its inability to successfully tackle the Boko Haram insurgency in the last six years, claimed not to be in possession of Buhari’s certificates, when the issue came up during campaigns only for the Army to make a U-turn once Buhari was declared winner of the elections.
Perhaps the most glaring evidence of the military’s partisanship was its indictment in the Ekiti election scam that brought in Ayo Fayose as governor. The roles of Brig. Gen Aliyu Momoh and Capt Sagir Koli in what became known as the Ekitigate video, and the military’s refusal to investigate the role of its officers and men in this scandal are telling.
The Department of State Security goofed when on January 7, 2015, its spokesperson, Marylyn Ogar paraded several men, allegedly belonging to the APC, as planning to hack into the database of the Independent National Electoral Commission. The evidence against these men was flimsy and the fact that INEC has denied any attempt to hack into its system threw the spanner in the SSS’s claims.
None of those men the SSS paraded has been presented in court to answer to the allegations against them, further casting doubts over these allegations. Neither has Ms Ogar named the APC members she had alleged in August 2014 of belonging to the Boko Haram group.
Similarly, the Nigerian Police Force is another agency that has been partisan in the run-up to the last elections. Note was the roles of officers like Joseph Mbu in terrorizing the APC in Rivers State while serving as the Police Commissioner in the state, harassing Governor Rotimi Ameachi, who would later emerge as Buhari’s campaign chief. Upon his removal from Rivers, Mbu was posted to Abuja, from where he was sent to Lagos, another key state the PDP was eyeing. Many experts believe his deployment to Lagos State as the Police Commissioner ahead of the elections was aimed at using the police to influence the elections in favour of the PDP.
How Buhari will deal with the hierarchy of these agencies remains to be seen, but his hands might be tied already, with Jonathan sacking IG Suleiman Abba, four years before he was due for retirement and replacing him with Solomon Arase (from Jonathan’s Niger Delta). The military might have already started its house cleaning, by recently pulling out 31 generals from the force.
Also of interest will be how Buhari restructures the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, which, under Jonathan’s administrations, plagued by a series of scandals, failed to make any meaningful arrest or successful prosecution.
Nigeria’s Foreign Image
Nigeria’s image within the international community has never been so low as it has been now. Buhari, in a February 9, 2015 interview with Aljazeera, had said the image of Nigeria running to France to find solutions to the Boko Haram challenge was “very embarrassing”.
He is clearly inclined to put Nigeria in the lead in the fight against Boko Haram with neighbouring countries like Chad, Niger and Cameroon in supporting roles, instead of leading the offensive, as was the case until recently. Jonathan’s administration’s handling of the Boko Haram insurgency and in particular the Chibok abductions, which resulted in an international movement that put Nigeria in the news for all the wrong reasons was damaging enough. The icing on the cake was a claim in March that President Jonathan had spoken with the King of Morrocco, when no such conversation occurred, did serious damage to Nigeria’s image, especially after an angry Morocco recalled its ambassador to Nigeria. To improve Nigeria’s image, Buhari and his team must present a more positive body language, make the right assertions at the right times and most importantly show leadership in tackling not only Boko Haram, but issues that affect Nigeria and Nigerians.
Continued Fall Of The Naira
The president-elect has a task on his hand stemming the continued slide of the naira. The local currency has been on the fall since last year as the price of crude on the international market crashed. The naira plight has been compounded by the pressure the wild political campaign spending put on the dollar, especially from late last year to March this year when the presidential election held.
A year ago, the naira exchanged for the dollar on the official market at N165 and ended the year at N183. By last week, it was exchanging for N198.55 to the dollar at the official market. At the parallel market, the value had climbed back to an average of N220 to a dollar, the exchange average before the March 28 presidential election. It, however, eased to below N200 immediately after the election, but has gradually crept up again.
On February 25 this year, the CBN was compelled to jack up the naira’s official exchange rate to N198 to a dollar, from the N168 figure (from N155) it had fixed barely three months before then. The shortage of dollars has also affected the country’s foreign reserves value, which fell below $30 billion ($29.5bn) last month, according to Central Bank of Nigeria’s figures, from the $34.493 figure it started with in the year. The continued dip in the foreign reserves value has been attributed to the significant reduction in dollar inflow caused by falling crude oil prices.
With no immediate hope of crude price rising sharply on the international market to provide adequate dollars to strengthen the naira at the exchange market, no revenue from other foreign exchange earners like solid minerals and no real options like a strong local productive base, Gen Buhari will have to call on sound management of the economy and prudent spending to rein in the downswing of the naira value. There is fear that continued fall of the naira may spark off serious inflationary pressure that could taint the Buhari administration as a bad manager of the economy. Moreover, the incoming administration will need to work magic to stop the gradual erosion of the foreign reserves – which the CBN has been dipping its hand into to prop up the naira – in the face of inadequate dollar receipts from crude sales.
Up till last week, the fuel crisis, symbolized in the main by occasional scarcity of petroleum products, especially the premium motor spirit (petrol), had remained intractable. Buhari will have a problem on his hand fixing this monster which has defied a decisive solution for over three decades. Nigerians’ expectations on Buhari to fix the crises in both the petroleum industry and the power sector are high and some are actually seeing him as the last hope on these problems after successive leaders who promised to tackle them not only failed, but left the sectors worse than they met them.
In the petroleum industry, Buhari will be confronted with a crisis that is multi-faceted. He will have to decide on what to do with the phases 1 and 2 of the Port Harcourt refinery, Warri refinery and the Kaduna refinery. The wide belief in Nigeria is that, as in other areas of the petroleum industry, deep corrupt practices have always attended the numerous contracts that the federal government has been awarding to repair the refineries.
There is also the big matter of fuel subsidy and oil marketers. This will arguably be a knotty issue for the incoming president to address. Since the refineries began functioning epileptically and importation of petroleum products became the norm, the fuel subsidy question has been a recurring riddle with every administration. While government officials argue that there, indeed, exist subsidy claims and spend billions of naira every year paying marketers such claims, many industry analysts maintain it is a scam by which government officials and their cronies embezzle huge public funds.
One strident antagonist of oil subsidy is Tam David-West, professor of virology and a former minister in charge of the petroleum sector. David-West maintains the pump price of petrol should not be more than N40 a litre and that the current price fixed by the Jonathan administration is a scam. “Anyone that is encouraging high petroleum price in Nigeria is not only the enemy of the people, he should be arrested and sent to Bama Prison and even killed,” the professor declared.
That there is a huge fraud in the fuel subsidy claims was given truth in 2012 when the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission arraigned 17 oil marketers for fuel subsidy fraud. The fear is that any attempt to halt subsidy might be resisted by those who have benefitted from it. Such disagreement could lead to a stalemate which the incoming government could find tough to tackle.
As with the fuel crisis, the power sector problem is one that has defied solution. Only last week, Godknows Igali, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Power disclosed that Nigeria’s total electricity generation had dropped to a low 2,800 megawatts, the lowest in nearly a year, from its recent peak of 4,5oo. Igali blamed the drop on vandalism of gas pipelines.
The story was not new to Nigerians. The PDP, in its 16 years in power, has always been promising it would relieve Nigerians of their power supply agony. But the promise has been mere gas, as, instead of electricity supply to rise even marginally, the PDP and the Jonathan administration will be bequeathing Buhari a time bomb of a power situation.
After the unbundling of government’s Power Holding Company of Nigeria and sale, in 2013, of the resultant five generating companies (Gencos) and 10 distribution companies (Discos) to private investors, many Nigerians were looking forward to an early improvement in the power supply level.
But they have been disappointed. Although electricity tariffs continue to go up and consumers are made to pay a compulsory service charge of N750 per month to the new operators, service delivery has remained poor. In February this year, the CBN gave loans to the Gencos and the Discos. The apex bank first disbursed a total sum of N18.26bn to the first batch of beneficiaries of the N 213bn Nigeria Electricity Market Stabilization Facility (NEMSF). And barely a week after, it gave another sum of N39.53bn to the second batch of beneficiaries.
As Nigerians look up to the new president to provide them succour in the steady provision of electricity, it remains to be seen how Buhari will solve this particular problem which has so far been intractable. The incoming president has attributed the power crisis to corruption. That means he has to deal with it headlong and deliver.
N20bn Missing Oil Money
Buhari has already declared his intention to revisit the N20bn oil money that is allegedly missing. Former CBN governor and now Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi had, in September 2013, written a letter to President Jonathan alleging disappearance of the sum of $49bn in the accounts of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). But the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke was quick to debunk the allegation.
After government set up a committee to reconcile the accounts of the NNPC, Sanusi later reviewed the figure to N20bn. The figure has since become a raging controversy. A report prepared by auditors PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) and recently released by the government stated that while the total gross revenues generated from crude oil liftings amounted to $69.34bn between January 2012 and July 2013 and not $67bn as earlier stated by the Senate Reconciliation Committee, what was remitted to the federation account was $50.81bn and not $47bn.
Within the $69.34bn, the audit report revealed that $28.22bn was the value of domestic crude oil allocated to NNPC, adding that the total amount spent on subsidy for Premium Motor Spirit amounted to $5.32bn.
But an apparently unconvinced Buhari had stated that his administration, in its determined fight against corruption, would further probe the entire missing billions. “You all remember what the Emir of Kano talked about when he was the governor of the CBN. He said $20bn was unaccounted for; they said it was a lie. Instead of investigating it, they sacked him. And since this was documented, our administration will take a look at it.”
Many Nigerians will be anxiously waiting to witness how their new president will tackle the fraud and possibly recoup the amount believed to have been stolen from the country’s commonwealth.
Another time bomb awaiting the president-elect after he assumes office on May 29 is the massive theft of the country’s crude oil. Over the years, the crime has become big business; in a couple of cases, whole vessels loaded with stolen Nigerian crude had been arrested on the high seas. This gave credence to the assertion that the oil theft crime is perpetrated by highly influential figures that include top politicians, serving and retired military officers and wealthy businessmen. At the lower level are pirates who own small boats and barges, and pipeline vandals who siphon crude from the broken pipes.
Putting figures to the theft, Nigeria’s Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Finance Minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala said Nigeria loses about N7 billion daily from stolen crude. Former Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Mr. Andrew Yakubu, also once estimated Nigeria’s huge loss arising from oil theft at $12 billion annually. The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) once put its own estimate of oil theft from 2009 to 2011 a total sum of $10.9 billion.
The Jonathan administration awarded multi-billion contracts to former militants that include Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo ostensibly to curtail the activities of oil thieves, both on the high seas and against oil pipelines. And desperate to win his re-election bid in the March presidential election, President Jonathan also curried the support of the Yoruba militia group, the Oodua People’s Congress with contracts to also police the waterways and pipelines against pirates and oil thieves. So far, nothing concrete has been achieved in the fight against oil theft. Can Buhari stop it?
One of the biggest challenges before the incoming administration is that of unemployment, especially among youths. World Bank Country Representative in Nigeria, Prof. Foluso Okundamewa in 2013 put the unemployment rate at 22 percent, with 38% of youths unemployed.
To put this in context, Nigeria’s Coordinating Minister of the Econonmy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala in 2014 revealed that figures by the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics put the number of unemployed youths at 5.3 million, with total number of 20.3 million people unemployed in the country. This is almost the size of the population of Australia or Ghana.
And with 1.8 million fresh graduates coming out of the university every year, it is clear the incoming administration has a huge challenge in its hand.
The consequence of such an army of unemployed is that it provides ready recruits for groups like the Boko Haram and Niger Delta Miilitants, as well as robbery gangs and other crime syndicates.
The desperation of this unemployed youth was evident on March 15 2014 when 6.5 million people turned out nationwide for the 4000 vacant positions in the Nigerian Immigration Service. Sixteen job seekers died in stampedes at the venues.
Added to the 100 million destitute people in the country, according to World Bank figures, these constitute a huge security and economic challenge that the incoming administration must tackle.
Militancy and Kidnapping
Niger Delta militants under the leadership of Government Ekpemupolo, popularly known as Tompolo recently acquired decommissioned warships from Norway. Over the years, there have been reports of former militants rearming and reposition as they enjoy lucrative contracts from the Jonathan administration.
According to a source close to the militants, “The Nigerian Navy has nothing to offer. It is the militants that are effectively in control of Nigeria’s shores.”
The protection the militants have enjoyed under the outgoing administration and the numerous arms deals that have been uncovered, including the two deals running into billions of dollars busted by South African authorities in September and October 2014, which the Nigerian government has been unable to clearly explain might indicate that the militants might be better equipped than ever.
With the army of unemployed youths, the militants have a waiting legion of recruits at their disposal and may pose a greater threat under the new administration.