Pulse Report (June 2019)
RISK LEVEL: HIGH
RISK OUTLOOK: UNSTABLE
President Muhammadu Buhari won re-election in February by a substantial margin against his opponent Atiku Abubakar. Buhari’s inauguration for his second term was held on 31 May in a low-key event in which he did not make a public speech. The Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal(PEPT) is currently considering a petition from the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, and three other political party’s presidential candidates who are seeking to nullify Buhari’s victory. The petition is based on allegations of widespread rigging, violations of the Electoral Act, suppression of voters and violence, amongst other electoral malpractices. Atiku and his party claim they won the election, citing results allegedly taken from the Independent National Electoral Commission’s servers, he claims he achieved 18.4 million votes to beat Buhari’s 16.7 million votes. At the time of reporting, the PEPT has adjourned until 1 July in order to provide the PDP counsel time to consider challenges from Buhari’s party, the All Progressives congress (APC). Despite these challenges and the very real possibility that electoral misconduct allegations are true Buhari is almost certain to remain as President of Nigeria, no presidential electoral result has been overturned by the courts since the country’s return to democracy in 1999.
Along with legal challenges Buhari has also faced defections from his party, the APC. Key among these is the defection of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki to the PDP. He claims “what we have seen is a situation whereby every dissent from the legislature was framed as an affront to the executive or as part of an agenda to undermine the government itself. The populist notion of anti-corruption became a ready weapon for silencing any form of dissent and for framing even principled objection as ‘corruption fighting back’.” However, this has been balanced out to an extent by the Speaker of the House of Representatives defecting from the PDP to APC. Along with these defections, 51 other members of the National Assembly have defected from the party with which they won the election, a move that has been challenged in court by the Legal Aides Assistant Project (LEDAP), on the grounds that it is unlawful for any member of the National Assembly who has defected from the party which sponsored them to remain in their seat of the assembly. The case was dismissed owing to an absence of locus standi (capacity to bring a case) on the part of the LEDAP, and has not been pursued since. Atiku has reportedly spent USD 30,000 on Washington lobbyists to try and persuade US President Donald Trump’s administration and the US Congress not to recognise Buhari’s re-election victory, however this is unlikely to achieve much traction.
Corruption permeates all sectors of the economy and the entire political hierarchy. In 2015 Muhammadu Buhari became President with the promise of eradicating corruption from the country, which has consistently ranked as one of the world’s most corrupt for the last fifteen years. Across Buhari’s first term Nigeria did not improve in the Corruption Perceptions Index and maintained the same score despite slight adjustments in ranking. The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre and Transparency International have pointed out Buhari’s anti-corruption campaign has yielded few results and corruption is still pervasive. Intended reforms in the oil and gas sector through the Petroleum Industry Bill have fallen short of desired goals, it has been broken down into smaller sections in the hope that it will pass both the Senate and the House. Only the first section of this bill has passed the National Assembly but has not been signed into law as President Buhari has challenged several aspects of its remit. A major issue in the face of tackling corruption in Nigeria is that there is a widespread sentiment amongst the public that corruption is simply a way of life, especially for the political class and business elites. It will take great work by advocacy groups both local and international to tackle such a perception and reduce corruption to a more manageable level. One way this is being tackled is through a star-studded Nigerian movie about corruption, coupled with a text-messaging campaign that allows individuals to report and combat government graft, that has led to over 200 corruption reports in seven months of operation.
RISK LEVEL: HIGH
RISK OUTLOOK: STABLE
Contaminated drinking water and poor sanitary conditions result in increased vulnerability to water-borne diseases such as diarrhoea, this is disproportionately borne by poorer children and means that Nigeria has the second highest rate of child deaths as a result of diarrhoea in the world. Only 26.5 percent of the population use improved drinking water sources and sanitation facilities, 23.5 percent of the population defecate in the open. Reports suggest that Nigeria loses NGN445 billion of GDP annually due to poor sanitation leading to illness, low productivity and loss of learning. In order to tackle this issue, Nigeria requires an additional two million toilets to be installed annually from 2019 to 2025. However, this can only be achieved through increased budgetary allocation and implementation, as well as the political will to achieve it.
The National Assembly of Nigeria recently issued a number of stringent requirements media organisations must comply with in order to be allowed to cover the inauguration and subsequent activities of the National Assembly. These guidelines had to be complied with in order to achieve accreditation before the 11 June (inauguration day). The Nigerian Guild of Editors in a statement signed by its General Secretary rejected the guidelines; describing them as primitive, undemocratic, anti-press and anti-people. The Nigeria Union of Journalists also responded en-masse to demand its retraction. Such attempted restrictions on the freedom of the press pose a concern in a country that would benefit from rigorous journalistic oversight.
Nigeria’s economy is predominantly hydro-carbon driven, with crude oil exports amounting to approximately 75 percent of export earnings; providing 90 percent of foreign exchange and provides much of the government’s budget. It is of note, however, that the oil sector makes up only around 10 percent of the country’s GDP, owing to a foreign industry monopoly that sees much of the generated profit remitted to respective nations. As such, there is an economic reliance on the country’s service industry, which in the first quarter of 2019 contributed 50 percent of GDP. Much of this is dominated by Micro, Small, and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) who collectively employ 60 million people; roughly 84 percent of Nigeria’s labour force. The government has rolled out a number of big-budget programs to try and help these businesses, however they are more often used by corrupt officials to enrich themselves. These businesses are hurt by everyday corruption; racketeering by police, extortion from inspectors, shakedowns from officials, but also by this large-scale corruption redirecting funds from government schemes. The lack of transparency and accountability where such fuinds are concerned prohibits the development of MSMEs, ultimately preventing them from absorbing the country’s unemployed; many of whom are therefore susceptible to recruitment from criminal and terrorist organisations.
The Nigerian government are reportedly considering policies to enhance maritime transport in an effort to encourage foreign investment in a mostly untapped maritime economy, with official statements indicating that the government is considering tax and other waivers for foreign investors. The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) forecast that approximately USD 30 billion will be invested in the sector across 2019. Piracy, the major obstacle to the maritime economy in Nigeria, has declined in the first quarter of 2019 according to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), and NIAMSA is set to host a global summit on maritime piracy in a bid to further these efforts. IMB, however, warns that Nigerian waters remain a site of risk for vessels, especially in the vicinity of the Port of Lagos. Aside from piracy, there are enduring issues with cargo clearing processes and the poor state of Nigerian roads and ports, which impacts the level of attractiveness to foreign investors.
The Niger Delta is home to several militant groups and is a major source of oil revenues. The area has seen relative peace since the last major outbreak of violence in 2016. That year, Delta militants took credit for 45 attacks and forced several foreign companies to cease operations and withdraw their staff. As a result oil production plummeted to a 20-year-low which, when coupled with low oil prices, pushed Nigeria into a recession. Several groups of Niger Delta militants threatened to cripple the country’s economy if Buhari won the election. This has not yet materialised, and given the generous stipend payments and several new projects in the area which are designed to provide people in the region with new jobs it is unlikely to. A major issue with such projects is that many communities are not connected to any sort of electrical grid, and given that many of them are based in swampland or isolated archipelagoes, the only connection they have is via the regions the water ways. One way this issue is being addressed is through the distribution of solar panels. A pilot scheme based in Gbagira currently uses a 15kW solar power plant, which is being used by 26 entities, 16 of which are MSMEs, providing refrigeration services, fish smoking kitchens and a health centre.
RISK LEVEL: HIGH
RISK OUTLOOK: DETERIORATING
Crime in Nigeria can be both planned and opportunistic, most crimes directed against foreigners and private-sector entities are motivated by financial gain. Foreign visitors and residents have been the subject of a wide range of violent crimes; however the most commonly reported crimes are violent armed robberies, kidnapping for ransom and fraud. Armed burglaries have been attempted even on guarded compounds, with reports of perpetrators scaling perimeter walls as well as attacking waterfront compounds and business in Lagos by boat. Southern Nigeria, including the Niger Delta, plays host to many armed criminal elements; ranging from low-level to highly organized elements, these groups often erupt into violence with each other, and there is an enduring risk to travellers of being caught in the crossfire of such incidents.
Borno state is widely considered a no-go area for foreigners due to the risks associated with Boko Haram-related terrorism, there have been attacks across the North and North-East, and further violence can erupt quickly and with little warning, especially in the Middle-Belt states; the epicentre of the Herder-Farmer conflict. This enduring conflict is one of the world’s deadliest and clashes have killed more than 10,000 people in the last decade. in 2018, reports suggest that the issue posed a threat that was six times more deadly than that posed by Boko Haram. This conflict is primarily between the Fulani herders and the non-Muslim minority (mostly Christians) who are predominantly farmers. Tensions surround access to key resources such as water, and the inherent conflict between grazing and farming land. This is made worse by an influx of arms into the area, the insecurity caused by Boko Haram forcing pastoralists to move out of their normal area, as well as grazing bans in Benue and Tabada state which effectively outlaw pastoralism. Reprisal attacks by farming communities often target the more settled Hausa communities, because their social network is interwoven with the Fulani. Whilst the herders and farmers have had violent clashes in the past, modern environmental pressures have increased the stakes both sides are fighting for, and competition over good land has increased the frequency and lethality of the attacks. The conditions which have in recent years exacerbated this conflict are unlikely to abate any time soon, and will more than likely continue to make the situation worse.
The Niger Delta carries a high risk in terms of kidnapping, a preferred mode of operating for criminal and terrorist organisation to raise funds and achieve politically motivated aims of eroding foreign influence.
RISK LEVEL: HIGH
RISK OUTLOOK: STABLE
Boko Haram continues to operate in Nigeria. Its current activities are concentrated in the three states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, but they have been known to strike further afield. Borno is the epicentre of Boko Haram related violence. Generally speaking Boko Haram is split between two factions, one run by Abubakar Shekau, the other a splinter group known as Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA) generally considered less brutal, though Shekau sets a remarkably low bar in this regard. ISWA avoids the use of female and child suicide bombers, with a focus on military targets; portraying itself as “civilian-friendly”, whilst Shekau’s faction tends to pay little head to civilian collateral casualties whilst targeting the Nigerian military. US government estimates suggest that ISWA has around 3,500 fighters, based mostly around the Lake Chad Basin whilst Shekau has around 1,500 fighters operating form the vicinity of the Sambisa forest. There have been recent concerted efforts to eradicate the group’s hold over its remaining territory, involving aerial strikes and large bombardments; however the military has suffered high casualties for little obvious gain.
The ISWA faction of Boko Haram has adopted its modus operandi to focus on attempting to embed themselves in the fabric of local communities, to govern rather than conquer. It presents its religious ideology as a force for equality and social justice, redistributing food stocks from influential figures in the town to the needy. This charm offensive does not extend to those that work for the government, the military or members of the Civilian Joint Task Force (a civilian militia created to aid in the fight against Boko Haram), who reports suggest are routinely tortured before facing execution. Often such incidents are videoed and distributed online as a form of propaganda. Whilst such propaganda may not win widespread civilian support, it is effective at eroding the morale of the military personnel especially when coupled with regular casualties. Early 2019 saw 121 police officers, specifically trained in counter terrorism, dismissed for absconding deployment against Boko Haram forces. The military faces a dire situation; whilst the budget for fighting Boko Haram is large, very little of it is actually used to purchase equipment or fund training, instead being siphoned off by various officials. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo recently criticised current efforts, asserting that soldiers are poorly trained and equipped, poorly motivated and led, as well as underpaid.
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