The World Bank has cut back on Nigeria’s growth forecast for 2018, stating that the country’s GDP will grow by only 1.9 per cent — down from the 2.1 per cent estimated in April. The growth forecast cut is as a result of the reduction in oil production levels in the country, and a contraction in agricultural output, on the back of the Pastoral Conflict. “Average growth in the region rose from 2.3% in 2017 to 2.7% in 2018, barely above population growth, partly due to weaknesses in Nigeria, South Africa, and Angola—the region’s three largest economies,” the bank said. “In Nigeria, declining oil production and contraction in the agriculture sector partially offset a rebound in the services sector and dampened non-oil growth, all of which affected economic recovery. Nigeria’s recovery faltered in the first half of the year. Oil production fell, partly due to pipeline closures. The agriculture sector contracted, as conflict over land between farmers and herders disrupted crop production, partially offsetting a rebound in the services sector and dampening non-oil growth.”

One student was killed and two others injured in violence at the University of Jos, in Plateau State, on 30 September. A student who disappeared on the day was only found on 3 October. The violence around the university came as a car belonging to a retired Nigerian Army general, Idris Alkali was found in a mining pond in the Dura-Du area of Jos. Alkali was declared missing on September 3, a day after gunmen attacked Dura-Du and killed 13 persons. Another car was later pulled out of the pond.

The two major Nigerian political parties began holding primaries across the country to select their candidates in the build-up to national elections next year. In Lagos, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode lost his bid on 3 October to seek a second term following a primary selection process that exposed internal divisions in a crucial state. Ambode was defeated by Babajide Sanwo-Olu in the All Progressive Congress’ primaries and conceded defeat in a speech broadcast on state television. In Zamfara, Governor Abdulaziz Yari’s protestations against a direct primary have delayed the APC vote by three days. In Ondo, the award of an automatic ticket by the National Working Committee to a federal senator against the wishes of the party state chapter and Governor Rotimi Akeredolu has led to tensions, just as in Kaduna where an automatic ticket to vocal Senator Shehu Sani, who has flirted with defecting to the Peoples Democratic Party, has led to a standoff between the state and national party. On the PDP side, the News Agency of Nigeria reported that violence marred the vote in Gombe on Independence Day when some delegates suspected that a government official was manipulating votes. In Rivers, there was sporadic shooting in Okehi, the headquarters of Etche Local Government Area on 3 October during a House of Representatives’ primaries by suspected political thugs with similar reports from the Aniocha/Oshimili House of Representatives race in Delta; in Anambra South Senatorial District, some APC and PDP delegates complained to the press that they could not locate the venue of their parties respective primaries and an aspirant in a Kogi senatorial race called a “charade” and “full of inconsistencies.” Despite numerous complaints, there was some high profile primary wins, including Kwankwaso’s son-in-law, Abba Kabir Yusuf emerged as the PDP governorship candidate in Kano and Mustapha Lamido, the son of the ex-Jigawa governor, Sule Lamido, who was affirmed a senatorial candidate.

The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), the union to which lecturers in government-owned Nigerian universities belong, has rejected a proposal by the government’s re-negotiation committee to shift the funding of universities to parents. The union claimed that Wale Babalakin, a businessman who heads the renegotiation committee, has become an impediment to the resolution of the issues confronting universities in the country. Prof Olu Olufayo, a spokesman for the union said that educating the citizens should be the responsibility of the government and the same government would not be allowed to shift its responsibility to the helpless people.

Commentary

  • We must situate the World Bank’s report within the context of a year when oil prices have been rising, most recently closing at $86 per barrel. Despite clear evidence that the end of Nigeria’s last recession was linked to rising oil prices, the return of oil prices to more breathable levels has coincided with weak growth and a cut in the growth forecast. Oil and gas and agriculture are perhaps the two most important sectors of the Nigerian economy; and despite the rhetoric of successive governments, there has not been any appreciable growth in both of them in the past decade because of inadequate planning and investment, and a succession of humanitarian crises. The Buhari government promised to be different but wasted the last crisis by not making fundamental changes to Nigeria’s economic makeup. Crude oil sales account for over 90% of foreign exchange earnings while agriculture accounts for an estimated 70% of employment and 40% of GDP. By not taking such events as the Pastoral Conflict seriously, the government’s much-advertised commitment to agriculture needs to be seriously questioned. We expect agricultural output to fall even further. Even with favourable oil prices, Nigeria may be headed for negative growth.
  • The recent violence in Jos is a relapse to the type of suburban strife that has not been witnessed for some years now. In recent years, the Jos metropolis has been relatively peaceful even as the rural outskirts have suffered from recurrent clashes between farmers and herders as well the depredations of cattle rustling bandits. Last week’s incidents have re-enacted old grievances and ignited old cyclical patterns of violence in which ethnic and religious antipathies overlap in a city segregated along ethnic and confessional lines in many areas. The discovery of the vehicle belonging to the abducted retired Major General Idris Alkali, (missing since September 3) in a pond in Du, in the Berom heartland ignited tensions between the community and the military. General Alkali is now presumed dead although his remains have not been found. The unearthing of other vehicles in the pond may cast a light on the sort of under-reported killings that carry on under the cover of general unrest. The killings of 13 people by gunmen sparked anger and led to communal vigilantes taking matters into their own hands and attacking innocent citizens with inevitable retribution quickly escalating in Muslim-dominated neighbourhoods and Christian-dominated neighbourhoods. The inability of the security establishment to arrest the gunmen wreaking havoc on the Jos plateau has led to a widespread loss of faith in the federal government by local communities. Many communities are taking to self-help with disastrous results. The risk of an escalating scale of tit for tat violence is high. Much tact and strategic thinking are required. Operation Safe Haven must be capacitated to arrest the situation and prevent a slide into citywide mayhem. It must also be mobilised to effect a final solution to the problem of banditry in the outskirts of Jos. The case of General Alkali must be investigated clinically with a view to bringing the actual perpetrators to justice. However, the military must avoid giving the impression of criminalising the entire community. Both the federal and state authorities must adopt a zero-tolerance approach that unequivocally punishes criminality.
  • A lot of commentaries in the past had zeroed in on the poor track record of internal democracy within the country’s main political parties and how this has had an impact on the conduct of wider electoral contests in the country. While the current primary season may seem to have validated those perspectives, one race merits some individual comment because on the potential impact on the wider political math next year. In Lagos, a key election battleground in the southwest, Governor Ambode’s defeat following weeks of reporting that he had lost the support of former state governor and political godfather, Bola Tinubu, generally speaks to the heights of state capture that the country’s (and one of the continent’s) biggest economies has been subjected to since 1999. Tinubu’s backing for Buhari in the southwest played a pivotal role in him securing his first term in 2015, delivering much-needed support beyond the president’s core northern base. With some governors reportedly unhappy with the APC National’s handling of the primary selection process amid a list of other long-standing grievances, Tinubu’s support for the President might not be a given next year.
  • ASUU’s position is flawed. You only have to look at the results to come to this conclusion – the best universities in Nigeria, mainly private institutions, are those funded by fees. There is an urgent need for the government to focus on Primary and Secondary education with the resources ASUU currently gobbles up. Coming in a week where the head of Nigeria’s Universal Basic Education scheme quoted a UN survey showing an increase in the number of out of school children, that level is far more important to Nigeria’s current phase of development than a plethora of half-baked university graduates who never even had the basics to start with. University education under ordinary circumstances is expensive. If the government cannot fund it, which it simply cannot, then it is time for Nigeria to let go. Many Nigerian commentators like to compare the country with Germany that offers free tuition, but Germany’s tax rate starts at 25% for the lowest band and progresses upwards the more you earn. This applies to all the 43.5 million people in Germany’s workforce. Germany has an unemployment rate of 3.5 per cent. If Nigerians want a situation where the government continues funding universities, there are a lot of things that have to be put in place. Someone has to pay, and as things stand, the government cannot fund expensive universities, and fix basic education, which is far more important to the country.