President Muhammadu Buhari on 9 October asked lawmakers to approve the issuance of a $2.79 billion Eurobond, in a letter read in the upper chamber of parliament. Buhari, in the letter, said he wanted the Eurobond to be issued in the international capital market for the “implementation of new external borrowing” that had already been approved in the 2018 budget. The money was sought to help finance the budget deficit and to fund infrastructure projects. Buhari, who will seek a second term in a presidential election to be held in February, signed a record ₦9.12 trillion budget for 2018 into law in June. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has cut the growth projections for Nigeria to 1.9%, saying the country’s economy is doing poorly and urged authorities to check rising levels of debts and diversify their revenue bases or face a crisis. In July, the institution had projected that Nigeria’s economy would grow by 2.1 per cent in 2018 and 2.3 per cent next year.

Visionscape Sanitation Solution, an environmental utility group contracted by the Lagos State Government is shutting down its operations in the state. In a statement signed by Simon Reading, Chairman of the Board of Investors, the company said that management took the decision following heightening political tension in the state and reported cases of attack on its employees, destruction of its operational vehicles and equipment. “We passed a unanimous resolution to formally notify you of our concerns in response to the volatility in Lagos. At the time, we were given assurances that the accommodations made to the ‘PSPS’ by the franchise team would be sufficient to appease those who felt that Visionscape had taken away their jobs,” the statement read in part.

Atiku Abubakar, Nigeria’s vice president between 1999 and 2007, has been elected the presidential candidate of the PDP. At the PDP national convention in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, which ended yesterday, Abubakar defeated 11 other aspirants to clinch the hotly-contested ticket. His victory sets him as the main challenger to President Buhari in the 2019 general election. Abubakar left the PDP in the build-up to the 2007 election to be the flag bearer of the then opposition Action Congress. He lost the election to the late President Umaru Yar’Adua. He later joined the PDP again and sought to be the party’s candidate in 2011. He lost the ticket to Goodluck Jonathan. Abubakar, in the build-up to the 2015 election again left the PDP for the then newly formed APC. Buhari went on to win the general election and is now seeking re-election.

Cameroonian opposition candidate, Maurice Kamto has claimed victory in the presidential election, declaring on Monday that ‘we have achieved our goal’. Greeted by screams from his supporters as he made the announcement, Kamto, who leads the Movement for the Rebirth of Cameroon (MRC), called on President Paul Biya to hand over power peacefully. “I invite the outgoing president to organise a peaceful way to transfer power,” he told a news conference in the capital Yaounde, giving no results to justify his claim. The election was widely expected to extend the rule of Biya, one of Africa’s last multi-decade leaders who has held power for 36 years. Minister of Territorial Administration Paul Atanga Nji said on Sunday that only the Constitutional Council would be allowed to announce results and that any form of challenge to the verdict would “not be tolerated”.

Commentary

  • On President Buhari’s new bond request, going forward, we do not believe that Nigeria should enter into any loan agreements without conditions for fiscal discipline attached, not with a ₦22.3 trillion debt profile as at 30 June. About two-thirds of the government’s revenues go into servicing interest payments, with the principal still waiting for redemption at maturity. The country has now entered a precarious situation where it is inevitable that it will soon be forced to make the hard decisions of cutting cost that the government is shying away from at this time. Government revenues can no longer pay all wages, not to talk of executing much-needed infrastructure projects. Debt service costs are already two-thirds of government revenues. Nigeria, as a result, has entered a vicious cycle of borrowing to simply pay wages. In a relatively short time, the country will be unable to borrow any more money and will be unable to get the kind of debt forgiveness it got a decade and a half ago. The only options before Nigeria are painful cuts in government jobs and government spending or simply going bust.
  • Within weeks of being contracted by the Lagos State government in 2017, it became clear that Visionscape was overwhelmed by the scale of waste generated in the state (estimated at 13,000 tonnes per day), and both the company and state government came under heavy criticism. In April 2018 the government reached an agreement with PSPs (local waste collection operators) for them to return to be the residential waste collectors, where they bill and service homes across the state, while Visionscape was to oversee infrastructure development. Visionscape’s latest announcement coincides with the incumbent governor’s failure to secure a second term and the reasons offered – reported attacks on its staff and destruction of its vehicles and equipment, were also reported soon after it was awarded the contract and lend credence to reports that the company was a vehicle of patronage for the governor and his friends, and as a result, raises concerns of the capture of state resources in Lagos. These concerns are a huge worry for what is currently Nigeria’s biggest and most viable economy.
  • The general consensus is that the PDP has chosen its strongest candidate as its nominee for the 2019 election. While candidates such as Rabiu Kwankwaso, Bukola Saraki and Aminu Tambuwal generated some following, Atiku’s emergence in a relatively rancour-free primary, will serve him well in the general election. A savvy politician, armed with deep pockets and broad networks of influence that span the entire country, he is surely a serious challenger to President Buhari. Attention will now shift to his choice of running mate. The South East geopolitical zone will lay strong claim to the vice presidency, with the PDP hoping that selecting a native of the zone will galvanise votes in a region that is deeply suspicious of Buhari. With Atiku having pledged to govern for just one term (an electoral promise that should be taken with the appropriate level of scepticism), the PDP offers the clearest path to a South East presidency since Alex Ekwueme served as Vice President to Shehu Shagari between 1979 and 1983. For its part, the ruling APC will double down on the corruption accusations that have dogged Atiku for decades. Critics will point out that the APC had no problem with Atiku when he was in their ranks. There is a sense that such accusations will be of limited impact while Atiku will seek to hinge the debate on the economy and public security. The internal dissension within the APC as well as the exodus of several of its leading lights has frayed the coalition that drove its successful quest for power. While a winner is by no means certain, what is certain is that the 2019 election will be keenly contested.
  • While some Cameroonians greeted Kamto’s declaration with cheers, a good number of them remain sceptical about the fate of the country should the constitutional council announce contradictory results – a very real possibility. At the moment, a raft of unofficial results from Cameroon’s nearly 25,000 polling stations have already begun to circulate on social media, and another opposition candidate has held a press conference saying he too may be on course to win, adding to the political tension. Perhaps crucially, the incumbent Biya has been silent. There is also the regional dynamic to consider as the Nigerian government, overstretched domestically as it is, is perhaps the best placed (along with the African Union) to call the various parties in Cameroon to heel. It is in Nigeria’s direct national interest to, as a total breakdown in law and order there will directly affect six Nigerian states in three geopolitical zones.