A Nigerian Army battalion, 157 Task Force Battalion in Metele, Abadam Local Government Area in Borno State was attacked last Sunday by insurgents. The unit’s commander and dozens of soldiers were killed in the attack, and the terrorists made away with a large cache of arms, ammunition and military equipment during the attack. Bodies of fallen troops were still being recovered and evacuated from the scene as military sources were unable to tell the number of Boko Haram casualties. Military sources said the fallen commander was a lieutenant colonel, who had overseen the unit for a long time. This attack is seen as a setback for the military in the effort to push terrorists further out of Nigeria’s northeastern flank.

The Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly came under attack on Monday, by people who the ruling PDP in the state claimed to be thugs hired by Idongesit Ituen, a member of the State House who recently defected to the APC. The attack on the AKHA happened a few hours after Ini Ememobong, the spokesman of the PDP in the state, issued a statement warning of an impending attack. The PDP spokesman had said that the attack would happen to prevent Ituen’s seat from being declared vacant. Ituen, and four other defectors on their part, elected Nse Ntuen as the new speaker after the speaker, Luke Onofiok, declared their seat vacant. On Wednesday, the police sealed off the House of Assembly premises.

Nigeria’s government has approved a ₦60 billion subsidy to support rice industry in the country in a bid to boost agriculture in the country and diversify the economy. Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh, announced this Friday, after a meeting of the National Food Security Council which had President Buhari in attendance. Ogbeh however was at pains to differentiate the rice subsidy intervention fund from what currently obtains in the oil sector, saying the government has set up a committee which also comprises of the Finance ministry, to loan money to the millers, farmers and distributors at a very low interest rate, as a form of cheaper credit to do their business that should impact on the price of rice in the market.

Terragon Group, a Nigerian consumer data analytics firm has acquired Asian mobile marketing company Bizense in a cash and stock deal. The deal was announced last week, but more details emerged this week. Bizense, currently operating under its proprietary, Adatrix platform, is based in Singapore, with operations in India and Indonesia. Bizense, a platform designed to monitor “mobile ad platform for Telco’s, large publishers, and [e-commerce] ad networks” The company lists audience analytics, revenue optimisation and white label SSP services among its client offerings. Terragon’s CEO would not divulge the acquisition value, saying only that it consisted of “a combination of cash and stocks, with the actual amount not disclosed.

Commentary

  • The incident in Metele is another in a long list of attacks by terrorists against the Nigerian military this year. The ISWAP faction of Boko Haram has been attacking military installations with frightening successes, killing soldiers and carting away ammunition. These should alarm the Nigerian government as it strengthens the terrorists. Unfortunately, the government, and indeed most of Nigeria outside of Borno, is so focused on next year’s elections, that few seem to take notice of trends in the region where insurgents are obliterating communities, and hurting troop morale. Casualty counts are escalating rapidly, and it appears that ISWAP is probing defences, and preparing for a push to take over territory, or at least, make it uneasy for the Nigerian state to have control over same territory.
  • Akwa Ibom is shaping up to become one of the main political battlegrounds in the South South in the quest for electoral supremacy in 2019. This week’s development at the state House of Assembly, while not the first confrontation between the major parties in the state, represents an escalation of the cold war that pits a PDP incumbency that stretches back to 1999 against an ascendant APC looking to make key southern states with a vibrant opposition competitive in the election race to “one-quarter of the votes cast at the election in each of at least two-thirds of all the States in the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja” required by the Constitution. In this regard, states such as Bayelsa, Cross River, Imo and Rivers, as well as Akwa Ibom are crucial to President Buhari’s path back to Aso Rock. The PDP in Akwa Ibom know this, hence the cries about the redeployment of the state’s federally appointed police commissioner, and accusations of interference in the state’s affairs or what Nigerian politicians often dolorously refer to as ‘federal might’. The political situation in Akwa Ibom is unlikely to be settled, a development made all the more ironic considering that the latest escalation happened on the week of the birthday anniversary of the state’s much loved former governor and one of the founding fathers of the PDP, Victor Attah.
  • One thing common with every Nigerian government are the various schemes which they put in place to “alleviate poverty”. Another thing they have in common is that these schemes tend to always fail. We have found it impossible to pinpoint one such scheme that has been a medium or long term success. The best run “poverty alleviation” programme currently around is the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund, but the jury is out as to how it will be run in the medium to long term. The quickest example of the typical Nigerian “poverty alleviation programme” is the petroleum subsidy which started out with good intentions but has become Nigeria’s single largest economic problem. Another example is the Anchor Borrowers Scheme (established in 2015), which had the same basic principles as the proposed rice subsidy, but failed woefully mainly due to late distribution of seeds, chemicals and fertilisers. Where they were distributed, the inputs were substandard or in some cases had even expired. The Anchor Borrowers Scheme was even more tragic in that it failed as an opportunity to improve financial inclusion. The truth is that these schemes are always set up first and foremost to reward party loyalists with contracts, and as long as the objectives of the schemes are insincere they will never be successful.
  • The first positive about the Terragon story is that it is very positive news that a wholly Nigerian company has acquired a foreign (non-African) firm as there are not many examples to point to. Terragon, which focuses on connecting businesses to mobile phone users across Africa recently raised $5 million in equity funding. The acquisition of Bizense will give Terragon control of its intellectual property assets globally, enabling the latter to further adapt and integrate its marketing technology software for financial services institutions and consumer brands across Africa. This is great news for the future of Nigerian business.