The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, has carried out Executive Order No. 6 by freezing the accounts of persons currently facing trial for corruption across the country. The order, signed by President Buhari in October, provides for the “preservation of suspicious assets connected with corruption and other relevant offences”. This was confirmed by Olisa Metuh, who declared on Tuesday that all his accounts had been frozen by the Federal Government.

Following the recent steady decline in the international oil price, Nigeria may have started reviewing developments in the global oil market in order to adopt a new oil price benchmark for its 2019 budget. The country’s ₦8.6 trillion budget was based on a $60 per barrel benchmark at a time international oil prices hovered around $75p/b. With this in mind, the DG of the Budget Office, Ben Akabueze, said the FG is willing to review the price projection downwards if it becomes clear that it is no longer sustainable. The price of oil escalated to about $86p/b before it began a downward trend seven weeks ago closing at a year low of $59p/ last weekend. It increased marginally to $61 as at Monday, which is still a threat to the 2019 budget, especially as a gap of at least $10 is required between the budget benchmark and prevailing oil price.

Nigeria’s Agriculture Promotion Policy, aimed at attaining food security, import substitution, job creation and economic diversification by 2020, has been described as a failure due primarily to the lack of the political will to execute it. The importation of more than three million metric tonnes of rice into the country in 2018 and the drop in local rice production from 2016 to 2018 compared to the situation in 2015 as divulged by the US Department of Agriculture’s World Markets and Trade, are confirmation of the APP’s failure. Francis Nwilene, the Country Representative and Regional Coordinator of Africa Rice Centre, Ibadan, to further make bare the failure of the policy, said Nigeria’s demand for rice per year hovers around 7.8 million metric tonnes, while production still hovers around 5.8 million metric tonnes.

Days after a deadly ambush resulted in the deaths of a number of policemen on November 29, the police have not released the names of the deceased cops saying that it has been unable to access the forest and recover their bodies. On Wednesday, the police announced that 16 officers were killed. Attempts by both the police and the army to access the communities were rebuffed and it is now hoped that the Air Force will conduct air strikes to dislodge the bandits and clear the way for search and rescue teams to enter the area.

Commentary

  • On the reported implementation of EO6 on some people, that the government has been able to freeze the property of private citizens on the suspicion of corruption, not a conviction following the judicial process, is in violation of the fundamental property rights enshrined in Nigeria’s Constitution. Away from the obvious legal complications of Executive Order No. 6, we remarked in October that politically, the order’s issuance so close to elections speaks to a possibly punitive political intent which cannot be ignored. This order is the summary of the current administration’s stated commitment to the rule of law and electoral platitudes should not be allowed to skew the reality – this is not the law and order governance most Nigerians voted for in 2015.
  • In April 2017, President Buhari launched the Economic Growth and Recovery Plan (EGRP) for 2017 – 2020. The plan’s key assumptions included oil price of $52 per barrel within the period, a steady rise in output from 1.8 million barrels per day to an all-time high of 2.5 million barrels per day in 2020, and average GDP growth rate of 4.62% per annum over the plan period. The reality is that only the oil price projections were in the green, hence the eagerness to adjust the benchmark price to $60 for the 2019 budget. Unfortunately, that too has tanked sending both the proposed budget and EGRP into oblivion. With this background in mind, making an adjustment is the fiscally responsible thing to do, and we hope that the National Assembly will cooperate with the Executive when the proposal is made. However, this brings the timeline of the already impending fiscal crisis even closer. Nigeria and its government must move away from a habit that emphasises sharing from a shrinking pot, to growing the size of the pot. It is the only way Nigeria can avert a fiscal crisis in 2019.
  • It has long been the norm for every administration to launch its own agricultural policy. The Jonathan administration had the Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA) which the present administration replaced with the Agricultural Promotion Policy which had three main objectives – reduce food importation, create jobs and increase foreign earnings. A major criticism of the government is its unwillingness to follow through with its plans of creating innovative ideas and backing that up with funding to drive agricultural growth, especially when oil prices began to recover. In addition, the government failed to tackle the herdsmen-farmer crisis which rendered the country’s most productive farmlands idle and forced skilled farmers into the unemployment market.
  • No fewer than 50 officers dead, and the police are being reticent with the details, this after the absolute scandal that was Metele. As of three days after the killings, the police HQ was reported to be ignoring desperate families eager to know the fate of their loved ones. Morale has plummeted; and the security authorities cannot expect other officers to willingly put their lives on the lines given such a shabby treatment. We also note that this ambush became public knowledge a few days after a report was published in two national dailies about fears over a large-scale mutiny in the armed forces. The security leadership is handling the welfare of their men with levity, and there is only so far you can push people. Having said that, the situation in much of Northern Nigeria leaves a lot to worry about. Asides the large population of uneducated people who still believe in the concept of the Mahdi, thus making them vulnerable to demagoguery, another issue is the vast expanses of ungoverned spaces, which make the region vulnerable to groups that can effectively live outside the bounds of the law, and continually mount hit and run raids.