During the All Progressives Congress’s emergency caucus meeting on Monday, President Buhari said that anyone who dares to snatch any ballot box during tomorrow’s polls may be embarking on such an unlawful act for the last time in his life. Buhari also directed the security authorities to deal ruthlessly with anyone involved in ballot box snatching. The President’s statement, coming a day after a Nigeria Customs Service officer shot a man over a ₦5000 ($14) spat has drawn widespread condemnation.

The governor of Kaduna state, Nasir El-Rufai has said that no less than 130 people have been killed in Kajuru local government area in attacks on the Fulani ethnic group. According to El Rufai, the settlements affected include Ruga Bahago, Ruga Daku, Ruga Ori, Ruga Haruna, Ruga Yukka Abubakar, Ruga Duni Kadiri, Ruga Shewuka and Ruga Shuaibu Yau. However, the Christian Association of Nigeria, the National Emergency Management Agency, a Senator from Kaduna state, and a former chairman of Nigeria’s Human Rights Commission has disputed the authenticity of the governor’s claims. Ishaya Chonoko, the NEMA zonal coordinator for the North-West told the Punch that while an attack did happen, it was days before the state government reported it and that 11 people were killed.

The Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria has ordered its members to reduce the price of petrol in order to ease some of the burden on travellers during the rescheduled elections in the country. The IPMAN said its members should cut the price from ₦145 per litre to ₦140. The association’s National President, Chinedu Okoronkwo gave the instruction in a statement issued through the Chairman of the Kano chapter of IPMAN, Bashir Dan-Malam following Saturday’s last-minute postponement of presidential and National Assembly elections by INEC. The marketers are expected to comply with the directive from February 20 to February 25.

The European Commission has added Nigeria to a blacklist of countries who pose a threat because of their lax controls on terrorism financing and money laundering. Countries on the list include Saudi Arabia, Panama, and another 23 jurisdictions. The move, which has been criticised by several EU countries including the United Kingdom who maintain strong economic ties with the listed countries, is part of a crackdown on money laundering after several scandals at major European. banks. The commission said it added jurisdictions with “strategic deficiencies in their anti-money laundering and countering terrorist financing regimes”. The new countries on the list are Libya, Botswana, Ghana, Samoa, the Bahamas and the four United States territories of American Samoa, US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Guam. Others are Afghanistan, North Korea, Ethiopia, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia and Yemen.

Commentary

  • While there have been attempts by APC supporters to justify and defend President Buhari’s statement, the reaction of the party’s National Leader, Bola Tinubu, where he attempted to declare it a misunderstanding and an impossibility, is a take that reflects the real gravity of such a statement coming from a sitting President. Military chiefs taking a cue and insisting they will shoot alleged ballot box snatchers (the COAS later said that a Court of Appeal judgement precludes the military from electoral duty) is disheartening. The President’s statement, coming the day after the Customs Service failed to apologise for its officer shooting a man in cold blood, indicates that we are set up for a violence-strewn election. Nigeria likes to put forward the appearance of being a nation governed by laws. The law is clear on how ballot box incidents – which have been on a steady decline since 2007 – should be handled and the President and his supporters will be well advised to take note.
  • In Kajuru, as independent sources have verified the killing in the area, it is becoming increasingly clearer that first there was an attack in which 11 members of the Adara ethnic group were killed, followed by a reprisal. Unfortunately, the initial attack was not reported by Governor El Rufai and this neglect has ended up further politicising the situation. It is disheartening that the unfortunate death of Nigerians to wanton violence, violence the government has done incompetently little to resolve, is now being used as a political tool. The life of a single Nigerian is too precious to lose, and government at all levels should be ashamed that killings like this continue to happen not just in Kaduna but across large swathes of the North West, North East, North Central and in parts of the South-South. Zamfara has become a killing field; there are routine tit-for-tat attacks in Taraba; an army unit engaged cattle rearers in Makurdi, Benue on Wednesday; and in the Ndokwa area of Delta, there have been regular killings blamed on herdsmen, followed by protests. At least three this year so far. This security crisis is the biggest failure of this government.
  • The IPMAN announcement for a petrol price reduction met with criticism and scepticism as a video polling the reaction of Nigerians to the announcement suggests. This was expected. Nigerian voters have shown themselves to be more discerning, and measures like this are recognised as nothing more than political gimmickry. In addition, IPMAN announcing a unilateral price drop as a political gesture is perhaps the clearest expression that petrol prices have been artificially kept low. This is far from the only effort at political tokenism voters have witnessed during this election cycle – on Wednesday, the President ordered the payment of February public sector wages, a week early; while the government declared Friday a public holiday “to enable citizens to return to their polling units.” This is not what most citizens desire. Rather they want a real, better life. The candidate who wins tomorrow will do well to take note.
  • This action by the European Union is a blow to the Buhari administration’s stated anti-corruption stance. Whilst his actions have been praised by some other African leaders, many within and outside the continent have pointed out that these actions were not yielding results – no high profile convictions is the most commonly cited example. What seems to have happened is that corrupt practices have simply been driven underground rather than eradicated. Nigeria’s corruption problems require the attendant political will to tackle issues at an institutional level, which Mr Buhari does not appear to have.