More than a week after a request was made under the Freedom of Information Act by the Punch newspaper, the Code of Conduct Bureau has failed to respond to a request for the asset declaration forms of some notable members of the Buhari administration. The newspaper also requested a list of political office holders who have failed to submit their asset forms, and this was not replied as well. The CCB refused to supply the requested information nor did it give reasons why it refused as laid out under the provisions of the FOI Act.

An arbitration tribunal sitting in London has awarded an $8.9 billion fine against the federal government in favour of Process and Industrial Developments Limited, a British Virgin Island-based engineering and project management firm. The firm had in the previous week initiated moves to recover a judgement debt of $6.6 billion in damages plus $2.3 billion in uncollected interest, which was calculated at $1.2 million a day, from the FG over a failed power project for which the government signed a 20-year agreement with the foreign firm in 2010. According to the lead judgement by Lord Hoffman, P&ID can enforce the award against Nigeria by seizing its assets in the United Kingdom, if it fails to pay the judgement fine before 15 February.

The Court of Appeal in Port Harcourt has granted a stay of execution on the judgement of a lower court which nullified the primaries of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State. The Appeal Court ruling was delivered on Monday in Port Harcourt. The ruling also put on hold an order which restrained the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from having the names of APC candidates on the ballots in the forthcoming general elections in the state. APC supporters broke into wild jubilation in Port Harcourt, following the court ruling. “We have always said that the wheel of justice may grind slowly, sometimes annoyingly slowly, but surely justice comes ultimately. We believe that today’s judgement has vindicated APC in Rivers State,” the APC Rivers spokesperson, Chris Finebone, said in a statement in response to the ruling.

Amnesty International has said that ISWAP has killed more than 60 people in the town of Rann, Borno State. The killings occurred after the group attacked the town on 28 January and forced Nigerian troops present there to abandon the town. The terrorists then attacked the refugee camp in the area, destroying hundreds of structures and killing people who tried to escape. The Nigerian Army quickly issued a denial stating that Rann was never abandoned by the army, nor did Boko Haram launch an attack on 28 January. However, eyewitnesses and refugees arriving in Maiduguri from Baga insist that ISWAP retains control of the fishing town. While the military has taken over the outpost in Mile 4, the town itself, according to the escapees, is firmly under the control of the terrorists, who search anyone going in and out of the town without molesting them.

Commentary

  • The drama between the Punch and the CCB represents the latest indication of the current administration’s selective commitment to the rule of law. The irony of a CCB whose tribunal famously responded to a letter against Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen – an official who is no favourite of the President – in a matter of hours while ignoring a legal request for information that could potentially tar the government’s leading lights is inescapable. While it is worth noting that the last administration had little regard for FOI requests, this government’s opacity and its strident efforts to frustrate any effort that would shed a light on the inner workings of governance has been unprecedented. With the presidential vote scheduled to happen eight days from the time of this publication, this conflicting behaviour will not be lost on many voters.
  • The judgement against Nigeria is an unfortunate situation. According to court papers, the judgement debt arose from the country’s failure to perform its contractual obligations under a gas supply and processing agreement it signed with P&ID in January 2010 to generate electricity for Nigeria using natural gas, which is currently being flared. However, in April 2015, P&ID accepted Nigeria’s repudiation of the agreement and subsequent offer to settle the dispute for $850 million. The Goodluck Jonathan administration chose not to make the payment so close to handing over to the Muhammadu Buhari administration in May 2015, and the new administration rejected the $850 million settlement, thus allowing the issue snowball. Government is a continuum and the Buhari administration should have honoured the agreements reached by its predecessor especially considering its predecessor inherited this contract and negotiated a settlement on a liability that was created before it took power. That the Buhari administration refused to honour it, and then did not diligently pursue a new deal is a petty move that has now caused a liability far exceeding any the country has ever incurred.
  • The earlier nullification of the Rivers APC primaries, including the governorship primary, followed a legal battle between a faction loyal to serving senator, Magnus Abe, and a faction loyal to federal transportation minister and former state governor, Rotimi Amaechi. The APC national leadership is backing Mr Amaechi’s faction which produced the party’s governorship candidate in the state, Tonye Cole. There are two points to note – the first is that this ruling has eliminated the greatest threat to peace and security in the state, as no serious observer expected the APC to comply with the lower court’s decision come Election Day. This does not however, preclude the possibility of violent confrontations in parts of the state. The second point is that from Aso Rock’s perspective, the path to re-election has auto-corrected somewhat. The South-South states of Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, and Rivers – the region’s biggest economy – are crucial to President Buhari’s path to securing “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” as required by the Constitution, even if he almost certainly won’t win any of them. For these reasons, there were cheers from broom-wielding supporters in Port Harcourt, as well as in Abuja.
  • The military routinely denies claims made by humanitarian organisations and independent reporters on the security and humanitarian situations in the North East even when there is clear evidence to the contrary. This has made it difficult for outsiders to get a clear picture of conditions on the ground and prepare the appropriate assistance. The real picture is that ISWAP, especially, continues to gain strength with each attack, and is slowly increasing the territory that it controls. In some of those places, it has become a de facto government. It appears that the military high command does not have a response to this resurgence. The strategy of fortifying Maiduguri and the larger towns while abandoning the countryside is clearly failing, emboldening the terrorists to consolidate their positions and launch new attacks, slowly working their way towards Maiduguri. It is vital that the military switches to a search and destroy strategy, but only after resolving issues around troop morale and poor equipment.