President Muhammadu Buhari has signed into law the Minimum Wage Repeal and Re-Enactment Act, 2019. The new minimum wage, by the Act, is now ₦30,000. The President assented to the Act on Thursday, mandating all employers of labour across the country to pay workers a minimum of ₦30,000 monthly wage. The National Assembly had submitted the minimum wage bill to the President since March 27 after both chambers passed the bill before the 2019 general elections. Earlier in the week, workers in the Federal Capital Territory had appealed to the President to sign the minimum wage bill. The Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly, Ita Enang, confirmed the development when he briefed State House correspondents in Abuja on Thursday. President Buhari had, in January, sought the approval of ₦27,000 as against the ₦30,000 agreed upon by stakeholders. However, the Senate and the House of Representatives approved the sum of ₦30,000 as the new national minimum wage.

Piracy attacks off Nigeria’s coast decreased to 14 in Q1 2019 compared to 22 incidents recorded in the same period last year, data from the International Maritime Bureau show. The development is as a result of the Nigerian navy’s increased efforts to actively respond to reported incidents by dispatching patrol boats, the London-based body that tracks attacks on sea vessels said. It, however, noted that despite these efforts, Nigerian waters still remain a hotspot for piracy and risky for vessels, especially the port of Lagos where four incidents have been reported in recent months. In providing details on attacks in Nigerian waters, the IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre said that six vessels were boarded, seven vessels were fired upon and one attempted attacks occurred in Q1 2019. No vessels were reported as hijacked for the first time since the first quarter of 1994. In the Gulf of Guinea region, where Nigeria is the prominent country, the IMB reported a high number of piracy and armed robbery attacks at sea, with 22 incidents reported in the first quarter of 2019. The region also accounted for all of the worldwide crew kidnappings as 21 crew members were kidnapped across five separate incidents. Incidents were reported in the coastal countries of Benin, Cameroon, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Nigeria and Togo.

A Nigerian man, Matthew Oguche, and a British woman, Faye Mooney, were shot dead by gunmen who stormed a holiday resort in Nigeria. Oguche and Mooney were on holiday at the Kajuru Castle in Kaduna state on Good Friday, when according to a police statement, “a group armed with dangerous weapons had gained entry to Kajuru Castle and began shooting sporadically, killing them and kidnapping three others.” Police said there had been no claim of responsibility for the incident and the kidnappers were yet to be identified.

On 19 April, the White House announced that US President, Donald Trump, spoke to Libyan eastern commander General Khalifa Haftar, whose forces are attacking the capital Tripoli. During the call, Mr Trump recognised Gen Haftar’s efforts to combat terrorism and secure Libya’s oil and they discussed Libya’s future. Trump’s call suggested that he endorsed Gen Haftar, unlike some of his allies. The day before the American announcement, the UN-backed Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj condemned the “silence” of his international allies amid the assault by Gen Haftar’s forces. Libya has been torn by violence and political instability since long-time ruler Muammar Gaddafi was deposed and killed in 2011.

Commentary

  • With the new Mimimum Wage Act now signed into law, implementation comes to the fore. What the government has not said, is how it will pay for this increase. Recently, the advisory committee organised by the President to develop new strategies for funding the budget submitted its report. Whilst Mr Buhari is yet to release the recommendations of the committee, the idea of an increase in VAT and introduction of taxes on luxury goods has been making the media rounds. While the federal government has borrowed heavily to pay salaries, many state governments were unable to meet their salary commitments for many months at the previous minimum wage level. Perhaps the largest obstacle to funding is the burden of petrol subsidies. The government has a revenue problem already, and it has denied plans to raise VAT or remove petrol subsidy, areas from which it may immediately find new revenue sources. It remains to be seen how this elevated wage bill will be funded across federal and state governments.
  • An analysis of the Q1 numbers for piracy made for sobering reading. In Nigerian waters, there were eight kidnappings and ten of the attacks saw the use of guns. The IMB reported that “pirates were often well armed, violent and have attacked or robbed vessels and kidnapped crew along/far from the coast, rivers, anchorages, ports and surrounding waters.” While the declining rate of piracy incidents in Nigeria and globally in the first quarter is down to the success of more transparency, better communication and increased coordination between vessels and coastal authorities, accounting for 36.9 percent of the global quarterly total alone is an uncomfortable reality which underscores the need for the navy and other coastal management authorities to double down on making Nigerian waters – classified by the IMB as “high risk waters” – safer and more conducive to trade and maritime traffic.
  • The Kajuru attack is the latest indication of how Kaduna has become a high-risk state with communal clashes and rampant cases of kidnappings along the Kaduna-Abuja expressway and in rural and semi-urban communities, often credited to bandits. Although there have been a few military operations launched such as Operation Sharan Daji to eliminate these bandits, it has not achieved much. It is an indicator of how stretched Nigeria’s security forces are, especially in vast spaces of rural areas and the proliferation of illegal arms combined with organised crime. It is curious that there has been no statement from the Kaduna State Government, especially considering the fact that it was the first to break the news of an attack on Fulani communities in February and it is in the middle of a much drive to boost tourist visits to the state’s many natural sites. The official reaction will only serve to undermine the state government’s commitment to promoting tourism as this high profile incident, as well as a general degradation of security, will surely hit the state’s nascent tourism industry.
  • The phone call by President Trump to General Haftar complicates the US position on the Libyan crisis after Secretary of State Pompeo said earlier this month that there is no military solution to the crisis but only a UN-backed negotiation process. It also raises the prospect, again, that US policy in the Middle East and the wider Sahel region is being decided in large part by Riyadh’s priorities, who are backing Haftar. It is possible that the US is hedging its bets and playing a double game of backing both sides as France and Russia are alleged to be pursuing a similar course but following the events following the ouster of Muammar Ghaddafi, there is a need for a cautious approach by foreign powers lest the situation deteriorates into an all-out war, leading to even more instability in the Sahel. On the field meanwhile, Haftar’s forces seem to have underestimated the government’s army’s strength, making the prospects for a prolonged conflict more likely.
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