On 7 July, the Supreme Court upheld the victory of Gboyega Oyetola, the All Progressives Congress candidate in the Osun governorship election. In a majority judgement of five to two, the country’ highest court confirmed the decision of the Court of Appeal, Abuja which nullified the judgement of the Osun State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal on the grounds that the tribunal was not properly constituted in the number of its panellists. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had declared Oyetola winner of the election after a rerun in September 2018. Ademola Adeleke, the Peoples Democratic Party candidate, filed a petition at the tribunal against INEC and was declared the winner but Oyetola appealed the verdict of the tribunal. Reading the majority judgement, Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour held that the appeal court was right to set aside the proceedings of the tribunal as the failure of Justice Obiora, a member of the tribunal, to attend proceedings on 6 February rendered the judgement a “nullity.” The certified true copy of the tribunal’s judgement was not signed by Obiora.

The governors of Nigeria’s states have said that the payment of petrol subsidies to marketers by the NNPC is unsustainable and a drain on the country’s resources. According to Kayode Fayemi, chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) and Ekiti state governor, the petrol subsidy remains a major drawback on government revenues. Speaking with the NNPC’s new GMD, Mele Kyari, on 10 July, Fayemi said that there is a need to consider a new deal regarding the cost of petrol considering the new reality of low oil revenues and rising government commitments. The total cost of the subsidy in 2016 when oil traded at an average of $48.11 per barrel was around ₦28.6 billion. This rose to ₦219 billion in 2017, and ₦345.5 billion by mid-2018, as the price of oil and domestic PMS consumption rebounded. The call from the NGF is the latest call on the FG regarding the issue after Muhammadu Sanusi, Emir of Kano, last month, asked President Buhari to end petrol subsidies, repeating a line he towed as central bank governor a decade ago.

The police on 9 July said two of its officers were shot by suspected members of the Shi’ite Islamic Movement of Nigeria. A protest by the Shi’ites at the National Assembly turned violent when the protesters tried to force their way into the assembly complex. Witnesses had said at least two of the police officers guarding the assembly complex were shot. The Shiites have been demanding the release of their leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, who has been detained by the government since December 2015. Over 340 Shiites were killed by the army in December 2015 after the army accused the Islamic sect of blocking a road. Anjuguri Manzah, the Abuja police spokesperson, said 40 Shiite protesters were arrested. On 11 July, there was another clash as police fired gunshots and tear gas canisters to disperse the protesters while five Shi’ite members were arrested after the group gathered at the Federal Secretariat in Abuja to protest.

The crisis in central Mali is causing a massive internal displacement of people in the centre and north of the country. The West African country, according to Ute Kollies, Head of the United Nations Bureau of Mali for the coordination of humanitarian affairs, has so far recorded an increase of more than 120,000 IDPs. A significant portion of the recent arrivals at the IDP camp in Senou, outside Bamako, were herders and farmers who were also affected by an Islamist uprising in northern Mali that began in 2012. People have been fleeing to the south of the country due to increased insecurity, putting pressure on the local communities that are supporting them with increasingly scarce resources. This has resulted in a wider deterioration of security in the country, Kollies said, as violence between rival communities has intensified this year. The President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita-led government has pledged to disarm the militias, but instability is still fuelled by the presence of jihadists, who use northern and central Mali as launching pads for their attacks across the Sahel.

Commentary

  • The Osun verdict opens a new vista in the future management of election tribunal issues in Nigeria. Politicians will now see that the decidedly undemocratic methods used in the Osun gubernatorial elections to ensure victory at the polls are sure to be legitimised by simply ensuring the absence of a tribunal judge when an election petition case is up for judgement, with the appellate courts and the Supreme Court effectively rubberstamping this method on the strength of this week’s development. We do not believe this works in the way of strengthening Nigeria’s democracy. Unfortunately, until it reverses itself, the Supreme Court’s pronouncement remains the law of the land.
  • The complaints by the governors was bound to happen, now that the business of elections is over. In multiple editorials we had posited that the current under-recovery regime is unsustainable, while in a research report, we showed how much was probably being made in losses. The reality is that the states tolerated the petrol subsidies for political reasons, and now that the elections are over, those reasons no longer exist. We expect this clamour to increase with time and it is bound to create a sharp divide between a presidency which sees the subsidy regime as an important part of political and economic leverage and state governors who are increasingly hostile to dealing with an increasingly senseless financial burden that shows up in their monthly allocations. Even the new management of the NNPC appears uncomfortable with the subsidy. We can only hope that this leads to the more serious and wider discussion around the restructuring of Nigeria’s political and economic systems.
  • It is important to note that Tuesday’s incident between the police and the Shi’ites was the first in the three and a half years of Zakzaky’s detention that the IMN protestors were the aggressors. This could suggest that the movement has started to use weapons, or that other persons under the cover of the protest carried out the attacks on the policemen. We have, over the years, posited that over time, the more radical elements within the IMN movement will gain the ascendancy as efforts at peaceful protests and a frustrating judicial process have not led to the release of their leader – whose whereabouts remain unknown amid legitimate concerns about his health. We fear that the incidents of this week – which involved simultaneous protests by the group in Lagos, Abuja and Kaduna – might indeed be the first public escalation of this simmering stand-off. What happens from here is presumably a macabre dance that we have witnessed before – the Nigerian state will use an incident such as this to justify extreme force being used to crack down on the group, and then the group will resort to further violence to drive home their demands. We urge the government to do the right thing and obey multiple existing court orders mandating it to release Zakzaky on bail. It is the best way to deescalate this delicate situation.
  • Despite a 2015 peace accord between Mali’s government and some armed groups, peace has remained elusive due to the delay in the implementation of the accord. Added to that, the defeat of ISIS in the Middle East has seen many of its fighters move to Africa’s Sahelian backwaters, strengthening local affiliates of ISIS, as well as al-Qaeda which has since the start of the conflict in 2012, taken advantage of long-standing religious & ethnic tensions to propagate their organisational objectives. Unless there is urgent regional and international action on Mali, the crisis could spread over the vast contiguous region of West and Central Africa, a region full of large swathes of ungoverned space, and risks becoming the launching ground of terrorist attacks within the region and into Europe.