The Senate confirmed President Buhari’s 43 ministerial nominees after a five-day screening exercise. Buhari had sent the names of his ministerial nominees to the Senate on 23 July 2019, exactly five months after his re-election for a second term in office. On the same day, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, named a total of 69 chairpersons for the Senate standing committees he created. The announcement was made shortly after the lawmakers unanimously voted to embark on annual recess. Senators among the committees loyal to Lawan were given key positions. Some of the committees and their new chairmen include Appropriation which is chaired by Barau Jibrin; Finance, Adeola Olamilekan; Police, Dauda Jika; Defence, Aliyu Magatakarda and Army which will be helmed by Ali Ndume.

The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum pulled out of a roundtable to discuss security matters in Nigeria. In a letter co-signed by Edwin Clark, Pan-Niger Delta Forum leader; Ayo Adebanjo, Afenifere leader; Nnia Nwodo, leader of Ohanaeze Ndigbo; and Pogu Bitrus, leader of the Middle Belt Forum; the forum cited the invitation of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACABAN) by the organisers of the programme as one of the reasons for their withdrawal. The roundtable held from 30-31 August 2019 in Minna, Niger State, is being hosted by Abdulsalami Abubakar, a former military head of state and expected to proffer the way forward for the country’s numerous security challenges. The roundtable will have in attendance all the national security heads, chief of defence staff and notable Nigerians. The SMBLF said they were not comfortable that Gan Allah Fulani Development Association and MACBAN are on the list to attend the roundtable, especially as the first group is unknown to them, and, the lumping of Miyetti Allah, a trade association for cattle herders and whose members have been accused of various violations of rights, including life, across the country. The leaders also said it would have been inappropriate consider nationality organisations in the same vehicle with “trade group as there are organisations for fishermen, farmers, poultry owners and spare parts dealers across the country like such who were not invited”.

The FG has obtained a court order to proscribe the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), whose members have been demanding the release of their leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, and his wife, Zeenah. Justice Nkeonye Maha issued the order in a ruling in which she also designated the activities of the Shi’ite organisation in any part of Nigeria “as acts of terrorism and illegality.” The court restrained “any person or group of persons” from participating in any form of activities involving or concerning the IMN “under any name or platform” in Nigeria. The court, in completing the process of the group, has ordered the Attorney-General of the Federation “to publish the order proscribing the respondent, IMN, in the official gazette and two national dailies.” Justice Maha gave the order following an ex parte application by the FG. The Shiites have for over two years been regularly taking to the streets to demand the release of their leader and his wife. The couple has been in the custody of the Department of State Services since December 2015 after a bloody clash between members of the group and soldiers in the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, in Zaria, Kaduna.

Ghana will seek new terms for deals that account for almost half of the country’s power supplies as the government tries to plug a revenue shortfall while pledging to increase spending. Delivering a review of the country’s 2019 budget to lawmakers on 29 July, Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta said the country will seek an immediate review of power-procurement deals that lifted the country’s installed capacity to almost double its current peak-demand needs of about 2,700 megawatts. Ghana is paying about 2.5 billion cedis ($463 million) per year for power that it doesn’t need and will pay as much as $850 million from 2020 for excess gas.

Commentary

  • It was hoped that a strong ministerial list would spur positive investor sentiment and wider optimism with the political direction of the administration. However, this list (the largest in Nigeria’s history) almost certainly guarantees that Mr Buhari’s second term in office would be an object lesson in rewarding political loyalists, a complete reversal of the sentiment which the president expressed in 2015, when he famously referred to ministers as “noisemakers.” Even after the rubber stamp show that was the Senate’s confirmation of all 43 candidates in just 35 hours of legislative proceedings, the ministers are yet to be assigned portfolios leaving everyone guessing if the few technocrats in the bunch will be assigned to areas where they can make positive contributions. The legislature has hardly been a leading light compared to the executive. The committees which are supposed to provide oversight functions to key government ministries and departments are now essentially trophies to Senators who are compensated based on such metrics as party loyalty and longevity in the upper house. The Ninth Senate has chosen to have a slightly higher number of committees than the Eighth Senate, and crucially, has maintained the tradition of rewarding close allies of the Senate President with the leadership of highly-sought-after committees. It is worth noting that the 69 committees are full committees, and ad-hoc committees have not been constituted. Each committee will draw pay and sitting allowances. Coming a few weeks after the Speaker of the House of Representatives chose to appoint 27 special advisers, some to obviously meaningless portfolios, we are forced to conclude that 2019 – 2023 will be yet another illustration of our persistent problem with the size of Nigeria’s federal government.
  • The protest against Miyetti Allah’s inclusion in the security roundtable by the SMBLF speaks to two things. First, it is a reminder of the mistrust that pervades the country regarding the Pastoral Conflict and just how much work needs to be done in that aspect. More importantly, it is an indication of the blurred area in which MACBAN operates where they are both a trade association for cattle herders and a Fulani socio-cultural organisation. Whether meetings such as the botched roundtable will achieve its stated goals and if its recommendations will be implemented by the government with who lies the responsibility of securing the country, remains unclear. It is difficult to remember a time where the issues tabled at this roundtable have not been topical issues in Nigerian politics; the only differences appear to be that the loudest complainants at any given time closely tracks the ethnicity and region of origin of the sitting president. A long-lasting solution will be one that makes it difficult to politicise issues of insecurity.
  • Unlike in the IPOB proscription in late 2017, the letter of the Terrorism Prevention Act (2011) was followed against IMN in that the Attorney General’s office applied to a judge, and the judge pronouncing the IMN proscribed. However, it is important to note that this law only empowers the judge to do so in the event the organisation carries out acts of terrorism. Section 1, Subsection 3 of the law clearly excludes demonstrations and stoppage of work from what may be construed as ‘acts of terrorism,’ hence the basis for this legal declaration is open to question. Further complicating an already muddled picture, conflicting statements from IMN spokesman, Ibrahim Musa, and Ibraheem El-Zakzaky’s daughter on the group’s suspension of protests serve as worrying evidence of increasing factionalisation within the group. While the IMN may have legitimate concerns about the value of engaging with the judicial system, considering that the courts have ordered that their leader be released on bail multiple times and the government has each time refused to obey, we urge them to stay the course announced by their spokesman, Ibrahim Musa, and approach the courts in order to challenge this proscription.
  • Ghana is in a bit of a tight bind. It just exited an extended credit-facility programme with the International Monetary Fund it entered into in 2015 after years of overspending. That measure was part of a raft of plans to cut expenses and increase revenue after Ghana recorded a budget deficit of 3.3% of GDP in H1 2019, against a target of 2.9% of GDP. The outlook for the year has been revised to a shortfall of 4.5% of GDP, from an initial target of 4.2% of GDP and compares with 3.7% in 2018. While West Africa’s second-largest economy passed legislation capping the budget deficit to 5% of GDP in 2018, the country has a track record of missing fiscal targets in election years and presidential and parliamentary ballots hold in December 2020. Despite these challenges, the IMF expects the country to be the fastest-growing economy in the world this year. If Ghana is to avoid the fiscal challenges that its bigger cousin, Nigeria currently faces, it must ensure that the pace of revenue growth match increasing debt-service costs and it accelerates its economic diversification efforts away from volatile commodity exports. History offers little assurance that this is likely.