The United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings condemned rising violence across Nigeria and a “lack of accountability” for perpetrators. Agnes Callamard said the country needed urgent action to end the “pressure cooker” of violence that has claimed thousands of lives. Callamard warned about an increased number of attacks and killings over the last five years and said that it was important to prioritise the rule of law and to make it part and parcel of the Nigerian system especially for those living in extreme poverty. If ignored, she warned, its ripple effect will spread throughout the sub-region given the country’s important role on the continent.

Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product declined by 0.16 per cent to 1.94 percent in Q2 2019. This new figure is lower than the 2.10 percent recorded in Q1. The Q1 figure also represented a decline by -0.38 percent points when compared to Q4 2018. Despite the quarter-on-quarter decline, the NBS said GDP grew year-on-year, in real terms, when compared to Q2 2018 which saw GDP growth of 1.50 percent, an increase of 0.44 percent. During the quarter, GDP stood at ₦34.944 million in nominal terms. The performance observed in Q2 2019 follows an equally strong Q1 performance and was aided by stability in oil output. Overall, a total of 15 activities grew faster in Q2 2019 relative to last year, while 13 activities had higher growth rates relative to the preceding quarter. The oil sector saw growth of 5.15 percent y-o-y in Q2 2019 indicating an increase of 6.61 percent points when compared to Q1 2019. The non-oil sector grew by 1.64 percent in real terms during the reference quarter. This was –0.40 percent points lower than recorded in the same quarter of 2018, and -0.83 percent point lower than the Q1 of 2019.

A man was shot dead by police outside Shoprite, Jakande, in the Lekki neighbourhood of Lagos. A witness said he was killed after an angry mob set a police van on fire during a protest on Tuesday. Protesters had stormed the complex following outrage over the attacks on Nigerians based in South Africa. Policemen prevented the protesters from gaining access into the mall, but the protesters lit bonfires and set up barricades around the complex. The incident happened a day after reports of attacks on foreign nationals, including Nigerians, in South Africa, went viral. Bobby Moroe, South Africa’s high commissioner to Nigeria, had denied that there was no fresh case of xenophobia in his country, describing the attacks as “sporadic cases of violence”. Nigeria eventually pulled out of the World Economic Forum in Cape Town.

The ruling All Progressives Congress APC has asked President Buhari to take steps to immediately nationalise telecommunications giant, MTN and other South Africans investments in the country. The party’s chairman, Adams Oshiomhole flanked by executives of the party, accused the South African government of backing the wave of xenophobic attacks on Nigerians and other Africans in the country. The party advocated stringent measures against Multichoice, Standard Chartered Bank, Stanbic Bank and other South African business interests in Nigeria, declared that Africa can no longer be the centrepiece of Nigeria’s foreign policy. Oshiomhole also asked Nigerians to boycott all South African goods and businesses.

South Africa temporarily closed its embassy in Nigeria following violence against South African businesses in reprisal for attacks on foreign-owned stores in Johannesburg, while Nigeria announced plans to evacuate its nationals from South Africa. South African Foreign Affairs Minister Naledi Pandor said on 5 September that the embassy was closed temporarily after threats led to fears for staff safety. The announcement, which signals worsening diplomatic relations between the two African countries, comes after Nigeria introduced plans to evacuate its nationals from South Africa following a wave of attacks on foreigners. It also came a day after Nigeria pulled out of the World Economic Forum (WEF) gathering in Cape Town, South Africa, casting a cloud over initiatives to boost intra-African trade and the country recalled its high commissioner to South Africa, Kabiru Bala. On Tuesday, Nigerians launched what appeared to be reprisals against South African businesses in several cities across the country. Police said dozens were arrested for looting and attacks on South African retail and telecoms firms. Abuja has repeatedly condemned the reprisals, which it insisted could only hurt Nigerians working in the affected firms. Nigerian police said that security had been strengthened around South African businesses.

Commentary

  • Ms Callamard’s condemnation echoes numerous reports from organisations like the Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Nigerian Civil Society Situation Room, and indeed SBM Intelligence, about the failure of Nigeria’s criminal justice system to apprehend and try persons involved in violent crime, and how it creates more violence. The recently concluded general elections are a sad example where hundreds of people were killed between the start of campaigning and the conclusion of the electoral process, and till date not one individual has been arrested, much less charged or convicted, for murder. To make matters worse, the actions of security agencies often end up exacerbating the situation rather than nipping it in the bud due to the use of excessive force and extrajudicial killings. This failure has been linked to a number of internal conflicts in the country, including the Boko Haram insurgency, the pastoral conflict, militancy in the Niger Delta and various communal clashes. It is imperative that the country’s criminal justice system be fixed in order to prevent a further slide into a complete breakdown of law and order, considering the unsustainable poverty and unemployment rates.
  • Despite the celebrations that heralded the end of the recession in 2017, Nigeria never completely came out of the woods. In fact, all the current indicators point to the fact that the country may be heading back into the forest. Following the naira’s devaluation in 2016, the entire banking system’s balance sheet today, in dollar terms, is still smaller than it was five years ago, a state of stasis that dates back at least five years, and perhaps since the last financial crisis. This sub-par growth in GDP has essentially been propped up by the telecoms sector. Despite the government’s talk of economic diversification, growth is now more dependent on the oil sector than ever and manufacturing output is lower than it was in 2015, a remarkable regression. What is more, various trade inhibiting policies enacted in this quarter such as the declining provision of foreign exchange for food imports and closing the land border with the Republic of Benin will further squeeze an already contracting trade sector in the next quarter. Perhaps equally worrisome is the crackdown on remittances from Nigerians living in the US and other jurisdictions which millions of Nigerians almost entirely depend on for their sustenance. Nigerians have to prepare for another round of negative growth.
  • There has been rising frustration among Nigerians with what most see as the failure of the Nigerian government to adequately send a strong message to South Africa. While this has led to increased violent rhetoric for a tit-for-tat action targeting South African-owned businesses, it is worth noting that the situation was easily hijacked by thugs and hoodlums. Like South Africa, Nigeria has a high youth unemployment rate and a wide economic disparity between the large lower class and the middle class. As such, it was inevitable that the reprisal attacks were going to be exploited and stores looted. This is an indication of the time bomb Nigeria is sitting on considering its huge youth bulge and lack of economic opportunities. National leaders typically worry about rising unemployment, especially when coupled with rapid population growth and strong economic, religious and ethnic divisions. In Nigeria, there is the added dimension of unemployability, because of a lack of skills, yet it appears that Nigeria’s leadership at federal, state and local level have chosen to fold their hands until things boil over. Unless these factors are tackled at their roots, starting with a total overhaul of the education system and proper funding, we see these incidents as a glimpse into Nigeria’s future where hordes of unemployed youths who believe there is no hope will look for casus belli to resort to violence more regularly.
  • While we would dismiss the APC’s statement as ordinary rhetoric to pander to the anger of the people, we are convinced that it is important to state unequivocally that is a terrible idea bordering on the very xenophobia rocking South Africa, and it must be done away with without delay. MTN Nigeria is a publicly quoted company listed on the Nigerian Stock exchange with Nigerians as shareholders. Many of the other companies quoted in the APC statement are also listed with Nigerian shareholders. These days Nigeria is, on paper at least, a democracy, so such arbitrary behaviour that was fashionable during the days of military dictatorship where the government could expropriate property by fiat, should not occur to anyone, more so the leadership of the ruling party. The very thought coming from such quarters could very easily set the country further down the course on the road to Zimbabwe. In a nominally capitalist democratic dispensation, property rights are inalienable. Mr Oshiomole will do well to perish these thoughts and deescalate his patently unnecessary rhetoric.
  • Xenophobia in South Africa has been on the rise for over a decade, with nationals of different African countries including Somalia, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Nigerians being at the receiving end. These attacks have persisted for many reasons and often occur in townships which are less affluent and have a higher rate of unemployment than the cities. South Africa suffers not only from a high unemployment rate but also wide racial economic disparities – the result of decades of apartheid where the black majority did not have the same level of educational and economic access as the white minority. Efforts by successive ANC-led governments to address this inequality through schemes such as the Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) programme have met with limited success. A second reason, one that has gained traction in Nigeria, is that the ANC government has not seriously addressed repeated outbreaks of violence. Government officials have made tacit statements in support of these attacks as xenophobic sentiment became a convenient tool to deflect from a slowing economy and high unemployment. Combined with rampant drug abuse, violence has morphed into an acceptable form of political and social engagement, especially among young black South African men. Statistics on other crimes such as rape and murder in the country point a fraying of the social fabric. Over the course of history, foreigners have been a convenient target of hate in difficult economic times. As with previous iterations, convenient scapegoats will not resolve South Africa’s problems.