Investment inflows into Nigeria declined by $460 million from $5.82 billion in the second quarter of 2019 to $5.36 billion in the third quarter, the National Bureau of Statistics said Monday. The Q3 inflow represents a decrease of 7.78 percent when compared to the Q2 figure. The report said the largest amount of capital importation was received through portfolio investment, which accounted for $2.99 billion representing 55.88 percent of total capital importation. This is followed by Other Investments, which accounted for $2.16 billion or 40.39 percent of total capital, while foreign direct investment accounted for $200.08 million or 3.73 percent of total capital imported in the third quarter of this year. Payments group, Visa, said it was paying $200 million for a 20 percent stake in Nigerian company, Interswitch, ahead of a potential London IPO next year. The deal will see Visa becoming a cornerstone investor in the Lagos-headquartered company ahead of a prospective initial public offering in London during the first half of 2020.

President Buhari has shown a “stunning disregard for the rule of law and human rights, ignoring Nigerian judges on at least 40 occasions,” since assuming office in 2015, a legal adviser to Amnesty International, Kolawole Olaniyan, has said. Olaniyan made the claims in a piece titled, ‘Buhari is ignoring Nigerian judges – We must not let him get away with it’ as he also accused the President of treating judges with disdain. He went further to question the sincerity of Buhari’s anti-corruption fight, asserting that the Buhari administration has never obeyed the courts anytime it told him to do something it doesn’t like. The Attorney General of the Federation, Abukabar Malami famously remarked in 2018 that the rule of law is what the authorities determine it to be. He said the Buhari’s government always has explanations for why it should not obey lawful court orders, seemingly replacing binding legal decisions with the vagaries of politics, and obeying decisions whenever they suit it. The public now has the perception that the government will only obey court orders if it gets what it wants. Olaniyan advised that Buhari has to obey the courts as a matter of necessity. “If Nigeria is ever going to comply with its international human rights obligations and commitments, the government has to begin to show respect for Nigerian judges,” he surmised.

Bike-hailing companies have reached an agreement with the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and the Road Transport Employers’ Association of Nigeria (RTEAN) – two of the biggest road transport unions in Nigeria – after months of bickering, to start paying ₦500 for each rider daily within Lagos. Riders affiliated with the startups will buy a ₦500 daily ticket that allows them to operate anywhere in the state without the fear of harassment, media reports quoted sources familiar with the issue. Negotiations have been on for months between the bike hailing firms and the two unions. The unions were alleged to have harassed riders affiliated with ORide, MAX and Gokada for months, forcing them to pay levies to operate in many parts of the state. The unions had originally proposed a ₦1000 ($2.75) daily ticket which was rejected by the startups after a series of meetings. The new agreement was brokered by the Lagos State government, which has stood by as the unions extorted, harassed and beat up bike-hailing riders. As part of the new ticketing arrangement, the NURTW and RTEAN will each receive ₦200 ($0.55), while ₦100 ($0.28) will go to the local government where the ticket was sold. The deal does not provide much relief for the bike-hailing firms as the Lagos State government is still planning to go ahead with its proposed licence for the startups. According to media reports, a special adviser to the Lagos State governor allegedly told the startups, that “after settling with the unions, we will come for our own.” MAX, ORide and Gokada are three of the biggest bike-hailing operators in the country, with over a thousand riders each. The new agreement means each of their riders will pay ₦182,500 ($501.93) to operate in Lagos for 365 days or about ₦182.5 million ($501,935) from each service; a sum nearly eight times bigger than the ₦25 million ($68,758) licence the Lagos Government was proposing in July.

The Defence Headquarters (DHQ) has revealed that it is investigating a report that Turkey is supplying sophisticated weapons to Nigeria’s terror group, Boko Haram. Calling the alleged reports of arms supply as a serious national security issue, Defence Headquarters spokesman, Brigadier-General Onyema Nwachukwu said the matter was receiving attention at the highest levels. On 1 October, an Egyptian media outlet, Ten.tv, reported that Turkey was a major supplier of arms to Boko Haram. This report was picked up by the Christian Broadcasting Network on 14 November. Ten.tv alleged that in 2014 or 2015, an Assistant Executive of the Turkish Airlines, Mehmet Karatas, told Mustafa Varank, an adviser to the Turkish leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, that he felt guilty over the national flag carrier’s arms shipment to Nigeria. Erdogan later dismissed the report as “vile.”

Commentary

  • Critically, the NBS Q3 report showed that only eight states attracted foreign investment during the review period. The downward trend of states not being able to attract investors persisted in Q3; this was reflected in the Q3 capital importation report as 29 states were abandoned by foreign investors. The eight states that got investments were Lagos ($4.97 billion), Abuja-FCT ($381.19 million), Ogun ($7 million), Oyo ($1.71 million), Edo ($830,000), Kaduna ($250,000), Kano ($160,000) and Rivers ($30,000). While this is quite disappointing considering the number of foreign trips made by the President and various state governors in the last four years, there are no surprises here. The most profitable returns in Nigeria for foreign investors are concentrated on the OMO space, where investors are getting up to 17% returns on risk-free USD investments. It is a bonanza. For FDI investments, it is clear that investor confidence in Nigeria is fast approaching new lows. Key drivers of confidence – rule of law, transparency of taxation, consumption, stable trade policy – are on the decline. Investors are simply voting with their money. Perhaps it is time for the government to have a rethink of its strategy and focus on tackling issues like insecurity, power and the infrastructure deficit, which are of huge importance to FDI-minded decision making.

  • The habit of the Buhari administration to cherry-pick which court judgements to obey, depending on how favourable the judgements are to them has been criticised numerous times in this editorial. It entrenches impunity and reduces adherence to the rule of law. While this habit is not unique to the current administration, it has been engaged in it more times than its predecessors while constantly attempting to justify its (in)actions. What Nigeria’s political elite do not appear to realise is that this behaviour has dampened investor confidence in the country and hampers the ability of key economic actors to predict future regulatory and political behaviour – a critical component of stable democracies.

  • Resident unions raising their swords against new tech is not surprising. Across the world, transport employee pressure groups have been pressuring their local councils to challenge ride-hailing businesses which have basically moved their cheese. Just on Monday, the taxi regulator in London announced that it would not extend Uber’s license to operate in the city. However, the right environment for businesses is what is at stake here in Lagos. The second most important function of government, after securing lives and property is to provide an enabling environment where people can legitimately carry on their business. As if the Lagos State government standing by and allowing legitimate, tax-paying businesses to be extorted by a union to which they are not legally required to belong was not bad enough, the government proceeded to legitimise and facilitate what is essentially an extortionist and protectionist racket. It is not only disgraceful but a clear signal to other investors that Lagos is only open for business as long as you are ready to be extorted by everyone who possesses some ability to carry out a threat of violence against your operations. The risk with this move is that many serious investors will decide that Lagos is not worth the trouble.

  • A major point worth considering about the Turkey allegation is the origin of the news. In the current geopolitics of the Middle East, Egypt (read Abdel Fattah el-Sisi), is diametrically opposed to Turkey (read Recep Tayyip Erdoğan) which supported the government of el-Sisi’s predecessor, Mohammed Morsi. Reports about Turkey from Egyptian sources, as a result, should be viewed from that lens. Turkey has sided with Iran and Qatar against Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in the regional game of chess that is the crisis in the Gulf Cooperation Council. However, between 2014 and 2015, the period in which this recording was allegedly made, there were credible accusations of Turkey siding with, or at least turning a blind eye to the activities of some of its nationals in support of the Islamic State, especially the activities of the businessman, Berat Albayrak, Erdoğan’s son-in-law. Arms were seized twice at the ports in Lagos in 2017, and those arms were said to have Turkish origins. Since then, there has been no news about those shipments other than a planned meeting between Nigerian and Turkish officials to discuss the issue. It is important to note though, that the delivery method through the ports contrasts greatly with the theory that Boko Haram and ISWAP receives its weapons across the Sahara and the Sahel, often originating in countries such as Libya and entering through the very porous northern borders. If indeed this is a misinformation campaign by the Egyptians, the objective may be to draw Nigeria and Turkey into a diplomatic row and strain what are strong bilateral relations. It remains to be seen what the investigation by the Nigerian Army will uncover.