Nigeria’s inflation rate rose to 11.85 percent in November 2019, up from October’s 11.6 percent, and the highest level since April 2018. This rising rate is driven by food prices which continued to rise following Q3’s border closures. Food inflation rose to 14.5 percent from 14.1 percent in October. The price of imported rice, Nigeria’s preferred staple, has risen since August after President Buhari ordered the closure of the country’s land borders with neighbouring countries. The rise in was also caused by increases in the prices of other foods like bread, cereals, oils and fats, meat, potatoes, yam and other tubers, and fish. On a month-on-month basis, the food sub-index increased by 1.25 percent in November 2019, down by 0.08 percent points from 1.33 percent recorded in October 2019. The International Monetary Fund warned last month that Nigeria will experience further inflationary pressures due to excess liquidity in the banking system, driven by negative real yields on short-term government bonds. The Central Bank of Nigeria has held its benchmark rate at 13.5 percent, saying the impact of the country’s border closures on prices will be “reactionary and temporary.”

The Federal High Court in Abuja has ordered the transfer of the Soku oilfield from Bayelsa to Rivers, declaring Nigeria’s second-largest economy as the field’s rightful owner following a lawsuit instituted by the state. Justice Inyang Ekwo ordered the National Boundary Commission to rectify the error in the 11th edition of its Administrative Map produced in 2002, which designated San Bartholomew River as the boundary between the two states, instead of River Santa Barbara. The NBC was said to have, in a letter dated 3 July 2002, in response to the Rivers State Government’s protest, admitted its mistake and promised to rectify it in the 12th edition of the administrative map. The Rivers state government filed a suit against the Attorney-General of Bayelsa and the Attorney-General of the Federation before the Supreme Court in 2009 after the NBC failed to rectify the mistake. The Supreme Court in 2012 ruled in favour of Rivers and ordered the rectification of the error. By August 2019, when the mistake had yet to be corrected, the Rivers state government instituted a suit before the Federal High Court in Abuja solely against the NBC, seeking an order of mandamus compelling it to correct its error. The judge also ordered that the judgment be served on the relevant statutory bodies, including the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission and the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation for them to immediate re-compute the amount of oil revenue accruable to Rivers with the transfer of the Soku oil field to it.

Borno State Governor, Babagana Zulum, has appealed to the Nigerian Army to reclaim three Local Government Areas of the state – Marte, Kukawa, and Abadam – still under the control of a faction of Boko Haram. The governor made the appeal when he received the Minister of Defence, Major General Bashir Magashi (rtd) at the Government House in Maiduguri. Zulum expressed worry about keeping thousands of people, especially in camps with no source of livelihood, which he said was a ready-made material for Boko Haram insurgents on recruitment missions in villages. Magashi, who visited at a time when the activities of the insurgents appear to be thriving around the Lake Chad Basin, told Governor Zulum that he was in Borno to appraise the operations that would shape future decisions in the counter-insurgency war in the North East.

19 cattle herders were killed Saturday in a gun battle between Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen, outside Fuhe village, near Ngala, Borno State. Civilian militia sources and residents said that the Fulani herders, besieged by a spate of armed attacks targeting their cattle, pursued Boko Haram, sparking a fierce gunfight between the two groups. Bodies of the slain herders were taken to the police by men of the anti-jihadist militia, the leader Umar Kachalla said. The herders decided to pursue the jihadists and fight them after they repelled an attack by Boko Haram fighters who invaded the Fuhe village to steal livestock. The herdsmen killed one of the insurgents but were subdued by the better-armed Boko Haram gunmen. Boko Haram then returned to the village and burnt homes and food supplies while herds fled, Ngala resident Abubakar Yusuf, who saw the dead bodies at the police station, said.

Commentary

  • We expect that Nigeria’s inflation rate will continue to rise sharply as the effects of the artificial scarcity created by the border closure policy continue to show up in the markets and hit the pockets of ordinary Nigerians. Despite the assurances of the government and the CBN that the inflation is temporary and will soon end, it is unlikely that will happen until local production of the items driving the rise in inflation meets demand, something the country does not have the capacity to do in the short to medium term. Inflation will continue to outstrip Nigerian Treasury Bill yields, while the USD based OMO market will continue to trend above inflation. The current policy potpourri is perhaps only understood by the CBN and other policymakers within the government. One thing is certain to us though, their policy missteps will further impoverish Nigerians and will manifest in an increase not just in the number of extremely poor people, but in crimes and other social problems.

  • The judgement is unlikely to change Bayelsa’s revenue allocation status as it continues to be recognised as an oil-producing state, unlike the similar judgement by the same court in 2012 that handed the oil wells located in Cross River to Akwa Ibom, making the former a non-oil-producing state. However, the NBC’s refusal to enforce a decision of the Supreme Court for seven years until they were compelled by mandamus raises questions about the rule of law in a country where government agencies have increasingly shown a willingness to choose which court judgements to abide by. It is a similar state of affairs at the Bureau of Public Enterprises whose head has been ordered to spend 30 days in jail by the Federal High Court for contempt after the Bureau refused to obey a 2012 Supreme Court judgement regarding the sale of a government-owned company, the Aluminum Smelter Company of Nigeria. It is also the same matter with the DSS which has infamously refused to release many high-profile detainees such as the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, Shiite leader Ibrahim El-Zakzaky and more recently, journalist and former presidential candidate, Omoyele Sowore. The Nigerian government, at all levels, must decide if it wants to be trusted by serious players, and the most important signal it can send for this is conformity to the rule of law. Without this, very few people will invest seriously in Nigeria.

  • Governor Zulum’s comments are the first time a highly-placed government official has openly admitted that Boko Haram controls territory in the Lake Chad Basin. It is a huge reversal from 2015 where territory under the control of the terrorist group was seized by the Nigerian military. However, a change in strategy after the split in the group has seen the insurgent, especially the ISWAP faction, gradually regain control of their former territory. Their focused attacks of the military coincide with numerous problems plaguing the army – insufficient equipment, low morale, the prolonged stay of troops without rotation, etc. Over the past year, hundreds of soldiers have been killed and military equipment lost to the terrorists, just as happened last week when 15 people, including a policeman, were killed and vehicles loaded with weapons captured. It also bears noting that the Nigerian government has maintained an uninspiring silence over the conflict and the losses suffered by the military, creating the impression that there is no political will to press on with the conflict. It appears that senior government figures believe that by not talking about it, the administration will not suffer any reputational damage in light of its bogus claim from December 2015 that it had defeated Boko Haram. This behaviour could not be more wrong-headed.

  • This clash between Boko Haram insurgents and Fulani herders must be understood within the context of three dynamics. First, it speaks to the larger problem of a weak Nigerian state, which has given rise to both groups’ engaging in violence, albeit with contrasting motivations and objectives; revolving around protecting their herds from rustlers and also settling feuds with groups they clash with, for the herders, and the desire to create a caliphate in the region for the insurgents. The second dynamic is the split in the insurgents’ ranks. The Boko Haram faction attacks civilians indiscriminately and is most likely responsible for this attack. The ISWAP faction, on the other hand, mostly attacks hard, often military targets. Thirdly, the core of the Boko Haram group being of Kanuri stock, an attack on a Fulani population introduces a two-hundred-year-old ethnic dimension to the conflict, well beyond the current animus between the two factions. We may be seeing the makings of a new vista of ethnic attacks and counter-attacks as a subset of the larger Boko Haram insurgency in the North East, as there is a high probability of reprisals.