Nigeria’s national security adviser, Babagana Monguno, has issued a warning memo to all service chiefs to desist from taking further directives from President Muhammadu Buhari’s Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari. Monguno had accused Abba Kyari of undue interference on matters bordering on national security. According to Premium Times, Monguno said Kyari’s directives to service chiefs were sometimes issued without the knowledge or approval of the president, a practice he alleges has added to the government’s failure to contain insecurity. The retired major-general had said in the letter on 9 December 2019 that the Chief of Staff is not a presiding head of security, neither is he sworn to an oath of defending the country. He added that Kyari as presiding over meetings with service chiefs and heads of security organisations as well as ambassadors and high commissioners to the exclusion of the NSA and/or supervising ministers constitute a violation of the Constitution and directly undermine the authority of President. Monguno’s letter comes as insecurity returns to centre stage as a major cause for worry among Nigerians, with recent attacks linked to bandits, kidnappers, armed robbers and insurgents across the country.

The NNPC’s boss, Mele Kyari, has said that Nigeria lost about $750 million (₦268.5 billion) to crude oil theft last year. Speaking about the increased activities of oil thieves and pirates, Kyari said that any threat to the NNPC’s operations was a direct threat to the very survival of Nigeria because of the strategic role of the corporation as an enabler of the economy. Other security challenges facing the corporation include the vandalism of oil and gas infrastructure and the kidnapping of personnel as there exists a deep connection between the various shades of insecurity challenges. He added that all the activities on oil facilities were all linked to what was happening in the Gulf of Guinea and the entire maritime environment. According to the NNPC Chief Operating Officer, Downstream, Yemi Adetunji, the Gulf of Guinea accounted for more than half of the global kidnappings for ransom in 2016, with 34 seafarers kidnapped out of 62 cases worldwide.

The House of Representatives has resolved to acquire Toyota Camry 2020 model for members as official cars, according to a Punch report. The resolution was reached at a closed-door executive session on February 5. The paper quotes an anonymous lawmaker as saying that members were forbidden from publicly disclosing details of the discussions, where the National Assembly agreed to purchase 400 exotic cars. The lawmaker did not state the cost for each car. A representative of Elizade Nigeria Limited, a top in-country Toyota brand distributor, said the 2020 model had yet to arrive in Nigeria. The representative, however, said the going price for the 2019 V6 model was ₦26.75 million and ₦35.75 million. The 2020 model is expected to be costlier. At the meeting, the lawmakers were said to have rejected Nigerian brands, insisting on foreign ones, preferably imported and not locally assembled. The lawmaker said a proposal to patronise Innoson Vehicles Manufacturing, a Nigerian brand based in Nnewi, Anambra was rejected.

Gunmen in military fatigues and masks have killed 22 people in a village at the heart of a separatist insurgency in western Cameroon, shooting women and children and burning others in their homes, the United Nations said on Monday. Cameroon’s army has since 2017 been fighting English-speaking militias seeking to form a breakaway state called Ambazonia amid the cocoa farms and forests of west Cameroon. As fighting has intensified, so have abuses by both sides, witnesses and rights groups say. The fighting is the gravest threat to stability in the oil- and cocoa-producing country since President Paul Biya took power nearly 40 years ago. It was not yet clear who was responsible for Friday’s attack in Ntumbo in the northwest region of Cameroon near the Nigerian border. In a statement, separatists blamed the army. In its own statement, the army denied wrongdoing.

Commentary

  • Monguno’s letter accuses Abba Kyari of what amounts to treason. As the National Security Adviser, he should have access to the President to make this known directly and to know the legal means to prosecute such a grievous allegation. This is not the first time that President Buhari’s inner circle has come out to publicly drag one another in this manner. However, this is even more serious because it has implications on perhaps the most fundamental aspect of national life – security. Insecurity is at record highs in Nigeria and many Nigerian cities have essentially become castle towns, with the intercity roads and the countryside surrendered to the purveyors of violence. This rift in particular, is another solid indicator of the focus of the current administration, on politicking and power struggles, while governance – and Nigerians – suffer terribly.
  • The numbers from the NNPC’s Mr Kyari are significantly lower than those shared by the governor of Edo State, Mr. Godwin Obaseki in September 2019 after the National Executive Council meeting – $1.35 billion in only six months and projected to get to $2.7 billion by the end of 2019, and even Obaseki’s numbers are lower than those of the data crunchers. Recent estimates released by the Nigeria Natural Resource Charter (NNRC) suggest that Nigeria currently loses as much as 400,000 barrels per day or a quarter of daily production to oil theft, making Nigeria the “oil theft capital of the world”. Similarly, the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) estimates that Nigeria lost about $42 billion to crude theft and refined petroleum products losses between 2009 and 2018, an average of $4.2 billion annually. While each of these public officials has different motivations for choosing the number they announce, one thing remains clear – oil theft is responsible for the loss of a very significant portion of Nigeria’s revenue. We fear that Mr Kyari, like many in the government, is guilty of a serious underestimation of the gravity of the situation. Either that or they are deliberately looking the other way because the oil theft is the tacit price of the peace of the graveyard that holds in the oil-producing Niger Delta. This “peace” is unsustainable in the long run, and the government will, eventually, have to do the hard but right things about Nigeria’s oil.
  • While much of the conversation around the House of Reps’s demand has been focused on the refusal of the lawmakers to accept Nigerian made brands (with some validity), we aver that the more fundamental questions that need to be answered are if the lawmakers received vehicle allowances when they resumed office and if the cost the anonymous lawmaker is quoted as stating is the best value for money, and if this expense is in the signed budget. Having said that, we could not resist checking the prices. A check on the website of Toyota showed that the price of the Camry, depending on the variants, is between $25,000 (₦9,000,000 at ₦360 to a dollar) and $35,000 (₦12,600,000), excluding the cost of shipping, import duty which is 70 percent of the net cost and other clearing charges and taxes at the port. For instance, those with higher specifications, as the National Assembly usually goes for a higher range of vehicles, are XLE at $29,455; XLE V6 at $34,580; XSE at $30,005 and XSE V6 at $35,130. While the prices of the cars when the shipping and clearing costs and import duties are added could come close to the listed prices, the optics of the car purchases do not look good for the legislators as there is high public discontent over their salaries and allowances which are seen as not only exorbitant but also not commensurate with their output. The fact that the legislators missed the opportunity to score a PR coup by patronising a local carmaker or cars assembled locally has further worsened the situation. Coming during the tenure of a government that insists on shutting the borders to keep Nigeria for Nigerians, this reinforces the message that there are different rules for different classes of Nigerians.
  • Nearly 8,000 Cameroonian refugees have fled to eastern and southern Nigeria in the past two weeks, the United Nations refugee agency said on Thursday, as violence flared between security forces and separatist insurgents. The spike in refugees, coming in the run-up to last weekend’s general elections, brings the total number of Cameroonians who have fled to Nigeria to almost 60,000, the U.N. agency said. The conflict between Cameroon’s army and English-speaking militias seeking to form a breakaway state called Ambazonia began after the government cracked down violently on peaceful protesters complaining of being marginalised by the French-speaking majority. The insurgency has forced half a million people to flee their homes and presented President Paul Biya with his biggest challenge since he took power nearly 40 years ago. The U.N. refugee agency “expects further arrivals as refugees inform that more people are still in remote border areas and could be on their way trying to reach Nigeria,” Thursday’s statement said. In December, Cameroon’s parliament granted special status to two English-speaking regions to try to calm the conflict, but the separatists said only independence would satisfy them.