The Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress have dismissed the ruling of the National Industrial Court restraining them from going on strike from Monday. Justice Ibrahim Galadima of the industrial court in Abuja, on Thursday, issued an interim order restraining the unions from embarking on the strike following an ex-parte application filed by a group, Peace and Unity Ambassadors Association through their counsel, Sunusi Musa, and also granted an order of interim injunction restraining the unions from disrupting, restraining, picketing or preventing the workers or ordinary Nigerians from accessing their offices to carry out their legitimate duties on 28 September 2020 or any other date. The court also granted an order compelling the Inspector-General of Police and the Director-General, Department of State Services, to provide protection for workers engaged in their legitimate duties from any form of harassment, intimidation and bullying by the officers, agents or privies of the unions pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice. Reacting to the court injunction, the NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, dismissed it, saying he had not been served, adding that the group that filed the suit was not his employers. Following the hike in electricity tariffs and fuel pump price, the government and the unions have met multiple times, but all attempts at dialogue have ended in deadlock following the failure of the government to reverse the price increase or offer palliatives to cushion the effects on the workers. A meeting between the FG and the unions ended in deadlock on Thursday evening.

India’s oil imports from Africa jumped to their highest in 10 months in August as refiners switched out more expensive crude from the Middle East, Reuters reported citing shipping data provided by trade sources. The world’s third-biggest oil importer shipped in about 3.95 million barrels per day (bpd) of oil in August, the highest volume since April, with African nations accounting for about 17.5%, or an eleven-month high of 688,000 bpd, the data showed. “Spot prices of west African oil versus Brent were down in the most part of July compared with June. That along with lower freight offered an opportunity to buy Nigerian oil,” said Ehsan Ul Haq, an analyst with Refinitiv. He said in order to raise revenue, Nigeria was supplying more oil in July than it pledged under a production cut agreement between OPEC and its allies, while Angola was scouting for a new market after the Chinese cut purchases. “And the new home was India.” An internal OPEC report showed Iraq and Nigeria were the least compliant over the May-July period. Higher intake of Nigerian and Venezuelan oil lifted the share of OPEC’s oil in India’s overall August imports to 77.6%, the highest since January, from 67.2% last month, the data showed. During the month, Iraq remained the top oil supplier to India followed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Nigeria, which was the 8th largest supplier to India in July, rose to No. 4, pushing the U.S. to the fifth position.

Some UK lawmakers have penned a letter to the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland QC alleging government inaction over widespread violence – especially the pastoral conflict – across Nigeria. The lawmakers including Caroline Cox, David Alton, Jin Shannon and Helena Kennedy, said thousands of civilians in the country had been killed and “elements of the Nigerian government may be complicit in the violence.” The letter read in part, “We write to highlight urgent concerns about escalating violence in Nigeria where attacks led by Boko Haram, Fulani herders and other Islamic militia continue in Northern and central-belt states with reports of increasing violence in the South-East.” The lawmakers said former Army Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Theophilus Danjuma informed them that the armed forces are “not neutral” and “collude” in the “ethnic cleansing” by Fulani herders. “The state’s failure to protect its citizens is a clear breach of its obligations under the commonwealth charter in respect of human rights. There is now an urgent need (a) to ensure adequate protection and aid for those suffering the loss of family members and destruction of their homes and livelihood and (b) to end impunity by ensuring that complaints related to human rights violations are promptly, adequately and impartially investigated, and those responsible are held to account after fair trials,” the lawmakers concluded. Meanwhile, a traditional ruler in Foron District of Barkin Ladi Local Government Area of Plateau State, Bulus Chuwang Jang, has been killed by gunmen. The Chairman of the Berom Youth Moulders in neighbouring Heipang district in the LGA, Rwang Tengwong confirmed the incident and said, “We just lost one of our paramount rulers through an attack by gunmen. He is the Acting district head of Foron, Da Bulus Chuwang Jang. He was shot dead in the evening yesterday (Monday) by some gunmen around Shen community.” State police spokesman, Ubah Ogaba said the incident had been reported to the command. According to him, the State Commissioner of Police had deployed detectives in the Council Area to unravel the circumstances surrounding the killing of the monarch and apprehend those behind the act.

Nigeria’s oldest carrier, Aero Contractors will from September 1, 2020, begin shuttle services from Kaduna to Abuja in response to the yearnings of its customers, as travellers from the capital of the northern state have shunned travelling by road due to security threats. The airline said providing the shuttle had become necessary as business is picking up after COVID-19 lockdown, necessitating the increasing movement of people between the Federal Capital Territory and Kaduna. Aero said it will deploy its Bombardier Dash 8 aircraft and will fly from Kaduna to Abuja twice daily, in the morning and in the evening. Aero’s CEO, Captain Ado Sanusi said that the airline decided to respond to the call of its customers to introduce the shuttle service. “We studied the situation and realised that many Nigerians are no more travelling from Kaduna to Abuja by road due to security fears. We also realised that the train service cannot accommodate many people that would want to travel due to high demand; so we have decided to introduce this shuttle service. A flight with our Bombardier Dash 8 aircraft will take about 30 minutes to get to Abuja, which is against two hours by rail and the cost starts from ₦15, 000, which is really a giveaway.”

Commentary

  • Broadly, the unions’ stance can be examined in two dimensions: first, the repeated deadlocked negotiations between the FG and NLC, indicate that there is no latitude for the FG to give concessions. This is because there are none to give. The costs associated with subsidies for both petrol and electricity are now completely untenable, with no indication that this will change. The NLC might want to take a look at the hard mathematics of the situation once more. Secondly, in suggesting that they will disobey this court order, the unions appear to be following in the footsteps of other elected officials who have disobeyed court orders and flouted other norms on several occasions as well, with no consequences. This is ultimately the problem with impunity. Were Nigeria a place where elected officials, no matter how highly placed, obeyed court rulings, the NLC would have had to stand down. Regarding the proposed strike, an immovable object is about to meet with an unstoppable force. But the unions do have a point. At a time when the government must be judicious with its spending, this week’s announcement of a rail line between Kano-Dutse-Katsina-Jibia and to Maradi in the Niger Republic provides yet another reason to be concerned. In addition to the recurrent debates on cutting the cost of governance and possibly merging parastatals as suggested by the Steve Oronsaye Report, the proposed line simply shows that the government is not ready to take stock of its spending, yet it keeps exhorting Nigerians to “cut their coats”. This kind of double standard can only lead to more unrest.
  • It is ironic that the United States which was the world’s largest importer of crude oil is now the largest producer and is fighting for export market share with Nigeria. Whilst Nigeria and other countries have been constrained by OPEC quotas, the US has been pumping crude at an aggressive pace, with its shale oil production only limited by low market price. India, now a top crude oil importer, had to endure a hard shutdown of its economy due to one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in the world but is now loosening restrictions hence the increased appetite for crude. Unfortunately for Africa’s largest crude producer, India in 2019 banned its sailors from the Gulf of Guinea due to activities of pirates, meaning that direct oil exports from Nigeria have become costlier. At the same time, the Saudi crown prince is actively courting India – coming away with a refinery deal on his last visit. Saudi’s oil producing regions are a short hop across the Indian Ocean from the proposed location of the refinery. From a Nigerian perspective, if historic antecedents are anything to go by, an increase in Indian purchases year-on-year is likely to encourage the country to slip back to old ways, where it relies on oil sales as its primary source of forex and abandon all sensible reforms. On a wider geopolitical plane, Nigeria has a tough fight on her hands for market share in India and Asia in general.
  • This letter from 13 members of the House of Lords is the culmination of an intense lobbying effort that has painted the violence in the country’s Middle Belt as religious warfare targeted at eliminating Christians from the region with the collusion or tacit support of the Buhari administration. This same lobbying has seen success in getting the attention of the Trump White House, evident in a statement made by President Trump in April 2018 when President Buhari visited the US. Mr Trump brought up the issue of the killings and said the US will be looking into it. There hasn’t been any action or statement from the US since then, but their interest will ring some bells in Abuja. It is likely that the Commonwealth might not take any action on this too, due to a combination of diplomatic efforts by the FG and a reluctance to get enmeshed in the crisis that is viewed by most Nigerians from an ethno-religious perspective. This crisis, which at its core is a resource conflict, has been reduced to a single story of the predominantly Muslim Fulani herdsmen bent on ethnically cleansing minority Christians in the region. A consequence of this oversimplification is that all crimes in the region are immediately pinned on herdsmen without supporting evidence. For example, the killing of a Berom traditional ruler in Plateau on Wednesday has already been reported by several media as having been carried out by Fulani herdsmen. This murder might never be solved by the police due to a lack of capacity to isolate and investigate crimes, and to prosecute the culprits. But the damage it does is that it increases mutual suspicion in the area between indigenous groups and the Fulani. That helps no one, the least being an underfire Aso Rock which is quick to defend its security record but slow to grapple with the structural issues feeding these resource conflicts.
  • The flight shuttle service launched by Aero Contractors is an indication of the worsening security situation on the Kaduna-Abuja route by road and now by train. Rail transport on this route, ostensibly modernised with the intent of providing a safe alternative to the crime infested roads, is now plagued by what the Railway Corporation insists are hoodlums with stones and not bandits or kidnappers with assault weapons. Doubts remain on how viable and sustainable this air route is considering how close the two cities are (187km between them) and the overall state of the domestic aviation market – the most profitable air route in the country – Lagos to Abuja – route accounts for almost half of all air traffic and remains the crown in the jewel for all airlines. Unless the security situation in the North West is brought under control, it is likely that well-funded jihadist groups taking advantage of the situation will get to deploy more sophisticated weapons that can be used against aircraft, thus making the flight service just as risky as overland alternatives. In February this year, the jihadist group, Ansaru, shot at a police helicopter with a General Purpose Machine Gun, showing that they do indeed have access to such weapons. This incident happened in Birnin Gwari, not far from the logical flight path of this new service. Taking to the air is not a solution to travel risks between Abuja and Kaduna, rather, this should be a wake up call to the government to be more determined about addressing the security threats in the region.