The Chairman of the Board of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group, Mr Asue Ighodalo, has said Nigeria is missing out on the $19 trillion invested in negative-yielding assets globally because the country’s investment climate is seen as “unwelcoming, unsafe, and unpredictable”. Ighodalo said this on Monday in his welcome speech at the 26th Nigerian Economic Summit. He said for a country in desperate need of development momentum and capital, the events of last month, including the #EndSARS protests, the debilitating riots, and all of the issues that emerged, were bad for morale, confidence, and business. “Of the $19 trillion invested in negative-yielding assets globally, none of it has been invested in Nigeria, regardless of what it can earn, because our investment environment has been tagged ‘unwelcoming, unsafe, and unpredictable’,” he said. According to Ighodalo, at a time when the country’s fiscal space is constrained by low revenues and high debt, the need to strengthen the attractiveness of the investment climate to encourage local and foreign investments is of utmost importance. He said, “The world does not trust our commitment to the rule of law and the impartiality and efficiency of our dispute resolution processes. “Our multiple exchange rates, policy flip-flops and perception of how we react to investors, confuses the investing world. These are not labels we can afford particularly now.”

Members of the United Kingdom’s Parliament on Monday called for sanctions against the Nigerian government and military officials over human rights abuses during the #EndSARS protests. The calls for sanctions were made on Monday evening when the Petitions Committee of the UK Parliament held a debate in Westminster Hall on the motion “That this House has considered e-petition 554150, relating to Nigeria and the sanctions regime”. Citing the shootings at Lekki, Oyigbo, Delta as well as the unjust victimisation of protesters after the protests and the freezing of protesters’ accounts, parliamentarians described President Buhari’s government as a dictatorship. A member of the Petitions Committee, Theresa Villiers MP, opened the debate, while the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office sent a minister to respond. Petition debates are general debates which allow members of parliament from all parties to discuss the important issues raised by one or more petitions and put their concerns to government ministers. More than 200,000 people had signed a petition asking the UK to sanction the FG for clamping down on the rights of members of the #EndSARS movement. The petitioners had accused the Nigerian government and the police of violating the rights of agitators protesting against police brutality, while also calling on the UK to implement sanctions that would “provide accountability for and be a deterrent to anyone involved in violations of human rights”.

Philip Shekwo, the chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Nasarawa has been found dead. Armed men abducted Mr Shekwo from his residence in Lafia, the state capital, on Saturday night. They were said to have exchanged gunfire with the security detail attached to the APC chairman before whisking him away. The state police commissioner, Bola Longe, who confirmed the incident, had said his men were combing forests and flashpoints to ensure that Mr Shekwo is rescued. On Sunday, however, the state police spokesman, Raman Nansel said Mr Shekwo had been killed and an investigation had commenced. In a similar development, Alhaji Lawal Dako, the Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Sabuwa Local Government Area, Katsina, who was shot by bandits on 8 November has died. According to media reports. Dako died on 20 November 20 at the Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, Zaria as a result of his injuries. According to the Katsina PDP chairman, Alhaji Salisu Majigiri, the bandits also killed Dako’s granddaughter. On 21 November, a military convoy was ambushed by Islamic State West Africa Province in Kwayamti village, about 15 kilometres from Gajiram, Borno. According to reporting by security website Humangle, the attack on troops in Gajiram, near the state capital Maiduguri, resulted in five casualties – four soldiers and a member of the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF). The insurgents also seized military equipment during the attack.

China is expected to take a bigger role in the peace and stability of the Sahel region of West Africa after pledging to boost funding and troop numbers for United Nations missions. Dai Bing, China’s deputy permanent representative to the UN, has said Beijing would continue working with the international community for long-term peace in the Sahel. Dai told a UN Security Council briefing that China would provide 300 million yuan (US$45.7 million) to the Joint Force of the Group of Five (G5) for the Sahel – a security and counter-terrorism initiative covering Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. He called on the Security Council to give priority to those G5 nations and provide more stable financial support to the joint force. Dai also said China supported efforts to find African solutions to African issues and a greater role for the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union in regional affairs. The unstable Sahel region is meanwhile a strategic point for Beijing’s trade ambitions in Africa. Chinese investments in the region are vast – spanning Senegal, Niger, Chad, Nigeria and Sudan, with recent advances in Burkina Faso after it switched diplomatic allegiance from Taipei to Beijing.

Commentary

  • Since the oil boom of the 1970s, Nigeria has become a largely oil revenue dependent economy, despite the fact that the oil sector constitutes, as at last Friday’s GDP report, a mere 8.76% of GDP. This anomaly, along with a huge population, signals a huge untapped economy, hence the latent attractiveness of the Nigerian market to foreign investors. Unfortunately, over the last few decades, the promise of improvements to governance, infrastructure and conducting business has faltered. According to the UNCTAD 2020 World Investment Report, FDI flows to Nigeria wilted to US$3.3 billion in 2019, a 48.5% plunge compared to 2018 (US$6.4 billion) as investors laboured under the effects of austerity measures and exchange rate volatility. What these numbers ultimately indicate is that foreign investors do not believe taking a risk on the Nigerian market is worth their while in spite of return potential. For a country looking to grow its way out of a dire situation, there couldn’t be a worse economic statement to make.
  • The debate in the UK Parliament is the result of tireless activism by Nigerians in the diaspora, and is likely a sign of things to come for the Buhari administration regarding its abysmal human rights record. Pressuring the government from abroad could be particularly effective, given that many of the country’s leaders have assets in the developed world and those assets could easily be targeted for sanctions. All eyes now turn to the United States where the matter could be taken up by the incoming Biden administration and a new Congress. The US boasts the largest and wealthiest Nigerian diaspora in the world and organised political pressure by an energised, enraged and engaged group could be the tipping point for Washington to take more than a passing interest in Abuja’s behaviour. In the end, the threat of international ostracisation against key administration officials might be the path for victims of the Lekki Massacre to get justice.
  • While the attacks on political leaders could be seen as cases of their being the unfortunate victims of a perennial crime, it could also be that they were victims of targeted assassinations borrowing from the playbook of bandits and kidnappers. Unfortunately, the police’s inability to isolate and investigate each crime on its merit means that these crimes are often grouped with similar ones, fuelling the impression of a wave of insecurity composed of many faceless incidents and victims. What is undeniable, however, is the rising levels of insecurity – banditry and kidnapping chief among them – in the North-West and North-Central. In the North-East, the super camp strategy of the army has failed to yield the required results. While it has increased the safety of the military bases, it has increased the risks of military convoys being ambushed by terrorists as the soldiers commute on exposed transport corridors and are basically sitting ducks for attacks. 18 months ago we warned that the strategy would not achieve the desired results. We are apoplectic at the prospect of being proved right. The army has to swallow its pride, revisit the super camp strategy and properly equip its soldiers to be able to take the fight to the terrorists.
  • After more than a year of espousing vocal support for the G5, China has finally put some money where its mouth is with this funding support for the regional force. Its approach, however, buttresses its preferred approach of countries building local security capacity and fostering regional cooperation rather than an interventionist approach that will put its soldiers on the ground. As such, France will remain the largest contributor of manpower to the force with its 5,000 soldiers spread across the region. Although the US has 1,200 soldiers in the region, they are mostly based in the Republic of Niger, have their mandate restricted to training the host military and are thus not part of the G5. From a geopolitical perspective, the new funding, while easing the burden on France, is unlikely to increase overall Chinese influence on regional security without Chinese boots on the ground. Then there is the US. Whether the US will increase its military footprint under an expanded regional mandate will largely depend on the Biden administration’s foreign policy priorities, but greater Chinese involvement is likely to make that happen. The end product might be the opening of yet another arena of geopolitical competition between Beijing and Washington. How long China would keep its soldiers away from the region remains unknown. It will likely scale up its security involvement as its investment in the region increases. In this sense, its West Africa play is sure to incorporate lessons from its East Africa experience, where a military support base in Djibouti represents an attempt not only to participate in the anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden but more importantly to protect its security and economic interests. However the calculus plays out, one thing is clear: China has firmly planted a flag in these parts.