The Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum, Kayode Fayemi says Boko Haram escapees from the North-East part of the country are infiltrating other parts of Nigeria as bandits and kidnappers. Fayemi said the insecurity in the country is not limited to Borno or the North-East as there is a nexus between terrorists’ activities in the North-East and banditry in the North-West as well as the kidnapping in the South. The Ekiti State governor therefore called for a holistic approach to ending menace. He said, “Insurgency is not limited to Borno State. We will be making a mistake if we do not draw a correlation between what is going on in Borno State and what is happening in other parts of the country – banditry, kidnapping, militancy, they are inextricably intertwined. Some of the insurgents that escaped from the Boko Haram territory are the ones prosecuting the banditry in the North-West, some of them are involved in the kidnapping in the South-West. “ISWAP (Islamic State West Africa Province) insurgents coming down from Sudan, from Niger (Republic) are involved in what is going on. How many states are you going to declare a state of emergency on then? So, we must take a holistic view on this.” The governor said the state governments should be given more powers to handle the security of their domains, adding that anything that will help Nigerians overcome the insecurity in the country, the Federal Government and the National Assembly must do.

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project has urged President Buhari to instruct the Director-General and Board of the National Pension Commission to use their statutory powers to stop the 36 state governors from borrowing or withdrawing ₦17 trillion from the pension funds purportedly for ‘infrastructural development.” The organisation said this in a letter dated December 5, 2020, and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare. Part of the letter read, “This proposed borrowing faces the risks of corruption and mismanagement, and would ultimately deny pensioners the right to an adequate standard of living and trap more pensioners in poverty. Rather than devising ways to address pensioner poverty, governments at all levels would seem to be pushing to exacerbate it.” The governors recently proposed to borrow around ₦17 trillion from the pension funds after receiving a briefing from the Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, who is the Chairman of the National Economic Council Ad Hoc Committee on Leveraging Portion of Accumulated Pension Funds for Investment in the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority. This proposal comes amidst renewed concerns over the cost of governance at state level, with some governors continuing to hire hundreds of aides in the face of falling revenues.

The FG recently revealed that 66% of Nigerian children in rural areas can neither read nor write. Health minister, Osagie Ehanire, represented by the Director and Head (Department of Family Health) in the Federal Ministry of Health, Dr. Salma Ibrahim Anas-Kolo, stated these during the closing ceremony of a two-day stakeholders’ consultation towards ministerial commitment for educated, healthy and thriving adolescents and young people in West and Central Africa. Ehanire said, “The Economic Recovery and Growth Plan notes that Nigeria ranks 137 out of 140 countries globally in infant mortality, 10 million children are out of school, 66% of children in rural areas cannot read or write and 17.6 million youth are unemployed. “According to NDHS, Nigeria has a higher burden of adolescent pregnancy and child bearing. 19 percent of teenagers (15-19 years) are already mothers or pregnant with their first child. The figure is higher in the Northern part than in the South. UNESCO Officer in Charge of UNESCO regional office in Abuja, Mamadou Lamine Sow, said that young people must be taught to make informed decisions about their health and sexuality to curtail child marriages, early and unintended pregnancies.

President Nana Akufo-Addo has won the 2020 presidential election in Ghana, defeating his closest challenger and former president John Mahama by polling 6,730,413 votes (51.59 percent). Mr Mahama, who contested on the platform of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), got 6,240,889 votes (47.36 percent). Mr Akufo-Addo, who contested on the platform of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), won in eight of the 16 regions while Mr Mahama won in the other eight. The results follow a contentious poll that both candidates had said they were leading based on their camps’ tallies. Five people were killed in election violence since Monday, police said, marring what observers said was a well-organised vote. Jean Mensah, the chairperson of the Electoral Commission of Ghana, said the final results were without that of Techiman South because it was being contested. She, however, added that the total votes in the constituency is 128,018 and will not change the outcome of the result.

Commentary

  • Governor Fayemi’s statement is the highest-level admission of a nexus between the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East and banditry in the North-West, one which security analysts have identified long ago given that both factions of Boko Haram are taking advantage of the insecurity, statelessness and wanton violence to set up cells in the North-West of the country. Furthermore, the proximity of the North-West to the tri-state area of Mali, Burkina Faso and the Niger Republic, which are all plagued by the activities of jihadist groups, makes it even more likely for these groups to be active in that region. Mr Fayemi’s statement is a continuation of his advocacy for the devolution of more powers to the states. However, key actors need to clearly define what powers should be given to the states and how a new system will work. Until that happens, Mr Fayemi’s comments are mere words.
  • The proposal by the El-Rufai committee is the latest effort by the Nigerian political class to access pension funds accumulated by workers in Nigeria since the passing of the Pension Reform Act in 2004 and the creation of the Contributory Pensions Scheme. A few times, the Senate has proposed using the pensions funds for infrastructure projects by the FG, but it seems that those suggestions are gathering steam with the proposal by the El-Rufai committee. The legality of such a proposal is unclear – can the FG commandeer the funds for its use even if it is borrowed? Having said that, the statement from SERAP is more sensational than factual. Yes, the government at various levels have expressed a desire to tap into the pension funds but much has been said out of ignorance. About 80% of all pension funds (₦8.8 trillion or $23.12 billion) are invested in government securities – FGN Bonds and Nigeria Treasury Bills. Clearly, some portion of the pension assets needs to be channelled to infrastructure projects as obtains in other parts of the world, considering negative returns (due to inflation rate, higher than market interest rates) provided by  government securities. In addition, the political-economic import of this proposal should be considered. Despite the fact that the government cannot fund all infrastructural development by itself, it has adamantly refused to open up the infrastructure sector to private investors by giving concessions to these investors for the development of infrastructure such as expressways, railways, airports, dams with hydro-electric projects, etc. These investors will then take the burden of raising funds (including from the pension funds) for the purpose of investing in these infrastructures, assuring that the infrastructure being developed will be revenue-generating assets rather than the government borrowing the pension funds, seemingly against future oil revenues that are not only dropping but are also unreliable. The government should focus on concessioning the infrastructure through the ICRC, ensuring that contracts and concession agreements are kept to, and focus on the wider macroeconomic picture, while utilising revenue to provide social services that the private sector cannot provide efficiently to the populace. For SERAP, advising the National Pension Commission to institute proper risk management protocols to ensure that funds invested in non-government assets and transactions (infrastructure projects, for example) are as secure as possible would reflect a more economically grounded approach.
  • The revelation by the FG is unsurprising and has severe long-term implications for Nigeria’s economic development, security and social stability. If anything, it puts in sharp relief the huge disparity in the quantity and quality of education between children in urban areas and those in rural areas. A lot of the children in rural areas will drop out of school at worst, and at best, will finish school barely educated and unable to secure jobs that will provide them with social mobility, meaning they will have to survive on informal, low-income and low-skilled jobs. It is also very likely that they will repeat the cycle with the next generation. This calls for urgent action in increasing funding for rural education by federal and state governments, increasing teaching capacity and numbers, and improving facilities. Despite counterpart funding by the UBE at the federal level, public education remains extremely poor, especially in the North, and even worse so in rural areas. Where funding has been spent, it’s focused excessively on (inadequately) improving physical facilities instead of a holistic overhaul of the system. In 2004, the Universal Basic Education Act was passed. The goal was to ensure literacy and basic education in all Nigerians. 16 years later, the policy is still failing woefully to achieve these aims. The same can be said of the NHIS policy – well intentioned but the outcomes are far removed from reality. Education and child health are fundamentals that a society needs to get right in order to raise its next generation of innovators. Nigeria allocates a meagre 7% of its budget to education and spends significantly less than this budget. The UNESCO recommendation is 26% of the budget. Only 13 states access their UBE fund. The rest cannot be bothered to come up with counterpart funding in order to access the funds. Of those that access the funds, accusations of mismanagement is rife. These outcomes matter – in a world where we must compete globally, even Nigeria’s African neighbours are leaving it behind. The haemorrhaging must stop.
  • Ghana’s democracy has been the envy of sub-Saharan Africa for some time. This might change with the just-concluded elections, which saw a face-off between Mr Nana Akufo-Addo, 76, and Mr John Mahama, 62; the third time the duo have gone up against each other for the country’s highest political office. International observers praised the conduct of the elections as relatively peaceful; however, the Ghana Police Service noted about 60 incidents and a few casualties at Monday’s vote. At the moment, the parliamentary and presidential election results are being challenged by the National Democratic Congress (NDC), which has raised doubts about the conduct of the elections and has promised not to concede defeat. Despite a history of stable democracy, tensions rose on Tuesday after former President Mahama of the NDC laid claim to a parliamentary majority win in a statement that warned his opponent against attempts to steal the elections using the military, a claim the government has continued to deny. If the current situation holds, President Nana Akufo-Addo will be leading the West African nation for another four years as President in an election which saw more than 13 million voters participate, and clinching victory over 11 other candidates. Mr Mahama’s move to cast doubt on the electoral process even before the conclusion of the vote count is a classic go-to strategy of losing candidates within the continent, a strategy that Donald Trump conveniently adopted during the last US elections. A peaceful resolution of Ghana’s election results will go a long way to burnish the country’s democratic credentials and hopefully rub off on its peers within the region.