Oyo governor, Seyi Makinde, says he’s opening discussions with COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers to get a sufficient supply for residents of the state. Mr Makinde said that the number allocated to Oyo by the Federal Government is grossly inadequate for the state’s need, prompting him to explore other methods. Oyo is the fifth-worst affected by COVID-19 in Nigeria where over 114,000 cases have been detected since last February. A second wave of the virus started in December 2020 with a sharp rise in the number of daily cases recorded around the country. Makinde said that the second wave in Oyo is not a thing because the curve was never flattened in the state, to begin with. Nigeria hopes to kick off its vaccination campaign against the novel disease by the end of January with the supply of 100,000 Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines to be focused on frontline workers. According to the sharing formula published by the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Oyo State will receive only 1,848 doses of the vaccine.

Ondo Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, has issued a seven-day ultimatum to herdsmen to vacate forest reserves in the state. The order is part of several measures taken by the state at addressing the root cause of kidnapping and other nefarious activities. In a statement issued on his official Twitter handle, Akereolu said the forests have been turned into a place for felons to carry out their criminal activities. Mr Akeredolu’s order was issued on the same day that traditional rulers in Ketu communities of Yewa North Local Government Area of Ogun state petitioned the Nigerian Army over the alleged connivance of its officers with herdsmen to harass villagers in the state. The chiefs, in a petition, addressed to the Brigade Commander, 35 Artillery Brigade of the Nigerian Army, Alamala, Abeokuta, complained that herdsmen invaded their territories with soldiers and harassed their people. They asked the military authority to identify, investigate and prosecute the suspected soldiers for the alleged connivance and involvement in the attacks on the villagers by the Fulani herdsmen. A source in the army was quoted as saying that the army in Abeokuta was aware of the issues in the areas, including how no fewer than four Fulani herdsmen were allegedly killed by the villagers and their remains could not be found. The state police spokesperson, Abimbola Oyeyemi, confirmed that there were lingering problems between the herders and the people in the area.

Government troops and hundreds of residents were forced to flee after an armed group overran a town and captured a military base in Borno in an attack claimed by an ISIS-affiliated group, security sources said. Machine gun-wielding fighters from the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) attacked the base in the town of Marte in the Lake Chad area overnight on Friday into Saturday, Agence France Presse quoted two sources as saying. “The priority now is to reclaim the base from the terrorists and an operation is underway,” one of the sources said on Saturday. The second source said the army had “incurred losses” but it was not yet clear how many people had died or the level of destruction inflicted by the armed group. An army statement said troops “tactically withdrew” to defend against an attack outside Marte. Troops had “effectively destroyed” seven gun trucks and “decimated” an unconfirmed number of attackers, it said. ISIS later posted a statement on its Amaq news channel on Telegram claiming responsibility for the attack. Without giving further details, it said seven people had been killed, and one captured, and that its fighters had seized weapons, ammunition and six four-wheel-drive vehicles, as well as burning down the army barracks. Marte remained under the control of the armed group on Saturday, Reuters quotes unnamed security sources as saying. Friday’s assault came just two months after residents driven from their homes by the violence had returned to the town under a government programme. Last week, the fighters attacked the Marte base but were repelled, prompting them to mobilise more fighters for the overnight raid, sources said. Nigeria’s military retaliated Saturday, and according to Brig-Gen Sagir Musa, the army’s spokesman, dislodged the terrorists from the base by the end of Saturday. Mr Musa said the Air Force played a decisive role in the destruction of seven terrorists’ gun trucks during the battle.

The FG spent a total of ₦6.46 trillion on debt servicing and workers in 2020, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, has said. She also noted that the government released a total of ₦1.8 trillion for capital projects within the year. Ms Ahmed noted that out of this, up to ₦118.37 billion was released for COVID-19 capital expenditure. Ms Ahmed spoke virtually while presenting the 2021 FG approved budget. Providing updates on the 2020 budget implementation, the minister stated that as at year-end 2020, the FG’s retained revenue was ₦3.94 trillion, about 73% of its target. She said the FG’s share of oil revenues was ₦1.52 trillion, representing 157% performance, over and above the prorated sum in the revised 2020 budget, while non-oil tax revenues totalled ₦1.28 trillion, or about 79% of the revised target. On the expenditure side, she said ₦9.97 trillion was appropriated, excluding GOEs and project-tied loans, while ₦10.08 trillion representing 101 percent was spent. Ahmed said, “Of the expenditure, ₦3.27 trillion was for debt service and ₦3.19 trillion for personnel cost, including pensions. “As at year-end 2020, ₦1.80 trillion had been released for capital expenditure, that is, about 89% of the provision for capital.” She said the Nigerian economy was becoming less dependent on oil, as contributions from the oil sector in funding the 2021 budget would be just 30 percent. Ms Ahmed said the bulk of the funding sources for the 2021 budget, 70%, would come from the non-oil sector.

Commentary

  • The Oyo Governor had followed the example of the Kaduna State governor to find a solution, given that the Federal Government seems more committed to schemes like allocating almost $30 million of scarce funds to “research, development, and manufacturing” rather than buying vaccines that are already available. Purchasing by states might be the only way that citizens can hope to receive vaccines and other state governments must step up and follow this example, instead of embarking on vaccine tourism. The insensitive media stunt by the First Lady of Anambra State, who travelled to the US to receive the coronavirus vaccine even as her state has no plan to provide vaccines for its citizens, is an example of this. The Oyo and Kaduna State governors have not only set a good example, but they have also made obvious the dearth of imagination among some other governors such as Kogi State’s Yahaya Bello, who has repeatedly denied the existence of the coronavirus and continually insisted that the vaccines are meant to kill people, putting the lives of front-line workers and citizens in his state at risk. With the increase in COVID-19 deaths and infection, given the speed at which the virus is mutating, state governors must now look beyond the imaginary largesse of the Federal Government and take concrete action.
  • That there has been a serious rise in kidnappings and attacks in the South-West is no longer news, and Mr Akeredolu is under pressure. Only yesterday, road transport workers in his state, a powerful pressure group within the Nigerian political space, protested over this very issue. Two previous editions of this weekly editorial had envisaged such a reaction by some states if the Federal Government and the security agencies continued to do little to bring perpetrators to book and curb the menace of rising kidnapping. Having said that, Mr Akeredolu’s order is characteristic of the knee-jerk approach to security problems by Nigeria’s leaders, the lack of coordination on security between different levels of the government, and Nigeria’s unfortunate tendency to assign collective guilt to whole ethnic groups rather than specific criminal actors. Of all of Nigeria’s regions, the South West is best organised, most cohesive, and has the means in the media to amplify its position as we have seen in the last few days. Extreme measures of this nature will receive increasing support if the Federal Government and the security agencies continue to appear to be partial in their reactions to the complaints of the complicity of herdsmen in the rise in kidnapping and attacks in the South West. The Federal Government has failed to show it is unbiased, given the swift response it gave to criticise Governor Akeredolu’s directive, a sentiment it fails to show on issues of human rights abuses, and especially since the President is considered a patron of the Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria known as Miyetti Allah. There is also an urgent need for the military to improve its civil-military relations to prevent creating perceptions of bias in touchy situations such as this.
  • The attack by ISWAP on Marte comes after the military made advances against insurgents in the region, although the Jamāʿat Ahl al-Sunnah li-l-Daʿawah wa al-Jihād (JAS) faction of Boko Haram was the one hit. However, the attack by Boko Haram shows the narrow focus by ISWAP on military targets and also the strength of their firepower. In the last few years, we have continued to see daring attacks by terrorist groups in the region, taking over already reclaimed territories and making it quite difficult to effectively complete resettlement programmes. With ISWAP deeply entrenched in the Lake Chad area, coordinated terror attacks are likely to mean that the terrorists will sneak through the strategically positioned border region of Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger. Also, with the Nigerian Military already stretched too thin, manning sufficient soldiers to protect reclaimed territories and support resettlement programmes will be quite difficult.
  • The 2021 budget has a fiscal deficit at ₦5.2 trillion (38% of the entire budget). On the expense side, debt service and personnel costs (only two items) now account for over 60% of budgetary expenditure, and only serve to further highlight the parlous state of the government’s budget. The revenue side is even more precarious because curtailed economic activities due to COVID-19 and oil production cuts imposed by OPEC quotas has resulted in a significant decline in government earnings. Rather than use this difficult moment as an opportunity to widen the tax base, it has proposed borrowing funds in dormant accounts and unclaimed dividends. These moves may just be warming up for the real prize, and its singular focal point is access to ₦11 trillion worth of pension fund assets. Sadly, the recent rebound in oil prices is likely to see the nation return to the status quo and continue its dependence on oil.