The governors of Oyo and Ondo states, Seyi Makinde and Rotimi Akeredolu, visited the crisis-ridden Shasha community in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, on Sunday. During the visit, the governors appealed for calm and peaceful coexistence between the Hausa community and their Yoruba hosts. Members of both communities in Shasha had clashed on Friday, leading to the death of a cobbler identified as Sakirudeen Adeola, and the destruction of properties worth millions of naira. Addressing the people at the Shasha market and the palace of the Baale Shasha, Mr Makinde and Mr Akeredolu urged the residents to stop taking the law into their hands. Mr Makinde specifically promised to give palliatives to those whose wares were destroyed during the crisis, saying that the two factions should eschew violence and allow peace to reign. Promising to rebuild burnt properties, the Oyo governor said, “Please, I want you to listen to me clearly. You cannot resort to self-help to solve the issue on the ground. All of you who are here are doing business with one another in one way or the other.” In his remarks, Mr Akeredolu, who said he was in Oyo State on behalf of the South-West governors, urged every aggrieved party to allow peace to reign. Earlier in an advertorial in a newspaper, Mr Akeredolu urged the residents of the South-West not to take the law into their hands, but remain law-abiding citizens. He said, “As governor of Ondo State who doubles as Chairman, South-West Governors’ Forum, it becomes very compelling for me to address all residents, in particular, the Yoruba-speaking people of our dear region as regards recent happening bordering on security.”

Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by 0.11% year-on-year in real terms in the fourth quarter of 2020, representing the first positive quarterly growth in the last three quarters. Though weak, the positive growth reflects the gradual return of economic activities following the easing of restricted movements and limited local and international commercial activities in the preceding quarters. As a result, while Q4 2020 growth rate was lower than the growth rate recorded the previous year by -2.44% points, it was higher by 3.74% points compared to Q3 2020. On a quarter-on-quarter basis, real GDP growth was 9.68% indicating a second positive consecutive quarter on quarter real growth rate in 2020 after two negative quarters. Overall, in 2020, the annual growth of real GDP was estimated at -1.92%, a decline of -4.20% points when compared to the 2.27% recorded in 2019. In a similar development, headline inflation rose to 16.47% in January 2021, the NBS said on Tuesday. Buoyed by galloping food prices, food inflation also rose to 20.57% in January, from 19.56% in December. Inflation soared at 15.75% in December, its highest level in 32 months, with the 0.86% month-on-month increase marking the 16th consecutive monthly inflationary rise. Earlier in November, it touched 14.89%. The new increase signals that there is a long way towards recovery for Africa’s largest economy, which slipped into its second recession in four years and the worst in nearly four decades in the third quarter of 2020. There will also be sustained inflationary pressures on consumers’ purchasing power. Nigeria announced a shutdown of its porous land borders with neighbouring countries in October 2019, in a move seeking to spur local production of food as well as curb smuggling and sundry cross-border corruption. The move however contributed to accelerated food prices, analysts said. The FG reopened parts of the land borders last year to ease food inflation rate, but the move hasn’t had much effect. According to the NBS, core Inflation rose to 11.85% in January 2021, from 11.37% in December.

According to a media report, Nigeria’s comparative advantage and self-sufficiency in the production of certain products – including cement, flour, rice, sugar and 180 other products – means that those items will not be liberalised under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), even though doing otherwise would help the country tame rising inflation. The Guardian quotes unnamed sources familiar with the tariff lines in the schedule submitted to ECOWAS by Nigeria for negotiation as saying that while 131 products are already on the import prohibition list, the remaining products on the exclusive list were picked based on national priorities, trade volume, priority, food security and competitive advantage. While negotiations have almost been concluded on sugar exclusion, semi-milled or wholly milled rice, whether or not polished or glazed, flour (meal and powder), cocoyam flour and cement are products being protected by the country under the trade deal. A complete list of the tariff lines is expected to be released before the end of the month after consideration from the Tariff Technical Committee, the paper says. Presently, only seven per cent of sensitive products (427 tariff lines) and three per cent (184 tariff lines) of exclusive products were negotiated. This puts over 4,300 tariff lines under the liberalised list. Local manufacturers are worried that Nigeria is not in a position to benefit from the various opportunities due to poor trade infrastructure; hostile trade environment, especially among Nigeria’s neighbouring countries; the high level of trade malpractices and limited trade capacity fuelled by supply constraints.

An outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Guinea poses a regional risk that requires exceptional vigilance, a senior World Health Organisation official said on 15 February. Congo has confirmed four cases of Ebola since a resurgence of the virus was announced on 7 February in Butem was declared over last June. Anbo, the epicentre of a previous outbreak that Ebola vaccination campaign has begun in Butembo, in eastern DRC, the WHO said in a tweet on Monday. Separately, Guinea declared a new Ebola outbreak on Sunday, with seven confirmed cases and three deaths. “We have to be exceptionally vigilant, highly alert”, Mike Ryan, WHO’s top emergency expert, told a news briefing. “This disease (Ebola) represents a regional risk”. The Ebola virus causes severe vomiting and diarrhoea and is spread through contact with body fluids.

Commentary

  • Although the outbreak of violence in Oyo was between the Hausa and Yoruba communities resident in the Shasha area, it forms part of a wider, regional uptick in tensions over the past few weeks between Yoruba communities and Fulani herdsmen – after Governor Akeredolu in nearby Ondo ordered herdsmen to leave forest reserves and the Yoruba nationalist, Sunday Igboho, followed that up with expulsion orders (backed with threats of violence) to herdsmen in different communities in Oyo. At the centre of the farce is a weak justice system that has been unable to investigate, apprehend and try persons involved in criminal activities, and a security force that seems overwhelmed by (and institutionally incapable of) managing the insecurities across the country. Over the past couple of years, there have been numerous accusations levelled against herdsmen, who are mainly Fulani by ethnicity, of kidnapping, armed robbery, rape and theft. This is in addition to clashes between farmers and herdsmen over grazing fields and water rights. SBM suggests two possible solutions to stop these conflicts and avoid recurrence. First, accelerate a transition to a ranching model for livestock farming through policies at both the federal and state levels. Without this, climate change and other factors will mean that herdsmen will stay longer in the South with the likelihood of even more clashes with farming communities over land and water. Second, create a legal framework for a decentralised policing system, the provision of adequate training and conditions of service, and oversight. This framework, which must be designed in conjunction with the states, will allow for prompt on-the-ground police response rather than waiting for instructions from the centre. The prevailing security conditions have necessitated the creation of extra-judicial groups such as the regionally-backed Amotekun in the South-West, and the non-state ESN in the South-East. These groups are almost certain to be worse than the current police-led framework, considering the poor quality of recruitment and training. Abuja cannot wish this problem away; the time to act was yesterday.
  • While Nigeria returned to growth in Q4 2021, middling growth from the low base of two consecutive quarterly declines indicate that the country is not yet out of the woods. When this is coupled with galloping inflation, the picture becomes even clearer. The positive is that growth is driven by non-oil GDP, primarily telecoms. Even at that, for FY 2020, the non-oil sector shrunk 1.25 percent compared to 2.06 percent in 2019 – evidence of a year lost to the pandemic and protectionism. Agriculture also returned to growth, but many of the sectors that drive trade and services such as transport, manufacturing and others continue to shrink. Having said that, moving into marginally positive territory is indicative of the resilience of the Nigerian economy despite tedious monetary and fiscal policies. Serious measures are required to break out of this low-growth trap. Actions that could accelerate this rebound, like reopening of the borders, are yet to kick in because they occurred late in the quarter or in early 2021. Aso Rock has also raised its borrowing limit to give it more wriggle room; however, it bypassed the required constitutional processes – including legislative approval – which indicates a potentially aggressive expansionary drive. The deployment and impact of this remains to be seen. What is required from policymakers is a pro-trade and pro-growth mindset in order to attract foreign investment, consolidate and deepen growth and stimulate enough economic activity to drive job growth.
  • The stated intent of the non-liberalisation of key items under the AfCFTA is to protect nascent domestic producers. What it will achieve instead is pile more pressure on the exhausted pockets of Nigerian consumers. The fact that food inflation is now at its highest level in a decade is a direct result of ill-thought-out policies – of which this policy smokescreen is the latest iteration. We note with worry that Nigeria’s policy direction has refused to prioritise food affordability for its people – who already spend more than 60% of their income on feeding on the average. For example, the state with the lowest food inflation rate in January 2021, Bauchi, still clocked an uncomfortably high 16.37%. Kogi, the most expensive place in the country to get food – 26.64%. These are unsustainable numbers, the likes of which have caused rebellions in other parts of the world. Nigeria has persistently refused to play to its comparative advantages – a large domestic market, its proximity to Europe and North America, a latent capacity for entrepreneurship and ingenuity as well as a skilled and cheap workforce relative to its regional neighbours – and focuses instead on things where we possess neither natural nor cultivated advantages. Nigeria cannot continue to do the same things and expect different results. The first lesson of economics needs to be reiterated once more – we simply cannot produce everything we need by ourselves.
  • This is the first outbreak of Ebola in Guinea since the epidemic of 2013-16 that killed about 3800 people in the country and about 11,300 people across six West African and three European countries, as well as the United States. While this outbreak has been identified very early, there is still a risk of it spreading in a country with a weak health system. When you consider the fact that the outbreak is located near the Ivorian-Liberian border, there is a risk of the outbreak spilling into neighbouring countries. Already, Liberia and Sierra Leone have placed their citizens on high alert, increased surveillance at their borders and are engaging the Guinean government on a containment plan. There appears to be more urgency in the response from governments and international organisations to the outbreak in Guinea than to the one in the DRC, which has been grappling with successive outbreaks, the last one just three months ago. It has been tricky attempting to control the outbreaks as they have happened in Eastern Congo, a remote part of the country with few transport links, which is also an active conflict zone with different armed groups battling for control of the territory. While the conflict situation and the inaccessibility of the area have played a role in confining the geographic spread of these outbreaks to that part of the country, it has also prevented the authorities from effectively instituting epidemic control measures – treating patients, tracing and identifying their contacts and safely burying the dead. Since 2018, these outbreaks have so far killed more than 2,200 people. Additionally, both countries still have to battle the ongoing global pandemic, with the DRC home to 24,602 recorded cases and Guinea 15,088. Without restoring security in eastern DRC, that outbreak will continue to fester in the region and possibly serve as the lynchpin of a regional contagion that could suck in Burundi, Rwanda and other parts of Africa’s second biggest country.