Nigeria’s insecurity issues saw a deluge over the weekend as Boko Haram insurgents made inroads into Niger State, gunmen killed two students of Greenfield University in Kaduna state, the Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi, saw students kidnapped, and a family was butchered in Anambra State. In Kebbi State, the police said nine of their personnel were killed by bandits in Sakaba LGA. In Niger State, the state Governor, Sani Bello, in an interview, said Boko Haram terrorists had taken over a part of the state, hoisting their flag in Kaure village from where they had made incursions into more than 50 villages. Governor Bello said Abuja was not safe with Boko Haram’s presence in Niger State. He warned that the Boko Haram terrorists were trying to make Kaure their home and headquarters like they did in Sambisa forest, adding that while Sambisa forest is several kilometres away from Abuja, Kaure is only two hours drive to Abuja. In Benue State, the Vice Chancellor of Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi, Richard Kimbir, said four students were kidnapped while reading near a lecture theatre. The kidnappers have asked for N20 million in ransom payments. In Kaduna State, bandits attacked Kofar Kuyambana Low Cost Housing Estate in Zaria and kidnapped two housewives. The police, vigilantes and other security operatives responded swiftly, battled the bandits and arrested five of them. The two women are still missing. The attack was the fifth in the state within a week. On 11 March kidnappers attacked the Greenfield University, along Kaduna-Abuja road killing a staff member and kidnapping 23 students, five of whom have since been killed, including two whose bodies were found on Monday. Meanwhile, Nafi’u Abubakar, the Kebbi State police spokesman confirmed the killing of nine of its personnel including a divisional police officer by bandits in Sakaba LGA. In Lagos, motorcycle riders, mainly from the north clashed with transport workers, mainly Yoruba in ethnicity, in the Iyana-Iba suburb. Six people are feared to have been killed. In Anambra, the police confirmed an attack on a Fulani family in Igbariam community of Oyi LGA. Gunmen attacked a storey building housing the Fulani herders in the community around 02:00 hours Monday. The criminals killed 12 women, seven men and an undisclosed number of children. Finally, five security officers including two soldiers were killed at the weekend by suspected separatists in Nigeria’s oil hub of Port Harcourt according to a police memo. The capital of southern oil-rich Rivers state, Port Harcourt, borders southeast Nigeria which has seen a surge in deadly attacks targeting the police and other security forces in the past few months. A police internal memo said “armed men believed to be Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) members attacked a Joint Task Force (JTF) checkpoint, made up of nine police and two soldiers”. The police memo said the attacks took place in two locations in Port Harcourt on Saturday, and that two burnt corpses were recovered in one location while three were recovered in another. It said the gunmen seized two rifles and two vans during the attacks. The police, which has not commented publicly on the incidents, said it had launched a manhunt to find those responsible for the attack. The Nigeria Customs Service confirmed the killing of “three of our operatives” in the area.

Boko Haram has hoisted its flags in some parts of Niger State, an official said. State Governor Abubakar Bello confirmed the terrorists attacked Kaure, a remote community in the state, and hoisted their flags. “I am confirming that there are Boko Haram elements here in Niger State, here in Kaure. I am confirming that they have hoisted their flags here,” he told reporters on Monday evening. He said the terrorists also forcefully took the wives of residents. “They have placed their flags at Kaure, meaning they have taken over the community,” the governor said. He warned that the terrorists’ presence in his state may endanger the security of the country’s capital, Abuja, some 140 kilometres (87 miles) away. A government official from the area told Anadolu Agency on Tuesday on condition of anonymity that the military was yet to deploy troops to clear Boko Haram and its flags from the community. The source said the flags were black with white Arabic inscription. The military is yet to comment or issue any official statement on the attack. Terror and armed attacks have been on increase in Nigeria since the weekend.

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has said that its projected monthly remittance to the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) – the government body responsible for sharing revenue proceeds among Nigeria’s federal and state governments – for May will be zero. The corporation said this in a letter to the Accountant-General of the Federation, on 27 April, according to a report by news site TheCable. In March, Mele Kyari, Group Managing Director (GMD) of the NNPC, had warned that the corporation can no longer bear the burden of underpriced sales of petrol to consumers. He, however, promised that there will be no increase in the price of petrol until talks between the government and stakeholders are concluded. “The price could have been anywhere between ₦211 and ₦234 to the litre. The meaning of this is that consumers are not paying for the full value of the PMS that we are consuming and therefore someone is paying that cost,” he said at the time. “As we speak today, the difference is being carried in the books of NNPC and I can confirm to you that NNPC may no longer be in a position to carry that burden.” In the letter to the accountant-general, the NNPC said ₦111.96 billion will be deducted from April 2021 oil and gas proceeds — due to the federation account in May — noting that the deduction is necessary to ensure the continuous supply of petroleum products to the nation and guarantee energy security. “The Accountant General of the Federation is kindly invited to note that the average landing costs for Premium Motor Spirit for the month of March 2021 was ₦184 per litre against the subsisting ex-coastal price of ₦128 per litre, which has remained constant notwithstanding the changes in the macroeconomic variables affecting petroleum products pricing,” the letter read. There has been concern over shortfall in the FAAC revenue for the three tiers of government, with Godwin Obaseki, governor of Edo state, accusing the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) of printing ₦60 billion to augment the March allocation. However, Obaseki’s claim was refuted by Zainab Ahmed, minister of finance, budget and national planning, with Godwin Emefiele, governor of the CBN, describing it as a political ploy that is “unfortunate and totally inappropriate”.

French energy giant, Total SE, has suspended its $20 billion liquefied natural gas project in Mozambique indefinitely due to an escalation of violence in the area, including a March attack by Islamic State-linked militants. The decision is a blow to Total, which bought an operating stake in the project for $3.9 billion in 2019, hoping to start exporting the super-chilled fuel by the end of 2024. The first phase of the project is designed to produce over 13 million tons of LNG a year. Total was resuming work on the project last month, after it was stalled since January because of security threats, as more than 100 rebels raided the town of Palma near the site. Dozens of people died, millions of dollars of property was damaged and the company immediately froze plans to resume the project. The worsening security situation is also a major setback for Mozambique, which is facing a rising death toll with hundreds of thousands of people displaced. Exports of the fuel could help transform the economy of one of the world’s poorest nations. The fresh violence in the north of the Cabo Delgado province “leads Total, as operator of Mozambique LNG project, to declare force majeure,” the company said in a statement on Monday. That’s “the only way to best protect the project interest, until work can resume.” Project finance remains in effect and “Mozambique LNG has agreed with lenders to temporarily pause the debt drawdown,” Total said. The force majeure gives Total “a lot of breathing room” with the construction companies and buyers of the gas, while increasing pressure on the Mozambican government to resolve the security situation, said Darias Jonker, Africa director at Eurasia Group. That will take community engagement as well as intelligence resources to remove the insurgency, he said. “Overall the downward trajectory of the situation continues.” Force majeure is a provision that allows parties to suspend or end contracts because of events that are beyond their control, such as wars or natural disasters. The Mozambican state had been hoping to reap nearly $100 billion in revenue over 25 years from LNG projects. Earlier delays have already caused the IMF to scale back its economic growth forecasts for the nation.

Commentary

  • The escalation of insecurity in Nigeria over the last week shows how widespread and intractable violence is amid a near-total breakdown of law and order in the country. This is also evident in the issuance of at least two travel advisory warnings by Western countries. As has been said many times before, Nigeria’s security architecture is overstretched and strained beyond capacity: from the military thinly spread across 35 of the country’s 36 states and the police unable to provide adequate security in rural areas and increasingly in urban areas, to vast swathes of ungoverned spaces which are utilised by violent non-state actors for logistical and reconnaissance purposes. Even urban centres previously thought of as relatively safe havens have begun to see an uptick in violent incidents, such as the increasing spate of attacks in state capitals in the South-East. More disturbing is that there appears to be no sense of urgency from the authorities, with a stony silence from both the President and the security agencies. The National Assembly has not made any effort to introduce new laws or compel the Executive to take firm action on insecurity. If this trend persists, Nigeria could descend into such a state of anarchy that interstate road travel will be almost impossible. Widespread kidnapping and banditry in rural and peri-urban areas as well as the rise of terrorism in the South-East with a string of clashes between armed groups (such as the Eastern Security Network arm of IPOB) and security forces already show that we are at the opening stages of such a doomsday scenario. The rise in calls for secession by various ethnic groups also needs to be noted, as such rhetoric could lead to more insecurity, particularly if the government continues to take a confrontation-first approach to handle these emerging secessionist groups. There is a need for an urgent overhaul of Nigeria’s security framework and to begin to work on the direct and indirect causes of insecurity ranging from unemployment, the deluge of illegal arms in the country, porous borders, improving policing techniques and retraining the military so it stops escalating the situation through constant human rights abuses which alienate the very population it is meant to serve.
  • The hoisting of flags by Boko Haram in Kaure does not come as a surprise as it has been reported several times that jihadist groups such as the factions of Boko Haram have been getting their feet wet in the North-West through the recruitment of fighters and establishing cells and areas of influence. However, it is not known which of the factions of Boko Haram is in the area, whether it is the Shekau-led Jama’atul Ahlus Sunnah (JAS) or the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP). Either of them will be interesting, as the group seen as most likely to make inroads into the area was the Ansaru faction based on its operational track record in the North-West (such as Katsina and Sokoto). However, considering chatter that Ansaru has been folded back into JAS, it is possible that it is the JAS faction that has established a presence in Niger State. This presents a significant new challenge to the Nigerian state in its fight against terrorism, considering how military resources and prioirties are already stretched across the country. There is also the risk that the insurgents could absorb some of the numerous armed gangs in the region into their fold by incentivising them. This means that there needs to be an intensification of efforts to crack down on the crime networks in the region in order to restrict the opportunity for the mutation of the banditry in the region into a jihadist insurgency. There is also an economic play to this new threat. Kaure District, which has now been seized by Boko Haram, is situated in Shiroro Local Government Area and is a few kilometres away from the Shiroro Hydroelectric Power Station, one of Nigeria’s biggest power installations. There is no telling if the insurgents will go after the 600MW facility, effectively dealing a blow to power generation for almost all of the North-West and much of the North Central regions including the population centres of Abuja, Kaduna, Kano and Sokoto. In addition, the proximity of the captured territory in Niger State to the country’s capital raises more worries, as the group could be better positioned to stage attacks on the seat of power. Nigeria’s fight against terror just got closer to home.
  • Nigeria keeps trying to plug a leaking bowl with hands that are not enough for the number of holes. First the state oil company created an unsustainable situation where it became the near sole importer of fuel into the country and carried a subsidy on its books that did not pass through the government’s own appropriation process. In all these, the National Assembly made nary a sound and now the chickens have come home to roost. There are a number of economic implications if the NNPC defaults in remitting to the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC). Most prominent is that a number of states – beset with low internally generated revenues, high debts and highly dependent on federal allocations – would be unable to fulfil their financial obligations. We expect that the state governors, whose allocations will be affected, will be unwilling to accept the situation and the central bank will be forced to create new money, yet again, to fund the allocations. The solution of course is simple – let subsidies go so the economy absorbs the one-time price shock from increased prices and then allow petrol prices be market driven. This has happened with the diesel sub-segment, but petrol appears to be the hill the Nigerian government is determined to die on. It will continue to lead to sorry situations like this.
  • Just three weeks ago, we covered Mozambique’s military successful retake of the town of Palma in the oil-rich northeast province of Cabo Delgado. The recapture of Palma by the country’s military was meant to reassure investors that Mozambique was going to protect the $60 billion natural gas project. However, it appears that after a considered risk assessment Total SE is not convinced. The targeting of the oil-rich province by Islamist insurgents is likely an attempt at drawing the Mozambican government to the negotiation table from a position of significant leverage in much the same way the Taliban has done in Afghanistan. The force majeure declared by Total is the best available option as it does exert pressure on the Mozambican government to act with more urgency. The question now becomes how will the southern African country respond, considering that it has a decrepit bureaucracy plagued by corruption. So far, the government has rejected proposals by the regional body, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) for a military intervention, preferring instead to accept ‘technical assistance’, which will assess the country’s needs in the fight against terrorism. Total’s suspension of the project is likely to hasten Mozambique’s acceptance of a regional intervention force. Although France has not made any military assistance commitments, this may change as both countries could restart discussions on a military maritime agreement which began in July 2020, with the French Armed Forces of the Southern Zone of the Indian Ocean (FAZSOI) playing a key role in the outcome of the agreement. SBM reckons that Mozambique would seek foreign military support as attacks on infrastructure projects persits. With more than 600 terror attacks between 2007 and 2019 and the 15th spot on the 2020 Global Terrorism Index, the country is set on a dangerous path if it fails to seek regional support to end the three-year long crisis, which has now displaced about 700,000 persons, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Mozambique is running out of options.