Daily Watch – Biafra sit-in shutters large parts of SE, Kenya debt servicing costs hit $11billion

1st June 2021

A stay-away shuttered banks and markets in five southeastern Nigerian states as residents heeded a call by a separatist group to commemorate the failed declaration of the Biafra region’s independence 54 years ago. The cities of Onitsha, Aba, Enugu and Awka were deserted as businesses closed for the day. Some firms were partially shut in other parts of the Niger Delta, including the town of Oyigbo, which has previously seen separatist violence. The Indigenous People of Biafra, or IPOB, called for the stay-away to mark the 30 May 1967 anniversary of the region’s declaration of independence. The bid to establish an autonomous state in southeastern Nigeria sparked a civil war in which more than a million people died. “All of the cities of the southeast are deserted,” said Richard Agwu, director of the Institute of Professional Industrialists and Management Development that represents about 100 companies in the southeast. “Vehicles are not on the road, except those of the military and police. Banks are not open, shops are closed and government workers are also at their homes.” Separatist groups including IPOB and Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra have renewed campaigns for the region’s independence after Muhammadu Buhari came to power in 2015. The groups accuse Buhari’s government of marginalising the region in political appointments and the distribution of infrastructure. Buhari declared IPOB a terrorist group in 2017. Its leader, Nnamdi Kanu, fled the country the following year after facing trial for treason.

Gunmen have killed Okiemute Mrere, chief provost of the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), in Imo. Mrere was killed after his assailants intercepted his vehicle along Owerri-Port Harcourt road on Saturday. The vehicle — a Toyota Hilux truck — was riddled by bullets from the gunmen. His corpse was found in a bush on Sunday morning, according to a Daily Trust report. The newspaper said nothing valuable was taken from him, including his side arm. Confirming the incident, Winifred Oguh, the state Immigration spokesperson said a “full investigation” is underway to “get full details” on the incident. “Yes I can confirm to you that we lost one of our officers, Deputy Superintendent of Immigration (DSI) Okiemute Mrere,” Oguh said. “We are yet to get full details of the incident as investigations are still ongoing,” she added. The murder comes hours after Ahmed Gulak, a former aide of former President Goodluck Jonathan, was killed on his way from the state capital Owerri to Sam Mbakwe airport. The police have since accused the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) of being behind the killing. Imo has seen rising levels of criminal activities in recent months.

Kenya may be heading toward a default unless the government of President Uhuru Kenyatta revamps its debt, lawmakers said in a report. The East African country’s debt servicing costs are poised to surge to a record 1.17 trillion shillings ($11 billion) in the year starting 1 July, the parliamentary budget office said in a report. That exceeds the administration’s 660 billion shillings proposed spending on development projects. The increase in debt repayments “indicates a growing level of fiscal inflexibility and therefore increased exposure to fiscal risks or debt default, in absence of debt restructuring,” according to the report by the agency, which advises lawmakers on budget policy. It implies “that borrowing for development expenditure financing might no longer be a viable fiscal principle.” Calls to revamp the nation’s rising debt are growing louder even as it plans to borrow as much as $7.3 billion in the Eurobond market over the next two years, prompting the International Monetary Fund to say that the country may be at the risk of debt distress. Meanwhile, Kenya’s lawmakers want to narrow the government’s fiscal deficit to 7.5% of gross domestic product in the next fiscal year, from 8.7%, according to the report. By the year through 2024, Kenya’s debt servicing expenses will have more than doubled from 2020, with spending on infrastructure remaining little changed. Borrowing is restricted to funding for development projects, according to Kenya’s public finance management rules. The government should put in place mechanisms to substitute borrowings with alternative financing such as public private partnerships, particularly for large infrastructure expenditure, the lawmakers said.