Gunmen killed two Nigerian military personnel and abducted another in an attack on an army training college in Kaduna on Tuesday, a spokesman said, highlighting the authorities’ loss of control over escalating violence. Attacks and kidnappings have spiked in recent months, especially in north-central and northwest Nigeria, partly driven by economic hardship linked to disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and by the impunity enjoyed by most perpetrators. “The security architecture of the Nigerian Defence Academy was compromised early this morning by unknown gunmen who gained access into the residential area within the Academy in Afaka,” said the academy’s spokesman, Major Bashir Muhd Jajira. “During the unfortunate incident, we lost two personnel and one was abducted,” he said in a statement, adding that various army units and security agencies were pursuing the attackers and trying to rescue the kidnap victim. Kaduna State, located north of the federal capital Abuja, has been the scene of mass abductions at schools and other acts of violence against communities, along with other states such as Katsina, Niger and Zamfara. The Nigerian government says it is winning the battle against the criminals it describes as bandits; however, many Nigerians have stopped travelling through rural areas for fear of being abducted, many pupils have dropped out of school, and many parents are driven to desperate measures to raise ransoms to have their kidnapped children freed.

The New Humanitarian, a United Nations (UN) publication has detailed a secret government programme, Suhlu, designed to pull commanders of terrorist groups, including Boko Haram and the Islamic State for West African Province (ISWAP) out of the forests, rehabilitate them and provide them with a means of livelihood. The development is coming as intelligence agencies have begun an investigation into the recent surrender of over 1,200 terrorists and their families in the last three weeks. The investigation is to ascertain whether the surrender was genuine or a ploy to activate and coordinate terror sleeper cells across the country. North-east communities and traditional institutions have protested the potential reintegration of the insurgents into their communities. The New Humanitarian said a clandestine Nigerian government programme was reaching out to senior jihadist fighters in the bush to encourage them to abandon their goal of building a caliphate by force of arms and to defect. Some have almost certainly committed atrocities but are unlikely to be prosecuted. The Bama massacre in 2014 killed hundreds of civilians, but one of the commanders involved is now living free on the government’s payroll. Security officials believe Sulhu could open the door to a peace deal, ending a stalemated conflict that is now in its twelfth year. But critics argue such a deal would reward mass killers.

At least five Nigerian states – Abia, Ebonyi, Enugu, Kogi and Ogun – have moved to evacuate their citizens from Jos, the Plateau State capital, following the escalation of violence in the area and the closure of the University of Jos. While Enugu has completed the evacuation of her citizens from the conflict-prone area, Abia had its citizens heading home, with Ebonyi just commencing its evacuation procedures from Jos. The Enugu State government said it had safely evacuated 135 indigenes – students of the University of Jos (UNIJOS) from the school to their respective homes and destinations following the crisis. According to Special Adviser to Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi on Students Affairs, Chidi Ilogebe, 37 evacuated students returned safely to Enugu on Tuesday, 28 others were conveyed to Abuja to join their loved ones while others were taken to their various homes within Plateau and surrounding areas based on their requests, amid tight security. In Abia, the state information commissioner, John Okeiyi Kalu, told reporters that he was in contact with the evacuation delegation from the state and Abia indigenes in the crisis area had been evacuated. Ebonyi’s government commenced the process of evacuating indigenes from Jos on Monday, says a statement by the information commissioner, Orji Uchenna Orji. In Ogun, a state committee headed by the Special Assistant to the Governor on Students’ Matters, Azeez Adeyemi, said the evacuation was facilitated by the committee and military escort was provided to five executive buses “as well as welfare packages, to not only see to their safe return to the state capital but also ensure their comfort.” “As of now, the secured transportation of these students to Ogun State has now started. Initially, plans were made for just students, but we had to incorporate corps members who are of Ogun State origin as well.” According to New Telegraph, Anambra and Imo are expediting plans to evacuate their own indigenes. In reaction, Plateau Governor, Simon Lalong called the evacuations “rushed” and insisted that the state is safe for all Nigerians. He told State House correspondents after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Tuesday that the state has enjoyed peace in his last six years. He did note, however, that those who insisted on returning to their states were provided security to escort them out of Jos.

Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by 5.01% (year-on-year) in real terms in the second quarter of 2021, marking three consecutive quarters of growth following the negative growth rates recorded in the second and third quarters of 2020. The GDP numbers came in slightly better than analysts estimated. The Q2 2021 growth rate was higher than the -6.10% growth rate recorded in Q2 2020 and the 0.51% recorded in Q1 2021 year on year, indicating the return of business and economic activity near levels seen prior to the nationwide implementation of COVID-19 related restrictions. The steady recovery observed since the end of 2020, with the gradual return of commercial activity as well as local and international travel, accounted for the significant increase in growth performance relative to the second quarter of 2020 when nationwide restrictions took effect. Year to date, real GDP grew 2.70% in 2021 compared to -2.18% for the first half of 2020. Nevertheless, quarter on quarter, real GDP grew at -0.79% in Q2 2021 compared to Q1 2021, reflecting slightly slower economic activity than the preceding quarter due largely to seasonality. In the quarter under review, aggregate GDP stood at ₦39,123,713.32 million in nominal terms, higher than the second quarter of 2020 with aggregate GDP of ₦34,023,197.60 million, indicating a year on year nominal growth rate of 14.99%. The nominal GDP growth rate in Q2 2021 was higher than -2.80% growth recorded in the second quarter of 2020 when economic activities slowed sharply at the outset of the pandemic. Q2 2021 nominal growth rate was also higher than 12.25% growth recorded in Q1 2021. Real growth of the oil sector was –12.65% (year-on-year) in Q2 2021 indicating a decrease of –6.02% points relative to the growth rate recorded in the corresponding quarter of 2020. Quarter-on-quarter, the oil sector recorded a growth rate of -20.35% in Q2 2021. The Oil sector contributed 7.42% to total real GDP in Q2 2021, down from figures recorded in the corresponding period of 2020 and down compared to the preceding quarter, where it contributed 8.93% and 9.25% respectively. The non-oil sector grew by 6.74% in real terms during the reference quarter (Q2 2021). During the quarter, the sector was driven mainly by growth in Trade, Information and Communication (Telecommunication), Transportation (Road Transport), Electricity, Agriculture (Crop Production) and Manufacturing (Food, Beverage & Tobacco), reflecting the easing of movement, business and economic activity across the country relative to the same period a year earlier. In real terms, the non-oil sector contributed 92.58% to the nation’s GDP in the second quarter of 2021, higher from shares recorded in the second quarter of 2020, which was 91.07% and the first quarter of 2021 recorded as 90.75%.

Commentary

  • The attack on the Nigerian Defence Academy, which is the country’s premier military training institution, and which trains cadets of the three service branches, is a humiliating slap on the face of the military, considering that it is a typically well-guarded and fortified military facility. Beyond that, it highlights how pregnable Nigeria’s military facilities are and the lack of situational awareness and anticipation displayed by the military in securing its facilities, and this is disheartening. This is particularly galling when it is considered that in March, 39 students were abducted from the Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation, 18km away from the Academy. In the same month, the Kaduna International Airport, 15km away from the Academy, was attacked with an unspecified number of persons abducted from the quarters of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN). This suggests that the area – which consists mostly of shrub and miles of flat terrain with a few built-up pockets – is prone to such attacks. These repeated incursions should have made the military institute precautionary measures aimed at bolstering its security, increasing surveillance, reinforcing perimeter fencing, ramping up patrol frequency, and remaining on high alert. The failure to institute such measures has now resulted in the murder of two officers and the abduction of another. This calls into question the military’s preparedness – particularly that of the army’s – to be able to evolve its strategy to engage the numerous groups that take advantage of these open spaces to carry out attacks. Additionally, this attack will further dampen the public’s confidence in the military’s ability to take on these rogue elements, guaranteeing more uncertainty. This uncertainty has caused the Kaduna State Government to close down schools in the state as a precautionary measure against more abductions of students. The solution cannot be shutting down all aspects of life. A proactive approach is the only way out of this morass.
  • It is important to make a distinction between Sulhu and Operation Safe Corridor, the Demobilisation, Disarmament and Rehabilitation (DDR) programme operated by the military which is targeted at low-level Boko Haram combatants, some of whom were forcefully conscripted into the group (and in some cases, civilians who were living in Boko Haram territory). Sulhu, on the other hand, is operated by the State Security Services (often referred to as the Department of State Security) and it is targeted at insurgent commanders who planned, directed and carried out large-scale atrocities over the course of the 12 years of the insurgency. The programme is in a way an admission on the part of the Nigerian state that its kinetic actions are insufficient in neutralising the terrorist group, especially in the aftermath of the elimination of Abubakar Shekau and ISWAP’s absorption of large swathes of territory that used to be under Mr Shekau’s control. It is also important to point out that the defections are driven more by ISWAP gaining the upper hand in the region and a change in a lot of operating practices of the region which a lot of Boko Haram commanders struggle with in addition to the loss of their positions, as ISWAP commanders take their place. It is too early to know if this will impact ISWAP’s ability to effectively combat the military as there is currently a lull in attacks because the rainy season makes it difficult to move around. When the dry season starts, it is likely that ISWAP will make efforts to consolidate on the gains it made early this year, particularly with the elimination of Abubakar Shekau. The resumption of the fighting season in a few months will tell us if the DSS has been able to extract actionable intelligence from the defectors, at that point, we will have a clearer idea of the situation. Finally, in terms of public reaction, such a programme is bound to be unpopular across the country, especially in communities impacted by the insurgency, which the government needs to take into consideration in order to forestall likely future conflicts.
  • It speaks a lot to the state of the country when states have to evacuate their locals from other states, but these evacuations were necessary considering the fact that the University of Jos is located near the epicentre of the violence, putting students at severe risk of being attacked, especially as at least three students have been killed in the violence. There is still tension in the city arising from the killings of 22 Muslim travellers by a mob of suspected Irigwe youths on their way to mass burial for victims of numerous suspected Fulani militia attacks on villages in Bassa Local Government Area, which abuts Jos city. Despite a dusk-to-dawn curfew, there was an attack on yet another village in Bassa, which killed six persons, an attack on a community right behind the university, which killed 30 persons, as well as cases of isolated killings within Jos city in which the victims were profiled in hostile neighbourhoods based on ethnicity and religion. Importantly, Jos city continues to be a tinderbox of ethno-religious violence that can erupt at any time. Not only that, the violence happening in other parts of the state is indicative of the presence of armed groups enabled by the inability of the state to enforce law and order and retain the monopoly of violence. The near absence of policing in rural areas and an overstretched military made to perform policing duties it is neither trained nor equipped for has created vast ungoverned spaces that keep being taken advantage of by armed groups to carry out attacks for a variety of reasons. In the specific case of the recent attacks in Bassa, there is no clear motive. While some have attributed it to revenge for previous attacks on Fulani herders, others have claimed that it is a calculated plot to displace communities from those areas in an attempt at land grabbing. Nonetheless, without a clear revamp of Nigeria’s security architecture that makes effort to plug in these glaring gaps (including a mop-up of illegal arms in the country), the rural areas on the Plateau, and by extension Jos, will continue to be unsafe and experience these cycles of violence.
  • First, it is positive news that Nigeria’s GDP grew at a rate that crosses 5%. It is the first time that GDP growth has outstripped the population growth rate under the Buhari administration. However, as is always the case, the devil is in the details of what is driving the growth. The key drivers include trade, which came in at 22.49% from negative growth for the last four quarters, and transportation, which recorded a 76.81% growth, also after four negative growth quarters. Such huge growth spikes outside trends require a look at what is driving them. These two sectors were the most impacted by two significant issues in 2020 – the COVID-19 pandemic as well as Abuja’s border closure. After the policy reversal at the end of December 2020 and the easing of COVID restrictions, these segments are simply bouncing back to the numbers prior to these two events. A closer look at other usual growth driving sectors shows a picture of the problems Nigeria is still facing. A mention must also be made of telecoms which in recent times has been the mainstay of economic growth but did poorly in the past quarter, dropping to 5.9% from rates above 20%. This can be attributed directly to government policies around national ID registration; policies that have been sharply criticised and led directly to operators posting weak figures. The same applies to ICT, which saw a similar drop driven by central bank restrictions on the fintech industry. Agriculture continues to record tepid growth – 1.3%. There is no better summary of the situation stripped off the base effect growth numbers of transport and trade from this quarter than to look at the nominal GDP numbers at this time over the last six years: Q2 2015 – ₦16.62 trillion, Q2 2016 – ₦16.35 trillion, Q2 2017 – ₦16.48 trillion, Q2 2018 – ₦16.72 trillion, Q2 2019 -₦17.08 trillion, Q2 2020 – ₦16.04 trillion, Q2 2021 – ₦16.9 trillion – illustrate Nigeria’s long-established position in middling growth territory. The only outlier was in mid-2019 when election spending provided a temporary (and unreliable) boost. Furthermore, this new growth spurt only takes Africa’s largest economy back to 2015 levels. In effect, the rosy numbers are largely the result of base effects created by the COVID-19 pandemic induced downturn plus regulatory complications last year. Nigeria is simply trying to get back to 2019 numbers, and we are not quite there yet.