Daily Watch – Army claims ISWAP leader kill, New airstrike in Tigray claims 10 lives

29th October 2021

The Nigerian army has killed the new leader of the insurgent group Islamic State West Africa Province in a military operation this month, it said Thursday. This is coming two weeks after the army announced the death of the group’s former head Abu Musab al-Barnawi. According to the Army spokesman Brigadier Benard Onyuko, Nigerian troops had conducted several land and air raids on suspected insurgent locations, during which ISWAP’s new leader, Malam Bako, was killed. ISWAP is an offshoot of the Boko Haram insurgent group that has been fighting against the Nigerian armed forces for over a decade. The two militant groups later turned on each other. The conflict, which has spilled into neighbouring Chad and Cameroon, has left about 300,000 dead and millions dependent on aid, the United Nations says. The Army spokesman said, “In the course of the operations within the period, a total of 38 terrorist elements were neutralized, including the ISWAP’s new leader, Bako.” Though, the details of the operation weren’t given. Bako’s death could not be independently verified, and there was no immediate confirmation from ISWAP. If confirmed, Bako would be the fourth leader of an Islamist insurgent group in West Africa to die this year, after Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau in May, Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi of Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) in August and al-Barnawi this month. Since Shekau’s death, thousands of Boko Haram fighters have surrendered to the Nigerian armed forces.

The Director of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, Modibbo Tukur said local and foreign corporations are owing the Nigerian government over ₦7 trillion in taxes. The debts are limiting the government’s revenue and helping to fuel massive borrowing, the head of the country’s financial intelligence unit has said. According to Tukur, the companies are partly responsible for the rise in the debt profile of the country. The figure was arrived at, he added after NFIU carried out an analysis of firms operating in Nigeria. The amount is about half of Nigeria’s total budget for 2021 which had a deficit of over ₦5 trillion. The proposal for 2022 has a revenue shortfall of more than ₦6 trillion and the government said it will borrow to close the gap as it has done over the years. Speaking on Tuesday shortly after defending the NFIU’s 2022 budget proposal before the Senate committee on anti-corruption, Tukur said his agency’s tax analysis covered the period from 2010 and 2020. He said the companies, mostly in the oil and gas and telecoms sectors, had a total inflow of over ₦76 trillion within the period, requiring a projected payment of over ₦3.9 trillion as Value Added Tax. The firms’ total outflow was over ₦72 trillion with a projected withholding tax of over ₦3.7 trillion. Tukur said the analysis, which was done for the Federal Inland Revenue Service, will also be submitted to the Federal Ministry of Finance for further action.

Airtel Africa expects a boost from growing demand for mobile broadband and phone-based financial services, its chief executive said on Thursday, after posting rapid growth in first-half earnings. The telecoms firm, which operates in 14 African markets including Nigeria and Kenya, said revenue grew 27.6% on a constant currency basis in the six months to the end of September. Earnings before interest, taxation and depreciation, a key earnings measure for telecom operators, jumped 38.5% in the same period. The growth trajectory will continue, CEO Segun Ogunsanya told Reuters after the results were released, driven by demand from a fifth of Africa’s population that still has no access to mobile broadband. “Most of these folks are mobile-first, mobile-only generation. They require mobile broadband to participate fully in the digital world,” he said, referring to the continent’s generally youthful population. The provision of fourth-generation (4G) internet network in its markets has been a key driver of revenue growth, Ogunsanya said. Mobile financial services, including cash transfers and payments, has also been fuelling growth. “More than half of adults in Africa don’t have bank accounts. That shows the scope available in driving the mobile money business,” he said. In Nigeria, which is Airtel’s biggest market, the firm has applied for a licence to offer financial services, from the central bank. “It is one of our key objectives, so it is especially important for us,” Ogunsanya said, adding said that they were in “constant dialogue” with the regulator. Nigeria has been leaning towards a bank-led model for introducing mobile financial services, as opposed to countries like Kenya, where telecom operators like Safaricom lead the way, African telecom executives say.

An Ethiopian government jet bombed the capital of the northern Tigray region on Thursday, with one doctor reporting 10 deaths in the latest casualties of a year-long war. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s federal forces have hit Mekelle from the skies at least eight times in the last two weeks, residents say, in a fight against local Tigrayan forces that has killed thousands and uprooted more than 2 million people. Foreign powers are pressing for mediation and the United States is threatening sanctions here to stem a conflict reverberating across the already volatile and impoverished Horn of Africa. Ethiopia’s government said Thursday’s airstrike hit and destroyed the other part of Mesfin Industrial Engineering PLC, a factory complex bombed last week here where it said the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) stored military equipment. But TPLF spokesperson Getachew Reda said the strike hit the Kebele 05 residential neighbourhood, killing three people, injuring several others and destroying three houses. Hayelom Kebede, a doctor at Mekelle’s Ayder Referral Hospital, told Reuters that so far 10 people have died as a result of the strike and 21 were injured. He predicted the death toll would rise because medical care is severely constrained. Another doctor said he saw six people pulled out of the rubble in Kebele 5 but he could not tell if they were alive or dead.