Nigeria’s president unveiled a record ₦16.39 trillion ($39.8 billion) budget for 2022 on Thursday, with a projected 25% year-on-year rise in government spending as the economy struggles with the impact of the pandemic. The deficit will rise to ₦6.26 trillion or 3.39% of GDP to be funded by new borrowing, proceeds from privatisations and drawdowns on loans secured for specific projects, Muhammadu Buhari told a joint sitting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The plan for Africa’s top oil exporter assumes crude output of 1.88 million barrels a day and an oil price of $57 per barrel, said Buhari. “Some have expressed concern over our resort to borrowing to finance our fiscal gaps. They are right to be concerned. However, we believe that the debt level of the Federal Government is still within sustainable limits,” he said. Economic analysts said Nigeria’s budget signalled the government was not about to make any major policy shift as spending would remain elevated to deal with a deteriorating security situation in many parts of the country. The armed forces have been struggling to contain Islamist insurgencies in the northeast, a spate of mass abductions and deadly bandit attacks in the northwest, conflicts between farmers and herders in many areas and a general surge in crime. The World Bank projects that Nigeria’s economy will expand by 2.4 percent in 2021, up from 1.8 percent it earlier projected this year. The economy expanded by 5 percent in the second quarter. It contracted in 2020 due to the pandemic, though it managed to exit recession in the fourth quarter, but growth is fragile. “Our target over the medium term is to grow our revenue-to-GDP ratio from about 8 percent currently to 15 percent by 2025,” Buhari said. This would be achieved by enhancing tax and excise revenues through reforms and administrative measures, he added. Nigeria has passed a string of record budgets since Buhari took office in 2015, but the country has struggled to fund the spending plans due to low revenues. The pandemic has added to the revenue problems. According to IMF data, Nigeria has among the lowest revenues globally, with general government revenue between 2015 and 2019 at 7.9% of GDP, compared with a Sub-Saharan African average of 12.7% and a global average of 29.8%.

Zamfara acting governor Nasiru Magarya has announced that about 200 people abducted by bandits in the state have regained their freedom through dialogue between the state government and the criminals. Magarya, the speaker of the state assembly, disclosed this when receiving the delegation of the Conference of Speakers of States Legislatures in Nigeria, in Gusau. Magarya told his guests that “I am happy to inform you that the state government has secured the release of over 200 kidnapped victims through peace and dialogue, initiated by the present administration led by the state governor.” The delegation had paid him a condolence visit over the death of his father, Mu’azu Magarya, who died while in the captivity of bandits. Magarya said that the released abductees were on their way to Gusau, the state capital, as he spoke and would arrive any moment. The Chairman of the Speakers’ Conference Alhaji Sulaiman, had earlier said the visit was to sympathise with the Zamfara Speaker, his family and people of the state, over the demise of his father. Meanwhile, two police officers, two lawyers and seven other peasants farmers were reportedly killed Thursday by gunmen who invaded Isu and Onicha-Igboeze communities, in Onicha Local Government Area of Ebonyi. It was gathered that the cops were reportedly killed in Isu while others were killed in Onicha Igboeze. Online newspaper Daily Post reported that the two lawyers who were driving along when the attack was happening, were also killed by the gunmen. The gunmen were said to have killed the lawyers, burnt the vehicle, a Lexus Jeep, they operated in and left the scene in the lawyers’ vehicle.

The Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Usman Baba has refuted plans to bring back the disbanded Special Anti–Robbery Squad (SARS). Baba described the rumour as false. A statement on Thursday by the Force Public Relations Officer, CP Fank Mba said: “The attention of the Nigeria Police Force has been drawn to a false news report making the rounds online and offline suggesting that the Inspector-General of Police, IGP Usman Alkali Baba, psc (+), NPM, fdc has ordered the re-establishment of the defunct Special Anti – Robbery Squad (SARS). The Force wishes to categorically emphasize that there is no plan whatsoever to bring back the disbanded SARS. SARS is gone for good and will not resurrect under any guise whatsoever. The IGP notes that the Force has since reorganized its operational structure to fill the vacuum created by the disbandment of SARS”. He added: “Baba said the leadership of the Force is focused on efforts at deepening reforms within the Police and bequeathing Nigerians a Police Force that will be more effective, efficient, technology-driven, humane and Rule of Law-compliant. “The IGP, therefore, calls on members of the public to disregard the report which is absolutely false and deliberately intended to misinform and misinform members of the public.”

The death toll from an attack by Islamist militants on soldiers in central Mali this week has risen to 16, the army said on  Thursday, after previously reporting nine deaths. Wednesday’s attack – one of the heaviest losses suffered by Malian troops in recent months – highlights worsening security in Mali despite efforts by local, European and U.N. forces to counter armed groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State. This month U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres sounded the alarm, saying Malian authorities overseeing a transition after a coup last year were failing to follow through on promises to improve security and prepare a return to constitutional rule. “Progress has been limited and the situation remains fragile, with a need for more determined efforts to address the challenges at hand,” Guterres said in a report to the U.N. Security Council, dated 1 October. He noted his great concern over delays in preparations for presidential and legislative elections that interim authorities originally said would take place in February 2022. Mali’s progress back to democracy following the August 2020 overthrow of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita is being closely monitored in a region that has experienced four coups in 13 months, two of them in Mali. Under pressure from the Economic Community of West African States, Mali’s new military leaders agreed to an 18-month transition, but in September the authorities said the elections could be delayed. The 15-member Security Council is due to discuss the situation in Mali later this month.