At least 20 people were reportedly killed in Sokoto state when gunmen suspected to be bandits attacked a market and torched cars, as armed gangs continue to wreak havoc in the northwest part of the country. The region has since last December witnessed a wave of kidnappings of school children and villagers for ransom by bandits, disrupting everyday life for millions of citizens. The recent event was confirmed by a state official and local member of parliament said on Saturday. Idriss Gobir, the special advisor to the Sokoto police affairs minister, said the armed bandits rode on motorcycles and shot sporadically, killing several people. He told Reuters in a telephone conversation that “The bandits in large numbers killed at least 20 people that we have seen and counted and set nine vehicles on fire.” Hussain Boza, a local member of parliament in Sokoto, blamed the attack on a lack of adequate security in the state while a Sokoto police spokesperson confirmed the attack but could not immediately say how many people had been killed. Parts of Sokoto, like other neighbouring states in the northwestern part of the country, are under a telecommunications blockade as part of a security operation to disrupt the operations of the armed gangs. Security agents, Thursday, rescued 187 people who had been abducted by armed gangs in Zamfara.

Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed says the country will hold a national population and housing census next year. The FG, the minister added, approved ₦178.09 billion for the exercise in the 2022 Appropriation Bill recently submitted by President Muhammadu Buhari to the national assembly. The exercise was last held 15 years ago. According to the minister, during the public presentation and breakdown of Budget 2022 in Abuja, Saturday, Buhari would make a proclamation on the planned 2022 headcount soon. Ahmed explained that the recent review of the 2022-2024 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) was motivated by a number of factors, including the need to provide the funds for the headcount. The last population, which was held in 2006, puts the country’s population at 140 million people. The census, however, was allegedly plagued by political interference, from design to implementation. Since then, Nigeria has not conducted a population census, relying on estimates from Worldometer, an arm of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. The National Population Commission had in December 2020, announced that an estimated 206 million people were living in Nigeria, an increase of eight million people in two years, against the 198 million it announced in 2018. The finance minister also announced an additional ₦100 billion in the 2022 budget estimates to enable the Independent National Electoral Commission to prepare for the conduct of the 2023 general elections. Giving further insight into why the MTEF was reviewed, the minister said the increase in the expenditure side was also motivated by the need to provide for additional critical expenditures, as well as the need to present a more comprehensive FGN Budget. Other critical expenditures in the 2022 budget estimates include ₦400 billion for National Poverty Reduction and Growth Strategy; ₦50 billion Police Operations Fund; and ₦37 billion additional provisions for debts accruing from the electricity bills of ministries, departments and agencies. The minister further disclosed that ₦517.5 billion was proposed as additional Multilateral/Bi-lateral Project-tied Loans; ₦54 billion for the National Agency for Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI), which represents 1% FGN Share of Federation Account; and ₦305.99 billion for TETFUND (funded by the Education Tax). Ahmed said the fiscal numbers were preliminary and would be updated “as the reconciliation process is concluded, adding that ₦2.88 trillion went into debt servicing between January and August this year, out of a total expenditure of ₦8.14 trillion recorded in the first seven months out of 2021. The sum of ₦2.75 trillion was for overhead cost, while ₦1.75 trillion was expended on capital projects. According to her report, the government generated ₦3.9 trillion so far this year, comprising Company Income Tax (CIT) of ₦547.5 billion; Value Added Tax collections of ₦235.7 billion, Customs collections of ₦338.6 billion and other revenues which amounted to ₦1.7trn. She said with a debt servicing cost of ₦2.88 trillion and total revenue of ₦3.9 trillion, the FG spent about 73 percent of its revenue on debt servicing within the past eight months.

Nigerian petroleum tanker drivers have suspended a nationwide strike that was due to start on Monday to give negotiations a chance, their union said after state-owned oil firm NNPC warned that the job boycott could disrupt fuel supplies. The National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) had called the stoppage to protest against what it said is the poor state of roads in the country, saying the situation endangers the lives of drivers. It said it was calling off the strike after reaching an agreement with NNPC on Sunday, while a follow-up meeting was set this week. “The suspension of our planned action is predicated on our belief that the understanding reached with the government today as well as at a meeting of Tuesday 12th, October 2021 will be fulfilled to the letters,” NUPENG said in a statement signed by its president and secretary-general. They did not provide further details. Tayo Aboyeji, a union leader for the southwestern region declined to comment further. NNPC had earlier said it was willing to provide funding for the construction of some roads, even though this was not its business. It did not say how much money would be made available. “Any disruption in the distribution of petroleum products to different parts of Nigeria will adversely affect the business of the NNPC and endanger energy security,” NNPC said.

A three-week blockade of Sudan’s main port by tribal protesters is causing shortages of wheat and fuel oil for power generation, endangering the country’s already faulty electricity supply, a cabinet minister said on Saturday. Tensions between Sudan’s military and civilian leaders have been running high in recent weeks, and some civilian figures have accused the military of playing a role in the Beja tribe’s blockade of Port Sudan, surrounding roads and fuel pipelines. Military leaders have denied any involvement, and Beja leaders say they are protesting to draw attention to economic and political issues affecting the eastern tribe. In the capital, Khartoum, queues for bread have reappeared in recent days and there have been shortages of imported flour. Minister of Cabinet Affairs Khalid Omer Yousif said in a statement the government would redistribute wheat stocks located in the country’s Northern State to bolster supplies elsewhere. Diesel supplies have also been affected by the blockade but petrol supplies remain stable, the statement added. On Friday, the United States, Britain and Norway backed Sudan’s civilian-led transitional government in urging political talks to resolve the protests.