A House of Representatives member, Ibrahim Babajide Obanikoro, has suggested the Central Bank of Nigeria forcibly shut down domiciliary accounts bearing foreign currencies to regulate the continuous fall of the Naira. Mr Obanikoro, currently serving the Eti-Osa Federal Constituency of Lagos State, made this suggestion on Tuesday on Twitter. “I am not the CBN Governor but at this moment, I’m of the opinion that CBN should mandate that all dorm accounts be closed for the next 12 months. Let’s see the effect on the Naira. After all, you can’t go to any of the Western world and open a foreign currency account,” Mr Obanikoro tweeted. In July, Mr Emefiele halted sales of forex to Bureau De Change (BDCs) operators across the country indefinitely. This move resulted in the unavailability of the dollar and spurred the downward spiral of Naira’s value. According to Nairametrics per CBN data, the country has an estimated US$16 billion in the domiciliary accounts of commercial and merchant banks with an assumed official exchange rate of ₦410/$ based on NAFEX rate used at the Investor and Exporter window. This comes as a new report from the National Bureau of Statistics said 31.7% of youths in Nigeria lack access to bank loans to finance their businesses due to high-interest rates. According to the bureau’s National Youth Survey for 2020, a collaborative effort with the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development, stringent bank policies, government policies and other measures adopted by banking institutions make it difficult for youths to finance their businesses through bank loans. The breakdown of the report showed that stringent bank policies accounted for 24.8% of youths not having access to bank loans, 7.3% attributed their challenges to government policies while 13.2% of the youths gave other reasons. The NBS said that at zonal level, youths from South-South (45.7%) and South West (35.5%) could not access bank loans due to high rate of interest while youths from North-West (54.5%) and North-Central (33.8%) could not access bank loans due to stringent policies. Youths from South-South (15.7%) and North-East (13.3%) could not access bank loans due to government policies. It however said that for those that had access to bank loans, nationally, 55.1% female youths had access than their male counterparts put at 44.9%. Considering major challenges facing youths in businesses, the report showed that nationally, 86.1% of youths faced the challenge of access to funds to finance their businesses, while 4.9% faced the challenge of inconsistency in government policies. It said that another 4.6% faced challenges of obsolete equipment while 3% faced the challenges of lack of proper training in relation to their businesses. For sources of business funding, the survey reported that youths across the six geo-political zones source for funds to set up their businesses enterprises through personal savings, loans, family sources, cooperative/Esusu, grants and other sources. It said that nationally, 34.5% of youths sourced funds through government grants to set up their business enterprises, while 29.7% of youths used their personal savings. The report, among other things, added that 15.1% sourced funds through cooperative thrift and 2.4% of the youth obtained loan to start up their business enterprises.

Ghana has placed members of Nigeria’s National Assembly on its terrorism watch list following President Muhammadu Buhari’s independence day address, which indicted the country’s legislators, a House of Representatives member, Ben Igbapka has said. According to Igbapka, who represents Ethiope East and West in Delta state, he was detained for four hours at an airport in Ghana where he had visited for a wedding over Buhari’s comment that a Nigerian lawmaker was sponsoring secessionist agitations in the country. The lawmaker said after being detained, a Ghanaian immigration official apologised saying, following Buhari’s indictment of Nigerian lawmakers, they were “put on red alert to ensure that no member of parliament comes here to hide or cause trouble.” The president’s failure to name the lawmaker had placed 469 members of the National Assembly on trial, Igbapka said. He added that he wanted the House to invoke Section 88 of the constitution to compel Buhari to “tell us who among us is sponsoring terrorism.” While Buhari’s claim during his independence day address focuses on secessionist groups, several notable voices have alleged the National Assembly of being complicit in the nationwide insecurity, especially terrorism and religious crises. Many authorities, including military intelligence, have accused the lawmakers and officials currently serving within the Buhari regime of being sympathetic to Boko Haram terrorists, bandits and other extremist groups.

Gunmen have set ablaze an operational base of the Department of State Services (DSS) in Nnewi, Anambra. The gunmen were said to have invaded the area on 3 October in a sports utility vehicle (SUV). In a video of the incident cited by The Cable, the gunmen could be seen parading the building and later drove away from the scene. When the online news site reached out to Ikenga Tochukwu, Anambra police command spokesperson, he said the only information at his disposal is a case of fire incidents in some parts of Nnewi. Tochukwu said he has received further details about the buildings affected in the fire incident. “At about 2 pm, today, the command received a distress call of a fire incident in Nnewi. The police operatives are currently on the ground there and the areas have been cordoned off,” he said. The site reports that the house of Chu Okongwu, an economist and one-time minister of finance, was also set ablaze in the state. Peter Afunanya, the DSS spokesperson, has not responded to calls and text messages sent to his phone. The fire incidents are among the recent spate of violent attacks — killings and arson — in Anambra and other parts of the southeast. On 28 September, Chike Akunyili, husband to the late Dora Akunyili, ex-minister of information and communication, was shot dead by gunmen at Umuoji, Idemili North LGA. On 30 September, gunmen set the Ajali Divisional Police Headquarters in Orumba North LGA on fire, killing three police officers. The central government on 6 October gave an indication that it might declare a state of emergency in Anambra if rising insecurity persists. This, it said, is so as to protect the sanctity of the scheduled 6 November governorship election. Attorney of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, gave the indication while briefing newsmen at the end of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House in Abuja.

Boko Haram insurgents have taken over multiple communities in Niger state, a local government official has told Reuters. The government official also said that the insurgents offer villagers money and incorporate them in their ranks to fight the government. Suleiman Chukuba, Chairman of Shiroro Local Government Area, which borders the Federal Capital Territory, said Boko Haram fighters were now present in at least eight wards out of a total of 25. The Islamist group is typically concentrated in the northeast and its presence in Niger, a state that borders Abuja could indicate a concerning spread at a time the military says its counter-insurgency efforts are working. According to Chukuba, “Shiroro local government has an uncountable number of Boko Haram fighters.” Boko Haram has waged an insurgency since 2009, joined more recently by its offshoot, Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), in fighting has killed almost 350,000 and displaced millions, according to a United Nations estimate. Shiroro has a population of 331,000 people and spans 4,700 square kilometres, according to Niger state’s official website. Boko Haram fighters, who were initially thought to be armed bandits, had made inroads in the state, Niger State Information Commissioner, Muhammad Sani Idris, confirmed. Though the state government and security agencies have been able to curtail the spread, he said. “We are doing whatever it takes as a state,” he said. “And we will combine the methods of our security personnel and our local vigilantes.” The army said last month that close to 6,000 fighters from Boko Haram had recently surrendered, attributing the development to the military’s counterinsurgency efforts. Chukuba called on the federal government to send more troops to the area to fight the insurgents.

Commentary

  • The morbid fascination of Nigeria’s political class with controlling the exchange rate of the naira with key global currencies is one of the most worrying things about the country’s political economy, which has spilled over to the general public. This public statement by no less than a sitting legislator who makes laws for the country may be read together with emerging news reports stating that billions of dollars are “sitting” in domiciliary accounts as the opening salvo in what might be an attempt by Abuja to institute measures akin to the 2003 Corralito, which wrecked the Argentine economy, in Nigeria. The reality is that Nigeria’s structural problems, which show up in high inflation and low official taxation rates, means that the naira is bound to continue falling with respect to the dollar. Until such structural issues are fixed, which is what government officials like Mr Obanikoro should be primarily concerned with, the only trajectory is downwards. This is not all bad. A serious discussion – one which is rarely done in these parts – on how countries with developing economies have taken advantage of weaker currencies (and in some cases, deliberately weaken their currencies) in order to drive an export focused economy should be had. Once that is gotten out of the way, policymakers now have to plough in the hardwork to create this in Nigeria. This obsession with maintaining a strong currency that is propped up by weak economic fundamentals has for years been the albatross of monetary policymaking in Africa’s largest economy. It needs to end.
  • The comment by President Buhari alleging that a Nigerian lawmaker was sponsoring secessionist agitations without providing any specifics as to who the lawmaker is or which secessionist organisation s/he is sponsoring is reflective of the penchant of Nigerian politicians and government officials to make weighty allegations publicly without providing details; an attitude that only ends up inflaming passions and causing real world harm. More so, these allegations are never backed by actions to either prevent or prosecute the persons alleged to be involved, rather they end up skewing narratives. In effect, these pronouncements are testament to their propaganda value in the hands of the politicians. In the same vein, Rep Igbakpa’s claim that Ghana has placed all federal legislators on its terrorism watchlist cannot be verified independently, as there is as yet no comment from Ghanaian authorities regarding President Buhari’s comment. This has become yet another political spectacle that will raise a lot of political heat but will not get at the heart of the problem. A proper approach would have been for the Nigerian authorities to share actionable intelligence with their Ghanaian counterparts regarding the said legislator’s activities, if any, and to then initiate legal action against him. However, by revealing the alleged activity of the legislator but without revealing his or her identity, any investigations would now be compromised; even worse, it skews narratives regarding support of extremist groups and could affect relations between two of West Africa’s most important partners. It is important for government officials to be more circumspect in how they approach these issues. Rather than lob accusations without specifics, they should make efforts to assemble evidence against persons of interest and prosecute them in court.
  • Anambra has been dealing with a spike in violent attacks on individuals and security establishments such as the DSS and the police. While no group has claimed responsibility for these attacks, the Independent Peoples’ of Biafra (IPOB) has been blamed for many of these attacks, especially as they are against any elections organised by the central government – especially the coming vote in November. It is likely that as the election draws nearer, there will be more violent attacks by unknown persons and IPOB. It is critical that security agencies fashion out a strategy that will ensure adequate security before and even after the elections. It is important to highlight that IPOB has been very active in Anambra, with its sit-at-home orders quite effective in the state – a recent survey by SBM Intelligence analysing the sit-at-home orders by IPOB in the South-East found that about 83% of respondents in Anambra obeyed the order. However, the compliance with the order does not imply support for it, as only 29% of respondents expressed support for the orders, which is not surprising as more than half of the respondents indicated that the sit-at-home orders affected them negatively. The willingness of IPOB to use force to enforce the order likely has influenced overall compliance, with four people killed on the first day of enforcement. Since then, violence in the state has escalated and is likely to worsen as the elections approach. Unfortunately, the government’s intended response will do little to remedy the situation as it is the one actor that has a perception deficit in the region that is worse than the separatists. It is very likely that turnout in the elections in a state which has traditionally seen some of the lowest in the country, will even be lower, as a result of the climate of fear that has been created by these attacks and will only be worsened by a federally mandated state of emergency.
  • Although Mr Chukuba’s claims cannot be independently verified, there has been chatter about scattered Boko Haram elements moving to Niger State as they flee from ISWAP, which has taken over their former territories, particularly in the aftermath of Abubakar Shekau’s death. Before he died, conflict reporting news outlet Humangle revealed in 2020 that Mr Shekau had between 400 and 700 active fighters in Nasarawa and Niger in what was a clear attempt to expand into the North Central geopolitical zone. In April this year, there were reports of a sighting of the Boko Haram flag flying in a village in Niger’s Shiroro LGA, but little has been heard since then. The seeming lack of action on these reports by security agencies highlights how lethargic they are with intelligence gathering and counterterrorism operations. A Boko Haram presence in Niger State would provide the group with a new base in the region, far away from their archenemies ISWAP, and conveniently located in a region dealing with banditry, providing them an opportunity to incorporate gang elements into their fold. Additionally, the proximity of Niger State to Abuja could have important implications for security in the Federal Capital Territory, as the group would seek to exploit security weaknesses to launch guerilla attacks on Abuja and its environs. The Nigerian Customs Service had earlier warned in 2020 that Boko Haram had an active presence and was planning attacks in Abuja, a warning which Nigeria’s security services took seriously for only three weeks when agents were deployed to five strategic locations around the FCT. Finally, Boko Haram in Niger State has implications for Nigeria’s critical infrastructure, as the Shiroro dam which has a power generating capacity of 600 megawatts is in the group’s direct line of fire. With Niger being the largest state by land mass, it has proved so far to be too large for the Nigerian military to fully cover. The military’s operations in the state, and particularly Shiroro, must include the prioritisation of protecting critical infrastructure and investing in human and signals intelligence gathering as a means of combating and containing terror elements. No shortcuts will do this time.