Former president, Goodluck Jonathan, has decided to run for president in 2023, barely 48 hours after disowning a nomination form procured for him by a northern group. Mr Jonathan had on 9 May rejected the presidential expression of interest and nomination forms of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) bought for him by a Fulani group. He later visited APC chairman Abdullahi Adamu, a shuttle his aides said was to distance himself from the purchase. However, the state-run newswire, News Agency of Nigeria, reported that Mr Jonathan has finally made up his mind to vie for the top post he lost to the incumbent, Muhammadu Buhari, in 2015. NAN also reported that the former president has also joined the APC formally, having registered at his Otuoke Ward in Bayelsa. Meanwhile, Mr Jonathan is expected to submit the duly filled forms bought on his behalf on Thursday. According to NAN, the former president has secured the support of the required number of APC delegates from across the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory. On the same day as Mr Jonathan’s form was being purchased, the Federal High Court in Abuja refused to shield the Central Bank of Nigeria Governor Godwin Emiefele from being disqualified to contest for the presidential ticket of any political party ahead of the 2023 general elections. Mr Emefiele’s lawyer, Mike Ozekhome had asked the court to issue an interim order stopping the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) from disqualifying him from participating in the primary election of his preferred political party. But ruling on the ex parte application, the judge, Ahmed Mohammed, ruled that he would rather order INEC and the AGF to appear to state their side of the case instead of granting the CBN governor’s request. The judge directed the defendants to appear in court on 12 May to show cause why Mr Emefiele’s request should not be granted. Pressure has mounted on Mr Emefiele to step down since news of his presidential ambition leaked to the public earlier this year.

The Supreme Court, on 6 May, resolved the ownership dispute over 17 oil wells in favour of Rivers State. In the judgement prepared by Heleen Ogunwumiju but delivered by Emmanuel Agim, the court dismissed the counter-claim ownership put forward by the Imo State government. The oil wells located in disputed territories of Rivers and Imo states have been a subject of litigation at the Supreme Court which served as a court of the first instance in a dispute between two federating units. The court’s full panel of seven justices sat on the case. According to Mr Agim, Prayers 1, 3, 4, 5, and 6 sought by the Rivers State government were granted by the court. But the court refused to grant reliefs 2, 7 and 10. In resolving the dispute, the court held that the boundary between Rivers and Imo states as delineated in Nigeria’s administrative map – 10th, 11th and 12th editions as well as other maps bearing similar delineation “are inaccurate, incorrect and do not represent the legitimate and lawful boundaries between the two states.” The court agreed with the plaintiff that the Nigerian administrative map 10, 11 and 12 editions and other maps “cannot be relied on to determine the extent of the territorial governmental jurisdiction of Rivers State”. The Supreme Court declared that the correct instrument, maps and documents to be relied on in determining the boundary between Rivers and Imo states are those used by the plaintiff in delineating the boundary lines between the two states. The Supreme Court refused to grant the ₦500 million cost asked by Rivers or order the Attorney-General of the Federation to calculate and refund to Rivers all revenue that had been paid to Imo on account of the distributable revenue derived from the Akri and Mbede oil wells.

Nigeria’s state energy company will sell aviation fuel to domestic airlines at a fixed price for three months after some companies threatened to ground their fleets. The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) agreed to supply the product to marketing firms nominated by the airlines at ₦480 ($1.15) a litre until August, Femi Gbajabiamila, speaker of the House of Representatives, told reporters on 9 May, after a meeting in the National Assembly with the NNPC, central bank and aviation industry representatives. The meeting took place after the Airline Operators of Nigeria, a body representing the country’s larger domestic carriers, on 8 May agreed to halt plans to ground flights due to the high cost of aviation fuel, which it said was crippling their businesses and making them unprofitable, and hold talks with government. The airlines said the cost of aviation fuel had more than tripled over the past four months to ₦700 per litre as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine triggered massive disruptions to energy markets. A group for Nigeria’s biggest fuel marketing companies, however, have contested the airlines’ claims, saying that they have been selling the product for an average of ₦540 to ₦580 a litre in recent weeks. They in turn have been buying the fuel from the NNPC, even though the market is open to importers from the private sector, the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria said in a statement on Monday. Another industry body, the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) has told Nigerians to brace for petrol scarcity over non-payment of bridging claims by the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA). IPMAN Chairman in Kano, Bashir Dan-Mallam told a press conference on Monday that the outstanding bridging claims owed to the marketers amounted to over ₦500 billion. According to him, the failure of the NMDPRA to pay the bridging claims, also known as transportation claims — for about nine months — had forced many of its members out of business due to the high cost of diesel. Fuel queues for petrol surfaced in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) over the weekend. The NNPC said “low load outs” at depots contributed to the queues observed at petrol stations. Despite being Africa’s largest producer of crude oil, the country currently has minimal available refining capacity, leaving it reliant on energy imports.

Students of public secondary schools in Sokoto and Zamfara will not be taking part in this year’s May/June West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE). While the head of the Nigeria office of the West African Examinations Council (WAEC), Patrick Areghan gave no explanation for the development, Premium Times reports that the examination body refused to accept candidates from Zamfara over accumulated debt while Sokoto failed to meet a key regulatory requirement for candidate registration. The online news outlet cited “reliable sources” as saying that the last governor of the state, Abdulaziz Yari, owed the body accumulated fees for public school candidates sponsored for the examination. The state’s education commissioner, Zainab Gummi, cited insecurity as a major reason for the difficulty in presenting candidates before the deadline, and promised “that all hands are on deck to ensure quicker resolutions of all issues.” For Sokoto, 2022 represents the second straight year its public schools students will not be participating in the examination. The state’s commissioner for education, Guiwa Bello, said the state has chosen to patronise the rival National Examinations Council (NECO) and the National Business and Technical Examination Board for enrollment of candidates for the Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE) and the National Technical Certificate Examination (NTCE) respectively. Mr Bello, however, did not state the specific reasons the state dumped WAEC, but insisted that “it is not mandatory for students to take WASSCE conducted by WAEC.” “If anyone tells you that Sokoto is owing WAEC, such a person is just being mischievous. We are not owing WAEC a dime. We decided to choose which examination our students will take part in because it is not mandatory to take the WASSCE conducted by WAEC,” he insisted. According to Premium Times reporting, WAEC refused to admit public school candidates from Sokoto in 2021 because the education ministry failed to upload the mandatory continuous assessment score (CASS) for its candidates. CASS is a mandatory requirement for enrollment of candidates for WASSCE for school candidates to know the capacity and records of each candidate. WAEC’s Areghan appealed to other states owing the exam body to pay up or risk being publicly exposed. The May/June diet runs between 16 May and 23 June, a period of six weeks.

Commentary

  • It is important to start this by noting that Dr Jonathan has not yet submitted his nomination for, and the deadline is today. Having said that, Dr Jonathan’s imminent decision to run for his former office on the platform of the APC is a confirmation of months of rumours and his barely concealed flirting with the party that he lost to in 2015.  It is an open secret that he and his wife, Patience Jonathan, backed the APC governorship candidate, David Lyon, in the 2019 Bayelsa governorship election following his fallout with former Bayelsa governor, Henry Seriake Dickson, over the manner in which Mr Dickson imposed the governorship and deputy governorship candidates of the PDP.  Although Mr Lyon won the elections, his victory was overturned by the courts due to inconsistencies in his running mate’s educational certificates. Dr Jonathan has also been rumoured to be President Buhari’s preferred candidate as well as the preferred candidate of the northern political class seeing as he is only eligible for one more term under current rules, thus opening up the opportunity for another president of northern extraction to emerge in 2027. A Jonathan return would be a monumental event in Nigerian politics. However, there might still be legal hurdles before him with varied legal arguments on his eligibility to contest in the 2023 presidential election. A prominent lawyer, Femi Falana, has argued that section 137(3) of the Constitution disqualifies Dr Jonathan from contesting, because the former President would spend a cumulative period of nine years as President if he wins the election next year. However, other senior lawyers such as Mike Ozekhome and a former president of the Nigerian Bar Association, Olisa Agbakoba, disagree, stating that the section quoted by Mr Falana came into existence when Dr Jonathan was already President, and so cannot be applied retroactively. Meanwhile, the CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, from the game geopolitical zone as Dr Jonathan, makes an interesting case. His actions have been damaging to the independence and credibility of the CBN, and has set a ball rolling as Abbas Umar Masanawa, the Managing Director of Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Company has followed his lead and picked up a form signalling the politicisation of bodies that are otherwise meant to be impartial. Unlike Dr Jonathan, the fact that Mr Emefiele has continued to refuse to deny that he is running for office keeps the speculation alive, especially with a form bought for him and support groups popping up months before now. However, with the directive by President Buhari that all political appointees should resign by Monday if they intend to run for elections, Mr Emefiele would have to make clear his ambitions. He may still be hamstrung by the law as Section 11(3) of the CBN Act that requires the Governor to resign by giving at least three months notice in writing to the President. Nonetheless, Mr Emefiele’s flirtations with a presidential run and his partisanship will become a prism to analyse his actions.
  • The Supreme Court’s judgement may put to rest decades of oil well disputes involving Rivers State and its neighbours. In October 2020, the Court struck out a suit filed by the Bayelsa State government over its appeal to overturn an earlier decision which granted Rivers ownership of the Soku Oil Wells. In the suit marked: SC/SC649/2020, which had the Attorney-General of the Federation and Rivers State as defendants, Bayelsa State, urged the Supreme Court to, among other things, bar the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee, (FAAC) from deducting earnings due to it from the Soku oil wells. The Soku Oil Wells (which were initially ceded to Bayelsa) dispute formed part of the political dispute between President Goodluck Jonathan (from Bayelsa State) and Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State as the latter accused the former of handing over the oil wells to Bayelsa to punish him for defecting to the All Progressives Congress. In the current case, the dispute has been blamed on the immediate past Imo State governor, Emeka Ihedioha, by current Rivers Governor Nyesom Wike for appropriating the oil wells and breaking years of a mutual sharing formula which existed between Achike Udenwa, and Peter Odili, governors of Imo and Rivers states respectively between 1999 and 2007. Mr Wike’s accusation about the National Boundary Commission’s culpability is not something new: we have previously noted how the commission’s failure to reflect court judgements on boundary issues and resources have worsened boundary conflicts between communities on the boundaries of states. This is as much an administrative problem as it is a bureaucratic one. We cannot exactly confirm Mr Wike’s claim that the NBC’s corrupt dealings have served to deepen the conflict, however, we can say that there is a lot the commission can do in conflict prevention and it must begin by reflecting court judgements in their map editions with speed as that would save warring parties a lot of court time, resources and most importantly, human lives.
  • This intervention by the House Speaker is an indication of how the Nigerian elite quickly rallies to provide the semblance of solutions to problems that directly affect them, irrespective of the cost or implications of these “solutions”. Another recent example is how the elite quickly provided a temporary solution to the insecurity problems between Abuja and Kaduna when the runway of the Abuja airport was fixed. But none of these solutions ever deal with the fundamental problems. Globally, prices of refined crude products have surged due to the supply gap; thus the Nigerian airline market is not the only market experiencing this issue. However, local airline operators in Nigeria had weak price risk management strategies and this attempt by the government is not a solution to this price crisis. The government has only succeeded in controlling the only segment of the market where prices are determined by market conditions. In this case for example, the solution introduced a new subsidy into another category of fuel, purportedly on a temporary basis. In March, the NNPC had granted airline operators permission to import aviation fuel in response to the case the operators had made as part of their proposed solution to this problem. The recent hike in prices clearly indicates that airline operators have been unable to make these imports. As these things go in Nigeria, this temporary solution will become permanent, and because of the perverse incentives created, people will come around it to enrich themselves, thus entrenching it. At a time when Nigeria should be trying to extricate itself from the crippling ₦4 trillion per annum petrol subsidy bill, introducing another fuel subsidy for aviation fuel is fiscally irresponsible, and we are possibly going to see what is in effect an aviation fuel subsidy lasting for decades to come. The market was already handling the issue, with key airlines like Ibom Air stating that they would not adhere with the shutdown, yet, the government through the Speaker felt a need to intervene in this manner. This is a classic example of the elite myopia that continues to hamstring Nigeria.
  • It is a tragedy that in some of the states that have some of the lowest education indices in Nigeria, the state governments on whose shoulders the responsibility for secondary education squarely rests, have for two years denied their students the opportunity to progress to tertiary level due to issues within the control of the state governments. In the same Zamfara where it is reported that accumulated debt is one of the factors responsible, the state government bought and distributed 260 cars to traditional rulers. It is a representation of the warped priorities of the state government that funds can be found for such frivolities, while education that will contribute to the future continues to languish. The ineptitude displayed by not being able to complete a routine administrative task like uploading results is also indicative of the premium the government places on education. The governors complain about insecurity being a factor, yet they continue to contribute to the recruitment pool of the violent actors by depriving these young people the opportunity to complete their education. This shortermism displayed by these leaders will deepen the vicious cycle already in full swing in Northern Nigeria.