At least 50 people were killed and others injured after gunmen attacked a Catholic church in Ondo State during mass on Sunday, according to media reports and medical sources. A doctor at a hospital in Owo said that no fewer than 50 bodies had been moved to the Federal Medical Centre in Owo and St. Louis Catholic Hospital. President Muhammadu Buhari condemned the attack, calling it “heinous”. The identity and motive of the attackers were not immediately clear. Channels Television reported that gunmen had fired at worshippers and detonated explosives at the church. Those killed included women and children. State police spokesperson, Funmilayo Ibukun Odunlami, only said that there had been an incident at the Saint Francis Catholic Church in Owo and the police would issue a further statement soon. Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu cut short a trip to Abuja and returned to Ondo after the attack. “We shall commit every available resource to hunt down these assailants and make them pay,” he said in a statement. In neighbouring Kogi, a Catholic priest was abducted from his rectory in the town of Obangede during the weekend, the Catholic Diocese of Lokoja said on Monday. It said parishioners went to look for Father Christopher Itopa Onotu after waiting in vain for him to conduct Pentecost Sunday Mass. They found that the windows and doors of his room at the rectory had been broken and his belongings scattered. In Owo, the police said they recovered unexploded improvised explosive devices and shells from AK-47 ammunition. “Some of the gunmen disguised as congregants, while other armed men who had positioned themselves around the church premises from different directions, fired into the church,” national police spokesman Olumuyiwa Adejobi said in a statement. He said a vehicle used by the assailants to escape had been recovered. Its owner was helping with investigations.
Contrary to some commentaries, this attack in Owo did not happen in isolation. Informed observers have regarded Ondo as the abduction capital of the South West. The state has been grappling with security challenges ranging from kidnapping to attacks on farming communities by militant pastoralists. In November 2020, the Olufon of Ifon, Oba Israel Adewusi was killed in Ose Local Government Area. The year before in July 2019, Funke Olakunrin, daughter of Reuben Fasoranti, the leader of the Yoruba umbrella group, Afenifere, was killed by herders on her way to Akure from Ore. The high visibility, high casualty attack on the church is indicative of an escalation of the security paradigm in the state. As yet, no one has claimed responsibility though Interior Minister (and former governor of neighbouring Osun state) Rauf Aregbesola said the Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA) was high on its suspects list. A belief has gained ground among locals that it is ethnic Fulani militia that is responsible has unfortunately led to reprisals against a group of northerners living in the area. Contrary to what the eyewitnesses claim however, it is likely that the government is right and that this was not done by herders, but by Islamists. In October 2019, a DSS memo to the police about a possible ISWA attack on banks and markets in Ondo was leaked to the press. That was the earliest indication that ISWA had designs for the state. In neighbouring Kogi, ISWA has claimed responsibility for some attacks on public spaces and religious centres. Owo is a mere 105km from Okene, where ISWA has active cells in the immediate locality. Not only does the attack fit the pattern of other ISWA attacks in Ondo’s near abroad, it is within reach from forward operating cells. Nigeria, sadly, does not have a great track record in apprehending terror suspects, and sometimes, it may take years to pin responsibility for terror attacks as happened in the wake of the 2011 Christmas Day bombing of a Catholic Church in Madalla, Niger State. The intelligence failure that continues to enable mass causalty events such as Madalla and Owo persists because Nigeria’s security services are yet to pool resources together to present a common front against terrorism; a state of affairs that may lead to more problems as the government’s attention shifts to succession and next year’s elections.
Nigeria’s ruling party on Wednesday picked former Lagos State Governor Bola Tinubu as its candidate to run for president in the elections scheduled for February 2023. President Muhammadu Buhari will step down next year after leading Africa’s most populous country and top oil exporter for the maximum eight years allowed by the Constitution. Unlike many outgoing African heads of state, Buhari had not named a successor, leaving the field wide open. Tinubu, 70, defeated 13 other candidates in the All Progressives Congress (APC) primaries. He won 1,271 APC delegates’ votes, compared with 316 for his nearest rival, another ex-governor. Buhari’s deputy, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, came third with just 235 votes. In his acceptance speech, Tinubu said if elected he would focus on reducing insecurity, a major concern in Nigeria. Other priorities would include boosting local industry and building a large port in the southeastern city of Calabar. The ruling party candidate would usually be considered the favourite in Nigeria, which has a long history of electoral fraud and violence. However, in 2015, Buhari was the opposition candidate when he won an election widely considered to be among the cleanest the country had seen. Tinubu’s main opponent will be the People’s Democratic Party candidate Atiku Abubakar, who was vice president from 1999 to 2007 under former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Mr Tinubu’s victory in the primaries comes after months of intrigues surrounding who would be the party’s flagbearer, including stories that President Buhari and much of the party leadership was against his emergence. However, Mr Buhari seemed to have abstained from backing any candidate, including his Vice President who put in a surprisingly weak showing in the primaries. Mr Tinubu benefited from maintaining a strong grip on the APC in the South-West, evident in how two major candidates stepped down for him: Ekiti Governor Kayode Fayemi and former Ogun Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun. Mr Tinubu was also the only aspirant that approached the campaign towards the primaries with a default position that the President would not endorse him. The other candidates included a Buhari endorsement in their strategy and ran less vigorous campaigns. When Mr Buhari’s endorsement failed to materialise, Mr Tinubu was at a clear advantage. His work in building alliances across the country within the party also ensured that delegates voted for him, likely on the instruction of governors and state chapter leaders who control these votes. That’s where all the positives peter out as Mr Tinubu’s candidacy still faces significant hurdles. The major one is the choice of a running mate. As a southern Muslim, it is expected that his running mate will be a northern Christian in order to ‘balance’ his ticket. However, the options at his disposal are slim and that include Plateau Governor Simon Lalong, former Federal House Speaker Yakubu Dogara, and Secretary to the Government of the Federation Boss Mustapha. Of these, only Mr Lalong has won a state-wide election while Mr Mustapha has never run for elected office. None of them enjoy the kind of region-wide popularity that politicians typically need to bring guaranteed voting blocs to the ticket. If Mr Tinubu opts for a Muslim running mate that will bolster his chances in the North, it risks opening up his presidential run to allegations of attempts at ‘Islamising’ the country, a risky proposition considering Nigeria’s ethno-religious fractures. Furthermore, the eight month runway between the primary votes and the elections in February means that there is plenty of time for any major policy, political or security failings by the current administration to be tied to Mr Tinubu’s campaign. After all, he recently boasted about his part in Buhari’s 2015 and 2019 victories. Finally, there is the small matter of how the election itself will be fought given that President Buhari will be, at best, an unenthusiastic campaigner for Mr Tinubu. In essence, the long lead-up to the election could open fractures within the ruling party which may open opportunities for disciplined opposition parties to exploit. It remains to be seen how Mr Tinubu and the APC will navigate this quagmire but the permutations and calculations on the strategies of the political parties will become clearer as running mates are picked and alliances emerge around regional, ethnic, religious and age-specific considerations. The election season has officially commenced.
Some commercial motorcyclists, popularly called okada riders, on Tuesday, protested the seizure of their motorcycles by the Lagos Task Force team in Idi-Araba, Lagos. Their protest led to the disruption of activities and movement around the area. The protest came about two weeks after another clash between the police and okada riders occurred in the Ojo area of the state after the former attempted to enforce the okada ban by the state government. Last week, the government crushed over 2,000 motorcycles impounded for flouting the ban. The government banned motorcycle operations in some locations from 1 June. The affected Local Government Areas are Apapa, Eti Osa, Ikeja, Lagos Island, Surulere, and Lagos Mainland. Premium Times cites an unnamed staffer of the nearby Lagos State University Teaching Hospital as saying the incident started around 11 a.m. The staffer said the clash between the police and the okada riders led to the closure of the hospital’s main entrance. Videos on social media which appeared to be from the scene showed some men, believed to be okada riders, running on the road. There appeared to be a bonfire as thick, black smoke billowed into the sky. Amidst the melee, many shop owners in the area scrambled to lock their shops and flee for safety. State police spokesperson, Benjamin Hundeyin, while addressing the matter on his Twitter handle, said the area is now safe. He explained that “some lawless motorcycle operators were trying to cause trouble after their motorcycles were impounded.” He said operatives from the police command and the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) have dispersed the riders and restored normalcy to the area. The Director, Press and Public Affairs, Lagos State Environmental Sanitation and Special Offences (Enforcement) Unit, Gbadeyan Abulraheem, said 180 motorcycles were impounded during the raid.
We have seen this dance by the Lagos State Government (LASG) too many times. The latest ban is the second since the current government came into office in 2019. In the previous iteration in February 2020, poor enforcement led to a return of commercial motorcyclists after a short period. The biggest losers were bike hailing companies who were put out of business on the retail side and were forced to pivot to (as it turns out) the potentially more lucrative delivery segment. Similarly, the worst affected are not only commuters whose productivity has taken a hit because of long commute times – Lagos already has some of the longest commuting times in the world – but also businesses who are forced to shut down each time clashes between riders and so-called Task Force officials happen. The state government, with its previous ban, lost the initiative to reform the system using the template the ride hailing services had already set. Crushing 2000 motorcycles may come across to the uninitiated as strong leadership but beyond the optics (which make for horrific viewing for investors), it tells the story of a government infatuated with the destruction of property and the entrenchment of poverty against a humane and sensible approach to governance, regulation and security. All this achieves is a destruction of private property in the short term, for the lowest in the society, criminalising a whole segment of society instead of creating systems to identify criminal elements amongst them. Inevitably, poorly planned transport infrastructure and the absence of reliable last-mile alternatives mean the bikes return and the dance is repeated again. The LASG needs to own up to the fact that it made a grave error in initially banning the bike tech companies that provided an easier way to formalise the sector while also admitting that it is perpetuating one of its favourite mistakes in recycling a washed up policy that stresses Lagosians and leaves them poor, bitter and motivated to fight back.
Following the perennial power outages currently being experienced across the country; findings have shown that 20 gas power plants are currently under-performing, leading to power generation dropping below 2000MW. Nigeria has 23 power generating plants with 11, 165MW capacity connected to the national grid. These plants are managed by generation companies (GenCos), independent power providers (IPPs), and the Niger Delta Holding Company. Of the 23, two are hydro plants. The Punch reported that the gas plants are currently either generating below expectations, shut down due to lack of gas, or undergoing maintenance. The paper listed the affected plants as including: Omotosho Units 5 & 6, Olorunsogo Units 3, 4 & 6, Omoku Units 3 & 6, Omotosho NIPP Units 3 & 4, Delta Units 15, 17, and 18, Afam VI Units 11 & 12, Olorunsogo NIPP Unit 3, Ihovbor NIPP Unit 2, Sapele Steam Unit 3, Sapele NIPP Unit 1, Odukpani NIPP Units 1 & 3, and Okpai Units 11, 12 & 18. Also, Jebba Hydro and Shiroro power generating stations are either out or have limited generation capacity. Other affected power generating plants include Omotosho Units 3&4, Olorunsogo Unit 1, Delta Units 10 &20, Afam VI Unit 13, Ihovbor NIPP Unit 4, Geregu NIPP Units 22&23 and Odukpani NIPP Units 2, 4 & 5. These are out either because of some fault or for scheduled maintenance. The two hydro plants, Shiroro and Jebba, are also experiencing generation shortfall due to water management. Odukpani NIPP, which was recently shut down due to gas pipeline pigging, is yet to fully bounce back to full generation capacity. However, 16 gas plants were on weekend back on the national grid with Delta Power generating the highest at 332MW. The Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) had blamed the situation on a combination of issues ranging from gas constraints, fault, and technical problems within generating plants which caused persistent low generation and consequently low load allocation to distribution companies nationwide. “This is based on the fact that TCN can only transmit what is being generated by Gencos and presently they are all generating below capacity,” the transmission company stated in a note.
While the politicians busy themselves with politicking in Abuja, real issues such as this aren’t going away. Nigeria, after 23 years of democracy, is yet to make any serious progress in providing Africa’s largest population and economy with the power it needs to survive, let alone innovate. Over the years, many development economists have suggested that electricity use and access are strongly correlated with economic development. No economy can transition out of subsistence without adequate electricity to power its factories and households. At its most basic, electricity enables industries and people to become more productive and this directly shows up in GDP and other economic indicators. Nigeria and South Africa, Africa’s two economic powerhouses are light years apart on power generation; Nigeria’s 3,500MW comfortably lags behind South Africa’s 40,000MW (which isn’t even enough for a country with less than a third of Nigeria’s population). Nigeria’s productivity and GDP could double almost overnight if its power per capita rises substantially. Nigeria’s power problem goes well beyond generation. Following targeted investments in generation plants over the past decade, the country’s installed generation capacity has now reached 12,500 MW. At current generation levels, that represents an abysmal 28% utilisation factor. There are some major issues which need to be resolved. Firstly, the transmission leg of the value chain is monopolised by the Transmission Company of Nigeria, a highly inefficient government-run establishment which has been unable to marshal the infrastructural investment necessary to hold its own and thus lacks the capacity to evacuate power generated at the plants. At the distribution end, the private companies (DisCos) which bought the legacy entities that used to be parts of the old Power Holding Company of Nigeria face numerous challenges including insufficient metering and artificially set tariffs that make it impossible to generate cash and turn a profit. Thus, many DisCos have refused to take power sent to them from the GenCos because they are unable to monetise it. GenCos are then forced to reduce the power they generate. The consumer – industrial, commercial and retail – are the poorer for this sordid mess. There is no way Nigeria can remotely begin to function anywhere near its full capacity when power supply is at such abysmal levels. The generation problem still exists and the distribution problem, in spite of TCN’s deflecting, is even more intractable. Nigeria needs to rethink its power privatisation strategy. It has been an unmitigated failure and it is time for drastic interventions to stop this from becoming intractable.