Terrorists on Monday struck Abuja and ambushed a unit of the Guards Brigade, inflicting serious injuries on the elite security officers. A signal on the attack said that the Law School in Bwari may be targeted for attack. Security sources said that the troops were ambushed along Bwari-Kubwa road while on routine patrol but they forcefully repelled the ambush and restored sanity to the area immediately. The wounded soldiers were immediately evacuated to the Military Hospital for immediate medical attention. When contacted, the spokesperson of the Guards, Captain Godfrey Anebi Abakpa confirmed the attack but declined further comments. Meanwhile, the FG ordered the immediate closure of Federal Government College, Kwali, in the Kwali Area Council of the FCT following a security breach on Sheda and Lambata Villages in the suburbs of Kwali, which also threatened the school. The Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, has also placed all its state commands on alert, following intelligence reports that Boko Haram terrorists, as well as those of Islamic State West Africa Province, ISWAP, have heightened plots to attack the country’s capital, Abuja, and five other states, including Lagos. In a leaked memo, dated July 25 and signed by the Deputy Commandant General, DCG, Operations, Dauda Mungadi, which was addressed to all state commands of the NSCDC, the Corps said two separate bandit groups have also concluded plans to attack Abuja and others.

A major reason for the sudden security consciousness by the security services in Abuja is because this attack hits close to home. Over time, the FCT has been dealing with increasing insecurity especially in parts like Kuje, Kwali, and Abaji where they deal with a lot of bandits and kidnappers, thus providing a right environment for the influx of terrorist groups like ISWAP and Ansaru. The idea that Abuja was impregnable is being shattered gradually which is illustrated by the attack on the Guards Brigade. Rising insecurity and terrorism has been coupled with unprecedented rising levels of inflation which could also lead to increased feelings of frustration and economic marginalisation -a vicious cycle that is only being fed by an apparent indifference from the presidency. A statement from a presidential spokesman implying that the media should secure the country if they are so dissatisfied with the state of security would be seen as cheeky if the situation were not so grave. The Presidential Guards Brigade is an elite protection unit whose official functions are mostly in Aso Rock. It feeds into our previous analyses of Nigeria’s security challenges being borne out of the deeply problematic focus on regime security. The military’s leadership appears spooked by the incident, which formed the basis of the school closure memo, forcing the Nigerian Council of Legal Education Abuja to move its call to Bar ceremony from the Law School Campus to the Body of Benchers. The hurried closure of government secondary schools in the Abuja area thereafter was simply another indication of the government’s utter failure to deal with the bandits’ problem. Once more, the lapses that have plagued security operations showed again in the attack on the Brigade as the attackers were simply repelled and forgotten for all intents and purposes. The imperative of a follow up operation is inherently lacking and it speaks to the ability (or lack thereof) of the security services to stay focused on a particular issue and see to its conclusion. This fire-brigade approach is detrimental to organised security. The outlying and satellite towns of the FCT -–Abaji, Bwari, Kwali among others–have been attacked for years and settled in by armed groups with even greater designs. The government’s response has been abysmal, and the situation could be likened to the proverbial boiling frog. The capacity for preventing another major security breach in the capital will rest largely on how the security services jealously gather and guard intelligence and prevent leaks that could cause public disorder which might considerably undermine any such counter-terror operation in the capital.

The Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), on Tuesday hosted a meeting to discuss economic issues. It was the NGF’s fifth teleconference meeting for 2022. Asishana Bayo Okauru, the Director-General of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), made it known that three ministers would address the governors at the meeting. “The economy will dominate the meeting as the Minister of Finance, Budget and Planning, Hajiya Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed and the World Bank, led by its Country Director, Dr Shubham Chadhuri and other key stakeholders in the economic sector make presentations,” Okauru said. Okauru said the meeting was scheduled to take place “last Wednesday, but due to some political exigencies, which resulted in the absence of many APC governors, it had to be postponed till Tuesday, 25th of July”. “This postponement was occasioned by the need for the Finance Minister to consult with Governors on the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework (MTTF) 2023-2025 before presenting her proposals at the Federal Executive Council on Wednesday,” he said. The DG added that governors “are also expected to deliberate on and endorse the Primary Healthcare Challenge Fund which will be presented by the officials of NPHCDA and UNICEF”. She also said that Osagie Ehanire, minister of health, is also expected to make a presentation on the Global Fund.

The NGF meeting comes at a time when the Nigerian economy faces unprecedented challenges. The realities that the governors and the minister are unwilling to face squarely is that Nigeria has fallen off the fiscal cliff. Petrol subsidies are projected at ₦6.7 trillion on a revenue of ₦6.34 trillion in 2023, meaning fuel subsidies alone will swallow all of government revenues. In addition, debt servicing is already at 118% of revenues and will continue to grow as Nigeria continues to borrow more to pay debt and fund subsidies. What’s more, all the political elite have shifted gears to primarily politicking, as the reasons the meeting was postponed exemplifies. For the first time in Nigeria’s history, high oil prices have not resulted in an economic boom or surplus despite the budget benchmark for oil being $57, and the price of oil being above $57 all year, the Excess Crude Account has shrunk to less than $400,000 from $35 million a year ago. This is new territory for the country. When we couple these economic issues with the fact that Nigeria is in a state of war already, the conclusion becomes inevitable. The political elite will continue to hold these meetings, put together documents that are not worth the ink on which they are printed, and do all they can to insulate themselves from the economic and security collapse. Unfortunately, even in this, they will fail.

There are reports of palpable tension within the Independent National Electoral Commission, over the continued push by the leadership of the All Progressives Congress, to ensure the participation of Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, and Godswill Akpabio, in the 2023 senatorial elections of Yobe North and Akwa Ibom North West senatorial districts, respectively. Contrary to what the leadership of INEC had told Nigerians that the commission was legally bound to stand by the monitoring reports received from “its state offices”, Vanguard, based on available information at its disposal, reported that INEC may have ignored these reports in some states of the federation, including Kano, Sokoto, Abia, Ogun, Oyo and Akwa-Ibom. And this has not gone down well with some Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs). In fact, the morale of INEC staff at some of the state offices is also reported to have been dampened because some of the reports of the monitoring committees were either being tampered with or ignored. As a result of this, INEC has been involved in many litigations across various Federal High courts in the country. At the last count, the commission acknowledged that there are over 300 cases filed in court that it is joined as a party. That is not all, the Election and Political Parties’ Monitoring (EPM) and Legal Department of the Commission, under the direction and control of INEC leadership, are reported to have become theatres of intrigues, as politicians are preying on both departments to perfect their underhand ploys.

The attempts by key government functionaries and members of the APC to circumvent laid down laws in the Electoral Act in 2022 will be a test for INEC as to how they enforce the law which is intended in many ways to clean up Nigeria’s political space and stop mischievous behaviours by politicians such as in this case, politicians participating in two primaries or substituting candidates after failing in one race. It is important to the integrity of the 2023 elections for INEC to apply the rule of law uniformly across board, for every and any politician. The position of the 2022 Electoral Act is clear on Ahmad Lawan and Godswill Akpabio – the only way they can be on the ballot is if the candidate that emerged from the primaries willingly withdraws. Without this, the politicians effectively open their parties up to litigation that will surely mean they have no candidates on the ballot at the elections. The clarity of the Electoral Act as well as its empowering of INEC to make binding decisions on these issues will be one of the lasting legacies that President Buhari’s administration leaves.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has insisted that the deadline for the Continuous Voters Registration (CVR) exercise remains July 31. The FCT Resident Electoral Commissioner, Yahaya Bello, said this at a news conference on the commission’s preparedness for the 2023 general elections. Mr Bello said all CVR activities except the collection of already printed PVCs would be suspended on Sunday, July 31, adding that INEC increased the closing hours to 1700 hours daily, including Saturdays and Sundays. He maintained that those who register more than once would not get their PVCs. He added that the commission, on Monday, 25 July, began special registration for persons with disabilities at the designated CVR centres to ensure inclusivity, adding that the commission had arranged with Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to make PVC collection easier for citizens at the end of the CVR exercise, using SMS to reach them at their nearest locations. He said that participants in the CVR would get their PVCs by October. Meanwhile, new INEC statistics about the ongoing CVR exercise show that Lagos has overtaken Kano in the number of completed registrations. As of last week, Kano had 458,559 fresh registrants, followed by Lagos with 451,156. However, in the infographics released on Tuesday, July 25, by 7am, Lagos led with 508,936 completed registrations; followed by Kano with 500,207, and Delta with 481,929. INEC added that over 11 million new applicants have completed their voter registration since the CVR began in June last year.

In ruling on the suit filed by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) seeking an extension of the exercise beyond June 30, the Federal High Court ruled that it is within INEC’s powers to set this date provided it is not later than 90 days before the date fixed for the general elections as provided in Section 9(6) of the Electoral Act 2022. This means that INEC is well within its right to set and stay with this deadline. At some level, we understand why INEC would want to end CVR at this point, it’s to enable them to prepare adequately and make sure all registered voters get their PVC before election. This is critical because in elections past, we have seen where registered voters do not get their PVC and are as such disenfranchised, unable to vote. The proposed length of time between the end of the voter registrations and elections gives INEC no excuse not to get the logistics in place and produce the necessary PVCs coupled with the fact that the new Electoral Act has ensured that INEC gets its adequate funding released ahead of time, so as not to do last minute preparations that have happened in past elections like 2019, which caused the postponing of the elections by a week. In addition, there have been arguments around shifting focus from CVR to PVC printing and collection, as INEC prints in batches. However, there is a high chance of disenfranchising people of what is a basic right in a democracy – the right to vote with this move as they will be unable to participate in the 2023 elections once this closes. By INEC’s last count, about 11 million new voters have entered the pool via this CVR process. This is enough to impact the 2023 elections significantly, and if INEC gets its act together, and ensures all those who seek their PVCs are able to pick them up before the elections, this will be a gamechanger in the 2023 elections. It is therefore important to hold INEC accountable and demand utmost transparency in the information it releases on PVC collection going forward.