The week ahead – Back and forth

24th November 2023

The Court of Appeal in Abuja declared Zamfara State’s governorship election inconclusive, responding to an appeal by the immediate past governor of the state, Bello Matawalle of the APC. Meanwhile, the Court of Appeal in Abuja ousted Plateau State’s governor, Caleb Mutfwang, stating he wasn’t validly nominated and sponsored by his party and there was non-compliance with the Electoral Act in the election. In Kano, the police dispersed protesters suspected to be supporters of the New Nigeria Peoples’ Party, NNPP, after a special prayer session following the Court of Appeal’s judgement affirming Abba Yusuf’s removal as governor.

It is instructive that the validity of the Kano judgement has been questioned, with some claiming that the governor was sacked due to a challenge to his nomination by his APC opponent. Then, the Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General of Kano, Haruna Isah Dederi, announced that the judgement orally delivered in the Appeal Court differed from what was contained in the Certified Copy of Judgement given to him by the Appeal Court. Cue, protests erupting. Despite the police efforts to disperse the protesters, they were hell-bent on expressing their displeasure over the court ruling. As they called for justice, several of the demonstrators declared that they were prepared to die for this cause while expressing concerns over perceived attempts to “usurp the people’s mandate”. Interestingly, the protests were not just amongst NNPP members across all groups in the state apart from the staunch APC supporters. Given Kano’s volatile nature, we are sceptical of how peaceful this protest will continue to be. In other countries, the judiciary stabilises things when there is a crisis, but coupled with the Plateau case, we are concerned about the lower courts’ disregard for Supreme Court rulings on pre-election matters being intra-party. It is crucial that the judicial system, already battered and distrusted by Nigerians, demonstrates impartiality and internal consistency. These politically expedient but contradictory rulings damage the judiciary’s image. We expect the parties involved to appeal these decisions at the Supreme Court, and we hope the Court will uphold its previous rulings. The Nigerian Court of Appeal’s findings have also raised concerns about the ruling APC using the courts to regain control of states it lost in the elections. These decisions have been widely criticised as politically motivated and have further eroded public trust in the judiciary. The courts are meant to be independent and impartial, upholding the rule of law and ensuring fair and just outcomes. When the bench is seen as biased towards a particular political party, it weakens its legitimacy and undermines its ability to command public trust. If the belief becomes widespread that the courts are being used as a political tool, it could lead to a loss of faith in the entire electoral process. People may feel that their votes do not matter and that elections are not free and fair, destabilising Nigeria’s democracy even further. The courts must be transparent and accountable in their decision-making to address these concerns and, perhaps more importantly, be seen to be so. Clear explanations of rulings should be provided to the public, and any allegations of bias or misconduct should be thoroughly investigated. It is also vital for the executive branch to respect the independence of the judiciary and refrain from any attempts to influence its decisions. Maintaining public trust in the courts and the executive is essential for a healthy democracy. When these institutions are perceived as being manipulated for political gain, it undermines the very foundations of democratic governance. It is imperative for all parties involved to act with integrity and uphold the rule of law to preserve the integrity of Nigeria’s democratic system.

The Chartered Institute of Forensics and Certified Fraud Investigators of Nigeria (CIFCFIN) disclosed that federal, state and local councils lose ₦1.4 trillion ($122 billion) annually to fraud, including contract scams, procurement fraud and fraudulent court judgments. CIFCFIN President Dr Iliyasu Gashinbaki said these losses could increase to ₦3 trillion by 2025 without intervention. Gashinbaki emphasised the need for a forensic review of government contract awards and digitisation of the process. Relatedly, Funso Doherty, the Lagos Action Democratic Congress governorship candidate, raised concerns about controversial projects on the state’s procurement portal, citing questionable expenses in a letter to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu.

Public procurement is fundamental to the government delivering on its mandate to the people. The whole process is broken in Nigeria, shrouded in secrecy and rife with endemic corruption. The recent exposés by Funso Doherty, the governorship candidate of the ADC in Lagos, have shed light on the rampant corruption that plagues Nigeria’s public sector. His detailed accounts of questionable expenditures, including millions of naira allocated for seemingly unnecessary projects and personal enrichment, have sparked public outrage and raised serious concerns about the misuse of public funds. Mr Doherty’s fact-based exposés are a valuable contribution to the fight against corruption in Nigeria. They provide concrete evidence of wrongdoing and serve as a wake-up call to the authorities to take decisive action. However, merely exposing corruption, as Mr Doherty did for Lagos and others have done for different states recently, is not sufficient. Exposing it does not guarantee consequences for those who have engaged in corrupt practices. This lack of consequences is why the corruption continues, prompting many to go into these contract scams, certain in the knowledge that very little will happen, even if they are caught. Stemming the rate of corruption is essential for Nigeria’s development and prosperity. Corruption diverts resources from essential public services, stifles economic growth and undermines the rule of law. It breeds mistrust and cynicism among the public, eroding confidence in government institutions and hindering progress towards a more just and equitable society. Therefore, finding ways to make these exposés truly impactful is crucial. The way to do that is through meaningful investigations, prosecutions and reforms.

More than 60 people are feared to have been killed in a fierce fight between Boko Haram fighters and another jihadist group affiliated with the Islamic State in the Lake Chad region. Sources said the fighting took place when the Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP) fighters ambushed a fleet of Boko Haram boats on the islet of Kaduna Ruwa in Lake Chad, which straddles Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad. “Nine Boko Haram boats and all the fighters on them were sunk,” AFP reported, adding that several hostages were also present on these boats.

In the battle between the two major Boko Haram factions, one of the biggest casualties has been economic activities in the areas under their control. The Kaduna Ruwa islet links the area to the larger Lake Chad, whose basin is the primary source of economic activities for communities in the four countries bordering it. Since the insurgency hit full swing a decade ago, the displacement it has wrought has meant more people falling under the poverty line. In a way, the lack of fishing and other economic activities in the lake for years helped ecolife return, more importantly, the natural re-filling of the lake, which was at risk of a dry-up. However, the battle for control between both factions has robbed the resettled Internally displaced Persons (IDPs), especially in fishing communities such as Baga, of the opportunity for economic survival. This is largely because of the taxation systems the rival factions have instituted to control the trade. Before the death of Jamāʿat Ahl al-Sunnah (JAS) faction leader Abubakar Shekau in 2021, his group was considered the weaker faction, having suffered significant losses in terms of personnel, resources and territory to the Islamic State-backed faction and the Nigerian military. However, subsequent leadership changes and shifting towards a conservative survival strategy have helped JAS regain some of its strength. Under the leadership of Amir Bakura Buduma, the group has even taken the fight to its rival, ISWAP. Under normal circumstances, the ongoing clashes between JAS and ISWAP would benefit the Nigerian government, providing a foundation for its amnesty programmes, such as Operations Safe Corridor (military-run) and Sulhu (SSS-run). However, the frequency and intensity of these clashes, as well as the high death toll on both sides, indicate that the government’s strategy of decimating the groups is not yielding the desired results. Both factions continue to carry out successful attacks, demonstrating a resilience that policy planners must acknowledge and address. It underscores the alarming absence of effective governance and security measures in this volatile area. The ability of jihadist groups to operate freely, amassing fleets of boats and engaging in open warfare without fear of intervention, highlights the critical need for a more robust and proactive approach to curbing the proliferation of extremism in the region. The Lake Chad Basin, spanning Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad, has long been a breeding ground for jihadist activity. The vast and remote terrain, coupled with porous borders and weak government presence, has created an environment conducive to the growth and movement of terrorist groups. The lack of effective border control has allowed jihadists to move freely across the region, establishing strongholds, recruiting fighters and acquiring weapons without significant hindrance. Their ability to operate openly and engage in turf wars, as evidenced by the recent clash between Boko Haram and ISWAP, demonstrates the extent to which these groups have capitalised on the absence of effective governance. The need to strengthen border security, enhance local governance and invest in local infrastructure, education and employment opportunities to reduce the appeal of extremism and foster community resilience has never been more urgent.

Ghana’s Central Bank has barred eight Money Transfer Organisations (MTOs) from offering remittance services without regulatory approval. According to a notice seen by TechCabal, these companies include LemFi, Wise, Transfer Go, PayPal’s Xoom, SendValu, Boss Revolution, Aza Finance and Supersonicz. The Central Bank warned the public, commercial banks, Dedicated Electronic Money Issuers (DEMI) and Enhanced Payments Service Providers (EPSP) about dealing with the listed companies. According to Section 29.1 of the Act, operating without a licence attracts a fine “of not more than seven hundred penalty units or a term of imprisonment of not more than eighteen months or both.”

Inward remittances, a crucial source of foreign exchange for Ghana, face challenges when regulations are not stringent enough, potentially fuelling a black market and impacting exchange rates. In the 2022 fiscal year, remittances became Ghana’s third-largest forex source, surpassing cocoa exports by more than double. World Bank data positioned Ghana as the second-highest recipient of remittances in Sub-Saharan Africa after Nigeria. However, a significant discrepancy emerged as the Bank of Ghana recorded over $2 billion less than the World Bank’s reported $4.7 billion. Unregulated money transfer institutions and platforms often handle this unreported sum, contributing to the depreciation of the Ghanaian cedi against the US dollar. The gap between World Bank and Bank of Ghana records has widened, raising concerns about the effectiveness of regulatory measures. Despite efforts like the Payment Systems and Services Act (2019) and the National Payment Systems Strategic Plan (2019-2024), intended to foster financial innovation, the unintended consequence has been the proliferation of unregulated forex transactions. Due to their reliability and convenience, money Transfer Companies (MTCs) play a pivotal role in remittance transfers. In Ghana, MTCs such as Vigo, Small World, Ria, Western Union, MoneyGram, Cigue, Unity Link and Express Money Transfer, along with telecommunication companies like Tigo, Airtel, MTN and Vodafone, contribute significantly to money transfers within and outside the country. The emergence of Dedicated Electronic Money Issuers (DEMIs), exemplified by Zeepay, reflects a shift towards Fintech-driven electronic money services. However, this diversification challenges Ghana’s economy, particularly in forex oversight, impacting exchange rates and inflation policies. The compilation of remittance data by the Bank of Ghana is intricate, needing a comprehensive framework, potentially jeopardising the gains achieved through Ghana’s IMF programme. Addressing these discrepancies is vital to preventing economic instability in the West African state.