Friday, October 24, 2014

This Week in Nigeria: Boko Haram Sets Conditions for Negotiations

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Kano's old city gate, northern Nigeria. Photograph by pjotter05.

This Week: News

Boko Haram sets conditions for talks

The Islamist sect Boko Haram has indicated a willingness to negotiate with the government and bring to an end to the bloodshed that has engulfed the north of Nigeria. Giving conditions for possible talks, Abu Mohammed Ibn Abdulaziz, who is reported to be Boko Haram’s second-in-command, demanded the release of its members in the custody, compensation for families of members killed in attacks, and the rebuilding of mosques. The group signalled Saudi Arabia as its preferred location for the talks and named well-known northerners as possible mediators, including former head-of-state Muhammadu Buhari and former Yobe state governor Shettima Monguno.

Retired general murdered by suspected Islamist militants

General Mamman Shuwa, a major figure in post-colonial Nigerian history and a field commander in the three year civil war, was gunned down in his Maiduguri residence on Friday by suspected members of the militant Islamist sect Boko Haram. Shuwa, who retired in 1977, was entertaining guests in his home shortly before the Juma’at prayer when four men entered and opened fire killing Shuwa and a guest. Shuwa, who led the northern frontal assault on Biafran held territory in 1967-70, was a much revered war tactician who captured numerous cities from the Biafran army and had played a part in the military regimes of Murtala Mohammed and Olusegun Obasanjo.

Petroleum revenue special task force report finally submitted

Last week, the long-awaited presentation by the Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force report was submitted. The investigation was headed by former Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Chairman, Nuhu Ribadu, and examines the factors hampering the growth of Nigeria's hydro-carbon industry. Among other things, the report found that the country has lost up to $29 billion in deals with major oil companies in the last ten years; that 250,000 barrels of crude oil are stolen each day; and that $183 million in signature bonuses issued between 2008 and 2011 were unaccounted for.

Naira strengthens in 2012

The naira strengthened considerably in 2012, compared to 2011, in part thanks to Central Bank Governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi’s decisions to tighten liquidity and defend currency payoffs. This year, the naira has risen 3.4% against the dollar while the South African rand is down 7%, the Kenyan shilling fell by 0.4% and the Ghanaian Cedi by 15.3%.

Tuberculosis treatment centre opens in Kano

A new Multi-Drug Resistant Tuberculosis treatment center has been inaugurated in Kano, the largest city in northern Nigeria. The joint project, initiated by the federal government in partnership with the Kano state government is located within the Infectious Diseases Hospital (IDH) and is the first of its kind in northern Nigeria. The World Health Organisation estimates that 3,491 multi-drug resistant tuberculosis cases occur in Nigeria annually.

This Week: Politics

The recently submitted report by the Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force unearthed shocking findings. The brazen manner in which foreign companies alongside their domestic partners have been reaping illicit benefits from Nigeria is alarming to say the least, though to say Nigerians were not aware of it would be disingenuous. We have heard various reports in past, submitted by one committee or another, detailing the monumental losses and leakages that take place in the country’s most vital sectors. Yet the fear held by many is that, as before, nothing will come of it. Indictments of oil marketers for claiming billions of dollars in fraudulent subsidy payments has yet to achieve a single conviction – will this case be any different?

President Jonathan did the right thing in creating the task force but questions still surround the seriousness of the government to clean up the mess, block all the leakages and push for the prosecution of those found fleecing the nation. The adage 'actions speak louder than words' comes to mind; without actions, credibility will be lost.

News headlines and stories frequently contain reports of a politician, businessman or member of Nigeria's upper class being ferried abroad for medical treatment. Tales of German, Israeli or Saudi Arabian medical sojourns have become so commonplace we forget to ask ourselves what went wrong with the medical system in Nigeria. Is there not one hospital that could cater to their needs? What of those who can't afford journeys to faraway lands – will they perish? And is it true that years of economic mismanagement and corruption have left the country in such a state that Nigeria cannot boast of one specialist hospital? My thoughts are drawn to the near tragedy last week in which the self-piloted plane of the governor of Taraba state fell from the sky due to technical hitches and almost resulted in the death of the governor and three of his aides. All are now recuperating in a German hospital and we wish them a speedy recovery.

The 2013 budgetary allocation for the health sector is pegged at N280 billion ($1.7 billion) which represents 6% of the total budget – this seems grossly inadequate given the state of healthcare in the country. The avoidable deaths that occur on a daily basis need not happen, the medical tourism that benefits others countries at Nigeria’s expense must be stopped, and the average citizen must be catered for.

Writers of the week:

Dickson, Zuma and Bayelsa Investment Drive’ by Francis Agbo attempts to understand the recent economic friendship that has evolved between Bayesla state and Jacob Zuma’s South African government. Agbo queries the reason behind the relationship whilst assessing the opportunities it may bring.

The Thieves They Couldn’t Arrest’ by Aniebo Nwamu details Nigeria’s current ills including the monumental theft of the country’s resources by its elite and the poor state of education and health. The frankness of Nwamu's account in the conversation around where Nigeria is going is a welcome addition to the debate.

Organisation of the Week:

The Nigeria Higher Education Foundation(NHEF) was founded in 2004 by a group of US-based Nigerian professionals who were encouraged by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to carry on its work of supporting higher education in Nigeria. The NHEF aims to promote excellence in higher education and assist key universities in Nigeria build their capacity and becoming self-sustaining.

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