Nigeria

Nigeria by Alistair Galloway

Fears over the state of Nigeria’s President Buhari’s health remain after he was absent from three consecutive cabinet meetings this month, before flying to London for medical treatment for the second time this year. Nigeria is continuing to struggle to stave off famine in the northeastern state of Borno. Aid agencies have only been able to raise one fifth of the $1.05 billion required in order to provide assistance this year. 82 of the 300 Chibok girls that were abducted from their school in 2014 have been released in exchange for five Boko Haram commanders. On 15 May Boko Haram fighters killed at least six farmers who were working on their land in the village of Amrawa. On 18 May, at least one person was killed after two explosions at the University of Maiduguri in the northeast of the country. Both Houses of Parliament have now approved Buhari’s record-breaking budget for 2017. The budget will boost government spending by 25 per cent in response to last year’s recession which saw the economy shrink by 1.5 per cent. Spending will increase to 7.4 trillion naira ($23 billion). Nigeria continues to be exempt from OPEC’s deal to cut oil production, which this month, was extended for a further nine months, until March 2018. Forcados pipeline which can handle 200,000 bpd is expected to return to service in the near future after damage by militant activity caused a year of disruption. Inflation has slowed for the third consecutive month due to a decline in gasoline prices. Inflation in April fell to 17.2 per cent from 17.3 per cent in March.

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Nigeria by Alistair Galloway

President Buhari has suspended two high-ranking government officials over allegations of corruption. The head of the National Intelligence Agency is being investigated after a police apartment raid discovered US$43 million in cash that belonged to his agency. An oil tanker has been detained on suspicion of oil theft from the Shell Afremo platform. 14 young girls have been abducted by militants believed to be Boko Haram. In a separate incident four girls were allegedly abducted by Boko Haram after a herdsman was murdered. A suicide car bomber attacked a military convoy on 27 April. 5 soldiers were killed and another 40 were injured. UNICEF have warned about the “alarming” numbers of children that are being deployed as suicide bombers in Nigeria. Government officials are hoping that 2017 started with good economic growth and are confident the growth figures will be good news when published at the end of May. The Central Bank has designed a scheme to give certain investors access to a floating naira. The Investors’ and Exporters’ FX Window is designed to allow access to dollars and improve liquidity whilst shielding the economy from the rapid increase in inflation that would follow a decision to allow the naira to suddenly float freely. 

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Nigeria by Alistair Galloway

Human insecurity due to food shortages in the north east of the country remains a pressing concern as President of the UN Security Council, Matthew Rycroft, said the issue was not getting sufficient attention. The President has returned to Nigeria after spending two months in London. Nigeria continues to experience regular episodes of violence, both linked to terrorism and inter-communal conflicts. On 15 March four female teenage suicide bombers blew themselves up in the Muna Garage residential area of Maiduguri, after knocking on the door of a house and then detonating their bombs when the door was answered. The focus on individual homes is a new tactic. Two people were killed and sixteen injured. Five adult male suicide bombers attacked various points of the Maiduguri-Gamboru highway in Maiduguri on 23 March. At least 8 were killed and 20 injured. One of the bombers struck at the Muna camp for displaced people on the outskirts of the city, killing two civilians. Continuing tensions between Muslim nomadic Fulani cattle herders and Christian farmers led to a clash on 21 March which resulted in 17 people –mostly women and children – being killed after gunmen invaded a farming community in Zaki Biyam in Benue State. A week earlier 10 people were killed in the Buruku area of Benue State in similar clash a week earlier. A Presidential advisor has warned that the amnesty programme for former oil militants is running out of funding. Inflation has slowed from 18.7 per cent to 17.8 per cent in the past month. The government has announced plans to sell stakes in oil ventures; international investors will be reluctant. 

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Nigeria by Alistair Galloway

President Buhari composed a delegation of officials tasked with ensuring that Yahya Jammeh peacefully step down as President of Gambia. The Committee to Protect Journalists stated that Nigeria’s army chief must stop intimidating news websites and drop defamation charges. The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has expressed concern about the rise in in the number of Nigerian women travelling by boat from Libya to Italy. Despite the government’s assertions that Boko Haram has been defeated, tens of thousands of displaced people from the northeast of Nigeria are being prevented from returning home. Boko Haram attacked an army base in Yobe state on 7 January leading to the deaths of 5 soldiers and 15 militants. A suicide bombing occurred on 16 January at University of Maiduguri which killed 4, including the attacker. The police commissioner of Borno state announced that on 24 January, suspected Boko Haram fighters killed three people and kidnapped seven women in an attack on Ndagu village. On 17 January the Nigerian military accidentally bombed a camp holding around 43,000 internally displaced people in Raan, near the Cameroonian border. The governor of Borno province accused aid agencies of profiting from funds provided to help those affected by the Boko Haram insurgency. In response to Shettima’s accusations, UN Humanitarian Coordinator Edward Kallon flew to Maiduguri to discuss his damaging comments. Nigeria’s Senate is investigating accusations that government agents are stealing food aid. Oil production in Nigeria fell by 200,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 1.45 million bpd in December. The Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas planned and staged numerous strikes in January. The lack of access to foreign currency, in particular US dollars, continues to be a significant drag on the economy as the black market rate is around 500 naira per dollar. This is in contrast to the official rate of around 315.

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Nigeria by Alistair Galloway

Nigeria is on the brink of a crisis of food shortages, predominantly in the former Boko Haram strongholds of Borno province as well as Adamawa and Yobe. At least 55,000 people in the north east are in famine-like conditions and the United Nations (UN) estimates that around 120,000 people, most of them children, are at risk of starving to death next year. Boko Haram carried out a double suicide bombing at a market in Madagali in the north east on 9 December, killing 45 people. On 24 December, the Nigerian government claimed victory over Boko Haram after the military seized the last remaining insurgent stronghold of “Camp Zero” in the Sambisa forest. This is not the first time the government has claimed victory against Boko Haram. The group will survive for some time yet; it has spilled over into Niger, Chad and Cameroon. Although they may no longer control cohesive territories, it is highly likely that there will be further violence from Boko Haram in 2017. As the recession continues in Nigeria, the government has put forward its largest-ever budget which aims to stimulate the economy. The Central Bank has also been working to sell assets to help clear dollar-denominated obligations with a focus on fuel importers, airlines, machinery manufacturers, and agricultural chemicals and raw materials. The rise in the global price of oil following the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Country's (OPEC) decision to reduce supply has been welcomed. However, Nigeria faces competition for its light crude and is being held back by its low refining capacity, which is also a key cause of the fuel shortages that are becoming severe and causing sectors such as aviation to grind to a halt.

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Nigeria by Alistair Galloway

The militant group the Niger Delta Avengers resumed their attacks on oil infrastructure in the Niger Delta. Despite the deployment of 3000 government troops, the waterways of the Delta are essentially un-policed, allowing militants to act with impunity in an area essential to the country’s economy and position as Africa’s second largest oil exporter. The militants are demanding that their region actually see the benefit of oil revenues. The First Lady announced she would not support her husband if he were to run for re-election, citing his lack of leadership. Twenty-one of the 200 Chibok school girls abducted in 2014 were released on 13 October. It is likely that significant social stigma will prevent them from returning to their original homes. The security situation in Nigeria is poor. Despite government gains against Boko Haram in the recent year, its insurgency remains powerful in the north eastern province of Borno, and it proved it retains its operational capacity by carrying out a suicide bombing on 12 October and a double suicide bombing on 29 October. Following a Boko Haram attack on a military base, 83 soldiers are missing in action, although it is not guaranteed they have been captured by Boko Haram. Oversupply in the oil market has kept prices low and Nigeria has struggled with low capacity due to infrastructure being damaged by militants earlier in the year, both having a significant negative impact on oil revenues. Nigeria cut the prices of 20 of 26 grades of oil by at least $1 in attempt to regain market share. The central bank has been spending foreign reserves heavily to prop up the naira, which has been weakening due to the lack of oil revenues.

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Nigeria by Lewis McKinnon

In foreign affairs, Nigerian President Buhari announced that the Nigerian government would not contest an International Court of Justice (ICJ) order regarding the location of the Cameroon-Nigerian border. In economic affairs, the naira hit an all time low, forcing the Nigerian government to sell off dollars to boost the currency. Top Nigerian electricity companies are threatening to black out much of the country if debts are not payed. In security news, Niger Delta militants launched an attack on an artillery unit leading to 3 deaths. Boko Haram leaders issued an ultimatum regarding the appointment of a new Daesh leader for the West African affiliates. The militant group is also in the process of constructing a new base in the Burra forest in the North West of Nigeria. The Nigerian air force deployed forces to the Minna country to suppress civil unrest. Hundreds of protesters shut down a Chevron facility requiring an evacuation of Chevron employees by helicopter and plane. 

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Nigeria by Lewis McKinnon

A group of Nigerian politicians were accused of sexually assaulting a hotel chamber maid and hiring prostitutes during a recent visit to the United States. A deputy high commissioner was abducted on a road near Abuja. A Boko Haram attack on a funeral killed 18 women on 17 June. Experts project that the Nigerian government will be unable to militarily suppress the Niger Delta militant crisis. Three Australians and a New Zealander were kidnapped from their convoy and the driver was killed by gunfire. A foreign civil engineer was kidnapped from the Gboko town in the Benue state. The threat of religious violence is looming after a Christian woman was killed by a Muslim in a religious dispute. In economic affairs, global oil prices hit a year-long high due to a fall in Nigerian output. Nigeria is seeking $40-50 million in investments to bolster its flagging oil industry. The value of the Naira plunged against the dollar after the Nigerian government removed its peg to the dollar. South African telecom company MTN settled its long standing fine with the Nigerian government for a sum of $1.7 billion. 

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Nigeria by Lewis McKinnon

France and Nigeria signed a defence pact during a security summit in Abuja. Jordan dispatched a delegation to Nigeria to sign a defence agreement. The United States (US) made moves to allow the sale of up to 12 attack aircraft to the Nigerian government to aid in its fight against Boko Haram. A pair of explosions at the Chevron oil pipeline in the space of a week shut down the pipeline and drove Nigerian oil output to a 22 year low. Further violence involving Fulani herders lead to President Buhari ordering a military crackdown. A Boko Haram IED blast triggered by a passing taxi led to five deaths. A suicide bomber killed six at a military compound in Maiduguri. The Nigerian military has penetrated the long held Boko Haram stronghold of the Sambisa forest. Seven were killed by police during a protest that turned violent in the separatist Biafra region. Nigerian forces rescued two of the Chibok Girls and are negotiating for the release of the rest of them. The Nigerian government raised the subsidised gas price to its maximum of $0.73 per litre from a previous rate of $0.43 per litre. United Airlines cancelled all flights to Nigeria as the naira fell drastically against the dollar and currency controls prevented the airline from moving its assets abroad. 

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Nigeria by Lewis McKinnon

Nigeria signed a $6 billion loan and currency swap deal with China during Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari's visit to Beijing in early April. The Nigerian anti-corruption agency has discovered over 37,000 ghost workers that have cost the government over $5 million so far. A video released by Boko Haram showed a number of girls identified by relatives as members of the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped in 2014. Pirates hijacked a chemical cargo ship off the coast of Nigeria and kidnapped six of the crew members. The US released an estimate of the impact of piracy, theft, and fraud in the Nigerian oil industry at $1.5 billion per month. A gun battle between the 113 Battalion of the Nigerian Army and Boko Haram militants broke out on 23 April in Kareto, Borno State. The Nigerian military announced the capture of four high level Boko Haram kingpins. An Amnesty International report revealed that the Nigerian army has been accused of massacring over 350 civilians who were discovered in a mass grave. Dangote Cement announced the construction of a $1 billion cement factory in southern Nigeria. 

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