Young Nigerians make up the largest population of the growing flow of migrants from Africa to developed countries. In 2016, over 20,000 involved in the Mediterranean Sea crossing were reported to be from Nigeria.
Understanding their reasons for leaving the country is important if Nigeria is going stem the tide.
I conducted a study to establish the extent to which young people aged between 15 and 35 were susceptible to illegal migration and whether they were aware of what it entailed. I also examined the attitudes and survival strategies adopted by irregular migrants returning to Nigeria.
I focused on three groups of migrants who fall into the “irregular migration” category. The first were those who arrived in a country illegally. The second, those who arrived legally – for instance on the basis of tourist or student visas – and then overstayed the period covered by their visas. And finally, asylum seekers whose claims have been rejected and who have not left the country as required.
My findings showed that most young people who migrated under irregular circumstances were motivated by three factors: economic reasons, family dynamics and social media.
Most said they believed that the “end will surely justify the means”. And that they perceived ability to travel abroad as a sign of success.
We conducted interviews with 63 young people who had not yet left the country in four Nigerian cities: Lagos, Ibadan, Ile-Ife and Benin City. We targeted those susceptible to migration. These included those who were unemployed, in their final year at a tertiary-level education institution and those engaged in Nigeria’s compulsory National Youth Service Corps. We also included seven young people who had tried to migrate but had been returned.
We also ran separate focus group discussions for men and women. We chose people on the basis of whether or not they were familiar with the process of irregular migration.
Once in the groups we asked questions to determine their familiarity with the concept of irregular migration. Most said they were. We also established that most were unfamiliar with formal immigration procedures and that more than half did not have a valid passport.
Most knew someone personally who had travelled out of the country through illegal means such as forging a passport, using unauthorised agents, and travelling to “Europe by road” – as irregular migration is referred to in the popular idiom.
Most expressed positive attitudes about irregular migration, stating that the end would justify the means. They all shared the view that migrants were far better off than those who stayed behind because they had access to a better quality of life.
Bola, a 29-year-old female unemployed youth from Osun State, asserted:
Sincerely, those who migrate outside the country often live far better than we in Nigeria. They enjoy constant power supply, good weather, eat good diet and to a reasonable extent, they are secured.
Irregular migration tends to fester in the face of economic adversity. Nigeria’s economy is in a bad shape. Unemployment among young people is particularly high at 36.50% in 2018.
In addition, poverty levels have got worse. In 2019, the number of extremely poor Nigerians was estimated at 91.6 million, nearly half of the country’s total population. Nigeria also has 87 million people living in poverty.
This increase is one of reasons Nigerians leave the country in search of “Eldorado”. In other words to find security, work and new ways of life in other countries.
A recent report launched by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) on irregular migration echoed my findings. In documenting the experiences of Africans who had migrated to Europe using irregular means, it identifies a lack of opportunity to exert influence on their governments as reasons for migration.
Finding answers isn’t easy. For example, some of the recommendations made in the UNDP report, such as creating more incentives for young people at home and expanding legal pathways for migration – come across as rhetoric. Most aren’t new either.
Several suggestions have been put forward by scholars and development bodies. These include: facilitating circular migration between European and African countries, tackling the issues of unemployment and underemployment in countries of origin, and addressing the problems resulting from violence and other forms of political instability.
The common denominator is that all efforts must be designed with the aim of making the home a place people don’t want to leave. And programmes to discourage young people from irregular migration must go beyond deterrence and punishments.
There should also be a concerted effort to challenge the fundamentally erroneous beliefs about migration. This must include demystifying fantasies about life abroad and educating young people about the realities of life as an irregular migrant.
Finally, those who stay home and succeed must be celebrated.
The political motive for the Eco move is to ensure that Nigeria is permanently kept out of the currency. As Professor Ibrahim Gambari has always said, France has always defined itself as the main power block in Africa and so has always seen Nigeria's self-definition as an African power as a threat to its interests.
Last Saturday, France, through the instrumentality of its most faithful poodle in West Africa, Alasane Ouattara, kidnapped the West African currency that was to be launched next year for the 15 countries in the region. In a press conference in Abidjan, Presidents Macron and Ouattara announced that the eight West African countries using the CFA Franc currency would adopt the Eco as their new currency next year.
The announcement was done the day the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) was meeting for a final adoption of Eco, also decided for 2020. The French move breaks up the 30-year struggle by ECOWAS to establish a regional currency to promote trade and development.
What France has done is that it takes over the responsibility of establishing and even printing the new currency and presents the other countries in the region with a fait accompli. France is also keeping the new currency attached to the Euro and therefore aligning it with its colonial interest, as it has always done with the CFA. This means that the other seven West African countries can only join on conditions established by France. The implication is that Nigeria is essentially kept out of the currency because the country will not accept the conditionalities established by France.
The long delay in establishing the Eco has been caused by the inability of the 15 ECOWAS countries to meet the convergence criteria they set for themselves. These are that the inflation rate of less than 5 per cent is maintained. The budget deficit is not more than 3 per cent of GDP and that each country has enough foreign reserves to cover at least three months of imports. The problem now is that after failing to meet these conditions over the past two decades, the eight countries have now adopted the currency without meeting them. This means economics has been set aside for political reasons.
There are three political factors that motivated the French decision to take over the baby that ECOWAS has had great difficulty in delivering.
France has become very unpopular in the Sahel because of widespread belief that it was pretending to fight the jihadists in public while supporting them in secret. People are saying that with its vast array of drones, planes and satellite cover, how are convoys of hundreds of terrorists able to drive over hundreds of kilometres and attack soldiers without any warning from the French.
In this tenth year of the battle against Boko Haram, in which France is a major player with troops, planes and drones on the ground, understanding the French role in West Africa is very important and my hope is that we have a strong working group following the issues.
Over the past few years, however, France has become very unpopular in the Sahel because of widespread belief that it was pretending to fight the jihadists in public while supporting them in secret. People are saying that with its vast array of drones, planes and satellite cover, how are convoys of hundreds of terrorists able to drive over hundreds of kilometres and attack soldiers without any warning from the French. These attacks have been happening with increasing regularity and devastating effect. President Macron has been very angry that Sahelians are criticising his country, that he ordered the presidents of the five Sahelian countries to report to Pau in southern France to be told off for not convincing their citizens that France is a good friend. A meeting, which was to hold this December, has been postponed to January following the killing of 71 soldiers in Niger by jihadists. France is therefore using the Eco currency launch as a public relations gimmick to rebuild its battered image.
A professor of Political Science and development consultant/expert, Jibrin Ibrahim is a Senior Fellow of the Centre for Democracy and Development, and Chair of the Editorial Board of PREMIUM TIMES.
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“The Honorable Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, H.E. Chief Timipre Sylva has declared 2020 as the year of Gas for the Nation”, the news piece started.
What amazing news! And certainly long overdue. As it seems, Nigerian officials have finally taken the cue. As I have said ever so often, more than an oil nation, Nigeria is a gas nation. It just doesn’t act like it.
Undoubtedly, natural gas has the enormous potential to diversify and grow the Nigerian economy, power its industries and homes, produce ever-so-lacking wealth, create jobs, develop associated industries in the petrochemical sector, raise people out of poverty, the list goes on.
Mr. Sylva’s demonstrated intent could perhaps become the most relevant political action anyone has taken in Nigeria in years and could change the country forever; and yet, the work ahead is so vast, we can only hope he has the strength to pull it off.
To be sure, naming 2020 the year of gas for Nigeria has a really nice ring to it, but marketing alone will not cut it. Concerted governmental action is essential if we are to see true growth in the liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) sector, and first of all, we need to see a conclusion to the long delayed Nigerian Gas Flare Commercialisation Programme. Sylva stated that this was his main priority, so let’s hope it happens soon.
Once the programme is cleared, oil producers will have a more conclusive alternative to flaring. They will be able to monetize a resource that has so far been wasted, but still that will not suffice.
The flaring issue in Nigeria is tremendous. Every year, 2 million tonnes of LPG are flared, instead of being used as a source of power or feedstock. That means millions of dollars literally going up in smoke. Nigeria’s zero-flaring programme has been on-going for years, and yet, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has just released results that indicate that gas flaring has been consistently increasing over time. More specifically, “a total of 276.04 billion cubic feet (bcf) of natural gas was flared from Nigeria's oil fields between September 2018 and September 2019”. Further, NNPC stated that “the volume of gas flared within this period was more than what was supplied to power generation companies for electricity production which was 275.31bcf”. This is taking place in a country where 45% of the population does not have access to electricity, besides the extremely detrimental effect that has on businesses ability to compete and the extraordinary environmental damage that represents.
Already, the federal government announced in August that it would not be able to fulfill its Zero Routine Flaring target by 2020 and is yet to provide a new deadline for this goal to be achieved.
The problem remains the same as ever. It is much, much cheaper for producers to flare up and pay the fines than do anything about it. This can not continue to be. Stronger action is needed and it falls on Mr. Sylva’s leadership to see it done.
I don’t mean by this to point the finger at oil producers. Most would probably want to monetize that resource, and would if they could. But we lack legislation, infrastructure, pricing regulations, and actors ready to receive the feedstock. They can’t just pipe the gas somewhere and hope for the best. We need to focus on deepening domestic gas penetration and promote adoption amongst the population, foster the development of gas associated industries like ammonia and urea plants, use this resource for power generation, etc. Demand doesn’t grow out of nowhere.
For this to workout, everybody needs to work together. That means the ministry and the NNPC need to partner with the international oil companies, the indigenous oil companies as well as with the country’s financial institutions to create the solutions that can make this industry flourish. That is a tall job, but an essential one.
Of course, the news that the output of liquefied natural gas (LNG) coming from the Bonny LNG-plant is going to expand by 35% once the 7th LNG train is operational is fantastic. Nigeria will strengthen its position as one of the world’s biggest LNG exporters and that will bring considerable wealth for the country, but its people continue to be in the dark.
And LNG expansion projects are something IOCs are well prepared to do, but there are other important roles in boosting the gas industry that have to be taken by others.
I speak of course of marginal field development, a topic that is of fundamental importance to me and that I have extensively covered in my most recent book Billions at Play: The Future of African Oil and Doing Deals. Both for oil and gas, Nigeria’s marginal field development programme showed incredible promise when it was first launched in 2013. It gave opportunities to local companies to explore smaller discoveries that were uninteresting for the majors, which in turn allowed them to gain experience in leading exploration and production projects on their own. Further, it opened opportunities for domestic use of natural gas for power generation. That programme is now being copied by Angola, and yet, it has stalled in Nigeria.
Further, as I have extensively debated over the years, and most extensively in Billions at Play, we need to dramatically invest in Nigeria’s ability to negotiate and manage contracts. This applies both to the need to respect the sanctity of contracts, a fundamental part of giving international investors the confidence to trust that what they sign for will be respected, but also learning to choose who to sign contracts with. The current debacle with P&ID, an unknown little company that has managed to sue the Nigerian government for breach of contract in the English courts and is seeking USD$9.6 billion in compensation, is an incomprehensible situation that should never have taken place. We need to know who our partners are and who we should be signing contracts with, and then stick by them.
Only by combining the role of the majors, the indigenous companies, the necessary infrastructure development for gas transportation, bridging with the nation’s banks to help finance projects and by giving a clear legal framework to the sector, can we hope to succeed. I do not doubt that this is possible to accomplish in 2020 and the years to come, but coming from the experience of recent years, it does not seem probable, and no one pays the price for that more than everyday Nigerians, that continue to fail to benefit from its country’s resources.
Action is necessary as a matter of urgency.
This week it was disclosed that international oil and gas companies were holding back an estimated USD$58.4 billion in investments in oil and gas projects in Nigeria because of regulatory uncertainty. Foreign Direct Investment in Nigeria was USD$1.9 billion in 2018. It’s not like we don’t need the money.
But how can we expect international oil companies to feel comfortable signing off on billions in investment if after 20-plus years of negotiations we still haven’t managed to settle on the Petroleum Industry Bill that will oversee the sector? Who can blame them for waiting to see what happens? They are waiting for us to figure out how we want to regulate the industry, and after 20 years, we still don’t seem to know. That has to change, and soon.
Nigeria has an estimated 200 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves. It is high-time to put them to use. With the right policies we could change the face of the country completely. We could give light to our people, we could power our industries, releasing them from the handicapping dependency on diesel generators that make it all but impossible for them to be competitive, we could relinquish ourselves from our dependency on imported fuel for power and heat, we could create new opportunities for job creation and industrial development, we could take millions of people out of poverty... Further, strong domestic gas and gas-based industries could help boost intra-African trade, create new synergies with our neighbours, boost integration of power generation networks, establish new partnerships, even contribute to peace.
What I am saying, I say as an African, and it applies to many countries across the continent. However, Nigeria is in a prime position to truly enact change and be a beacon to others by showing leadership and resolve. It is the continent’s biggest economy and has the continent’s biggest reserves of hydrocarbons, both oil and gas. NNPC already works with some of the best major IOCs and the country has Africa’s best and most developed indigenous exploration and production capabilities. Let’s give ourselves the opportunity to be better and to live better, by taking advantage of the resources we already possess.
Mr. Sylva is showing leadership and drive. So far, he has proven himself to be the leader that Nigeria needs to develop new LPG and LNG industries that will take the country to the next level of development, not only economically speaking, but socially, environmentally, humanly. So let’s hope he can pull through the great transformations that need to occur for 2020 to truly be Nigeria’s year of gas.
As part of Dangote Industries Limited’s commitment to the Federal Government of Nigeria, Group President/CE of Dangote, Aliko Dangote took the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola on an inspection tour of the 35-kilometer Apapa-Oshodi-Oworonsoki-Ojota highway currently under construction by Dangote Industries Limited.
The work began in 2018, as part of a bargain between the company and the Federal Government to enjoy a 10-year tax rebate that accrues to N72.9 Billion. The road has been subject of heavy traffic flow. An initial attempt to work on the road fell apart, it was approved for N15 Billion in 2013, work on the road stopped after the 2015 general elections.
During the inspection, Fashola told members of the press, “The Federal Government is dedicated to the speedy completion of the highway to provide a lasting solution to the problems of bad roads, and gridlocks”
Previous efforts by both Federal and State governments to solve this bottleneck have been unsuccessful.
“We expect that by the end of 2020, the entire road network will be finished, you will have a road that will last for 40 years.” Aliko Dangote during the inspection said;
Speaking on Dangote Industries Limited’s struggles, Dangote complained about the congestions at the ports, the gridlock which cost the company about N25 billion in revenue between 2017 and 2019 financial year.
Praising the quality of the road been constructed, Dangote assured that it will revive commerce around the Apapa area. “This road will actually open up the economy. It will bring a lot of jobs and a lot of factories that have moved out will be able to move back.”
The road is on track to be concluded before the end of 2020. This is the first attempt to rehabilitate the busy road since it was first completed in 1978. Fashola also spoke about the economic revival of the Apapa area,
“Businesses have started coming back on Liverpool Road because the road closed earlier is now back. You will see more of that. All of the businesses that are shut on Creek Road will come back. We expect to see property redevelopment and property renewal once the road is completed.”
Fashola also explained that the project will be creating wealth around the surrounding areas as trucks will be needed to convey different materials to the site of the construction, and also labor to help with the process. The project has also seen over 600 people directly employed.
Speaking of how President Buhari plans to bring 100million people out of poverty, Fashola explains that the economy around the construction will provide jobs and opportunities for Nigerians.
“Once the economy of Apapa returns, all the clearing and forwarding, shipping, newspaper companies and all others doing business will resume fully and the economy will bounce back.’’
He lauded the private/public partnership scheme with Dangote and pointed out that section two of the project, which was not part of the original contract was already showing signs of failure, due to heavy traffic.
While inspecting the road around the Oshodi area, Fashola had this to say
“We are at the Oshodi area now and one side has been concluded and opened to traffic and this is how we intend to continue to complete and open until we finish the entire road,”
Dangote said: “What I can also assure you is that this road will be finished before the end of next year.’’
Plastic debris is everywhere and has grabbed the attention of environmental policy makers and regulators. When this plastic breaks up into smaller particles – less than 5mm in size – they are called microplastics. In some cases, they can only be seen under a microscope.
There are two types of microplastics: primary and secondary. Primary microplastics are manufactured to be 5mm or less in size. Examples include microbeads used in cosmetics and household products and resin pellets used in abrasive blasting.
Secondary microplastics are formed from the breakdown of larger plastic materials due to photochemical, mechanical and biological processes in the environment.
Sources of microplastics in rivers and oceans include littering, poor waste management, waste water treatment plants, storm water overflow, industrial effluents and even organic solids obtained from sewage treatment processes.
The presence of small plastic fragments in the marine environment was first highlighted in the 1970s. But with renewed interest over the past decade, microplastics are now considered a major emerging contaminant.
Microplastics pick up and transport heavy metals and organic pollutants such as polychlorinated biphenyls and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. These pollutants can be toxic. They can be carcinogenic – that is, they have the potential to cause cancer – and they can also be mutagenic – they can lead to changes in the genetic makeup of organisms.
Microplastics also release plastic additives into the marine environment. These can contaminate soil, air, water and food. They can damage creatures that live in the sea by blocking their digestive tracts, changing their feeding patterns, decreasing their immune response and altering reproductive activities. They can also be transferred up the food chain to humans when they’re ingested by marine organisms.
Most studies on microplastics have been conducted outside Africa. Currently, there is little or no data on microplastics occurrence in sub-Saharan Africa.
We examined surface sediments from four beaches in Lagos for microplastics. This was the first attempt to investigate microplastic levels in the Nigerian coastal environment.
We found microplastics in all sediment samples collected from the beaches. We found that plastic fragments dominated all the samples we examined. This was followed by pellets and then fibres. The high number of fragments suggests the breakdown of larger plastic items from littering and poor waste management as the most significant source of microplastics in the beaches.
Plastic polymers confirmed were polypropylene, polyethylene and polystyrene. These polymers are used, among other things, to produce rigid food service containers (Styrofoam containers), disposable cups, bottles, as well as plastic wrappings and bags. This study also confirms the ubiquitous nature of microplastics in the Atlantic as reported in studies from different regions and locations.
Other countries are already taking action to minimise microplastic pollution. About 127 have implemented policies to regulate plastic production and usage. Nigeria should not be an exception.
The country needs to adopt a series of policies to manage plastics.
The Nigerian government – at all levels – should encourage citizens and organisations to embrace the “new plastics economy” where plastic never becomes waste. Plastic materials with no after-use value – single-use plastics – such as Styrofoam plates and the ubiquitous water sachets should be gradually phased out.
Individuals can also take action by reducing their plastic footprint.
The Nigerian Natural Resource Charter (NNRC) has given reasons why crude oil theft is still a thriving business in the country, several years after the discovery of oil.
According to the NNRC, factors such as government and societal influences have helped to sustain oil theft in Nigeria.
It stated that poor governance of Nigeria's oil revenue as well as corruption were parts of the incentives supporting the illicit practice with the country's federal structure also serving as a buoy.
According to the NNRC, between 1999 and 2016, oil-producing states received N7.006 trillion as payment under derivation principle but delivered very little development to their communities and people.
"A 2005 World Bank report estimated 80 per cent of Nigeria's oil and gas revenues accrued to one per cent of its population, 99 per cent of the population received the remaining 20 per cent.
"Emergence of militant groups demanding for resource control and development. Kidnappings, sabotage and illegal bunkering followed. Security contracts to protect pipelines which gave direct access to the pipelines and started to steal oil again.
"Efforts to curtail this new trend was met with threats of further vandalism. (It became) cheaper to pay security fees than to repair," said the NNRC in a presentation, a copy of which was obtained by THISDAY.
It further alleged that oil companies operating in the country were source of inducement for oil theft, stating that they support the act by making sure that they inadequately implement international best practices which often lead to devastating environmental degradation.
Furthermore, the NNRC which is supported by the United Kingdom to do its works in Nigeria, stated that widespread poverty amongst Nigerians have also made oil theft lucrative. It explained that high youth unemployment resulting from the socio-economic conditions in the Niger Delta region had led young men to become oil thieves.
"Average annual income of artisanal refinery worker is N3 million. Low-level oil thieves who steal in small jerry cans claim to only partake in the activity because they need to feed their families. They normally scoop from leaking pipes," it added.
Another source of incentive for oil theft, the NNRC noted was unemployment which it stated was at a rate of 33.1 per cent as of the third quarter (Q3) of 2017 amongst the country's young population.
"Combined unemployment and underemployment rate for the entire youth labour force (15-35 years) was 52.65 per cent or 22.64 million (10.96 million unemployed and another 11.68 million underemployed). Increasing levels of unemployment are matched by increasing levels of criminal activity in the Niger Delta," it added.
Further explaining how theft of oil happens in the region, the NNRC said it often involved vandalising infrastructure to divert oil away from its intended destination.
According to it, about 12,714 kilometres (km) of oil and gas pipelines were located in the Niger Delta, adding that between 2003 and 2013, there were a total of 15,685 pipeline breaks caused by vandalism.
"In 2016, Shell reported daily losses of 5,660 bpd. Most siphoned oil are refined locally in firewood. Small ships anchor near pipelines, drill and siphon crude, which is then taken to larger oil tankers on the high sea. Process is repeated multiple times till the tanker is full.
"Multiple siphoning points with hoses up to 2km used, barges can take 3,000 to 18,500 barrels of crude.
"Tankers can take from 31,000 to 62,000 barrels of crude and crude is normally sold on the international market with proceeds used to fund local and regional election campaigns."
Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo last week hosted a delegation of Chinese entrepreneurs, led by billionaire businessman and co-founder of Alibaba Group, Jack Ma, at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.
Alibaba Group Holding Limited is a Chinese multinational company with investments in e-commerce, retail, Internet and technology.
Osinbajo and Ma spoke on opportunities in Nigeria's digital economy and the nation's huge population with its advantages.
The vice-president thanked Ma for honouring the invitation he extended to him to visit Nigeria when they met at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Cologny-Geneva, Switzerland.
He said Nigeria represents incredible opportunity and potential as it will, in another two decades, become the third largest in terms of population in the world.
Osinbajo said the Alibaba group had achieved a lot in broadening the scope of business and activities for people everywhere.
'If there is anything you have achieved, for the politician, we say you have democratised business.
'It is a great achievement. I think it is something we will like to learn from and benefit from, especially as we open up government businesses and transactions and make them more efficient for the use of our people.
'This is an exciting time for us and we are very happy that you are here. A lot of businesses and entrepreneurs are looking forward to your interacting with them later today.
'I think you will find a very energetic, very creative group of young men and women and old men and women who are increasingly getting interested in entrepreneurship, especially digital entrepreneurship. I am happy to see that you have a good group of businesses from China.
'I hope it will create an opportunity to start investigating business opportunities in Nigeria and I really hope that we will be able to do something and create some opportunities here,' he said.
Osinbajo assured his guest that Nigeria has many entrepreneurs and young people who are actively engaged in digital economy.
The Vice-President said the Federal Government started a job programme for young people, called N-Power, where half a million youths were engaged.
He added that the government had to build the e-infrastructure to make the programme happen.
Osinbajo said a system was developed in which N-Power beneficiaries were paid online and online materials were put in open and accessible portals for them.
'They also have equipment which enables them to train as extension workers for farm; we train them to teach also using the open portal; and it has proved to tremendously successful.'
'We have a programme called broadband connectivity for all by 2023; which basically is to see how we can deepen connectivity across the country by 2023 and we are looking just as you said about e-government.
'That is also crucial because government tend to be viewed with a great deal of suspicion; nobody is quite sure of what government is up to all the time.
'I think that the government can benefit from the efficiency that digital economy provides,' he said.
Ma said Chinese entrepreneurs were bringing four 'Es' to Africa.
He said the first 'e' was e-infrastructure; to support internet connection to all parts of Africa as it hoped that every young people, every small business should have a mobile phone to run their businesses anywhere, anytime.
'We hope to support e-entrepreneurs; we want to make entrepreneurs the heroes of the African continent, it is the entrepreneurs that promote business development in China; government support entrepreneur with the infrastructure they need.
'If the government is on 'e', government will be very efficient, transparent and the people know what the government can do and the government know what the people want.
'The last and very important is e-education; in the next few days, we are going to have African e-entrepreneur prize; so all the African countries can apply for our awards.
'So, I am very happy to hear that four Nigerian entrepreneurs are right among the top 10; we will be in the final competition in two days and I think Nigerian entrepreneurs will have a great result.
'It is just the beginning for us; our job is to support entrepreneurs because we are all entrepreneurs; we are all founders of our own businesses in China,' he said.
Last month marked ten years since Mohammed Yusuf, founder of Boko Haram, died in police detention. His death led to the radicalisation of the sect and a declaration of Jihad against the Nigerian state.
In an earlier paper on the sect I argued that before 2009, its operations were more or less peaceful, but that it was radicalised in 2009 after a confrontation with Nigerian security agencies. The police cracked down on the group setting off an armed uprising in Bauchi State, Northern Nigeria.
Opinions differ on the reasons for the government clampdown. But some believe that the government intervened based on intelligence that the group was arming itself.
The crackdown led to an uprising that soon spread to other parts of northeastern Nigeria and 800 members of the group were killed by the Nigerian security services. Yusuf was arrested during this period but died in police detention. The police claimed that he died while trying to escape.
Yusuf’s successor, Abubakar Shekau, vowed to exact revenge on the Nigerian government. A violent campaign against the state was launched. A year later in 2010, Shekau sought to make it a Jihad against Christians.
In a message he reportedly broadcast over the Internet in July 2010, Shekau was reported as saying:
This is a message to President Goodluck Jonathan and all who represent the Christians. We are declaring a holy war! We will fight the Christians, because everyone knows what they have done to the Muslims!
It is now estimated that by 2018 Boko Haram had been linked to the deaths of over 37,000 people.
The United Nations Children’s Fund has reported that the group has kidnapped more than 1,000 children in northeastern Nigeria since 2013 to spread fear and show power. Similarly, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre believes that over two million people have been displaced in the North East as a result of Boko Haram’s terror activities.
Boko Haram has survived thanks to its ability to reinvent itself, change tactics, and adopt different strategies. Going forward, conventional military solutions will not work on their own. Other interventions, such as de-radicalisation and rehabilitation are necessary.
Fighting the sect
The government of Goodluck Jonathan (2010-2015) adopted measures to combat the group including declaring a state of emergency in the three most affected Northern states of Yobe, Borno and Adamawa. It also initiated a four-nation regional force that included Niger, Chad and Cameroon.
These measures had varying degrees of success. They would appear to work initially because Boko Haram would lay low for a while, only for it to adopt a different terror strategy.
The Jonathan government even suggested amnesty but Shekau reportedly mocked the offer, saying:
Surprisingly the Nigerian government is talking about granting us amnesty. What wrong have we done? On the contrary, it is we that should grant you pardon.
Before he issued this audio statement the military had claimed to have killed him.
Some of the factors that affected the fight against Boko Haram, especially under the Jonathan government, were pervasive conspiracy theories that played on the country’s fault lines of religion, ethnicity and regionalism.
For instance many supporters of Jonathan, a Christian from southern Nigeria, believed that Boko Haram was created by the Northern political class to undermine Jonathan’s government.
In the same vein, according to many Muslims in the North, the Jonathan government was either fighting the group halfheartedly, or propping it up in order to depopulate the North ahead of the 2015 election.
The conspiracy theories probably played a role in the Jonathan administration’s lethargic handling of the kidnapping of 276 girls from a Chibok boarding school in April 2014.
What was obvious was that Boko Haram had become a menace. By the beginning of 2015, the group reportedly controlled about 20 local government areas, a territory the size of Belgium.
In 2015, when Muhammadu Buhari, a Northern Fulani Muslim and retired Army General, defeated Jonathan in the election, he gave Nigerian military chiefs three months to defeat Boko Haram. This was probably based on a wrong assumption that fighting terrorism was just like conventional warfare.
In December of that year, his government claimed it had recovered all territories previously held by Boko Haram, saying it had “technically defeated” the group. However, there has recently been an upsurge in the sect’s activities. It is now armed with better weapons and controls four of ten zones in northern Borno state near Lake Chad.
What seems obvious is that Boko Haram has shown the capacity to reinvent itself: it has evolved from being a group fighting the Nigerian state, to targeting Christians, attacking Muslims it regards as infidels and collaborators, and now, taking the fight to the military.
For instance, in December 2018, it sacked two military bases – a naval base and a multinational joint task force post – in the fishing town of Baga after a fierce battle.
The group claims that its ultimate aim is to establish a caliphate where it can rule according to its version of Islamic law.
Meanwhile, the Buhari government continues to live in denial, maintaining its posture that it has “technically defeated” the group.
Boko Haram today
Over the years, different factions have emerged. One of the earliest splinter groups was Ansaru, which emerged in 2012 after Boko Haram attacked Kano city killing about 185 civilians, most of them Muslims.
Today, Boko Haram is believed to be made up of at least two main factions, one led by Shekau and the other, known as the Islamic State West Africa Province, led by Abu Abdullah Ibn Umar al-Barnawi who is said to be one of the sons of Boko Haram founder Mohamed Yusuf. However, there appears to be two people with the same name or aliases, one of whom is not linked to Yusuf.
It is obvious that given the nature of Boko Haram, military solutions will not work on their own. A robust programme of amnesty, de-radicalisation and rehabilitation will have to go hand-in-hand with counterinsurgency and military solutions. All told, it will not be an easy victory for the Nigerian government.
The federal government of Nigeria on Tuesday, November 5 insisted the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) must work out modalities to reduce the price of data in the interest of Nigerians.
This was the position of the minister of communications and digital economy, Dr Isa Ali Pantami.
Pantami said his office has been inundated with complaints from concerned Nigerians about the high cost of data by telecoms operators. He mandated the management of the NCC led by its board chairman, Senator Olabiyi Durojaiye, to work out the modalities with other stakeholders in the industry to address the complaints as soon as possible.
Senator Durojaiye had led members of the board on a courtesy visit to the minister.
“I am urging the management of NCC to work towards reducing the price of data in Nigeria. It is too costly and people are complaining every day,” The Nation quoted the minister as saying.
Last month, the minister had directed the NCC to bring to stem the tide of illegal deduction of the data of subscribers and work towards the downward review of the cost.
In a related development, the federal government recently the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) to develop DNA replication and encoding laboratories to help in the detection and prosecution of criminals in the country.
The minister of state, science and technology, Mr. Mohammed Abdullahi, said this at the 2019 National Identity Day organised by NIMC on Monday, September 16.
He stressed the need for NIMC to look into the possibility of strategic partnerships with other government agencies to ensure new innovations are introduced to help in combating crime in the country.
About two months ago, the Nigerian government announced the closure of the country’s land borders to all goods. According to the country’s Comptroller-General of the Customs Service, Hameed Ali, this was done to stem the influx of smuggled goods, especially rice and tomatoes, into the country.
The border closure is an economic aberration as most countries don’t usually close their borders for trade-related reasons. They do so, as in the cases of Sudan, Rwanda, Eritrea and Kenya, when their security is jeopardised. They also sometimes do so during disease epidemics, such as Ebola, that have the potential to spread across borders.
So, what does Nigeria stand to gain from this unprecedented measure? Ali pointed out that the border closure has significantly increased revenue from import duties. This increase in revenue is a welcome fillip for a country struggling to close the 2019 budget deficit of a whopping 2.18 trillion Naira. This represents about 2% of the country’s 2018 nominal GDP of 127.8 trillion Naira (about US$397 billion).
In touting the gains from the border closure, however, its latent costs should not be ignored. There are reports that the closure has set the country’s inflation rate on an upward trajectory. The inflation rate, which has been declining since April 2019, rose to 11.24% in September, driven mainly by sharp increases in food prices, the highest since June.
If the closure persists and causes sustained increases in food prices, Nigeria could see more people driven into poverty. This would result in an increase in the country’s poverty rate of about 50%. The potential to disrupt the economic lifelines of many traders who depend on legitimate cross-border trade is real.
For these and other reasons, Nigeria has no choice but to address the real problems of cross-border smuggling rather than its symptoms. At the heart of the problem is a network of wealthy smuggling cartels facilitated by corrupt border officials.
Poor paying the price
Thousands of Nigerians, especially women, engage in buying and selling of consumer goods around the border areas. They buy at low prices in one country and sell at higher prices in another. Black market foreign exchange dealers thrive at border posts.
The inability of the formal sector to absorb a growing labour force, coupled with a freeze in public-sector employment under recent economic reforms, has resulted in a bloated informal sector. This is estimated to be about 65% of the country’s GDP – the largest informal sector in sub-saharan Africa.
Informal trade along the borders is carried out by hawkers of assorted goods such as textiles, footwear, alcohol and non-alcoholic beverages. There is also trade in food, fuel, transport services and foreign currencies.
The poor in Nigeria typically don’t engage in large-scale smuggling. They lack the means of acquiring, transporting and warehousing large volumes of smuggled goods. Some poor unemployed Nigerians may engage in petty and innocuous smuggling, as a means of survival. But they are paying the price for the border closure, while those responsible for the worst cases of smuggling live comfortably.
Apart from its domestic implications, the border closure is also inconsistent with the spirit of regional economic integration. Nigeria spearheaded the establishment of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) 44 years ago with the major goal of a “free trade area” among member countries.
Nigeria’s unilateral decision reinforces the general notion that the regional bloc has not been successful at freeing up the movement of goods, services and even people within the sub-region. If that were the case, Nigeria would have coordinated its efforts at curbing smuggling with other member states.
Inept customs and immigration machinery
The border closure is an implicit admission of the ineptitude and incompetence of Nigeria’s customs and immigration officers. To thwart smuggling, the country should strengthen the capacity of customs and immigration officers to administer the country’s trade policies and laws.
To combat smuggling, for instance, Hong Kong’s strategy includes profiling all goods vehicles and private cars crossing the border. Detailed inspections are only carried out on high-risk vehicles. X-ray scanners are used to detect concealed compartments of vehicles. But all this technology is of little help without a professional and incorruptible cadre of customs officials, which Nigeria lacks.
Anyone who has travelled through Nigerian land borders would be perplexed by how unprofessional the Nigerian officials are. When I travelled in a bus from Accra to Lagos a few years ago, we were stopped at Seme on the border between Nigeria and Benin Republic. After a brief inspection of the bus, customs officials accused the driver of transporting contraband goods.
The same bus had been inspected a few hours earlier by Ghanaian, Togolese and Beninoise customs officers on our way from Accra, who found no contraband. Instead of impounding the contraband, the officers instead asked the driver to “settle” the matter. Apparently, the “settlement” offered by the driver was not sufficient, and the bus was not allowed to proceed to Lagos.
While waiting for alternative transport, I saw many goods-laden lorries pass through the border uninspected by the customs officials. I was informed by a resident of the border town that the lorry owners had “settled” the customs officials in advance.
Apart from this, the country’s land borders are very porous. There are many illegal paths through which smuggled goods can be transported. No travel documents are required on these routes and there are no checks.
Without addressing the problems of an inept customs and immigration machinery, as well as the porosity of Nigerian borders, one would only be treating the symptoms of the disease. Solutions might include the recruitment of a new cadre of customs officers, who would be trained to combat smuggling and abhor corruption.
Otherwise, when the borders are eventually reopened, the government would be handing them back to the same officials who have profited for years from smuggling.