Clashes in Nigeria between farmers and semi-nomadic herders have killed more than 3,600 people since 2016, most of them this year, Amnesty International said, in a report documenting an upsurge in violence that could sway the results of February 2019 elections.
Muhammadu Buhari is seeking a second term in those elections, but his campaign has taken a hit from accusations he has soft-pedaled justice for one of the sides responsible for the clashes, the herders, many of whom come from the same Fulani ethnic group as the leader.
The presidency has repeatedly denied those allegations.
The violence is often painted as ethno-religious: chiefly Muslim Fulani herders clashing with mainly Christian farmers. But many experts and politicians say climate change and expanding agriculture are creating competition for land that is pushing the farmers and herders into conflict, regardless of faith or ethnicity.
"The Nigerian authorities' failure to investigate communal clashes and bring perpetrators to justice has fuelled a bloody escalation in the conflict between farmers and herders across the country, resulting in at least 3,641 deaths in the past three years and the displacement of thousands more," Amnesty said in a statement.
Nigeria's military and police did not respond to request for comment.
Of the 310 attacks recorded between January 2016 and October 2018, 57 percent were in 2018, the rights group said.
After a quieter wet season in the summer, experts now fear clashes could surge again as the dry season begins, forcing herders to move south towards greener land and water supplies, often across farmland. Any increase in violence would coincide with the February 2019 vote.
"These attacks were well planned and coordinated, with the use of weapons like machine guns and AK-47 rifles," said Osai Ojigho, Amnesty's Nigeria director.
"Yet, little has been done by the authorities in terms of prevention, arrests and prosecutions, even when information about the suspected perpetrators was available," she said.
The farmer-herder conflict killed six times more people than the war with the Boko Haram insurgency in the first half of 2018, the International Crisis Group said in July.
"In some places, because of the failures of the security forces, competition over resources is used as a pretext to kill and maim along ethnic or religious lines," Ojigho said.
"The conflict has also been dangerously politicized by some state government officials who have inflamed tensions by embarking on a blame game along political party lines," said Osai Ojigho.
Nigeria’s main opposition People’s Democratic Party said the bank accounts of its vice presidential candidate had been frozen in an act of intimidation by the government ahead of February general elections.
The accounts of Peter Obi, his wife, family members and their businesses had been blocked “by agencies” of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, the PDP said in a statement late Saturday.
“Since his nomination, Peter Obi, apart from facing a series of failed attempts to destroy his reputation, has also continued to receive all manner of threats and blackmail, including threats to his life and those of his wife and children,” the party said.
A spokesman for Buhari, Femi Adesina, referred Bloomberg’s queries to the nation’s anti-corruption agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. Its spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a text message seeking comment.
Buhari came to power in 2015 vowing to clamp down on endemic corrruption. Critics have accused him of using his anti-graft campaign as a pretext to quash political opponents. The main challenger to the 75-year-old former general’s path to a second term is PDP presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar, 72, who was vice president from 1999 to 2007. Obi, a former governor of the southeastern state of Anambra, was chosen as Abubakar’s running mate in October.
The PDP said in its statement that Buhari’s All Progressives Congress was using “smear campaigns” and “direct attacks” on Abubakar and Obi ahead of the vote, scheduled for Feb. 16.
Two of the largest banking and financial services institutions in the world, HSBC and UBS, have recently closed their local representative offices in Nigeria.
There’s also trouble brewing elsewhere in Nigeria’s business world that’s prompted fears about the climate for foreign direct investment in the country. Foreign direct investment is an investment made by a firm or individual in one country into business interests located in another country.
For instance, Nigeria’s government in September accused HSBC of money laundering after an analyst working for the lender said a second term for President Muhammadu Buhari may stall economic recovery in Africa’s biggest oil producer.
There are also tensions between Nigeria’s central bank and the South African telecom company MTN. In 2015, MTN was fined about $5bn for failing to cut off unregistered SIM cards. This was later reduced to $1.7 billion after a long legal dispute and the intervention of South Africa’s then President Jacob Zuma.
Recently, the central bank has ordered MTN to repatriate $8 billion it said has been taken out of the country illegally.
Analysts are concerned that the Nigerian government’s attitude towards MTN and the two banks may erode the confidence of foreign direct investors. Their fears seem to be well founded: foreign direct investment in Nigeria fell to $1 billion in the first half of 2018, from $1.48 billion in the first half of 2017.
Foreign direct investment is crucial for any economy. So how can Nigeria attract and keep the right kind of investment from global companies? Compromise will be key, both for the government and foreign firms.
Why foreign direct investment?
Foreign direct investment is often preferred to exporting. That’s because while exports merely involve moving goods from one country to another, foreign direct investment actually involves an investor establishing foreign business operations or acquiring foreign business assets.
This often includes establishing ownership or controlling interest in a foreign country (for instance an American business establishing a physical business presence in Nigeria). Many emerging economies like China, Brazil, Vietnam and India have built their growth on FDI flows.
The trick is to attract “quality foreign direct investment” that links foreign investors into the local host country economy. The International Growth Centre, a British-funded research centre that aims to promote sustainable growth in developing countries, characterises “quality” here as contributing to:
decent and value-adding jobs and enhancing the skill base of host economies;
transfer of technology, knowledge and know-how;
boosting competitiveness of domestic firms and enabling their access to markets.
What Nigeria can do
There are a few things Nigeria can do to boost foreign direct investment. For starters, it must play fair. Foreign and domestic businesses should be treated equally. They should be open, transparent and dependable conditions for all kinds of firms.
Another area that needs attention is infrastructure. Businesses need easy access to ports, an adequate and reliable supply of energy and relative certainty that the country will be good to invest in. Good institutions also promote FDI.
The government should encourage partnerships between foreign and local businesses. Foreign firms might be familiar with global good business practices, but local firms will be more familiar with the indigenous context. This synergy could be very beneficial.
It’s also critical that Nigeria gets its regional governments involved: there are many regions in Nigeria, and these regions all have unique opportunities and challenges. Our latest research shows that when the central government of Nigeria ran out of ideas and foreigners wanted to exit the agricultural sector, the regional government of Kwara state stepped in to create a positive business climate based on the cooperation of local banks, community members, and the foreigners themselves culminating in the Shonga farms public-private venture.
This has kept the firm in Nigeria. It’s also brought private investors to the table, bolstering the firm and the local economy.
Nigeria should also tap into its huge diaspora. There are many Nigerians living outside the country who understand its challenges. They should be encouraged to help, or asked to work with their networks to invest in the country.
What foreign firms can do
Foreign firms also have a role to play. They can enhance their success in Nigeria (and elsewhere on the African continent) in several ways.
First, they need a long term strategic plan. This means thinking carefully about what sectors or activities to target. Many foreign firms come to developing countries when things are rosy but leave when conditions change. They don’t properly consider that solving such problems will gain them a competitive advantage in the long run.
If they stay and follow a learning curve, foreign firms will better understand the local business context. They’ll also gain credibility among ordinary people and possibly get more customers and support that way.
In the same vein, foreign businesses should create local solutions that meet ordinary people’s needs. The banks leaving Nigeria have been accused of only catering to the needs of wealthy Nigerians, who are perceived as corrupt. A more diverse portfolio that catered to the needs of ordinary Nigerians would have nullified this claim.
Foreign firms must also work closely with credible and strategic local firms, and be willing to enter into dialogue with the Nigerian government where necessary. This is crucial especially as administrations may change or government policy may evolve. Dialogue could ensure that all parties are on the same page.
Act local, think global
It’s unfortunate that these banking institutions have decided to leave Nigeria. Hopefully both the Nigerian government and other foreign investors can learn from this.
The main takeaway for both foreign investors and governments involved in foreign direct investment is that it would be prudent for all parties to act locally but think globally.
Vice President of Nigeria Prof Yemi Osinbajo said the Buhari administration will expand the N-Power scheme to accommodate one million beneficiaries in the next phase.
This followed the successes recorded so far and the growing need for government’s direct intervention in job creation.
The Vice President spoke in response to a variety of questions from Nigerians across different professions and persuasions, at a town hall meeting in Abuja on Monday.
He said the N-Power programme would become the largest post-tertiary job scheme in Africa.
“The idea of N-Power is supposed to be government’s own programme of direct employment and training. At the moment, we have taken up to 500,000 and in the next phase we are looking at another 200,000 and closely followed by another 300,000.
“In all, we will be employing up to a million, and that will be the largest post-tertiary job programme in the entire Africa. The reason why we have done this is because of the employment problems that we have. We may not be able to engage everybody but at least government must give some direct provision of jobs.”
Prof. Osinbajo explained further that though government could not pay more than the N30,000 currently paid to beneficiaries and also fix all the unemployment issues, it is working on creating the enabling environment to ensure that beneficiaries as well as other unemployed Nigerians become useful to themselves.
“It is infrastructure that will create the opportunities to provide more jobs, especially through manufacturing and Industry.
“So, we are doing roads and rail, providing power; that is the way we can develop industry. We are energizing our markets at the moment, putting solar power in the markets. We have designated 300 markets, we have done Ariaria in the South East, Sabon Gari in Kano, Sura in Lagos, Isikan in Ondo, Gbagi in Oyo and we are expanding so that more people can work.”
On the need to engage more women in productive activities, Prof. Osinbajo said: “one of the ways the Buhari administration is engaging more women is through our GEEP loans.”
“56% of our GEEP loans go to the women. So there is a lot of preferential advantage that we give to women and this is because women are effective managers of resources; they pay back these loans when they are given.”
Speaking on the misconceptions about the borrowing arrangements of the Buhari administration, the Vice President said, the country, under President Buhari, was not in a terribly bad debt situation as insinuated in some quarters.
According to him, very frequently you find people creating fear about the issue of debt and saying that this government has borrowed more than previous governments.
“I want to give you the facts and figures on the debt issue. The dollar denominated debts of Nigeria – that is the debts of the Federal Government, the States and Local governments.
“In 2010, Nigeria’s debt was $35 billion; 2011, it was $41billion; in 2012, it was $48 billion, in 2013, it became $64 billion; 2014, it rose to $67 billion; 2015, it fell to $63 billion; 2016, $57 billion; 2017, $70 billion; 2018, it is $73 billion. So, the difference between 2015 and now is $10 billion.
“One of the things that I always want you to bear in mind is that when oil prices are at their highest, between 2010 and 2014 that was when we had the sharpest rise in debts.”
Continuing on the debt issue, Prof. Osinbajo said “the other thing that I want us to bear in mind is what is called debt to GDP. Our debt to GDP is one of the lowest among the countries that are frequently compared to us. Our debt to GDP is 20%. When you compare it to other countries, you will see that Ghana is about 68% whereas Ethiopia’s is 48%. In terms of the size of our economy and debt, we are doing okay”
He, however, agreed that “Nigeria may have an issue with debt to revenue”, noting that “we are not collecting enough revenue compared to what we want to spend.”
“Are we collecting enough taxes? If you look at the FIRS figures, it says 914 Nigerians pay the self-assessed tax of more than N10 million. Of the 914, 912 live in Lagos and the other 2 live in Ogun state, no other Nigerian outside of Lagos and Ogun pay the self-assessed tax of more than N10 million. So, we are simply not collecting enough revenue,” he added.
The Vice President said the Federal Government in collaboration with the States was working on harmonizing tax collections in order to address issues relating to multiple collection of taxes.
“This is a problem that we are dealing with all across Nigeria. It is one of the issues we are dealing with under the ease of doing business. We are addressing the sub-national. How we can harmonize taxes. The second phase of our ease of doing business is focused on the collection of multiple taxes; there is no reason why that should continue.”
On the ASUU strike, the Vice President said that government is engaging the leadership of the union, noting that “the next meeting is on Thursday, November 15, 2018”.
He, however, explained that “we are dealing with a population of about 200 million people who depend on a budget of about N8.6 trillion and of that amount, 70% of it goes to salaries and overheads, and it goes to less than 2 million people. It is impossible to answer to all of the monetary needs of people by the size of the federal budget”.
On healthcare financing, Prof. Osinbajo said the Buhari administration has done much even as it has earned 60 per cent less than the previous administrations.
“The first thing to bear in mind is that health care financing has suffered over the years even when we were earning the most money, we were underfunding healthcare.
“In 2015 when we came in, the healthcare budget was N22.7 billion and as of today we moved that to N86.5 billion and we are earning 60% less. Education was N23 billion in 2015, now it is N102 billion. The issue really is one of government commitment. For the first time, in the 2018 budget, we are setting aside 1% of our consolidated revenue to the health sector.”
Earlier, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola; Minister of Industry, Trade and investment, Dr. Okey Enelamah; Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi; and Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Audu Ogbeh, responded separately to issues relating to their various ministries.
The town hall meeting was organized by Act Now, a non-political group that works in promoting transparency and good governance as well as youth participation in governance.
HSBC and UBS have closed their offices in Nigeria, the country’s central bank said in a report on Friday as it revealed foreign investment had fallen sharply from a year ago.
The bank said foreign direct investment in Nigeria fell to 379.84 billion naira ($1.2 billion) in the first half of the year from 532.63 billion naira ($1.7 billion) a year earlier.
It did not given reasons for the bank closures.
HSBC was not available to comment and UBS declined to comment.
The central bank said the outlook for the Nigerian economy in the second half was “optimistic” given higher oil prices and production but rising foreign debt and uncertainty surrounding the 2019 presidential election was a drawback.
Investor confidence in the West African country has been shaken since the central bank in August ordered MTN to bring back $8.1 billion to the country, part of profits which the South African telecoms firm sent abroad.
An HSBC research note dated July 18 said a second Buhari term “raises the risk of limited economic progress and further fiscal deterioration, prolonging the stagnation of his first term, particularly if there is no move towards completing reform of the exchange rate system or fiscal adjustments that diversify government revenues away from oil.”
The Nigerian Presidency has reacted furiously after British multinational banks report. In a statement, the Presidency accused the bank of thriving on "grand corruption" and helping past and present Nigerian leaders launder billions of naira.
The central bank also said three lenders failed to meet its minimum liquidity ratio of 30 percent, without naming them.
It added that non-performing loans (NPLs) have dropped to 12.4 percent as at June 2018 from 15 percent a year ago, still a long way above its 5 percent threshold.
“To further consolidate on the improvement, the Central Bank of Nigeria directed banks to intensify efforts at debt recovery, realisation of collateral for lost facilities and strengthening their risk management processes,” it said in the report.
In September, the regulator withdrew the license of Skye Bank for failing to recapitalise. It then transferred Skye’s assets to a “bridge bank” Polaris wholly-owned by the state-backed asset management company AMCON.
Nigerian banks have been trying to raise fresh capital after huge loan losses worsened by an economy that has just emerged from a recession. Diamond Bank last week denied it was in talks with investors to raise cash but said it was managing its capital, which borders on the regulatory minimum, to grow.
Another lender Unity Bank has been seeking to raise fresh funds to recapitalise.
Credit - Reuters