For good, for bad, 2018 is all about 2019

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An SBM Intelligence Report

BLOODBATH in the Middle Belt may slow down following the arrival of the police as ordered by President Buhari, this as the country’s liability profile has risen by another ₦2.7 billion. The rescued Nigerians from Libya have been disappointed by FG just like the InterContinental Hotels Group who are now making their way out of Nigeria’s business scene. Will Buhari run again for a second term? Well that’s what this year is all about.

For Edo’s Libya returnees, the ordeal continues

A batch of 373 Edo indigenes who returned from Libya at the weekend protested against the non-payment of their in-state transportation stipends. The protesters, 73 of whom are females and some of whom are pregnant, were among 481 Nigerians flown from Libya on Sunday by a federal government constituted repatriation committee. According to a New Telegraph report, the protests were prompted when returnees, upon completion of medicals and biometric capturing, were told that the government had made no money gifts available for them.

Some of the women complained that they were asked to vacate their hotel rooms for other Libya returnees expected to arrive on Wednesday. The Senior Special Assistant to Governor Godwin Obaseki on Anti-Human Trafficking and Illegal Migration, Solomon Okoduwa blamed the situation on the Federal Government’s inability to provide money for the returnees.

According to him, it is the United Nations that had provided funds for previous returnees, and the FG only makes fund available to bring home the stranded Nigerian citizens from Libya. Previous sets of returnees had been given as much as ₦45,000 each on their arrival in Lagos even though some returnees claim that they were promised as much as ₦150,000 in Libya, prior to departing for Nigeria.

The number of Nigerians looking to leave the country for Europe at great personal risk is indicative of a near-hopeless economic situation. This means that it is vital to stimulate the non-oil economy and create paths for upward mobility for the majority of Nigerians.

But that is a short term solution. The longer term problem will be tackling the belief, particularly in the Edo state region, that the streets of Europe are paved with gold, and that any way of getting there will result in material success. This mind shift can only be achieved through educating the people.

Population pressures fuel pastoral conflict

Nigeria’s president on Tuesday blamed clashes between Muslim cattle herders and Christian farmers on the clamour for land in the face of a population rapidly approaching 200 million people. At least 83 people have been killed in the communal violence since Dec. 31. Muhammadu Buhari, who called for calm, has ordered a heightened police presence in the central state of Benue, where most of the killings took place in the last few weeks. Muslim herdsmen, mainly of the Fulani ethnic group, and Christian farmers often clash over the use of land in parts of central Nigeria, known as the Middle Belt.

The Presidency has said that a conference would be set up in an attempt to identify short and long term solutions to the problem of the Pastoral Conflict. A short-term solution to the pastoral conflict will be for the Federal government to regain its monopoly of violence in the region, and be seen to, without taking sides, enforce law and order.

This will mean preventive measures such as adequate policing and acting on intelligence about impending attacks. Punitively, it will require arresting and trying suspected attackers. Failure to do this will force communities to engage in self-protection, which will worsen the conflict.

Cameroon’s separatist problem, Nigeria’s latest headache

Seven Cameroonian English-speaking separatists are said to have been abducted from a meeting at an Abuja hotel on the evening of 5 January. While the separatists and a number of local media outlets have claimed that the Department of State Services is behind the disappearance of Mr. Sikiku Tabe, Prof. Che Awasum, Mr. Nalowa Bih, Dr. Fidelis Che, Dr. Nfor Nfor, Dr. Henri Kumeng and Dr. Cornelius Kwanga, both Nigerian and Cameroonian authorities have refused to comment on the matter. “There is no arrest of their people in Abuja,” an unnamed Nigerian intelligence official told the AFP news agency. The official admitted that Nigeria had arrested Cameroonians in late December, in Taraba state, which borders Cameroon.

The genesis of the current security situation in Cameroon began in November 2016, when English-speaking teachers and lawyers in the Northwest and Southwest regions, frustrated with the dominance of French in official matters and what they see as the marginalisation of the country’s Anglophone population, organised protests calling for reforms and greater autonomy.

The protests have been followed by a harsh government crackdown, as well as Internet shutdowns and arrests, about 500, according to Amnesty International. By October 2017, secessionist groups declared the independence of the Anglophone “state” of Ambazonia. As is always the case with strife, a budding humanitarian crisis has seen about 7,204 Cameroonian asylum seekers registered in Cross River alone by the Nigeria Immigration Service and the United Nations High Commission on Refugees.

Despite a history of cross-border animosity, last month, Cameroonian troops crossed the border in pursuit of separatists without seeking prior permission from Nigerian authorities, further straining diplomatic ties between the two neighbours. These arrests may however be construed as an attempt by Abuja to reassure a nervous Yaoundé. The wider crisis, rooted in ethnic and cultural contradictions that date to the formation of both countries in the colonial period, will be trickier to resolve and will prove a recurring theme through the rest of the year.

The electoral die has been cast

Nigeria’s political parties must select their candidates for next year’s presidential election between 18 August and 7 October this year, the electoral commission said on Tuesday in a timetable of the polling process. Presidential and parliamentary elections will be held on 16 February 2019, marking the end of President Muhammadu Buhari’s first term.

Buhari has not said he will seek re-election. In addition to outlining the deadline to select candidates, the timetable published by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) stated that official campaigns for the presidential and parliamentary elections would begin on 18 November. “The Commission wishes to assure Nigerians that we are determined to strictly adhere to the timetable and schedule of activities,” INEC said in a statement.

With this announcement, the season for electoral jostling has been formally launched in Nigeria. INEC has opted for a sequence where the governorship elections occur after the presidential elections. Many believe this is designed to ensure governors support the presidential candidates before assurances of reciprocal support in their own or anointed successors’ election.

As the months unfold, we expect to see various movements and alignments across the political landscape, including high profile cross carpeting as politicians who lose out look for other platforms to pursue their ambition. While there have been agitations on social media for a third force to rise, we believe that the 2019 elections with be a straight battle between the candidate of the incumbent APC and a PDP-led coalition.

FG’s poor infrastructure spending

The FG’s liabilities on road projects across the country has hit ₦2.792 trillion, the Power, Works and Housing Minister, Babatunde Fashola told the House of Representatives Committee on Works inquiring into the performance assessment of the 2017 budget. The minister said the mounting debts covered completed projects, inherited claims of past years and ongoing projects across the country. The total allocations to works in the 2017 budget was ₦305 billion, while the 2018 budget estimates currently before the National Assembly contains a combined allocations to works, power and housing of ₦555.8 billion.

The total provision for capital projects across all Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government in the 2018 budget is ₦2.4 trillion, implying that if the 2018 allocations were utilised to settle liabilities on road projects alone, the government will still have a ₦400 billion deficit. Using the current budgetary allocation of ₦305 billion to Works it will take the country 9 years to clear existing deficits, assuming no further expenditure. It is therefore clear to all that Nigeria’s biggest problem is one of revenue generation.

As it was with Etisalat, so it is with InterContinental?

InterContinental Hotels Group Plc is withdrawing from Nigeria four years after it opened its first site in Africa’s most populous country following a disagreement with local partners over the terms of how to bring the property out of receivership. The U.K. company’s 358-room hotel in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, will no longer operate as an InterContinental-branded property as of Jan. 18, Simon Stamper, IHG’s director of African operations, said in an emailed statement on Wednesday.

The company’s other hotels in sub-Saharan Africa are in South Africa, Mauritius and Zambia. “We remain committed to Africa and continue operations in all our other properties across the continent as usual,” he said. A Nigerian court last May ordered one of the lenders to the ₦30 billion InterContinental hotel, Skye Bank Plc, to take over the property from its owner – Milan Group – over debts of $29.8 million and ₦3.8 billion, ThisDay reported at the time. IHG continued to manage the property, which then went into receivership.

The exit from Nigeria of the world’s third-biggest hotel chain follows that of Abu Dhabi-based telecommunications operator Etisalat, which gave up a 45 percent stake in its Lagos unit in June following the failure of talks about a loan repayment. Companies have recently struggled in Africa’s top crude producer, which came out of the worst recession in more than two decades last year and has faced dollar shortages. A key commonality is that while other players in both industries have been able to weather the storm, both Etisalat and Intercontinental Hotels were unable to.

Perhaps fundamental to this was the fact that both were late entrants into an established industry, and both made projections for repayment based on extremely optimistic scenarios. Unfortunately, Nigeria went into a recession and the financing structure was not prepared for such a worst-case scenario hence the businesses could not meet obligations. This is instructive for investors in deal structuring for the Nigerian market.

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