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NSR H2 2017 (4) - Nigeria's Socio-Political Milieu: Just Before That Sigh of Relief

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Wednesday, July 19, 2017   03.19PM / ARM Research

We continue with the serialization of “The Nigeria Strategy Report” but direct our focus to developments on the domestic front. We start with a review of the socio-political landscape over H1 17 and delineate our outlook on same for the rest of the year.

After stalling for months, the National Assembly finally passed the nation’s 2017 budget in May 2017—albeit coming after a slight alteration in size to N7.44 trillion (vs. N7.28 trillion in FG’s initial recommendation). Amidst its many provisions, the inherently higher allocation to the Niger Delta amnesty programme (+15% from prior proposal to N75 billion) was particularly notable from a socio-political and economic standpoint—especially in view of its intersection with a period of relative peace in the volatile oil-rich region.

Pointedly, owing to FG’s increase in amnesty allocation and painstaking conciliation that involved the acting president engaging several militant power-houses, the latest re-opening of the Trans Forcados infrastructure has been greeted with greater optimism compared to the previous attempt to resume production in November 2016. That said, despite the oft-associated YoY reduction in the number of pipeline vandalized points (-62% YoY to 82 in April), NNPC's data indicated another spike in the metric from its lows in December 2016 as early as March.

Beyond the gains in the Niger Delta, the release of 82 kidnapped Chibok girls from the jaws of Boko Haram in May highlighted a further milestone from FG’s non-militant overtures. Though the release was purportedly secured via a prisoner swap deal, it provided credence to one of the promises of the president’s pre-election campaigns which was unambiguously defined as a commitment to put paid to Boko Haram activities and return kidnapped Chibok teenagers to their parents. Whilst the latest release marks a milestone with the latter part of the objective, large parts of the north east still live in fear of guerrilla attacks from factions of the insurgents despite increased territorial gains by the Nigerian military.

Elsewhere, Nigerian authorities may have realized that the Biafran course cannot be simply wished away with the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, grinding activities in the entire five eastern states to a standstill in May 30 while provoking agitations in the North in subsequent weeks. Beyond this, it remains to be seen whether the shenanigans of coming campaigns would intensify ongoing agitations, especially if desperate politicians chose to explore the emotive nature of the issue in a bid to latch on to the increasing followership of the IPOB. To allay the fears—possibly because the first sparks of threats are already laid bare, the acting president and elders across both the north and east regions of the country provided re-assurances of peace in quick succession.

Elsewhere, the recent PDP victory in Osun West Senatorial Bye-election is suggestive of emerging cracks in the strong-hold of the current ruling party—the APC. This was as reports from an APC committee set up to review political infighting in Kogi state indicted the party’s national headquarters of complicity and poor stakeholders` consultation. In addition to the mentioned, sparks of fresh crisis again came up in Ondo state following the passing of a vote of no confidence on the party leadership in the state in June.

To other immediate concerns, the long-dragging absence of the nation’s commander in chief have created a weight of uncertainty across the country with latest reports pining his days away from Nigeria at over 60. Whilst, his departure was preceded by another clear hand-over of domestic proceedings to his vice—the fourth time in just over two years—who now operates in capacity of “acting president”, the secrecy surrounding the actuality of his illness and pace of recovery have left Nigerians with a sense of "Déjà Vu" with the north’s inhabitants understandably more vocal in the face of a possible loss of presidential stronghold for the second time in less than seven years.

Overall, despite the flickers of concerns, the current administration appears well on course in carving out a path to relative improvement in Nigeria’s sociopolitical environment with gains from the more economically important Niger Delta and a once “boiling over” North Eastern Nigeria already well documented.

Take nothing away from Niger Delta and North-Eastern milestones

After stalling for months, the National Assembly finally passed the nation’s 2017 budget in May 2017—albeit coming after a slight alteration in size to N7.44 trillion (vs. N7.28 trillion in FG’s initial recommendation). In line with clause 11 of the bill, the budget is also expected to run for twelve months after presidential assent is effected.

Amidst its many provisions, the inherently higher allocation to the Niger Delta amnesty programme (+15% from prior proposal to N75 billion) was particularly notable from a socio-political and economic standpoint—especially in view of its intersection with a period of relative peace in the volatile oil-rich region.

Precisely, after enduring sizable production shut-in’s due to militant incursions for extended periods, improved government conciliation translated to both greater tranquility and the eventual lifting of force majeure on Trans Forcados1 in May 2017 to put an end to 15 months of nonoperation.

Pointedly, owing to FG’s increase in amnesty allocation and painstaking conciliation that involved the acting president engaging several militant power-houses, the latest re-opening has been greeted with greater optimism compared to the previous attempt to resume production in November 2016.

That said, despite the oft-associated YoY reduction in the number of pipeline vandalized points (-62% YoY to 82 in April), NNPC’s data indicated another spike in the metric from its lows in December 2016 as early as March—suggesting that the delicate issues of militancy are not entirely dead and buried in the Niger Delta.


Figure 1: PPMC Pipeline Breaks April 2016 – April 2017



Beyond the gains in the Niger Delta, the release of 82 kidnapped Chibok girls from the jaws of Boko Haram in May highlighted a further milestone from FG’s non-militant overtures. 

Though the release was purportedly secured via a prisoner swap deal, it provided credence to one of the promises of the president’s pre-election campaigns which was unambiguously defined as a commitment to put paid to Boko Haram activities and return kidnapped Chibok teenagers to their parents. Whilst the latest release marks a milestone with the latter part of the objective, large parts of the north east still live in fear of guerilla attacks from factions of the insurgents despite increased territorial gains by the Nigerian military.

In view of this, farming and agricultural activities have remained largely muted in the region with knock-on effect of imminent famine as 4.7 million inhabitants are reportedly dependent on food aid.

Trivialize not the sustained “Biafra” agitation
Elsewhere, Nigerian authorities may have realized that the Biafran course cannot be simply wished away with the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, grinding activities in the entire five eastern states to a standstill in May 30 while provoking agitations in the North in subsequent weeks. Precisely, following the sit-at-home order by the IPOB in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the declaration of the independence of the former Republic of Biafra, a coalition of 16 northern youth groups mandated that Igbos vacate the northern states before October 1, 2017 in retaliation. Seeing the massive compliance to its sit-at-home order in May, as was well documented by both local and international media, the IPOB again issued a rallying cry to easterners to boycott the proposed November 18th gubernatorial elections in Anambra unless the FG agrees to conduct a referendum deciding the fate of the east. This was even as the group’s extended threats raised further questions on the likelihood of successful general elections in the rest of the region in 2019. Beyond this, it remains to be seen whether the shenanigans of coming campaigns would intensify ongoing agitations, especially if desperate politicians chose to explore the emotive nature of the issue in a bid to latch on to the increasing followership of the IPOB. 

To allay the fears—possibly because the first sparks of threats are already laid bare, the acting president and elders across both the northern and eastern regions of the country provided re-assurances of peace in quick succession. Yet, the eastern powerhouses still backed concerns of marginalization raised by the IPOB although opting for a much more conciliatory and workable solution within the current Nigerian enterprise. This was essentially a call for a restructuring of the Nigerian state into a confederation, wherein power is vested in the constituent states who are allowed to harness their own resources and develop at their own pace. Despite these re-assurances and clarifications, historical precedence of ethnic skirmishes and related triggers in Nigeria inform our more cautious stance on developments.  

Emerging cracks in the strong-hold of the ruling party? 
Elsewhere, the recent PDP victory in Osun West Senatorial Bye-election is suggestive of emerging cracks in the strong-hold of the current ruling party—the APC. This was as reports from an APC committee set up to review political infighting in Kogi state indicted the party’s national headquarters of complicity and poor stakeholders` consultation. In addition to the mentioned, sparks of fresh crisis again came up in Ondo state following the passing of a vote of no confidence on the party leadership in the state in June. Although this crisis was explained away as sanctions meted out for non-performance of duty, concerns of brewing weaknesses from within the party cannot be entirely ruled out—especially with the creation of five new political parties potentially creating exit routes for aggrieved members. 

That said, the party’s power of incumbency at the center remains an attractive sell to current non-APC governors looking to cement their chances for a second term with rumors of impending party switch rife across the South East and South South. To this point, the ruling party’s complete sweep in the just-concluded Benue local government elections provides further backing. 

To other immediate concerns, the long-dragging absence of the nation’s commander in chief have created a weight of uncertainty across the country with latest reports pining his days away from Nigeria at over 60. Whilst, his departure was preceded by another clear hand-over of domestic proceedings to his vice—the fourth time in just over two years—who now operates in capacity of “acting president”, the secrecy surrounding the actuality of his illness and pace of recovery have left Nigerians with a sense of "Déjà Vu" with the north’s inhabitants understandably more vocal in the face of a possible loss of presidential stronghold for the second time in less than seven years.  

Overall, despite the flickers of concerns, the current administration appears well on course in carving out a path to relative improvement in Nigeria’s sociopolitical environment with gains from the more economically important Niger Delta and a once “boiling over” North Eastern Nigeria already well documented. 

From ARM’s H2 2017 Nigeria Strategy Report

1.       Nigeria Strategy Report H2 2017 (3) - Supply Glut Underpins Broadly Bearish Trends Across Soft Comm
2.      Nigeria Strategy Report H2 2017 (2) - Crude Oil: US Shale Challenges Anticipated Market Re-balancing
3.      After Bullish Run, Portfolio Flows to EM Look Set To Moderate - Nigeria Strategy Report H2 2017   

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