By Omoniyi Salaudeen
This is an unusual time, indeed. The nation is now enveloped in confusion and the future is full of dark forebodings. All things put together, there is no prospect of a stable polity anytime soon as governance has taken a flight.
With it, terrorists in different guises have seized the state by the scoff of the neck, taking back the nation to the primitive state of nature when life was short, nasty, and brutish.
And as the vicious circle of killings, maiming, kidnapping, and ransom-taking continues unabated, all the citizens could do is to rail and react in helpless fury.
The way it is in the security sector so it is in the economy. In the absence of any appreciable improvement in the economic wellbeing of its citizenry, Nigeria is still maintaining its unenviable position as the poverty capital of the world, while also ranking sixth in the 2022 Global Terrorism Index (GTI).
Looking back at the state of the nation before 2015 when President Muhammadu Buhari took over the mantle of leadership, many public affairs commentators are quick to describe the present moment as the darkest period in Nigeria’s history, for what they term as the ineptitude of his administration, which has cast a tragic pall over the nation. And, of course, they have a plethora of reasons for the damning verdict.
First, there is no hiding the fact that those charged with the responsibility of managing the economy have lost direction; just as the Security Chiefs are helplessly watching the country drifting like a rudeness ship. On both sides, there is a clear lack of capacity to tackle the challenge of insecurity and the rapidly nose-diving economy.
Perhaps, what is keeping hope alive in the face of the comprehensive failings of the government is the resilience of the people and the sheer determination to survive the vicissitude of the hard times foisted on the nation.
Secondly, and most disturbing of all, is the fact that there is no effective coordination among Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs). In the worst scenario, some agencies often engage in unnecessary muscle-flexing, working at cross purposes.
For example, a couple of days ago when the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Godwin Emefiele, was doing a self-audit of the failings of his leadership to maintain a stable value of the naira, all he had to say was that NNPC did not remit the quantum of dollars it had made from the sales of crude oil into the reserve account, leading to the free-fall of the currency.
He simply exonerated himself even in the face of what some analysts see as overwhelming evidence of the failings of regulatory guidelines for forex trading.
But just before industry operators began to scream and asked what was going on, NNPC’s unveiled its report showing that $2.7billion in remittances were made into the CBN coffers in the last six months.
A further breakdown of the figure revealed that out of the $2.7 billion, $645million was for dividends paid by the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas Company Ltd, while $1.786billion was from its operational activities. It goes without saying that somebody somewhere is being economical with the truth. But who will bell the cat?
Statutorily, the power to supervise the CBN lies with the Federal Ministry of Finance. The 1997 amendments of the CBN Act (Decree No. 3) and BOFI Decree No. 4 removed the limited autonomy that the apex bank had been enjoying since 1991 and put it under the supervision of the Ministry of Finance.
But because of an alleged power tussle between the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, and the CBN governor, reports say, it has been difficult for the former to exercise the necessary supervisory authority. As such, Emefiele has been running a one-man show.
On the other hand, some concerned stakeholders have accused the Finance Minister of lacking in requisite capacity to exercise the power invested in her to monitor and supervise the activities of the CBN, while also blaming Emefiele for lording it over other agencies of government.
For instance, the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, in one of his public statements was quoted as saying that the CBN was acting in competition with the MDAs in implementing certain policies, calling for coordination between the various tiers of government.
He said: “There must be synergy between the fiscal and the monetary authority. We must be able to deal with the synergy; we must handle the synergy between the monetary authority, the CBN, and the fiscal side.
“Sometimes, it appears that there is competition, especially on the fiscal side. The ministry of industry, trade, and investment should handle MSMEs interventions, and we should know what the CBN is doing. In other words, if the CBN is intervening in the MSME sector, it should be with the full cooperation and consent of the ministry of industry and investment.”
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Agriculture, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, also made the same allusion, accusing the CBN of usurping the power of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development through the administration of the Anchor Borrowers Programme and other agricultural programmes. He argued that the mandate of the apex bank was to act as a referee or monitor financial transactions and not to take over the functions of any ministry.
“The Central Bank has no mandate for agriculture. Where they have these funds, the best thing to do is to give it to the ministry of agriculture to manage,” he said.
However, some economic experts who spoke with Sunday Sun on the raging controversy about NNPC remittances vis-à-vis the position of the CBN absolved the regulatory authorities of any wrongdoing, blaming the unstable value of the naira on the ineffectiveness of the fiscal policies of the Federal Government.
A renowned Economist at Babcock University, Illisan, Ogun State and former President of the Nigerian Institute of Bankers (NIB), Prof Segun Ajibola, speaking in a telephone interview, said that the forex crisis “is a basket of factors.”
His words: “The truth of the matter is that there are so many factors that affect the fundamentals of foreign exchange management in any country. The weakness or strength of any currency is a reflection of the economy. In our case, the attitude of our people in preferring anything that is imported to the locally produced items is a major problem. That makes our currency to be very vulnerable. Secondly, we have the challenge of a monolithic economy where the only source of foreign exchange earnings is 90 per cent oil, which means that our economy is not sufficiently diversified in the non-oil sector.
“We also have the problem of speculation like the CBN said. You can hardly manage the stability of a commodity that is subject to market speculation because the stability of the value affects the price. So, it is a basket of factors. And unless we address these fundamentals, regulators will always be under pressure.
“It is not easy to manage the consumption habit of over 200 million people. We need a strategic direction that will focus on consuming what we produce or producing what we consume to save foreign currency.
“For example, look at what we consume in terms of foreign importation of refined petroleum products. If we can put our refineries in shape including the private initiative we see in Dangote refinery, we will be able to save substantial outflow of foreign exchange.
“So, it is not a question of regulators not doing this or not doing that. It is a battle all Nigerians must collectively fight.”
The MD, Cowries Asset Management, Mr Johnson Chukwu, also expressed the same view, attributing the current inflationary trend to the ability of the Federal Government to checkmate the activities of kidnappers, terrorists, and bandits, which had negatively impacted food production.
Though he admitted that NNPC remittances constituted the bulk of foreign reserve, he maintained that the lack of effective fiscal policy was responsible for the ineffectiveness of foreign exchange regulation by the Central Bank.
He argued: “Remittance from NNPC is a major factor affecting the value of the naira because oil contributes 90 per cent of our foreign exchange earnings. Even if we have contributions from other sources, if the sale of crude oil dries up, the economy is going to find it difficult to meet foreign currency obligations. The other factors include the flow of capital importation.
“Our crude oil production has actually declined to less than one million barrels per day. This country used to do 2.2 to 2.3 million barrels before. So, the inability of the fiscal policy to reign in oil theft and restore full production is what impedes the capacity of the Central Bank to manage foreign exchange reserves.
“For example, you will observe that inflation has gone to above 20 per cent. And food inflation is a result of insecurity which prevents farmers from going to the farm. That insecurity is not a monetary policy, it is a fiscal issue. So, it is the inability of the fiscal authorities or the government to reign in on the criminals like herdsmen, Boko Haram, and bandits that impedes the ability of the Federal Government to manage the inflation rate. It is the insufficient role of discharging responsibilities of other arms of government that is impeding the effectiveness of monetary policies. Unless some of these factors are reviewed, it might be difficult for one to anticipate any appreciation of the value of the currency either now or in the future.
According to him, the only way to halt the depreciating value of the naira is through the foreign reserve.
“Halting the dwindling value of the naira can only come from the foreign reserve. If the CBN has the war chess to halt it, it can halt it. But in the absence of war chess, it will be impossible to halt the current depreciation,” he posited.
The narrative is not so much different on the security front. Here also, there is no effective coordination among different arms of security operatives. The power tussle between the late Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, and the National Security Adviser (NSA), Babagana Monguno, is already a familiar story.
At the height of the cold war between the two government functionaries, the former Chief of Army Staff, Gen Tukur Buratai, allegedly took side with Kyari and ordered an immediate withdrawal of top army officers attached to the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA).
While the transfer memo directed all the officers concerned to report to their new posting within three days, failure of which they could face disciplinary action, Monguno insisted that the officers would not leave the ONSA.
He dismissed the transfer as a vindictive measure taken by Buratai in solidarity with Kyari, who, he said, was allegedly helping to keep the Service Chiefs in office despite public outcry about their unimpressive performance.
The Office of the National Security Adviser as a sensitive security organ is statutorily empowered to coordinate the activities of the military, security, intelligence, and response agencies in combating terrorism, cybercrime, and other issues affecting the safety of lives and property of the citizens.
But it is a well-known fact that there is no effective synergy and collaboration amongst these critical institutions.
Instances have been reported where army and police officers have been engaged in an open confrontation on matters that ordinarily call for a collaborative effort.
The Taraba incident where soldiers of the 93 Battalion allegedly shot dead the IRT operatives, Inspector Mark Ediale, Sergeant Usman Danzumi, and Sergeant Dahiru Musa –after they had arrested a notorious kidnap kingpin, Hamisu Bala Wadume, who was on the run, remains a quick reference point.
While the army claimed that the police officers were mistaken for the “suspected kidnappers,” blaming the attack on a communication gap, many people believe that the incident could have been averted under a cordial working relationship.
Again, not too long ago, the Imo State Police Command and the Nigeria Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, had another similar encounter over the arrest and detention of a Superintendent of Police, Nonso Ezenwanne.
According to an account of the incident, NSCDC operatives were returning from the scene of fire inferno at an illegal oil bunkering site in the state when Ezenwanne had an altercation with the rescue team, threatening to shoot Commandant Michael Ogar, but was later disarmed and arrested.
In a counter-reaction to the NSCDC’s affront, Ogar was allegedly flogged by the police, while deputy commandant, Benjamin Nwaokafor, was shot and the detained police officer released.
A statement subsequently released by the state police spokesperson, Michael Abbattam, later stated that the police used minimal force to rescue the detained superintendent from NSCDC officers.
On November 21, 2017, officials of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), those of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), and the Directorate of State Security (DSS) had a similar showdown over an attempted arrest of former heads of NIA, Mr Ayo Oke, and the DSS, Ita Ekpeyong.
The EFCC operatives had allegedly stormed the official residences of the former heads of the agencies located at numbers 21 and 46 Mamman Nasir Street in Asokoro, Abuja, to effect their arrest only to meet resistance from the operatives of the NIA and DSS.
Some experts blamed these incessant conflicts on the failure of the Office of the National Security Adviser to discharge its statutory responsibilities of coordinating the activities of security agencies.
The Forum of Spokespersons of Security and Response Agencies (FOSSRA), which is domiciled in the office of the ONSA, was set up to, among other things, prevent such incessant clashes among security agencies.
But since the appointment of Major General Babagana Monguno (rtd) as the National Security Adviser, NSA, by President Muhammad Buhari in 2015, reports say that he has not hosted the meeting of the FOSSRA to guard against inter-agency rivalry.
The shadow-boxing between the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, and the erstwhile Chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, was equally another awful drama many Nigerians took with a pinch of salt.
The AGF had accused Magu of frustrating the efforts to make the National Financial Intelligence Unit independent as required by the global financial intelligence body and directed the agency to hand over case files under it to his office, but without compliance. Malami maintained that EFCC and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) were not cooperating with his ministry in the prosecution of high-profile cases, alleging compromise by the two operatives.
In the final analysis, Magu lost out in the power contest as he was relieved of his post. The list is endless.
The latest incident that has left a sour taste in the minds of most Nigerians is the perceived neglect of the 44 intelligence signals allegedly sent to the concerned authorities at Kuje Correctional Centre by the DSS before the recent terrorists attack.
What is even more curious is the sudden change of guards at the centre a few hours before the terrorists struck and set free several inmates.
A security expert, Jackson Olalekan-Ojo, speaking with Sunday Sun, blamed the inter-agency rivalry on the inaction of the National Security Adviser, saying the President should show him the way out.
“There is no united action among security operatives against banditry and terrorism. And I blame this on the failure of the NSA to process intelligence information and make it available to concerned authorities. When intelligence is gathered, it must be submitted to the NSA who will take it to Mr President, the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, and give the necessary advice.
The president will in turn give instruction to the military or paramilitary forces as the case may be because there is no way the Chief of Army Staff can deploy soldiers to any part of the country without the consent of the Commander-in-Chief.
“When the terrorist recently issued a threat that they were going to kidnap Mr President and Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, the governor of Kaduna State, opened up to say that Mr President was not aware of the threat until he mentioned it to him, we in the intelligence community didn’t find it funny. Even when the terrorist attacked the most fortified security apparatus we have in Nigeria, the Presidential Brigade of Guard, nothing happened and president was not aware. I don’t see any reason the president is keeping the National Security Adviser because it shows that they are hoarding information from Mr President.
“They won’t release the information until it becomes so weak that it will be impossible to forestall attacks. And this is because there is no synergy among security agencies and it is to the detriment of the country.
“Mr President is also not sensitive enough in the area of security. The president has to be decisive on this matter, he needs to give the Service Chiefs ultimate; he needs to query them on intelligence gathering and coordination. It is because he has not queried them, that is why the security situation is escalating.
“If an IG of police can be attacked, shot in the leg, and his orderly killed, if they can attack the presidential convoy and nothing happened, then no one is safe in the country.
“Less than a month after the attack on the presidential convoy, they attacked Kuje Correctional Centre, and then vowed that they were going to kidnap the president. In a normal clime, these people would have been decimated within 24 hours. For them to say they want to kidnap the president, is an assault on the nation. The day they attacked the Presidential convoy in Katsina, they wouldn’t know if the president was there. Who knows what would have happened if the president was there? If anybody tells you he is coming to your house to kidnap you and begins to attack and kill your gatemen, then you should know that you are in trouble.
“This is an offensive declaration of war. They are supposed to be fighting offensively, while we are advancing and fighting them to submission. But now, they are the ones fighting us offensively. By fighting offensively, they are taking the battle to your doorstep. They meant what they said.
“In a war situation like this, what we need to do is to neutralize them even if some people have to pay the price. That is what we call collateral damage. In any case, people are already paying with their lives. We cannot continue like this otherwise they will resort to strategic attacks,” he declared.