Nigerians will not in a hurry forget the year 2018. The happenings during the year, some positive and others negative, shook the very foundation of the country in several ways.
From politics to business, security to education, religion to ethnicity, the presidency to the National Assembly, Nigeria went through several storms and upheavals. The beauty of all these, however is that the country has come out better and stronger.
But, one issue that is not in a hurry to run away is the apprehensions and high expectations the year has generated because it is preceding the general elections in 2019.
The year 2018 which ends today at 12 midnight happened to be the eve of the 2019 general elections and this explains why like other previous ones preceding an election year, it had been packed full of political events. As the country prepares for the general polls next year, the political tempo increased in 2018, so much that the goings on in other sectors were said to be shaped by the politics of 2019.
From the build-up to the elections, the party primaries held across the country and now the campaigns, 2018 has been a defining moment for Nigeria. In 2018, the country was drenched in national debates over sundry issues, ranging from restructuring, scorecards of the Buhari administration to whether the president can be trusted with another four years in office. This culminated in an intrepid confrontation between the ruling All Progressives Congress and the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP). It was the year which literally made it instructive for the Buhari presidency and its achievements – the economy, security and other key sectors. Below are some of the issues that dominated the polity in 2018.
Dapchi Girls Abduction And Release
In February , Nigerians woke up to the alarming news that the Boko Haram terrorists had kidnapped 110 schoolgirls in Dapchi, Yobe State, in what seemed like a repeat of the abduction of the secondary school girls in Chibok in 2014. The federal government quickly swung into action to ensure the release of the girls.
President Buhari visited Dapchi where he vowed that the school girls would soon be reunited with their family.
In March, Boko Haram released more than 100 of them. However, controversy reared its head when it was discovered that the only Christian girl, Leah Sharibu, was not released. The non-release of Leah beclouded the release of the other girls. Sadly, she’s still being held by the terrorists.
Recognition Of June 12 As Democracy Day
President Buhari, perhaps, scored the biggest political goal of the year by recognising MKO Abiola as the winner of the annulled June 12 presidential election. He took it a notch higher by tendering a passionate apology to the Abiola family and those who lost their loved ones during the June 12 struggle.
He said: “Accordingly, on behalf of the federal government, I tender the nation’s apology to the family of the late MKO Abiola, who got the highest votes, and to those that lost their loved ones in the course of June 12 struggle.”
He expressed delight that he was the one presiding over the Commemoration and Investiture marking the formal official recognition of June 12 as National Democracy Day by the federal government.
According to him, the decision was not meant to be an attempt to open old wounds but to put right a national wrong.
PMB Declines Assent To Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill For Fourth Time
President Buhari declined assent to the electoral act amendment bill (2018). In a letter addressed to the leadership of the National Assembly, the president said that signing the bill into law could create uncertainty and confusion during the forthcoming elections.
He said: “I am declining assent to the Bill principally because I am concerned that passing a new electoral bill this far into the electoral process for the 2019 general election which commenced under the 2015 Electoral Act, could create some uncertainty about the applicable legislation to govern the process.”
PMB Declares To Run 2019 Presidency
President Buhari for long kept mum on his re-election bid. However, in April, he formally declared to seek re-election. Buhari made the declaration at a closed-door meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the (APC.
The president said that his decision to run for a second term next year is borne out of the clamour by most Nigerians for him to re-contest, adding that he chose the meeting in order to give NEC members the honour of notifying them first.
The Gang Up Against PMB
At the dawn of this year, former President Olusegun Obasanjo wrote a letter to President Buhari, asking him to retire from active politics. Blatantly, he told the president to forget about the idea of contesting in 2019, saying doing so would amount to overstretching the tolerance of Nigerians.
In a 13-page open letter he wrote to the president titled: ‘The Way Out: A Clarion Call For Coalition For Nigeria Movement’, Obasanjo accused Buhari of underperformance, warning the president not to allow Nigerians to remove him the way his predecessor, former President Goodluck Jonathan was voted out.
And like a well-orchestrated plan intended to rattle the president, former military president, General Ibrahim Babangida, a few days after Obasanjo struck, joined in calling on President Buhari not to contest the 2019 general election, saying that Buhari’s ‘Change’ agenda has failed Nigerians.
IBB, as he is fondly called, said that the kind of leader Nigeria needs in 2019 and beyond is a new breed with the capacity to manage the country’s diversity and to jump-start the country on a different path.
PDP Apologises To Nigeria Over Misrule
As the party healed its post-convention wounds, it realised it had to reach out to Nigerians. And so in June, PDP, unprecedentedly and much to the astonishment of many watchers, apologised for the mistakes it made in the 16 years it held the reins of power at the federal level.
PDP chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, admitted the party’s mistakes in power and asked for forgiveness from Nigerians at a public discourse on contemporary politics and governance in Nigeria, organised by the party in Abuja.
INEC And Crisis-Ridden Party Primaries
Virtually all the major political parties organized disputed and in fact rejected primaries to pick their candidates for the 2019 general elections. The worse-hit were the APC and the PDP, the two dominant parties in the country.
Till now, INEC is paying the prize for the controversial party elections through litigations in the law courts.
At the last count, INEC has 750 cases emanating from the “unholy” primary elections filed against it
The commission has also received 302 requests for Certified True Copies (CTC) of documents, mainly their monitoring reports of party primaries and copies of personal particulars of candidates. These requests are obviously a prelude to more court actions.
In addition, the commission has received 52 petitions and protests from aggrieved party aspirants across the country.
Ekiti, Osun And Other Polls
The PDP suffered major electoral defeats this year. In Ekiti State, the PDP as the ruling party, was dislodged by the APC. The former governor, Ayo Fayose and the PDP candidate, Prof Kolapo Olusola, were humbled in the state. APC candidate and immediate past minister of Power and Steel, Kayode Fayemi, won the election, securing a return to the office which he vacated after Fayose defeated him in 2014.
In Osun State, the APC candidate, Gboyega Oyetola, succeeded the former governor, Rauf Aregbesola, who is also of the APC. PDP’s candidate, Senator Ademola Adeleke, was the first runner up in an election that was characterised by controversies. PDP has since gone to the tribunal to challenge the outcome of both elections.
Similarly, the recent House of Representatives by-election held in Bauchi, Katsina and Kwara States saw the APC, not only consolidate its presence in areas it already controlled, but took control of areas it didn’t control before the polls. In Toro Federal Constituency (Bauchi), Alhaji Yusuf Nuhu of APC defeated Shehu Umar of the PDP with a difference of 9,102 votes.
In a bid to return to power at the centre, the PDP, African Democratic Congress (ADC), the Reformed All Progressives Congress (R-APC) and 36 other political parties, in July, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in a grand alliance to form a Government of National Unity in 2019.
The sole agenda, according to the MoU, is to produce a joint presidential candidate capable of winning the election and enthrone a new government at the expiration of President Buhari’s tenure in 2019.
Convention And Primaries
After weeks of intense campaign and lobbying, former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, emerged PDP’s presidential candidate for the 2019 election.
He emerged after a keenly contested primary held at Adokiye Amesiamaka Stadium,Port Harcourt , the Rivers State capital on October 7.
Adoption Of Atiku As Consensus Candidate
The Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) adopted Atiku as its sole candidate for February 2019 presidential poll.
Convener of CUPP, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, told a world press conference in Abuja that the former vice president met the criteria used in the choice of a presidential candidate for the coalition.
Oyegun And Tenure Extension Saga
One of the major issues that characterised the governing APC in the year under review was whether the then national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun’s tenure should be extended to allow him oversee the party through the 2019 campaign season. In fact, at one of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party at the earlier part of the year, the session approved the extension of the tenure of Odigie -Oyegun led National Working Committee (NWC) and state executive committees of the party for any other one year with effect from June 2018. He later stepped down from the race.
Oshiomhole Emerges APC Chairman
One of the high points of the party in the year under review was the convocation of the assemblage of all organs and leaders of the party at a convention. Former Edo State governor, Adams Oshiomhole, was confirmed as the national chairman of the APC at the party’s national convention at the Eagle Square in Abuja on Saturday, June 23, 2018.
He was elected APC national chairman unopposed after all other candidates for the same position dropped their interests.
Oshiomhole, Ngige Lock Horns
Soon after he assumed office, Oshiomhole had a faceoff with the minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige. He threatened to sack the minister and Ngige dared him.
The running battle between the chairman and the minister came to the fore allegedly over his refusal to inaugurate boards of parastatals under his ministry, several months after they were appointed by President Buhari.
APC Splits As rAPC Emerges
After months of speculations, apprehension and threats by some aggrieved members of the ruling APC, particularly, members of the new Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP) exited the party and formed a splinter group called the Reformed All Progressives Congress (rAPC).
The faction, which claimed to be the “authentic” APC, said that members of the nPDP, the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP), and Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), which had originally merged to form the APC in 2014, were members of the new bloc.
DSS Invasion Of National Assembly
In August, a group of masked men from the Department of State Security Services (DSS) shut down the National Assembly, preventing lawmakers from accessing the chambers. In a swift reaction, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, who was then acting President ordered the immediate dismissal of then DG of DSS, Lawal Daura and ordered Matthew Seiyefa to take over. However, Seiyefa’s reign was brief as President Muhammadu Buhari replaced him with Yusuf Magaji Bichi.
Obasanjo Agrees To Support Atiku
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo and Atiku Abubakar buried the hatchet in October when the latter sought his support for his presidential ambition.
One issue, which also defined 2018, was the resignation of Ms Kemi Adeosun, as Finance Minister. Adeosun resigned as finance minister, in the midst of reports that she did not participate in the mandatory one-year National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Scheme.
The Ganduje’s Dollar Affair
A video Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, purportedly collecting wads of dollars as bribe from a contractor, went viral.
For the House of Representatives, 2018 was punctuated with twists and turns which made major headlines in the media. Regardless, it appeared to have kept its eyes on the ball in ensuring good governance and development through legislations and motions just as it beamed its searchlights on some national issues through probes and interventions.
Also, the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB) containing the restructuring and reformation of the nation’s oil and gas industry was passed. Highlights of the bill included unbundling of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and other bodies and the establishment of a new regulatory body like the Nigerian Petroleum Regulatory Commission, two companies, Nigeria Petroleum Assets Management Company (NPAMC) and National Petroleum Company (NPC).
Also, the National Security Trust Fund Bill which seeks to provide security agencies with military and security hardware, infrastructure and technologies to aid in ensuring national security was passed.
The bill will settle the issue of budget constraints and poor remuneration of security personnel, inadequate equipment, poor state of available equipment, low level of training, limited manpower and poor maintenance culture.
The Not-Too-Young-to-Run Act is also a landmark bill which was not only passed by NASS in the year under review but signed into law by the President just as a Bill for an Act to amend the Public Holiday Act to be in tandem with the current realities and exigencies of the modern times and declare June 12 as Democracy Day. The bill gives legal teeth to the pronouncement made by President Buhari declaring on June 12 as new democracy day.
The Whistleblower Bill was equally passed. According to the House Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, the bill will “provide for the manner in which individuals may, in public interest disclose information that relates to the unlawful or other illegal conduct or corrupt practices of others it will also provide the protection against victimization of persons who make these disclosures and to reward individuals who make the disclosures and encourage and facilitate whistleblowing, to regulate the receiving, investigating and otherwise dealing with disclosures by whistleblowers from reprisals and other adverse actions.”
The Lower House resolved to ensure that the Ajaokuta Steel Company remains an asset of the state until it is completed as such, it puts in motion modalities to prevent the concession of the Ajaokuta Steel Company and appropriate funds for the completion of the project.
Also, the Green Chamber intervened in the cycle of crises which plagued the National Health Insurance Scheme from the previous year.
It investigated the compliance rate of Health Management Organisations (HMOs) with the NHIS contributions and utilisation of funds by healthcare providers as well as inhuman treatment of enrollees and the suspension of the Executive Secretary, Prof. Usman Yusuf by the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Oduwole over alleged infractions. Yusuf’s suspension at that time coincided with an ongoing probe by the House wherein he accused HMOs of frustrating the agency and perpetrating fraud. The House which played a part in his reinstatement in July 2017 opined that the suspension was an attempt to intimidate Yusuf and stifle the probe back then.
But the NHIS Governing Council which disclosed that it had been inundated with petitions and observed a lot of executive infractions that it could not ignore, insisted that the indefinite suspension was to allow a panel unfettered space to look into the allegations levelled against Yusuf.
Similarly, the House probed the circumstances which led to the suspension of the Director-General of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Mounir Gwarzo, who was accused of abusing of his office, including the approval of N104m severance package for himself while in office.
After an extensive exercise, the Dogara-led House eventually endorsed the suspension of the SEC boss by former Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun.
In the same vein, the House probed the financial operations of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), after a motion on an allegation of violation of public trust in the agency was brought before it. Following the conclusion of the probe, the House advised President Buhari to sack the director-general of the agency for alleged mismanagement and embezzlement of over N33 billion.
It also directed the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the police to recover about N800 million demurrage from some officers of the ministry of agriculture, ministry of budget and national planning and NEMA. And charged the ICPC and EFCC to recover N150m, being subsidized cost of 5000 metric tons of rice from the present DG, Engr. Maihaji “who claimed to have donated same to World Food Programme (WFP) when they were ready to pay for it or import same.
Relatedly, it also investigated the legality and modus operandi of the Special Presidential Investigation Panel (SPIP) to ensure that it is in tandem with the law and conforms with best practices. The decision to look into the activities of the panel followed complaints from the public through the Attorney-General of the federation’s office alleging that it invites citizens to fill asset declaration forms which is the exclusive mandate of the Code of Bureau.
The outcome of that probe was a call by the House for the sack, investigation and prosecution of the SPIP chairman, Okoi Obono-Oblo, the dissolution of the panel as well as the withdrawal of Obono-Oblo’s Law degree which according to the House, was fraudulently obtained from the University of Jos.
On July 24, 2018, 15 senators and 37 House of Representatives members decamped mostly to the PDP. Within 24 hours even after the Senate President Bukola Saraki and the Speaker, Hon Dogara. read the letters announcing their defections, two senators retracted, leaving the list to 13 defecting senators. Apart from the lawmakers, Governors of Benue, Sokoto and Kwara states announced their defections also from the APC to PDP.
On the other side, Senator Godswill Akpabio, Minority Leader of the Senate turned a full circle like twinkling star to denounce his membership of the PDP and pledged his allegiance with the APC on Wednesday August 7, 2018.
In another major string of quake to hit the party, the senator representing Kano Central, Rabiu Kwankwaso, and the senator representing Kogi West, Dino Melaye, also defected.
Other senators are Abdullahi Danbaba, Sokoto, Isa Misau, Bauchi; Suleiman Nazif; Baki Shittu, Jigawa; Monsurat Sunmmonu, Oyo; Bayero Nafada, Gombe State and Olanrewaju Tejuoso, Ogun State.
The tale of the Nigerian economy in 2018 is one of a mixed bag of the good and the bad. On the monetary side, the story is bright and sweet. But that cannot be said of the fiscal side of the economy that managed to grow by 1.81 per cent (year-on-year) in the third quarter of 2018, thanks to the non-oil sector which grew by 2.32% in real terms during the reference quarter after a sluggish growth rate in previous quarters. The economy recovered fully from the 2017 recession in the first quarter of the year. The economy was held together by the monetary policies and other intervention programmes of the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN’s) retention of the MPR and other parameters stable to moderate inflation rate. This gave stability to the foreign exchange market.
Not a few people blamed the sluggish growth of the economy on late passage of the 2018 budget. The 2018 budget estimate of N9.12 trillion was passed by the National Assembly six months after President Buhari submitted the estimates to the lawmakers, a situation many say was responsible for the poor growth recorded in the first two quarters of 2018. The late passage had negative impact on the capital releases for infrastructure building and delay in settlement of debts to contractors.
As part of its intervention in the foreign exchange market, the CBN spent over $11 billion in the forex market. The aim was to ensure stability in the market. Monetary Policy Committee of the CBN retained official interest rate at 14 per cent all through the year – for the 26th month running. The MPC retained the MPR at 14 per cent, CRR at 22.5 per cent, Liquidity Ratio at 30.00 per cent and Asymmetric corridor at +200 and -500 basis points around the MPR. The intension was to allow the existing policies to fully achieve their intended goals and objectives. On the other hand, the committee noted that the cost of capital in the economy remains high and not helpful to growth.
Whereas there were calls for the monetary authorities to tighten the MPR to dowse possible pressure from 2019 election spending, the MPC said further tightening would widen the income gap, depress aggregate consumption and adversely affect credit to the real sector of the economy.
In 2018, the nation’s foreign reserves decreased from about $48 billion to $43 billion in December, signaling investors’ exit from the country over uncertainties around the coming general elections and high interest rates in countries like the United States of America.
There was aggressive drive to expand the nation’s taxpayers’ data base and increase non-oil revenue by the federal government, an action that saw to the introduction of the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS). Former Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, led the tax amnesty campaign that recorded huge compliance level. Within the period of the tax amnesty scheme, a little above N30 billion was raked in, according to official figures.
Beyond the financial returns of the scheme, the impact in promoting voluntary compliance was unquantifiable. One of the outcomes of the scheme, whether directly or indirectly, is the growth of the national taxpayer database from under 14 million pre 2016 number to 35 million in 2018. Apart from that, less than a month after it commenced its substitution of accounts of recalcitrant billionaire taxpayers, the federal government collected N12.66 billion in tax revenue.
The Oil sector
Oil And Gas Midstream
During the year, the NNPC commenced the Seven Critical Gas Development Projects (7CGDP) to deliver about 3.4 billion standard cubic feet of gas per day (bscfd) to bridge the foreseen medium term supply gap by 2020 on an accelerated basis.
The 7CGDP is an integral leg of the gas development strategy designed by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to leverage the full potential of gas to meet the target of generating at least 15 gigawatts (GW) of electricity by 2020.
Another significant achievement was the signing of front-end engineering design contract of the Train 7 of the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Limited, NLNG, by the NNPC, Shell, Total and Eni.
The signing of the contract was done in London and the event also witnessed the repayment of $5.45bn loan for Trains 1 to 6 by the NLNG shareholders. The company had sourced the principal amount of $4.043bn from its shareholders in their respective shareholding proportions to partly fund the construction of Trains 1-6.
In 2018, a lot of developments were recorded in the country’s power sector, both positive and negative. Through the year, there was insufficient gas supply to some thermal Gencos, especially those of the National Integrated Power Projects (NIPPs). There was also chronic illiquidity which impacts heavily on capacity expansion, as well as government’s silence on key regulatory and market decisions.
By the middle of the year, the banking sector saw its first major shakeup with the revocation of the licence of Skye Bank Plc. The bank which had earlier acquired from the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria had suffered capital adequacy issues which led to its death. The revocation of the operating license of Skye Bank Plc and nationalisation of its assets through a bridge bank called Polaris Bank were the culmination of a series of poor corporate governance actions which blew away N2.2 trillion worth of banking assets over three years
As dust settled over the death of Skye Bank, the banking public was again thrown into dismay as rumours of a dying Diamond Bank filled the air. Initially debunked as only a rumour, the issues with Diamond Bank became clear with its eventual merger/acquisition with Access Bank. The merger which saw Diamond Bank being absorbed by Access bank is expected to be fully consummated by the end of the first quarter of 2019.
MTN’s $10.1bn Fines
MTN entered into the crosshairs of Nigerian government at the end of August and early September, with the order by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) that MTN Nigeria return back to the country $8.1 billion illegally repatriated to South Africa.
The, CBN wielded the big stick against four commercial banks who helped MTN facilitate the illegal repatriation of $8.1 billion between 2007 and 2015. Standard Chartered Bank was slammed the heaviest fine of N2.47 billion while Stanbic IBTC Nigeria was fined N1.88 billion. Citibank Nigeria and Diamond Bank were also fined N1.26 billion and N250 million each for violating foreign exchange rules.
In less than two weeks, the federal government, through the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mallam Abubakar Malami, demanded that MTN Nigeria refund to the government accumulated tax arrears of $2 billion owed over the last 10 years.
The AGF in a letter notified MTN that his office made a high-level calculation that MTN Nigeria should have paid approximately $2 billion on import duties, value added tax (VAT) and withholding taxes on foreign imports/payments from foreign suppliers over the last 10 years and he requested MTN Nigeria to do a self-assessment of the taxes in this regard that have been actually paid. MTN sued the Nigerian authorities to court and the parties are currently seeking an out of court settlement.
Although the Central Bank of Nigeria announced recently that it has resolved a dispute with Africa’s largest mobile operator, MTN Nigeria over $8.13 billion (6.96 billion euros) which it accused the company of illegally repatriating to South Africa, the issue generated a lot of concerns from within and outside the country.
Africa’s biggest telecoms market Nigeria shocked MTN and foreign investors in August when it ordered it to refund the money, and fined four commercial banks involved in the transfer. The CBN claimed the South African company had not obtained approval before transferring the funds between 2007 and 2015. The row forced MTN’s shares to slump drastically.
Acquisition Of 9mobile
In November, Teleology Holdings Limited, after about eight months after it made the initial $50 million non-refundable deposit to acquire 9mobile, got the final approval of No Objection from the Board of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to own the telecommunications company. The company also immediately, constituted a new board of directors to manage the affairs of the company following the disbandment of the interim board which held forth while the bid process and payment negotiations lasted.
The former Etisalat Nigeria fell into crisis when it defaulted on a loan repayment scheme to the tune of $1.2 billion due to a consortium of 13 local banks, citing economic downturn and currency devaluation.
New Minimum Wage Saga
In 2018, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) embarked on an indefinite nationwide warning strike to demand for increase of the monthly N18,000 minimum wage. The lingering issue has not been resolved as states insisted that they could not afford to pay N30,000 as minimum wage, while the workers are demanding an increase to about N50, 000.
National Carrier Controversy
The year 2018 turned out to be the most trying times for the Nigeria Air project mooted by the Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika. During the year, the preparation for a national carrier gained serious momentum and also dwindled at the same time. So far, the minister has suspended the national carrier project after promising that the airline would have taken off by December 24, 2018.