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Nigeria’s democratic backsliding

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Democratic Nigeria

By Aminu Ali

Freedom of speech is one of the cardinal pillars of democracy and an accelerator of transition to democratic consolidation.

But in Nigeria, free speech is routinely being threatened.

For instance, the incessant and flagrant clampdown on activists, journalists and preachers who are bold enough to call out the downright incompetence, impunity and cluelessness of those who lead them is quite alarming.

Some of them are being harassed and intimidated, others are detained for several months without trial or are being denied bail even after securing an order from a court of competent jurisdiction.

Freedom of expression, rights to lawful assembly and peaceful protest are inalienable as they are guaranteed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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But while pro-government protesters are given the freedom to conduct their rallies, those oppose to its unpopular policies are being suppressed using state security apparatuses.

As Rosa Luxemburg aptly argues “freedom only for the members of the government, only for the members of the Party…. is no freedom at all. Freedom is always the freedom of the dissenters.”

An unrepentant fascist

As Buhari’s government intensifies its efforts to gag dissent, concerns about the shrinking of civic space and heightened risk of democratic regression are becoming more and more pronounced. This is evident in the scale of public outrage that trailed the illegal detention of the organizers of the #RevolutionNow, Omoyele Sowere and Bakare Mandate.

When civil rights are denied, accountability in governance is well-nigh impossible and, consequently, politics of irresponsibility prevails and the nation plunges into dictatorship.

Therefore, Nigerians need to be more vigilant in averting the seeming erosion of civic space and subversion of democratic norms. If we remain acquiescent, despondent or complacent in the face of ceaseless assaults on our civil rights, our rulers will become bolder in wrecking the ideals upon which democracy is built.

In 1983, Major General Buhari (as he was then known) overthrew a democratically elected government.

The military government he formed became notorious for promulgation of draconian and repressive laws, such as the infamous Decree 4, which criminalized dissent.

Nigerians forgave his heinous act and elected him as their civilian president.

Alas, the brazen violations of civil and democratic rights and the wanton disregard for the rule of law under Buhari’s watch give Nigerians the impression that he is an unrepentant fascist.

The overt endorsement of the Social Media Bill by the APC-led government is also a manifestation of its anti-democratic posture. In his inaugural speech in May 29, 2015 president Buhari acknowledged the role played by the social media in securing his election victory.

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Surprisingly, however, the government he leads is now unwilling to tolerate the censure his predecessor was subjected to by the same media he praised not quite long ago!

Rule of law under threat

Selective obedience to court order is now a commonplace in Nigeria. Governments swiftly obey orders that suit them while ignoring those that do not.

For example, when the Code of Conduct Tribunal granted an order to President Buhari to suspend the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, he happily implemented the order.

But when courts ordered for the release of Sowere and the leader of Islamic Movement in Nigeria, El-zakzaky, the same government has blatantly refused to comply!

What this means is that the State has now become a promoter of lawlessness.

The principle of separation of power is increasingly being threatened.

The legislature has been compromised; it is a bunch of yes boys of the Presidency.

Executive bills are being passed by lawmakers without robust debates and, worse still, sometimes even before they are privy to its content.

In essence, the legislature is seemingly a mere rubber stamp.

The judiciary is also not spared: intimidation of judges, disregard for court order and desecration of court are the order of the day. When the independence of these organs is undermined through whatever means, executive recklessness prevails.

Sham elections

The integrity of our electoral process is rapidly diminishing.

As I argued elsewhere, “voter suppression, ballot snatching and stuffing, vote-buying, violence, militarization of polls, among other forms of irregularities and malpractices, have become the defining features of our elections.”

The outcome of polls is not determined by popular vote. Consequently, elections no longer provide opportunities for the electorate to humiliate leaders who have under-performed.

In other words, those who have performed abysmally can secure reelection as long as they have control over security agents and possess money to hire thugs and buy votes.

Politics of brinksmanship is pervasive in Nigeria, largely because holding political offices is the most lucrative occupation, as holders have unfettered access to public purses.

And since we have no viable system of accountability, they brazenly plunder our collective patrimony, often without any serious consequences.

Therefore, struggles to capture and retain political office become a do or die affair.

More worrisomely, this politics of brinksmanship has made democratic consolidation difficult and, worse still, is aggravating democratic backsliding.

Poor economic management adversely effects transition to democratic consolidation.

From the foregoing analyses, one thing is very clear: Nigeria is experiencing what Nancy Bermeo calls democratic backsliding. This is driven by abuse of civil and democratic rights; disregard for the rule of law; weakened independence of the legislature and judiciary; decline in the integrity of electoral process and politics of brinksmanship; poor management of the country’s economy and imposition of unpopular/anti-poor policies, which makes the democracy unbeneficial to the toiling Nigerians.

The dwindling living condition of Nigerians, which is occasioned by imposition of neo-liberal and anti-poor policies, has become horrible.

Withdrawal of subsidies, devaluation of naira, increase in taxes and their attendant consequences on the cost of living, declined investments in social services – such as education, health, portable water and electricity – have not only denied us the dividend of democracy but have deepened the crises that pose existential threat to the country’s corporate existence.

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Nigeria is gradually getting enmeshed in debt crisis.

According to the African Development Bank (AfDB), 50% of the country’s revenue goes to debt servicing.

Also, a Premium Times investigation shows that a quarter of the 2020 budget will go to debt servicing.

Yet, Nigerian government has continued to borrow.

It’s unthinkable that while the government claims that it has recovered looted funds, blocked leakages and expanded our revenue base, it has continued to borrow money to carry out its obligations. One of the terrible consequences of this over borrowing is that the county is left with little resources to invest in the provision of essential social services.

From the foregoing analyses, one thing is very clear: Nigeria is experiencing what Nancy Bermeo calls democratic backsliding. This is driven by abuse of civil and democratic rights; disregard for the rule of law; weakened independence of the legislature and judiciary; decline in the integrity of electoral process and politics of brinksmanship; poor management of the country’s economy and imposition of unpopular/anti-poor policies, which makes the democracy unbeneficial to the toiling Nigerians.

Aminu Ali wrote from the Department of Sociology, Bayero University, Kano. He can be reached via email aminuali@yahoo.com

 

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Dangote says Company’s projected $30bn revenue will boost the Naira value

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Nasiru Yusuf Ibrahim

 

President of Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote, on Sunday stated that his company’s aim is to become the leading supplier of foreign exchange in the FX market soon, as it targets $30 billion in revenues by the year 2025.

KANO FOCUS reports that during a tour of the Dangote Petroleum Refinery & Petrochemicals and Dangote Fertiliser Limited with media executives at the weekend, he said the plan is to attain independence from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in forex sourcing, highlighting a strategic shift in revenue composition within the cement business from the current 75 percent to 15 percent in the future.

The expected significant inflow of forex into Nigeria through his businesses, will automatically boosts the value of our local currency and make Naira regain its value in the comity of international currencies all over the world.

According to Dangote, the refinery began full operations in 2024, initially focusing on refining intermediate products such as polypropylene, naphtha, RCO, gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel.

He explained that the refinery entered its steady-state production phase in March 2024. Additionally, he anticipates production ramping up to 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) with 15 crude cargoes per month by August, increasing to 550,000 bpd by the end of the year, and aiming for 650,000 bpd by the first quarter of 2025.

“Petrol production is to commence in July with sales from August,” assured Dangote.

Dangote also hinted that the group intends to list both Dangote Petroleum Refinery & Petrochemicals and Dangote Fertilizer Limited on the Nigerian Exchange Group in the first quarter of 2025. He said that this initiative would enable Nigerians to participate in the ownership of these companies.

“Due to the nature of our business with both the refinery and the fertilizer, we are aiming to list them by the end of this year. However, depending on circumstances, worst-case scenario, we anticipate listing them before the end of the first quarter of next year. This will allow us to offer shares for sale and enable Nigerians to participate as shareholders,” Dangote stated.

The Dangote Refinery, which will process 650,000 barrels per day (BPD) at full capacity, stands as Africa’s largest oil refinery and the world’s largest single-train facility, while the Dangote Fertiliser Limited operates Africa’s largest Granulated Urea Fertiliser complex. Presently, Dangote Cement is Nigeria’s most capitalised company.

While noting that the total storage capacity of the refinery is 4.5 billion litres, sufficient to cover 20 days of Nigeria’s crude requirement and store products equivalent to 15 days of Nigeria’s petrol consumption, he stressed that the refinery would produce 53 million litres of petrol per day and 1.1 million tonnes per day.

He added that the refinery is equipped with dedicated loading gantries featuring 86 loading bays, alongside specialized marine facilities for the offloading of crude and the loading of petroleum products. Additionally, the facility, he said, includes a 900-kilotonne per annum polypropylene plant, with production capacities of 36,000 tonnes per annum for sulphur and 585,000 tonnes per annum for carbon black.

Dangote said that over the past four decades, the operations of Dangote Group have evolved significantly from a commodity trading company to a diversified conglomerate. He emphasised that this transformation was driven by the overarching goal of achieving self-sufficiency in key sectors and bolstering Nigeria’s economy.

He noted that the group, which began as a trading company in 1978, has expanded into a diversified conglomerate with investments spanning cement, agriculture, fertilizer, petrochemicals, oil & gas, auto assembly, infrastructure, and other sectors.

He said the group is driven by the idea that Africa’s future prosperity hinges on its ability to harness its own resources and capabilities. Dangote stressed that the continent inadvertently imports poverty and exports jobs by exporting raw materials and importing finished goods.

The Vice President, Oil and Gas, Dangote Industries Limited, Devakumar Edwin, reiterated the commitment of the company in enhancing local capacity in critical sectors of the economy.

He said Dangote Industries Limited has empowered young Nigerians to assume key roles across its operations, with many even becoming expatriates in other nations.

Edwin stressed the refinery’s status as the world’s largest single train complex constructed entirely by a Nigerian company, highlighting a significant achievement in local engineering and construction capabilities.

Noting that most refineries were built by foreign companies, he said it is a thing of pride that a Nigerian company, acting directly as Engineering, Procurement, and Construction (EPC) contractor, designed and built the world’s largest single train refinery complex. He said this has enhanced the capacity of many Nigerians involved in the process and that a Nigerian company can build a refinery anywhere in the world.

“It is a thing of pride that the largest single train refinery in the world is 100% designed, engineered, and constructed by a Nigerian company as EPC contractor,” he said.

While expressing gratitude to the media executives, Group Executive Director of Commercial Operations at Dangote Industries Limited, Fatima Dangote, reiterated the company’s dedication to creating a positive impact on the economy. She commended Aliko Dangote’s steadfast commitment to advancing the continent’s development.

“He (Dangote) is committed to ensuring the success of Nigeria and Africa as a nation and a continent. Our focus extends beyond profit to solving problems and achieving self-sufficiency across all sectors in Africa. By meeting global standards, we have positioned ourselves to export our products to every continent in the world,” she said.

Fatima pointed out that the group is not only the largest private employer of labour but also consistently ranks as one of the top taxpayers in the country each year, adhering to all relevant tax laws and regulations.

“We are known as one of the largest employers of labour. However, we are also conscious of ensuring our workers enjoy a good living standard. This is reflected in our inclusion in the list of top paying firms in the country. Our impact on employment generation extends to creating thousands of indirect jobs in the various communities that we operate in,” she added.

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Kano Govt, PLANE hold Education Sector Performance Review meeting

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Nasiru Yusuf Ibrahim

 

The Kano state government has conducted a three day education sector review meeting in Zaria, Kaduna state. 

KANO FOCUS reports that the meeting was conducted with the support of Partnership for Learning for All in Nigeria (PLANE). 

Speaking at the occasion the state commissioner of education Alhaji Umar Haruna Doguwa said the Abba Kabir Yusuf led administration attached priority attention to education and would utilise its resources to revive the sector.

According to him, the present administration under the leadership of Alhaji Abba Kabir Yusuf is concerned about the dilapidated condition of education and would redouble efforts to achieve the desired objectives.

He emphasized the need for collaboration saying that the ministry operates an open-door policy that is always open to receive inputs aimed at improving education.

“As part of efforts to revive the sector, the ministry would install solar panels to enable uninterrupted service delivery “

The State Team Lead, Partnership for Learning for All in Nigeria PLANE Malam Umar Lawan said that PLANE is committed to supporting Kano state in taking education to a greater height.

He said PLANE is a 7-year education program funded by FCDO that engages with state and non-state actors within the basic education sub-sector to strengthen systems for improved delivery of inclusive, good-quality foundational learning, with a focus on marginalized groups, especially girls and children with disabilities.

He said “PLANE works at the federal level and in five states (Kaduna, Kano, Jigawa, Yobe, and Borno.”

Representative of the Kano State Accountability Forum on Education, (K-SAFE) Hajiya Mairo Bello, expressed appreciation to PLANE for extending the invitation to them and pledged to do the necessary advocacies and media engagement to inform relevant stakeholders.

Others who spoke at the occasion include Chairman State Universal Basic Education (SUBEB) Alhaji Yusuf Kabir, Executive Secretary Kano State Private and Voluntary Institutions Board (KSPVIB) , Alhaji Baba Umar, Hajiya Ladidi Sani Fagge from HILWA among others.

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Dangote Refinery imports additional 11m barrels of US crude oil due to domestic supply shortage

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Nasiru Yusuf Ibrahim

 

 

Dangote Petroleum Refinery and Petrochemicals has issued a tender for an additional 11 million barrels of US crude oil over the next six months due to Nigerian crude oil producers’ inability to meet its feedstock requirements.

KANO FOCUS reports that the 650,000 barrels per day refinery has already received 9 million barrels of West Texas Intermediate crude from the US since the beginning of 2024 to offset unreliable domestic supplies. The new tender, closing on July 21, aims to procure two million barrels per month of WTI Midland crude for the world’s largest single-train facility located in Ibeju Lekki, Lagos, for the next six months starting in August.

In a tender reported by Bloomberg, Dangote Refinery purchased five million barrels of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) Midland crude for delivery in the upcoming months of August and September. Additionally, the company initiated a tender process to acquire an additional six million barrels of American crude for September.

This reliance on US crude highlights Nigeria’s challenges in meeting its own refining needs, attributed to issues such as crude theft, aging infrastructure, and underinvestment, which have led to a decline in production. In April, Nigeria’s daily output was only 1.45 million barrels, well below its capacity of 2.6 million barrels per day. The country recorded an estimated 30 million barrels underproduction in the first four months of 2024.

Dangote Refinery, crucial to Nigeria’s goal of becoming a net exporter of petroleum products, has found it necessary to import crude to sustain operations amidst insufficient domestic supply.

President of Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote, stated during the Africa CEO Forum 2024 that the refinery will need to continue importing crude as production scales up and alternative supply contracts are sought.

“It also makes economic sense for us to tender for crude. If we could source 100 percent Nigerian crude, then fine, but we can’t wait,” said Dangote.

Commenting on the challenge with sourcing crude locally, Dangote added, “there is a bit of a problem for us to source the entire volume of crude that we’re looking for domestically because we need different types and mixes. Unless crude production improves – which we pray and hope for – we need to go elsewhere.”

The refinery took in more than 41 million barrels of feedstock in the first half of the year as it completed test runs and gradually increased processing rates, tanker-tracking data show. Of that, about a quarter has been American supply.

According to CAS, the refinery took delivery of 11 WTI cargoes, or 9 million barrels, between February and May, contrasting with around 18 million barrels of Nigerian crude deliveries.

Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC), NNPC has struggled to meet its 300,000 barrels per day obligation to the refinery due to operational constraints.

International financial analytics corporation, S&P Global, recently described the Dangote Petroleum Refinery and Petrochemicals company as capable of resolving Nigeria’s foreign exchange (forex) issue and its huge pressure on the local Naira currency, while also catalysing the country’s economic development.

S&P Global, headquartered in Manhattan, New York City, disclosed this during an onsite visit to the refinery as part of its sovereign credit ratings assessment of Nigeria. The team from the international rating agency were accompanied by officials from the Federal Ministry of Finance.

S&P noted that the refinery would bolster Nigeria’s oil sector and, more importantly, also have a positive impact on its growing economy.

Currently operating at 350,000 barrels per day capacity, Vice President of Oil and Gas at Dangote Industries Limited (DIL), Devakumar Edwin, recently disclosed that the refinery would scale up to at least 500,000 barrels per day capacity by July/August, commencing the refining of petrol and ultra-low sulphur diesel.

He noted that the refinery, designed to process a wide range of crudes including various African and Middle Eastern crudes, as well as US Light Oil, conforms to Euro V specifications. In addition, it is designed to comply with US EPA, European Union (EU) emission norms, the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) emission/effluent norms, and the African Refiners and Distribution Association (ARDA) standards.

While noting that most refineries were built by foreign companies, he said it is a thing of pride that a Nigerian company designed and built the world’s largest single-train refinery complex while acting directly as its own Engineering, Procurement, and Construction (EPC) contractor. The refinery which also incorporates a self-sufficient marine facility capable of handling the world’s largest vessels, can meet 100% of Nigeria’s requirement of all liquid products (Gasoline, Diesel, Kerosene & Aviation Jet) and have surplus of each of these products for export.

 

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