Hallmarks of an eventful 2016
No doubt, 2016 is one year most Nigerians would want to pass by in a hurry for many reasons, but particularly the economic recession and attendant hardship that it has brought. Though it started with renewed hope and high expectations, the outgoing year is coming to an end on a not-too-cheery note for many Nigerians.
Executive/Legislature Budget Padding
After winning last year’s presidential election, the coming of President Muhammadu Buhari on the mantra of change, following his assuming office on May 29 was pregnant with expectations of the fulfillment of his election campaign promises. And months later, hopes started fading for most Nigerians.
He told expectant Nigerians that the effective and efficient implementation of this year’s budget would address many of the socio-economic issues plaguing the country.
But signs of things to come emerged quite early as, by February, the two chambers of the National Assembly- the Senate and the House of Representatives- declared the budget was full of errors and could not be passed on the February 25 promised date, thereby causing a rift between the legislature and executive arms of government.
This ultimately resulted in the now infamous budget padding scandal that is yet to fully settle.
The scandal was intense in the House of Representatives, following accusations by the then chairman of the House Committee on Appropriation, Jibrin Abdulmumin, who was suspended much later, that the Speaker Yakubu Dogara and some principal officers padded the budget.
It was a great relief when the budget was finally passed in April by the two chambers and sent to the president for his assent.
Fuel Crisis And Hike In Price
In March, Nigerians were faced with acute shortage of fuel, especially petrol, across the country, with long queues of motorists at major filling stations, while hoarding and black market reigned.
A true and honest statement by the Minister of State for Petroleum resources, Dr. Ibe MACROBUTTON HTMLDirect Kachikwu, that he had no “magic wand” to make fuel available overnight, and “one of the trainings I did not receive is that of a magician, but I am working very hard to ensure some of these issues go away,” led to calls for his resignation even by some who should know better.
More pains were inflicted on Nigerians in May with the increase in the pump price of petrol from N98 to N145 per litre.
The threats of and indeed a national-wide strike by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) failed woefully.
Gains Against Insurgency/Boko Haram Insurgents
Unlike the previous years, the fight against insurgency and Boko Haram insurgents got a bike this year.
The provision of more and advanced military hardware and deployment of troops helped to liberate so many communities held by the insurgents, including its so-called caliphate.
Even thought the true fate of Ibrahim Shekau remains unclear, there is no doubt that his strength and ability to wreck havoc has been decimated, despite occasional attack of soft targets by the insurgents.
Much as the military has missed the presidential target, which was not realistic anyway, the fact that some residents are gradually returning to their liberated communities is enough evidence that Nigeria is winning the war against insurgency.
21 Chibok Girls Released
About two and a half years after over 200 girls were kidnapped from a school in Chibok, Borno State in April 2014, the federal government on Thursday, October 13 said 21 of them, as well as a 20-month-old boy born to one of them in captivity, were released from Boko Haram captivity after a series of negotiations between it and the captors of the girls.
No fewer than 57 girls managed to escape from their captors shortly after their abduction, while efforts to rescue the remaining girls proved abortive.
The federal government has been trying to reach an agreement brokered by the Red Cross and Swiss government with the insurgents.
They were the first batch of the kidnapped girls to be released, following an alleged prisoner swap of detained Boko Haram militants, although government denied there was any exchange.
“Please note that this is not a swap. It is a release, the product of painstaking negotiations and trust on both sides,” insisted Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed.
Out of the 21 girls released, 18 were said to be nursing mothers.
Government has said that efforts and negotiations to secure the release of more girls continue.
As for the remaining girls, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo assured: “In the next few days, the next few months, we should be able to bring in more of these girls, along the same lines, using exactly the same negotiations.
“We want to ensure that we bring these girls back alive. “At the same time, we, of course, balance this against the overall safety and security of the country.”
Relatives of the girls rejoiced, even before they knew whether their kin were among those freed.
In August, Boko Haram released a video purporting to show the bodies of several kidnapped schoolgirls who fighters said were killed by Nigerian airstrikes.
Those still in captive are said to be held by a faction controlled by erratic Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau, rather than a newer faction that has been endorsed by the Islamic State, which broke away after an ideological dispute over killings that targeted Muslims.
Saraki’s CCT Trial
Senate President Bukola Saraki during the year was arraigned before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) over false declaration of assets, in what was seen as a test of wits between the executive and Legislative arms of government.
The trial went forth and back, with Saraki challenging the jurisdiction and competence of the CCT to try him at the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court, which dismissed his cases, paving the way for the trial to go ahead.
But gradually and characteristic of such cases in the past, little is being heard of it again, making many to believe that there could have been a deal between both arms to “face governance.”
Ese Oruru Saga
The same month, the story of Ese Oruru, who was allegedly kidnapped from Bayelsa State and taken to Kano by lover boy, Yunusa Dahiru, dominated the space for a while.
Yunusa was alleged to have converted her to Islam, forced her into early marriage and got her pregnant.
Ese was finally reunited with her family and Yunusa is currently being prosecuted in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital.
Festering PDP Crisis
Crisis soon engulfed the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) following its defeat in last year’s general elections.
First, it was the challenge and eventual ouster of its interim leadership by a former political aide to former President Goodluck Jonathan, Ahmed Gulak, who had in December last year gone to court to challenge the continued stay in office of former deputy national chairman, Uche Secondus, as acting chairman of the party, after the forced resignation of Adamu Muazu.
In January, Gulak, citing a court order, stormed the party’s Wadata House national secretariat and declared himself national chairman of the party after he secured a court order, mandating the replacement of Secondus with somebody from the Northeast, where he hails from.
Inability of party leaders from the zone to produce a consensus replacement for Muazu created a vacuum
As this lingered, just as some chieftains bent on checking the overbearing influence of the governors elected on the party’s ticket were planning, some PDP governors, especially Ekiti State Governor Ayo Fayose, goaded Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, who joined the race barely hours to the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting, into the position, setting the party on a fresh collision course, as major stakeholders, led by Prof Jerry Gana, protested his emergence for sundry reasons.
Sheriff sorted out the party’s financial challenges and consolidated, as controversy raged over his tenure, with the governors and other stakeholders mandating him to conduct a national convention by March.
The attempt to hold conventions in Port Harcourt and Abuja widened the gulf, which snowballed into Sheriff’s controversial sack in Port Harcourt and the emergence of the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led caretaker committee.
Since then, there have been divergent courts orders concerning the party’s leadership tussle and series of meetings to reconcile the two factions to no avail, with the Police intervening to forestall break down of law and order at its national secretariat.
Edo And Ondo Governorship Elections
The year witnessed governorship elections in Edo and Ondo States on September 28 and November 26, respectively, which threw up some cracks in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
But the PDP was worse hit, as in both polls, the crisis in the party openly manifested, producing two candidates along the two camps- Matthew Idriowenyekwene for Sheriff camp and Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu for Makarfi camp in Edo, and Eyitayo Jegede for the Makarfi camp and Jimoh Ibrahim for Sheriff’s camp in Ondo. This immensely contributed to its losses, as it was defeated by the APC.
Although INEC eventually recognised candidates from Makarfi camp for both elections, the candidates of the APC- Godwin Obaseki in Edo and Rotimi Akeredolu in Ondo- won.
The emergence of Akeredolu in Ondo led to a face-off between a chieftain of the party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and National Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun.
Tinubu had backed Segun Abrahams, who later contested on the platform of the Alliance for Democracy (AD), and later called for the ouster of the former on the grounds that he sanctioned a ‘fraudulent’ process that produced Akeredolu.
Rivers Re-Run State And National Legislative Election
The dust from the re-run state and national legislative election in Rivers State is yet to fully settle, with the APC and PDP trading accusations of orchestrating rigging and violence that characterised the exercise.
Pre-election outbursts from both parties gave indications of what to expect, and the outcome was never disappointing to keen observers.
The poll was preceded by the withdrawal of the Chief Security Officer (CSO) to Governor Nyesom Wike and some policemen attached to the Government House, Port Harcourt, as well as transfer of 500 senior and junior police officers from the state, which made him to raise the alarm.
Even Odigie-Oyegun was reported to have urged APC members to retaliate whatever action they get from PDP loyalists, which he later denied.
At the end, there were killings and snatching of electoral materials, including the beheading of Alkali Mohammed, a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), and his orderly in Bodo.
There were also PDP allegations of active participation of security personnel in ballot box snatching, and unjustified harassment of voters and party officials, although the army and the police have denied such allegations.
The APC blamed PDP for the death of the policemen and others and called for a probe into an audio clips said to be the voice of Wike threatening to kill some electoral officials if they failed to carry out the directives for which they were bribed.
Already, there are calls for an investigation of the role of security personnel during the exercise, while the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris, has set up a team of detectives to conduct forensic analysis on the audio clips.
All these further call to question the preparedness of INEC for and impartiality of security personnel during elections.
This year has been particularly difficult for most Nigerians due to the economic recession, made worse by endemic corruption, falling price of oil in the international market and dwindling value of the naira.
Even as the new year beckons, many are finding it difficult to cater for themselves and dependants, including feeding, payment of school fees, etc, as the prices of items skyrocket.
The instability in the price of crude oil in the international market has meant less revenue to the government; hence the inability of most state governments to pay workers entitlements as at when due.
In the private sector, the economic downturn has led to job losses, as many firms downsized to remain afloat.
Activities Of Militants, Southeast Agitators, Herdsmen, Kidnappers
The activities of militants and pipeline vandals in the Niger Delta adversely affected oil export/revenue, as well as power supply, as many thermal power stations were starved of gas.
It remains unclear whether the dialogue option has worked in calming frayed nerves in the Niger Delta.
In the Southeast, the agitations of the Indigenous People Of Biafra (IPOB) has been another distraction and major event of the year.
The trial and incarceration of the leader of the group, Nnamdi Kalu, remains a sore point that might continue into the new year.
The brazen and criminal activities of armed herdsman, who attack communities across the country, killing and destroying properties is one menace that, if not checked, could spiral out of control.
It got so bad, as witnessed in Nibo in Enugu State, Southern Kaduna in Kaduna State and Agatu in Benue State, that many state governments had to resort to extraneous measures, including legislations, to check the banditry by restricting the movement of cattle and their rearers from grazing on farmlands. The case of Ekiti State is a good case.
Many farmers, especially in the southern part of the country, oppose the idea of creating or reviving the grazing routes, while the option of ranching is seen by many as a probable way out.
But it is striking that most of the perpetrators of the attacks and killings are not being prosecuted; hence the impunity of subsequent attacks.
Gradually but steadily, there have been renewed kidnappings of all manner of people across the country for ransom.
In Lagos, even school children and traditional rulers were not spared, as institutions of learning and palaces were invaded and students and monarchs abducted.
Even areas hitherto considered safe, including the Abuja-Kaduna highway, became kidnappers’ den in the outgoing year.
Anti-Corruption, Judges’ Arrests
The war against corruption got a bite this year, with the arrest and prosecution of many former political office holders, especially in the last administration, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The arms deal scandal is yet to go away, with the continued detention of major participants, including former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki.
The unprecedented raids of the residences and arrests of some Judges by the Department of State Security (DSS) and their ongoing prosecution over corruption charges cannot be forgotten in a hurry.
Even though the EFCC and indeed federal government are being accused of persecution and witch hunting by some opposition members, there is no doubt that the fight is achieving some results.
If participants of Ponzi schemes, such as Mavrodi Mondial Moneybox (MMM), had nothing to fear before now, the recent freezing of withdrawals from their savings is giving many of them sleepless nights.
The fear is that like all money-doubling schemes, the bubble is about to burst, in which case, many might lose their savings, as what was seen as a life-saving project in this time of recession could turn out to become a life-ruining scheme, or rather, scam.
Deaths Of Notable Personalities
Among those who died in the year were former Minister of Transport, Chief Ojo Maduekwe; actress, Bukky Ajayi; former Super Eagles coaches, Stephen Keshi and Ahmadu Shuaibu.
The election of Donald Trump of the Republican Party as the next United States (US) President, against all odds and predictions and polls, defeating the favourite, Hillary Clinton of the Democratic Party, stunned the world and bookmakers.
The United Kingdom (UK) shocked the world in June when majority of its citizens voted in a referendum to withdraw from the European Union (EU) in “British exit” vote called by then Prime Minister, David Cameron.
About 52 per cent voted in favour of Brexit.
Cameron later quit office to make way for Theresa May, who intends to invoke Article 50 of the Treaty on the EU, the formal procedure for withdrawing, by the end of March next year.
Terms of the treaty would put the UK on a course to leave the EU by March 2019.
Syrian War, Migrant Crisis And Terror In Europe
The civil war in Syria aggravated this year and reached a tipping point towards the end of the year.
The level of destruction of human and physical has been described as a war crime.
The war and other conflicts in the Middle East and other Arab countries led to influx of migrants into Europe and upsurge of cases of terror across EU countries.
The effect is still being felt across the world.
Gambia, Ghana Elections
The outcome of the presidential elections in Gambia and Ghana, where the opposition political parties emerged victorious, is adding to the trend in Nigeria last year.
In Ghana, President John Mahama has already conceded defeat and congratulated Nana Akufo-Addo on his election, while Gambia’s Yahya Jammeh has recanted his earlier acceptance of defeat by Adama Barrow.
Death Of Mohammed Ali
American boxing legend, Mohammed Ali, one of the world’s greatest sporting figures, died in June at the age of 74 at a hospital in Phoenix, Arizona.
He had been suffering from a respiratory illness, a condition that was complicated by Parkinson’s disease, which he had battled for years.
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