This week in Nigeria: Merkel in Abuja

by Lagun Akinloye

This Week: News

German Chancellor Meets President Jonathan in Abuja

German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan on Friday in Abuja. Merkel becomes the first head of state of a major world power to visit Nigeria since the April elections. The first steps in a bi-national commission were discussed, alongside the need for enhanced cooperation in exploring Nigeria’s vast, untapped gas reserves, which are the eighth largest in the world. Merkel, in her State House address, underlined her objective. “Our efforts are to intensify cooperation in respect to liquefied natural gas, technical and developmental areas.” Merkel also congratulated Jonathan on the recently conducted elections and invited him to Germany next year.

The Nigeria Labour Congress Unwavering in its Threat to Carry out Nationwide Strikes.

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) is threatening to conduct a three-day nationwide strike unless employers, including federal and state governments, implement the statutory minimum wage increase, from N7,500 ($49) to N18,000 ($119) per month. Various state governments claim they would be left bankrupt if the increase was to be fully implemented. The NLC Deputy National President Comrade Kiri Mohammed explained that unless all the parties involved signed an agreement with the outright adoption of the minimum wage, the strike, which is scheduled for Wednesday July 30, would go ahead as planned.

13 Women in Jonathan’s Cabinet

Out of the 42 sworn-in members of the newly constituted Nigerian Cabinet 13 are women. Former World Bank managing director Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala who is expected to run the Ministry of Finance and Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, who has returned to her previous post as Minister of Petroleum Resources, have the highest profiles. The number of women appointees falls slightly below the 35% benchmark promised by Jonathan before the elections but is the highest number in Nigeria’s democratic history.  During Obasanjo’s period in office (1999-2007) a high of nine women  was reached, while under the Yar’adua (2007-2010) administration there were never more than seven women.

Lagos Governor Orders Demolition of Illegal Buildings

Babatunde Fashola, the governor of Lagos State, has ordered the immediatedemolition of buildings illegally constructed on drainage canals.  The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) says at least 20 people died in what its called the most devastating floods in years. Fashola says the state will waste no time in pulling down these structures to reduce the risk of further flooding. Rains are expected to continue this week and through till September.

Governor of Borno State Offers Islamic Millitants Ceasefire

The governor of Borno State in north-east Nigeria, home to the Islamic militant group Boko Haram, has offered the group a ceasefire. Kashim Shettima called on members of the group, who have waged a campaign of violence in the state capital Maiduguri, to lay down their arms and open talks with his government. “Once again I wish to beseech my brothers to lay down their arms and come and [enter] dialogue with us, for indeed this is the only way we move our beleaguered state forward.” Boko Haram has carried out a series of bomb attacks across northern Nigeria in recent times, which has led to the deaths of security personnel, politicians and civilians.

Nigerian Prison Service Confirms Number of Prisoners

The Nigerian Prison Service this week admitted to having 40,189 prisoners in its custody. The number of inmates awaiting trial stands at 25,000 – 64% of the overall prison population. The prison services public relations officer Kayode Odeyemi states that all detainees are being held legally because the courts have asked them to do so and that the only solution is the speedy trial of suspects. Senior advocate Mike Ahamba said there are obvious lapses in a prison service in which suspects awaiting trial are left to languish in jail for years before their cases are heard. He claims the prison system needs a total overhaul.

This Week: Politics

The portfolios have been handed out and the presidential pep talk given. The onus forn government ministers is on performance and accountability. The main aim is investment and development, while  the menace of corruption must be checked.

Floods have taken their toll on Lagos State, yet it seems Lagos has been left on its own to deal with the aftermath of the devastation. The state is in the firm control of the opposition Action Congress of Nigeria, yet it what happens in Lagos still affects the nation as a whole. So why has the federal government and the People’s Democratic Party been so quiet on the issue? There has been no concrete offer of funding assistance or help of any sort. It is fully understandable that the security situation has led to a diversion of priorities, yet the reputation of the ruling party would be enhanced with a show of unity and strength to the victims.

Angela Merkel visited Nigeria this week, and British Prime Minister David Cameron, phone hacking scandal permitting, is next. This brings an air of legitimacy and acceptance of Nigeria within the wider international community. Such visits will not only boost the country’s global standing, but will also give confidence to those who have kept Nigeria at arm’s length as an investment destination. The Nigeria-Germany bi-national commission is a welcom development due to Germany’s proven technical capabilities and the need for Nigeria to learn from them. It is of interest to see what the British prime minister has to say on his visit and whether he conforms to the embracing posture of Merkel.

Writers of the week:

Simon Kolawole of ThisDay newspapers questions the economic structure that comes with Nigeria’s federal system. An in-depth and realistic write-up which analyses past mistakes that have stunted the country growth and the potential differences that could have been seen from a better functioning political system.

Former chief press secretary to former Osun State governor Lasisi Olagunju writes a detailed and highly interesting article in the form of a letter to the former chief editor of the Nigerian Guardian newspaper and the recently appointed presidential spokesman, Reuben Abati. Filled with home truths and words of advice, this piece makes for a good read and an informative insight in the tough road ahead for Abati.

Lagun Akinloye, a British Nigerian, studied Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Leeds. He is particularly interested  in the History and Politics of West Africa and more specifically Nigeria.

This article first appeared on www.thinkafricapress.com on July 19, 2011

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