What’s Going On: Nigeria’s increasing insecurity problems, Ghana as the ideal destination for foreign investment & more

Major headlines from around Africa in recent days

Our Latest Column, “What’s Going On”, Will Tally Notable News Headlines From Across The Continent — The Good, The Bad, And The Horrible — As A Way Of Ensuring That We All Become A More Sagacious African Generation. With This Column, We’re Hoping To Disseminate The Latest Happenings In Our Socio-Political Climate All Over The Continent, Whilst Starting A Conversation About What’s Important For Us To All Discuss. From Political Affairs To Socio-Economic Issues, ‘What’s Going On’, Will Discuss Just That. 

Ever so often, we have to remind developed parts of the world that Africa is not a country. It’s not just because a significant portion of people in those parts are unenlightened, but also because of the continent-wide similarities when it comes to social, political, and economic issues. For one, Africa is teeming with corrupt and inept leaders—many of them dictators— who have failed to invest in meaningful infrastructure, all while derailing and rejecting systemic change through violent means if necessary. In addition to this, they are fully aided by deeply patriarchal, religion deferring, and ultra-conservative social constructs.

At the same time cross the continent, the current generation of African youth are pushing against these systemic boundaries, in order to continue the arduous work of rewriting the narrative. Even with all of the endeavours, talent and records being witnessed from music to tech, the limitations put in place by the continent’s political landscape still looms large. Every week, disparaging headlines from around Africa make their way to the news, reminding us of the bumps affecting these perceived stripes, and the roadblocks which delay our growth towards more wholesome and enabling societies for all Africans. Below are few news bits of what’s been going in on in the past few days.

Ghana seems to be attracting the bulk of big business looking to set up in West Africa

Earlier this month, Twitter announced the opening of its first African office in Accra, Ghana. Generally speaking, a development of this kind is a positive for Sub-Saharan Africa, in that the social media platform’s presence will ensure better curation of our timelines and more accurate narratives of happenings within the region, especially since Twitter is one of the most popular means to disseminating, and in some cases, verifying news. However, some Nigerians and Nigerian government officials have taken a slight at Accra, Ghana being the choice of destination for a novel Twitter office, feeding into the sometimes sibling rivalry that exists between the two countries.

In 2019, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey was on a mini-tour of West Africa, making highly publicised stops in Nigerian and Ghana. The visits indicated expansion possibilities, and many expected Nigeria, which has a sizable amount of Twitter users within the continent, to be the winning choice. In the statement announcing its Accra office, Twitter shared the main reasons behind its decision, and it included Ghana’s perception as a champion (by African standards especially) for democracy, free speech an open internet, as well as being the hosting secretariat for the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), a factor that’s primed to benefit startups and other big business looking to set up in the country.

Since Twitter’s announcement, news of companies setting up operations in Ghana have been coming in thick and fast. Several leading German pharmaceutical companies have started cooperation projects with the Ghanaian government in order to figure out the feasibility of making Covid-19 vaccines within the continent, so as to service the African continent that’s still playing catch-up in the race to eradicate the coronavirus pandemic. Bamboo, the investment platform that offers users direct access to the U.S stock market, announced that it is setting up in Ghana. Just last week, automobile giants Hyundai and Kia announced that they were working towards having functional assembly plants in 2022, a move that is expected to generate over 10,000 jobs, according to Ghana’s Minister for Trade & Industry.

Ghana’s increasing popularity over Nigeria as the destination of choice for companies looking to invest in West Africa makes sense to objective observers. Over the years, the ease of doing business in Nigeria has consistently plummeted due to factors like inflation, terrible power supply, insecurity (even at the hands of police), baffling government regulations that are decidedly anti-business, and much more. These negative factors in Nigeria are considerably better in Ghana, and even though Nigerians continue to prove their resourcefulness and dominate pop culture conversations in the region, it simply makes sense that louder, more popular sibling country will continue to curry less investment favour until it fixes up significantly.

Long-term Chad president proclaimed dead, son takes over transitional Military council

Last week, just as provisional election results were forecasting a sixth consecutive term, long-term Chad president Idriss Deby was pronounced dead. “The president of the republic, head of state, supreme chief of the army, Idriss Deby Itno, just drew his last breath while defending the nation’s integrity on the battlefield,” army spokesman Azem Bermandoa Agouna said in a televised statement, insinuating that Deby had passed away after sustaining injuries while leading army troops against the opposition rebel group, Fighters of the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT).

Largely comprising army dissidents, the Libya-based FACT rebel group violently crossed into Chad via its northern border earlier this month, in protest against Deby’s continued stay in office. In 1990, Idriss Deby, a former soldier, spearheaded the rebellion that overthrew former authoritarian leader, Hissene Habre. He officially took office in February 1991, winning subsequent elections every five years, and even signing legislation that could’ve seen him remain in power until 2033. According to international experts, even though Idriss Deby’s style of government was barely democratic, he was an ally for the West in the battle against extremist Islamic rebels. Last year, a video of him parading Lake Chad alongside his soldiers, after an attack by Boko Haram, went viral on the internet, a representation of how hands-on he was when faced with rebellion.

After Deby’s passing, his son, four-star General Mahamat Idriss Deby, was quickly announced as the leader of the transitional military government, even though constitutional provision says the Parliament speaker should’ve taken charge. While Chad doesn’t seem to be a Monarchy, it sure looks to be operating like one, and it’s anyone’s guess of the transitional government will eventually give way to a fairer democracy after its (self-)allotted 18-month period. At the moment, former Prime Minister Albert Pahimi Padacke has been appointed as interim PM until elections take place, and the transitional government has made hunting down FACT its primary focus, soliciting help from Niger following rumours that some of the dissident faction had taken to hiding in the neighbouring country.

The rising levels of insecurity in Nigeria

Last week, the six-month anniversary of the Lekki massacre arrived with great heaviness. The day served as a reminder to many young Nigerians that the horrors that our government perpetuates were still very much happening in real-time and we were fighting a battle that had no end in sight.

Since the horrors of that day, and despite countless evidence to suggest foul play, no one has taken responsibility for what happened at the Lekki toll gate and within other environs around Lagos State. What followed has been a gross deprival of justice for the victims and their families, near-constant harassment, and court appearances for the notable figures who were involved at the End SARS protests, and now, increased insecurity at almost every corner of the country from Lagos State to Kaduna, Imo State and more.

i) Increased student abductions across the country

Last Tuesday night, armed gunmen stormed a university campus in the Northern state of Kaduna where one staff member was tragically killed with three others kidnapped alongside several other students. Since the gruesome event, the official number of students abducted remains unclear, however, reports state that there are 20 students currently identified as missing from the Greenfield university grounds. 

“The armed bandits who kidnapped students of Greenfield University, have shot dead three of the abducted students,” said Samuel Aruwan, Commissioner for Kaduna State Ministry of Internal Security and Home Affairs, in a statement posted on Facebook. The remains of three kidnapped students were found on Friday in Kwanan Bature, a village which is near the university. Then again, yesterday, the bodies of two other students were found as announced by the Commissioner of Internal Security and Home Affairs. Kidnapping for ransom has escalated in Kaduna and other parts of northern Nigeria, as criminal gangs target schools and universities, the Greenfield incident being the fifth to occur in the country since last December. Nigeria is still reeling from the horror of the latest school abduction which occurred just last month when 300 students were abducted from the Government Girls Science Secondary School in Jangebe, Zamfara State, BBC reports. 

Shortly after this tragic incident, yesterday, a report from the Sahara Reporters stated that some students of the Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi (FUAM) in Benue State were taken away from the university grounds at gunpoint on Sunday night. There are no current reports on how many students have been taken this time from Benue State but it is clear that they have been taken so that ransom can be granted to them from the Nigerian government turning it into a money-making enterprise that needs to be addressed by our leaders with haste.

ii) Unrest in Imo State

Over the weekend, the home of the Governor of Imo State, Hope Uzodimma was attacked by suspected thugs who infiltrated his home and set off a fire in the premises. According to a news report by Vanguard Newspaper, the attackers threw petrol bombs into the compound sparking a fire incident which led to the razing of vehicles in the governor’s house. The assailants were apprehended by security forces in the area, however, one person is reportedly dead from the clash on Saturday. 

According to another report by the Sahara Reporters, the incident at the Governor’s house is coming a few days after unknown gunmen attacked the police headquarters and the correctional centre in Owerri, Imo State, setting 38 vehicles ablaze and freeing 1,844 inmates. A worrying case that was yet to be resolved before the clash at Uzodimma’s residence. 

Today, the state governor announced that about 40 to 50 persons were arrested in connection with Saturday’s events stating that he had requested from the president an improvement in manpower and logistics for the security agencies in the state. However, unrest persists in the Eastern state as reports have now reached us today that gunmen have shot and attacked passengers on the Imo motorway on Owerri-Okige road by Orji.

iii) Increased unsafety within Lagos.

Lagos residents are advised to be please be careful as they go about their professional and social activities this week. Over the weekend, there were several reports of ongoing traffic robbery in different areas in Lagos State including Apogbon bridge, Ozumba Mbadiwe Avenue, Freedom Way and Falomo bridge. These increased instances of robbery and kidnapping happening within the city is cause for concern particularly as many residents of Lagos State have complained about the lack of security on duty and the damaged street lamps when driving in the nighttime. 

Yesterday reports from Lekki Phase One showed that there was a clash between the okada riders and the police in the area as the two groups were sounding off shots at each other earlier this morning. Many eyewitness reports on scene at the ground reported that the clash in the area had caused a lot of traffic on that axis. Elsewhere, in the Iyana Iba area of Lagos State, okada riders and the NURTW members clashed on the roads in broad daylight with eyewitness videos showing several men attacking and shooting at each other on the streets. One person is reportedly dead from this violent exchange and there is a mounting sense that the streets of Lagos are becoming unsafer by the second.

Violence in Somalia over President’s (unlawful) extension of stay

It is rather appalling the lengths to which African leaders will go to cling on to power while paying meagre attention to the basic needs and safety of its citizens. On Sunday, gunfire erupted in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital city, after government security forces and armed opposition groups clashed due to the country’s president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, signing a two-year mandate extension into law a few days prior. In February, Mohamed’s tenure expired without a successor, following complications in the electoral process.

Somalia’s lower parliament voted for the two-year extension in a bid to help the country prepare for direct elections (i.e. one man, one vote), a new electoral system different from the region-based system that currently exists. At that, President Mohamed has proven increasingly unpopular in the four years since coming to power, squandering the goodwill that brought him in initially, championing populist policies and brazenly going after opposition, rather than recognise and work within Somalia’s complex political context.

The recent burst of violence in the wake of Mohamed’s term extension threatens to make things even more volatile in a country that had faced decades of civil war since the early ‘90s. Also, it is overshadowing pertinent social issues such as the Coronavirus pandemic, drought, and the terrorist threat of the al-Quaeda-linked al-Shabab. Rather than cement the country’s turn towards democracy and increasing stability, president Mohamed will very likely be remembered for stoking the worst political crisis in recent years.

The Cameroonian LGBTQ+ communtiy is facing persecution

The LGBTQ+ community in Cameroon is suffering a fresh wave of persecution that has occurred over the past month. Mounting concern from the Human Rights Watch indicates that security forces in the country have been accused of threatening, assaulting and arresting queer individuals.

According to the official report, at least 24 Cameroonians have been arrested since February for allegedly engaging in same-sex conduct or gender non-conformity including a 17-year-old boy. Additionally, there are reports of alarming violations being perpetuated upon those arrested including being forced to take HIV tests and subjecting them to anal examinations. These illegal and violent examinations have also been entered as evidence in court when convicting those charged with homosexuality.

The Human Rights Watch shared its findings with the Cameroonian government and the delegate general for national security, Martin Mbarga Nguele, in a March 25 letter, requesting answers to specific questions about their LGBTQ+ citizens. However Cameroonian officials have yet to respond. This week, two Cameroonian transwomen are set to face court with sentences of up to five years in prison if they are persecuted for engaging in homosexual behaviour. The Douala police detained Loic Njeukam, known as Shakiro, and Roland Mouth in February for wearing women’s clothing while eating at a restaurant.

While we await the result of their court case which has been postponed for two months without bail, the Human Rights Watch has made some recommendations for the Cameroonian government which included the immediate release of Shakiro and Roland Mouth, a request for the country’s Parliament to initiate a repeal of article 347 of the Cameroonian Penal code, which punishes consensual same-sex sexual relations and an investigation of all allegations of ill-treatment of detainees on the grounds of real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

Ethnic cleansing continues in Ethiopia

Two years after winning the Nobel Peace Prize, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has become symbolic for being a catalyst for the gross human rights violations happening in Tigray, the northern region of the country. Last month, we reported that Ahmed had finally copped to allegations that armed forces from neighbouring Eritrea had come into the country to join persecution efforts on Tigrayans. In the first few months of the crisis, the region was closed off to journalists, leading to very little reporting on what was really going on down there. Now that journalists are able to investigate, the full extent of the crimes that have been committed is being unfurled.

Analysts had warned that the crisis had the indicators of ethnic cleansing, and more reports are confirming just that. In a heart-wrenching report written by Lucy Kassa for Aljazeera, it’s become clear that women are being doubly targeted for tribal reasons. Since PM Ahmed deployed Ethiopian forces, the neighbouring Amhara ethnic group have decided to dominate the Tigray region, forcing Tigrayans out of their homes and violently abusing women sexually. In the accounts reported in the Aljazeera piece, several survivors recounted being raped and having their genitals intruded by foreign objects that have caused serious damages to their reproductive organs. The reason: “A Tigrayan womb should never give birth”.

While acceding to Eritrea’s involvement in the ongoing crisis, Ahmed did acknowledge that sexual abuse crimes had been committed by pro-government forces in Tigray, but his acknowledgment somehow ended up obscuring how horrendous those atrocities really are. In a saner world, at least a handful of the perpetrators would be held accountable for their heinous crimes, but this Africa, where even Nobel Prize-winning leaders are bottom rung when it comes to protecting and championing the human rights of its most vulnerable citizens.

[Featured Image/CNN]

Compiled by @tamimak_ & @dennisadepeter