Take nothing away from Niger Delta and North-Eastern milestones
After stalling for months, the National Assembly finally passed the nation’s 2017 budget in May 2017—albeit coming after a slight alteration in size to N7.44 trillion (vs. N7.28 trillion in FG’s initial recommendation). In line with clause 11 of the bill, the budget is also expected to run for twelve months after presidential assent is effected. Amidst its many provisions, the inherently higher allocation to the Niger Delta amnesty programme (+15% from prior proposal to N75 billion) was particularly notable from a socio-political and economic standpoint—especially in view of its intersection with a period of relative peace in the volatile oil-rich region.
Precisely, after enduring sizable production shut-in’s due to militant incursions for extended periods, improved government conciliation translated to both greater tranquility and the eventual lifting of force majeure on Trans Forcados1 in May 2017 to put an end to 15 months of nonoperation. Pointedly, owing to FG’s increase in amnesty allocation and painstaking conciliation that involved the acting president engaging several militant power-houses, the latest re-opening has been greeted with greater optimism compared to the previous attempt to resume production in November 2016.
That said, despite the oft-associated YoY reduction in the number of pipeline vandalized points (-62% YoY to 82 in April), NNPC’s data indicated another spike in the metric from its lows in December 2016 as early as March—suggesting that the delicate issues of militancy are not entirely dead and buried in the Niger Delta.
Beyond the gains in the Niger Delta, the release of 82 kidnapped Chibok girls from the jaws of Boko Haram in May highlighted a further milestone from FG’s non-militant overtures. Though the release was purportedly secured via a prisoner swap deal, it provided credence to one of the promises of the president’s pre-election campaigns which was unambiguously defined as a commitment to put paid to Boko Haram activities and return kidnapped Chibok teenagers to their parents. Whilst the latest release marks a milestone with the latter part of the objective, large parts of the north east still live in fear of guerilla attacks from factions of the insurgents despite increased territorial gains by the Nigerian military.
In view of this, farming and agricultural activities have remained largely muted in the region with knock-on effect of imminent famine as 4.7 million inhabitants are reportedly dependent on food aid.