Nigeria: 5 things for 2023
I’m going to focus on the first half of 2023, January to June, since a new Administration will be in place from May 29, 2023.
Elections & Transition:
Nigeria’s next general elections take place in February (25th) and March (11th) 2023, across (according to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC) — 1,491 constituencies, as follows: 1 Presidential seat, 28 Governorships, 109 Senatorial, 360 House of Representatives’ seats, and 993 State House of Assembly seats.
It will be the first general election under the new Electoral Act 2022 — one of the biggest legacies of the Buhari Administration. The Presidential election of 2023 will be in my view the most truly competitive Presidential election in the history of the country, after the 1979 election (the first Presidential election in Nigeria). It is also the first Presidential election since 2007 in which an incumbent will not be on the ballot.
Also significant is that this Presidential election is coming in a year that marks the centenary of the first political party in Nigeria (the long-defunct Nigerian National Democratic party, established by Herbert Macaulay in 1923), and 30 years since the June 12 elections, whose annulment sent Nigeria into a tailspin and also set the stage for the inevitability of the 4th Republic.
After the elections are held, and results are announced, transition processes will kick off at the Federal level, and in States where new Governors will be taking over. Expect the setting up of Transition Committees, and perhaps the first inklings of policy direction from the incoming administrations.
There will also be the obligatory complaints and filings, to be decided upon by the Election Tribunals set up in November 2022. More than 300 Judges were appointed to these Tribunals. 2023 will definitely be a busy year for the legal industry in Nigeria. (Don’t even talk about how happy SANs are right now — it’d not be out of place to refer to them, until further notice, as Salivating Advocates of Nigeria!)
Season of Completion/Commissioning and Concessioning:
The “completion/commissioning’ applies on both Project and Policy levels.
Look forward between now and May 2023 to the commissioning of several high-profile infrastructure projects by the Buhari Administration: The Second Niger Bridge, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Zungeru Hydropower Plant, Loko-Oweto Bridge, Lekki Deep Sea Port, Apapa-Oshodi-Oworonshoki Expressway, and many others.
Also expect updates on various Infrastructure Concession programs in progress, like the International Airports, five (5) National Integrated Power Projects (NIPP) Power Plants (Geregu, Kogi State; Omotosho, Ondo State; Olorunsogo, Ogun State; Calabar, Cross River State; and Benin-Ihovbor, Edo State) and the Zungeru Hydropower Plant.
Preferred and Reserve Bidders were announced for three International Airports in October 2022 (Lagos, Abuja and Kano), and so the concession process should hopefully be finalised soon. For Zungeru, three Concessionaires were shortlisted in 2022, (NSP Consortium, Mainstream Energy and Africa Plus Partners).
A number of Distribution Companies have in the last one year been taken over by Banks/Lenders (Fidelity, UBA, AMCON are three that come to mind) and plans are on course for the sale of the 60% stakes acquired by these creditors in those DisCos. Late last year the Bureau of Public Enterprises disclosed that it has issued guidelines to the Banks/Lenders regarding the sale.
On the Policy level, the new Welfare Package for Public School Teachers, announced in 2020, and backed by an Act of Parliament assented to by the President in 2022 (“Harmonised Retirement Age for Teachers in Nigeria Act, 2022”), should kick off this year. The new Package includes a new Special Teachers Salary Scale (with a range of special allowances) and a new Special Teachers Pension Scheme.
Still on Education, the Teaching of History in the Basic and Junior Secondary education curriculum in Nigeria will fully kick off. Recall that plans to restore the teaching of History (i.e. History as a standalone subject), suspended in the 2009/2010 academic year (following which History was subsumed under ‘Social Studies’), have been in the works in the last couple of years. Finally, last November, History formally returned as a standalone to the curriculum, at a ceremony in Abuja that also saw the commencement of training of 3,700 teachers of History (100 from each of the 36 States and the FCT).
In Healthcare, the National Emergency Medical Service and Ambulance System (NEMSAS), launched as a pilot in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in October 2022, is expected to roll out in more States.
Nigeria plans to hold its first Population and Housing Census in seventeen years. It was a greatly disputed Census, like all the others before it, and is the reason why till date our population continues to be largely determined on the basis of projections and extrapolations.
I found this excerpt from a 2007 article by the Population Reference Bureau (PRB):
“Results of the first post-independence census conducted in 1962 were withdrawn. The reliability of the 1963 census has been questioned. The results of the 1973 census were discredited and never saw the light of day, and no census was conducted in 1981.6 Collecting data in Nigeria can be a challenge. During the March 2006 census, thousands of enumerators walked off the job, because they hadn’t been paid.”
The National Population Commission (NPC) says it will be depending on a lot of digital technology for this 2023 Census. Hopefully it will deliver the credibility that previous Censuses have failed to deliver.
A couple of significant Bills awaiting passage by the National Assembly, and Presidential assent, like the National Social Investment Bill, and the Whistleblowing Bill. Both are signature initiatives of the Buhari Administration.
Already, in 2023 (January 5), President Buhari has assented to the National Mental Health Bill, which replaces an existing Act dating back to the 1950s.
The new Federal Government that will assume office on May 29, 2023 will have to make an important early decision on whether to maintain the current plan to end the subsidy regime by June 2023 (the 2023 Budget makes provisions for only six months of subsidy coverage), or to jettison the subsidies altogether. A possible middle ground might be to announce a phased removal regime.
The upside to the subsidy regime is that it has helped curtail the prospect of runaway inflation (without it, petrol prices would be four to five times what they currently are; ask Ghana); the downside is that it consumes a large chunk of money, that could potentially go into infrastructure projects and social programs.