From politics to social issues, the outgoing year was filled with dramatic happenings. Some of these events happened while Nigerians were still reeling from the thrill or shock of the previous ones. From the RUGA controversy, a senator physically assaulting a woman at a sex-toy shop to the ”INEC server debate”, Nigerians had a full plate of controversies in 2019.
Here are some these controversies.
THE RUGA UPROAR
Earlier in the year, the federal government introduced the Ruga initiative, saying it could resolve the incessant clashes between farmers and herdsmen. Ita Enang, then aide to President Muhammadu Buhari on national assembly matters, had said N2.2 billion was earmarked for the implementation of the Ruga programme.
The initiative elicited uproar across the country as many stakeholders, including the Niger Delta elders and some governors, opposed it. Governors from the south-east and south-west rejected the initiative and insisted they won’t give out their land for the Ruga settlement. Wole Soyinka, Nobel laureate, said the initiative was capable of causing crisis.
In July, the federal government finally bowed to pressure and suspended the programme, saying it lacks consistency with its national livestock transformation plan.
After the February 23 presidential election, there were allegations and counter allegations on the use of a server by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to transmit results. Atiku Abubakar, presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), had filed a petition at the tribunal to challenge the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari. Atiku had claimed that data from INEC’s server showed the true and correct results of him defeating Buhari by 1,615,302 votes.
In their witness statement of oath, some presiding officers in Borno and Yobe states said they transmitted results of the election to INEC’s server. But the electoral umpire insisted that it did not have a server where results of the presidential election were uploaded.
The supreme court, however, ruled that the petitioners failed to prove the existence of an INEC server or that the electoral commission transmitted results electronically.
THE P&ID DEBACLE
In August, a British court gave the Process and Industrial Development Limited (P&ID), an Irish engineering company, the go-ahead to seize Nigerian assets worth $9.6 billion. This threw open a controversial case most Nigerians were not aware of.
The case in contention was a 2010 deal agreement to build a gas processing plant in Calabar which collapsed because Nigeria did not meet its end of the bargain. As a result, the company initiated arbitration proceedings against the country in 2012. In 2017, P&ID was awarded $6.6 billion in damages – of which interest rose to $9 billion
For a country with a foreign reserve of $45 billion and sovereign debt profile of over $80 billion, the judgment debt is capable of rendering Nigeria even more technically insolvent.
In November, President Muhammadu Buhari granted the approval for the country to post a $200 million bond in obedience to the order of the London court. However, the Nigerian legal team is still working to have the judgement overturned.
ASSAULT AT SEX TOY SHOP
In October, Elisha Abbo, senator representing Adamawa north, made headlines for a wrong reason. Abbo was under fire after a video where he was seen hitting an attendant at a sex toy shop in Abuja went viral.
A closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage had shown Abbo repeatedly hitting a woman he identified as Bibra, after which he asked policemen seen in the video to arrest her. Many had asked the lawmaker to step down, calling on the police to arrest and prosecute him immediately.
Following massive outrage, the senate set up a committee to probe him while Mohammed Adamu, inspector general of police, ordered that he should be investigated.
The senator tendered apology to the attendant, while he also sought forgiveness from Nigerians, describing himself as an ambassador of Christ who fell short of expectations. The day after, he turned himself in to the police.
ATTACKS IN SOUTH AFRICA
In September, Nigeria severed diplomatic ties with South Africa after three people were killed and many properties destroyed in an attack on foreigners. Shops belonging to Nigerians were looted and set ablaze by South African mobs. While the South African government denied that the attacks were xenophobic, Nigeria boycotted the World Economic Forum which held there. Buhari also ordered for the evacuation of Nigerians from the country, while South Africa shut down its high commission in Nigeria.
Amidst the diplomatic row, aggrieved youths in Nigeria stormed major South African business in the country to in protest. In some locations in Lagos, shops and malls were looted in reprisal attacks.
President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa later apologised to Nigerians.
FATOYINBO VS BUSOLA DAKOLO
In June, Busola, celebrity photographer and wife of Timi Dakolo, the singer, had alleged that she was raped by Biodun Fatoyinbo, founder of the Commonwealth of Zion Assembly (COZA), at the age of 16. Although Fatoyinbo denied the allegation, there was pressure on him to step down. Following protests and social media outcry, the pastor eventually stepped aside for the issue to be investigated.
One month after, Fatoyinbo returned to the pulpit where he preached on persecution and victories.
In November, a federal capital territory high court sitting in Abuja dismissed a suit filed by Busola, accusing the COZA senior pastor of rape.
SOCIAL MEDIA/HATE SPEECH BILLS
On November 6, Mohammed Sani Musa, senator representing Niger east, sponsored the ‘protection from internet falsehood and manipulations bill, 2019’ The bill, which has since passed second reading, drew widespread criticisms from stakeholders and civil society groups, saying it is an infringement on Nigerians’ constitutional rights.
A week after the senate introduced the bill to regulate social media, another bill seeking to establish a commission for the prohibition hate speech in the country was introduced.
The hate speech bill, sponsored by Sabi Abdullahi, senator representing Niger north, was widely condemned by Nigerians, especially the aspect on death penalty for violators. Abdullahi later expressed the willingness to amend the capital punishment part.