By MacDonald Dzirutwe
LAGOS (Reuters) – Nigeria’s new president Bola Tinubu faces a litany of problems, including widespread violence, double-digit inflation and industrial-scale oil theft.
His victory is being challenged in court by his two main rivals in February’s election, and analysts say he may need to reach out to opponents to help heal a divided nation.
Here is how Tinubu proposes to address problems that many Nigerians believe worsened under his predecessor, Muhammadu Buhari, on whose party ticket he ran.
HOW DOES HE PLAN TO FIX THE ECONOMY?
Tinubu says he will build on Buhari’s public infrastructure programme to create jobs and remove legal limits on government spending.
Nigeria’s revenue-to-GDP ratio is the lowest among its peers, according to the World Bank. Tinubu says he will reduce corporate tax to attract investment and plug tax loopholes to boost revenue.
A popular fuel subsidy, which cost $10 billion last year and is driving up debt, will be phased out and the money channelled to infrastructure, agricultural and social welfare programmes.
So too will a system of multiple foreign exchange rates that the International Monetary Fund says is subject to abuse and makes it difficult for investors to repatriate their money.
Any new foreign borrowing will be used to fund projects that generate revenue from which debt can be repaid, Tinubu says.
WHAT ARE HIS PLANS FOR THE OIL SECTOR?
Crude oil theft is the biggest headache for oil companies, which have seen production tumble. Oil majors are selling shallow-water projects, mainly due to the theft and vandalism of pipelines, and shifting offshore.
Tinubu says he will set up a surveillance unit to protect the country’s pipelines and attract new investors with tax incentives.
One of Africa’s top producers of crude oil, Nigeria depends on imported refined fuels, something Tinubu hopes will eventually end after the commissioning of a new 650,000 barrels per day refinery near Lagos.
HOW WILL HE DEAL WITH INSECURITY?
Spreading insecurity is a major concern for Nigerians and foreign investors, from kidnappings for ransom in the northwest to a 13-year Islamist insurgency in the northeast, separatist violence in the southeast and decades-old ethnic tensions between herders and farmers in the north-central region.
Tinubu wants to recruit more soldiers and police officers while paying and equipping them better.
He says there will be “anti-terrorist battalions” and special forces to fight jihadists and armed gangs but also wants the military involved in community initiatives to “win hearts and minds.”
WHAT ABOUT HUMAN RIGHTS?
Human rights groups and media outlets including Reuters have documented abuses on all sides of the conflict in the northeast and elsewhere.
The International Criminal Court prosecutor concluded in 2020 that grounds existed to open an investigation into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity by both Nigeria’s security forces and insurgents, but the court has not opened one.
Tinubu casts himself as a champion of human rights, pointing to his time campaigning against Nigeria’s former military rulers in the 1990s when he was forced into exile.
But critics question whether he will hold authorities to account after he suggested that protesters who were shot at during anti-police brutality protests in 2020 should explain why they were in the locations where security forces opened fire.
IS DEMOCRACY UNDER THREAT?
This year’s election marked nearly a quarter century of democracy in Africa’s most populous nation, and many hoped that it would be it’s most credible yet thanks to an increasingly professional electoral commission and measures to curb fraudulent practices rife in many previous polls.
But malfunctions in new equipment used to verify voters’ identities and transmit results, along with instances of violence and disruption of voting in some areas, undermined confidence in the process.
Tinubu’s closest challengers, Atiku Abubakar from the main opposition People’s Democratic Party and the Labour Party’s Peter Obi have challenged the result in court.
Tinubu was declared the winner with 37% of the vote and turnout was just 29%, according to results released by the Independent National Electoral Commission.