John Campbell

Africa in Transition

Campbell tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa.

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Nigeria: Civil Servants Unpaid, Journalists Threatened, Boko Haram and MEND Bombing

by John Campbell
February 9, 2012

Farm produce are seen with burnt patches after a blast at Gomboru local market on Monday, in Nigeria's northern city Maiduguri February 7, 2012. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)


Over the past week there have been curious Nigerian developments. The government has been unable to pay its civil servants and is now a month in arrears. The explanation has been that the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation failed to deposit the government’s oil revenue in the account from which civil servants are paid. Then, this week, the government closed down the press office at Lagos’s Murtala Muhammed Airport. This facility has operated under military and civilian governments and is a generation old. In addition, journalists were reportedly threatened in the Middle Belt.

South, in the Niger Delta, ‘Jomo Gbomo,’ the mythic spokesman for the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta has blasted President Goodluck Jonathan in personal terms, threatened renewed mayhem, and in fact carried out an act of oil sabotage.

Boko Haram, the radical Northern Islamic movement, continues its almost daily depredations, and it attacked a military base in Kaduna.

So many unanswered questions. With respect to civil service pay, governments do not “run out of money.” They can always borrow. Failure to pay civil servants can be risky and governments usually seek to avoid non-payment. And why did NNPC fail to make the requisite deposits? What will the civil servants do? Like everybody else they are coping with price increases associated with the roll back of the fuel subsidy. Why the squeeze on the press? Freedom House evaluates the Nigerian press as “partially free.” But overt government pressure on the media has been rare. And why is ‘Jomo Gbomo’ resurfacing now?

We should resist the temptation to see these episodes as somehow interrelated. But, together, they are bound to stress the Jonathan government.

Asch Harwood contributed to this post.

Post a Comment 8 Comments

  • Posted by Gavin Bond

    What Nigerians want to ask themselves is whether the MPs, Senators, the Presidents and the other elected Politicians have been paid or not.

    If they have been paid, they can then realise the contempt the politicians have for the citizens hence a cultural revolution must happen for the breakup of the Federal Government and convert Nigeria into Commonwealth of States!

    If Nigeria did not have oil revenue, how would they pay the civil servants? Do they understand how businesses operate? Do they understand management? Do they know how to balance budgets and how income is generated, apart from the oil money? Is there efficiency in the collection of taxes?

    They are Nothing but Cabals stealing the wealth of the nation and spiriting them overseas!

  • Posted by Maduka

    The Nigerian Federal Government has a very long and distinguished history of not paying civil servants on time. Any “seasoned Nigerian watcher” should know that.

    My parents were both Civil Servants and timely payment of salaries are more of the exception rather than the rule.

    About restrictions on the press, we’ll see. The Nigerian Army is not in the habit of granting free access to reporters when Military installations are attacked. Never happened under Obasanjo or Yar’adua.

    Finally, MEND could be many things but it is an Ijaw dominated group. The way politics goes in Nigeria, it is highly unlikely that MEND would want to destabilise the administration of the first Ijaw president.

    I think this merely a loud statement of: “we dey here oh, make you settle us”. Nothing more, nothing less.

    We’ll see as it unfolds.

  • Posted by Usman Aminu Kerau Katsina - Nigeria

    I really believe that Nigeria lacks credible leadership, thus everything can be possible when leaders are not trusted

  • Posted by femi

    It i s just the reality of a Nation in turmoil from so many unanswered national questions ,social and economic injustice.
    I think the ambassador should really impress it on the Powers that be in the States and other friends of Nigeria to convince the civilian administration to convoke a Sovereign National Conference of its ethnic nationalities
    The country only survives currently on the resilient tensile strengths of its citizens but for how long?
    There is always a breaking point.

  • Posted by gordon

    if the already civil servant cannot be paid then i wonda were they large numba of graduates and unemployed citizens are going to work in this country.wat is the way foward nig. Leaders

  • Posted by Santa

    The Nigerian constitution is a wonderful thing, but back in the days of our founding fathers, the weapon at hand was a single shot musket, it took a half minute to load and fire. Boko Haram killed hundreds of people in less time without even taking aim.

    I love the constitution but shall Nigerians be ducking behind it when next Bomb goes off ?

    Issue of non payment of workers is a shame, NNPC perhaps is like any other Government agency that is corrupt, and their credibility is hanging in the balance, struggling to defend allegations against them.

    It is truly embarrassing and shameful.

  • Posted by John Ojeah

    Untimely salary payment is prevalent in all levels of Nigerian govt and this horrible practice has been going on as far as I can remember … sometimes Civil Servants can go without salaries for months. Sure, the federal government can do better than untimely payment of salaries of Civil Servants, but without sounding uncaring, it is no news to Nigerians.

    Nigerian military is not as tolerant to journalists as the civilian populace. Journalists have more access to information in this Boko Haram saga than during the insurgency in the Niger Delta. During the Niger Delta conflict, the area was EFFECTIVELY SEALED OFF from journalists (both local and foreign) and every effort was made to ensure that information on the degree of the insurrection doesn’t leave the Niger Delta. A visit to a Nigerian military establishment, as a journalist, will tell the kind of reception you will receive during crisis period.

    As for MEND, I think it has to do more with Henry Orkar and the just concluded Bayelsa state guber elections. Note that it only happened in Bayelsa and not in Rivers and Delta states were there is a very significant Ijaw population.

    But, there was one important event in Nigeria on February 9th that this blog failed to mention. Almost all major media organization mentioned it. A Nigerian businessman, Aliko Dangote, commissioned the largest cement plant in Africa that will save Nigeria about $2 billion of capital flight per annum. This event took place the same day that this blog’s article was published and there were even advanced information about the event. Unless this blog’s sole aim is to portray President Goodluck Jonathan administration and Nigeria, in general, in a bad light, I see no reason why such an event is not worthy of, at least, a mention.

  • Posted by Maduka

    John Ojeah,

    How can you be so naive? When last did you see any positive portrayal of Africa in the Western news media, Hollywood or from the mouths of Western Government of officials.

    If there is good news coming out of Africa, the West is never happy – they ignore it. They focus like a laser on the bad news stories, it gives them joy and satisfaction (it assures them of their superiority).

    Ambassador Campbell’s Western audience (he really doesn’t write this blog for Africans) will cease to read his blog if he only mentions the good news coming out from Africa.

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