There have been tremendous highs and some lows for Nigeria in 2015. For me, the biggest news and the top highlight of the year would be the Presidential election conducted by Attahiru Jega led INEC on March 28th 2015. The election saw a sitting President and ruling party losing an election for the first time in the history of Nigeria when the current President Muhammadu Buhari defeating the then incumbent, President Goodluck Jonathan with a total votes of 15,424,921 while the incumbent polled 12,853,162.
The lowest for me would be the fuel scarcity that occurred weeks leading to the Inauguration of this new administration in May 2015. While periodic fuel scarcity is no longer strange to us in Nigeria, the one that happened in May completely shut down almost every sector in Nigeria. Banks, corporate firms, factories and almost every other sector had to shut down at a particular time of the day, sending text messages to their customers to bear with them as they could not operate smoothly because they couldn’t get diesel or petrol to run their businesses. Even the almighty PHCN could not supply electricity in the whole of Nigeria for about one week. But thankfully, we survived the scarcity and its attendant problems before any major disaster happened.
So, here are some other news highlights and lowlights of 2015 in Nigeria.
A WORLD SCRABBLE CHAMPION FROM NIGERIA
There are many superb Scrabble players on the African continent, but this year is the first time that a player from Africa would win the World English Language Scrabble Players’ Association Championship, and the big news is that he is from Nigeria. The elite competition had 130 players from many countries battling it out over 32 rounds to determine the top two, but Nigerian Wellington Jighere and Lewis MacKay from England were the two survivors. On the fifth day of the championship, the two men were isolated in the appropriately named Legends Room to compete in a best of seven series with moves being relayed to a perceptive audience of the best Scrabble players in the world. Wellington secured victory in four straight wins.
Wellington, a 32-year-old from Benin in Edo State, Nigeria had previously played in two other world championships, placing third in Mumbai in 2007, very close to being in second spot which would have had him play the finals series with the legendary top rated Nigel Richards. And in Malaysia in 2009, he placed a distant 11th. But he went back in 2015 more determined and ready for the challenge. He won the final game by beating Mackay 449 points to 432.
OPPOSITION DEPUTY SENATE PRESIDENT
At the resumption of the 8th Assembly in June 2015, Senator Ike Ekweremadu emerged the deputy senate president despite being an opposition member. It was the first time in Nigeria’s political history that a Deputy Senate President would emerge from the opposition party. Though Senator Ekweremadu is not new to the hallowed Chambers as he was deputy Senate President in the 6th and 7th Assemblies when PDP was the majority, many claimed his victory was made possible after members of his PDP teamed with defiant APC members to elect Bukola Saraki the senate president, against the APC’s directive. While we wait to see how this combination pans out throughout the tenure of this assembly, one can say it has been working so far and I see this as a major highlight.
CBN SPENDING LIMIT ON ATM CARDS ABROAD
This is one policy a lot of Nigerians who live abroad are not very happy about, but I think it is one of the highlights of 2015 as the year winds down. Earlier this year, the Central Bank of Nigeria has reviewed the foreign exchange spending limit on Naira automated teller machine (ATM) cards. In line with the review, users of such cards as the Naira MasterCard have been advised to limit their spending to only $50,000 per annum, from $150,000 previously. With the review, ATM card users cannot spend more than $50,000 in a year during their stay abroad or when shopping online at any foreign stores, ATMs and point of sale.
Similarly, the CBN also reduced the daily cash withdrawal limit for ATM card users to a ceiling of $300. The rumour currently going round is that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) will soon completely restrict the use of naira-denominated credit and debit cards outside the country. Yet, according to some available information, the restriction on the use of debit and credit cards outside the country was not imposed by the CBN, but by the deposit money banks (DMBs). And this is because they have to settle whatever transactions you make with your cards with their corresponding banks in foreign currency and if the banks do not have the foreign currency to do that, then you create a liability which will crystallize on their balance sheets. So, some tough times for Nigerians who travel with their Naira debit card then?
GOVERNORSHIP ASPIRANT’S DEATH
This is surely one of the very low-lights of 2015 as Nigeria has never witnessed such electoral imbroglio like this one that happened in Kogi State during the Governorship election held on 21st of November 2015. The whole world saw on TV, former Governor Abubakar Audu who was the flagbearer of APC in the keenly contested election casting his votes in the morning and addressing the press immediately after, but as the votes were being counted by INEC, rumours of his death filtered on to social media. The election was later declared inconclusive before his death was officially announced. He has since been replaced by the party and the supplementary election has come and gone with INEC declaring Yahaya Bello of the APC the winner. It was a confusing moment for many lawyers and the case is still in court as I write with Audu’s deputy, James Faleke, who thought he and not Yahaya Bello should have replaced his principal, is suing INEC for declaring the election inconclusive and for allowing a totally different replacement on the ballot.
MTN’S MASSIVE FINE
I cannot omit this because it remains the industry highest fine to be slammed on any telecom company by the NCC. In October this year, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) issued a landmark fine of N1.04 trillion ($5.2bn) against MTN Nigeria, the largest mobile network operator in the country for failing to disconnect subscribers with unregistered and incomplete subscriber identification modules (SIM) cards within the stipulated time. But following an appeal by the network, NCC decided to slash the fine downward.
However, in a swift turn of events, MTN said last week that it would launch a court challenge against the $3.9 billion fine that Nigeria has ordered it to pay by December 31. MTN said they decided to take the legal route after exhausting all other options to have the fine reduced further. They are arguing that the manner of the imposition of the fine and the quantum thereof is not in accordance with the NCC’s powers under the Nigerian Communications Act and therefore there are valid grounds upon which to challenge the fine. Hmmm. I will just say let’s watch and see how this plays out.
I hope you are all preparing to enter the New Year in style. Have yourself a swell time as you do.
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This article was first published on 29th December 2015
Chris Bamidele is a passionate and unapologetic Nigerian, who believes in God and humanity. He is a writer, blogger, and an aspiring Television Director; and an optimist to the core. He blogs at www.chrisbamidele.wordpress.com and tweets @Chrisbamidele.
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