macroafricaintel | INEC has a trust problem

By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Twitter: @DrRafiqRaji

There is a raging controversy about the familial relationship between Amina Bala Zakari, a commissioner at Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and President Muhammadu Buhari. The main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) alleges she is a niece to Mr Buhari. Quite swiftly, the administration refuted the claim forcefully. Amidst the back and forth, INEC chief Mahmood Yakubu also waded in. In response to a question by a journalist, he wondered how the embattled commissioner could be considered a blood relation of the president if their states of origin are different. Her family also came out to declare that their daughter is not related to the president. They did not lie. But they also did not say the entire truth.

She is family
A thorough investigation by Premium Times, an online newspaper, reveals there is some affinity between Mrs Zakari and Mr Buhari. True, there is no blood relationship like the PDP alleges. And clearly in this regard, the PDP exaggerated a great deal. Still, it has been established, even by the admission of the presidency, that Mrs Zakari and Mr Buhari are related by virtue of inter-marriage between their extended families. And at some point during Mr Buhari’s younger years, he reportedly resided with the family of the electoral commissioner. It has also been reported that Mrs Zakari and Mr Buhari worked together in the past. In the African context, and especially in the Northern tradition, Mrs Zakari would be considered family in Mr Buhari’s home and vice versa.

That said, it has also been revealed that the president had little or nothing to do with Mrs Zakari’s appointment to the electoral commissionership. Contrary to popular discourse, she was not recommended to the position by Mr Buhari. A respectable member of civil society revealed to a reputable television station that he was privy to the proceedings that led to her appointment. According to him, it was Kaduna state governor Nasir El-Rufai who recommended Mrs Zakari for the commissionership and in fact personally handed her resume to him for submission to former president Goodluck Jonathan, who was head of state at the time. The same civil society luminary also insists that as far as he understood the meaning of the word “niece”, Mrs Zakari was indeed a niece to Mr Buhari via the marriage bond. In any case, the close association between Mr El-Rufai and Mr Buhari, and the history both gentlemen share with the unassuming Mrs Zakari, makes her conflicted.

But what was the cause of the initial uproar? And why now? After all, Mrs Zakari was appointed by Mr Jonathan of the then ruling PDP, which is now in opposition. Eyebrows are raised now because Mrs Zakari was recently appointed to the headship of a “collation centre committee”, supposedly tasked with ensuring that all the logistical needs of the “collation centre” for the upcoming elections are adequately taken care of. My view on hearing the news of the appointment was that it was a brazen and insensitive move. And even after the revelations and investigations that ensued, my view remains unchanged. Mrs Zakari is a controversial choice for such a potentially influential role. It is also highly unlikely that the INEC chief was caught unawares by the controversy the move generated.

Mr Yakubu, a professor of history, likely knew the implications of appointing her to what ordinarily would be a logistics function but could be misconstrued to mean more; and could in fact be more. Besides, as the commission already has a proper organisational structure which covers operations and the like, there was really no need for the creation of an adhoc “collation centre committee”. True, as the INEC chief insists, Mrs Zakari would not be involved in the process of collation itself. That job is exclusively his as the chief returning officer. But this is Nigeria. And since the experienced Nigerian academic rose through the complicated Nigerian system, he is certainly not naïve to the point of not knowing the potential interpretation and consequences of the controversial appointment.

No guarantees
It is important to point out at this point that this controversy is raging against the backdrop of Mr Buhari’s refusal to sign what has been adjudged a superb amendment to the current electoral law that would make our elections better. And while the Zakari controversy was still raging, INEC’s Yakubu revealed there would not be a full electronic transmission of results. Why? A backing in law is required. A pilot electronic collation would be done, however. As it stands right now, so much flexibility has been built into the electoral process that incumbents, should they choose to, would be able to steer the process in their favour.

Do the needful
In light of the foregoing, can INEC be trusted to deliver free and fair elections? No one can say for sure. There are a couple of things the electoral body could do to reduce fears of potential bias, however. There should probably not be a collation centre committee in the first place. It should be disbanded. As Mrs Zakari is clearly conflicted albeit largely adjudged to be competent, she should be assigned to a commissionership that would not involve direct participation in the electoral process or put her in a position to affect the outcome, if she chooses to, in a material way. Should she resign? No. And considering the commission has decided the transmission of results would not be electronic, it should do its utmost to ensure that the collation of results at each stage of the electoral process is done in the presence of all relevant stakeholders such that a parallel collation of results by non-INEC bodies would be no different from its own.

Also published in my BusinessDay Nigeria newspaper column (Tuesdays). See link viz. https://businessday.ng/columnist/rafiq-raji/article/inec-has-a-trust-problem/

#Africa #Markets | 15 Jan

By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Twitter: @DrRafiqRaji

Global Markets

  • China shares prop-up Asia on stimulus hopes, sterling braces for Brexit plan
  • Asian shares recoup earlier losses as cyclicals gain
  • China policymakers signal supportive measures
  • Pound off 2-mth high ahead of UK parliament vote
  • Sterling implied volatilities lower compared to 2016 referendum

Oil Markets

  • Oil rises 1 pct on supply cuts, but economic slowdown weighs on outlook
  • Price climb comes after bigger fall the previous day
  • HSBC cuts its 2019 Brent forecast by $16 to $64/bbl
  • Brent crude futures up 1.1 pct at $59.64 per barrel (0257GMT)
  • US WTI crude futures up 1.2 pct at $51.09 per barrel

Precious metals

  • Gold steady as dollar gains on fears of economic slowdown
  • Spot gold flat at $1,291.24 per ounce (0114GMT)
  • US gold futures little changed at $1,291.3 per ounce

Grains

  • Soybeans rebound from near 2-wk low
  • Most active CBOT wheat futures up 0.4 pct at $5.16-1/4 per bushel (0116GMT)
  • Most active corn futures up 0.5 pct at $3.80-1/2 per bushel
  • Most active soy futures up 0.3 pct at $9.06-1/2 per bushel
  • Most active rice futures unchanged at $10.59 per hundredweight

Key African events or data releases today
[Posts & comments at my Twitter handle @DrRafiqRaji]

  • South Africa’s Zondo state capture inquiry resumes today
  • South Africa mining production data for Nov-18 due [fcst. 0.1% yy, prev. 0.5%]
  • South Africa retail sales data for Nov-18 expected [fcst. 0.6% yy, prev. 2.2%]
  • South Africa central bank MPC 3-day MPC meeting starts; decision on 17 Jan

Key African events or data releases yesterday & early a.m today
[Posted & commented on some headlines below at my Twitter handle @DrRafiqRaji]

  • Islamic State insurgents overrun northeast Nigerian town – security sources
  • Libya halves budget deficit thanks to rise in oil revenues
  • Fuel price protests in Zimbabwe turn deadly
  • Gabon’s president returns home after extended medical leave
  • Congo under mounting foreign pressure for vote recount
  • Israel will begin exporting gas to Egypt in a few months’ time – energy minister
  • Russia’s Alrosa returns to diamond exploration in Zimbabwe
  • Goldman models risk of 1000bps Eskom blowout for South Africa
  • Ethiopia protesters block main highway to the sea
  • Indonesian jets force Ethiopian cargo plane to land over airspace breach
  • Africa Crude – Spot dwindles as new programmes due to emerge
  • Northwestern Congo ethnic violence killed at least 400 in December – local activists
  • Ethiopia charges METEC head with additional corruption case
  • Former Ivorian leader seeks acquittal on war crime charges
  • Public mistrust after Congo election raises ebola epidemic anxiety
  • Russian diamond Alrosa opens Zimbabwe subsidiary
  • Airline Fastjet cancels flights to Zimbabwe due to unrest
  • Libya should hold elections even if draft constitution rejected – parliament chief
  • Senegal blocks popular opposition candidates from presidential race
  • South Africa’s AMCU union to expand Sibanye-Stillwater strike to platinum operations
  • Algeria eyes Exxon deal, trading JV in first half
  • Tanzania court rejects plea to halt draft law curbing opposition
  • Egypt reopens four ports shut by bad weather
  • Sudan’s Bashir says protests will not lead to change in govt
  • Angola’s net reserves fall to $11.121 bln in December
  • Nigeria’s top judge asset declaration trial postponed to Jan. 22
  • Egypt picks banks to manage sale of stakes in state-owned companies – official
  • Zimbabwe deploys police in Harare to control fuel price protests
  • Ugandan shilling steady as tax payments crimp dollar demand
  • Another African bloc wants Congo election recount
  • Zimbabwean protesters burn tyres, block roads over fuel price hike
  • India’s Bharti Airtel in talks to buy Telkom Kenya – sources
  • Egypt yet to set details of Asian market bond issue – finance ministry
  • Kenya shilling gains against the dollar
  • South African rand falls on subdued risk appetite

N.B. Full stories of above headlines are available on Reuters

#Global #Markets | 15 Jan

By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Twitter: @DrRafiqRaji

(GMT+1)

CALENDAR
06:30 Netherlands Balance of Trade 
08:00 Turkey Unemployment Rate 
09:00 Spain Inflation Rate YoY Final 
10:00 Germany Government Budget 
10:00 Germany Full Year GDP Growth 
11:00 Euro Area Balance of Trade 
12:00 Brazil Retail Sales MoM 
12:00 Brazil Retail Sales YoY 
12:00 Ireland Inflation Rate YoY 
13:00 Israel Inflation Rate MoM 
13:45 India Balance of Trade 
14:30 US PPI MoM
NEWS
Indonesia Import Growth Slows Sharply 
Indonesia December Exports Fall for 2nd Month 
Malaysia Jobless Rate Unchanged at 3.3% in November 
Brunei Trade Surplus Largest in 3 Months 
New Zealand Food Inflation Jumps to 5-Month High 
Brazil Shares Trade Above 94,000 Points for the 1st Time 
Zimbabwe Hikes Fuel Prices by 150% 
European Stocks Close Lower on Monday 
Romanian Stocks Slump on Tax Worry 
Mexico Private Investment Rebounds in October 
Ecuador Trade Gap Widens in November 
Poland Current Account Balance Swings to Deficit

Source: Trading Economics, Macroafricaintel Research

#Africa #Markets | 14 Jan

By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Twitter: @DrRafiqRaji

Global Markets

  • Asian shares falter from 1-1/2-mth highs, markets wary about China data
  • MSCI ex-Japan skids 0.7 pct, Tokyo on public holiday
  • Chinese shares in red, E-Minis stumbles too
  • Investors expect volatility to increase this week

Oil Markets

  • Oil prices edge up on OPEC-led supply cuts, lower US drilling activity
  • Brent crude futures up 0.5 pct at $60.75 per barrel (0040GMT)
  • US WTI futures up 0.4 pct at $51.81 a barrel

Precious metals

  • Gold prices edge higher on expectations of Fed pause
  • Spot gold up 0.2 pct at $1,289.50 per ounce (0040GMT)
  • US gold futures steady at $1,289.90 per ounce

Grains

  • Wheat extends gains into second straight session
  • Most active CBOT wheat futures up 0.1 pct at $5.20-1/4 per bushel (0136GMT)
  • Most active corn futures up 0.1 pct at $3.78-1/2 per bushel
  • Most active soy futures down 0.1 pct at $9.09-1/4 per bushel
  • Most active rice futures down 0.2 pct at $10.75 per hundredweight

Key African events or data releases today
[Posts & comments at my Twitter handle @DrRafiqRaji]

  • Nigeria’s chief justice to be arraigned for incomplete assets declaration today [Largely considered ill-timed & political since it is coming about a month to crucial polls; a negative]

Key African events or data releases over the weekend & early a.m today
[Posted & commented on some headlines below at my Twitter handle @DrRafiqRaji]

  • Morocco’s Amazigh want their new year to become official holiday
  • Congo should recount presidential election vote – Southern African bloc
  • Security forces clash with demonstrators in three Sudanese cities
  • Egypt shuts six ports due to bad weather
  • 150 pct price rise fails to fill Zimbabwe’s fuel pumps
  • Egypt settles $39 mln dispute with Mercedes-Benz importer – ministry
  • Egypt plans $2 billion worth of Samurai bonds – govt sources
  • Egypt to issue foreign bonds worth $3 bln – $7 bln – finmin
  • Southern African bloc calls for recount of Congo’s contested election
  • Congo should consider unity govt – Southern African bloc
  • US medic declared ebola-free, leaves Nebraska quarantine
  • Zimbabwe plans new currency as dollar shortage bites – finmin
  • Nigeria’s top judge to face trial on asset declaration charges
  • Sudan protests death toll rises to 24 – fact-finding committee
  • South Africa’s ANC says central bank should broaden economic focus
  • Congo ruling coalition wins legislative majority, constraining president-elect
  • South Africa’s ANC does not want to tweak central bank mandate – top official
  • South Africa’s ANC says job creation, growth should influence monetary policy
  • Congo forces surround presidential runner-up’s residence
  • UAE energy minister says average oil price in 2018 was $70 a barrel
  • Gabon’s Bongo names new prime minister after thwarted coup attempt
  • Zimbabwe plans new currency as dollar shortage bites – finmin
  • Africa currency bloc members aim to issue $4.82 bln in debt in 2019
  • Explosion sparks fire at Aden refinery, cause unknown
  • EU wheat rebounds from 1-wk low as export hopes lift Chicago
  • Congo election runner-up to press fraud dispute in court
  • Burkina Faso extends state of emergency in north by 6 months after attack
  • Security forces fire tear gas as more protests hit Sudanese cities
  • Africa Crude – Sonangol sells Dalia, Nigerian supported
  • Fund battling AIDS, TB and malaria seeks $14 bln to invigorate fight
  • Losing Congo presidential candidate’s campaign says he won in landslide
  • India’s Bharti Airtel to give Tanzania bigger stake in local telecoms firm
  • Ivory Coast cocoa bean quality hit by dry weather, financing woes
  • SADC bloc calls for calm in DRC amid election outcome dispute
  • Stakeholder denies that Togo’s Ecobank faces Nigerian investigation
  • Airtel Tanzania gives up part of its stake to govt – president’s office
  • Ugandan shilling strengthens, drawing support from pending taxes
  • South Africa’s Sibanye-Stillwater extends debt covenants
  • Uganda aims to impose penalties on distributor for power outages
  • South African assets firm on Fed chief’s “patient” comments
  • Kenya 2019/20 budget deficit forecast to fall, overall spending to rise – finmin
  • South Africa’s SA Express airline hopes to break even by FY-end – spokesman

N.B. Full stories of above headlines are available on Reuters

#Global #Markets | 14 Jan

By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Twitter: @DrRafiqRaji

(GMT+1)

CALENDAR
07:30 India WPI Manufacturing YoY
07:30 India WPI Food YoY
07:30 India WPI Fuel YoY 
07:30 India WPI Inflation YoY
08:00 Germany Wholesale Prices MoM 
08:00 Germany Wholesale Prices YoY 
09:30 Sweden Inflation Rate MoM 
09:30 Sweden CPIF YoY 
11:00 Euro Area Industrial Production MoM 
11:00 Euro Area Industrial Production YoY 
12:00 Nigeria Inflation Rate YoY 
13:00 India Inflation Rate YoY
NEWS
China December Imports Drops the Most Since 2016 
China Exports Unexpectedly Falls in December 
China Posts Largest Trade Surplus Since 2015 
China Foreign Direct Investment Rises 3% in 2018 
Irish Construction Activity at 4-Month High in December 
Nicaragua Inflation Rate Falls to 16-Month Low 
US Stocks Edge Lower on Friday 
Uruguay Factory Growth Slows Sharply in November 
Mexico Industrial Output Falls for First Time in 8 Months 
Kosovo Inflation Rate at 10-Month High of 2.9% in December 
US Inflation Rate Lowest in 16 Months 
Belarus Inflation Rate at 3-Month High of 5.6% in December

Source: Trading Economics, Macroafricaintel Research

macroafricaintel Weekly | 14 Jan

By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Twitter: @DrRafiqRaji

Click here for PDF version

Date Data / Event Period Forecast Previous
15 Jan South Africa Mining Production, % yy (mm) Nov 2018 0.1 0.5
16 Jan South Africa Retail Sales, % yy Nov 2018 0.6 2.2
17 Jan South Africa Interest Rate, % 6.75 6.75
Botswana CPI, % yy (mm) Dec 2018 3.8 (0.3) 3.8 (0.4)
Namibia CPI, % yy (mm) Dec 2018 5.9 (0.5) 5.6 (0.7)
Nigeria CPI, % yy (mm) Dec 2018 11.6 (0.9) 11.3 (0.8)
South Africa CPI, % yy (mm) Dec 2018 5.1 (0.4) 5.2 (0.2)

macroafricaintel | INEC has a trust problem

By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Twitter: @DrRafiqRaji

There is a raging controversy about the familial relationship between Amina Bala Zakari, a commissioner at Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and President Muhammadu Buhari. The main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) alleges she is a niece to Mr Buhari. Quite swiftly, the administration refuted the claim forcefully. Amidst the back and forth, INEC chief Mahmood Yakubu also waded in. In response to a question by a journalist, he wondered how the embattled commissioner could be considered a blood relation of the president if their states of origin are different. Her family also came out to declare that their daughter is not related to the president. They did not lie. But they also did not say the entire truth.

She is family
A thorough investigation by Premium Times, the online newspaper that publishes this column, reveals there is some affinity between Mrs Zakari and Mr Buhari. True, there is no blood relationship like the PDP alleges. And clearly in this regard, the PDP exaggerated a great deal. Still, it has been established, even by the admission of the presidency, that Mrs Zakari and Mr Buhari are related by virtue of inter-marriage between their extended families. And at some point during Mr Buhari’s younger years, he reportedly resided with the family of the electoral commissioner. It has also been reported that Mrs Zakari and Mr Buhari worked together in the past. In the African context, and especially in the Northern tradition, Mrs Zakari would be considered family in Mr Buhari’s home and vice versa.

That said, it has also been revealed that the president had little or nothing to do with Mrs Zakari’s appointment to the electoral commissionership. Contrary to popular discourse, she was not recommended to the position by Mr Buhari. A respectable member of civil society revealed to a reputable television station that he was privy to the proceedings that led to her appointment. According to him, it was Kaduna state governor Nasir El-Rufai who recommended Mrs Zakari for the commissionership and in fact personally handed her resume to him for submission to former president Goodluck Jonathan, who was head of state at the time. The same civil society luminary also insists that as far as he understood the meaning of the word “niece”, Mrs Zakari was indeed a niece to Mr Buhari via the marriage bond. In any case, the close association between Mr El-Rufai and Mr Buhari, and the history both gentlemen share with the unassuming Mrs Zakari, makes her conflicted.

But what was the cause of the initial uproar? And why now? After all, Mrs Zakari was appointed by Mr Jonathan of the then ruling PDP, which is now in opposition. Eyebrows are raised now because Mrs Zakari was recently appointed to the headship of a “collation centre committee”, supposedly tasked with ensuring that all the logistical needs of the “collation centre” for the upcoming elections are adequately taken care of. My view on hearing the news of the appointment was that it was a brazen and insensitive move. And even after the revelations and investigations that ensued, my view remains unchanged. Mrs Zakari is a controversial choice for such a potentially influential role. It is also highly unlikely that the INEC chief was caught unawares by the controversy the move generated.

Mr Yakubu, a professor of history, likely knew the implications of appointing her to what ordinarily would be a logistics function but could be misconstrued to mean more; and could in fact be more. Besides, as the commission already has a proper organisational structure which covers operations and the like, there was really no need for the creation of an adhoc “collation centre committee”. True, as the INEC chief insists, Mrs Zakari would not be involved in the process of collation itself. That job is exclusively his as the chief returning officer. But this is Nigeria. And since the experienced Nigerian academic rose through the complicated Nigerian system, he is certainly not naïve to the point of not knowing the potential interpretation and consequences of the controversial appointment.

No guarantees
It is important to point out at this point that this controversy is raging against the backdrop of Mr Buhari’s refusal to sign what has been adjudged a superb amendment to the current electoral law that would make our elections better. And while the Zakari controversy was still raging, INEC’s Yakubu revealed there would not be a full electronic transmission of results. Why? A backing in law is required. A pilot electronic collation would be done, however. As it stands right now, so much flexibility has been built into the electoral process that incumbents, should they choose to, would be able to steer the process in their favour.

Do the needful
In light of the foregoing, can INEC be trusted to deliver free and fair elections? No one can say for sure. There are a couple of things the electoral body could do to reduce fears of potential bias, however. There should probably not be a collation centre committee in the first place. It should be disbanded. As Mrs Zakari is clearly conflicted albeit largely adjudged to be competent, she should be assigned to a commissionership that would not involve direct participation in the electoral process or put her in a position to affect the outcome, if she chooses to, in a material way. Should she resign? No. And considering the commission has decided the transmission of results would not be electronic, it should do its utmost to ensure that the collation of results at each stage of the electoral process is done in the presence of all relevant stakeholders such that a parallel collation of results by non-INEC bodies would be no different from its own.