BusinessDay

11 key moments of 2021

For many, the outgoing year cannot end quickly enough. 2021 was the year of firsts, even if many were unpleasant – a year of triumphs, happy surprises, and bruising pains. Below are some of the key moments of 2021 with significant social, economic and political implications for Nigeria.

Buhari declined signing Electoral Bill

President Muhammadu Buhari who lost three presidential elections to electoral malfeasance should have been the biggest advocate for reforms. But like every other politician who ranks self-interest over the country’s welfare, he again withheld assent to electoral reform law on a claim of ‘direct primaries,’ a provision he could easily have had amended since he commands worshipful reverence from the current set of servile, spineless lawmakers. This would be the fifth time the so-called ‘reformed democrat’ would thwart electoral reform, setting the stage for the 2023 general elections to fail.

NNPC says it can no longer fund FAAC

In 2021, the reality of petrol subsidy hit home when the NNPC said it could no longer fund the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) – a basket from which allocations are shared to the 36 states. This triggered a nationwide debate over subsidies on over 100 million liters daily petrol importation in a country where poverty is putting cars beyond the reach of Nigerians.

Though Nigeria is basically subsidising petrol for West Africa, NNPC, the sole importer, got the EFCC to track fraudulent marketers who take delivery of the products. But the agency is mostly useful at tracking internet scammers so a powerful cartel of oil marketers with ties to the government-run rings around it. With the planned payment of N5,000 to 40 million poor people to discourage labour unions from calling for a strike, marinating in the stratosphere of inane ideas, next year promises to be interesting.

After 20 years, the Petroleum Industry Bill becomes law

One of the most consequential events in the economy this year was the PIB becoming law. “It brought certainty, and investors can evaluate its impacts on the existing and future investments,” said Chiwendu Enechi, associate director, oil, gas, and power at Anderson. But it has not halted the exit of oil majors from Nigeria.

The Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) set new fiscal and regulatory terms, revamped the structure of the state-oil firm, created new rules for administering the sector but failed to acknowledge the reality of energy transition, and did not fix gas pricing hurdles to investments.

The PIA also provided that 30 percent of NNPC’s profits will fund exploration in frontier basins, allocated 3 percent of oil companies’ capital expenditure to host communities and demolished government structures that aided subsidies. It is yet to be seen how much investment this will attract.

Attack of the Nigerian Defence Academy and kidnappings

The August 21 invasion of the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), a school set up to train Nigerian military personnel, was the culmination of attacks against security formations across Nigeria.

This feat has achieved fame for its brazenness and the military’s incapacity. A military school with perimeter unguarded and the eventual kidnap of military personnel put in context the incessant attacks on schools across Northern Nigeria by terrorists’ bandits. Hundreds of school children were kidnapped in Kankara and university students at Greenfield University also suffered the same fate.

2021 was the year security formations across the country were stripped of their facade of impenetrability. On April 5, hundreds of inmates were freed by gunmen who attacked the federal prison and police command in Owerri, Imo State. In October, they burnt the operational base of Nigeria’s secret police in Nnewi, Anambra State. Days later, gunmen attacked a correctional facility in Abolongo, Oyo State, freeing hundreds of inmates.

Read also: Listings, delistings that shaped Nigerian stock market in 2021

Flour Mills acquires Honeywell

In November, Flour Mills of Nigeria plc (FMN) notified the Nigerian Exchange Group (NGX) that it was buying Honeywell Group’s 71.69 percent stake in Honeywell Flour Mills Plc and FBN Holdings’ 5.06 percent stake in Honeywell, a move that could raise its market share to 42 percent becoming the country’s second-largest miller after Olam.

This is significant for food security and development of industrial capacity in Nigeria, as the move is expected to reinvigorate the agricultural value chain and backward integration of the food industry. It also creates a stronger brand in the food manufacturing sector to compete and take advantage of opportunities from the African Continent Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

Super Tucano fighter jets arrive

From June 2021, Nigeria began taking delivery of the first batch of the Super Tucano Fighter jets it ordered in 2018. Nigeria purchased the A-29s through the Foreign Military Sales programme, including spare parts for several years of operation, contract logistics support, munitions, and a multi-year construction project to improve Kainji Air Base infrastructure for about $500 million.

The A-29 Super Tucano supports flight and combat training, close air support operations, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, armed over-watch, counter-insurgency and irregular warfare missions having been successfully deployed in the Middle East.

The emergency of the Tucano jets has become a game-changer in Nigeria’s counter-insurgency fight. Insurgents have been routed in the North East but it could not be deplored in the North West because the government hesitated to call bandits terrorists. The deal forecloses the use of the jets against non-terrorist targets.

However, a court ruling in November designating bandits as terrorists paved the way for the jets to be used in the North West. The last batch was delivered in October giving significant boost to the war.

MTN delivers Nigeria’s first digital IPO

MTN Nigeria opened the country’s first digital-only initial public offer (IPO) on December 1, offering a total of 575 million ordinary shares to retail investors. The public offer is significant because it would contribute immensely towards deepening Nigeria’s equity capital market. Analysis indicates that it could raise the valuation of the Nigerian stock market by as much as $10 billion. This could spur other companies to list on the stock market helping to attract fresh enthusiasm.

The arrival of Omicron

On November 26, 2021, the World Health Organisation (WHO) designated the COVID-19 variant B.1.1.529 a ‘variant of concern’ and named it Omicron. Scientists in South Africa first alerted the world of its discovery and was slammed with travel bans by Western countries. Nigeria was soon included shortly after lifting its own travel ban on South Africa. COVID-19 cases spiked in the country recording over 1,000 cases in a single day in December, spurring the onset of a fourth wave amid a poor vaccination record.

Since the discovery of Omicron, chaos has returned in the aviation sector with new quarantine rules compounding the unpleasantness of air travel in the time of COVID. The UK initially placed Nigeria on a red list and has now placed expensive quarantine rules, disrupting business travel.

Afrobeat goes global

2021 was not just the year Burna Boy won a Grammy, it marked the emergence of Afrobeat on the global scene. From TikTok dance videos to the inclusion of Burna’s hit song in the inauguration playlist of President Joe Biden, Afrobeat achieved global renown in 2021. Chukwuka Ekweani’s ‘Love Nwantintin’ took over TikTok, recording a massive 15 billion views.

Twitter ban

In June, the Nigerian government suspended Twitter operations in the country accusing the social media micro-blogging site of allowing its platform to be used for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence. The suspension came two days after Twitter deleted President Buhari’s tweet threatening to deal with some in the South East blamed for attacks on government infrastructure.

The Twitter ban follows a pattern of overt attempts at vanquishing any form of dissent by the Buhari government. The regime soon followed with draconian rules to gag the press in a proposed law that would require media outlets to be regulated by the government. It further intimidated media outlets, including Channels Television, for broadcasting content it found critical.

Nigeria start-ups attract global venture capital

In 2021, the Nigerian tech ecosystem especially saw the infusion of much capital into their start-up operations. More than $4 billion of funding was raised by start-ups in Africa through 754 deals and Nigeria ranks highest among the top four including South Africa, Egypt and Kenya, with $1.41 billion. The top five beneficiaries who make up the total funding raised in Nigeria include Opay, which secured $400 million, Andela $200 million, Flutterwave $170 million, Kuda Bank $80 million (two tranches), and Decagon $26.5 million (two tranches). Nigeria ended the year with the most unicorns (start-ups with over $1bn) valuation on the continent.

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