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Landmark events, issues that shaped 2017

By Godwin Ijediogor (News Editor), Tobi Awodipe and Maria Diamond
30 December 2017   |   3:14 am
The outgoing year has been so full of political intrigues, judicial controversies and security matters that sometimes drew applause and criticisms. Despite the news that the country had eased out of recession, the economy still wobbled with high inflation rate and unemployment. The climax of the economic woes is the lingering fuel scarcity, which has…

The outgoing year has been so full of political intrigues, judicial controversies and security matters that sometimes drew applause and criticisms.
Despite the news that the country had eased out of recession, the economy still wobbled with high inflation rate and unemployment. The climax of the economic woes is the lingering fuel scarcity, which has disturbed many from enjoying Christmas and the holiday season.
Monkeypox virus attack almost shook the nation as Ebola virus did some years back, but was quickly contained.
Here are some of the major events that would linger in the nation’s memory annals, as we bid goodbye to 2017 and welcome 2018.

President Muhammadu Buhari’s Ill-Health
Perhaps the most defining political moment was the ill-health of President Muhammadu Buhari, which affected almost every aspect of governance in the country.

During his medical trips, there were several versions of who was actually in charge, unofficially, between then Acting President Yemi Osinbajo and the Aso Rock cabal.

Earlier in the year, Buhari travelled to London to treat an undisclosed illness for 50 days, but returned to the United Kingdom to continue the treatment and stayed out of Nigeria for 103 days between May 7 and August 19.

Following the nondisclosure of the type of ailment he was treating or how long he was staying, Nigerians were left to make whatever they liked out of his long absence, hence the criticisms and controversies that trailed his medical vacation abroad, despite huge budgetary allocation to the State House Clinic.

There was also the issues of his real and authentic state of health, with rumours of his alleged death in the social media, at a time forcing his handlers to organise guided visits to the President at Nigeria House in London and splashing of the photograph of an emaciated and recuperating Buhari in the media to prove that he was alive and ‘well.’

But that only doused the agitation for a while, as more Nigerians soon began to clamour for his return to govern or resign if he could not continue in office due to ill health, as provided in the constitution.

This peaked with protests in Abuja and Lagos, and soon to London, under the hashtag-#ResumeorResign.

He finally returned to Nigeria after 103 days ‘hail and hearty.’

Chibok Schoolgirls Released
Some of the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped in 2014 were release in the year.

While some people alleged that some ransom and prisoner exchange took place, the federal government insisted no such thing happened.

The whereabouts of the freed girls remains unclear, especially as they were initially not allowed to reunite with their parents and guardians shortly after they regained their freedom.

Badoo Cultists Terrorise Ikorodu Residents
Residents of Ikorodu in Lagos and environs, as well as parts of Ogun State were on edge over the killings by persons suspected to be members of the dreaded Badoo cult.

The situation got to a point that traditionalists were assembled to rain curses on them, just as residents constituted themselves into vigilante groups to protect themselves, as the security agents seemingly failed to safeguard them.

Some combined and drastic security operations later led to the restoration of relative peace and residents who had earlier fled the area started to return.

Arewa Youths Give Igbos In The North Quit Notice
A coalition of aggrieved Arewa youths, piqued by the secessionist agitations of the leader of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, and members of the group, gave Igbo residents in the north an ultimatum to leave the region.

This further heightened tension in the absence of the President and took the intervention of well-meaning Nigerians and government officials for the youths to vacate the quit notice.

Fulani Herdsmen/Farmers Clashes Heightened
The lingering tension generated by the activities of some Fulani herdsmen, leading to clashes with farmers across the country heightened in 2017.

More worrisome to many was the seeming silence and near inaction of the federal government and its agencies to rein in the perpetrators.

It was worse in Benue and Kaduna states, where farmlands and crops were ravaged, residents rendered homeless and many reported killed by heavily armed herdsmen.

In Kaduna, this pitched the state government against people of Southern Kaduna, who are worse hit by the activities of the herdsmen.

Even attempts by different state governments to enforce laws on grazing are still facing resistance from the herdsmen, their umbrella association and backers.

This comes as government is still grappling with security in the northeast due to the lingering soft-target attacks by Boko Haram insurgents.

In the oil-rich Niger Delta region and the riverine areas of the Southwest, the military is unrelenting in its efforts to flush out militants, curb their activities and restore peace in the restive areas.

PDP Crisis Resolved In Court
The crisis in the opposition Peoples Democratic party (PDP) between the Senator Ali Modu Sheriff and Senator Ahmed Makarfi factions was finally resolved at the Supreme Court.

The apex court, in a ruling, recognised the Makarfi faction as the authentic leadership of the party.

The party this month held its election national convention, where Uche Secondus emerged as national chairman. But it appears it is not over yet, as some disgruntled members are still kicking.

Again, Atiku Defects
Once again, former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, defected, this time from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) back to the PDP.

The effect of his defection, which many see as following a trend, having earlier dumped the PDP for the defunct Action Congress (AC), only to return to PDP later, remains to be seen.

While the PDP sees his return as a welcome development, APC said it is of no consequence. This would be determined in days and months to come by how many influential APC members follow his footsteps.

APC Lose Out In Southeast With Anambra Guber Election
Any hope of the APC making any further in-road into the Southeast evaporated with its loss of the Anambra State governorship election in November.

Its candidate, Tony Nwoye, was beaten squarely by Governor Willie Obiano of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) in all the local councils.

Some APC members point to internal sabotage as reason why the party lost the election, while APGA members saw it as a rejection of APC in the zone.

Judges On Trial
The judiciary in 2017 witnessed some integrity tests, with the trial of some Judges and Justices, following a “sting operation” by the Department of State Service (DSS) in October last year.

They include Justices Sylvester Ngwuta and Inyang Okoro of the Supreme Court, Justice Agbadu Fishim, Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court in Abuja, and his wife, Olabowale, as well as Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia.

Justice Ngwuta is facing a 13-count charge bordering on money laundering, age falsification and alleged possession of multiple international passports.
The charges against Justice Ademola, his wife and Joe Agi (SAN) were later quashed.

Whereas the Judge claimed he voluntarily retired a day before the National Judicial Council (NJC) meeting sacking him and Justice O. O. Tokode of the Federal High Court, after it had earlier suspended him from the Bench and recall, following his clearance by the court.

In the Lagos Division, Justice Hyeladzira Nganjiwa of Federal High Court, Bayelsa Division, was docked on June 23 before a Lagos High Court sitting in Igbosere on a 14-count charge bordering on unlawful financial enrichment.

Kanu On Trial
The leader of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, was in the year arrested and put on trial for secessionist agitation and ordered remanded at Kuje Prison in the Federal Capital territory (FCT).

He was later granted bail, with three persons- Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, a Jewish High Priest, Emmanu El-Shalom Oka BenMadu, and an accountant, Tochukwu Uchendu, standing as sureties.

But following his disappearance after the raid on his residence by the military during Operation Python Dance, he failed to appear before Justice Binta Nyako of the Federal High Court in Abuja on October 17 for continuation of his trial, prompting the Judge to order his sureties to either produce him or risk jail/forfeiture of the N100m bail bond they entered with the court.

Kanu and four other pro-Biafra agitators- Chidiebere Onwudiwe, Benjamin Madubugwu, David Nwawuisi and Bright Chimezie- were to be re-arraigned on an amended five-count charge of treasonable felony.

He was granted bail on April 25 after spending a year and seven months in detention, while his co-defendants remained in prison.

After the military operation, Acting Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Abdul Abdu-Kafarati, on September 20 proscribed the IPOB as an illegal organisation, following an ex-parte motion filed on behalf of the government by Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN).

Jonathan Ordered To Appear In Court
Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court issued a subpoena ad testificandum for former President Goodluck Jonathan and his former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd) to appear as witnesses, based on an application from former national publicity secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olisa Metuh, in his ongoing trial.

Metuh is facing a seven-count charge brought against him and his firm, Destra Investment Limited, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for receiving N400million from the Office of the NSA without executing any contract.

In his reply, Jonathan asked the court to set-aside the subpoena, or in the alternative, direct Metuh to deposit with the court, for and on behalf of himself, the sum of N1billion, in line with provisions of Section 241(2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, cover travelling expenses for himself and his security personnel from his home-town, Otuoke in Bayelsa State, to Abuja and also for time that he might spend appearing before the court as President of Nigeria between 2010 and 2015.

Patience Jonathan’s Accounts Frozen, Unfrozen
Justice Nyako on May 30, ordered the freezing of 16 separate bank accounts linked to Jonathan’s wife, Patience, and barred her and 10 different organisations connected to her from having access to the accounts in a case brought against her by the EFCC.

The court on December 5, after a legal battle between the agency and the former first lady, vacated the order.

Saraki: Freed By CCT, Appeal Court Orders Re-Trial
The case involving Senate President Bukola Saraki at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) witnessed twists and turns this year.

The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja on December 12 gave the federal government the go-ahead to re-open the case it entered against Saraki before the CCT.

The three-man panel of Justices, led by Justice Tinuade Akomolafe-Wilson, said it was satisfied that Saraki has a case to answer before the CCT relating to allegation that he engaged in the sale of rice and sugar as a public officer.

Evans Arrested
Wanted kidnap kingpin, Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike, aka Evans, was in the year arrested in his Magodo, Lagos residence (hideout) after months of trailing and arraigned on August 30 before a Lagos High Courts.

He appeared, along with his co-accused- Ogechi Uchechukwu, Uche Amadi, Okwuchukwu Nwachukwu, Chilaka Ifeanyi and Victor Chukwunonso Aduba- before a vacation Judge, Justice Hakeem Oshodi of the Lagos High Court, Ikeja for allegedly kidnapping one Dunu Donatus, Sylvanius Ahanonu Hafiia and attempted kidnap of the Chairman of Young Shall Grow Motors, Chief Vincent Obianodo.

They were arraigned on a two-count charge of conspiracy and kidnapping by the Lagos State Government.

He later changed his plea from guilty to not guilty, on the second appearance. The case is ongoing and has suffered several adjournments for sundry reasons.

Prominent Deaths
The year witnessed the death of some prominent Nigerians and elder statesmen in various spheres of life.

They include Second Republic Vice President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, on Sunday November 19 at a London clinic in United Kingdom, where he was flown to for treatment by the Federal Government; former Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations (UN), Dr. Yusuf Maitama Sule, on July 2 in a Cairo hospital, Egypt, where he had been flown for medical treatment, at the age of 87; former military governor of old Western Region and president of Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE), Gen. Adeyinka Adebayo, on March 8, a day to his 89th birthday, at his Ikeja, Lagos residence; first civilian governor of Osun State, Senator Isiaka Adeleke, a major contenders for Osun 2018 governorship, on April 23, at 62, after he suffered a heart attack; former governor of old Bendel State, Gen. Samuel Ogbemudia, on March 9; and former attorney general of the federation and minister of Justice, Dr. Olu Onagoruwa, on July 21; former minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Oluyemi Adeniji, on November 24, at the age of 83 in London after a brief illness; minister of Health and executive director of United Nations Population Fund (UNFP) on June 4 in New York, United States at the age of 68; Pa Adebayo Faleti, a renowned journalist, poet, writer and actor, on July 23 at the age of 86; among others.

The economy slipped into recession in early 2016. Exiting recession, however, is mostly on paper now, as the average Nigerian is yet to feel it, even as the prices of basic goods and commodities continue to skyrocket with the country experiencing another fuel scarcity that almost crippled the economy and grounded many activities.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said that in spite of Nigeria’s exit from recession, the economy of the country is still very vulnerable. The IMF in a statement by Raphael Ranspach, its Media and Press Officer, welcomed the Federal Government’s actions to improve the power sector and business environment under the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (EGRP). “Overall growth is slowly picking up but recovery remains challenging. Economic activity expanded by 1.4 per cent year-on-year in the third quarter of 2017 – the second consecutive quarter of positive growth after five quarters of recession — driven by recovering oil production and agriculture.”

Fuel Scarcity
In the last three weeks, the nation has once again experienced a severe fuel scarcity, almost grinding economic activities and forcing the prices of goods, services and transportation to go up to as high as 200 percent.

At the start of the scarcity, which has become a sad yearly ritual, the NNPC described it as ‘panic buying’, urging Nigerians not to worry as there was no scarcity.

However, by the second week when it became apparent that there was indeed fuel scarcity, Minister for Information, Lai Mohammed blamed it on the weather, Ibe Kachikwu said it was because NNPC was the country’s sole importer while the Vice President, Yemi Osibajo attributed the scarcity to limited supply of petrol to depots across the country.

As the scarcity raged on, leaving many commuters stranded and many people unable to travel home due to exorbitant bus fares and limited means of transportation, rumours began to swirl that the scarcity was because the price of petrol was about to go up.
Despite several assurances, promises and blame games from the federal government, the scarcity seems to be making its way into the New Year

Monkey Pox
On September 22, 2017, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) was alerted of a suspected case of Monkeypox in an 11-year- old male patient at the Niger Delta University Teaching Hospital (NDUTH) in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State.

Following this, 11 other cases were discovered, though there had been no deaths, as all the patients were under expedient medical care and improving, but close contacts of the patients have been identified and were being medically monitored.

The Bayelsa State Government and NCDC team, therefore, indulged in a critical public enlightenment campaign to advise the public on the symptoms of the disease, how to manage the crisis on discovery, and preventions of further spread.
Aside MonkeyPox, Nigeria, with the support of World Health Organisation (WHO) and other health sectors, recently contained a five-month cholera outbreak in Maiduguri, Borno State.

The outbreak began in August on the outskirts of Maiduguri, spreading rapidly to communities, and by December 19, 2017, about 5,365 suspected cases had been reported, including 61 deaths.

The government, however, announced the end of the outbreak on December 21, after two weeks of no new cases of cholera.

According to the Director of Emergency
Response, Borno State Ministry of Health, Borno State, with the support of WHO, and other health sectors, moved to swift action to contain the outbreak limiting mortality and morbidity.

A major Oral Cholera Vaccine (OCV) campaign contributed to the effort and successful containment, as number of new infection dropped significantly after vaccination.