Nigeria has experienced quite a number of controversial issues in the year 2014. Some of these issues will definitely spill into 2015 as they are still unfolding.
This list has the most talked about incidents that helped shape the outgoing year for better or worse.
Here is a list of 10 striking controversies that rocked Nigeria in 2014:
1. The Federal Government suspends Central Bank of Nigeria Governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi (February 20)
President Jonathan suspended Malam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi as the CBN governor, claiming that his tenure had been characterised by acts of financial recklessness and misconduct. The president said he was concerned about far-reaching irregularities under Malam Sanusi’s watch, which have distracted the apex bank away from the pursuit and achievement of its statutory mandate. He however did not exit the financial stage without responding to the 35-count allegations against him by the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria and the federal government.
2. At least 19 applicants killed across the nation at Immigration Service recruitment exercise (March 15)
No fewer than 19 applicants lost their lives and dozens were injured at the 2014 Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) recruitment exercise, a tragedy which occurred when 6.5 million people across the country (including the FCT) stormed various recruitment centres in the country for 4,000 positions.
The applicants who had thronged venues of the exercise, mostly stadia, paid N1,000 as application fee. The Federal Government and the two chambers of the National Assembly constituted separate committees to probe the tragedy at the time, but the reports of the panels are yet to be made public.
President Jonathan also promised automatic employment for those ‘certified injured’ and three slots for immediate family members of those killed, but there are court cases and protests by those affected and civil society organisations over the failure of the government to honour the promises made. Failure to sack Minister of Interior, Comrade Abba Moro, even after taking full responsibility for the tragedy remains controversial.
3. Abduction of schoolgirls from Chibok Girls’ Government Secondary School (April 14)
Boko Haram militants stormed a secondary school in Chibok, Borno State, where students were writing their final examinations and abducted over 200 girls. Security forces failed to immediately go after them.
Later, the leader of the Boko Haram sect, Abubakar Shekau, in a video claimed responsibility, jeering that some of the girls have been married off, while all of them were forced to convert to Islam. The abduction attracted national and international outrage, culminating in protests in some parts of Nigeria and around the world, made popular by the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls.
At least 56 of the abducted girls escaped on their own at various times, while the rest are believed to be held by the terrorists in Sambisa Forest. President Jonathan has vowed to have the girls released.
4. DHQ Spokesman announces ‘rescue’ of Chibok girls (16 April)
The Director of Defence Information, Major-General Chris Olukolade, announced the rescue of “all 129 girls” except eight. The very next day, he retracted the statement to the collective chagrin of Nigerians and the international community.
Fast-forward to July, Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshal Alex Badeh, said the Nigerian military had discovered where the schoolgirls were being kept, but that they would not use force to rescue them. Badeh was quoted to have said: “The good news for the girls is that we know where they are but we cannot tell you, we cannot come and tell you military secrets here. Just leave us alone, we are working…”
5. Ebola disease descends on Nigeria (July 20)
An American-Liberian, Patrick Sawyer, arrived Lagos from Monrovia and it was reported that he looked “terribly ill” and was subjected to medical examination in a private hospital in Lagos. His confirmatory test results for Ebola infection were still pending and it eventually proved that Sawyer had Ebola.
The then Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, broke the news at a world press conference in Abuja. A lot of events followed, including burials anywhere in the country requiring a mandatory death certificate. Nigeria’s request for an experimental drug was turned down. Several Ebola cure claims ranging from consumption of bitter kola to salt water surfaced and fizzled out. In the end, Nigeria confirmed a total of 19 cases, of whom seven died and 12 survived, hailed as heroes.
The country effectively contained the virus, as the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared it Ebola-free 42 days after the country’s last infectious contact with a confirmed or suspected case. The struggle lasted exactly 93 days.
6. First Lady Patience Jonathan publicly doubts Chibok girls’ abduction (May 5)
The First Lady, Patience Jonathan, at a second enlarged stakeholders’ meeting on the abducted schoolgirls openly burst into tears, instantly spawning an internet meme and widely circulated video in which she kept repeating “There is God o.”
Mrs. Jonathan had requested Hajiya Nana Shettima, the wife of Borno State governor, to chair the committee which sought clarification on conflicting issues on the matter. Mrs. Shettima however did attend the second meeting, to which Mrs. Jonathan complained bitterly. One of the most memorable parts of the video – as well as its lowest point – probably remains when Mrs. Jonathan infamously asked the Chibok school’s principal in halting Pidgin English: “Na only you waka come?”
7. IGP withdraws Tambuwal’s security over defection to APC (Oct 30)
The Inspector-General of Police (then in acting capacity) Mr. Suleiman Abba ordered the withdrawal of policemen attached to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal, two days after he defected to the APC from the PDP. The IGP said that since Tambuwal had defected, he could no longer enjoy the privilege of police protection. The Department of State Services (DSS) followed suit. Mr. Abba, on November 26, when he appeared before the House Committee on Police Affairs, was adamant and refused to recognise Tambuwal as the Speaker of the House of Reps, insisting it would be “subjudice” for him to address him as such, as long as the matter was in court. The members of the committee were angry and staged a walk-out.
8. Botched arms deals in South Africa (Sept 2014)
In September, a chartered Bombadier Challenger 600 plane with two Nigerians and an Israeli national onboard ferried $9.3 million to South Africa allegedly for the purchase of arms. But upon landing at the Lanseria International Airport, northwest of Johannesburg, the cargo (money) was apprehended by the South Africa Revenue Service (SARS) which claimed it was smuggled funds. It said the money was not declared and the amount was way beyond “the prescribed legal limit” approved by laws of the country.
The president Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Pastor Ayo Oritsajafor, admitted ownership of the jet but said: “I leased the aircraft on August 2, 2014 to a company to run it. It was the leasee that entered into an agreement with the people who carried out the transfer of funds. Having leased the aircraft to the Green Coast Produce Company Limited, any transaction undertaken with the aircraft can no longer be attached to me.”
Again, four weeks later, South Africa’s Asset Forfeiture Unit of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) seized another $5.7 million meant for another arms deal. The NPA ordered the funds frozen in the bank for allegedly being proceeds of illegal transactions. The controversy is ongoing.
9. FG announces ‘ceasefire deal’ with Boko Haram (October 17)
On October 17, the Federal Government announced a ceasefire deal with Boko Haram, sparking hope that the insurgents would release the 276 abducted schoolgirls. It was announced by the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshal Alex Badeh, who said: “A ceasefire agreement has been concluded between the federal government and Boko Haram.”
The President’s Principal Secretary, Hassan Tukur, told BBC Focus on Africa that an agreement to end hostilities had been reached after talks with the violent group. Tukur said Boko Haram announced a unilateral ceasefire on Thursday and the government had responded. He said the sect assured that they have the girls unharmed and that they would release them. However, violence by the sect seems to have escalated, with a video of leader Shekau vehemently denying a ceasefire of any sort.
10. Lawmakers scale National Assembly gates (November 20)
Chaos broke out at the National Assembly when the members were summoned from a recess to consider President Goodluck Jonathan’s request for the extension of emergency rule in the troubled north-east. The police attempted to stop House of Reps’ Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, and other lawmakers from gaining entry into the assembly chambers.
This action compelled the legislators who were locked out to scale the gates to access the complex. The “no entry” order created pandemonium and chaos, as unknown officers tear-gassed lawmakers, staff and visitors. Police spokesman Emmanuel Ojukwu controversially claimed in a statement that the police were acting on ‘intelligence reports’ of a likely invasion of the House of Reps by hoodlums.