With Ukraine, the relationship is more recent. Kiev and Tunisian officials signed an economic memorandum in 1992 and created a joint intergovernmental commission on economic cooperation, commerce, science and technology in 1993. Agreements in 2016 ranged from automatic equivalency for Ukrainian diplomas in sciences apart from medicine, direct flights between the capitals of both countries, and easier visa application processes for Tunisians visiting Ukraine. The fruits manifested in higher inflows of Ukrainian tourists into Tunisia and a high population of Tunisian students studying in the country. Ukravauto, a Ukrainian car manufacturer, also opened a factory in Tunisia in 2017, and subsequent agreements have extended to the banking sector, where both liaise on monetary policy and foreign exchange regulation. In 2021, Ukraine further committed to assisting Tunisia in providing training and development to its military.
However, with current events, Russia and Ukraine’s partnership with the Maghreb state is bound to reduce. Both have implemented export bans to improve their food security and are focused on fueling their war machines. As a result, Tunisia is eyeing new horizons, particularly those that promise food. Its government has stated that it is considering Uruguay, Bulgaria, Argentina, and Romania for critical supplies. The president has also threatened to punish food speculators who contribute to the hike in prices. Furthermore, Tunisia is pressing for a $4 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund. And as is the norm with the organization’s loans, it is required to make broad policy changes that include an overhaul of its subsidy programs and a review of its public sector wage bill. However, problems lie in its implementation. President Saied’s approval ratings, which are not what they used to be, heavily depend on his ability to pacify the discontent. His government lags in salary payments, especially those of the armed forces who protect his rule. He is also considering cutting fuel subsidy, a move that risks the ire of lately paid workers. Although the European Union has promised a tranche of €450 million to support the Tunisian budget and further investments over the years, it remains to be seen how Tunisia handles this.
Motivated by the unfavorable assessment of Morocco’s human rights record by the US State Department, the kingdom sought to deepen relations with Russia in 2002. It started with a first-time visit by Mohammed VI, and the focus was the countries’ free trade agreement. There was also the subject of expanding Russian access to Moroccan fisheries in an effort to shift from the United States. But the relationship has existed for far longer than this. Russo-Moroccan ties stretch as far back as 1777, when leaders from both states communicated through letters.
In the twenty-first century, both have expressed commitments through visits to each other’s countries — twice in two decades by the Moroccan monarch and once in 2006 by Vladimir Putin. Though interjected by Morocco’s efforts to maintain its partnership with the West, Rabat and Moscow have interacted on issues cutting across military and economic sectors. Recently, the two nations signed eleven agreements in a single day, indicating a willingness to further relations. Moscow once offered its sophisticated missile defence system to Morocco and has also stated its intention to assist in constructing thermal power plants in the country.
Similarly, Russia expressed its readiness to support the construction of a gas terminal in Morocco’s Jorf Lasfar. The estimated spend for this project is in the region of $2 billion. And even as they continue to make strides in their energy and military agreements, the sides have progressed in economic depth. In 2016, trade volume between Russia and Morocco stood at $3 billion. Exports from the country to Russia in 2019 were estimated at $286 million, with imports at $1.3 billion. A 20 percent increase in Russian exports to Morocco was also recorded in the first half of 2021. Morocco being Russia’s second-largest trading partner in the Arab world demonstrates how far they have both gone in terms of economic cooperation.
Like its North African counterparts, Morocco imports grain from Russia and Ukraine. The country is in a more secure position as it possesses substantial reserves to hedge against the conflict, unlike others. In 2020, it imported close to $300 million worth of Ukrainian grain and $110 million of Russia’s. Morocco’s ties with Russia are further symbolized by the popularity of Moroccan citrus fruits. Its oranges are a regular part of Russia’s new year festivities, adding grassroots meaning to the relationship. This dynamic puts Morocco in a fix between its western loyalties and its bond with Russia. This was evident in its refusal to participate in a UN vote to criticize Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Aside from grain, Russia’s mineral, chemical, and energy exports will be affected. This is as Morocco is highly dependent on imported energy, with 90 percent of its needs augmented by external sources. There is also the possibility that Morocco’s tourist car exports to Russia and Ukraine will be affected. According to data by the Moroccan Exchange Office, the sector witnessed a 12.8 percent increase in 2021.
Yet, the situation is not utterly bleak. Research has indicated that Morocco may gain from the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Phosphate, an essential ingredient in manufacturing fertilizers, is one product the country has in abundance. The war already limits Russia’s exports, setting the stage for entry by fresh suppliers. Morocco’s phosphate reserves are estimated at 50 billion tons, making it the second-largest in the world after China. Its stock also constitutes 72 percent of the total reserves available globally. Morocco’s position is enhanced by the presence of the OCP Group, a phosphate production giant in the country. The company’s logistical and production capabilities have been instrumental to Rabat’s emergence. OCP Group recorded $9 billion in profits in 2021 and is set to increase production by 10 percent in 2022. The country is already receiving attention as India looks to procure more phosphate to supplement its reserves.
Algeria’s relationship with the Russian Federation dates back to its independence years. Algeria had fought a brutal eight-year war with France before finally securing autonomy. Since then, Moscow and Algiers have been diplomatic partners, with the Soviet Union lending billions of dollars to the Arab country. In 2001, both signed a declaration of strategic partnership, and five years later, Algeria became Africa’s biggest buyer of Russian arms. The weapons deal worth $7.5 billion in that year has expanded into several arms purchases in 2010, 2012, 2013, and 2015. It has continued with these purchases, with a recent agreement running into scores of Russian military equipment. Between 2014-and 2018, Moscow supplied as much as 66 percent of Algeria’s arsenal. Sales to Algeria alone constitute half of Russia’s entire weapons sales to the African continent. The Russo-Algerian partnership has also extended to counter-terrorism operations, with both countries exchanging intelligence on terrorist activities in North Africa.
Algeria is not only a crucial military partner, but it also shares some ideological similarities with Russia. The two nations have a tender spot for authoritarian rule and are quick to dispatch any opposition to their dictates. The 2019 Algerian riots provide a classic study of Russia’s interest in a non-democratic leadership. While Moscow chose to refrain from direct interference, its body language suggested a desire for leaders with little regard for Western leadership principles. Similarities can also be found in the South African and Algerian cases highlighted earlier. Due to its colonial experience, the latter consistently maintains opposition to actions violating territorial sovereignty. It is equally reactive to occasions that appear to threaten its sovereignty. Lending weight to this principled nature is the Algerian capital’s reputation as the “Mecca of the revolutionaries.” However, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has attracted reticence on Algeria’s part. The country was among the 35 nations that abstained from the UN resolution condemning the invasion. This position implies Algeria’s preference for a smooth relationship with Russia.
There is also the issue of distrust of the West’s intentions in Algerian circles. The US-led diplomatic coalition against Russia is accused of double standards in its treatment of the conflict. Still, the picture is not so simple. Even with its seeming friendliness, Algeria maintains a fair connection to the West. An example is its membership of the Mediterranean Dialogue, despite lacking a designation as a major non-NATO ally. Remaining in the Dialogue for two decades alongside Morocco, Israel, and other players in the Middle East is an indication that the West views it as an essential partner. Algeria also collaborates on counter-terrorism efforts but has refrained from engaging in conflict areas.
Part of the Talking Points at the International Colloquium on Russia-Ukraine War and Implication For Global Security, Pease and New World Order, organized by the Centre for Black Culture and Understanding, Osogbo, Nigeria, March 22, 2022
Falola is a Nigerian historian and professor of African Studies. He is currently the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities at the University of Texas at Austin.
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Professor Ayo Olukotun, My Eyuze
By Tony Afejuku
My bosom friend, Professor Ayo Olukotun, a man and personage for whom I placed considerable respect, who died recently, was committed to mother earth last Friday. The ever-delightful Professor Kayode Soremekun, the immediate past Vice Chancellor of Federal University Oye-Ekiti pointed my attention to this in his tribute to Professor Ayo Olukotun symbolically captured in The Punch newspaper of Friday, 27 January, 2023. After reading his tribute on the very day Ayo Olukotun normally appeared on the back page of The Punch as a five-star columnist, I nodded my head in painful pain. Kayode Soremekun’s tribute essentially captured aspects of our friend’s public life, and I gave some long thought to our departed humanist of humanists’ hurried committal to the brown earth of Ibadan which was not near his homestead, geographically speaking, in Egbe Yoruba of Kogi State. Was an injustice done to him in his prompt burial in Ibadan of cultural and poetic seven hills? Perhaps circumstances of his demise compelled his remains to be committed to mother earth in Ibadan of JP Clark’s “broken china in the sun.” (How my memory is failing me as a result of my emotional state!) The one who was supposed to get back to me for accurate information on and about the event did not when I was putting my words together. Another common friend and my friend’s course-mate at Obafemi Awolowo University (formerly University of Ife, Ile-Ife), did not divulge this information in his similarly public picture of my friend in his The Guardian’s roaring tribute of Tuesday, 31 January, 2023. I am of course referring to Barrister Alade Rotimi-John who was one of the early bringers of our gone hero’s demise to my poor attention. The other person was Suyi Ayodele, Tribune’s Tuesday ace columnist.
Before Soremekun’s and Rotimi-John’s well-crafted tributes found me, Professor Olu Obafemi’s great elegiac poem of immortal diamond had galloped and gasped to me. The poem by our National Laureate, a Nigerian National Order of Merit winner, clearly made its mark on my mind. The privately circulated poem to a select audience was one in which Professor Olu Obafemi tried successfully to crowd Olukotun’s career with conquest in Olukotun’s years and years of eventful events. I never knew that Obafemi knew Olukotun until I read his afore-said poem entitled “Ayo, Omo Olukotun, Odabo!”
Professor Olukotun’s “Yagba homestead” and ancestry and scholastic biography right from “Titcombe College, Egbe in Kogi State” up to the “forest of Knowledge” in Ile-Ife and beyond as “hero of the Globe” were/are movingly and movingly rendered in the poem. But why was the dazzling adventurer “Okun, Son of Jege” committed to the red soil of Ibadan when his eyes finally and eternally closed? I tried in vain to reach Professor Obafemi, another worthy friend, and my friend’s close kinsman, for an answer. All I got was prophetically rendered in the poem as follows: ”It is doubtful that this adventurer into/the forest of knowledge/Shall return to these shores again.” Another common friend, Professor Ademola Da Sylva, who knew Ayo in their Ife days, was similarly moved by Obafemi’s elegy.
Professor Ayo Olukotun was no Professor Ayo Olukotun to me. He was simply to me – until he breathed his last breath Eyuze as I was to him Tone Baba. We first met in 1977 in Zaria now in Kaduna State. We were lecturing colleagues (Graduate Assistants – later Assistant Lecturers) at Ahmadu University. He was my tightest pal. Our other tight friend was the sociologist/criminologist Basil Owomero (a fellow Graduate Assistant) from Ozoro town in Isoko-land in Delta State. Basil died a pretty long time ago after earning a doctorate in Criminology. Of the three of us I am the only living one now. As I am reflecting on this confusion of thought, emotion, and vision of our then years a void stares at me pitilessly. The vastness of the then years of youthful youthfulness up to when we left Zaria at different times blurs and time becomes hollow. I am in the moment of writing remembering only one or two or three things of the happy and unhappy events we shared.
I remember that Eyuze Baba brought Adebayo Williams and me together. Adebayo Williams is now a Professor of Literature and a novelist and columnist of no mean repute. He and Eyuze were together as under-graduates in those years of tempestuous student unionism of patriotic patriotism when Eyuze made hay and held sway in Ife as President of the Students’ Union. But it is not this I am recalling and remembering. I am recalling and remembering… I am recalling and remembering Bayo Williams’ visits in his ever-faithful Passat to Eyuze (and then eventually to us) from Kaduna (where he was teaching at Federal Government College and at the same time working on his Master’s degree in Ife as we were doing in Zaria) when we dreamed dreams of Nigeria and our tempestuous love affair with your country my country our country. We dreamed the dreams of writing and of how to help this country to constitute ethical or moral or whatever science and knowledge of growth to shape it and humankind. Each of us endeavoured to adopt the method which would make him the peerless master of positive criticism of our country. Then we really had and held lofty dreams of enlightened patriots as young as we were with the whole world before us. Until he died Eyuze did not betray the dream and did not deviate from its anatomy. Our man was a stammerer and stutterer in private conversations but in his public speeches and lectures he was a brilliant and very brilliant orator and analyst of acute dialectical proportions who always was an orator’s orator. He always reminded me of the late famous socialist novelist Professor Festus Iyayi of the University of Benin (who famously led the Academic Staff Union of Universities in the military era that in hindsight is hundred percent better than this civilian democratic regime of rotten rottenness). And in Professor Olukotun’s shining and shiny writings you would not notice any stammering and stuttering. Let me refrain from citing numerous examples. Eyuze was simply and more than simply audaciously brilliant and courageously courageous. He stood on a very high moral ground which his elegant writings are evidence of.
What else am I remembering? When I was leaving Zaria finally, with my all-what-not, Eyuze accompanied me to the Mid-West. This attests to the measure of our tight friendship. We spent three days together in Sapele and Warri before we travelled back together in order for me to tidy up my disengagement from Ahmadu Bello University. I can write a treatise on the pure geometry of our healthy relationship. But it is immaterial now. Yet let me say this. In later years, in much later years, after we were fully committed to marital duties – with the vagaries of our politics and economy not helping matters – the cruel wind and breeze of boisterous Nigeria roped, wrestled, beat bare our friendship but we never ignored the generosity of our closeness through ample calls. In one of those calls I related the gloriously memorable one night I spent with him in the Lagos Daily Times estate/quarters he was staying in then as an editorial staff member of that once famous global newspaper before he was a faculty member of University of Lagos. He enjoyed it all then. I can imagine how he and our elderly GG Darah, who is also now a Professor, cordially and graciously – and very warmly, welcomed me to the editorial office when I visited Kakawa! Or is memory failing me again? No, no, no.
Is there anything further I want to recall about Eyuze? Of course, there are many more things to say about my kind and joyfully-minded Eyuze. But I must hold my breath here. In despair, of course. And my despair is not the vigorous pleasure of despairing. Our gone revolutionary humanist was every revolutionary’s humanist. He should not have left us now. But his time was surely up. I say this as a revolutionary mystic and peace activist – if you permit me to say so.
Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.
Witch Persecution And Dream Experiences In Nigeria
By Leo Igwe
The Advocacy for Alleged Witches welcomes the arrest of a young man, Joseph Friday, who allegedly murdered his father for witchcraft in Akwa Ibom. The development represents some of the best ways the police could help end impunity and beat back the tide of witch-hunting in the country. The suspect told the police that the father used to appear to him in a dream. He said that the father would hypnotize him before depositing a spell in his body. Mr. Friday said, “My Father used a charm on me; he appeared in my dream and hypnotized me. Whenever he appeared, something like a tortoise entered my body, and I would start to behave abnormally”.
Akwa Ibom is one of the states in Nigeria where witch persecution is pervasive, and abuses linked to witchcraft beliefs are widespread. As in this case, many cases of witchcraft accusations are linked to dreams, mystical interpretations of dreams. It will take more than arresting suspects and perpetrators to end these savage acts.
In Akwa Ibom, people are taught to take their dream experiences seriously. They believe or are made to believe, that those who appear in dreams are witches or agents of the occult. People are taught that dream experiences are revealing; they disclose potential harm and harmers. So people believe that their dreams point to what would happen to them or their families. So, whenever a person sees someone threatening or attacking them in a dream, they confront, attack, or kill the person when they wake up. Some people have noted cases where they have seen people pursuing them with a machete, or pressing their chest in the dream. And they felt horrified upon waking up. People who see others in a dream prefer to expose and kill them before they wreak further havoc. People take the dream experiences as real-life experiences. Incidentally, this mistaken idea of dreams is real and dangerous. And as this case has illustrated, the mystical idea of dreams leads to horrific abuses.
To end witch persecution, Nigerians need to change their attitudes towards dreams. Nigerians should understand that dreams are natural, not supernatural phenomena. Dreams are a stream of images and sensations that well up in the mind whenever a person is asleep. They have nothing to do with witchcraft or magic as popularly believed. People dream because their brains are not dead. Dreams are rooted in thoughts and imaginations that the mind entertained while awake. It is grossly mistaken to attack or kill someone based on another person’s dream experiences.
Dr. Igwe is an executive director of the
Advocacy for Alleged Witches.
Where Did All The Money Go?
By Mike Hunder
For eight straight years, the Buhari administration had been turning up the “no money” rhetoric. Added to the puzzle, at a time when oil-producing countries were reaping sustained windfalls from high oil prices, at above $100 per barrel on average in 2022, following the Russia-Ukraine war, the NNPC made zero remittance to the federation account for most of the year.
Now, a series of striking revelations have contradicted the administration’s “no money” claim, at a dramatic speed.
First, the Auditor General, in a 2022 letter to the Senate revealed that “a total of 17,877,705 barrels of crude oil valued at $1,020,969,281.12 (over one billion, twenty million dollars), were exported between 2016 and 2020, without proper records. This perhaps explains the non-remittance of funds by the NNPC into the federation account that characterized the administration.
Second, things got so bad that, the then Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, locked horns with NNPC over shortchanging the government on several occasions. In one instance, in June 2018, there was a standoff between the National Economic Council and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), when the then Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, pointedly accused the NNPC of short-changing the government. She declared NNPC’s account to the federal accounts allocation committee (FAAC), “unacceptable” and asked that they render the full account of the “missing billions”!
What happened there after? The “deep state” clipped her wings, with allegations that she forged her NYSC certificate. Three months later, she resigned, and life went on.
Another revelation came to fore on the floor of the Senate in December 2022. That about 100 federal MDAs failed to account for the sum of #1.9 trillion naira from 2017 to 2021, despite several invitations. More shocking, most of the agencies involved, report to the presidency. This included the State House, Presidential Fleet, Ministry of Finance, the armed forces, Police, Accountant General office, NEMA, Ministry of Defence, Special Assistant to the President on Niger Delta Affairs and many others.
The fourth was a bigger problem than many first thought. The CBN embarked on unfettered “printing of money” for the Buhari administration since 2015, in repeated disregards of the laws. Under the CBN Act, “ways and means” facility (a code for printing money for government), should not exceed 5% of the previous year’s revenue of the government and must be paid within the financial cycle. Then again, Section 38 provides that, “ways and means”… must be refunded before the collection of another one.” Yet, the Buhari administration kept collecting “ways and means” from the CBN, without making a refund, in a zeal not seen before, hitting #23.7 trillion by December 2022.
When the Edo state governor, Godwin Obaseki, first spilled the beans about CBN’s printing of money for the federal government back in April 2021, the government denied it. Now, realizing that the “ways and means” account, cannot possibly be kept way from the public beyond May 2023, the president has sent a request to the Senate to give it a second life. Asking for a legislation to restructure it, and pass the repayment to future generations over a period of 40 years! Added to the puzzle, the request contained no records of how, when and what the #23.7 trillion was spent on.
Until recently, the administration claimed that Nigeria does not have a debt problem, but a revenue problem. Then, it embarked on constant external borrowings, increasing external debts by 300% between June 2015 ($10 billion) and June 2022 ($40 billion), without a corresponding increase in foreign currency earnings. Now, Patience Oniha, the director general of the Debt Management Office, when appearing before the House of Representatives to defend the 2023 budget, revealed that Nigeria does have an external debt problem. To the extent that Moody’s and Fitch downgraded Nigeria to a Category ‘B’ economy in 2021, the international market has closed its doors of borrowing against Nigeria, making it difficult for the country to borrow.
On top of this, fell the huge national debt stock, at seventy-seven trillion Naira.
Thus, an ugly spiral has developed: huge sums of money that are unaccounted for, constant external borrowings without a corresponding increase in foreign earnings – and a gigantic national debt of seventy-seven trillion Naira, completes the circle!
In the current climate, what is puzzling to people is, where did all this money go? Many who have defended the administration on financial prudence, now say they cannot go beyond this caricature. Then again, post-May 2023, things will probably get worse, before they get better. So, now comes the hangover!
*Mike Hunder, an economist and business-training consultant based in Lagos, is a former General Manager at Union Bank Plc and Oceanic International Bank, respectively. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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