A Week in Nigeria: 16 March

In this week’s round-up: A building containing a primary school collapses in Lagos, governors’ elections marred by violence and Jumia’s IPO.

Nine-year-old Ademola Ayanbola was among the people who emerged alive from the rubble of a four-storey building that collapsed in Lagos
  • The week was dominated by the tragic story of a four-storey building containing a primary school that collapsed. The subsequent days saw a flurry of stories from the accident scene and hospital where relatives gathered in the hope that their loved ones were alive. Authorities were slow to give a final death toll after the building housing the school, homes and shops collapsed on Wednesday. Two days after the accident, the Lagos state health commissioner said 20 people were killed and 45 others survived. Residents say the school alone had around 100 pupils but it was not clear how many were on the premises when the building collapsed. The collapse drew attention to the problem of poor building regulations in Nigeria and the use of construction materials that are often substandard. Residents said there had been a number of building collapses in the area over the last few years. Some buildings deemed by state government officials to be uninhabitable were renovated by landlords seeking rent, they said. The outgoing Lagos state governor, Akinwuni Ambode, said the school had been set up illegally and buildings in the area had been undergoing structural testing prior to the accident.
  • One child who did survive was nine-year-old Ademola Ayanbola, the boy in the picture at the top of this week’s post. We tracked him down and spoke to his father for a picture-led story about his search for Ademola after he learned of the building collapse. Although there was a happy ending, his father described his harrowing search through hospitals during which he stumbled upon six dead children. “I couldn’t even look at their faces,” he said.
  • It feels like a distant memory after the horror of the building collapse, but the week began with counting in the wake of voting to select governors in 29 of the country’s 36 states. Civil society groups said turnout was low, a trend that was seen across the country two weeks after a presidential election in which turnout was less than 40 percent. President Muhammadu Buhari’s ruling All Progressives Congress party took a narrow lead but the final results hang in the balance as seven races were declared inconclusive or suspended. Perhaps unsurprisingly for those well acquainted with the intricacies of Nigerian politics, oil state Rivers was among those that experienced problems. There were allegations of violence and military interference in that state. Most of those seven states lean towards the main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP), whose politicians voiced outrage at the inconclusive results and the suspension of elections in oil-rich Rivers state due to violence.
  • Coming after the delayed presidential election that was marred by organizational breakdowns and pockets of violence, the European Union observer mission said Nigeria’s elections need serious reform. “The systemic failings and electoral security problems of the last few weeks and months show that there is real need for serious reform in Nigeria,” Maria Arena, chief of the EU mission, told a press conference in the capital, Abuja. Improvements in how the electoral commission conducted the governors’ vote, compared with the presidential election, were still overshadowed by a lack of security near voting stations, improper use of state media for campaigning and “institutional failings”, according to Arena.
  • There was also tech news. It emerged that Jumia, the African e-commerce company of German start-up investor Rocket Internet, has filed for a New York initial public offering which could value the firm at $1.6 billion or more. Jumia, founded in 2012 offers online shopping, logistics and payment services, but is losing money. The New York filing did not say how many shares Jumia would sell, nor at what price. Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, Berenberg and RBC Capital Markets are leading the IPO. The company says its business is expanding, and the continent’s development will make it a better market, with a growing young population, more infrastructure investments, urbanisation and rapid economic growth.
  • South African telecoms firm MTN Group Ltd expects its Nigerian subsidiary to list on the local stock exchange “probably more towards April and May”, the unit’s chief executive Ferdi Moolman told reporters at a press briefing in Lagos. The listing should be no later than halfway through the year, he said.
  • Consumer inflation grew 11.31 percent in February from a year earlier, compared to January’s 11.37 percent annual growth for January, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. It said February’s food inflation rose 13.47 percent year-on-year, versus January’s growth of 13.51 percent.

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