Friday, October 12, 2018

Nigeria to be the world's poverty capital for a generation

Nigeria is making little progress in eliminating poverty.

New reports by global development institutions show that human capital spending in Nigeria—the poverty capital of the world after recently overtaking India—is among the worst in the world.

In the second ever Commitment to Reducing Inequality (CRI) index compiled by Development Finance International (DFI) and Oxfam, Nigeria placed bottom in a ranking of 157 nations. The CRI Index ranks the commitment of national governments to reducing the gap between rich and poor citizens by measuring three factors considered “critical” to reducing the gap: social spending, tax policies and labor rights. Nigeria ranked bottom of the index for the second consecutive year.

The report says Nigeria’ social spending (mainly on health, education and social protection) is “shamefully low.” And those meager levels are reflected in reality as Nigeria is home to the highest number of out-of-school children. Nigeria also scores poorly on labour rights (133 out of 157) but recent progressive tax policies—such as a tax amnesty scheme—were noted and expected to reflect in the next index.

While the CRI index measures current realities, the World Bank’s first ever Human Capital Index (HCI) predicts future expectations but it is just as grim: ranks Nigeria 152nd out of the 157 countries.

The index measures “the amount of human capital that a child born today can expect to attain by age 18.” That prediction is based on five indicators: chances of a child reaching age five, healthy growth, expected years of schooling, quality of learning available and the adult survival rate.

Nigeria’s HCI value of 0.34 (countries are scored between zero and one) is lower than the global average (pdf) of 0.57. It’s also lower than the regional average and the average for nations in Nigeria’s income bracket. As such, the report predicts that “a child born in Nigeria today will be 34% as productive when she grows up as she could be if she enjoyed complete education and full health.”

Reducing inequality and developing human capital is crucial to any efforts to eliminate poverty in Nigeria but data shows it is an area where successive governments have been lagging: the number of Nigerians living in extreme poverty increased by 35 million between 1990 and 2013 alone.

For its part, Nigeria’s government under president Buhari has launched social intervention programs, including cash transfers to its poorest people, in a bid to reverse its extreme poverty problem. Nigeria’s efforts at reducing poverty will have to yield immediate and long-term results given it’s ballooning population: the country is set to become the world’s third largest by 2050.

Nigeria’s petro-economy, which has typically been buoyed by rising oil prices has remained in the doldrums even after exiting a five-quarter recession last year. But the longer-term dire outlook of both reports reflect the poor planning and mismanagement by successive governments over many years.

MultiChoice opens film school in Nigeria

MultiChoice Talent Factory Academy, West Africa, officially opened on Monday in Lagos, with the objective of providing Africa’s next generation of film and television storytellers after a 12-month training programme. Speaking at the launch of the Academy, Lagos State Commissioner for Tourism, Arts and Culture, Mr. Steve Ayorinde, commended MultiChoice Nigeria for giving youths selected from across the country an opportunity to understand the film production.

Ayorinde said: “What MultiChoice did deserves huge commendation and these 20 students need to acknowledge the fact that stakeholders in the entertainment industry in Nigeria and across the continent expect a lot from them.”

Also speaking at the launch, Ghanaian Deputy Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Dr. Ziblim Iddi, congratulated the 20 students selected for the inaugural edition of the Academy and charged them to be committed. On his part, Managing Director, MultiChoice Nigeria, John Ugbe, said: “The film and television industry is the pioneer of creative industries in Africa and is particularly relevant as a tool for shaping the African narrative. “We have been telling authentic and well-produced stories that only Africans themselves can tell. But there is a lot of raw talent that need to be nurtured and polished. “The Academy will give such talent the opportunity to hone their skills, thereby increasing the pool of world-class talent. It is also about teaching the business of film and television.

“We are fortunate to have the calibre of broadcast partners that we do in M-Net and Africa Magic, who believe in this project and have been on it with us from the very beginning.”

Boko Haram releases 833 children

A militia group fighting against the Islamist militant group Boko Haram in northeast Nigeria has released 833 children from its own ranks, some as young as 11, the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF said on Friday.

UNICEF spokesman Christophe Boulierac said the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) was formed in 2013 by vigilante groups in Borno state to fight Boko Haram which itself gained international notoriety for kidnapping schoolgirls in the town of Chibok.

The CJTF signed an action plan in September 2017 to end child recruitment, and the release of the children, 40 percent of whom were 15 or younger, was its first formal release.

“This is a significant milestone in ending the recruitment and use of children, but many more children remain in the ranks of other armed groups in either combat or support roles,” UNICEF Nigeria Deputy Representative Pernille Ironside said in a statement.

The released children were among 1,175 boys and 294 girls who had been identified as being associated with the CJTF in the city of Maiduguri, UNICEF said, although the total has yet to be verified and could include another 2,200 or more children.

It said that it had supported the social and economic reintegration of more than 8,700 children released from armed groups since 2017, helping trace their families, returning them to their communities and offering them psycho-social support, education, vocational training and informal apprenticeships.

Boulierac said that the CJTF included children who were “pursuing military objectives” but also lots in support roles, so their reintegration into society might be easier than those released from an armed group like Boko Haram.

That Islamist group has kidnapped thousands since it began an insurgency in 2009 aimed at creating an Islamic state in the northeast.

Nigeria’s government has said since December 2015 that Boko Haram has been “technically defeated”, 20 months after the kidnap of the 270 Chibok girls.

Yet attacks continue in the northeast, while Islamic State West Africa, which splintered off from Boko Haram in 2016, holds territory around Lake Chad.

Video - Floods in Nigeria ruin crops for 100,000 farmers

Nigeria’s agriculture minister is warning there could be a shortage of rice, the country’s staple food.

The warning came after devastating floods hit large parts of the country, destroying crops just as farmers were getting ready for harvest.

Al Jazeera's Ahmed Idris reports from some of the affected areas.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Former VP Abubakar to run against Buhari in presidential election

Nigeria's main opposition has chosen former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as its candidate for the 2019 elections as it seeks to remove President Muhammadu Buhari.

The nomination of Abubakar, 71, by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), sets the stage for what is expected to be a fiercely contested poll in Africa's largest economy.

Abubakar hopes to replicate Buhari’s 2015 feat, when the latter became the first opposition candidate in Nigerian history to defeat a sitting president.

Abubakar, who had been the country’s vice president between 1999 and 2007, left the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) party in November and re-joined the PDP.

Buhari, 75, has already been selected by the ruling party as its candidate.

Next year's presidential race appears to have tightened in recent months, with the APC hit by a wave of defections over Buhari's leadership style.

Abubakar comes from the Muslim-majority north and his nomination follows an unwritten rule in Nigeria that the presidency should alternate every two terms between a candidate from the north and south.
Fall in popularity

In 2015, Buhari's victory over former President Goodluck Jonathan was marked by a wave of optimism, which seems to be in decline now.

In May, his approval rating plummeted to 41 percent from a peak of 80 percent in October 2015, according to NOIPolls, a Nigerian polling service.

There have also been concerns about his fragile health, his economic policies, the extent of his claims about better security, as well as the targets of his campaign against corruption.

However, Niyi Akinsiju, coordinator of Buhari Media Organisation, told Al Jazeera that Buhari's chances of re-election are "very high".

"He has developed a trusting relationship with the people who have confidence in his fidelity and integrity in the exercise of power," he said.

The PDP is hoping Abubakar will be able to leverage Buhari’s dwindling fortunes.

"Atiku Abubakar is seen by a majority of Nigerians as the candidate with the magic solution to the crisis plaguing our nation," PDP spokesman Kola Ologbodiyan told Al Jazeera.

"He has a respectable pedigree within the political class across party leanings," he said.

The country's electoral commission has cleared 19 candidates to challenge Buhari in the February election.

Oby Ezekwesili, 55, a two-time minister and former vice president for Africa at the World Bank, is among other standout candidates.

She is the cofounder of the #BringBackOurGirls group to raise awareness about more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by armed group Boko Haram in 2014.

"Governance keeps worsening. So we the citizens have decided to get into the political arena to make things right," Ezekwesili said.

Kingsley Moghalu, former UN official and deputy governor of Nigeria's central bank, is also in the race.

An optimistic Moghalu even points to recent history for an "upset victory" for a non-mainstream candidate. "It happened with Trump. It happened with Macron," he said.

Hamza al-Mustapha, controversial security chief of the country's former military ruler, Sani Abacha, is also in the race. He has never held any political position.

In July, 39 registered political fronts, including the PDP and a splinter group from within the ruling party, signed an agreement to form the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP).

The splinter group of disaffected APC members led by Buhari's former ally, Buba Galadima, criticised the president's tenure as "a monumental disaster".

Ahead of his election in 2015, Buhari promised to tackle Boko Haram as well as fight corruption, revive the economy and provide jobs.

"He has stabilised the economy, reduced the Boko Haram insurgency from an invading army to opportunistic terrorists. His fight against corruption has reduced acts of brazen corruption and bureaucratic impunity," Akinsiju said.

Nigeria, Africa's top oil producer and the continent’s biggest economy, entered its first recession in 25 years in 2016, mainly caused by lower oil prices and attacks in the Niger Delta crude production region.

It emerged from recession in early 2017, but economists say growth remains sluggish and inflation has remained high.

Buhari’s supporters claim he has stabilised the economy.

"The economy has witnessed an unprecedented, consistent decline in inflation rate over an 18-month period reducing from a high of 18.7 percent in January 2017 to 11.14 percent in July 2018," Akinsiju said.

But the opposition is confident the economic situation will dent Buhari’s popularity.

"Atiku understands this nation and its economy. He is a personality that can take charge of his environment and comes up with decisions that affect the people positively," Ologbodiyan said.